The Irony of God’s Timing

November 29, 2009 at 7:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.

We don’t much like to wait anymore though, do we?

We like problems solved the instance they arise, sometimes before they even surface.

The ironic thing that I have just discovered is that God’s timing is
really the only timing that truly matters.

If we tell ourselves and God that we are giving a situation, a trial,
a tribulation over to His infinite wisdom, and then turn right around
and attempt to facilatate our own outcome based on what we want and
what we think we need, we are basically telling God, “sorry, God, you
do your thing, I’ll do my thing, and we’ll see how this all turns out.”

What kind of faith is that?

It’s a faith not built on a true foundation of trusting God.

It’s the kind of faith that can make some believers question their

It’s the kind of faith that has made the past year for me one of the most troubling.

The moment that we put God in control is the moment strength begins to rise up.

Here’s the kicker: God’s timing isn’t our timing.

It is tremendously difficult to wait on a provision from God. We want
said provision as soon as we think we need it, but God KNOWS exactly
when we need it.

For the past year I have dealt with extreme regret, disbelief, depression, and even bitterness all related to one particular incident.

It was on November 24th, 2008 that a particular person thought it best that we should no longer be apart of each others lives. (For further in-depth details, see my blog entry Perspective II)

And only recently through a series of events, which I had little or nothing to do with, involving this person, have I realized how well off I actually am.

Recently, God has brought a very special person to me, the exact kind of person I need in my life right now, and I believe it’s because I have only now fully put everything from the past year behind me.

Now, I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, by any means, but I can’t remember the last time I felt this good, and felt God’s blessing.

We started really talking to each other on November 24, 2009. Exactly a year later.



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The Best of My Life

August 19, 2009 at 1:45 am (Uncategorized)

I recently stated in one of my previous blog, Perspective Part II, that the best moment of my life was a point in which I had the great oppurtunity of traveling to New York City to sing with the University of Tennessee choirs at Carnegie Hall.

Well, as of this summer, that has all changed.

What? Something tops Carnegie Hall?


My summer started off rather up-in-the-air, so to say. I was supposed to take voice lessons, but unfortunately was the only person to sign up for said voice lessons, and the class was cancelled. One person didn’t make sense economically, I guess. Oh well, that’ll just prolong my college career further than it will already be prolonged. No problem, right?

So, midway through June I traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, with a former pastor of the church I attend to work with Baptist Press at the annual Southern Baptist Convention. The rest of June was laid back and lazy.

July rolled around and I was preparing to leave for a small town in Missouri to work with my church at a missions camp. The missions camp was called 3MT, for Mid-Missour-Mission Team. My church had went two times previously, and I had never bothered to go. But my aunt was overseeing the entire trip and she asked if I would like and be able to go. Thankfully, my July was gonig to be about like June was, laid back and lazy. So I went.

We had approximately 30 people from our church attend the trip as well. We traveled to Missouri in our new church bus, which looks more like a prison bus on the outside, but has the nice, yet not-so-comfortable-to-sleep-in bucket chairs inside.

We arrived in Missouri and although I had heard stories from past trips, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. We stayed in the local elementary/high school. All the men and teenage boys from our church stayed along with another group of men from a different church in a first grade classroom. I slept on a nice, comfy air matress that actually got more comfortable as the week progressed. It slowly deflated so the somewhat hard feel it had when I first inflated it, became a nice, soft, comfy feel by the weeks end. It was nice to get stay in a big room like that with all the guys from the church. It provided for a nice time to have fun and get to know each other better. However, I won’t miss the ever-growing stench that progressively got worse as the week went on from sweaty, dirty clothes from about twenty males and the fact that some people just smelled worse than others.

I had to get myself out of the trend of going to bed late and waking up late, as well. Each day started around six o’clock in the morning and you barely got a break until eleven o’clock that night. Showering was always an experience in itself as well. Outside of the school was a six-shower SBC Disaster Relief shower trailer, powered by a generator with pressure tanks and small hot water tanks. Of all the showers I took on the trip, I think one of them had hot water. The rest of the time the water was ice-cold; a good way to wake you up of the morning.

Breakfast was always a nice treat. It usually contained good, Southern biscuits and gravy, thank God they believe in that sort of thing in the Midwest. After breakfast, we headed out for a long day’s work.

Everyone was on a crew. My crew was made up of myself, one other male, and seven other females. The other guy on my crew was a teenager from my church, and one of the females was our pastor’s wife, Sharon. The rest of the crew was all girls, except for the other female crew leader Keri. They were the nicest, coolest, sweetest girls I’ve ever met. The oldest one was fifteen and the youngest was maybe eleven or twelve. And although the were young, they could work circles around girls that I know in their twenties. They were all extremely hard-working and very diligent. They would gladly do anything asked of them without hesitation or question.

One of the girls, Kersten, was like the little sister I never had. She was twelve going on thirty. She was so mature for her age and worked harder than just about any twelve year old I have ever met. Later I learned that she lives on a farm. Maybe that’s what it is. If that’s the case, I think everybody should have to grow up on a farm. You could tell from her attitude the entire time that she was an honest worker, and really appreciated life. One time, I was up in a tree sawing away on a tree branch, and she came over and started clearing away branches that I had already cut down, and I didn’t even ask her to do that. She was one of a kind.

We worked on a retired school teacher’s house. She was in the nursing home at the time, so we never actually got to meet her, but working for someone like that without anything in return can make you look at life differently. And although we weren’t around anyone while we worked, we never really had the oppurtunity to share our faith with anyone; however maybe the people driving by or the family of the lady we worked for can be touched by what we did.

We scraped windows, painted the windows, painted the entire house where there was asbestos siding, pressured washed the vinyl siding, cleaned the gutters, painted a fence, painted just about everything else on the house that could be painted, and we did some landscape work. It was an eventful week.

Working for others like that did a lot more for me than I could ever do for myself. During the week, I was reading the book of James, and in James 2:26 it says,

“Even as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be dead in my faith. As a born-again Christian, I don’t want to sit around any longer and not do anything meaningful for Christ and His Kingdom.

Even as the music director of my church, I realized that I had become complacent with my spiritual life. I don’t think that was why Christ died on the cross for me: to be complacent.

The worship and messages preached each night after working all day touched my heart in these ways. My heart became heavy at times and my eyes wet with tears as God used his Word to break my heart.

So, if you are reading this as a fellow believer, I pray that you will earnestly fall on your knees and seek the desires of God. Our earthly desires will only fall short in the end, and no material posessions we have on this earth will last: wood, hay, and stubble.

And as I start this coming year of college, I ask for prayers from my fellow Christians, as well. Pray that I will stay on God’s path and not stray out on my own. Pray that I will seek out and surround myself with wholesome Christians that will strengthen my relationship with God so I can do His work, and while this may seem “of the flesh”, pray that God will put a Godly Christian woman in my life to fill this void I have felt for this past year.

So there you have it, the best summer of my life.

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August 11, 2009 at 12:41 am (Uncategorized)

Abiding without haste,
The seemingly lifeless tree,
Undressed of its beauty,
Beckons for a new day

Love is patient

Falling from the heavens,
The yet familiar rain
Extinguishes the flames
Of natures fury

Love is kind

Rising from the earth,
The beautiful wild rose
Sustains the working bee
Flying through the air

Love is not selfish

Strechted out upon a tree,
Heaven’s rains weeped
Upon the Rose of Sharon
As life eternal was sustained

Love bears all things
Love believes all things
Love hopes all things
Love endures all things

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Inverted Guitar Hero

July 9, 2009 at 1:25 am (Uncategorized)

So, my friend’s dad bought an inversion table, where you hang upside to help with your back. Well, I had the bright idea to play Guitar Hero, while hanging upside down! It was considerably harder, and by the end I thought my entire body was going to separate from my ankles, since that is the only thing holding you up from gravity. Crazy!

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More Than Just Arts and Entertainment

July 7, 2009 at 1:28 am (Uncategorized)

Gene Peterson, Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Tennessee, and all-around cool guy, posted this a few days ago on Facebook, and I thought it should be shared with anyone in the blog world.

My musical wish is to capture exactly what is being expressed in the following address.

As musicians, we believe deeply in the importance of what we do, and the power of music to heal. We know that you do also, as a fan of classical music, so the following may be of interest to you. It is a welcome address given to entering freshmen at the Boston Conservatory, given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division:

Welcome Address, by Karl Paulnack

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without rec reation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heartwrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

This really got to me. Powerful.

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The Stage

April 8, 2009 at 1:05 am (Uncategorized)

Whew. What a night!

After one of the most amazing concerts, I got to thinking about what the stage does to me.

You see, off stage, I’m very laid back. I don’t go around seeking attention, wanting people to notice me for something. If you are one of those people, that’s fine. I’m just not.

If I were in a large group of people at some gathering, chances are I wouldn’t be parading around talking to everyone in sight making sure they knew I was there. That’s just not who I am.

I’ll admit I’m not one of the most out-going people. Someone even told me that I wasn’t outgoing enough. Everybody is different though. Not being as out-going as others isn’t a bad thing. I mean, what if the entire world was out-going? It wouldn’t be much fun for anyone. It would be one big egotistical battle royale. Everyone would be vying for attention, and no one would end up getting it.

However, I have found that if you put me on a stage, I become a very different person. It’s a complete 180. And the irony is, a lot of times, the people that are out-going in their normal everyday life, wouldn’t know what to do if you threw them on stage and told them to perform.

Me, I love to perform. I thrive off of it. And I feel like the stage does more for me as a person, than if I were to be an extremely extroverted person in my everyday life.

But, like I said, everyone is different.

This works for me.

And I love it.

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March 31, 2009 at 9:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Bromance? Really?

If you were to ask me what I thought about ‘bromance’ a year ago, I would probably disregard it as crazy.

However, over the past six months, I’ve discovered that it isn’t that – whatsoever.

Maybe that’s why in some form or another it has been presented to society in the form of movies, for instance. I was reading an article about different movies over the past 5o years that have dealt with the idea of a completely non-sexual relationship between two guys. Movies like Superbad and Pineapple Express from today’s films compare to those of the past, like Brian’s Song and Casablanca.

Wikipedia related ‘bromance’ to ‘man-crushes.’ But, I don’t think that’s an adequate description (what more would you expect from Wikipedia?). To me a ‘man-crush’ is a desire to be like another guy, a guy you find awesome. Me, for instance, I love to cook. Naturally, I’m going to have a ‘man-crush’ on a guy like Alton Brown, the genuis of the television show ‘Good Eats’.

But, me and Mr. Brown don’t have a ‘bromance’. So the two ideas, ‘bromance’ and ‘man-crushes’, to me, aren’t really related.

It isn’t a new concept that men and women are very much different from each other, especially the generation I live in, the 18-24 years olds in college. I’m not sure what it is: parents raising the two different sexes in opposing manners or what.

We approach situations differently, we have a different sense of reasoning, and we handle emotions and feelings differently, as well.

Now, the few previous statements are by no means absolute truths. At all. There are exceptions and in certain times the opposite sexes can see eye to eye on things.

But in today’s crazy media blitz of the Internet, television, magazines, etcetera, I feel girls probably have a lot more pressure on them than we guys do.

For instance, I have found girls struggle MIGHTILY with self-esteem and their self-image. It has always confused me as to why, but they do. And the sad thing is, most of the ones that do, are extremely beautiful people. No matter how much you tell them, it never is enough.

How is this related to ‘bromances’? Well, let’s say a guy were to offer advice to a girl on a way to improve her self-image, chances are high that she wouldn’t take it well. Chances are that said guy would deeply regret ever going there. In turn, if a guy were to go up to his roommate and say, “Man, we’re puttin’ on the pounds, we better lay off that value-menu,” he would almost certainly say, “Yeah, man, you’re right.”

The point I’m trying to make is guys get each other. Guys get where other guys are coming from. Not all the time, but most of the time. That’s why ‘bromances’ can really be a beautiful thing. Not beautiful as in flowers and sunrises, beautiful as in ‘Amen Corner’ at Augusta National, or a packed Neyland Stadium on a Saturday night. Guy beautiful.

Bromances can be like smoking fine cigars. They can last a long time, and you get something different out of them all the time.

And having a guy to connect with during a relationship with a girl can be a great thing. Not having one during a relationship with a girl can be a very unfortunate thing. Take it from a guy who knows. When problems arise, they’ll always be someone to talk with.

All this is said not to discredit the love of a woman, either. God knows I could use the love of a woman right now.

All I’m saying is, two guys that can talk for hours on the deck smoking cheap cigars is a special thing.

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The Battle of Jericho

February 23, 2009 at 6:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Here’s the University of Tennessee Chamber Singers ending with the story of the Battle of Jericho, by Moses Hogan.

(I’m in the first row, smack dab in the middle.)

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Music Lovers – Check This Out

February 17, 2009 at 1:16 am (Uncategorized)

This is a nice site for finding and printing digital sheet music of a lot of popular, mainstream music for those that like to play.

Right now, I’m playing ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay on my keyboard.

Go check it out.

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Straight Shooting

February 12, 2009 at 8:33 am (Uncategorized)

So, last Sunday afternoon, I’m enjoying a nice day with my father while shooting his new .40 caliber handgun he bought (sweet gun by the way). Anways, after shooting it, I thought, “It’s pretty tough to shoot that thing straight.”

And then a couple of days ago, my roommate was talking to his girlfriend on the phone, and said, “Well, Lance isn’t feeling really good, so if he’s got something to tell you, he’ll probably just lay it out there. He’ll shoot you straight.”

Coincidence? Only for writing a new blog.

As the cliche goes, honesty is the best policy.

Well, that’s because it’s true.

I think if everyone was honest with each other, we might be able to get some things done in this world. You know?

Without honesty, people are mislead to believe things, things that aren’t true. People wind up with false-expectations, because of a lack of honesty.  In my experiences, however, the truth always comes out, somewhere down the line.

Why wait until down the line? Be a straight shooter.

Yeah, it is easier, I would say, to not be entirely honest with someone about something and then leave it up to them to find out the truth later down the road. But, if you are flat out honest with someone, then they will respect you for it. I gurantee it.  Granted, it might not be what they want to hear, or you might have a hard time telling them, but it will be better in the long run.

Heck, it might even be hard because you aren’t exactly honest with yourself, but that’s another problem entirely. You have to be able to be honest with yourself, before you can be honest with anyone else. If you can’t do that, then you are the person you are decieving the most.

So, let’s just be honest, folks.

Can you handle the truth?

Disclaimer: If anyone in particular is reading this blog, thinking that I wrote it specifically to them, I didn’t. Honest.   Just another late-night, thoughtful blog. Feel free to apply the logic though, or should I dare create a new word, blogic. I amaze even myself, sometimes.

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