Thought of the Day—The survey is in and the consensus reflects; the worst part of growing older is…well…growing older…
Thought of the Day—The survey is in and the consensus reflects; the worst part of growing older is…well…growing older…
Thought of the Day—Time change—just another perfect example for God to slowly shake His head and mutter, “they’ll never get it”…
Thought of the Day—Never resent or underestimate your limitations or imperfections, for these potentially underappreciated qualities may be the very tools God uses to help successfully navigate you through this life…
Many times in our lives, unexpected events pop up out of nowhere, unnerving us and sending our routines into a tailspin. Some of these sudden “surprises” like a call from an old friend or a gift from a loved one are very welcomed and leave us with a warmed heart and a renewed enthusiasm for life. Most of the time however, it seems the little unforeseen dealings are much less than desirable. Anything from getting an unexpected tax bill to a sudden hailstorm that turns your prizewinning flower garden into a new pile of mulch, life at times just leaves us as riddled as your shredded dahlias. Often times though it’s how we handle the challenges of life that leave us still moving forward or stumbling about, off kilter and half crazed. Here is a perfect example.
Some time ago, two of my sisters and I were visiting with our mom at her house. Mom lived in an older ranch style house that actually betrayed its’ age on the outside but was firmly stuck in the 1970’s on the inside. The living room was large and “L” shaped with an oversized brick fireplace with a poured concrete hearth, three inches thick; that thing was definitely a trip hazard and could have given many a grandchild a good concussion or goose egg contusion. The walls consisted of composite plywood paneling that wrapped a medium brown hue to everything. A multi-colored brown and rust wall to wall shag carpet rolled across the vast floor space. Splotches of orange colored spots dotted across the carpet from decades of the sun kissing the carpet, licking at its’ fibers and discoloring sections.
Even though the kitchen was the “official” gathering place for our family, that evening found the three siblings and their mom conversing in the retro living room. At night, the room always seemed dark regardless of the number of lights turned on, throwing shadows along the walls and corners. That night one of those shadows seemed to move; there in the corner…it moved again. All of a sudden, we heard a whoosh and saw a black fur ball with wings invading our air space; a bat had squeezed in somehow from a very small crack around the doorframe of the front door. Someone screamed “BAT!!” and subsequently ducked as the little night creature once again circled around to make another die bomb maneuver.
Our mom was in her eighties at the time and needed the use of a walker to get around. Mom was in her favorite blue rocking chair in the living room, the right wooden arm of the chair hand rubbed and worn from many years of habitual hand movements. When mom heard “BAT!!”, she exclaimed “BAT!???” and her adrenaline took hold; she proceeded to pick up her walker, carrying it and making a silver streak towards her bedroom, slamming the bedroom door behind her and leaving her adult children behind to fend for themselves.
This wasn’t the first time my parents had had problems with these furry winged night riders so there were designated badminton or “batminton” rackets positioned above the hutch in the kitchen. I felt around the top of the hutch until I found my weapons of choice and made my way back to the living room. I had an impromptu cheering section as my sisters were eagerly awaiting the reluctant “hero” to rid the world of this fearsome beast. Racket firmly in hand, I waited for the dingbat to make another pass so I could end this duel of wits or lack thereof. Suddenly out of the shadows, a small black form came swooping my way; I had no time to think but acted out of instinct. My left-handed backhand seemed to be sufficient as I made contact with the little beast, sending it whirling wildly towards the living room drapes; it stuck on the curtains like it had been made of Velcro. I used both of the rackets, making a bat sandwich to secure the little rodent wannabe and proceeded to release the little rascal back into the wild.
You might be asking yourself, what does this story have to do with my daily problems? Well actually more than you think. You see, just like in the story reflected above, many times people address problems that suddenly crop up very differently.
Some, like our mom in the story, sees a potential problem and their first instinct is to run away from it, ignore it and maybe it will go away, or to close that proverbial bedroom door and heavily breathe that sigh of relief and denial. Most of us know that left unresolved, minor problems quickly become huge problems.
Other folks are fortunate like my sisters in the story; they get to sit back as spectators to observe and watch how someone else handles and resolve a particular problem and hopefully learn something in the process.
However, most of us are or should be in the last category; addressing the problems that arise head on. We need to take whatever it is to the Lord in prayer. He knows our needs better than we do and if we can’t figure out a quick fix and many times we can’t, our Lord will give us the grace and peace to work through it. It wouldn’t really be a bad idea to pray for a little patience during this time?
It must have been the fact that I was the token male that night but I had no choice but to face the problem, in this case, the bat’s unwanted appearance and resolve the crisis so we could continue on with our daily lives. Had I not vacated the little creature from mom’s house but instead just ignored the thing, nobody would have slept that night.
Just something to think about the next time trouble comes along and tries to make a nest in your hair. It is better to have a few moments of anxiety and excitement that ends in resolution than to have…wait for it…bats in your belfry?
Romans 5:3-5 NLT– We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
This may sound a little morbid but I have been thinking more about heaven lately. Maybe it is because of everything that is going on all around us; our world seems to be in a crazy mess. Perhaps it is due to recent losses of loved ones. I think it might just be the fact that the older I get, the more I feel I just don’t belong here. And before you go down the slippery slope that I sound a little too suicidal, I have no such desire to give up and “end it all”; just the contrary.
I was raised on the pillars of honesty, integrity, respect, the love for God as well as the love for fellow man (yep, man…all inclusive…includes both male and female…get over it). Over the past decades, these pillars have been eroded away to the point where I’m not sure anyone knows the true meaning to those above mentioned words.
And while I could use this as an excuse to give up on life, I know we still have a job to do in this world while we’re still here. Could it be just to remind our “fellow man” that we are still in this together and perhaps to make a difference in someone’s life? I’m not really referring to our social media intimate strangers as much as the person next door or down the street. How well do you know your neighbor? Not that well huh? Maybe if we really did reach out and form a bond of friendship beginning in our neighborhood, we could begin the healing process in our community…
The old adage of “Don’t judge a book by its’ cover” has so much meaning behind it for we may all have different covered bindings but we were all written by the same Author. Our plots or storylines may vary but isn’t that part of the excitement that we aren’t all the same? And while we still have air in our lungs, we still have blank pages to be filled in; our novel is not complete until the Author completes the last sentence. So that’s my challenge; to fight homesickness for heaven and do what God wants me to do while I still have the time here on earth to do it. What about you?
2 Timothy 4:7(NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
The following is in a lyric/poem form of how I feel toward the life after this one.
When I Go Up
Written by Stephen R. Wilson
When I was a kid and had my whole life before me
I could be anything I wanted to be,
A policeman, a cowboy, an astronaut too
I had all the time in the world to figure out what I wanted to do.
When I grow up
I want to catch the bad and protect the good,
Drive some cattle and ride the angry bulls
I want to go up and fly among the stars,
Mercury and Mars, when I grow up.
When I grow up
I want to drive around in a bright red racing car
Be a sprinter that could run so very far,
Become a doctor that could heal the very sick
So many choices, take your pick.
When I grow up.
Now I find myself all grown up and a little past my prime
There are less days ahead than what I left behind,
But there seems to be a yearning
From somewhere deep in my soul,
That this is not my home
But somewhere up ahead there is so much more,
You see I believe that Christ died for me
On that cross at Calvary,
And when he ascended, He said He’d be back
For all those that truly believe,
So as I remain faithful to live my life for Him
My heart is more than longing to be in heaven without sin.
When I go up
I want to see my Savior face to face
My only desire is to be in His embrace,
To hear the words I love you
Without condemnation or disgrace.
When I go up.
When I go up
I’ll get to see my loved ones who have gone on before
The sound of laughter, joy but even something more,
There will be no more hurting, no more pain
Tears will be replaced by praises to God, angel’s sweet refrain,
When I go up.
When I was growing up, (and come to think of it, as an adult) my family would get together and sometimes get quite boisterous. From time to time when the volume would go slightly beyond the threshold our mom could stand, she would say, “Sshhh, listen kids” (and we were all kids regardless of our chronological age). The “Sshhh” would catch us temporarily off guard and for a brief moment, there would be silence. Taking that cue of silence, Mom would follow up by saying, “Ah, now doesn’t that sound better?” When I was a kid, that comment would send me into a frustrated “gnaw on woodwork” state but now I genuinely understand and appreciate what she meant.
Today, our day to day world is so full of constant white noise invading our very being and often times it is, to coin a phrase “too noisy to hear ones’ self think”. Why is it we feel the need to have something invariably blaring in our ears most of the day, whether it be music, the television or (wait for it…) your cell phone? It is a wonder we can still hear, let alone listen…
Did you know there is a difference between hearing and actually listening? Let me explain. I have over the past decade or so been learning to really listen to someone in lieu of completely hearing them. My old nemesis, Meniere’s disease has left me completely deaf on my right side; I can now actually turn a deaf ear if I want to. I can even turn on my good ear at night and tune out thunderstorms! During the process of dealing with my impending hearing loss, I had to find creative ways to compensate for not hearing correctly. I found positioning myself on the right most end of a table allowed me to hear conversations better with my good left ear. I developed some lip reading skills by turning the volume down on the TV and watching the mouths move as they annunciated words. I also watched body language and facial expressions in addition to hearing voice to get a complete picture. It was during this transition that I discovered that even though we might have good hearing, we are poor listeners.
Listening is an active sport where a participant has to surrender both some time and attention to the one attempting to communicate a thought. Listening to a person takes not only the art of hearing what is being said with your ears but your brain and heart as well. Maintaining eye contact and appropriately reading nonverbal body language as well as voice inflection can give you the complete picture of what the communicator is attempting to convey. It takes setting aside the gift of time to properly listen and communicate; time we often either don’t have or are unwilling to give.
Today though, it appears that verbal communication is frequently replaced by an electronic forgery such as e-mail, texting, Facebook, tweeting, or even emoticons. How often do those communications get misinterpreted? Don’t get me wrong; these are very useful tools given the right circumstances. However, many times we use these methods as a surrogate instead of trying to develop whole meaningful relationships. I am not talking about striking up a conversation with a stranger as much as your own friends and family. How many times have you been around the dinner table and at least half of the family members were texting, scrolling or otherwise distracted instead of interacting with one another? It seems we have allowed our loved ones to become our intimate strangers. Proverbs 25:12 (NIV) says “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.” It just seems that anymore, the parent is too busy trying to post their new favorite recipe on Facebook than to listen and give advice to their children who desperately need it.
I am only writing this because it is something I struggle with as well. I don’t have it all together and constantly attempt to be a better listener. It takes TIME…and common courtesy on our part to sit and listen. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I find myself mentally playing a game of Double Dutch jump rope, attempting to find that point of entry where I could interject that awesome lack of wisdom I feel the urge to bestow on another instead of just listening…
Hhmmm…and how do we listen to God when we can’t even listen to our own loved ones with skin on. Psalm 5:3 (NLT) states “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” When we pray to our Lord, we need to lift up our needs to Him and then wait…and listen perhaps? And when we listen to His still small voice or hear Him speak through His word then what? James 1:22 (NIV) says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Take action…DO!! That is not asking for or expecting any more than what we would from our own children when we give them instruction…right?
So Sshhh…LISTEN!! You might be amazed what you will hear and learn…and be asked to take action…And it’s not too late to put down that device and give some time to those you love. I’ve never heard anyone say before that “if I could have just tweeted one more time to that loved one before he or she died” but I have seen more than my share of bitter regrets at the graveside…”If I had just taken the time to visit more, to talk…to listen”.
Proverbs 19:20 (NIV) Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
It happened just this morning without warning. I was quietly perusing my e-mails and there it was; a notice from my doctor’s office that I have an upcoming appointment on Wednesday morning. A sickening sense of loathing enveloped my very being as I mentally went through the clinical dialogue that would occur. “Oh, it looks like you have gained a little weight since your last visit” the doctor would say with furrowed brow; this profound message coming from a healthcare provider with a physique resembling a pretzel stick with hair.
I know I need to lose weight; this problem is literally right in front of me. Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” HHhhmmmm…even though I have not defaced this temple with graffiti in the form of tattoos, it appears as though I’m attempting to build on an annex to that temple the scripture was talking about.
Currently, I have the perfect Bubba body. This body type looks remarkably like a Buddha body, including the distended belly but since I now live in the South and wear a lot of plaid shirts I thought the phrase “Bubba body” made more sense.
I actually took steps to begin an exercise program before Christmas. I purchased a previously owned elliptical machine from my daughter and son-in-law since I was used to using one at the YMCA some time ago. I climbed aboard and was worn out in no time; then I started moving my legs up and down and really got winded…baby steps, baby steps…I even purchased some resistance bands from Amazon for Christmas. I always thought the term “resistance band” was an indicator it was time to go up a size in underwear. Now I know they are nothing more than giant rubber bands with handles that provide resistance to your muscle groups. They also hurt REALLY badly when you accidentally let go of one of the handles.
It is not like I haven’t been successful losing weight in the past. I lost almost fifty pounds through Weight Watchers around five years ago. There were times I even went as far as to schedule my blood donation the afternoon before the “weigh in”. (Did you know a unit of blood weighs a little more than one pound?) I also took off my shoes, belt, and contents from my pockets and even got a haircut if I thought it would make a difference at the scales. I finally reached my goal weight and became a lifetime member which is when the struggle began. The other participants didn’t really care that you were on the maintenance program. I mean, how could you share your successes in a room full of scathing looks and snarling teeth? I guess I could have sweetened them up with a box of donuts…
I blame the Devil for my plumpness as I consider anything that tastes so good but is so bad for me as Devil’s food. For what pain and suffering must one go through to resist luscious chocolate or the smell and taste of fresh baked yeast bread slathered in butter? It must be inherently evil to tempt mere humans as it does. And don’t forget the Devil’s henchmen; the seductress Little Debbie or the conniving Sara Lee or even the sly Sister Schubert. They are all out to get us!
Of course to be perfectly honest, it is I who is ultimately responsible for what goes in this mouth of mine. Paul may not have had weight in mind when he wrote in Romans 7:15 (NIV)—“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” , I find this passage fits in this particular part of my life at the moment. For it seems so difficult to eat wisely when I know I should but so easy to slide a Big Mac down my throat. And even though I don’t relish the thought of sitting in front of a plate whose contents look more like a Chia pet than real food, I have to take control of my intake and make better food choices. It is a matter of being disciplined and accountable, two powerful but seldom used words in our society. It is a matter of making time for exercise and using portion control to win this particular race. So here I go, making an effort to make God’s temple once again what it should be; fit and ready for service.
So wish me luck! (…hhmmm…wish…wishbone….wishbone dressing…BLEU CHEESE!!…I’m doomed…)