The Year So Far

If I was filling out a spiritual resume based on my life this year so far, here is a list of my accomplishments:

  1.  Umm…
  2.  Well…
  3.  Derr dee derr…

OK, it is fine that my salvation is by faith and not of works.  Thank goodness for that because my works have been mostly just figuring out how to live in this mess called “2020”.

But still, I’m beginning to feel that I should be doing some works.  I’ve got to admit that my efforts have been pretty lame.

James 2:21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.  24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

If I just hang my hat on my relationship with God through faith, well, then it is all about me.  When my salvation is all about me, it gets pretty boring and I grow cold and fall away.

James says we are shown to be right by what we do.  If we are shown to someone, it means it isn’t all about us anymore.  It is about extending our salvation into the rest of the world.

I sometimes have a hard time thinking that God’s love is big enough to fix this big mess that is Mike Ridenour.  But, as I extend it into the rest of the world I begin to see it is not only enough for me but for a thousand lost worlds.

My faith has been feeling a bit incomplete this year.  I’m afraid I have made it all about me, all about things I am forced to do, things I don’t want to do, things I want to do and can’t, things that aren’t the way they should be.

I don’t need to retreat into silent alone time begging to be pampered and babied by God.  I need to extend what he has given me.  I’m not really sure how to do that.  Maybe it starts with something simple that I really don’t want to do.

I’ll know when I get it right, though.  I’ll feel less lacking and more complete.


The Window

The other day, we pulled off Interstate 70 and a car load of guys that we had apparently triggered earlier on the highway were yelling and waving middle fingers.  I started to put down the window so I could hear what they were saying but I was reminded that my grandson was watching.

So, I raised the partially open window back up and laughed at the guy in the cowboy hat that was showing he had the ability to flip me off with both hands at the same time.

My grandson asked me what those fingers meant.  I told them it meant he wasn’t a very smart person and that he wanted to be a cowboy.  Oakley laughed and laughed about the guy wanting to be a cowboy.

If I had gone ahead and put that window down so I could hear what he had to say, I would have not been able to resist the urge to lay into him with a verbal barrage of insulting artistry that would have impressed Don Rickles.

Then I would have had a lot more to explain to Oakley.

Even though I know that running my mouth is not going to convert a moron to a genius, I am still tempted to attempt it.  I’m fairly certain that one single person I have given a piece of my mind to has ever taken it home and used it to become a better human being.

I do, however, regret giving away so much of my mind when I have so little to spare.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  There is so much anger and yelling and hate and destruction going on that it is hard to refrain from rolling the window down and giving the guy in the cowboy hat a piece of my mind.

2 Timothy 4:5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

It is hard to keep a clear mind when there is nothing but chaos and confusion all around.  There is the urge to just shout out all my frustration and anger and forget all about what I should be saying and doing.

God didn’t promise me this life would be a picnic, that’s in the next.  This life is going to be hard and there will be times I feel like it is going to eat me alive.  But, at the same time, I am learning just how big God is and how even the most out of control, chaotic mess is never really as futile as it appears.

As for me, I need to keep a clear mind and keep doing what he has told me to do.

The Idiot

I can look back on my younger self and see all sorts of idiot.  The entire human race is suffering from the “Covid ID10T” virus and it is far more contagious and deadly than the one that has us hiding behind our masks when we have to venture out to the Mart of Wal.

This virus infected me at a young age.  Some of the first symptoms were a smart mouth, pouting when I didn’t get my way, crying to manipulate others and pooping in my diaper.

Thank goodness, I outgrew one of these!

The worst part about this virus is that after a few years, I believed I was cured!

Even though, I still said a lot of things like, “Hey, y’all!  Watch this!” and “Hold my beer!”, I told myself that I was past being infected with the idiot virus.

Hey Y'all, Watch This! by WulfricF on DeviantArt

But, the symptoms don’t lie.  I have the physical and emotional scars of a life spent far too inflicted by my idiocy.

I can definitely look back and see a person that was truly an idiot in so many facets of the ignorance plus arrogance equation.

It is a little discouraging that I only have to look back a week or so to see that there are still some relapses into the virus I want so desperately to be free of.

I get angry and spew a verbal barrage that reveals my inner idiot with such clarity that shame overwhelms me and makes me feel as if all my effort to de-idiot myself has been in vain.

But, this very shame gives me hope.  I was once proud of my outbursts and bragged about my ability to degrade and dehumanize the source of my anger.

Yeah, I was a pretty terrible person as well as being an idiot.  I thought all those horrible things about me were character traits rather than flaws.  Idiot.

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

Paul said he was the worst of them all…and he said it is good for everyone to accept they were idiots, too.


God has had great patience with me.  I imagine he will have to use great patience with me again before the day is over.  I still suffer from this virus that has plagued mankind for millennia.  I have tried in vain over and over again to heal myself and proven my idiocy by declaring myself healed despite being broken into pieces.

But God had mercy on me.  He has shown great grace and mercy and patience and he will never cease to do so!

On my own, I am an idiot.  I will suffer and struggle and fight my own stupidity.

The good news is I don’t have to be on my own!  I am no longer limited by my affliction.  I can live in mercy and grace and be apart of power that gives eternal life!

Maybe you know that already.  Maybe you believe that.  Maybe you only sort of believe that.  But when God’s faith and mercy cause you to realize that this life is not all there is, that this life is not your forever, that this life does not define your eternity, you will see things with greater wisdom and your inner idiot will begin to fade away.


Missing the Point

These days, there’s a lot of lying going on.  I mean, there is so much lying being done that the truth is getting hard to find.  People are lying about politics, race, health and murder hornets.

I’m absolutely certain that there are things I believe to be true that are lies.  There’s just too much BS laying around.  It’s impossible not to step in any of it.

People, and I am a people, tend to believe the lies that reinforce how they wish things to be rather than what is actually reality.

This results in a lot of divisive arguments and ranting.

If you are spending a lot of time arguing and ranting, be aware of this one fact.  No one is listening to you.

I used to think that the louder I got, the more convincing I was.  This is because I stopped hearing opposition.

In reality, Elvis had left the building.  People don’t like you or me shoving anything down their throats and sooner or later the gag reflex will drive them away.  This leaves the self-righteous noise maker all alone in the pasture with nothing but what the cows left behind.

1 Timothy 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.

We’ve got a lot of self-appointed teachers all over television, social media and the break-room that have no interest in what it true.  They want to prove they are right.  There is a whole lot of energy being wasted on proving lies to be true.

I have never, at any point in my sixty years on Planet Babylon, heard so much meaningless discussion and so little truth.  None of us know what we are talking about!

I think we are missing the whole point, to be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience and genuine faith.

Are the words I am saying pointing to this?  If not, maybe I should just shut up!

This is a challenging time to live the things I claim to believe.  Do I really believe that I should be the man Paul describes here?  Or do I believe that I need to disregard this scripture and feed my own desire to speak my piece?

Here’s the deal.  I do not believe there is a single person on this planet that has it all figured out and all their opinions are the right ones.  If I stand on the hilltop and advertise my ignorance, I look like a fool.  But, if I live the life Paul speaks about, I appear better than I really am.

Hmm, tough choice.

We need more love and faith in this world.  There are plenty of idiots blabbering their hate, anger and pseudo-superiority.  I don’t need to add myself to the mix.

I’m completely fallible.  I’m often wrong.  It is far better for me to speak what is true and just keep my pie-hole closed when it comes to my opinions on things I cannot change.

My words mean nothing.  I can, however, do my best to stick with what is true and not miss the whole point.  Truth never changes but it can change the world.



Trash Day

Today is trash day.  Last night the big garbage bin got wheeled out to the street in front of my house.

During the week, most of the trash goes into the kitchen garbage can.  It fills and the plastic bag gets removed and replaced and the old bag goes out to the big bin.

The garbage truck will roll into the neighborhood every Monday morning and empties out the big bin and hauls our trash to someplace that probably has an ambiance only a skunk could love.

There have been times we have forgotten to put the trash out and the truck rolled on by leaving our collection of refuse in the can.

After a while, putting more trash in the big bin becomes a real test of my gag reflex.  When the lid is opened the odor inside the can launches an assault of purification and general nastiness that prompts an urge to wretch up my stomach contents.

Now and then, something starts smelling really bad before it even reaches the outside trash can.  The lid will open on the kitchen can and my nose promptly tells my brain it is time to take the trash out, even if it isn’t full.

A house can be spotless, floors vacuumed, windows crystal clear, everything dusted and scrubbed but if it stinks, it still seems dirty.

All that housecleaning can feel like it never even happened if there is smelly trash stinking the joint up.

I remember a few years back, I’d do a lot of cleaning myself up.  I quit doing a lot of bad things.  I cleaned up my act, I guess.

But, I held onto the trash.  No matter what good I did, there was still this stink that made it all feel futile and filthy.

1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

I can’t simply give up sin and expect everything to be hunky dory.  I have to take out the trash.  I need to confess it and own it, bag it up and place it where God can take it away.

God takes all the stench and detritus away and purifies what we could not clean on our own.

When life stinks and all my efforts to fix it are in vain, I may simply have to take out the trash.  Pretending like I never do anything wrong leaves a nasty aroma lingering in the air.  My words are good ones, my actions are good ones, but something stinks.

When I confess, it isn’t because I am fault finding, I am taking out the trash to make room for the goodness of God.  Only he can give me that fresh and clean feeling of being made pure of all unrighteousness.




The New

This has been a strange week for me.  At work, we moved from my old office in the old building where I had settled in for the last seventeen years into a strange, new and bright workspace in a a new building that I am not accustomed to and may still not be accustomed to on that day I retire.

I am still laying claim to my spots, my spot in the break room, my parking spot, my favorite stall in the bathroom, etc.

I think I am further from the coffee pot and the aforementioned bathroom.  That’s going to take some adjustment.

My desk raises up and down for those days I would rather stand and work.  I don’t anticipate many of those days.  Standing around for hours when I can sit in a comfortable chair makes no sense to me right now.

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But, who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll prefer to stand when sitting is a perfectly fine option.  Nah…

There are some really cool things about the new building.  We have an awesome gym.  Now, it is going to be hard to make excuses for not going to the gym when it is just up the stairs and to the right.

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All of this new has thrown me off.  It isn’t like I built myself a house and picked everything out and it was made just for me.  It is more like strangers picked out everything and told me how great it would be and I am trying to figure out how to make it my home.

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Overall, I really like it.  It is a lot better than the old building with it’s poor lighting, faded floors, permanently ingrained dirt and dust, leaks, terrible HVAC and countless other problems that made those in authority deem it worthy of demolition.

Yet, I catch myself wishing I was back there.

Yeah, that’s stupid.  Things are so much better here.  They are just different and eventually I’ll realize that different really is a lot better.

I often find myself wishing I was back where I once was, even though it is filled with things that are bad for me.

What is it about humans that causes them to want to regress to familiar surroundings filled with pain rather than find peace in a new place where so much of the bad has been alleviated?

What is gone is gone.  Sit back and enjoy watching the old be demolished from the comfort of where God has brought you.  It really is better even though it is often filled with uncertainty and the unknown.

I’m going to have to learn to not let nostalgia eat away at my contentment.  Nostalgia tends to lie.  It only tells you what it wants and withholds most of the truth.

I remember laying in bed when I was little.  It was summer and my window was open and I laid with my head as close to it as I could listening to the stock cars in the distance on a Sunday night at the track a couple miles away.

That sounds great!

But, the reason the window was open wasn’t because it was a beautiful night.  It was because it was hot and steamy and we didn’t have air conditioning.

I DON’T want to go back to that even if nostalgia says I do. Been there.  Done that.

I need to recognize when it is time to move on with life.  Living in the past is just fantasy and then reality becomes blurred in my present.  That complicates life unnecessarily.

I suppose I should just look at where I am today and be glad I’m here.  I can do so much more now than I could in my past.


Money and things are strange.  I’m not poor or rich.  I’ve made less and owned less and felt just as happy as I do today.  I’m sure that if I had more, I’d still wonder why I was so broke and why my more wasn’t enough.

I will probably see someone with far less than me today at some point and wonder why I am not so well off as they are.

No matter how hard I try, money and things are so stinking important even though more is never enough and enough is is far less than what I want.

It isn’t like I want more for the sake of having more.  I’d like more so that I can help out with someone else’s not enough.

Believe me, not enough is a real thing.  If you don’t agree, try explaining to the bill collector that you’ve already gave them enough.  They’ll still want more until they decide what is enough.

You may not be able to get blood from a turnip but you can harass that turnip till it volunteers to be a part of a salad.

Sometimes I think maybe I should sell some of my things to have more money.  That’s a good plan if you can do without those things.  But, usually, I take a beating selling my things, get less money than I thought I would and not get enough for them and then spend more buying it all back again than I spent in the first place.

So, it is probably not a good idea to liquidate my enough to get more only to find that at the end I have less and still need more and will eventually spend more to get my enough back again.

James 1:9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

I guess the reason my money and things seem so insufficient is because they are.  Making them bigger, fancier and more plentiful does not increase their worth.  They are still only able to fill a teeny, tiny hole in my life.

My money and things have value only if they facilitate my relationship with my creator.  I can worship God at church on Sunday morning just as effectively if I drive a Honda Civic to get there as I can if I cruised there in a Ferrari.

Sure, it’s fun to do 150 mph on a Sunday morning but it doesn’t do anything to enhance my worship experience unless I crash and relocate it to a live concert inside the pearly gates on streets of gold for all of eternity.

I suppose I should get things into a better perspective.  Instead of chasing so hard for more to fill a teeny, tiny part of my life with things incapable of filling it, maybe I should immerse myself into a god that can fill all of my life.

I’ll find myself self not craving more for me but finding ways to make myself able to contain more of him.

I guess it is time to say enough is enough and more isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and can never be multiplied into enough.

I won’t write more today.  I think this is probably enough.  Thanks for reading.



If the Sky Falls

I finished my taxes last night, one day early!  It seems weird doing taxes in the summer.  I usually get them done in February or early March.  There’s nothing much else to do in Missouri during the icy, rainy, snowy, windy, cold winter.

But, finishing taxes in July is tough.  I’d rather fish or mow or clean the garage or go get a root canal.

I really don’t like doing taxes.  I hate them a little more every year.  It seems like I have to work harder for the money I make and I get less of it all the time.

So, yesterday I got into my state of mind where the old brain starts functioning sideways and adding up the numbers in ways that are mathematically challenged and logically bankrupt.

I don’t have enough.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do that.  Everything is adding up to nothing or less than nothing and the sky is falling and my umbrella is about to collapse and let it all crash onto the top of my noggin.

I feel like I’m in the scene of “It’s a Wonderful Life” where old man Potter tells George he’s worth more dead than he is alive.

If there’s one thing I don’t like about that movie it is that Bruce Willis doesn’t drop old man Potter off a building at the end.  I guess we’d have to change the name of it to “It’s a Diehard Life”.

Thankfully, this morning my brain seems to have returned to “normal” and I realize that I have more than enough even though it appears enough is not going to have huge margins into excess.

Reality is often far different than what I feel.  I feel that things are spinning out of control and pretty soon the falling sky will bury me.  But the sky is made up of air and clouds and even now is resting on my shoulders and I don’t feel a thing.  The sky is nothing to fear, even if by some chance it falls on top of me.

I think most of the time, I fear what can’t hurt me just because it looks big.  I wonder how much of life I have been afraid when I should have been enjoying what surrounds me.

Last night, I had a chance to stand firm in what I claim to believe but I wavered and allowed fear and uncertainty to steal my peace.

I suppose life and wisdom are about those moments, recognizing when I choose to allow circumstances to trump faith and realizing that I can life better than that.  I can choose to stand firm in hope and faith and kick fear in the teeth.  I may not chase fear away but he is far less imposing missing a few incisors.

Today is a new day.  My taxes are done.  I can move forward and put them behind me.  I can do the same for my hissy-fit that I indulged in last night.  The sky will not fall and even if it does, it is weightless and full of fresh air.  I can handle some of that.


A Memory That Stands Tall

Over the weekend, I went fishing with my grandson, Oakley, a couple of times.

Friday night there were several of us and I just spent the whole time untangling line, baiting hooks and trying to get fish on for the boys to reel in.  It was a good time.

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Oakley went from not really wanting to touch the fish to wanting to hold or “pet” every fish before putting them back into the lake.

He also enjoyed playing with the worms.

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He also managed to fall into the water and get in trouble for not listening at least 150 times.

Meanwhile, my granddaughter, Amelia was just kind of doing her own thing.

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After I was worn out, we packed up the gear and walked home to get Oakley a bath.

Sunday, after church, Oakley and I walked back to the lake again.  Just me and my grandson.  We talked a lot about fishing.  I answered a million questions while we reeled fish after fish in.

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Up until this day, most of Oakley’s “fishing” had consisted of me casting and hooking the fish and then he reeled them in.

But Oakley was done watching Grandpa.  He wasn’t wanting to play or chase dragonflies or see how far you can stretch a worm.  He wanted to fish.

So I handed him the rod and told him what to do.

He took the rod and cast it beautifully.  Then he proceeded to start hooking the fish and reeling them in all my himself.

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Fishing will never be the same.  It is going to be a whole lot more like two guys fishing together than one guy making the other feel like he is fishing.

Lately, I’ve been complaining a lot.  Things have not been going real great.  I’m tired.  In fact, I’ve been so tired, fishing seems like too much work.  But, thanks to that little pest constantly asking, “Grandpa, can we go fishing?”, I got to have some prime moments.

For a while I got lost in those moments Grandpa and me spent together on the banks of a lake while he taught me and let me tangle my lines as I learned to be what I am today.

Sometimes, uncomplicating a complex mess of a life just needs a simple trip to the pond or lake or river with a little kid eager to learn.

Yeah, all those things that are such a mess in my life are still there.  But, they seem to be a little weaker just by the very fact that I can still make a few quality memories right smack dab in the middle of it all.

I can see already that as I grow further into geezer-dom, the memories of Oakley’s first flawless cast into the smooth waters of the subdivision lake will be minus all the other things that seem to be bringing impending doom at this moment.

So, if you are being swallowed up in all of your problems, step outside of them for a moment and make a memory that will stand taller than all the rest of it.


When Life Gets Squirrely

I didn’t write much last week.  I couldn’t write.  Both hands were busy just hanging on.

I talked to the pastor yesterday.  He said it sure seems like some of us are given more of those kinds of times than seems like our fair share.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the survival show “Alone” on the idiot box.  The guy was really hungry and saw a squirrel hiding in a hold under the rocks.  Every time that squirrel would get close enough he might have a chance to escape, the guy tried to stab him with a stick.

Lately, I have been that squirrel.  Every time I get to a place I can get out of this mess, here comes the stick and I have to crawl back into my hole and hide.

That squirrel managed to dodge those sticks and when the guy stopped for a second to revise his plan, he darted out of the hole between the attacker’s legs and fled to the safety of the tall trees.

I can’t help but this that if I get a chance to dart out of this hole, I may break my leg before I get to the trees.  That’s kind of how it has been going.

Don’t think that way, Mike?

Friday, on my way into work, I was strolling across the parking lot.  It was warm and humid and I was thinking about my plan to attack the day.

Then, I stepped into a pothole and fell flat on my face.

I’m still a little sore from the tumble.  My whole plan of attacking Friday turned into me playing defense searching for a way out of my hole only to get jabbed with a bunch of sticks.

In fact, later that afternoon, I went to the doctor and got jabbed with a stick right in the right side of what I am now sitting on.

Oh, I know I am sounding kind of negative but I am just being real.  Things don’t always go super duper great even if you are a firm believer in Christ and doing your best to follow in his footsteps.

Even John the Baptist did that and it really didn’t work out all that great for him in terms of earthly life.

So, I’m hanging on.  I’m looking for my chance to dart or lumber or slip out of this hole and escape to where I know God eventually wants me to be.  I’m not in here for ever even though it feels like I already have spent forever in this place.

If you are like me, just hanging on looking for a chance to get out of the hole you are trapped in, know I am in this with you.  The chance will come to get out.  Be diligent and know it is coming and be ready to dart, or whatever movement you can muster.

And if you are just hanging on, sometimes that’s all it takes.  Hang in there, fellow squirrels!