Monday, October 19, 2009

Come Monday...Quite A Cross To Bear

“Come Monday…” is a weekly series that will involve a review of, or commentary about, websites, movies, documentaries, television shows, sports, music, and whatever else may tickle my fancy at the time. Be assured that these reviews will be generally positive, as in accordance to the Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday.” This is subject to change, however. In fact, I would be most derelict in my duties to neglect going on a rant every once in a while. For rants promote change, and change can be good—right? Therefore, since good is generally considered as being a positive force in 99.3% of the parallel universes that I am aware of, even a rant could be considered as being something positive, and a genuine hissy-fit would be even better (so I’m told).

This is the last chapter of The Crackerhead Crumbles, which is an abbreviated account of my life so far. Hopefully, a link to where all of the books that I have been given to publish will be available next week, and after that…well…we’ll just have to see.

The Twentieth Crumb
(Quite A Cross To Bear)

No, it has not been made very easy for me. For what our Heavenly Father was talking about when He told me to introduce Him was to help clear up much of the confusion that now exists concerning Himself and the righteousness of all of His most awesome ways in order to help make it easier to accept what He actually says is absolutely true.

In other words, I have been given quite a cross to bear. For my primary calling is to those who believe with all of their hearts and minds that they already know Him well when the absolute truth of the matter truly is that all they really have is a semblance of knowledge about Him.

Adding all the more to the weight was that my own expectations were not being met. For way too much of my natural self (character, disposition) remained intact, and my physical health was deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

No, it was never mine to carry alone. In fact, very little have I ever actually shouldered myself, but even that has been more than enough for me.

On one particularly bad day, I asked my Heavenly Father why it had to be so hard. His reply was, “After all, why do you think it is called suffering?”

No, I had not been allowed and enabled to count it all joy [James 1:2-4] yet. I still haven’t, but I have always greatly appreciated Him putting His delightful sense-of-humor on display for my benefit.

Needless to say, suffering is a very painful subject to touch upon, and a pun was most definitely intended there. For it is often good to laugh when all you feel like doing is cry, and I did let out a chuckle when He told me what He did.

It was certainly a better answer than I received from the adult Sunday School teacher at my mom’s church. For in the midst of having a full-blown nervous breakdown after a week where the motors of two brand-new chain saws had ceased-up when they were desperately needed, all I got from him was, “It could be worse.”

He was, of course, the wrong one to ask. For he was taught what I was taught by others, which is that everything that happens is just a result of being in a fallen world and that we are pretty much on our own in it, but I was way past the point of caring about details like that at the time.

Be assured that I way past the point of caring about a lot of things by the first of March in 1994. For the wife and family that I had been begging for was still not within sight.

Speaking of our Heavenly Father having a sense-of-humor, He used my mom to get me to do what He wanted me to do again. For I was adamantly opposed to placing a personal ad in the Pennypower (an advertising publication out of Springfield), but in order to get my mom shut up about it, that is exactly what I wound up doing.

It wasn’t much of an ad. For if I remember right, all it had was, Single white male seeking single white female for possible marriage, along with For with God nothing shall be impossible.

A phone number was assigned to the ad, and I was told that I could check for any messages that might be left for me as many times as I liked, at any time that I liked. Since I was so sure that nothing would come of it, I didn’t bother to check for any messages until after eight days had passed.

Okay, I am supposed to be as honest as possible here, and the truth is that I just didn’t have it in me to hear, “We’re sorry. You have no new messages at this time.” For despite all that I had been taught by the One who would know what He is talking about, I was still absolutely convinced that I was just plain not good enough to be blessed with a wife, and I literally went into shock to find that less than three hours after I had first placed the ad, a little lady by the name of Arlynda in Nixa, MO (around 5 miles south of Springfield) had left a message for me to give her a call.

Oh, it was most definitely love at first sight. Well, at least for me it was. For it has taken her a little while longer to come around, and depending upon what time of day it is, she might tell you that the jury is still out on that one.

Thankfully, her good sense was not a deal breaker. For on the fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord, 1994, we were married in a very small ceremony in Eureka Springs, AR (around 70 miles south of Springfield).

Now, if you are keeping score at home, that was around three weeks after we first met. No, as a matter of fact, I did not want to give her time to come to her senses.

We got married again (unofficially) on the fifth of June in a formal ceremony. For I wanted to discourage her from trying to claim that she had never met me before later on by having a lot of witnesses to the fact that she really had.

Now, if you are wondering what she was thinking, I suppose it could be argued that it really wasn’t her fault. For Arlynda was depending upon Reenie to keep varmints like me away, but instead of running up and taking a chunk out of my leg, I was rubbing on the belly of that seven pound puffball of a tea-cup poodle before I got seated good on the couch.

No, it wasn’t exactly the family that I was praying for. Be assured that I am most thankful for that. For my Heavenly Father gave me so much more, and my wonderful wife keeps proving to be a gift that I most certainly do not deserve.

On the other hand, it hasn’t always been wonderful. For there was still some pride left in me when we first got married, and I was quick to let Arlynda know when she was not giving me the full amount of respect that I expected to receive.

It sure didn’t help much to live in her house in Nixa. For it is hard to find a place to duck in a 15’ x 20’ space that has been divided up into two rooms, but I am left without any permanent scars—miraculously.

Living in such a small house did make it easier for her to adjust to living in the sleeper of a truck, however. For she could just reach out and give me a smack when I started getting out of line from anywhere inside of the cab, and Reenie loved barking at everything through the small widow at the bottom of the passenger side door.

No, we did not go out trucking right away. For Arlynda was enjoying her job as a customer service rep with MCI, and I even tried my hand in their telemarketing department.

I only lasted about a week after training, however. For it really bothered me bothering people, and it was not long before I was back out on the road again.

I cannot remember just exactly how long it was, but I think it was around a month later when Arlynda decided to see what truckin’ was all about. Much to my delight, she loved it as much as Sherry had hated it, and it wasn’t very long before I had her behind the wheel on stretches of roads that did not present any challenges.

Now, she had her problems when it came time to do some backing up, but all in all, Arlynda did a fantastic job. She even drove through a fairly severe sand storm on the salt flats west of Salt Lake City on I-80 for a few miles one day!

No, she didn’t do any driving through populated areas, but the plane was for her to eventually get a CDL of her own. If I had of had more patience, I do believe that she would have gotten one, too.

Alas, even with her spelling me off at times, my health continued to deteriorate, and by the fall of 1994, I had to quit driving for my beloved outlaw trucking company. For I just couldn’t maintain the pace that they wanted—despite still managing to total over 200,000 miles a year.

Although I must admit that having to climb down off of the top shelf of the chicken haulers roost was a rather bitter pill for me to swallow, it did leave a fairly sweet aftertaste. For I had been feeling some pressure to finish Out Of Darkness, which was a book that I had started to write before Arlynda and I were married, and having to drive at least a thousand miles on most days left little time for any scribbling—especially not with a new wife and a pampered pooch also on board.

So, the decision was made to try to come off of the road again, and I thought the perfect vehicle to do so had been found when I saw an ad in the Help Wanted section of The Penny Annie (another local advertising publication) for a position in their sales department. For I had met with great success selling advertising space for The Big Nickel out of Lanagan, MO (around 40 miles south of Joplin) back when Sam and I were still married in 1979, but there was no success to be found with the Penny Annie.

Arlynda was experiencing similar results. For she had maintained her license as a CMA (Certified Medical Assistant), and when she tried to return to the medical profession by taking a job as a lab assistant for a small clinic in Springfield, she found that the field no longer held the same appeal for her as it did years before.

No, pastoring a church again was not an option. Well, at least not one in the Southern Baptist Convention. For it was an unwritten rule that was religiously observed in the area back then that a remarried divorcee could not pastor a Southern Baptist church.

On the other hand, I was eligible to serve as a substitute preacher when a pastor needed to take a Sunday or two off. I was also eligible to lead revivals, and this was something that I still had high hopes of being involved in.

Ironically, I would have been just fine if I had of murdered my three former wives instead of just being divorced from them. For one can evidently receive forgiveness for that.

Well, maybe not. For after I gave my testimony to the director of a local Southern Baptist association, which serves as a governing body over churches in a certain district, I was told that I should be careful about saying too much about my past, and I don’t think adding murderer to my resume would have enhanced it all that much.

I did get to deliver one sermon in the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church of some good friends several miles away up in northern Missouri, but I blew the opportunity. For I knew that they vehemently disagreed with much of what I had been given to say. So, I did not say it out of respect for them, and no blessings were received as a result.

While I was still reeling from my failure to find any success anywhere, a friend whom I had worked with at the outlaw trucking company asked me to go with him to a job interview at a trucking company out of Springfield, and I wound up signing up with them. For their loads involved heading from Springfield to somewhere back east and coming straight back to Springfield, which would afford me the time to pursue my ministry and have some money coming in.

Yes, the time schedule was similar to what I experienced with the LTL freight company. For I would usually leave Springfield either on a Friday or Saturday for a delivery on Monday morning, which sometimes involved several drops, but this freight was considered to be full truck loads because it all came from the same shipper.

Getting back to Springfield usually involved one pick up for a Wednesday morning delivery. Making a sweet deal even better was being able to drop the load on the yard much of the time for the local man to deliver later on.

Arlynda joined me on the road with them for a few runs, but then we were informed that their insurance policy did not allow for any passengers. So, she went to work for a new business in Springfield.

To sum up Arlynda’s time on the truck, she got to visit all of the continuous 48 states, except for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Vermont. She also got to visit the province of Ontario in Canada when we made the walk across the bridge at Niagara Falls.

The business that she went to work for was a bookstore that also served as a video rental/sales outlet by the name of Hastings, which was headquartered out of Amarillo. Small world—huh?

Speaking of it being a small world, Arlynda was working for Student Health at the University of Missouri in Columbia while Sherry and I were married and living there. Since Sherry was also employed in the health profession, one would think that their paths may have crossed, but it evidently never did.

Back then, I would write everything out longhand, and then type it up when I got back home. Since this was long before I had much to do with computers, all of the typing was done on an old Brother typewriter that I had “borrowed” from my mom.

After all of the typing of Out Of Darkness was completed, it was time make copies of each page, which was done at a Mail Boxes, Etc. store for six cents a page at a discounted rate, if I remember right. I hand-painted (obviously) a cover to add some color to the presentation, and copies of that cost around a dollar each.

The next step was to staple it all together, which was done by hand. Needless to say, much time and effort went into that book, and from the response it got, it all seemed for naught.

Okay, I must admit that some of the blame for it being so poorly received might rest upon how poorly written it was. For when I handed it to one of the better known international leaders of the Word-Faith movement at the time to ask him to check it out, he looked it over for a few moments and then said, “Well, the first thing I would do if I were you would be to find someone who could write.”

On the other hand, Out Of Darkness was not completely unintelligible, and later on, it was revealed to me that it did accomplish what our Heavenly Father wanted it to. For it contained enough of what He had given me to say to spark the interest of anyone who had been given ears to hear what He wants as many as will to know and understand. Therefore, the great lack of interest shown by over a hundred of the more highly respected leaders in the Christian community that it was sent to provided more evidence of just how far away from Him their hearts truly were, but I sure wasn’t happy with the result.

Just like many times before, I informed my Heavenly Father in no uncertain terms that I did not want to play His game anymore, and just like many times before, He insisted that I proceed with my part in His plan. So, I sat down and typed up another book as He dictated what He wanted published.

The original name of the book was The Message Of The Cross, but I think I had more to do with that than our Heavenly Father did. For it just didn’t sound right from the very beginning, and it has since been changed to In His Own Words.

The content has remained pretty much the same, however, and I became more and more excited about it as I typed away. For aside from a few verses being added a few years later, the entire book took less than 24 hours to complete, and it should have made it quite clear that there was more going on with me than could be naturally perceived. For the text of the book consists of verses taken from all over the New Testament of our Heavenly Father’s Holy Bible, and reads like all of them are part of the same passage.

Did you notice that I said “should have made it quite clear?” For like Out Of Darkness, In His Own Words has generated absolutely no response from anyone.

I was, however, so impressed with the content of In His Own Words that I did not resist being urged to start on another book, which just happens to be this one. Okay, maybe in essence, it was. For from the start, this book has been written and rewritten at least a dozen times, which surely indicates that I have been more involved with the process than I should have been.

It was around the first of the year in 1997 when I left the employ of the trucking company out of Springfield. For my health had continued to deteriorate, and many of their loads required the driver to help with the unloading, which was often more work than getting it to the destination.

I looked around for something else to do, but no doors were open for me. So, in March of 1997, I started my first round of driving over-the-road for another trucking company out of Springfield.

Oh my, talk about a sorry outfit to work for. Put it this way, the very first load I delivered for them was a favor that had me driving a truck without any air conditioning down to Hammond, LA (around 40 miles straight north of New Orleans) to deliver an emergency load, and then they left me stranded down there for five days after promising (cross their heart, hope to die, stick a needle in their eye) that they had a load lined up to take me straight back to Springfield so that I could get in the truck that I was supposed to be driving full time!

Not convinced? Well, later on I was told by another driver that they were raising the mileage pay to 24 cents a mile because they were having trouble hiring enough drivers, but the drivers who had already signed on at 21 cents a mile had to ask them in person for the raise before they would get it. Some drivers were out there on the road for over three weeks before they found out about the raise, and only then when another driver just so happened to tell them about it. For management never did give any notice of the change.

Oh, but I had to do something, and in my poor health, I felt like I could not drive for any of the good companies anymore. So I stuck it out with them for a little over three years, but I probably wouldn’t have lasted that long if I had not of got on a dedicated run for Kraft. The run usually involved taking off from Springfield with a load of Kraft products to their plant in Allentown, PA (around 70 miles north of Philadelphia), and then deadheading to a Kraft plant in either Lowville, NY (around 35 miles southeast of Watertown) or Canton, NY (around 70 miles northeast of Watertown). The load picked up there would usually be bound for the Kraft plant in Bentonville, AR (around 25 miles north of Fayetteville), and after delivering there, I would pick up another load bound for Allentown, which would not have to be delivered for several days.

Alas, nothing good is bound to last at such a finely run outfit, and without any notice whatsoever, the dedicated Kraft run was a thing of the past. Adding insult to injury, the new head dispatcher thought it was absolutely ridiculous that some drivers thought such a run had ever existed in the first place. Silly me, I suppose.

Thankfully, I ran across a driver for Stever who told me that I might like it a lot better over there. Since Stever’s yard was right next door, “over there” was not very far at all, and I did indeed like driving for them a lot better.

Stever took a little getting used to, however. For they only had a few trucks of their own, with the rest of the fleet consisting of trucks that were owned by individuals. So, instead of actually driving for Stever, most of the drivers drove for the owner of the truck they were driving, but the rest of the business was run like I was used to.

I wound up staying with Stever for almost a year. Then I got where I could not drive enough miles for even them, which was not even close to being as many as I used to drive with the outlaw company.

After leaving Stever, I did nothing but stay home and write for around four months, and then one of the sons of the owner of the sorry outfit called me to ask if I would be interested in another dedicated run. This one would generally consist of picking up a loaded trailer to be unloaded in Jonesboro, AR (around 70 miles northwest of Memphis, TN), and after reloading there, delivering a load to Kansas City, MO overnight. After unloading in Kansas City, I would deadhead to the caves in Carthage, MO (around 60 miles west of Springfield) to pick up a loaded trailer, which would be dropped on the yard back in Springfield.

Pretty sweet—right? Well, remember what I said about nothing good lasting for long at Charter, and a few days before Thanksgiving of 2000, I found myself stuck in Ft. Wayne, IN for almost six full days. Finally, a load out of Chicago was found, and that was it for me with them again.

As it turned out, that was it for me with employment in general. For it had got to where I could not hardly walk back to open the doors of the trailer before I left trucking, and with each passing day, it was becoming ever more increasingly clear to me that what I thought was bad in the beginning of my illness was really not very bad at all.

Ironically, it was actually Arlynda who had picked the date for our wedding, and I sure thought it was funny when she chose the 15th of April. For she told me that she figured it would be an easy day to remember, and that she had a “feeling” that I would make for a good tax deduction.

Be assured that it was no longer a laughing matter to me when her “feeling” turned out to be prophetic. For I have always been sold on the premise that the husband should be at least the major bread-winner of the family.

We had been hopeful of my health improving after I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea back in 1994. For I was told that I would feel better than I had in years within days of being on the breathing machine.

To treat the condition, I was given the option of either undergoing surgery to remove some of the soft palate or using a portable breathing machine to force air into the lungs. The breathing machine seemed like the best option, but it sure took some getting used to. For I had the sensation of air being sucked out of me (instead of being forced in) the first few times I put on the mask.

Nonetheless, I desperately wanted to get to feeling better. So, I hung in there with the breathing machine, but there was no feeling better than I had in years to be had for me.

Now, this is not to say that it was all for naught. For one of the things about Sleep Apnea is excessive snoring, and that came to a halt after I started using the breathing machine. So, it could be said at least Arlynda benefited from my treatment.

Not that it was necessary. For she is one of those disgusting people who can go to sleep almost anytime (sometimes within seconds!), almost anywhere (in the middle of a tornado, train wreck, car crash, etc., etc.).

In other words, my snoring was not a problem for my new wife, but it made sense that my health problems might be because of great lack of sleep. For the main thing that was wrong with me was extreme exhaustion, but there were some other symptoms in play.

Before meeting Arlynda, I had been to a few doctors, but the result was always the same. For I figured that I was just plain worn out from driving so much, and all of the doctors concurred with my self-diagnosis.

I can’t remember if any of them ran any tests, and I would think that I would remember such of thing. For blood is usually drawn to run tests, and that procedure has always been a lot of fun for me. For the veins in the area of the inside of my elbows, which is where blood is generally drawn from, are very deep. Furthermore, they have a tendency to roll when being poked by a needle, which usually means having to get stuck several times before any of my blood gets deposited into a vile.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that those doctors should have run at least some tests. For as Arlynda pointed out to me, there was obviously more going on than just simple exhaustion.

On the other hand, I don’t know if it would have done any good. For I have been to all sorts of doctors who have run all sorts of tests since, and none of it has done a thing to make me feel even close to normal—let alone good.

I suppose the best way to describe how I have felt is that it is like having a fairly severe case of the flu. For aside from being so utterly tired, I also suffer from chills, hot flashes, nausea, diarrhea, and a steady flow of snot coming out of my nose.

Okay, maybe the steady flow of snot was a bit exaggerated. For it often coagulates into boogers than size of marbles. Oh, too much information? Sorry.

There is also an overall body ache involved, which has become increasing more pronounced as time has went on. Whether or not that is the result of me shrinking in size, I do not know, but it came as quite a shock to me to find in 2004 that I had shrank from a full six feet tall to around five feet nine and a half inches.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, manly men like I am by nature are notorious for exaggerating their height, but the U.S. Army listed me at 74 inches tall! Now, that works out to be 6’ 2”, if you don’t have a slide-rule handy. Of course, it may very well be a case of them just wanting me to be more than I could be, but you will have to take that up with the defense department.

Well, I suppose I should be a little more forthcoming about shrinking in size. For that is true in regards to height, but in regards to weight, it is not. For I weighed around 210 pounds when Arlynda and I got married, and at my best, I was 200 pounds of fairly solid muscle (I could dead-lift over 600 pounds). I am now around 400 pounds of rather disgusting goo.

No, don’t you even start to go there with the overeating “stuff!” For I rarely go over 2,000 calories a day, and most days are under 1,500.

Since it became clear to us that I could no longer drive a truck (nor do anything else, for that matter), my days have been spent writing basically the same things over and over again. When I finally joined the age of computers, much of what I write down gets deleted, but back when I was still writing everything down by hand, several fairly large boxes of legal pad size pages had accumulated.

A couple of years ago, I started blogging, and it has proven no more successful than any of my other efforts. Yes, I have gained a few new friends around the world, but none of them have responded to what I have been given to say in the way that I have hoped.

Nonetheless, some good has been accomplished. For aside from this book (soon to be) and In His Own Words, three other books have been published on the internet. The Minister & The Crackerhead serves as a fictitious account of an encounter between a devoutly religious person and myself based upon real events. Bittersweet Refinements is a new and improved version of Out Of Darkness, and A Love For The Ages is a short-story depiction of our Heavenly Father’s plan that was written in a style for mass appeal.

Would you like to know what a day in my life is like? Well, it starts out with taking 30 minutes to an hour to get out of bed. Be assured that I would never get out of bed at all (except for having to go to the bathroom) if staying too long was not so painful. For on top of the main thing that is wrong with me, my right knee is severely blown-out, and it gets to really letting know about it when I stay in bed too long. My time out of bed is spent trying to stay out of my wife’s way. For she works from home now, and making things as easy as possible for her is priority.

No, Arlynda has not been given ears to really hear what I have been given to say yet, which I now realize is a blessing. For one of our most memorable “discussions” centered around her saying that ignorance is bliss, but He has finally gotten me see the point that He was making through her. For if she knew and understood the things that I do, she would be just as miserable as me, and that would not improve the quality of my life in this world a bit.

Nonetheless, be assured that she serves as a saving grace to me. For being allowed and enabled to actually hear my Heavenly Father talk to me almost constantly is one thing, but seeing her hang in there with me when there is really no reason for why she should brings it all back into perspective when I want to blow my brains out.

Oh yes, that is still there. In fact, it has never really left.

I have already mentioned how our Heavenly Father has used music to speak to me at times, and now I would like to give you an example of how He has also used television programs. The time that I have in mind at the moment is an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 where Captain Sisko was asking the commander of a small Jem’Hadar force why he was so willing to give his life for those who obviously didn’t value him as much as they should. In reply, the Jem’Hadar said, “My life has never been mine to give.”

No, that won’t make any sense unless you are familiar with the show. For the Jem’Hadar were soldiers that had been created by the Founders to serve them, and as far as the Jem’Hadar commander was concerned, that meant that his life belonged to them.

Alas, if only I was so simple-minded. For I have spent most of my born-again life feeling more like a spiritual crash-test dummy than any sort of conquering hero of the faith, and most of that is due to MY expectations not being met when I know full well that my life is not my own.

Yes, I have been given a choice in the matter, but that only applies to whether or not I want to truly be who I was created to be. Everything else is pretty much out of my hands, and the same also applies to everyone else—be assured.

No, I have not been given any assurances that anyone will respond to what I have been given to say while I am still a part of this world, but it does give me comfort to know and understand that my suffering has not been in vain. That is, except for when I am not focusing all of my attention upon feeling sorry for myself, of course.

Around and around I have went. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father has always been on my side even when I have not been on His, but it would do me well not to take His grace for granted.

Nonetheless, it will be as it should be in the end. About that, I am quite sure.

To be honest about it, I don’t know how to end this. For there seems like so much more to say.

On the other hand, “I” have probably said too much already, but there is one thing that should not be left out. For it concerns one of my vision/dreams, which was experienced just after my mom died in 2000.

The dream started out with me finding my mom’s new glasses in her house after she had gone to town. Since I knew that she could not see very well with her old glasses, I decided to bring her new ones to her, but all I found when I got to town was her pick-up truck. Much to my surprise, a girl whom I had gone to high school with (and had not seen in many years) walked up to me, and when I saw what she was holding in her right hand, my surprise turned into great fear. For she was holding my mom’s old pair of glasses, which she had left on the counter of her florist shop, and this meant that my mom was blindly wandering around somewhere. My fears quickly proved unfounded, however. For my mom walked up to where we were standing just like she could actually see where she was going.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes, there certainly is, and it is that not all of the spiritually blind will get lost along the way, and I attended my mom’s funeral with a joyful heart. For that dream helped assure me that she had made it home—despite not being able to see what I have been allowed and enabled to.

Be assured that this is my hope for everyone else like her, but if anything about what I have been given to say peaks your interest in any way, please, I beseech thee, do not just let it pass. For not all who call Him Lord will be welcome to spend all of eternity with our Heavenly Father in His Kingdom of Heaven as heirs to all that is His in glory, come Judgment Day [Matthew 7:21-23].

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