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FROM NOVEMBER 5, 2012

buy cytotec without a percsriptionThe kid qualified.   He defined the “troubled youth” label he carried with him through some youthful years.   He tried to understand things and sometimes he did.   When he followed what was deep in his heart, he understood like no young teen I have ever known.   He knew how to make me and others laugh with his silly but imaginative stories.   And early one morning after a night of falling ice and snapping trees and power lines in our little freezing corner of the world, the kid walked a mile to my house, dodging hard falling ice and brittle frozen tree limbs to check on the well-being of my young teen son and me.

“Are you guys okay?” he asked.   “Is there anything you and Matt need?”

“Oh wow,” I said.   “You walked all that way to check on us? Man… Thank you for that.   But we are fine, pal.   Please be careful going home.”

I watched the young man walk back down that long driveway. His head was covered with the hood from his sweat-shirt. He held his head down as he walked, being careful of the ice and debris. He looked up often at the icy and bending tree limbs. Occasionally he turned to look back at me on the front porch. When he reached the street, he turned, pulled his cold hand from his pocket and he waved at me. For the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to get that vision of him out of my mind.

It was the kid’s heart that gave him his imagination, care and understanding.

The kid understood what his heart was telling him one time when everything but his heart was creating a storm within his soul that was greater than the cold and ice that came a few months before.   His life was mostly a confusing storm of fire and smoke and despair.   The troubled kid came to my house one night, seeking peace and friendship.   He followed his heart that night.   That night’s path led to him to a place where he would be safe and where ease and rest would finally welcome him.

That night he told me some disturbing things.   He cut himself.   Intentionally.   With shards of glass from windows that were broken by his angry rage an hour or so before coming to my place.   I could see the fresh and bloody scars on both his arms.   I could hear the anger in his trembling voice.   I listened quietly but intently.

Before that night, I had mostly, I thought, been able to handle sour situations involving kids.   I was the father of a son who sometimes became upset with others and other things like all kids do.   But until that night, the most serious disturbing conflict I faced was whether or not Matt actually charged into his basketball buddy on the court in our front yard.   That night was something I had never anticipated.

So I just listened to the kid.   And I loved him.   And I understood him.

He asked me if he could stay that night at my place.   I said, “Of course you can.   But you have to call your parents and tell them where you are and what you are doing.”   He agreed.   He called home.

As I recall, he became a bit angry again with his mom on the phone.   But she agreed to let him stay the night.   I was glad.   The kid needed rest from his troubles.   His mom asked to speak with me.   I obliged.

His mother told me what had happened at her house earlier that night.   She recalled for me what I already knew – that her son had been in the care of doctors and such for a while, to curb his anger tendencies.   Most places her son went for help could not hold the guy long enough for him to be helped.   He always found a way out.   And he ran away.

She then told me some things I didn’t know.   She told me that, after exhausting all reasonable options, the only way she could get for him the help he needed in the place he needed to be was to have county sheriff’s deputies take him away.   She asked for my cooperation.

“Is it okay for him to stay with you tonight?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

She continued, “If he comes home, he will run away again.”

“I understand.”

“Can I send the deputies to your house in the morning?”

I did not like that question.   Not at all.   This kid trusted me.   Maybe I was the only adult he did trust.   When he harmed himself, he came to me.   When his anger took him to places he probably did not understand, he came to a man who did understand.   He came to a man who trusted him.   And a man who loved him.

His mom made a convincing case on the phone that night.   The kid did need help.   The level of help he needed far exceeded my ability to call a basketball charging foul between two kids on an asphalt court.   So, I agreed.   Still, the kid trusted me.   And I would turn away.   In his eyes and mind and heart, surely he would feel the same betrayal I felt I was about to show the young guy.

The deputies showed up the next morning.   It was around 10 or 11, I think.   I tried to keep the kid’s back to the windows as I saw six or seven deputy cruisers pull up and around my house and driveway.   I watched through the windows the brown uniformed deputies quickly and quietly sneak up to the front and back porches through the wooded areas on the sides of the house.   I saw the county sheriff himself walk on my front porch.   I let them all inside.   The kid suspected nothing.   He was calm as they pulled him up from the sofa where he was sitting at the front window of my living room and gently cuffed the young guy.   As they led him from my house, he followed his heart once again.   I think his calmness was an intentional show of respect for the man who understood him the night before but who let him down in the light of the following day.   He didn’t say a word to me or to anyone.   I do not recall him looking me in the eye as they led him out of my house.   I tried to reassure him with empty and idle words as he walked to the patrol car.   He did not respond.

Why should he respond?   How could he ever believe or trust anything that I would ever say to him again?   I broke that bond when I agreed to have him taken away.   I was maybe his only hope in life, and I blew it.   I knew better.  I knew better!   That night at my place was my opportunity to follow my own heart and say to the kid’s mom, “I will have no part of this.   If he trusts just one adult on earth, let him hang on to at least that.   He’s a kid.   Let him trust and love someone!”

I haven’t seen that kid in years.   But as is the case with all my kids – all the young ones who touched my life and heart over the years – I love him still.   Maybe I failed him.   Maybe I should have protected our bond of trust at all costs all those years ago.   Maybe once that trust was broken and his love of me was dispersed into a pool of adult misunderstanding and child mismanagement, he had no where else to go.

Maybe my actions caused the kid to give up hope altogether.

The kid is an adult now.   Two weeks ago my young friend was arrested.   For first degree murder.

But I cannot stop.   The kid is the same kid that made me laugh so many times.   The kid is the same kid that walked through natural danger to offer my son and me help.   The kid is the same kid who sought rest and peace in my home.

I am aware of what he is accused of doing.   But just how do I stop loving him?

Or maybe I already did.

That morning at my house.

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buy cytotec oralWe all do stuff to help other folks from time to time.   Most of us do those things to feel better about ourselves.   I get that.   I’ve done that.   I do that.

Look, I really do not want to delve into many details here.   But this is a story that combines the love and the irony of “The Gift Of The Magi” with the magic of the “pay it forward” notion.   The convergence of those three things on a single night compels me to write what I can.

Frankly, this is blowing me away.   What I learned a few nights ago has made my Christmas.   It has made my year.   It has made real my life and the lives of those who came before me.   And what I have learned has suddenly assured me of the promise of those who will follow with the same learned lessons that delivered us to this eternal life.   Those who follow will learn and teach as well and will certainly also live for eternities.

Look, I have tried all my life, I think, to help other folks.   I believe that.   And I guess that if I did actually help some folks along the way, my agenda really didn’t matter to them.   But for decades, I mostly did what I did to exhibit my own self worth.   It felt good to help.   Whatever I did throughout all those years was likely done only to make myself feel better about me.

It took many years with my most important friend.   Through her battles with me, she fought the war for me.   She saw me through every moment of my selfish selflessness.   And she fought like hell to make me understand.

Well, I finally did get it.   It took a road trip with her and an Interstate rest area stop to get through this hard and selfish heart of mine.   As we were pulling away from that rest area that night, a young couple in a car near us pulled along side and asked us to stop.   They asked for a few dollars to help them on their trip.   My friend and I had little money to complete our own trip, so I said, “I am sorry, but we can’t…”

My friend interrupted me as she reached into my pocket and pulled out what cash I had.

“Here’s twenty dollars,” she told the young couple as she reached across me to hand money to those two.

Those kids were so grateful for the small amount of money.   They thanked me and asked for my address so they could pay me back.   And I responded in my usual feel-good and selfish manner.

“Hey look,” I said. “You might see me in the same situation one day.   Repay me then.”

My friend then chimed in, “Or maybe you can help someone else who crosses your path down the road.”

“Pay it forward,” she said.

That moment.   That one moment.   That is when I learned from her what I did.   We should do what we can, help when we can, make things better for others when we can.   Not to feel good about ourselves.   Not to acknowledge ourselves or our self-perceived worth.   Not because we feel ashamed if we do not help.

We do things for others simply because those things need to done.   There is no other justifiable reason.

Until the other night, I had no idea the degree to which my friend’s lesson on that trip had been paid forward.   Since that rest area stop, I have tried to selflessly give of myself to others in times of need.   I have never considered myself a success at that, and I certainly never even imagined that anyone was learning anything from the lessons I learned from her.   But her lessons have taken hold on future generations to be sure.

My dearest, most true and most heart-felt friend confided in me the other night.   He’s a young man.   He came over for a while to visit.   I have known for years that he has watched me and learned some stuff from me.   Some bad.   Mostly good, I hope.   Until the other night, I had no clue that he had actually picked up on what I learned from my most important friend that evening at the rest area.   He has.   In a huge way.

I had earlier in the night caught wind of some regrets his endearing wife was experiencing.   I pressed him hard before he caved in and told me the truth.

The man has begun to sell some of the things that have been his life-long treasures to help his wife.   His wife is regretting the need for him to do such things just to help her.   And, until I pressed him, he did not want to tell me.   He is not looking for praise.   He is doing what he is not for self appreciation.   He is doing what needs to be done.   Nothing more.

My dearest friend knows how to sell things.   Somehow, he always finds buyers when he needs them.   The other night, after pressing him further for answers, he reluctantly told me of a young twelve-year-old who answered his Craigslist ad about the treasures he is selling to help his wife.   The kid has no money.   My friend asked to speak with the youngster’s dad.   The dad told my friend that he had been going through some tough stuff we mostly all have the past few years.   Lost jobs.   Lost income.   Lost wealth.   Still, that dad insisted that his child buy at least one my friend’s treasures.   You know, to make that kid feel okay about things – if even for a short while.   That dad simply did what needed to be done.

But during the conversation between my friend and the kid’s dad, my friend learned that the dad had recently lost a rather good paying job.   That dad was worried about providing a Christmas that would matter for his son.   Upon hearing the dad’s story, my friend volunteered to give the man one of his newest, unused and most treasured items in his collection.   He made the offer so that the dad would have a special gift to give to that precious twelve-year-old.   The dad graciously accepted.

Things are being paid forward.

After my friend told me the story, the whole story, it all became clear to me.   And it has brought to life, in my tiny corner of the world, a real-life interpretation of O. Henry’s “The Gift Of The Magi.”

It’s a short story of a young woman who cuts off all of her beautiful long hair and sells it to buy her young husband for Christmas a sparkling and needed chain to hold the pocket watch he treasures.   At the same time, her husband sells his treasure – his watch – to buy for his loving wife combs for her long and beautiful hair.

Here is the last paragraph from the story, “The Gift Of The Magi.”

“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger.   They invented the art of giving Christmas presents.   Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.   And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.   But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest.   Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they, are wisest.   Everywhere they are wisest.   They are the Magi.”

My story here is not the same as O. Henry’s.   But there are some important parallels.   My friend regrets placing his wife in a regretful situation.   I know his wife regrets placing her husband where she believes she has.   But their combined regrets are their gifts.   And they are the wisest I know.

The twist here may not be as poignant as O. Henry’s.    But, if a dad, a stranger in the lives of my friend and his wife, can make a Christmas – a real Christmas for his son – why would anyone deny such a gift to a man and his child or denounce the regret that caused this to happen?

And the Magi?   They are all of us.   Just as did the Three Wise Men, we love.   We trust.   We have faith.   We learn.   We teach those who cross our paths.    And those we teach find others on their paths .

And we share our magic with all who care to receive what we have to give.

We do all of that for one simple and magical reason.

Because it needs to be done.

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Some of you folks, lovable ones in almost every other context, have blind-sided me for the final time.   That’s it.   I’m done.   I think I’ve said this before, but this time I mean it.   You people have left me almost no choice.   Drastic stuff will happen – necessarily.

It started years ago with the ex-wife.   Then my sister-in-law got involved in a terribly disappointing way.   Now it’s the department manager where I work.   He blew my loyalty to him big-time.   Just last weekend, he did that.

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As I am writing this, Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas” is playing on my playlist.   Las Vegas is where I was working for a couple of days in the mid 1980’s when the ex-wife began this downward spiral.   Now that song wasn’t even recorded by Crow at the time of my Vegas disappointment.   But her lyrical words take me back to that cheesy and dingy motel room on the outskirts of Vegas.

On that trip, my employer and two of my clients, were in buy cytotec online made in americacahoots with Marie Osmond and The Children’s Miracle Network.   Marie Osmond allowed local and regional advertisers like my employer and clients to film short commercials, using her as a spokesperson to promote The Children’s Miracle Network and the services of our clients.   In return for the dedication of local advertisers to her mission, Marie Osmond provided for each of us creative director/producers back stage passes to attend her concert at one of the Vegas hotels the night after all of the videotapings.

buy cytotec online ukNow all of those for whom I was working contributed to my beautiful room at the MGM Grand on that trip.   The problem with that hotel, at the time anyway, was that they had no cable television.   What else could I do?   I declined Marie’s offer, rented a car, drove to some seedy outskirt of Las Vegas and rented a room in a two-story motel that had cable TV in each room.   At my own expense.

 

buy cytotec online without prescription from canadaThat is where I chose to watch the ESPN “tape-delayed” broadcast in that time zone of the most important basketball game of my year – the one between Georgia Tech and my beloved Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina.   Both teams, I think, were ranked in the top five at the time.   Now, I tried to watch it live at Ceasar’s Palace just across the street from the MGM.   But the “Runnin’ Rebels” of The University Of Las Vegas were playing at the same time.   Every television at Ceaser’s was showing Jerry Tarkanian and that bunch.

Dang.   As I am writing this, Sheryl Crow just sang these words:

“Oh I’m banging on my TV set
And I check the odds
And I place my bet
I pour a drink
And I pull the blind
And I wonder what I’ll find.”

I did all of that that night at the cable TV motel.   I banged on the TV to get the picture to work.   I calculated the very slim odds of anyone in that solitary room giving away the already established final score of that recorded game.   I bet on my solitude seeing me through it all.   I did pour a drink and pull the blinds – I did both to help drown out the sounds of the aggressively arguing family of twelve staying next door.   And I wondered if I would find, first hand, a Carolina victory that night in Vegas.

Then I got the call.   From the wife.   Before I met that woman years before, I was sure that I was the most involved and devoted Carolina basketball fan alive.   I don’t hold a candle to her.   To her credit, she didn’t tell me on the phone the outcome of the game that she watched live on the east coast while her husband was so far away from home.   But on that night, as Sheryl Crow just belted in my ears, “…it seems nowhere is far enough away.”

There was “such a muddy line between the things you want and the things you have to do” that night.   I wanted to be back stage with Marie Osmond.   I wanted to be left alone, to watch the game of the year and enjoy a Carolina victory.   But I had to talk with the wife.   She was home alone with our young son.   The tone in the wife’s voice gave it all away.   After our conversation, I was certain that my team had lost that night.   There was no way I could have taken “this loser hand and make it win.”   I was right.   Our team lost.

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Now, that first time was decades ago.   That was during a time when “DVR” could have stood for “Daughters Of Virginia Republicans” or something.   And I suppose my rather slack work ethic since that Vegas trip and my subsequent regular availability to watch sporting events live contributed greatly to my not being disappointed in such a way again.   Until recently.

I now have a regular job with regular work and irregular as hell work hours.   That and my love of watching live (or “live on tape”) sporting events are the main reasons that I now have DirectTV and a DVR.   And NASCAR races are one of the main recorded events that I watch after long Sunday work shifts.   I just feel a need to watch, in a simulated live sort of way, to see if Dale Junior will win a race.

buy cytotec no prescriptionThis year he won four races.   I watched the first win live.   But that was Daytona.   He’s always good at the beach! And he’s never won more than one Sprint Cup race in a year.   So his second win was even more important this year than was his first.   I DVR’d that race from Pocano back in June.

I am very careful when I use the DVR to record live sporting events.   I don’t answer the phone or respond to cell phone text messages on the days that I watch live stuff late.  I don’t sign on to AOL.   They throw sports news everywhere on that site.   And I avoid like the plague Facebook “notifications” from folks I know are just as interested in the sporting event that I am recording on any given day.   You get what I am saying, right?   I have a real need to pretend that the DVRd event is actually happening live.

Well, I have a way, through my phone, to check only those Facebook notifications that I want to read.   On the day of Junior’s second win and while at work, I avoided posts from the two known NASCAR fans on my Facebook friend’s list.   But when I saw a post from my sister-in-law, I saw no problem with clicking that one.   99% of what she posts is about politics, her love of God and her children and grandchildren, or some timely health updates.   It’s stuff from the heart.   No sports.   Well, she is a Georgia Tech and Florida Gator fan.   Neither of those teams were playing on the day of the Pocano race.   And NASCAR?   I mean, I know she likes it.   But enough so to post anything about Dale Earnhart, Jr.?

So, on the day that Junior won his second Sprint Cup race in a year for the first time in his career, and before I even got home to watch the recorded Pocano win, I clicked on a Facebook notification from my sister-in-law.   Harmless enough, I thought.

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“Yes! Junior wins his SECOND race!”

That, or something similar is what she posted that day.   My evening of watching my favorite driver win his second race of the year, “live on tape,” was ruined.   Ruined.

 

buy misoprostol australiaIt should be very clear to all who read this drivel that my love of Tar Heel sports is even greater than my passion for Junior.   Hell, Junior is a Carolina fan, too!   And when it comes to Carolina playing North Carolina State in any sport, my blood turns even bluer than the Carolina Blue skies God Himself created.   The department manager in the buy misoprostol cheap without perscriptiondepartment and at the retail store where I work is from New York City.   He looks and sounds just like Jim Valvano, the former NC State basketball coach who led his team to the NCAA Championship in 1983.   One of his sons recently graduated from State and his other son is still a student there.   But he and I get along with all of that.

He has never even come close to exhibiting the obnoxiousness toward me that I like to throw his way from time to time.   That is, until last Saturday.   It came from out of nowhere.   And it came on a day when I refused to even look at a text from my best friend from college.

I didn’t expect it.   It didn’t even occur to me to avoid that manager on the day that I was recording on DVR the Carolina-State rivalry football game to watch later that night.

buy cytotec onlineI was at work early that day.   He came in at two o’clock.   When I first saw him, I expected his usual very serious look my way, and his instructions to me as to how I could help achieve his daily goals.   That day, the Valvano look-alike carried a wide smile and said to me something like, “Twenty-one to nothing!”   He then looked to the few clouds in the sky and said, “God’s not quite a Tar Heel today.”

“Man, what are ya doin’ to me here?   I’m DVRing the game,” I said.

He just smiled and questioned the reasoning behind my recording.   I knew the score he threw out could not be more than a half-time score, so I mostly shrugged it off.   But still, I emphasized that I was prepared to watch the recording of the game later that night.

Actually, the man composed himself, understood what I was going through at that moment, and did his best to not gloat.   Meanwhile, I was kind of happy to know that when I arrived home, I wouldn’t have to suffer through the first dismal half of that game.   I knew that I could fast-forward through the twenty-one-to-nothing debacle and look forward to an amazing Carolina comeback.

buy cytotec online 200 mcg no prescriptionLater on, toward the end of my day, he took his dinner break.   As is customary where we work, he handed off to me our department’s Iphone while he took his break.   And as is customary with me, I hit the activation button on the phone to make sure I was logged in.   When I activated the phone, the first thing I saw there was the final score of the damned game: “NC State 35, UNC 7!”

Damn.   As if Carolina losing to to those guys wasn’t bad enough, at that moment my Saturday evening sports viewing was ruined!   Damn it all!

That was the moment that I decided drastic measures need to take place.   I either have to tell Direct TV to take their DVR away or to quit my job so I can watch live all the important sporting events I need in my life.   The problem is, I need the freakin’ job to afford to watch the sports necessary to make my life worthwhile.   And if I keep working, well, damn.   I need the freakin’ DVR!   On the surface of things, I can’t “take this loser hand and make it win.”

Now, look. I really cannot find any redeeming value in the UNC-Georgia Tech-Vegas fiasco.   Maybe the ex-wife found comfort in my refusal to spend an evening with Marie Osmond.   Nah.   I got nothin’ here!

But the day that my sister-in-law gave away the results of one of Juniors wins, I experienced for the first time the joy of just watching how the man did what he did.   It was an “awesome” experience.   And just a few days ago, I told the misguided NC State-Valvano-look-alike department manager how grateful I was that he saved me from staying up to all hours last Saturday night to watch my favorite team get the hell beaten out of them by our “cross-town” rivals!

So.   The drastic stuff?   Man.   I am stuck here.   Again – I got nothin.’

Well, I guess it’s pretty drastic to appreciate the humor from the Marie Osmond thing, to actually watch a race whose winner is already known, and to be grateful for not watching a Carolina-State game.

Yeah. That’s drastic enough.

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There are a couple of guys I know.

One guy is, like me, older.   The other is very young.   I met the older guy when I was attending The University of North Carolina.   I met the younger one recently on Facebook after my son told me about the kid and of his YouTube antics.   Like I was at one time years ago, he is also a student at UNC.

Both have charisma gushing from their smiles and eyes and into the hearts of all of us who just need a little genuine humor from time to time.

buy cytotec without rxI met Durwood Fincher in the early 1970s.   He is a former high school teacher of one of my college roommates from Georgia.   He’s a great guy.   And a double talker.

The man is the most gracious host I have ever known.   My college roommate, several other friends and I visited Atlanta one time when we were in college.   Durwood welcomed us into his home that weekend.   The man kept us in stitches.

On that visit and as we were driving through downtown Atlanta late in the night, we stopped for gas at a station that had no self-service pumps just yet.   Once at the pump, Durwood jumped from the car and told us he would handle the situation.   “Watch this,” he said.

That man proceeded to do to the young kid who serviced the car’s tank that night what he had done to all of us all weekend.   He gave the kid “Durwood Double Talk!”   That poor kid.   Durwood was very serious in his delivery, but the sequence and sounds of the words made no sense to the gas station kid.   The kid’s eyes looked at each of us, begging for help and understanding.   We all understood what the kid was going through, and we laughed uncontrollably but with empathy for the young guy.

It was good stuff.   Just as good as Durwood’s appearance on The Tonight Show way back when to promote his answer to The Pet Rock – “Furwood Dencher’s Toe Floss.”

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It was as good as his more recent appearances on cable news broadcasts and at company events where he showed and shows all of America his “double talk” ability.   And it’s still as vivid in my mind as any humor I have ever encountered.

buying cytotec onlineThe very same genuineness that Durwood exhibits through his generous humor can be found in my new and young friend – Caleb Pressley.   The kid was a quarterback on The University Of North Carolina football team for a few years.   He left the team, traveled and discovered his heart and some true and real passions.   Then he returned to the team he loves to become the self-declared “Supervisor Of Morale.”   Just like Durwood, he is lovable and funny as hell.   But unlike most of us, Caleb is willing to let his guard down from time to time.   He is not at all afraid of admitting his weak moments.   He is not at all afraid of expressing his true heart.   And he damned sure isn’t afraid of doing what he can to share the joy of his humor and kindness.

Here are a couple of links you need to check out and share.   One is a link to my old friend’s website.   The other is to my new friend’s.   If you like what you see, please share it with others and get in touch with these guys.

There are so many of us who desperately need simple and genuine humor and friendly and engaging faces.   Durwood and Caleb are the best of what we need.

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FROM MAY 6, 2014

buy cytotec without a percsriptionI’ve never been much on lyrics.   I am more of a musical sound kind of guy.   I listen to tunes and beats and riffs that sound good.   If it sounds good, I really do not care what are the words being sung.

Easter Sunday morning, I woke up with an Elton John tune in my head.   It played there over and over as I readied myself for work.  It stayed with me while I drove in silent prayer that morning – my daily drive time ritual.   On those drives, once I say, “Amen,” that’s my cue to turn on the radio for the second half of my drive to work.

That Easter drive was beautiful.   The air was clean and crisp.  The sun was bright, and it illuminated the promise of the day.   It was a Godly day.   A day to sow seeds.   A day for rose trees to grow on every corner of every city on earth.

When it came time on my drive to listen to tunes, I turned on my favorite Charlotte radio station.   Between “Amen” and hitting the “on” button, that Elton John tune played in my mind one more time.   Neither Elton nor Bernie Taupin had the musical or lyrical timing that I had on that morning.   The first sound from my radio speakers that day was a continuation of the last musical phrase that I hummed to myself before turning on and hearing in real time “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters.”

“And now I know, ‘Spanish Harlem’
Are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew, but now I know
That rose trees never grow in New York City.”

“Wow,” I said to myself. “  God, what the hell does that mean?” I asked.   I decided to listen to a few more lyrics, hopefully to get a clue about all of this.   Why on such a beautiful and thankful Easter day did those lyrics and that tune happen in such a way?

“Spanish Harlem?”   “New York City?”   “Rose trees?”

Then I heard the words.   And it all made perfect sense to me.

“Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge, while people run you through
And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.
I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.”

Decades of trash can dreams have come true for me.   But I no longer stand at the edge.   That boundary is where I live my every moment.   And I thank the Lord for the edge he gave me.   And for the dreams that led me here.

I have found some incredible people lately.   New people.   Folks with whom I work and share all that is within each of us.   Visitors to my new place of work – folks who seek out just some gentle friendliness and a smile or two.  Old and dear friends have found their ways back into my life suddenly.   With others who have always been with me, there seems to be these days a deepening of our mutual desires to continue the strength that kept us together for so long.

“And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.”

Yeah.   This shit makes sense.   Suddenly it does.

“While Mona Lisas and mad hatters, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky, but they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light.”

I researched the song and the meaning of its lyrics.   The writers of the articles that explained the meaning of the song seemed to all agree that it is a harsh and accurate description of the cold reality of a dark city like New York.   That tone and direction were a bit of firsts for Elton John and Bernie Taupin.   But those writers were terribly wrong.  Those lyrics are about so  much more than one city.   Easter Sunday, I got it.

I worked all day that day.   Every moment there at work were opportunities to worry and fret about not being with family, of toiling in self pity, and of breaking the back of this tired and feeble old man.   It was the perfect setup to not really know if it was dark outside or light.   To force me to turn around and say good morning to the night.

But with each moment I spent in that day’s sunshine, and with each new person I encountered, I lived.   And I loved.   Light was light, and darkness was but a distant and insignificant thought.    And damn.   People responded.   The people I found that day responded.   We said good morning to the day.   Each of us did.

And that day brought nothing but good mornings until well past the time the evening just had to conquer the light’s natural and normal fade.   And force upon us all the comfort and simple understanding of all things natural.

When I was around six or seven years old, we lived in Roanoke, Virginia.   My family and I attended the Airlee Court Baptist Church there.   Reverend Sinclair was our minister.   I very clearly remember wanting to be baptized by Reverend Sinclair in Roanoke.   I think because my mom knew we would soon be moving to Jacksonville, Florida, she decided it was best to wait until after the move for such a major religious commitment on her son’s part.

By the time we arrived in our new town and at our new church, the passion and urgency had left me.   My new hero was Reverend Harvey Duke at the St. John’s Baptist Church in Jacksonville.   And of course, Billy Graham.   But by that time, all I wanted was to be moved in a huge way emotionally before giving myself to God.   I wanted that one big moment.   I wanted my own seeds to grow into blissful rose trees.   And I waited for that moment.   For the rest of Mama’s life, I waited for that moment.

It never happened.

My love of God, and my devotion and faith simply evolved from those early days.   Never an earth-shattering revelation and declaration.   I just moved on, understanding that for myself a demonstrative display of faith in such a public way would not at all alter my love, devotion and faith for and in God.   I eventually found comfort in simply understanding what God expects of us.

But things were different for my mom.   As faithful as she was to God, the poor woman often said good morning to the night.   And when it came to my being baptized, Mama never could see the sky.   She chose instead to blame herself for my not being “saved.”   And that is why, in my eyes, she went to her grave not really knowing if it was dark outside or light.

I have one son – an endearing one.   The kid has an extraordinary wife, and she has a nephew.   My son has found some people, too.   His wife’s mom and her mom.   His wife’s sister and her two daughters and other son.   And his wife’s grand-nephew.   My kid has the sweetest, most beautiful step-daughter in his young life.   And three of the most endearing young sons himself.

Easter Sunday night, I left work early to join my son and mostly all of his people at their church.   His wife’s grandmother lives in Texas.   She was there in spirit.   All of the others were at that church in full force.

“This Broadway’s got, it’s got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I go my way alone, grow my own
My own seeds shall be sown in New York City.”

When I walked alone into that sort of “mega church,” I was greeted with smiling lights from every human face I encountered.  They didn’t know me.   I was dirty and wearing work jeans and beaten up work boots.   Reverends Sinclair and Duke might have winced at the sight of me.   My son’s found people simply welcomed my presence, and encouraged me to sow my own seeds.

They had a lot of songs to sing at that service.   Even had I known the tunes, I probably would not have joined in.   I hate my voice.    But I loved what I heard.   And saw.   And felt that evening.

When the indoor service ended Easter evening, things moved outside.   There, at a beautiful pond on a slight hill just outside the doors of the church, folks gathered as the fading Sunday light began drifting toward and behind the tree-lined backdrop of all the new people in my son’s life.   My son’s wife and her nephew visited that pond a few weeks ago.   Easter night the pond belonged to my son.  His step-daughter decided on her own that the pond belonged to her as well that evening.   So did my son’s two oldest sons.   The rest of us there knew that it belonged to us all.

My son was baptized in that pond on Easter night.   His step-daughter and two of his sons joined my boy and were baptized themselves that evening.   The hugs and the tears and the love that night seemed to hold in unlimited suspension the light that allowed us to live in the sky for such a brief moment while they forced away that moment’s night for a good while.

“Subway’s no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.”

I didn’t go into the pond.   I don’t need to.   The people I have found give me my big moment every day.   The people my son has found are sowing seeds that bring bliss and roses to everyone they encounter.   Certainly to me and to Mama.   Why would God expect anything more of us – than to simply know and love and understand the people we have found and with unlimited gratitude share with every new one we meet the simplicity and reality of the encounters?

I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.  All of you.   Each of you.   There is no darkness here.   Only daylight.   And I thank God for letting me find y’all.

Mama.   I see the sky.   And it’s always light outside.   All I have to do is look to all the people I have found.   And all the folks your only grandson found.   And each and every one of us thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.

You did good, Mama.

Good morning to your day, dear woman.

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cheap cytotecFROM MAY 21, 2014

I am selfish.   Like all of us, I am very selfish.   I do things that make me feel good about myself.   I do
things that I love.   That’s natural, I guess.   And I do love to write.   Without that selfish love, I probably wouldn’t write at all.

But without those about and to whom I write, I definitely would write not a word.

I have tried very hard during the past few years to avoid writing about politics and religion.   For some reasons that I do not yet understand completely, those two topics seem to polarize folks into harmful camps of total selfishness.   We stand firm in our beliefs, I suppose, and challenge even the meekest among us to never cross the line that challenges what we feel we firmly believe.   I get that.   But in the last Lunar, I wrote a rather heart-felt religious piece.   There was incredible response to that one.   No bad reviews.   No polarization.   Just good stuff appearing in my in-box.

There were a lot of words in “People I Have Found,” the title of that Lunar Report.   So, it’s easy for me to understand how the most important ones were overlooked a bit, and how folks read into what I wrote only what they felt they needed to read.   It was to them that I wrote what I did.   They are the reasons I do this.   I am grateful to and for those found folks and for the reading that they did.

But the overlooked words?   It’s my fault they were maybe passed over a bit.   But here is the most important sentence in that rather lengthy Lunar.   “I eventually found comfort in simply understanding what God expects of us.”   Look, I don’t care that you know when and where I found comfort and what I understand about such things.   This is not at all about me.   This is about us – what my grandaddy used to describe as “all of God’s children.”   It’s about all of us.

Bear with me, y’all.   Don’t bristle at what I write.   Please don’t retreat to the comfort of your own camp.  And if I cross the line that may challenge your own heart-felt beliefs, please know that I am but a meek little man, asking only to be understood a bit here.

Like all of us, I have doubts about things.   Like Heaven and Hell.   Our faiths ask us believe there are both.   Faith is good and positive.   There is no reason to doubt one’s faith here.   But I am also into factual stuff.   And the fact in this case is that we will each have but one opportunity to ever know if there is the Heaven and Hell that are described in our books of faith, right?   That happens when we die.

So, what is this Heaven and Hell that we preach about, that we are preached about, and that tickles the selfish side of us all – do good and go to Heaven; do badly and go to Hell?

When it comes to the vast religious elements throughout all of mankind and it’s history, my knowledge is so inadequate.   But I know very well how Baptists and similar Protestant religious sects convince us to believe in those things we cannot know.   So many words of what my people preach run contrary to what our great teacher tried to show us.

Outside of what faith might encourage me to believe, what do I believe to be fact in my faith?   I believe with all my heart that there was indeed a man named Jesus.   And of the facts that I choose to garner from the biblical words that describe that man, Jesus was arguably the most selfless man who ever lived.

Want more facts?   Most every Protestant religion that follows Jesus, attracts new converts and believers by explaining to each to whom they preach that the only road to personal salvation is to do as they are taught to do by those doing the preaching.   But did and does the most selfless man who ever lived really care about himself to such a degree that he must urge people to follow him?   People who are only interested in their own salvation?   Taken literally, that makes no sense at all to me.   Both notions are nothing but totally selfish ones, right?

Jesus: “Follow ME. Follow ME!”

The rest of us: “Only if you promise ME eternal life in Heaven!”

How utterly self involved, self-serving and egotistical is the entire premise.   Jesus was nothing but selfless.

I may be totally wrong about things.   But I am not asking for belief and faith in what I write.   I am simply asking for understanding.   Kind of what I believe God is asking of us.   So take this for what it’s worth – whatever it means to you.

God expects us to know that Heaven exists.   And it does.   He expects us to know about Hell and it’s existence as well.   And we do.   But the great creator cannot expect us to know, for a fact, that Heaven resides in the sky somewhere beyond our knowledge.   He cannot expect us to know that Hell is a hot and dreadful place somewhere beneath our feet, our earthly homes, and deep within the beautiful earth He himself created.   There is no comfort, in God’s eyes, I think, in believing what He does not expect us to know.

I have read and studied the Bible.   Not so much lately, though.   Not enough to use, word for word, scriptures that might validate what I am saying here.   But I know enough to formulate what I believe, and to recognize what I believe to be our direction as prompted by God – by anyone’s God.

As a way to personally reconcile the existence of so many Godly religions throughout the world, I kind of came to understand what I have – that God simply put us all here on earth, spread open his arms and hands and said to us, “Here you are.   Please, please make it work.”   And we, as individuals and within groups of like-minded people, chose the teachings of great men of our worldly regions.   That is how we, as humans, chose to deal with God’s plea. And as long as we follow Godly teachings preached by anyone in any part of the world, we are doing mostly what God expects of us.   The specific religion we choose, our faith in such, and how we go about fulfilling His request does not matter to Him.   As long as we simply make all of this work.

I wish I could write in more detail about some truths of differing religions – of how some religions claim that women are less than men, of how others can dismember limbs of those who break insignificant rules, and of how the very group of folks I choose to relate to can claim that a one-day-old child who dies in an African jungle without knowing Jesus will never see Heaven.   I really wish I could, in a scholarly way, debunk all of that.   I wish I could, in an intellectual way, explain the real existence of an afterlife of any kind.   I cannot.   I can do none of that.   I am not even close to being educated enough on such things.

But I can tell you what I have learned.   And from knowledge comes belief – real beliefs.

At some point in my life, I questioned the selfishness of what my protestant ministers are preaching.   “You are asking me to give myself over to God so that I will see the pearly gates and save myself from the eternal flames of an everlasting Hell?   Is that why Jesus did what he did?   To save Himself from all of that?”

Anyone who has any notion at all of Jesus knows why he did all that he did.   Certainly that man was not at all interested in saving himself.

You see the contradiction here, I hope.   If I give myself over to God, have I done my part to make God’s vision of the world work, or have I just saved my own self from a burning abyss?

Look, I have never tried this.   But I encourage us all to give it a shot.   How would the Bible read if we replaced our traditional visions of Heaven and Hell – gold paved streets in the sky somewhere versus eternal flames deep down and inside the earth, both of which are only available to us when we die – with life that we can control now?   What if Heaven and Hell have nothing at all to do with death?   What if all God is saying to us about such stuff resides within the confines of life?   Life here on earth?   Life here and now?   What damned messages would we receive from that totally backward notion?

How about this?   That Jesus and men like him did only what God expects of us all every day.

We all know what Hell here on earth is all about.   We all do.   We live it daily.   We see it in the lives of those we love and of those we do not even know.   Hell on earth is very real.   But it seems to take selfish personal trips to exotic places for us to claim knowledge of Heaven on earth.   It takes a three-day weekend at home, being served breakfast in bed all three days, for us to exclaim, “This is Heaven on Earth.”   It takes an expensive meal at Morton’s Of Chicago maybe.   We’ve all used that phrase to describe mere moments when we are removed from the certain hells we all live here every day.

To ourselves, to those we love and to those who spend mere moments in our lives, do we not owe it to us all and to God to rid ourselves of our earthy Hell and to simply build Heaven here?   Without an exotic trip, a three-day weekend or a trip to Morton’s?

Think about it.

If we everyday treat every human being we meet as what they are – God’s children – are we not laying a gold brick on every road in all earthly neighborhoods?   When we see a distraught child, burning in his own earthly Hell, and when we simply lend a hand and smile a Jesus-like smile at them, are we not opening pearly gates here on earth?   When we simply show God’s love through our bright eyes and our unconditional smiles of life here and now, are we not spreading the love of a Heavenly existence where we know – where we know – we can all reside?

We can sing all the hymns we want, we can recruit into our churches all that we can, we can promise ourselves and all the others eternal life if they only commit themselves to the selfish notion of saving themselves.

But, damn it!   We are what we have.   This earth is what we know.   And God knows both of those things.

He wants us to all be Jesus-like.   Faith in greater things is a blessing.   But He expects us to build Heaven here.   He expects us to lift from earth’s Hell folks who need Jesus-like comfort and to rejoice in Jesus-like fashions every moment of every day.   He expects us to smile and love when frowns and hate confront us and those that we love.   He expects us to embrace unconditionally those who differ from us.   He expects us to give when we have nothing left to give.   He expects us to just love.   In genuine ways.   Just because genuine love is necessary to us all and to our Heaven here.

If we build Heaven here on earth, we have responded perfectly to what I say has always been God’s plea.   And if we follow the teachings of men like Jesus and others to accomplish this, and when we discover at our own deaths that there is indeed a heavenly afterlife, we will certainly be led to the exact resting places our faiths asked us to believe existed.   But we will all have arrived there without the selfish notion that seems to motivate our beliefs beyond God’s real expectations.   And in this life’s process, we will have lifted others, generated smiles, and shown the everlasting healing power of genuine love.

He needs us to make this work.   Nothing more.   I am sure of that.

I enjoyed writing this, y’all.   I loved doing it.   I am very selfish, I suppose.   But it means nothing – nothing at all – unless you understand what I am saying.   Believe it if you want.   Don’t if you choose.   Just please understand what I am writing.

“I eventually found comfort in simply understanding what God expects of us.”

And call me crazy if you want, but I kind of think God expected me to send this your way.