Tag Archives: Inspirational

Forever learning

Mask

The hot humid days that we have endured for so long have finally relented to cooler days and crisp nights.  Another autumn season is upon us with all the sights, smells and tastes that our senses relish.  School is once again in session, but it is anything other than a normal school year for most; the pandemic has changed the complexion on even how teachers instruct and how our children and grandchildren learn and interact.  It’s within that realm of change that I find myself in the role of teacher, instructing our new Kindergartener granddaughter on Wednesday’s in abbreviated studies of learning sight words and correctly writing her ABCs and numbers, as well as basic math skills.  This whole impromptu educator role has me reflecting more on how we learn and grow, beyond our formal education to our life experiences that make us who we are as adults.  Some of those experiences were possibly birthed from embarrassing moments, while others perhaps were more informal in structure, driven home by adults or others we respected that loved us enough to teach us the intangible life lessons that make us who we are.  May I share a couple of embarrassing learning moments that I’ve experienced?

The first occurred around the summer of 1982.  Jenny and I had been married about three years and had a one year old to watch after.  We stopped at the Dayton Mall to visit our JC Penney, the reason why not as important as the lesson I was about to learn.  We got out of the car and I removed the “fold up” stroller that seemed to be a simple chariot for young Alison to ride in but was quite temperamental at times to set up or fold down.  I was pushing the empty stroller toward the curb, lifted the front wheels and proceeded to lift the rear wheels when the stubborn contraption decided to fold up on me; evidently, I hadn’t been a good new dad and made sure everything was locked into place.  Well, the apparatus made a sudden stop but I, however, did not, sailing over the thing like a super hero but landing like a tossed misfit toy.  About that time, two young men had seen what had happened and walked up, not knowing quite what to do until they saw my young bride laughing hysterically which caused the two men to erupt in laughter as well.  They didn’t seem to care that my pride was just lying there, in need of mouth to mouth resuscitation!  Lesson learned: make sure a contraption is in complete working order before using it…

Another “learning” moment came while Jenny was expecting.  Jenny and I had gone to a local steak house in Middletown, which was a rare treat indeed for a couple that seemed to survive on Franco American Ravioli.  I felt really “special” as I waltzed up to the salad bar and proceeded to fill my plate with all kinds of incredible edibles.  One thing I always liked to top my salad with was grated parmesan cheese.  I perused the salad bar until I found what I thought must have been the shaker, so I immediately picked up what I thought was the container and gave it a squeeze, at the same time thinking it was kind of strange that I would have to “squeeze” it.  Immediately, I heard a “whooshing” sound and stood horrified, as I had just sprayed off my salad into the salad bar and half the restaurant!  Lesson learned: be more aware of the tools you attempt to use and understand their intended purpose before using…

For those of you that really enjoyed a taste of self-deprecation at my expense; you’re welcome!  For those of you that are thinking to yourselves, “your mama must have dropped you on your head when you were little; you don’t have a lick of sense”, no she didn’t but yes, common sense is acquired, not inherited.  Which brings me to my next section of life learning: common courtesy and common sense.

Common courtesy should be pretty easy and straightforward but in this day and age, not so much.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common courtesy as, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show”, thinking of someone else first in a situation, i.e. holding the door open if you see another person coming behind you, etc.  For example, did you know that the turn signal in your car is actually to be used to visually communicate to others of your intentions when you’re going to make a turn? (I’m hoping YOU already know where you’re headed…)  Of course, I do understand that it’s more difficult now, since your hands are either occupied with texting, eating, and such but still, make the attempt!  Another example could be that you have a cart full of groceries and you see someone with two items in their hands; let them go first. 

Or here’s a new one; to mask or not to mask, that is the question.  After all, aren’t my liberties in jeopardy?  Isn’t my personal health at risk more if I wear a mask rather than if I go around maskless; you know, my oxygen level and all?  Believe me, there are times when I’m wearing a mask that I feel more like a hefty carp that’s been tossed up on the river bank, gasping for every desperate breath!  To be perfectly honest, I hate wearing a mask! But then I read, 1 Corinithians 10:23-24 which reflects, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  That scripture pretty much explains why I do personally wear a mask in public areas.  I wear a mask because it’s a common courtesy to others who don’t know who I am or what kind of risky life choices I may have made, but it’s more than that.  I do it for my wife, who has an immunodeficient system due to medications she takes to combat the effects of Lupus, which she has battled for over thirty years.  I do it because I love her; we’ve been a team for over forty years and we both want to keep going strong; together! It’s only my own personal opinion that wearing a mask just makes sense, common sense; that a person would want to try to protect themselves and their families from something unseen, unwelcome and for some, deadly.  I certainly can’t speak on behalf of everyone; we all have to do what we feel is right on this hot button topic and go forth with our own convictions.  I know I’ve probably just stepped on a lot of toes and if you’ve just tuned out, I understand.  And if you think I’m sharing out of fear, you would be wrong; just trying to be cautious and use a sound mind.  In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 reflects, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  It’s the same kind of common sense that urged me to pursue a gun permit and subsequent pistol; not because I’m afraid, but because our world has turned upside down in the past six months and therefore, I’m going to make sure my family is properly protected, through our second amendment rights, while we can still exercise that right…

While we still have breath in our lungs, hopefully we are still learning, still growing in Christ, still adding to our common sense and common courtesy lists, still laughing and learning from the mistakes we’ve made, still listening to that still small voice, urging us on to think of and love others as much or more than we love ourselves, to learn to listen more and judge less, to learn to trust God explicitly in all things, not just the easy things in life.  For as long as we’re alive, we should forever be learning and growing.  Now if I could only learn to navigate down the one way grocery aisles…

Entering the New Year With Hope

Someone once stated, “Men plan, God laughs” and looking back at your previous year, perhaps you can relate!  My wife and I sure have had our share of trials at times these past few years; a couple of those trials even followed us into the following New Year.  And while some folks are busily jotting down their New Year’s resolutions and planning every week for the next year, others are facing the upcoming new year AND new decade with the “same stuff, different year” philosophy.  But just for an instant, a brief moment in time, if you look at your new calendar just right, you’ll see it; a blank slate, an empty page, a blossoming hope for better days ahead.

Sure, I’ve been one of those resolution driven individuals who would charge into the New Year touting remarks like, “I will strive to eat better” or “I will endeavor to exercise more consistently and get in better shape” or even “I will attempt to be the best version of myself”…whatever that means? Without some thought, planning and preparation, many jump into these resolutions and burn themselves out after only a couple of weeks.  I’ve touted the first two “resolutions” and reflected below is a sampling of my personal experiences.

A few years (or so) ago, my wife and I joined Weight Watchers to shed some weight and generally feel better.  I was doing pretty well, getting into the groove of eating certain foods that was considered healthy and, being a creature of habit, ate these same foods on a regular basis.  On one occasion at our WW group meeting, I had a particularly good weight loss week, and so I was encouraged to share what I had been doing.  Being rather proud of myself and that week’s accomplishments, I proceeded to share with the group what I routinely ate for breakfast.  There were audible gasps throughout the group and I thought the one lady in the third row was going to pass out right there; it seems what I thought was normal and healthy for me had exceeded 98% of the group member’s point total for half the day!  “You must have great metabolism” they said…whatever…

The other activity I would dabble in at times was exercise.  As those of you who know me can attest, I’m not exactly the poster child for Mr. Olympia.  However, exercise is the catalyst that helps me lose weight and keeps my health in check.  I remember one particular early morning, dragging my carcass into the local YMCA to work out before work.  I always began my morning routine warming up, most of the time on the Elliptical machine.  As luck would have it that morning, the only machine open was beside the most perfect specimen of a human being.  I’m pretty sure that he turned his machine on the “MEGA MACHO” setting for his sixty minutes of pure bliss, complete with a dumb bell in one hand, a power drink in the other, while pouring over a book in front of him.  If he did sweat, I’m sure the one drop that dribbled down the side of his head smelled like Irish Spring.  I, on the other hand, turned my machine on the desired setting of “NINJA TURTLE”.  After five minutes on the machine, I appeared to have just completed an ice bucket challenge, for sweat was pouring from every pore.  I swear I was getting stares like, “you ARE going to clean that area up, aren’t you?”…yeah, whatever…

Many times in our lives, we are railroaded into believing a misplaced opinion or criticism and it, well, gets us off track from meeting our goals, resolutions and/or dreams until they are never realized; they never come to fruition.  We have to be determined to focus on the prize before us, to block out all outside negative influences if we want to see our hopes and dreams become a certainty.  But here’s another train of thought; what if your goal/dream/hope was only a selfish want that should never have been realized anyway?  What if that goal you’re spending so much time and energy attempting to birth is out of line with your needs or the needs of your family; more importantly, what if it’s directly out of line with God’s will for your life?

The hymnist, William Mote, penned the first few lines of his beloved hymn, The Solid Rock, which reflects how we must align our hopes, dreams and goals. “My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”  Once our hopes are based on God’s will and not our own, the future becomes so much brighter and a lot less scary.  For if we truly believe everything we see, hear and read in the media, social media and print, from impeachment proceedings to rampant crime statistics, hope would scarcely be found.  It’s only when we completely rely on God’s will for our lives, does our future shine with the brilliant hope of tomorrow and eternity; for even death itself doesn’t have the fatal sting when we are one of His own.  Romans 8:23-25 states, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Yep, we can hold on to the hope of something greater one day; but for now, we have to be patient AND obedient to the will of our loving Heavenly Father.

Just one more thing to consider; we all go through different seasons in our lives.  Just as storms come and go, even though the storm may be severe at the time, they eventually blow over and the sun shines once more.  So it is with the situation you currently face; God may not remove the storm clouds from your life, but he’s definitely there beside you to walk with you through the storm.  What a comforting thought that reinforces our hope for tomorrow as we step into a new year AND a new decade!So, what does your new year look like?  Are you already frazzled from all the upcoming self-proclaimed goals, resolutions and deadlines you have laid out for yourself or are you going to listen and act based on God’s will for your life?  My goal for this next year is to strive to nestle closer to the One who knows me best and loves me most.  And perhaps my hope is to dismantle this annex I’ve built over time on to God’s temple; I know that is my physician’s hope as well…

Jennifer’s Ashes

Today marks the end of the Thought of the Day.  One year ago today, I started to post these on my blog post. These “Thought of the Day” statements were created for my sister, Jennifer, to attempt to temporarily get her mind off of her daily struggle with stage four melanoma; I would call and leave them on her answering machine or text them to her.  I hope you have enjoyed reading these thoughts as I have felt these were God inspired and it was my privilege to be the presenter of God’s “thought provokers”.  Reflected below is a final tribute I wrote for my sister, Jennifer…may God richly bless your lives and may you truly appreciate every heartbeat of life…

 

Jennifers headstone 2

 

Jennifer’s Ashes

Gone are the happy go lucky days

Where days went on forever and forever we played,

When I had your back and you had mine

We were just siblings, but how our lives intertwined.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could somehow turn back time,

Back to when you were healthy and happy

Back to the days when laughter chimed.

 

You taught me to drive and I pulled you through hell

From the torture of Algebra, we worked through it well,

I must confess, I teased you too much

But you got me back with your screams and your pouts.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could be anywhere else,

My head knows you’re gone but my heart’s in denial

Time heals all wounds but I still have an aching pulse.

 

We both grew up and became adults

We both had families and bills and the lot,

And even though we didn’t see each other very often

We made up for it, on the phone or in person.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Hating myself for the guilt I feel,

For I’m still alive being healthy and happy

And your life is over, a life gone too soon.

 

Standing here on your birthday, May 23rd

Barely listening to the Pastor, his words scarcely heard,

For my mind continues to wander and I kind of worry

That this date will be forever stamped with a bittersweet memory.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

I’d rather be celebrating with you still alive,

You often stated that your birthdate meant time for spring planting

But none of us knew just how your words would now be implied.

 

I know your soul rejoices for where you reside now

Among the angels and the Son of God,

Please be patient with me big little sister

As I try to cope with placing your remains beneath the sod.

 

And now I’m leaving behind Jennifer’s ashes

Moving ahead with the rest of my life,

Yearning for the day when I once again get to see her

Where the heavenly realms is flooded by God’s Holy light.

Jennifer 1958 2

Thought of the Day–5/20/18

Thought of the Day—    Gift of God, freely given

Receiving mercy

Accepting Christ as savior

Christ centered life

Experiencing unmerited favor

Thought of the Day–5/19/18

Thought of the Day—“I am sorry”—these aren’t just three little words…it’s an admission of wrongdoing, a request for forgiveness and an opportunity for restoration.  It is the other bookend to “I forgive you” which is crucial for any healthy relationship…using these two pillars of humility can help keep our lives stabilized…