Monday is a great day for Alison and me. Monday is our sons birthday. Aidan’s birthday represents more than just his day. I see it as the completion of my family. Many of you know me from the old days and knew then the chances of me having a family was the same as me winning The New York Marathon. I know now a family is all I ever wanted but I was afraid of the responsibility. I have so much to be thankful for and I will never be able to explain how hard Alison worked and how she was the heart that beat behind our effort. When I think of our son’s birthday I not only celebrate him I celebrate our family and remember Alison’s joy. When I remember these things I think of the words sung by Crosby Stills and Nash, ”what heaven has brought together cannot be forgotten.” Happy early birthday son. Thank you Alison. Love you guys Nov. 18, 2014 Corky
”God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes to be sure, but he does what is even more wonderful: He makes Saints out of sinners.” Soren Kierkegaard Makes sense if you really think about it. Corky Nov. 20, 2014
I love being a father because I am reminded everyday what it was like to be a kid. I love the experiences that God has brought or allowed into my life. I have even learned to appreciate many of the more difficult experiences I have encountered. It all comes down to instant replay. My son will do something or say something or I will just start watching him and then all of the sudden I am flying back in time reliving a special moment flooded with special memories from my childhood. What happens next is what I always refer to as the Magic Of The Moment. Maybe I could say this is where I hope we are creating a memory for my son to someday share with his children.
Monday I picked Aidan up from school and took him to basketball practice as I normally do this time of year. We were leaving the gym and the western sky was red and purple and there were dark, gray and silver clouds sporadically scattered across the horizon . The sky was beautiful especially because there were at least 9 jets in the sky with long white streams following behind each one. Looking West we were about 3 miles from the 99 Free Way. All of the sudden I started telling my boy a story. I told him that we moved up and down California until I was about 10 settling in a small farming town in Northern California. In the early 60ties Northern Ca. was connected to southern Ca. by a two lane Highway called he 99 that stopped at every stop light in every small town or city. The 99 was lined wth hamburger and hotdog stands of every kind on both sides of the road and gas and food were cheap even for poor people. I am sure many of you remember in those days there was an attitude about driving. I am quoting from the first ”Cars” movie where one of the Cars said ”in the old days people didn’t drive to make time they drove to have a good time.” Well that’s what we did and one of the few things I remember we did as a family. My father would work all week and once in a while take a Saturday off. We would get up about 3 in the morning and leave Lodi and drive to McFarland driving the entire way on the two lane 99 Highway. If we were lucky we got to stop and buy food at one of those Hamburger/Hotdog stands that was shaped like an Orange. There was millions of those stands on each side of the highway. We would always come back late at night and again we would travel down the center of so many towns and small cities.
The night time was an adventure for two small boys. One of the other sights that is really no longer with us is the Drive-in thereaters. There were Driven-ins scattered all along the Highway and as the Orange Hotdog stands have all but gone, the Drive-ins have all but vanished. For anyone interested there is still a working large orange hamburger stand about 30 minutes north of Fresno and there is a smaller stand located in San Jose on East Santa Clara St. toward the 101 Freeway. Once in a while I can catch a glipmes of an old Drive-in screen from the 99 Freeway when driving past Delano. I spent many a Friday night watching animated movies like Bambi and Peter Pan at that Drive-in. Again traveling like this was an adventure and my imagenation would run wild. One night we were coming home and I must have fallen asleep and when I awoke I looked out the window and I could see rockets or flying saucers or possibly metoers on fire falling or landing on earth. It was so real. I was able to watch for such a long time since we were traveling about 45 miles per hour. I was terrified. This envasion was the Movie, ”War of the Worlds” and it was being shown at a Drive-in situated right along the 99 Highway.
As we stood outside the gym I looked West with my son and I listened to his description and interpretation of the sights and sounds from the jets, sky and Freeway. He talked about how these commercial jets might be rockets or UFOs or even a meteor shower disguised to look like jets. As my son entertained me with his description of what he felt and witnessed I remembered the movie, War of the Worlds and I remembered my fear and excitement and those experiences I had some 50 years ago. When he ended his thoughts I told him the story of traveling up and down the 99 Highway and I told him about the flying saucers and rockets I watched some 50 years ago. I waited a while to tell him the punch line that I was watching a movie while driving along the 99. As we talked over each other, we added a little bit more to our story. Aidan tamped into his imagination and easily built on the story and as I talked I realized there was just as much excitement in my voice and just as much imagination as there was a half century ago as we enjoy the ”magic of the moment.” Corky Riley
I normally keep up on current events and the news. I am the type of person who loves to see what is going to happen next with the exception of bad news. So I couldn’t believe when Gov. Brown of California signed The Fair Education Act that is Senate Bill 48. This Bill mandates that schools beginning with kindergarten through 12th grade instruct their teachers to make every effort to identify Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people and their contributions to history, science, politics and other topics affecting our state and country. The Law directs our teachers to identify materials and books and teach about the positive contributions of people who happen to identify themselves as GLB or T.
Right after Gov. Brown signed this Law numerous articles began to appear supporting the need for such a law along with commentaries, opinions, essays and articles condemning the need for the program. The dialogue on both sides was extremely intense and probably still is. The articles seem to support the different positions with extreme statements at times declaring the world will end if the Law is struck down or end if kept in present form added as the 11th commandment to the stone tablets which Moses received from God. After changing my glasses three times I decided to read the law in its original form and decide for myself the right and wrong of it. In my humble opinion there are some problems with how the law is written.
I am not sure why a local columnist said Gov. Brown had it right when he announced that history should be honest when the law seems to not only suggest but mandate only events or accomplishments by GLBT people that are positive or portray GLBT people in a positive light or manner can be taught. Only books and materials that demonstrate or show GLBT people in a positive manner or contributing to our society in a positive way can be taught or used. This is not history and it is not honest. Let me illustrate my point. This is a hypothetical statement and only a fictional example but what would happen with a historical event if a group of politicians who just happen to be Gay did something illegal causing a state catastrophe. Given how the law is written, this event could not be discussed or taught in the classroom because it would portray Gay people in a negative manner. Remember, I mean no disrespect to anyone and this is only a hypothetical example to show Gov. Brown is not providing a forum through our schools that provides an honest approach demonstrating the positive and negative contributions of all of our people regardless of race, religion or sexual preference. Our present laws and guidelines forbid our schools from using materials or textbooks that use derogatory language in describing or discussing GLBT people in a negative way. It appears the law is written so our schools can make a special effort to bring into play a person’s sexual preferences. There may be occasions where a person’s sexual preference is important to an event or to history or a situation that needs to be covered in a students curriculum. A good example of this would be historical events that happened in the city of San Francisco during the late 70s and early 80s. GLBT people were extremely important given the political movements in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In addition sexual preferences and peoples sexual activity was extremely important given the discovery of AIDS in the early 80s. There are times when it is important to discuss a person’s sexual preference and a person’s sexual behavior.
I believe the law is wrong not only in regards to the honesty the law mandates in presenting only portions of the information but I think it is wrong to discuss a person’s sexual preference or behavior with a five or six or seven-year-old. These types of discussions should be age appropriate and I’m not sure that our schools are the best place for this information to be handled. My child is 7 years old and his mother and I are talking with him about sexual preferences and these are difficult concepts for him. I just can’t imagine how the teacher is going to present material that identifies the person as gay or lesbian when most children have no idea what this means and if they do it is usually a distorted view. Will the teacher explain this in the classroom. Will the teacher take on the role of discussing the birds and bees with 5, 6 and 7 year-olds and what happens to those special discussions that should be between parents and their children . Our teachers are having a hard enough time teaching math, science, reading and writing and now somehow they are going to interject this difficult concept into the lives of five-year-olds. Our public schools in California are ranked among the lowest in the United States and now our teachers will need to provide sex education to five-year-olds. This issue is troubling since many of the five-year-olds I know are still trying to learn their colors.
This is a very bad law not because people want to talk about the positive contributions of GLBT people but our politicians and Governor wants schools to take over what is traditionally the job and duty of the parents. This is a bad law because it lacks honesty. History has to be interpreted by the facts and yet only one side of the story is acceptable to the Government or to Gov. Brown. I am all for eliminating name-calling and derogatory terms but I want history to be taught honestly and accurately. If it is important to speak about a persons sexuality because of the event or situation then so be it. I could go on to argue that this is political correctness gone wild. When we consider what is going on with some religions and other protected minorities then the logic supports the idea that this law is political correctness gone crazy.
As I studied European history there were many times where it was important to understand the actions of different monarchies including their sexual behavior and preferences. Often the sexual activity of royalty in the 15th 16th and 17th centuries played a tremendous role in the religious influences and political influences of their day. As I mentioned earlier the sexual preferences of large groups of people in San Francisco in the late 70s and early 80s was tremendously important in understanding the political movements and influences of their day. Discussions regarding history and the influences of certain people and their sexual preferences may be extremely important at the college level and possibly may be appropriate for high school students but let the little ones learn their colors.
It is easy to talk about war if the one who is doing the talking never has to carry a gun or be in danger on the battlefield. It may even be easier to speak or write about war if the person making the comments has no friends or loved ones in danger of getting into the fight . This is a situation I found myself in as I began to express my feelings and ideas about the problems our country is presently experiencing. I have a serious disability and unless we are invaded and the bad guys are on the outskirts of Bakersfield, I will not be drafted or see action and yet given the men and women who live in the valley I would recommend that no one try to invade them.
I remember very clearly my seventh grade teacher asking me what I thought about the Vietnam War and I remember clearly that we all had a good laugh with the exception of my teacher. I told him we would be done with the war before I was 16 years old. The war was raging as we all turned 18 and entered the lottery known as the draft. I would have been drafted if I had not been injured from a diving accident. The point is our country has known very little peace since the Vietnam era and things are worse.
I am convinced that we are fighting the wrong wars and involved in the wrong conflicts. No doubt we are protecting and saving people from political and religious tyranny. We are protecting their lives. We are doing good but when we leave and we will leave, will the people want their freedom as much as we wanted it for them? A quick side note and that is our country is more than a decent model for what works as a revolution. Our own people started the ball rolling and we were as our Declaration of Independence says, willing to give our lives, our sacred honor and our treasure in order to be free.
The real problem is at our southern border. There is an evil being played out in the most hideous criminal behavior that our country has ever witnessed. The Mid East is in turmoil fueled by evil people willing to kill and destroy anyone who offers the slightest resistance to their goal of control and domination. This is no small matter but the wrong war. We will have to deal with Iran but we will need a new President to stop Iran and their bomb making. At this time our leaders are not up to the tasks of protecting our people and this is a nightmare. Regardless of what is said and the dozens of speeches that are given our leaders do not have the political will to stand up for our people. Decisions are no longer based on the need of the people but the political needs of our politicians. I have heard on more than one occasion a Senator or Congressman or Congresswoman speaking from their respective congressional floors telling the people regardless of what we the people want, they as our leaders must vote their conscience. I always thought our representatives worked for us but in many situations it is just not true. The point is the security of this country appears to be based on political correctness and our leaders efforts are bent in service of this correctness.
I am concerned about anyone coming across our border who is not known by our government. I am concerned about the thousands of murders along our southern border. I am concerned that drugs are freely flowing now that we no longer use the terms ”war on drugs” and now there are powerful moments to legalize drugs. I am concerned this legalization being considered is fashioned after the European programs that have failed. I am concerned about the notifications that there are drug cartel criminals now living and operating in dozens and dozens of American towns and cities. I am concerned that our people can not safely live and work along the border on their own ranches and farms. I am also concerned that there is evidence that drug cartel criminals are operating and growing crops in our national parks and there are areas in our parks that the America people can no longer visit or travel through safely. There is an evil loose along our southern border that is so ugly and destructive that even when reported on by the liberal media the America people have difficulty believing in its existence.
Why are we fighting to protect borders in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why is it our leaders have the courage and the will to care about the citizens from these countries and yet debate endless hours about sending our National Guard to our border to protect our people. Our previous president was able to send our National Guard to the border for a limited time but of course they were given no ammunition to protect themselves or American citizens. Our people are denied protection while our government continues to pass more gun control laws for honest citizens to obey. The government will not defend the people and will not let the people defend themselves. Our leaders warn the drug cartel that they better ”watch it.” Maybe they will turn up the heat and send them a strongly worded letter and if that doesn’t work our representatives may use harsh language.
I can’t say that I know how to solve the problem but I certainly understand how to protect our people and to reach out and help those who are hungry and in need. We need to elect leaders that are not just celebrities, able to raise the most money or the candidate of the media. Ronald Reagan was an actor then governor of a major state and ran a major economy before becoming President. Before we can begin to solve the problems our country is facing whether it is the economy, foreign issues, healthcare or education, we must elect leaders that are not just concerned with political ideology. We must elect leaders that are God-fearing and who want to serve the American people and not their own Democrat or Republican parties. God help us in finding men and women who love God and put the American people first. God loves the whole world that is all of us and it only makes sense to strengthen our house staying strong so we can reach out and help those people who want help and who want to help themselves. There has been and will be times when America will have to carry the load until those in need can care for themselves. Freedom is an idea that most people in the world would not be able to describe. What is this freedom that so many American people have been willing to give their lives, treasure and sacred honor for? Why are we so interested in exporting or sharing this freedom with the world. As a Country before we say anything to anyone, the American people must put our own house in order.
Life sure has its twists and turns. Some of the South West Indian Tribes have produced some very fine artists. I have a few pieces of art that has engravings with the image called ”The Man In The Maze.” This image has become a popular engraving. If I understand correctly this image symbolizes the uncertainty of life. The man stands at the beginning of the Maze and of course the Maze has its twists and turns along with its dead ends and open clear pathways. The idea is that life is uncertain, unpredictable, always changing. The Maze is to teach, even warn us to be ready for the unexpected. Now that I am starting to move out of my middle age years I continue to be surprised at how life presents the unexpected. Maybe a better way of saying this is that life has been different, dramatically different from whatever we could have imagined. Many of my acquaintances and those couple of people who I consider very special and think of as friends have agreed on this one point and that is, life has not been predictable but again different from anything we could have dreamed or expected when we were growing out of our teenage years.
As Christians there should be joy in our lives and contentment. I also understand from scripture there is a battle at least a struggle which can rage within all of us. I have to believe Paul was not just clearing his conscience in Romans Chapter 7. One of the reasons the Bible is real is the characters are real. These people are real with real personalities, real hurt, real pain with success and at times not so much success. I think but I could be wrong whoever belongs to Christ has to be driven by the Spirit of God. We live with two truths a paradoxical life if you will. There is joy and contentment knowing that our relationship with God is guaranteed. There is a total emotional and intellectual satisfaction we should all be experiencing under his mercy and grace and yet there is still a driving force within all of us or maybe I should speak for myself. I would like to believe it is the Holy Spirit which is pushing us to serve and not to be satisfied with our effort but only to be satisfied with the God-given results of our effort. I am content in mind, heart, and soul that I am forgiven and will spend eternity with God. Again, there is a second truth where I am not at peace and there is a part or a portion in my life that is not complete or content. It is as if I keep hearing the Irish rock ‘n roll group U2 singing the lyrics of one of their popular songs, “I have still not found what I’m looking for.”
Simply put I am content and feel provided with multiple blessings and even miracles in my life and I mean real miracles. There is a contentment yet also a yearning in my spirit that gives me little rest or peace. Is God in control? Yes. I have to believe and want to believe that God will continue to guide me through the Maze and my need to serve him will continue to take me through the uncertainty of life. Am I happy and content? Yes! Is there something else out there that I am to do? Yes, at least I hope so. I have gone to great difficulties to make sure that anyone who reads this essay will understand that I am content in my relationship with God but again I feel that I still stand at the beginning or start of the Maze. I am no longer concerned with the unforeseen yet sometimes I am still having difficulty believing the experiences that I have had and the journey that God has allowed me to take. Given the circumstances in my life which would probably bore the reader, I thank God for each day. I feel as if I have lived three lives. With all this said I since there is still something that God wants me to do or maybe it is just my mistake and it is just my desire. Regardless of my internal conflict, God will take me and get me where he wants me to go.
I have always thought my Son to be an intelligent little guy. He is marching, not running, not walking or skipping but marching toward 8. He seems to really enjoy life with most of his or our serious moments compartmentalized so he can deal with them later. He has two things on his mind and that is how to have fun and the second is how to have more fun. It is wonderful to watch a child who is bright, work at perfecting his skills in reaching his two goals in life. The other night we were drawing and my boy asked me a question that he had been putting off until the right moment. He wanted to know why God would not answer his prayer. He wanted to know why God had not healed me.
As a result of a diving accident at the age of 16, I was paralyzed just below the mid chest down with some limited damage to my arms and hands. Since my injury I have used a wheelchair for mobility. One could say my disability is substantial. My son has only known me with my disability and he has grown up adjusting to what I could and couldn’t do. He is probably much more surprised at what I can do than what I can’t do and since the day we brought him home from the hospital, I have been surprised at what I can do as a father. I never thought I could be a real father given my disability. Since my son has no other role models and knows no other children with a parent who has a disability, he really has no one to talk to with the exception of asking me and his mother questions.
We were drawing and looking up from his coloring he asked me, ”why does the God we worship and the God that has the power to create everything not heal you” and with that statement he started listing off our Lord’s accomplishments. He then told me that he keeps praying for my healing. My son does not like reading just yet but he listens to Gods word and has taken advantage of a Christian education. I made the attempt to let him know that he was God’s greatest creation and my healing. I did my best to explain that there were times in my life that I absolutely believed God provided a physical healing saving my life for some purpose. I told my son that I felt my disability was a catalyst for my spiritual healing that is to know and follow Jesus Christ as my Savior. I could tell that he understood portions of my explanation but he wasn’t buying all it.
As we talked and laughed and as he tried to sneak the cartoons on he noticed that I had drawn a cross and a rough sketch of my wheelchair. I represented myself as a tall mouselike cartoon figure standing facing the cross as if in prayer. The drawing represented my feelings at the time and that the cross represented my healing. I decided to show him my drawing to help explain God’s effort and healing in our lives. He began crying uncontrollably which was not exactly the response I was looking for. I called for reinforcements and before I could say “Special Forces” Mom was in the room holding our son.
I wasn’t sure if he was crying because he was happy and that we would all share in God’s mercy or if he was crying because the picture reminded him of what he and I didn’t have given my disability. As things calmed down I found myself wishing that my son would compartmentalized our discussion until later. It was obvious he wanted a better explanation. I began to think that the father and son talk he and I would have some day would be a piece of cake compared to this.
I began by telling him the truth. I told him that I did not know why God had not healed me. I explained I had given my life to the Lord and that I study, pray, give my time, give financially, live under his grace and share Christ with anybody in the community that will listen. I said that I try to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit realizing failure and success is not up to me, only effort. I told my son God would use our efforts for his perfect will. I went to Genesis and explained sin had come into the world and death was a consequence of sin. I told my little guy that I and I alone was responsible for my accident. I shared that through all the hurt and suffering caused by my disability this suffering gave me the emotional, physical and intellectual strength to look at who I was and where I was heading in life. I said for some reason God had given or allowed me to have my disability as a tool to serve others and a means to find his mercy. We agreed to talk again.
For whatever reason I have found myself slightly addicted to the news. I mentioned this to a friend who responded by saying that he was not aware a person could be slightly addicted. My buddy then said being slightly addicted makes about as much since as being slightly pregnant. Intellectually and emotionally I know God is in control and as Christians we should stay free from worry. The information age has not been kind to me. Over the last few years I have taken the advice of my old professor from college. He said “instead of worrying, spend the time fixing the problem or preparing for the task at hand.” With the exception of my little boy, the times I found myself worrying was when trying to make it to McDonald’s to beat the cut off time for the big breakfast. Since I declared victory over the battle to watch cable news instead of SpongeBob, I have been indoctrinated that the future facing our country is bleak. We are told the war on drugs is lost. We have an undeclared war along our Southern Border. Our leaders no longer feel it is important to have our military along this same Border. I am not sure regarding our government’s reasoning since there has been over 30,000 murders along this Border. Since our soldiers were given no ammunition to protect the people or themselves, the decision to withdrawal was a good one. I am just wondering out loud why we as a people and country are not worried about the loss of 30,000 lives within the span of a few years. The war along our Southern Border is spilling over in to our lands causing great loss and dividing good people against one another.
God does not want us to worry. I want to do something to fix the problems. We have at least four military conflicts in progress and soldiers stationed in multiple countries and some with artillery facing our people within sight of a pair of binoculars from the $.99 store. We are told that our economy is inching forward and there are still no jobs. The housing market is still in a shambles. Friends tell me to buy gold and at night I stare at my kid’s piggy bank while trying to think back to Sunday school to remember if there is a commandment about coveting a child’s life’s saving . Our States are legally positioning to clear the way to file bankruptcy. The entitlements that help the weak and the poor in our country are going broke just as the weak and the poor are convinced to vote for more entitlements. Our leaders are cruel telling the poor and disadvantaged that the government has money and power to cure all their ills.
This information is scary and now instead of fixing the problems our leaders have identified these issues as having political advantage and the blame game is on. We must turn to God and accept his love and grace through Jesus our Lord. We must fix these problems by sending men and women we have elected to office who not only have skills but who have Christ. God has given us our governments and in this country we have the privilege to vote and elect our own officials. We have to take a deeper look at the men and women we support for local, state and federal offices. It will do us no good to vote for politicians who only pray and attend Church in order to prove their spirituality and make the six o’clock news. Given what we have learned about politicians over the last several years it is obvious that there are tremendous pressures on these men and women who dedicate themselves to public service. We only need look at the track record of many of our best and brightest to see the physical, mental and spiritual damage they experience. In order to give our elected officials the best chance of success and survive the pressures of these political positions, we must do the best job possible to find leaders who have the required skills and who ”seek the Kingdom first.” When these officials are elected and Christ is the center of their lives we have fixed the problem.