Sunday, September 30, 2012

The High Cost of Loving

I believe most who know me would feel that I’m pretty good at handling money.  I’ve never been in deep debt.  I buy my cars pre-owned and with cash.  My home, which I moved into in ‘99, was paid off in less than eight years. I didn’t utilize a single credit card until I was in my mid-thirties, and even now, I pay it off every month.  While running my own business for over a decade, I was able to keep things running fairly smoothly with payroll and other overhead despite the rollercoaster ride that is the music business. I was freakin’ Dave Ramsey before Dave Ramsey existed!

Being able to tithe at least 10% of my earnings to spiritual and social causes that I believe in has been a blessing. Seeking out good advisors has allowed me to parlay various investments in mutual funds into a nice cushion for the future (might as well plan on Social Security not having much left for many of us in our retiring years). Since good health is important to me, I’ve invested in balanced diet, health club memberships, vitamins, and regular physicals and dental check-ups. Ongoing education is a priority as well, and I’ve been able to attend seminars, buy books, periodicals, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. that have helped feed my mind, broaden my horizons, and inspire me.

According to American standards, I’m pretty much your average schlub.  I think my income level would be a trackable barometer for “the middle class.”  Of course, by the overall world’s graph, I would be in the top 5% of wage earners.  And historical economists calculate that I would be in the top 1/2 of 1% in wealth over the course of mankind’s time on the planet…so I truly have much to be thankful for in comparison with all around me, and all that have gone before.

But there is one area of financial endeavor where I sometimes question my judgment, where I on occasion wonder, “what the heck was I thinking?” This is realm of spending on women.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I like women.  And there have been many that I gladly gave of my resources to please and it brought much enjoyment to our time together. 

It’s just that I’ve been a bit on the introspective side of things lately, and as I was taking emotional inventory of my singleness, I also decided to do some actual counting.  Before you jump to the conclusion that I must be some sort of weirdo who collects his own hair from the shower drain, or retains each burnt-out light bulb he’s ever used, or keeps a chart on every phone call he’s made since junior high school…well, don’t worry.  I am blessed with a pretty good memory, and I also do have all of my notebook calendars that help organize my life from the past several decades.  But I didn’t have to refer to those much—most of what I am about to recount is off the top of my head, and literally only took about an hour of “ciphering.”  It’s not like I have kept some sort of master chart or copious notes in a complex diary or anything of the sort.

Through pondering how many dates I go out on in a given month over the past thirty years, what an average date costs (dinner, the featured event, coffee/desert afterwards, and transportation), and then doing the basic math, I came up with the bulk of the figure.  Of course, there were additional costs that came in for the exceptional relationships.  Things like airline tickets for her to come see me, or me to go see her, or for us to both go to the Caribbean or Las Vegas or Pacific Coast or the Rockies together.  Or paying for rooms at resorts, beachside cabanas, and luxury hotels.  Or more involved costs like parasailing, cross country skiing, swimming with dolphins, snowmobiling, hiring tour guides, camping trips, helicopter rides, horse trails, dinner trains, limousines…you get the picture.

Then there are other items to be added into the Ledger of Love like cards and flowers (this certainly has gone into the thousands), and gifts of all sorts including jewelry, perfume, clothing, purses, paintings, sculptures, furniture, books of poetry, embroidery, decorative scented candles, ceramics, doilies, knick-knacks, brick-a-brack, and sometimes even gave-her-dog-a-bone.

Of course there are infrastructure costs to be considered as well, like long distance phone bills, shipping of goods, duplication of (and framing) of photos, stationary, postcards, stamps, pay phones (those have pretty much disappeared, haven’t they?), overnight delivery shipments, and the like.

So, what’s the bottom line? $63,000 as best I can figure.  That’s considerably more than an average year’s salary during those years.   

And this doesn’t count things like wear and tear on my vehicle, car washes, getting haircuts, colognes, a portion of the health club memberships that is appropriated for trying to become “buff,” investing in clothes to make myself more appealing, home décor, dance classes, ski lessons, and the fees for psychotherapy sessions brought on from all of the above.  Lord knows all of that could add tens of thousands more to the columns.

But $63,000…wow.  That’s more than I’ve spent on anything besides taxes, housing, and donations in my life.  Yes, it’s more than I’ve invested in categories like groceries, transportation, insurance, stock portfolios, and entertainment.  It’s almost double what I have spent on furnishings, clothing, health club memberships and sports combined.  It’s also 50% more than on utilities and phone bills over that span.

And I certainly don’t mean to discount what my counterparts on the female side of the ledger have had to invest.  My guess is my totals are nothing compared to what some single women I know have gone through.  The fashion industry socks it to ladies by charging easily three times as much for clothing, shoes, and accessories.  Hair appointments regularly take at least four times as long as a man’s and are quadruple the cost as well.  Then there’s make-up, dieting, buns of steel DVD’s, plucking, shaving, waxing, tanning, softening, deep cleansing, moisturizing, manicures, pedicures, liposuction, collagen injections, nip/tuck procedures, boob jobs, and on and on it goes. 

Nor would I be at all surprised if large shares of the women I’ve dated have endured subsequent and extensive counseling, which has taken a toll not only on their pocketbooks, but also their psyches.  I wonder if I ought to get a referral fee with area psychotherapists the business I bring their way?

Anyway…all of this causes deep consternation.  As I said earlier, I have fond memories of my dates, and have enjoyed some terrific relationships over the years.  So, it’s not my intent to sound like this has been excruciating for me.  Far from it.  I’m a social being who loves the interaction with a lovely feminine friend.

I suppose it’s just that I look back over all that spending and wonder what the “bottom line” is?  I’m still single, with no obvious prospects.  Thus it has been and most likely will remain. 

When the U.S. population crossed the three hundred million milestone half a decade ago many new demographic studies were released.  A particularly intriguing one showed that now, for the first time in our history, there are more single adults in the U.S. than those that are married or living with someone of the opposite sex.  That’s pretty stunning when you think of it.

We all seem to be circling, looking for a place to land…but are simultaneously seeing so many wrecked marriages and others folks who have been damaged by “committed” relationships gone awry that we are hesitant to join long-term with someone else. It’s odd that we spend copious amounts of time and money trying to be attractive, yet being increasingly reserved about actually entering into a deeper commitment.

Would I be so preoccupied with this spending if I had found the love of my life, and continued to invest in our relationship as we grew in our journey together?  I don’t think so, for I would be seeing it as an ongoing development and expression of our deepening care.  But when that doesn’t exist with a particular someone, the cost starts to feel rather hollow and pointless when put on a cumulative scale.

So…where do I head from here?  Most likely, continuing this cycle to some extent since I’m not sure what the alternative is.  But over the recent couple of years I am certainly trying to think more carefully about how I invest my time and resources if it doesn’t appear that it will lead towards anything meaningful.  Dating just to date seems like an oft-silly luxury, and an obscenely expensive one at that. All the preening that goes along with it (under the guise of looking good for someone else) at its core seems so self-centered.  

We’ve read that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  I want to do better at investing more wisely, and as a result, I think my heart might be less bruised in the process.

Of course, none of this can protect one from a broken heart.  That’s a whole other subject for another day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Chamber of 32 Doors

Peter Gabriel has been one of my favorite lyricists of the past four decades. His early work as the lead singer of Genesis was already demonstrating his fascination with the spiritual search. This piece from the seminal concept album, The Lamb Lies Down a Broadway, showcases that longing.  “The Chamber of 32 Doors” is the lament of a wayward soul in New York City who is trying to make sense of all those who wish to influence him.

It speaks as powerfully today as when it was penned in 1974…

At the top of the stairs, there's hundreds of people
running around to all the doors
They try to find, find themselves an audience
Their deductions need applause.

The rich man stands in front of me
The poor man behind my back
They believe they can control the game
But the juggler holds another pack.

I need someone to believe in, someone to trust
I need someone to believe in, someone to trust

I'd rather trust a country man than a town man
You can judge by his eyes, take a look if you can
He'll smile through his guard
Survival trains hard
I'd rather trust a man who works with his hands
He looks at you once, you know he understands
Don't need any shield
When you're out in the field.

But down here
I'm so alone with my fear
With everything that I hear
And every single door, that I've walked through
Brings me back, back here again
I've got to find my own way

The priest and the magician
Singing all the chants that they have ever heard
and they're all calling out my name
Even academics, searching printed word

My father to the left of me
My mother to the right
Like everyone else they're pointing
But nowhere feels quite right

And I need someone to believe in, someone to trust
I need someone to believe in, someone to trust

I'd rather trust a man who doesn't shout what he's found
There's no need to sell if you're homeward bound
If I choose a side
He won't take me for a ride

Back inside
This chamber of so many doors
I've nowhere, nowhere to hide
I'd give you all of my dreams, if you'd help me
Find a door
That doesn't lead me back again
- take me away

(“The Chamber of 32 Doors” by Genesis from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, 1974)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Legend of Snicker

While managing the Dog Ear Records store in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook in the late 70s, it was common to become a baby sitter of sorts for adolescents.  This wealthy bedroom community was miles from the nearest mall, so a trendy strip center like our Plaza Del Prado sufficed as the hangout of choice for tweenies and those not old enough to drive.

Besides the McDonald’s and an ice cream shop, Dog Ear was the most popular “hang” because of our music, playing hip videos, and the game room in the back of the store.  Even though I grew to hate the various sounds of Pacman, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Donkey Kong, no one couldn’t argue with the fact that the six units we had generated upwards of $2,000 a week in sheer profit.  Back then it was a quarter per play…that meant these kids were playing 8,000 times per week.  So, as one can imagine, there was a lot of foot traffic through our store.

I got to know many of these kids, most of whom were just looking to pass the time.  The majority were spoiled rich brats with way too much coinage on their hands.  But, in order to be a good manager, I would befriend as many as I could while simultaneously making sure they didn’t try to run the joint.

One thirteen-year-old, Mike, was one of those smart-ass punks who had a quick retort for everything.  A workaholic lawyer father, a borderline alcoholic socialite mother, and a couple of anorexic older sisters bent on getting the perfect body shape and tan left Mike with little attention at home, let alone encouragement.  He had a vivid imagination, wicked sense of humor, and a loud mouth.  Imagine a real-life version of Anthony Michael Hall’s  “Farmer Ted the Geek” character from Sixteen Candles.  Many didn’t get Mike, but I liked him.

Among his irritating characteristics was his desire to relay every dirty joke and thought that ran through his mind at P.A. volume.  This was not only embarrassing to some of my sensitive female employees, and of course, the bulk of our clientele…but also to me.  You see, I’m no prude, having heard and even told my share of sordid tales over the years…but this guy possessed perhaps the sickest mind I or anyone else who came in touch with him had ever encountered.

Most managers would’ve permanently banned Mike from their premises due to this verbal diarrhea, but having learned of his tough home situation, I felt I could somehow encourage him.  I think he appreciated the acceptance, and, with time, he learned to keep his foul commentary at a lower volume, if not even cutting it out all together in a rare moment.

One hot September afternoon, Mike was again generally loitering. He had regaled several new bad jokes that involved animal/human husbandry, given thorough descriptions of what he surmised the anatomy of some of his female cohorts would look like if their clothing were sufficiently discarded, and described in thorough details his mother’s feminine hygiene rituals.  I was in my mid-twenties, and this kid made ME blush.

At one point, Mike made a remark about a new banner display I was unpacking, stating “Man, that’s the longest one I’ve ever seen.”  As I was stretching it out on the floor I retorted, “Yeah, that’s what she said last night.”  Mike started to giggle, and within a few seconds it turned into robust guffaws of laughter.  “That’s what SHE said last night…Bwah-ha-ha-ha!” Apparently, he had never heard this all-purpose double entendre before, and it not only tickled his funny bone, it downright put him in fits. 

For the next few hours, nary a statement could be made without him interjecting his new-found favorite quip.  I would be hanging a sign and say, “I think it needs about 3 more inches to the left,” and he would blurt out, “That’s what she said last night!”  Or, when Nick, one of the sales guys, saw me lifting a heavy box and advised, “It’s best to bend your knees when doing that,” Mike shouted out, “That’s what she said!”  He even tried it with situations that only made sense to his warped little mind like when I asked a customer, “Would you like that in a bag?” “That’s what she said!” he would howl.

Like all things with Mike, he didn’t know how to edit himself, and it was bothering my staff and customers.  I pulled him aside, and reasoned with him.  “Mike, I know that can be funny at times, but it has to be used with restraint or it simply isn’t funny when overplayed. Plus, as you could tell when that one woman just glared at me, it’s offensive to those who aren’t as, uh….liberated as you.”

“Here’s an idea,” I continued. “How about we come up with a code word that we can say just loud enough for each other to hear?  It will summarize ‘that’s what she said,’ but won’t offend anyone else. 

“What word should it be?” he asked.

“Hmmm….what do you think of ‘snicker?’ But remember, you gotta say it quietly, almost non-chalantly, so as not to draw attention.  And one more thing, in order for this to be funny between us, you can’t call your own ‘snicker.’  It should only be when you hear someone else say something that fits.  Is it a deal?”

“Deal!”  he chimed. 

Over the next several weeks, various snickers were declared in a very reserved manner.  It became quite fun—our little inside joke.  But eventually, other staff started to catch on, as well as kids in Mike’s circle.
Some of them were so funny we began keeping a list.

  • “I’ve got an extension if you need one.” (when an employee was trying to get to a hard-to-reach area with the vacuum cleaner nozzle)

  • “Oh, terrific, look at it…it’s all caved in.” (uttered when a display unit had gotten crushed by a leaning customer)

  • “You gotta apply WAY more pressure than that for any results” (describing how to press a stapler into wood paneling)

  • “That hose had some kinks in it.” (when a fire truck was summoned to a grease fire at the McDonald’s)

  •  “Oh, no.  Aaagh! It’s gonna melt before I get it up!” (exclaimed when I dropped some ice cubes down the back of Mike’s shirt).

  • “This is the worst…it keeps collapsing when any suction is applied.” (referring to a flimsy straw not properly doing its job on a milkshake)

  • “Would you like me to pump it, or is this self-serve?” (from a gas station attendant)

  • “Be careful how long you leave it in there—it can melt, or even worse, get scorched.” (instruction on our temperamental toaster oven)

  • “It’s spread as far as it’ll go, and it STILL won’t fit!” (holding some shelving apart trying to squeeze an extra box)

  • “I think there were instructions on the side once, but they’ve been worn off from friction” (looking for directions on the outside of a cash register)

  • “This is so huge—I mean, look: my legs barely get on either side of it, and it’s pinning me to the seat.” (ridiculing an overly large steering wheel in a compact car) 

  • “Look at the size of that…how does that fit in your pants?” (questioning the girth of co-worker Bob’s massive wallet) 

  • “See, I can barely wrap my hands around it.” (another comment on the billfold)

  • “I keep pulling out and backing in, but can’t get the hang of this docking.” (a new female UPS driver attempting to make a pick up)

  • “Ohhhh, man…it’s big, hot, and juicy…just looking at it makes my mouth water.” (desiring a fresh McRib sandwich)

  • “That dude’s riding my rear end like there’s no tomorrow.” (complaint about a tailgating driver)

  • “I see a whole lot of movement, but it doesn’t impress.  You may think it feels good, but it’s doing nothing for me.” (critiquing someone’s awkward dance technique)

  • “Even strokes…EVEN strokes!  When you’re all herky jerky like that it doesn’t get the results that I want.” (instructions on applying varnish)

  • “I like THAT one—what is it, about 12 inches long AND covered in leather?!”  (unpacking table top display units)

  • “Limp AND soggy—NOT what I’m in the mood for.” (angst over a lousy piece of pizza)

  • “When I was underneath it earlier, it popped out and nearly poked me in the eye when I opened it up.” (lamenting a new spring-loaded change tray in a cash register)

  • “Be patient, it takes a while to heat up, but when it does…look out!” (another warning about the toaster)

  • “When you slid into me, you tore my legs up, and now I can hardly stand.” (accusation after a softball collision)

  • “I barely touched it and it went off.” (fiddling around with a camera)

  • “I would’ve gotten it in if your hand hadn’t gotten in the way.” (trying to throw something in the trash can)

You get the picture.  Little by little, more folks heard about it.  One could walk around the Plaza and hear “snickers” being declared by various shopkeepers. I was at a convenience store several miles away and heard the attendant say it to a coworker.  Others within the Dog Ear chain of stores across Chicagoland started incorporating it.

As the fall continued, it became common parlance at area high schools (at one student pep rally, the principal addressed the students by saying “thanks for coming” to which several kids yelled out “snicker!” and hundreds roared their approval). I even heard one local radio morning team utilize it. 

A few years later I was in another state on tour with a band and heard some guys on the load-in crew saying it. Some acquaintances in the Pacific Northwest told me that it had come into common usage out there. Another friend told me that friends of his used it in Ontario.

Decades have passed, and many of my friends and associates still employ it with some regularity. One of them refers to it as “The Legend of Snicker.”  I’m not sure of its legendary status…but it sure has been good for some big laughs at oft-inopportune times.

Perhaps you have some funny lines like these you can contribute…   

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision," and other Helen Keller quotes

Helen Keller (1880-1968) became blind and deaf, most likely due to scarlet fever, when she was just seven months old.  Through valiant efforts of her family and a blind teacher, Anne Sullivan, young Helen was able to begin communicating with the world around her.  Breakthroughs and techniques were developed through their relationship that are still used to this day.

In 1904 Helen graduated from Radcliff College magna cum laude, and was the first deaf and blind person ever to graduate from a university anywhere in the world.

She went on to become a famous author and advocate for those with disabilities, as well as fighting for women’s rights, being an active pacifist, and a supporter of birth control. She ended up visiting many international leaders in thirty-nine different countries, and was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

These are some of my favorite quotes from her.  Let me know which ones speak to you…. 

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.

As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.

he fearful are caught as often as the bold.

Many people know so little about what is beyond their short range of experience. They look within themselves - and find nothing! Therefore they conclude that there is nothing outside themselves either.

The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.

Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!

College isn't the place to go for ideas.

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.

The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.

It's wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.

Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.

It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings.

It gives me a deep comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."

Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought!

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.

I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace.

The highest result of education is tolerance.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.

To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.

Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations because we lack equilibrium between light and darkness.

As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill.

It is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ye Olde Letters of Recommendation

My book, Embracing the Gray: A Wing a Prayer, and A Doubter’s Resolve, has elicited a slew of letters and e-mails.  Here are excerpts of some that have come in…

I'm a little over halfway through and it is remarkable! I've laughed and cried...sometimes both at the same time!

Started reading your book & can't put it down. Good writing is something I like to soak up . . . so I'm soaking up your book! Last night I cried reading about when you lost your brother, especially your prayer that you not lose your faith again. Very moving! And then I laughed so hard I shook the bed reading about your brownie from Stuckey's! I just want you to know that it was life changing for me. I can't thank you enough for writing it and for being so incredibly open & vulnerable. I laughed so much but cried more.

Wow!  Next step is the Movie!

The fact that you book has done so well is evidence of how well written it is, and how people appreciate your raw openness about your faith and search for truth. I'm truly happy for you, and how well received your book has been!

This is very uplifting and has many great points of view!!

Love it. One minute I was laughing, and the next minute I was crying. I have recommended it to several of my friends.

Embracing the Gray reminds me of all of us long-hair-hippie-freaks trying to be relevant and authentic with our faith. Thanks for sharing your journey and reminding me where I came from!

Wonderful! I loved this book. It really makes you think about a lot in your own life. I was laughing one minute and crying the next. Thank you Mark for sharing.

Just wanted you to know that I read Embracing the Gray yesterday. A great read. I can't believe how many shared experiences I had with you, only separated by some geography. There were so many of his stories that were eerily similar. I even suspect that our paths probably crossed at either a Petra concert or Shawn Phillips performance. Anyway, thanks for the heads up on the book. It was very moving and spiritually challenging.

Congrats on the book and it's success apparent. Proud of you.... lotsa great worldview, faith and provocative thought in that ancient head of yours my friend.

Just bought the book on Amazon tonight, and couldn’t put it down for hours. Captivating stuff! Great read! Interesting stories, some laugh-out-loud funny moments, and a great message about grace. Loved it!

Mark, you're a wonderful human being. Embracing the Gray is a great read.

Thoroughly enjoyable read. Written the way I wish I could write, clear and to the point. Coming from the same general era I enjoyed the music references. I could relate also to the family turbulence resulting from a member with addictions. The journey is always a big part but the destination is the biggest part.

A lot going on with me right now. And a lot swirling around in my head. So the timing for "Embracing The Gray" is amazing.
U. F.

I received your book today (call it a birthday present from the Postal Service), and I have to say, what an amazing story so far! It is the epitome of a "book I can't put down." What you've written about in it, the struggles, and other questions you've had, are very heavy subject matters, but you've managed to do it with that humor. I can appreciate the sly jokes, and the puns, as I enjoy subtlety like that. You delve into some very personal, very deep subjects, and do it with a reflective mood, but not one of regret, again, like myself. I'm really looking forward to reading more of the book, but just thought I'd take a break to drop you a line to say I'm really enjoying it!

My son’s comment's about you and your book led me to begin reading your intriguing and insightful book - keep up the good work!

The big point, of course, is that life is full of ambiguity, and the harder you try to force everything into black or white categories, the  less you are able to be were God needs you to be, physically AND spiritually. The trouble is that when that happens to folks who've made our lives  miserable by their "one-size-fits-all" judgments over the years, I  don't always have the compassion I should.  Yet another of a thousand areas God still has room to work in my life. You've given me plenty to think about.

Good Morning. I listened to you this am on Family Life Radio in Albion, Michigan. Your word spoke clear to me and I am very grateful for your kindness to share this incredible source of love and understanding. I am looking forward to sharing this with my family and friends. Bless you.

I read the whole book in one sitting. It is fabulous. Meaty stuff. Funny stuff. Encouraging stuff. You openly wrestles with so many things that are common to one seeking a relationship with the Creator. My take away was to stay in the Eternal Now with the Ever Present One.

This has been one of my FAVORITE reads recently. In a busy life where I have limited time to read a book, I am so glad I chose this one! I was humbled, awed, encouraged, amused, moved and uplifted reading it. Pretty much like every time we ever got to hang out and have a conversation in person. I am over whelmed with gratitude that I ever got to know you :) After years of distance, I still am glad to consider you friend. The way you share yourself in the book is the same as the way you share yourself in person... humbly, honestly, humorously, intelligently, wholly. Reading your book was like experiencing a movement of the symphony of your heart, fully orchestrated. And a somewhat familiar melody for anyone who's ever known you, yet more fully orchestrated, and with parts not everyone has heard all together. Yummy music... somehow created out of print on a page! Well done, maestro!

I continue to be humbled by the response the book is generating.  If you have read it and wish to correspond with me, I always interact with any communiqués.   You can also read many reader reviews (97% are Five Stars) at:

Embracing the Gray is still available for a limited time as a 99 cent Kindle download at that same link, or as a free PDF download at my website (donations accepted):