A Few People I Admire…

Life is full of people who earn our admiration.

Sometimes their impact on our life is immeasurable; they show up, in the right place at the right time, shifting the direction of our thoughts in ways that are so radical as to bring about complete paradigm shift.

Sometimes their impact is a little more subtle. They just happen to possess a quality or two that we admire, that we try to mimic in order to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t even know the person who’s earned our admiration. They may be just be someone that we relate to, someone with whom we feel a sort of kinship by virtue of shared (or envied) characteristics.

Everyone has a list of people that they admire, both small and great, and for a host of different reasons. They might be the people who made you what you are, or they might just be someone who crosses your mind once in a while – but either way, they stick with you.

Everyone has a list of such people…

Mine’s pretty long – but here’s the beginning.

Bob Westfall (1928-2005)

Bob Westfall was my around-the-corner neighbor when I was growing up.

Exactly fifty years my senior, he was about as crotchety as they came. He could b**** about anything and everything for hours on end, and – like most his age – he had a pretty dim view of anyone under the age of, oh, say about sixty or so.

I struck up a friendship with him when I was about twelve years old. We were sort of an odd pair; he was lonely, and had all the time in the world to shoot the breeze. I was wise beyond my tender years, seldom connecting with those of my own age. He could talk for hours about what life was like in the thirties, or what it was like to be in World War II. He could tell you all about China and Italy and Spain and France, because he’d been to all of those places. We used to hang out in his garage and just yap about nothing at all, for no reason whatsoever.

I missed him terribly when I lived in New York. I missed, I think, having the constant guidance of an older man’s perspective. The young man, by virtue of his total inexperience, tends to catastrophize everything. The old man, however, knows how to truly ignore that which doesn’t matter. I think one of the tragedies of our age is that we don’t value the wisdom of the elderly anymore, and seldom make time to be guided by them. We grow impatient with their crankiness and antiquated tastes, and completely miss the underlying importance of their presence.

Bob passed away in 2005. A memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life was how large and varied the crowd at his funeral was. There was everyone there from the mailman to the store clerk to the kid around the corner, now grown into a man – me. The kid who so loved the generous old fart that so willingly made time for him.

Bob never did anything even remotely epic. He worked in a paint store, and raised a few kids and lived a life that was quite ordinary. But what he will always be loved and admired for was his love for people. He always had time for anyone who wanted to chat… and that quality is so utterly absent in the modern man, driven, pell-mell creatures that we are.

I wonder if Bob knew how profoundly he affected me, helping to shape me during those very formative years into the man I am now. I hope he did.

And I hope that when I am old, I will remember to pass on my hodgepodge ideas and thoughts to the generation that will succeed my own.

Ed –

Ed was my artistic mentor growing up.

I could peg him as ‘a drawing/painting instructor’, but that would trivialize his role in my life. Ed was/is a brilliant artist, with the keenest eye for detail, and the greatest gift for explaining things that I have ever seen.

I first met Ed when I was fifteen. He was teaching a class for the department of Parks and Recreation, and I signed up for one of his classes. I was a decent childhood doodler, with a fair amount of potential, but little polish and no knowledge at all of theory or principle.

It was Ed Stubblefield who molded me into a professional-caliber artist, and I have never let my skills grow rusty. “Them as can, do,” he used to say “and them as can’t, teach.” He was being unusually harsh on himself when he said that, for Ed could both do and teach.

One of my flaws is that I like to be mysterious. Three people – Ed, my mother, and guitarist Jerry Lavene – helped me unlock the mystical secrets behind art, literature and music. Yet rather than pass on what was so unselfishly given to me, I like to keep my own secrets close to my chest, choosing instead to simply amaze others with what I can do without ever telling them how.

Thank God that others in my life were less selfish than I.

Wendy –

Wendy was a childhood friend of mine, a wispy, willowy blonde who was decidedly girl-next-door, and prettily tomboyish even as an adolescent.

Wendy shared my interest in art and literature, as well as my intellect – although I suspect that her nature is less abstract, and far more practical than mine. As boys and girls generally do, we grew apart as teenagers, each one of us fleeing whatever demons teen-dom thrust our way.

I could never have predicted, then, what direction Wendy’s life would take. I saw in her great potential, but that was about all I could’ve told you. I couldn’t even have told you what sort of potential.

She’s now a wife, and a mother.

There was a time when I would have told you that such a life was a waste of potential, a failure to meet one’s self-imposed challenges.

I was a boy when I thought that…

I am a man now, and I know better. I know that there is no higher calling than raising one’s own family, patiently molding and shaping the lives that one has created.

The modern woman, generally speaking, is so saturated with the 1960’s ‘liberated woman’ bull-hockey that she isn’t much use as a wife or mother. ‘Have the kids and chuck ’em in day care’; that seems the child-rearing method of the day. And throwing them into sports somehow counts as ‘family time’ these days, as though that amounts to any kind of meaningful interaction. There is a subtle attitude to the modern woman, one that says domestic life is beneath her, something to be avoided. The ones who suffer, of course, are our children.

(There. I said it. I don’t care how many bra-burning lesbians take offense, either. Right is right, and wrong is wrong!)

But Wendy has chosen to focus all of her intelligence, patience and empathy on the seven children that she’s brought into the world (yep, seven). I am sure that she – as did my mother – suffers persecution from those ‘liberated women’, too. I bet they sneer at her and say things like ‘so, when are you going to work?’, as though she doesn’t run herself ragged now. I don’t know how she handles their presumptuous derision, but I bet well. Three children do have a way of making one quite patient, after all.

If a person intends to live a selfish life, they don’t deserve children.

But Wendy deserves them. If only more women possessed such character, strength, and wisdom.

Mr. Lee –

Mr. Lee is probably the most colorful character in my circle of acquaintances. He owns and operates This Old House, a sushi restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Mr. Lee is from Taiwan; he’s a little midget of an oriental man, with a pot belly and an accent. He’s as friendly as he can be, and an absolute avatar of a chef. His restaurant is probably the best eating establishment around.

What I admire most, though, is the passion with which he runs his business. You can visit his place just once, and then go back a month later. And he will remember exactly what you ate the first time, and suggest something new based on what he thinks you might like. (Yes, he pays that much attention.)

About half of his menu is traditional sushi entrees, and about half of it is unique to him, painstakingly created from customer input. He spends as much time catering to his customers as his waitresses do, if not more.

I remember going in there on evening around 8:30, only to find his door locked. He usually closes at ten, but it was stone dead that night, and he was gonna leave early.

I gave the door a tug, and then turned to leave.

But Mr. Lee let me in, locked the door behind me and hooked me right up – playing chef, waiter and cashier all at once because he’d let his staff leave for the night. I protested, but he insisted – I was ‘good customer’, he said.

I have always believed that a man should do whatever he is passionate about. As a white cracker with relatives in West Virginia, I find the idea of making fish rolls an odd choice for one’s life work.

But Mr. Lee doesn’t… and that’s why he makes the best food one can buy, and the dining experience in his establishment is always second to none.

I wish I had that sort of dedication.

I could go on for hours. I could write a whole book on who I admire, and why. But I won’t. I won’t because you’d get bored, and stop reading. I won’t because I can’t always remember them all at once. I won’t because my hands hurt from having typed all night.

What I will do, however, is live a life worthy of the effort that others have put into me. Some have put forth that effort directly, willfully influencing my thoughts and behavior. Some have simply served as examples to me, and they probably don’t even know it.

Which is my cue, I guess, for living day-to-day with the greatest care…

Because you never know who’s paying attention to what you do and say.

Corona-Virus Explained: A shaunmoser.com Exclusive Report!

During the peak of this ‘Corona Virus’ hysteria, we here at shaunmoser.com made our boldest move ever: We dispatched our star reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – to ‘Ground Zero’ in Wuhan, China.

As our news staff made its plans in our gara… office, our reporter demanded several ‘perks’ in exchange for placing himself in such danger. First of all, he wanted new batteries for the portable CD player that Ozzy Osbourne gave him. He also wanted a new garbage can, one with a locking lid so that he wouldn’t have to share it with the cat next door.

Finally, he demanded to be made the majority shareholder of shaunmoser.com, a lucrative position that may net him as much as five dollars per quarterly payout.  While we were left reeling from Petey’s steep demands, he nevertheless had us ‘over a barrel’: It is far, far easier to smuggle a rat-like creature into Asia than a human being.

So we outfitted Petey with an old ‘fanny pack’ (which made a handy backpack for him), and some provisions.  Petey also requested a few idiosyncratic items, which we also provided.

We got him as close as we could to China by sending him first to India; we tucked him into a suitcase belonging to an H-1B Visa worker, returning home from Silicon Valley. When he landed in India, Petey had no trouble at all climbing aboard random transports until he reached Wuhan, China. No one in India or China, it seems, is even remotely bothered by the sight of what appears to be a sizable rat.

Finally Petey made his way to the Communist Party headquarters in the city of Wuhan, where he pounded on the door and demanded to speak to the local Communist Party spokesman, Mee Xik Fuk. Much to his surprise, our reporter was graciously ushered in and offered a cup of hot tea by Mr. Mee.

Here… is Petey’s report. Remember, you heard it first HERE, folks!!!

Petey: Thank you for the tea, Mr. Mee. That was very kind of you.

Mee Xik Fuk: You’re welcome, young man, and welcome to the glorious Republic of China. I hope you enjoy your stay.

Petey: Thank you, and thank you for speaking English. I’m not very good at Mandarin, I’m afraid.

Mee Xik Fuk (laughing as he takes a sip of green tea): Oh, you will be soon enough, young man! Everyone will. It’s just a matter of time.

Petey (spooning more sugar into his tea): What do you mean by that, Mr. Mee?

Mee Xik Fuk: Well, you have to have guessed that this ‘Corona Virus’ mess is a ‘takeover play’ by China, right?

Petey (taking a sip of his now high-octane tea):  I’ve heard those theories, yes. Might you elaborate, please?

Mee Xik Fuk: Well, we didn’t dare release the custom-made virus until we’d also engineered the antidote. Have you ever wondered, young man, why we let it ravage Wuhan and yet it never got anywhere near Shanghai or Beijing? We let it run amuck just enough to spark an American Media hysteria, and then we nipped it in the bud. We had the antidote in advance, and we also pre-fabbed sectional buildings so we could show off our ‘preparedness’ by slapping hospitals up overnight.

Petey: So, the COVD-19 virus was made in a lab?!

Mee Xik Fuk: When have you ever heard of a flu bug that’s contagious even without its host showing symptoms? Nearly nine out of ten people don’t display any symptoms; they just think they have a cold. So we needed to ensure that our virus was contagious even when lying dormant.

Petey: Would that explain why North Korea and Russia – your staunch allies – are relatively unscathed?

Mee Xik Fuk: Yes. Not only did we not – at least deliberately – send infected travelers there, we also gave them the antidote. Our points of focus were America, Australia, and the European Union. When they collapse their economies with panicky quarantine measures, it will leave a ‘power vacuum’ that China is poised to fill. Notice that while the American and European stock markets crashed, China’s did not.

Petey: But isn’t this basically still just a flu bug, according to the numbers? Britain is well below its five-year average for respiratory deaths, and Italy’s fatalities are nearly all elderly, or heavy smokers… the usual casualties of influenza. Even in the United States, the numbers are on par with a normal flu outbreak. What made you so sure that the media would incite a mass panic?

Mee Xik Fuk: That’s where the Chinese Communist Party’s staunchest ally, the American Democratic Party, comes in. Read the Democratic Party’s written platform alongside The Communist Manifesto sometime, and you’ll see why we’ve always been such strong allies. That’s why your former President Obama sent a good chunk of your automotive industry over here: That was his quid pro quo for our financial assistance with his ‘stimulus’ package, most of which went to companies who do business in China. We go way back, us Communists and the Democrats!

Petey: So how exactly did the Democrats help you out?

Mee Xik Fuk: The Democrats can direct most of the American Media with a simple phone call, thanks to moguls like Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg. Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC immediately fall into line, and their tech allies at FaceBook, Twitter, and Google clean up the fallout by censoring dissent. The media’s orders were simple: Inflate the reported number of cases, without ever comparing the case numbers to the overall population figures. Numbers are scary, but percentages are not… so the press was ordered to strictly report the numbers. Also, they reported that anyone who died with the Corona Virus died from the Corona Virus… but there’s a difference. People with ‘multiple morbidity factors’ die from those morbidity factors, and not necessarily from the Corona Virus even though they happen to have it.

Petey: What about conservative media outlets like Breitbart, The Federalist, iPatriot, and TheBlaze? Shouldn’t they be able to balance out a manufactured panic?

Mee Xik Fuk: Young man, those networks are only read by a tiny percentage of Americans: The enlightened few who actually research the truth for themselves. Your average American is a lazy moron who comes home, plunks his fat butt onto the couch, and turns on the television… and there, Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg reign supreme. Why do you think the Americans are voluntarily shutting down their economy over what would otherwise be ‘business as usual’? Control the media, control the people!

Petey: What does that Democratic Party get out of this?

Mee Xik Fuk: Democrats are desperate to regain power, young man! Barack Obama put America into a coffin, and Hillary Clinton was meant to nail it shut. The rise of President Donald Trump was an unacceptable anomaly to them, one that they’ve been fighting to correct. But the Mueller Report failed, and impeachment failed. This… is ‘take’ number three in their quest to pull down the president!

Petey: Are there other players involved?

Mee Xik Fuk: Yes, there’s the American ‘deep state’: The network of un-elected bureaucrats who pull the strings from behind the scenes. As we speak, Americans are surrendering the following freedoms: Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Travel, and Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure. President Trump was barely able to preserve the Freedom to Keep and Bear Arms, but even that is subject to local enforcement. And the Americans are meekly submitting to all of it, because they’ve been told that they should be afraid. Rhode Island is hunting down New Yorkers with para-military troops, and Florida has armed enforcers manning ‘checkpoints’. A minister was just arrested for holding a church service, and millions are being threatened with arrest just for exercising their freedom of movement. All of this serves the Deep State’s desire for widespread ‘martial law’.

Petey: Is anyone else involved?

Mee Xik Fuk (with a disturbing grin): There’s the usual culprit, the American Federal Reserve. You know, your central bank that’s neither ‘Federal’ nor has any ‘reserves’. It’s a private, ‘for profit’ entity.

Petey: Right, they’re doing unlimited ‘quantitative easing’ right now, which means they’re printing money like it’s going out of style. What’s that meant to accomplish?

Mee Xik Fuk: The more money you print, the less it’s worth… which means the Americans, in a time of manufactured crisis, will hand over most of their wealth just to survive. Once the American Middle Class is destitute, the Federal Reserve will contract the money supply, so all the money collected by the Corporate Establishment will then be worth exponentially more. In the meantime, the corporations will ‘acquire’ failing small businesses at an alarming rate, further concentrating power. We helped America do the exact same thing in 2008; the American Middle Class lost forty percent of its net wealth, and it’s never gotten it back.

Petey (looking up a quote on his phone): Right. Thomas Jefferson said ‘If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children wake up homeless on the Continent their Fathers conquered…’

Mee Xik Fuk: Now you get it! Economic collapse, transfer of power to China, an American police state, and the impoverishment of the world’s greatest republic… and all that from a simple flu bug that the general public should have ignored!

Petey: What do you mean, ‘should have ignored’?

Mee Xik Fuk: I mean the smartest thing your people could have done would have been to tell their leaders to go to hell. No self-quarantine, no restrictions, nothing! They can’t arrest all of you, right? One of your founders said that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’, and you forgot that. You acted like sheep, blindly obeying when you should have fought… and now you’ll lose everything. You forgot that free men trade lives for liberty, not the other way around. Now, very soon, you’ll be no freer than our people!

Petey: Why are you telling me all this?! This kind of reminds me of a James Bond movie, where the villain spills the beans about his plot just before the end of the story…

Mee Xik Fuk (setting down his tea and opening a desk drawer): Because I don’t intend to let you leave here alive, my fuzzy friend, although it was very nice meeting you.

Petey (pulling something out of his backpack as Mee Xik Fuk pulls something from his desk): What’s that, Sir?

Mee Xik Fuk: A butcher knife, young man. You will fetch a very large sum at our local wet market! Not only are you edible, your tail-bones can be ground up and sold as an aphrodisiac. What’s that?

Petey: A big-ass jar of American moonshine, a toilet-paper wick, and a cigarette lighter. Do you believe in God, Mr. Mee?

Mee Xik Fuk (advancing): Of course not; I’m a Communist

Petey (lighting the wick): Then I guess I won’t wish you ‘Godspeed’, Mr. Mee. Sayonara!!!

Mee Xik Fuk: Sayonara’s JAPANESE, you fool!

Petey (tossing the jar): Whatever. Bye bye!

Our reporter was a little singed, but he escaped mostly unscathed. (Petey has a fair amount of experience fleeing certain doom, so he knew exactly what to do.) He was home safe and sound in a matter of weeks.

We at shaunmoser.com would like to reiterate that this interview is a work of SATIRE, and thus we have no actual knowledge as to why the Communist Party Headquarters of Wuhan burned to the ground. We also have no inside knowledge pertaining to the horrible death of the honorable Mr. Mee Xik Fuk.

We would also like to extend our condolences to Mr. Mee’s family: His lovely wife (Mee Fat Ho), his son (Mee Dip Xit), and his daughter (Mee Ug Li). We wish them all the best for the future, and would like to thank them on Mee Xik Fuk’s behalf for his telling interview!

Petey Meets Bernie Sanders!

As shaunmoser.com desperately searched for a newsworthy item NOT related to the ‘corona virus’ hysteria, our star reporter – Petey the Pissed-Off Possum – came up with a brilliant idea.

With the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee – Joe Biden – in hiding while he receives treatment for his dementia, Petey thought it’d be a good time to visit the second runner-up: Senator Bernie Sanders.

Petey had to wait a while to catch the senator, but he didn’t mind since he was fairly comfortable in his lodgings: The garbage can behind one of Bernie’s palatial homes. But he finally cornered Bernie one night, as the failed candidate snuck out back for a few bong hits. Petey decided to wait until he was good and stoned before popping out of the trash can.

Here… is his interview!

Petey: Mr. Sanders? Hello…?

Bernie Sanders: AAAAAUUUGH!!! I’M GETTING PARANOID AGAIN!

Petey: No, sir, you’re not. I’m Petey, the lead reporter for shaunmoser.com.

Bernie Sanders: Who the hell is…?

Petey (interrupting): If you ask ‘who the hell is Shaun Moser’, I’m gonna hafta bite you, Senator. Seriously. Everybody asks me that question!

Bernie Sanders: What are you doing here?!

Petey: I was hoping for an interview, now that the dust has settled from the Democratic Presidential Primary. Is that okay?

Bernie Sanders (taking a deep hit from his bong): Oh, sure. I’m glad it’s all over, anyway.

Petey: Uh… weren’t you hoping to win the Democratic primary? You know, to run against Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States?

Bernie Sanders: What?! NO! Why would I want that?

Petey: Isn’t the point of running to win?

Bernie Sanders (choking a little): No…

Petey: I don’t follow.

Bernie Sanders (taking another deep hit): Look, kid, it’s like this. I do all these rallies, and lazy, entitled kids pile out of their mothers’ basements to support me because I’m offering them a free ride. I collect millions in campaign donations, and then I tell my media buyer to use that money for campaign ads. Then my media buyer keeps a ten-percent commission for every dollar – or million – we spend.

Petey: Who’s your media buyer?

Bernie Sanders: My wife! Why do you think I have three luxury homes?

Petey: So… you didn’t actually want to be the president? You just wanted the money?

Bernie Sanders: Kid, you have to understand something: I’m no different from those spoiled, greedy morons who support me. I’m a bum, always looking for a handout. The only time I’ve ever had to actually work was when I was the mayor of Burlington, and even then I had my staff do almost everything. I’m all about the fast buck, the easy score. Get it?

Petey: So, do you really believe your own rhetoric? (adopting a mocking New England accent) IT’S THE PHAWMECEUTICAL COMPANIES!!! IT’S THE CAWPORATIONS!!!

Bernie Sanders (giggling as he blows a smoke ring): Hey, that was pretty good!

Petey: Thanks. So do you really believe the ideas you preach?

Bernie Sanders: Of course not. I got my ideas when I read The Communist Manifesto in college, see…

Petey: Yeah, you do sound a lot like Karl Marx.

Bernie Sanders: Right? And when I read it, I said to myself ‘Bernie, this is great!You preach this stuff, and ignorant people will flock to you like flies on shit!’

Petey: That seems kinda… self-serving, doesn’t it?

Bernie Sanders: Oh, sure. But the trick is that you can’t call yourself a ‘Communist’, even if you are one. ‘Democratic Socialist’ sounds better, see? Communism turned the entire twentieth century into a bloodbath of starving poor people, but it sure did work for a lot of powerful men. Mao, Stalin, Castro… those guys knew what they were doing!

Petey: So, you spew a philosophy that’s failed every time it’s been implemented, and you don’t even want to be in charge of things? You’re just in this for the money?

Bernie Sanders (beginning to nod off): I’m afraid so, kid.

Petey: That sounds kind of… well, evil!

Bernie Sanders: Sure it is. But I do have three houses. Do you have three houses?

Petey: No… and I’m beginning to think, Senator, that I should probably bite you right about now.

Bernie Sanders (sounding anxious): Are you carrying the corona virus?

Petey (advancing menacingly): No sir, but I do carry RABIES!

Bernie Sanders: You get away from me, now. Go on, shoo! Scram!

Bernie Sanders: Uh… you’d better go away before I call security…

Bernie Sanders: Mr. Possum…? Mr. Possum?

Bernie Sanders: AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGHHHHH!!!

Bernie Sanders was last seen in the Capitol Building, talking crazy and foaming at the mouth.

Insofar as we know, he has not yet been treated for his rabies (as none of his colleagues noticed any change in his behavior).

‘Til next time!

Much Ado About…

               So the civilized world is on ‘lockdown’ now, due to the panic over the ‘novel Coronavirus’…

               Except that the latest Coronavirus isn’t novel; this is COVD-19, the nineteenth version of a flu bug that’s been around forever. This also isn’t the first mass contagion in recent memory. SARS (Sudden Arrested Respiratory Syndrome) broke out in 2009 and 2012, and a wicked swine flu epidemic busted loose in 2010.

               The difference is, the ‘mainstream’ media voluntarily ‘blacked out’ those events to protect the American President Barack Obama. They’re blowing up the latest outbreak to crash the American economy in the hopes of taking out President Trump… ‘cuz let’s face it, nothing makes for great campaign rhetoric like ‘This president made everybody poor! Vote for ME instead!’ (Except maybe in the case of Senile Joe Biden, whose campaign slogan will be something like ‘The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…’)

               This didn’t have to happen. Yes, it’s a nasty flu bug but it’s still just a flu bug. The media-induced panic, however, will probably cause a repeat of 2008: The year in which the American middle class lost a whopping forty percent of its net wealth. Wealthy elites have recovered from the crash of 2008, but the middle class never has.

               I’m trying to keep my chin up, but it’s hard because I remember the terror of 2008. The media may be full of ‘fake news’ but the panic they induce is very, very real. It also has very real consequences.

               Stuff happens. People suffer. And Christians suffer right along with everyone else, because we are still part of a cursed world. But we have this comfort: Sometimes God calms the storm, and something He calms His child… but He will always do one or the other!

               That, I think, was why the Apostle Paul called our earthly troubles ‘light and momentary’.

               That having been said… screw the American press!!!

Confessions of a Lifelong Nocturne…

‘I prefer a sunless sky/ to the glittering and stinging in my eye…’ Nina Gordon (from the song ‘Tonight and the Rest of My Life’)

Our world seems to consist mostly of people who adore the daylight…

They wallow in the sunlight, those sprawling masses, forever reveling in the bright light that shows them their path. They bask in every moment of lingering sunshine before they reluctantly retire at dusk, their heads hanging in disappointment as they anxiously begin counting the minutes until the dawn rises anew.

Sunlight may show you your path…

But the darkness shows you the stars. You can find your path by the stars, just as well as by the sun; it just takes more practice.

Nocturnes understand life more deeply than the sun-worshipers ever could. Life slows down at night. It gives one a sense of calm, of focus, and a much more profound sense of things. Daylight invites the ‘sheeple’ to run about in a higgledy-piggledy mess, bumping into one another in their hurry and making no sense as they do.

Nocturnes see life with much more focus, because we prefer to ‘run about’ during the hours in which the ‘sheeple’ aren’t making such a mess of things. Daylight brings confusion; Darkness brings clarity. When one is awake at three a.m., the anxiety that defines humanity just fades away. The world might actually blow up soon… but it won’t happen at night; the moron that ‘pushes the button’ will almost certainly be some brainless ‘early bird’. In the meantime, the Nocturne has more stolen time in which to make sense of the world, of himself.

Some prefer the sun; it makes their path clear.

I prefer to navigate by the stars. I’m good at it, too…

And that’s something that the diurnal masses will never understand.

The Top Ten Metal Albums of All Time (Thus Far…)

Anyone who knows me well knows that when it comes to music, I LOVE the ‘hard stuff’! The louder the better. I tend to think of music as a cathartic thing, a medium through which to purge one’s pain and angst.

An Australian study showed that people who listen to Heavy Metal suffer from fewer neuroses and enjoy better mental health than those who do not. Life… is not always pretty! Sometimes ya just gotta get that nasty stuff out of your head, you know?

So here – in no particular order – are my top ten metal albums of all time…

Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzmosis:If you don’t like this album, you’re on crack. It came out in my late teens, and it was a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. It’s darker than most of Ozzy’s work, and more heartfelt. It’s also (arguably) guitarist Zakk Wylde’s finest piece of work, at least with the Oz-man.

Stryper – To Hell with the Devil:The title track never fails to give me the chills; Michael’s Sweet’s vocals are second to none! Robert Sweet’s drumming is right up there with Mike Portnoy’s, in my book, and no two guitarists ever played in sync like Michael and Oz Fox. It’s a testament to this album’s quality that it was the first Christian metal album to ever achieve ‘mainstream’ success.

Megadeth – Cryptic Writings: ‘She-Wolf’. Need I say more? This is also the first album in which I began to admire Dave Mustaine for his vocals as well as his guitar playing. The way he sang ‘Use the Man’ just blew me away.

Nevermore – Dead Heart in a Dead World: ‘The Heart Collector’ is an underrated classic. Nevermore is second to none when it comes to vocals, lyrics, composition, and guitar work. (Honestly, I had a hard time choosing between this one and ‘Dreaming Neon Black’.)

My Dying Bride – The Angel and the Dark River: My Dying Bride has never released a bad album… but this is unarguably their opus. Not only is it heavy and angst-ridden, the piano and violin tracks truly make it stand out as a metal masterwork.

Metallica – St. Anger: This controversial record is Metallica’s only ‘flop’, since it only went triple platinum. Awww!!! The fans just didn’t get it. James Hetfield had just come out of rehab, and the band was going through some major therapy in the slim hope that they might stay together. Most fans didn’t get it, but I did; this record comes from a place of raw pain and desperate self-exploration. The song ‘The Unnamed Feeling’ is well worth the selling price, and ‘Some Kind of Monster’ is pure-dee Metallica.

Pantera – Cowboys From Hell: The metal album that truly defined the nineties. Singer Phil Anselmo bridged the gap between the high-pitched vocals of the eighties and the darker style that would come to define the nineties. ‘Cemetery Gates’ is truly Dimebag Darrell’s finest piece of guitar work. (May you rest in peace, Dime. We miss you!)

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes: Black Sabbath’s forgotten gem. Tony Martin’s vocals were off the charts, and this is some of Tony Iommi’s finest guitar work. Sadly, the same lineup would go on to record ‘Forbidden’, which was a total dud… which is probably why ‘Cross Purposes’ tends to get overlooked.

Iron Maiden – Brave New World: Every song is based on a classic book. This album was inspired songwriting on a level that even Maiden had never before achieved. Much like Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, albums are best when their writers actually have something to say!

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: The demi-gods of metal’s finest release, a unique blend of blues, classical, and good ol’ hard rock. Recorded in an abandoned castle in England, this record is one part Creepy and three parts Beautiful. Sadly, it was Sabbath’s last good album before Ozzy’s departure… but it left a lasting legacy.

So there you have it! That’s some of the music that has shaped me as a person, and defined who and what I became. Every person has a unique soundtrack to his or her own life… so go find yours!

Be well!

The Hero With a Thousand Faces…

The following message was delivered to the local Church of Christ in the spring of 2019…

I’m beginning this sermon with one of my customary disclaimers…

Ninety percent of what I’m about to say has no inarguable Biblical backing. I am not giving an expository sermon designed to tell you what you’re supposed to believe. Rather, I am simply sharing some thoughts today because I want to PROVOKE thought. I don’t think Biblical study was ever meant to be a hard-and-fast science. I think that understanding the mind of God requires creative thought, because God is the original Creative Being. And as Moses wrote in Genesis 1:26, we are similar to God in the way we think. Flawed, yes… but still created in His image.

That having been said, turn with me to Luke Chapter 18, starting in Verse 15. Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

This little vignette about Jesus and the children is chronicled in a couple of different places throughout the Gospels. What interests me, though, is how sketchy the narrative really is. What on earth did Jesus mean when he said that ‘to children belong the Kingdom of Heaven?’ Some teach that this means that one must be baptized as an infant. Unfortunately, that’s a mistake. Peter, in Acts 2, made it quite clear that baptism is reserved for those who have sinned; an infant can’t sin, because sin requires an awareness of right and wrong.

So what was Jesus talking about when he said that ‘we must receive the kingdom of God like a child?’ That always seemed to me to be a somewhat mysterious statement.

Here’s something interesting about Scripture. When it is absolutely necessary for you to understand something in a very specific manner, the teaching will be given in a very specific manner. I mentioned Acts 2 a minute ago; read that again sometime. A very specific question is asked of an apostle, and the apostle gives a specific and inarguable answer. But that’s not always the case. If every single jot and tittle of scripture was written like pages out of an instruction manual, then Christianity would simply be a behavioral system, rather than what it is: A relationship with God. Relationships are complicated sometimes. I’m married. I know.

Similarly, I think that parts of Scripture are a little mysterious because we grow as Christians by trying to figure them out. And I think that Jesus’ teaching on children is one of those mysterious passages.  

I come back to this scripture a lot when I think about God himself. How does a child view God? Actually, let’s step away from religion for just a minute. How does a child view – or mimic – anyone that he or she admires?

When I was little, maybe four or so, I had a stack of comic books that I kept in shoebox under my bed. My mother bought them for me, mostly at yard sales. They were torn and raggedy, but I found them absolutely mesmerizing … and that’s quite a trick when you can’t read yet. I used to look at them for hours, and I’d try to make up stories to go with the pictures.

My absolute favorite character in those comic books… was Superman! To me, Superman was about the coolest person ever. He ran around all day in red underwear, and still managed to look manly.  Now, I lived in a very small apartment when I was little, about a hundred feet from the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Virginia. And in addition to my comic book collection, we also kept in our apartment a red bath towel. And my mother could never find that bath towel. You know why? Because it was usually tied around my neck. It wasn’t a just bath a towel to me; it was a cape, and I stole it every chance I got so I could run around the yard being just like Superman. I’d spend hours saving imaginary people from imaginary monsters, until my mother dragged me back inside and took her towel back.

I know now that Superman was created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I am familiar with the eight decades of mythology that followed, and I posses several hundred Superman comics now … but I was just a newbie then. I only had a few comic books, and I didn’t even know how to read those. I just took what I did know and ran with it. Superman was cool, and I wanted to be just like him.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my future wife lived in the next city over… running around in a princess dress waiting to rescued. I was pretending to be a superhero; she was pretending to be the fair maiden waiting to fall for the superhero.  That’s just what kids do.

I didn’t just look at comics. My upbringing was fairly religious, so my mother read me Bible stories a lot. David and Goliath was a favorite of mine. Samson was, too, although my mother edited out a few parts when she read me that one. (I didn’t get to read the R-rated version until I was old enough to read it on my own.) I remember Noah’s Ark, and Jonah and the Whale. Those stories were inspiring to me as a little boy, and they made me want to imitate the great men of the Bible.

And that was the big epiphany for me. That’s how I understand Jesus’ statement that we should receive the kingdom of heaven as children. Children love stories. Can’t get enough of ‘em. They eat, breathe, and sleep their favorite characters, and then they imitate them.  In the end, I came to the conclusion that the story of scripture is more important than its theology could ever be, because paradoxically…when you come to love the story the theology comes naturally. It’s the story that matters to a child. My comic books didn’t have to say ‘thou shalt wear a red cape when thou playest Superman’. I knew to take the red towel instead of the blue one because that’s the one Superman would have taken.  Easy.

And scripture is a story, unarguably so. Just because it’s a true story doesn’t mean it’s not still a story. Just because we’re meant to live by it doesn’t invalidate it as literature. Scripture begins with ‘in the beginning…’ If they wanted to translate that phrase ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’… it’d still fit. It follows with ‘God created the heavens and the earth.’  Suddenly, our story has a setting and a timeline. It’s not too long before read ‘and the serpent was more cunning than any other beast the Lord God had made’ … and then your villain appears. You can’t have a tense, exciting story without a villain.

But then God tells the serpent that someday a great hero is going to come along and crush his head. That all the evil the serpent inflicts on mankind is going to be undone. And after a great many plot twists and turns, that hero does come in the person of Jesus Christ.  And in one epic showdown, in a place called Golgotha…  Christ does defeat the serpent, and saves his people from slavery. That’s how every heroic tales goes: it begins with the villain, who imposes some form of slavery… and then the prophesied hero comes along to save them. It’s an oft-repeated outline that was artfully dissected in Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’.  Our Bible resonates so deeply in the human consciousness, that it sets the pattern for thousands of great stories.

The story ends in Revelation, where John writes that ‘night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.’ That’s just a really fancy way of saying ‘and they lived happily ever after’.

Great stories provide inspiration, and inspiration inspires imitation. John writes, in 1 John 2:6 that ‘whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did’. Paul wrote that he ‘bore the marks of Christ’ on his body. The Apostles saw scripture for the drama that it is; I don’t think it was just some moldy old theology book to them … nor should it be to us. We should always approach Scripture with the same sense of awe, wonder, and simplicity that a child brings to his favorite story.   

I think the biggest problem we have when we forget the story of scripture and over-focus on its doctrines is that we lose context. One of my favorite books when I was little was Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. It usually took my mother about a week to read to it me. If she’d started in Chapter Three on Tuesday, and then skipped to the last chapter on Wednesday, I’d have been one mad little fella.  I wouldn’t have been able to follow the narrative. Characters’ actions would have made no sense, and I would have misunderstood most of the dialogue. Now, let me ask you this … if bouncing all over the place doesn’t work for ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, then why on earth would it work for the Bible? My method of scriptural study, my ‘hermeneutic’, if you will, was best described by Lewis Carrol, the iconic author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’: You start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, you stop!

When you start reading the Bible in Genesis and end in Revelation, it will make sense all by itself. You don’t have to stop along the way to tear apart the Hebrew of a passage. The interesting thing about scripture is that it is preserved for us by scholars, but it wasn’t written for scholars. Kind of like cars are maintained for us by mechanics, but they aren’t made for mechanics. They’re made for ordinary people to roll around in, whether they understand how the car works or not.  The simplest possible approach is nearly always the best one, I think … the ‘Superman approach’ if you will.

You can tell that God meant for us to have a child-like love for Him by how he describes us. What does the Bible call us, particularly in the New Testament? Sheep. Anyone here know anything about sheep? Sheep … are about the dumbest quadruped wandering God’s green earth. They’re complete idiots.

Where there are sheep there is always a sheep dog, and if that sheep dog gets an ornery streak and runs the sheep over a cliff, they’ll go right over without too much trouble. Sheep just aren’t very bright. And God calls us sheep. A lot. Do we really think that God would call us ‘sheep’, and then turn around and write a book that takes a rocket scientist to figure out? Of course he wouldn’t, because that’d be cruel, and God is kind.


Sheep are simple critters. So apparently are we, since God calls us sheep, and therefore so must scripture be, since it was written for us. When we read scripture and we have questions about it, I’m betting the simple answer is usually the right one. Jesus himself kind of spoke derisively about complicating scripture. Remember what he told the Pharisees in Matthew 23? “You blind guides! You strained out a gnat and you swallowed a camel!’ In other words, the Pharisees were so obsessed with the details of God’s law that they missed the big picture. A child would never have done such a thing. A child wouldn’t have noticed a gnat, but he’d have been excited about the camel. ‘Look, Mommy, a camel!’ A sheep would have noticed the camel, too.

Another problem that arises when we fail to approach scripture with a child-like attitude is that we start to add rules that complicate it. We the Churches of Christ are famous for that! When Alexander Campbell called us back to Biblical Christianity in the 1820’s and 30’s, God was using him to do an incredible thing. After nearly sixteen hundred years of misunderstandings – and I do believe the mistakes of medieval religion were just that, misunderstandings – Biblical salvation was being restored on a massive scale. But in their zeal, the Churches of Christ snuck in a few extra-biblical creeds that have haunted us ever since. They damaged our movement; in some cases, they have very nearly destroyed it.

One creed that snuck into our movement was the ‘commandment/example/inference ‘ idea. Anyone familiar with that one? Campbell and his contemporaries taught that when we study scripture, we should look first for a commandment, then for an example, and then if we still can’t figure out ‘proper doctrine’, we should rely lastly upon  inference. Now that’s not a bad method of study, and it often works… but the cold hard truth is that there’s no commandment saying we HAVE to study scripture that way. I think a bit differently on the topic. Because when you look at Scripture as a child does – as a story – it’s example that you should first be looking for, not commandment. The commandments are there just in case you’re too stubborn to follow the obvious example. Israel was given the Law of Moses because they were a ‘stubborn and stiff-necked people’. If they’d have been obedient enough to follow the examples of righteousness get by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they might not have needed those laws. Example came first, not commandment.

God is all about setting the example. Remember Romans 5:8? God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. As we looked at earlier, John says we were to walk as Jesus walked. We dwell on Peter’s commandment to repent and be immersed, but that commandment really didn’t do anything except cement Jesus’ example. Before Peter ever commanded us to be immersed into Christ’s body, Jesus showed us that we need to be. To reiterate His command that we should serve others, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to show us how.  Commandments exist only to quantify and explain an example. And example is alive, and memorable. A commandment is hollow, and boring. An example inspires you to follow it. A commandment tempts you to look for a loophole in it. A child understands this; a theologian might not.

An author named Clive Barker wrote something years ago that always stuck with me. I read it in passing years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. He wrote that ‘so often we cut up something that’s alive and beautiful to find out why it’s alive and beautiful, and before we know it it’s neither of those things’. I think of that whenever I read 2 Timothy 3:16: ‘All scripture is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness.’  Anything that has breath is something that’s alive. It’s the breath of God that gives scripture its supernatural power to teach, to correct, to rebuke, and ultimately to train us to be more like Jesus. Scripture’s ability to change us is directly linked to the life that God breathed into it.

But here’s the scary thing. Something that is alive is something that can also be killed. Any doctor knows that there is a difference between an examination and an autopsy. You can examine someone to find out how their system works, but if you’re not careful, you can cut too deeply with your scalpel and bleed the life out of them. I think scripture works the same way. If you don’t approach it with the same reverence and innocence that a child would, it ceases to be a great story and instead it just becomes an intellectual curiosity. When that happens, it’s dead. You’re not studying God’s word anymore, you’re giving it an autopsy. It can’t change you because you’re not interacting with it; you’re just bagging and toe-tagging its body parts.

 A good example of this is Dr. Virginia Mollenkott. Does that name ring a bell to anyone? It should. She was the Linguistic Styling Editor of the New International Version of the Bible. Dr. Mollenkott knows scripture perhaps better than any other living person today. Every single word of the NIV Bible went through her hands at least once, to ensure consistency in the English wording.  Know what? Dr. Mollenkott is a militant homosexual activist. I can’t say for sure because I don’t know her, but I’m wondering if scripture didn’t lose its luster for her because she had more of an interest in dissecting it than she did in simply reading it.

Clive Barker wrote something else, too. He wrote that ‘every single person is a book of blood; wherever we are opened, we’re red’. (And yes, the play on words was deliberate.) Scripture is a book of blood. You can honor it, and you can follow it … or you can – in a cold-blooded, deliberate manner – cut the life out of it. Scripture cuts us, as the author of Hebrews wrote in chapter 4, verse 12. But I think we overlook the fact that we can cut it back. By making scripture boring, by making it just another intellectual pursuit, we destroy it.

You know something?

Children don’t destroy scripture. They don’t mangle it. I remember bringing my mom my books and children’s bible and pestering her to read to me. Tell me about Samson. Tell me about David. Tell me about Noah. Tell me about Jesus. It was only when I was much older that I learned how to butcher the things I read in the Bible. It was only as an adult that that the word of Almighty God became insufferably boring to me. It was only as an adult that I forgot how to receive the Kingdom of God as a child would. God forbid we ever do such a thing.

Let me add a couple of caveats here. I’m not saying we don’t need scholars, and I’m not saying we don’t need theologians, because we do. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul writes that ‘God has appointed teachers for the churches’. I’m just saying that teachers must be very, very careful, lest they – with their superior knowledge of scripture – over-complicate it, butcher it, and kill it. Anyone been to the movies lately? It’s amazing what Hollywood can do with special effects, isn’t it? But I’m betting it’s not so amazing to the director, and that’s what it’s like to be a teacher.  We need teachers, but teachers have to be careful not to lose their simple appreciation for God’s word.

And while I am saying we need to be child-like, understand that that’s not the same thing as being child-ish. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3 that ‘we are to grow in wisdom by studying the scriptures’. But maturing is not the same as becoming jaded. We’re meant to outgrow childish foolishness, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11. But we are not meant to outgrow child-like enthusiasm, and child-like simplicity in regards to the things of God. We see that in the words of Jesus Himself, in John 8:29: He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him. How simple is that? That’s not a very complicated idea at all.         

Just think about it for a second… what do you love best? A bunch of dusty old books, spouting a bunch of hard to understand philosophies… or a good story? Stories are alive. They inspire us, and capture our imaginations; they have a way of settling into our collective consciousness, and influencing entire cultures. What do we remember most about ancient Greece? The wars they fought, the kingdoms they conquered… or their myths? The Odyssey and the Iliad, Jason and the Argonauts, Achilles and his cursed heel, the Trojan horse and the golden fleece… Stories survive even the cultures that created them.

I think we’d win a lot more converts if we remembered what Jesus said about children. So many people look at Christianity, and they see an insane amount of negative drama.  They see creeds and doctrines and denominations and clerical hierarchies and hypocrisy, and in the end most of ‘em don’t want anything to do with it. Maybe we’d do better to teach people simply to climb onto Jesus’ lap and listen to the wonderfully exciting stories that he has to tell, and then live like He did, not because someone told you to, but because you admire Him… and you love Him.