Categories
Adventure Dogs Perspective Pets

The Interruption IS The Plan

I have my plan to write and post a significant piece of the book every weekend and it’s a good plan. It helps motivate me and focuses my energy. It lets others know what to expect. But that assumes I was right in my plan all along, and that’s not the way the best parts of life seem to work. If I am paying attention, the interruptions are often better than the plan.

The God of Surprise

If I had everything figured out in advance, that means I know what I’m doing. Obviously, this is not the case. I have to leave open the possibility that God is trying to tell me something. I have to listen for his voice. I have to admit that I have a lot to learn. This seems like humility, and I suppose it is, but there’s something much more fun about it.

It’s an adventure. It’s a new road that appears over the hill. It’s a new book from my favorite author. It’s a surprise party. It is the unexpected appearance of an old friend.

This last one is, in fact, what happened.

My phone dinged and I checked my messages, expecting another communique of domestic bliss, like, – pick up some milk. Instead, it was a text message from the other side of the world. My friend, who shall remain somewhat mysterious due to his occupation, was going to be in town this weekend and was looking for a place to stay.

I quickly responded and all my well-considered plans were abandoned.

I have been called spontaneous, impulsive and mercurial. I made that last one up. I don’t know anyone who uses the word mercurial in real life but it sounded better than rash or flaky. I might even have earned the reputation, even though I’m generally dependable. But, for all my stalwart reliability, there is one great truth I have learned.

Good Things Happen!

While we have trained ourselves to expect the worst, good things happen all the time. And if I’m not on the lookout for them, they just slip away.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a beautiful sunset or a startling moonrise when I had other plans. When I look around to see who else is sharing this spectacle, I usually find people with their heads down, driving or looking at their phones or sitting in their offices. And then the moment has passed.

Or perhaps my dog whines and nuzzles at my elbow and, against my better judgment and schedule, I relent and take her for a walk.  This one nose-nudge sets in motion a glorious walk on a beautiful day that I had previously ignored. Think about it. How many spectacularly beautiful days does one get in life? And how many have I missed sitting in a darkened studio?

Accidental Plans

What I have discovered is that few people ever end up where they planned. Success awaits somewhere along another way. We back into it or stumble upon it or get nudged toward it by someone who loves us. A friend of mine stumbled upon his extremely profitable career this way.

His wife thrust a paper in front of him and said, “This is perfect for you. If you don’t apply for this job, I’m never cooking for you in this kitchen again!” His answer?

“She’s a really good cook, so I applied and got the job.”

Another good friend of mine changed his life, followed his dreams and started a company all because of an Uber driver he met when his truck broke down. When I asked him what was wrong with his truck he replied, “I don’t know. It was always breaking down.” But this time the breakdown was a blessing.

Someone Else’s Plan?

So maybe our best life strategy will be planned by someone else. Or triggered by a text. Or instigated by some encouraging comment.

While we have our dreams, we honestly don’t know what we easily do that’s valuable to other people. It’s not valuable to us because it’s so easy. Or we devalue it because it’s fun.

In this case, the only way to discover our unique gift is for someone else to tell us. We’re too self-focused to see it. It looks backward in our mirror.

A Great Time

I can’t claim to have had a life-changing, career-starting time this weekend but I know one thing for sure. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

We had long, rambling conversations. We ate good food. We shared old memories. We reflected on the state of the world from an expanded perspective. We had a great time.

We probably won’t see each other for several years, though he invited me to stop by anytime I’m passing by the other side of the globe. I laughed. He laughed. But he repeated the offer when we said goodbye.

Who Knows?

Until that moment, the thought had never crossed my mind. But now I know that it’s a possibility. There’s a tickling in my brain at the prospect. There’s a bit of wonder at what life might bring. Could there be more to it than imagined? Maybe it’s better than I dreamed.

My small ideas in my small room seemed to have stretched themselves and shaken out the kinks. My small idea of God might have enlarged. A beautiful sunset could be waiting outside right now.

But I’ll never know unless I go and see . . .

Categories
Connections Featured Play

The Unseen Dangers of Facebook Before Coffee

This morning, for some reason, all of my Facebook friends ganged up on me with a lot of uncalled for positive thoughts before I even made my coffee. I hadn’t even had a chance to wake up enough to be grumpy. Seriously, folks! Don’t you have better things to do?

They started quoting inspirational people and posting scripture. There were beautiful pictures and happy memes. There were smiling faces and cute kids. There were positive lists, always the lists. People were grateful about things. One of them even asked who they could pray for today, as if there’s not enough trouble to go around. Then they got really serious and started posting pictures of dogs being cute. Not fair at all.

That was the last straw. I finally broke. I smiled.

I sat there thinking that this cup of coffee was wasted. All of that beautiful caffeine unneeded. The warm cup and rich smell made pointless.

Then my dog got the idea that my smile meant we were going on a walk. That wasn’t happening but she was insistent. I finally met her halfway and took her for a ride with the windows down. There were no clouds to be seen, plenty of fresh air and people out exercising.

But I see their plan. They’re health nuts trying to get into my brain and make me start exercising. They want me to be positive. Ha!

So I went to church, certain that would drain away all this unnecessary enthusiasm. Guilt and condemnation for all. But instead of being dour, everyone was smiling. The preacher bypassed the fire and brimstone to talk about redemption and forgiveness. And there’s that gratitude thing again.

If this keeps up I’ll be happy all day.

But not to worry. There’s always Monday. I’ll read the news for breakfast. Everything will be okay. As long as I stay away from Facebook.

Categories
Featured Humor Perspective Uncategorized

Why Is There No Grandfathers Day?

Grandfathers Day?

It’s wonderful to have a day to sit back and congratulate myself. Time to think deep thoughts and gain perspective, to enjoy the love of wonderful children and, once again, take credit for my wife’s hard work.

But life is thick with blessings. I have now lived long enough to take credit for my children’s hard work as well.

Having done nothing more than love the most precious people I’ve found on the planet, I find myself the recipient of far more love in return than I ever earned. While there is no justification for it, I thought I might at least document this phenomenon for future generations.

Wisdom Of The Ages?

The trip from child to adult to father to grandfather is a great adventure, as time travel always is. Generational perspective is a profound experience that allows me to enjoy the present through as many eyes as I have years.

Looking back at the arc of love required for our survival is a sight that leaves me pressed for words. Looking forward from here draws my eyes higher to the adventure of being adopted into an eternal family beyond my imagination.

All of this makes the present an even brighter gift. For here is the only moment I can recreate the blessings of the past and foreshadow the blessings of the future by loving presently as Jesus has loved me timelessly.

The Word is . . .

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor. This could also be the secret definition of another word. There are many titles a man can achieve through noble birth, hard work, and courage but there is none that can surpass the unearned joy of hearing a gleeful voice squeal, “Granddaddy!”

This is the reason there are no petitions before Congress to rectify the long injustice that grandfathers have no separate national holiday, having been lumped into the generic “Grandparents Day.” We don’t want the publicity.

We’re secretly afraid that someone will catch on.

Categories
Brain Fun Featured Humor Perspective Uncategorized

Planning My Week: Why Are You Laughing?

Making Plans

Man plans and God laughs. ~ Yiddish proverb.

Whenever people find out you’re planning something this proverb comes out. The joke implies that planning isn’t worth the time it takes, that you will fail, that you can’t be serious. But this is not the last word on planning. How about:

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I can’t plan what happens to me but I can remind myself of my goals. And I can plan how I will respond. I can also practice my values. I can stretch to be my highest and best self. And I can adjust my plans – in case of dragons.

Resilient Planning

In fact, given the nature of life, resilient, gritty, hard-headed, determined plans are the only ones that stick. Because I’m not going to get it all right the first time. Or the second. Or . . . .

How about this from the guy who planned D-Day:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Big Plans

Also, if I’m going to take the time and effort to resiliently plan, they may as well be plans worth having, right? That means big, aspiring, even poetic plans should be the rule. They need to get you going.

Unless you are silly enough to post your plans on the internet, no one is going to know. So, go big!

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Warren Buffett

With this in mind, here goes my plan for this week. (Stop snickering)

The Plan

Today I will concentrate on what I can do, instead of what others did. I will focus on the world I can touch rather than things beyond my reach about which I can only complain.

I will speak truth rather than criticize liars. I will love rather than accuse others of hate. I will lift rather than opine. I will lead rather than point. I will not stand by.

I will take courage by placing my fears in God’s hands. I will fear not living more than dying. I will not carry the fears of others but will make the courageous my companions.

I will ignore the counsel of my own doubts which have not prevented failure but have stopped all attempts at success. Fear of failure is my enemy. Failure is my friend for it teaches the lessons that I need to better try again.

I will not read the news; I will be my own news and live my own life. No one can do it for me.

I will vigorously implement the plan I have rather than chase (a) perfect plan tomorrow. (<<See) No man’s plan survives the day intact. We learn as we go or we don’t learn at all.

The little I can do is not enough, but it is not nothing. I will give all today and hope for tomorrow.

 

P.S.

“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.”
Yogi Berra

Categories
Blog Change Dogs Endurance Featured Pets

If It Was Easy . . .

*Please note – I started this post last Saturday and couldn’t finish.

Unplanned Interruptions

Today I bandaged a dog’s foot. It was not my plan.

Daisy, my nervous, tiny, loving, competitive, unobservant, endlessly shivering Boston terrier, got stepped on by my massive, loving, competitive, unobservant, big-footed, rake-clawed, tightly wound Labrador retriever, Nessie.

Though Boston is assuredly capable of winning endless Superbowls, in the battle to get through our back door a decade old pup bred to sit on the lap of a Boston blue-blood is no match for a hound the size of a walrus bred to swim the Labrador Sea in the icy north Atlantic, dragging fishing nets behind.

Competitors, Sisters, Best Friends

It can’t be easy for Daisy living in the house with Nessie, but she doesn’t believe that it’s the size of the dog that counts. Daisy is, in a word, fearless.

She can often be found barking at the back fence at our neighbor’s giant black mastiff. Not just barking but digging in a frenzy while throwing frenzied doggie challenges to the unconcerned bear-sized monster. She wants a piece of him.

Daisy has clawed down chunks of wooden fencing in her pursuit, and if she wasn’t stopped would dig through. I’m certain she would stand her ground between us and Godzilla if the need arose.

But her late night dance at the back door in between Nessie’s lumbering paws did not go so well. She squealed as she got stepped on twice. Last night she bounced right back but by this morning she couldn’t put her left foot on the ground. Closer inspection revealed a nasty gash between her toes. Something had to be done and since Suzie was at work it was up to me.

Ideas Are Easy

My plan this morning was to change the world. I would bound out of bed, work out furiously, get Suzie to work and write something that would make a difference. I would start a business, invent time travel, find the cure for heartburn and take a break for lunch.

Instead, I stumbled out of bed, shuffled my way to the back door to let the dogs out and found that Daisy couldn’t walk.

After debating an emergency trip to the doggy ER, I decided I could probably take care of her paw. I drove to one store for bandages and another for a doggie boot to keep the bandage on. I washed the foot, applied antibiotic pain-killing goo, bandaged and booted a bull-headed dog and fell asleep cuddling her. Sigh.

Spoiled Rotten

I must remember this. There has never been an idea or a dream worth pursuing that didn’t immediately spawn buzzing distractions, urgent interruptions and downright emergencies.

I’ve been spoiled by recording studios. Imagine a sound proof room designed for creating with people turning away distractions at the front door and holding all calls. Cell phones are off. There are electronic locks, intercoms and buzzers to preserve your creative privacy.

No clocks are allowed. People actually expect to work late into the night. Talk is kept to whispers and flashing technology dances at your fingertips. Producers crack the whip and you can really get work done.

Change The World . . . Tomorrow

But out here in the real world I have no dog-bandaging interns. Puppies need love now. So do the rest of us. And there’s the point.

All of my world-changing ideas are a poor substitute for simple kindness and committed love – right now! Not movie love or novel love or internet love but the plain old, everyday, hard-working kind of love that the real world needs: take-out-the-garbage, clean-up-baby-vomit, change-diapers, bandage-the-dog kind of love.

Change The World A Little At A Time

In the end, this kind of love is probably more valuable than the self-glorifying, big-idea, propose-while-skydiving, rent-a-limo, one-up-this, post-it-on-Facebook kind of love.

I know there’s a lot more everyday need.

All things added up, the everyday love that we give yields a lot more real-world results than a few big idea fireworks. Just imagine a world where no one took out the garbage.

Kindness happens one person at a time. It doesn’t trend, make headlines or stadium kiss cams. It’s more powerful than that.

It’s Cumulative

Persistence is the most powerful tool available to mankind. Persistent love is the best application of it.

It adds up every day like God’s version of compound interest. How does that work? Like this.

I can’t change the world in a day. But I can change the world everyday. I just can’t change it very much.

So, the thing that matters the most is not the thing I do today; it’s the thing I do everyday, consistently. All I have to do is do it again.

First = Last

On the big list of world changers my name would probably be close to the bottom. Few people know who I am. I have an average number of friends. I haven’t invented anything amazing. I haven’t discovered any breakthroughs. I don’t have a billion dollars to give away.

But I have as much love as anybody. And I have today. Fortunately, in God’s economy cash is not king. Instead, love reigns supreme.

Added up over a lifetime, that’s the investment that counts that most; it’s what matters.

Daisy’s example

That’s why I smile at my little terrier barking at my neighbor’s mastiff. It looks comical, like she’s taking on too much, but she’s not.

Her method is my example when facing big, scary problems. She knows fear is not an option. She knows it’s not the dog who barks loudest that matters, but the one that barks longest. She knows that silence never wins; persistence does.

Truth needs a voice.

Update

It’s been two days since Daisy’s foot was hurt. She’s curled up on the love seat, not because she’s hurting, but because the mastiff is banished back inside his house.

She pulled off the boot and bandage the next morning. I re-bandaged for one more night. She’s not the only stubborn one.

Now she’s running around like nothing happened. Time for me to get back to work.

The world won’t change itself . . .

Daisy's Favorite Place

Categories
Blog Change Connections Emotional Featured

Borrowed Rocks and Purloined Shells

On a bright blue-sky fall afternoon with the wind tugging cold at my face, I stood ankle-deep in an icy, clear stream, tipped a bag of stones and released them back into the wild. The rocks flashed in the sun, fell into the rippling water and nestled in the stream bed in apparent relief. Many of them were heart-shaped.

In a small, private ceremony, I returned Mom’s rocks to God.

Next came the shells, all hand-picked from beaches along the Florida coast. Each a work of art unique in some way to the eye that spied them and the hand that rescued them from unappreciated anonymity. They also flashed and fell and sank with bubbles of joy, reunited with the sea – or as close as it gets to Tennessee.

Along the carved stream bottom the treasures shone bright and out of place, their original places long forgotten. The current location of the stream lined with hearts and seashells is known only to hikers, close family and it’s maker.

It was a fitting depository for so valuable a collection, so carefully curated for so long.

It all began in the 1930’s when a great-uncle in the middle of a farm project reached out a hand and demanded,”Give me a piece of string!”

Dad, a boy fascinated with his uncle’s work, replied that he didn’t have any string.

“What?” came the incredulous reply. “Why a boy always ought to have a piece of string and a rock in his pocket.”

No explanation was given. Apparently a boy was supposed to know such things. So, Dad found a piece of string, just in case. Easy enough.

The rock, however, proved to be a bigger challenge. There were so many choices. Which one was the rock? As soon as he chose one, another better rock appeared to tempt him with curious shape or intense color. It became a lifelong fascination.

As long as I knew my Dad he had a rock in his pocket. I don’t know what happened to the string.

As a result we all developed rock collections. I specialized in throwing and skipping rocks, another art Dad taught us.

Mom preferred bright colors and heart shapes. After Dad passed it was like finding a love letter from him, left just for her in the sand or mud. She couldn’t pass them up.

After an unexpected reaction to a medicine, Mom’s recall wasn’t as sharp as before and it made the treasures and memories even more precious – and plentiful.

When she moved in with us, there were countless times I held my breath as she stopped and stooped to look at a possible treasure, head close to the ground. I pictured falls, fractured hips and hospitals while she saw endless jeweled memories.

They soon covered every available surface – night stands, book cases, Great Grannie’s pie shelf and Singer sewing machine, window sills and dressers. When, for the sake of my wife, I asked that she clean up a little the collection was sealed, bagged and tucked into drawers.

Memory lapses increased to the point that she needed notes to remember how to unlock her bedroom door. When Mom called Suzie from a block away to ask her address it was obvious we were not up to the job.

This week I returned Mom to God’s care. After three years of doing my best, I signed an endless stream of papers checking Mom into an assisted living facility – Willow Something, ALF.

Willow Something is nearby, lively, social and safe. We can pick Mom up any time. But there was no room for her collection of geological treasures. There were too many.

Throwing them away was an insult, like tossing diamonds into a landfill. Storing them was impractical. That’s when I decided to return them to nature where they belonged.

They are God’s rocks after all. They were here long before us. And will be here after us.

We do not own the rocks in our pockets any more than the leaves own the trees. Eventually, we all must let go.

I marked the spot carefully so that I could bring Mom by later, waded out of the stream and into a river of memories.

On the walk home the brush beside me exploded in movement as some large animal fled with a crash. It was too fast to be seen as I slowly pried my mind out of the past.

I was suddenly aware of the beauty around me.

A dozen robins settled across the path ahead and fed until I walked through them.

Four chattering young girls came toward me, settling on a wooden bench to take pictures of this fleeting moment.

I shook my head clear. Better to soak up this rare day rather than lose it in reflection.

When I walked back into the house Suzie held up two large bags of rocks for my inspection. “Want to go back?” she asked.

I didn’t. There were undoubtedly more rocks to discover tucked in drawers and pockets.

We may never find them all . . . I hope.

Categories
Blog Connections Emotional Encouragement Featured Prayer Service Spiritual

Heroes Don’t Meet In Bat Caves

I write, not because I have great thoughts that need to be shared, but because I see greatness that must be reported. Three times in my life I have stumbled upon an unexpected safe harbor, a place where deepest feelings can be carefully expressed, where vulnerability is allowed freedom, where needs and failings can be admitted.

Soul Sanctuaries

I didn’t know such places existed where the courageous met and shared stories of unimaginable struggles, of battles and victories, of failures and redemption. I felt honored to be in the midst of such quiet heroes, unassuming, unheralded, unconscious of their own magnificence. To watch them stand against the tide, taking on life’s greatest struggles as if it were natural, as if it were normal to be so strong. To hear them humbly share their failures and ask for help was akin to watching Superman apologize for being weakened by Kryptonite and therefore not saving the world faster last Thursday. Where do such miraculous places exist? You might be surprised.

Sunday School

Well, I said you might be surprised. But it is true. In some places people are actually being the salt of the Earth, the light of the world. I have witnessed it. I have seen men buy and deliver coats for the homeless. I know a woman who has lost two husbands and still knits scarves to sell so she has money to help a young couple that she barely knows finish their education. I’ve seen highly paid medical professionals travel a world away to perform life saving surgeries for free – instead of a vacation. I’ve seen earthquake orphans get new homes, built not by contractors but average folks with hammers, hands and aching backs.

Anonymous Angels

The grieving are comforted, the sick visited, the jobless employed, the homeless sheltered, the divorced moved to new quarters. Tornado victims are helped to start over. The addicted are encouraged. The violently attacked are walked through recovery. I’ve personally witnessed these things. They are not myths or publicity schemes. No one takes credit or advantage. When I have tried to do interviews with these people, they have declined. They do not want ego to infect this place, not because they are self-righteous but because they are suspicious and genuinely humble. They have the humility of soldiers denying they are heroes because they have seen others sacrifice far more. They do not believe the cost touches the gifts they have been given freely. But do not think there is no cost. It costs a great deal of time and money. It demands emotional strength to stand alongside. It takes courage and grit.

And Prayer

Oh the prayers, fervent and tearful, joyous and relieved, persistent and patient. To be prayed for by these people is powerful and humbling. And it’s not a random event. They spend time every week diligently collecting prayer requests. They update each step of progress and persevere through each slip backwards. They email the list to all each week. It takes a lot of work. They persist because they believe in the power of prayer and they have examples of God’s provision ready to share. It’s not a theory or a mental exercise for them. Not a self-focused, self-help technique. It’s practical, applied theology, the result of a connection with God.

And Fun

It’s not all solemn-faced spirituality. The way to find these people is by their laughter. The jokes and jabs flow easily without fear of misunderstanding. There is none of the disturbing crassness and cruelty comics dish out. They naturally gravitate toward humor like it’s oxygen or water. When you have often travelled life’s hard places you feel no need to point out inconveniences. Humor is a shock absorber. It softens the blows. It’s a survival skill of the highest order. It comes easily because they each find reasons to laugh at themselves. The unspoken lesson is that we all take figurative pratfalls from time to time and we may as well grin about it. And by the way, some of the humor may be pretty goofy, to the point of groaning, and often self-depricating. Every once in a while it rises to biting jabs and a swift parry but it will never sting too badly. Love doesn’t do that.

And Food

You can count on comfort food and a few healthy snacks thrown in (or out) when you find these people. It’s hospitality, the milk of human kindness, along with some cake and chocolate. And probably a few sausage balls. They know the significance of breaking bread together. It’s the time to catch up with friends, a time that is all too short and anticipated. These are people you miss when you are gone or when they are. It’s hard to get overlooked in a caring group this size. But you will not lose weight at the Christmas party. Just saying.

The Reminder

Bible study underpins it all. This is the source of all of the above, the caring, praying, sharing, joking, hugging. It is the reason for the patience and the determination. We may have heard the verses before but the repetition reminds us they are still current. They apply today. Studies show that prayer and bible study increases self control and gives us more resistance to temptation. But they didn’t need a study to know that. I have sat restlessly in classes where the message seemed dry and dusty, but not in the best classes. The words are fresh because people have been living them all week. They have real life examples of love and truth to draw from. They are anchored no matter what crazy, dangerous, unloving fad the media spins at them all week. The Bible is not a book or a reference manual for these people. It is truth and love in action.

Truth And Love In Action

I thought that deserved the repetition, because it is really a shocking statement when you take it all in. Truth – not spin or sales or manipulation. Love – seeking the best for others regardless of your own situation. Action – no theories or studies or conferences but doing these things in the real world of blood and bone.

It’s remarkable

As striking as a candle flame at midnight. Like a beam of sunlight breaking through storm clouds. Like angels appearing to shepherds. So shines a good deed in a weary world. They are not perfect. They are not exceptional. They are not elite. They are just people who believe deeply and act accordingly. And that, along with God’s love, is enough. In fact, it’s astonishing. Mistakes are made but there is humility and forgiveness. Love cushions many mistakes. Grace takes care of the rest.

Thank You

To those who have meant so much to us I would like to say a public thank you. During our rougher days you people have fed us for months at a time, prayed with us in hospitals, stood nearby while death prowled, handed us money, urged us to sleep and eat, kept and comforted and entertained our children, given lessons for free, provided rides and clothes and sticky-sweet deserts. You have brought casseroles and pizza and soup and lasagna and countless chocolate pies. In a word, you loved us like your own. Though we were strangers. To this day it leaves me speechless. It makes me want to sing ancient hymns in hallowed halls and light candles. This post has taken me months to write to try to do you justice. I do not exaggerate when I say . . .

You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~Mt 5:13-14

Photo Credit: Canon in 2D via Compfight cc

Categories
Blog Connections Emotional Encouragement Featured

Encouragement Bomb – You Were On My Heart And Mind

Yesterday I got an email from someone I am fortunate to call a friend. It was an encouragement bomb.

Who He Is

We’re not friends because I have earned it. I haven’t done anything at all for this friend. It’s not a mutually advantageous relationship where we help each other’s careers or watch each other’s houses when we go on vacation. We are friends because he is a friend. That’s who he is.

What He Said

The email he sent was a short note – only two sentences – which included this phrase:

“. . . you were on my heart and mind early this AM and I prayed for you . . .”

There was a little more to it but the details fall away compared to this phrase.

He Is Busy

My friend runs an organization of hundreds of people. There are no spare moments, no down time to kill. He’s doing important things and I’m not one of them. And yet . . . Yesterday morning as he prayed I come to mind. He prayed for a project that I’m working on and he wrote two sentences in a quick email.

It Made My Day

It’s probably going to make my day again today. It’s a shining example of how encouragement is done. Simple, short, to the point, but powerful. It was unexpected. It was not required. It was awesome. I’m going to make it a goal to be a friend like that to someone else. I thought I’d start by sharing it with you. May you have a day as blessed as my friend made mine.

Categories
Adventure Blog Connections Dogs Featured Humor Perspective Recovery Success

The Magic In Between

Land of a Thousand Distractions

There are great moments in life, moments they say define you, the celebratory highs of accomplishment, the heroic lows of courageous struggle. But this month I have a little different take on what defines our lives.

I say a person is defined by what they do in between such dramatic and emotional moments. When no one is watching. When the stakes are not high. When one day falls quietly into place behind the last.

These are the times that try men’s souls.

The problem is that it’s easy to see the glory in riding off to rescue the damsel in distress or wresting a continent from the hands of a genocidal tyrant. But it’s hard to see the glory in watching John Wayne shampooing carpets when the puppy threw up because she ate a sock.

No one says Winston Churchill’s finest hour was spent at Home Depot searching for a solution to his dog’s sudden urge to tunnel under fences like Steve McQueen.

Did Hemingway have to kneel by his bedside to blog “For Whom The Bell Tolls” because his chocolate Lab thinks she’s still a puppy yet takes up her master’s entire side of the bed?

Did Lincoln have a granddaughter with eyes so big and blue that they seem to hold the sky within? I think not. Otherwise his mind would have turned to mush like mine and the Gettysburg Address would have sounded like:

Four score and
Das’ my sweet sugar wuggar.
Does her wub her
Granddaddy waddy?

Look! Squirrel!

Somewhere along the way toward changing the world I have become ensnared. Pinned to the beach like Gulliver. Immobilized by ten thousand soft threads of distraction.

All of them seem to be necessary. But definitely not heroic.

I cannot, for the life of me, picture Indiana Jones on his day off waiting heroically in line at Comcast, bullwhip furled, fedora in hand, soundtrack on pause.

Dah, dah dah daaaah! Dah, dah da . . . “Please Take A Number And Wait For The Next Available Associate.”

What is an associate anyway?

Some things shouldn’t be seen.

Imagine Lucy Liu at the DMV. Or Johnny Depp at Wal-Mart picking up word search books for his mother. I can’t. Don’t want to.

These are scenes that should be edited out. Or not filmed at all. And yet, my life seems to be made up entirely of scraps from the cutting room floor.

Outtakes. An adventure-free zone. The stuff in between the good stuff.

If that’s all there were to it then life would be pointless. Tedium. But then . . .

Glimpses Of Glory

Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, like a flicker in a passing mirror, I catch a fleeting glimpse of life as it could be. Or could I be seeing life as it really is?

Could it be that what I do is more significant that it appears? Is it possible?

It always catches me by surprise. Something tickling at the back of my brain makes me look up. An instinct. A hair-raising hint.

Suddenly my eyes are assaulted with a sky-filling blaze of color, a sunset so magnificent that it stops me in my tracks.

Thundering Hooves

Or I’m driving to work with plans filling my head to the brim when a sideways glance captures a field of endless green.

There a herd of horses gallop wildly over rolling hills, manes flying, tails swishing, all for the sheer joy of the wind on their faces.

The grace. The colors. The excitement! And then they are gone leaving me and the morning traffic behind.

Were it not for these moments reminding me of the beauty of life, it would be easy to overlook.

The Moments You Fight For

During Suzie’s year and a half of fighting for life I can remember very clearly a few surprising moments that carried me through. They were not at all what I expected.

Once I was standing beside Suzie drying dishes while the kids watched TV in the next room. The afternoon sun was slanting gold through the back yard. We weren’t talking about anything but I found myself filled with an unexplainable joy.

So much so that I had to question where it came from. I had never felt joy washing dishes before. Never imagined it. It was just something that had to be doe before I got on with the good stuff.

It dawned on me that this calm and tedious moment was such a contrast from the constant shocks we’d endured. It was the very thing we were hoping to get back – a moment of peace and quiet. Something not terrifying.

Something Normal

While chasing bad guys, having hair-raising adventures and being the hero is exciting, the entire point is to get things back to normal.

We do not fight wars for the fun of it. We do not set fires for the rush of dragging children from the flames. We do not rob stage coaches for the camaraderie of riding in a good posse.

What we really want is the crisis to be over so we can get back to our lives. To do exciting things like, well, wash dishes and clean up puppy barf.

The Good Life

So, when I understand my life correctly, the good parts are not dodging bullets, saving continents, preventing nuclear holocausts or surviving tsunamis.

Instead, the good life is the part after the novel is finished, after the movie credits roll, after the treaty is signed, after the horses are back in the barn, after the pistols are cleaned, after the family is reunited, after the fire is out, after the town is rebuilt.

The good life begins after the crisis ends.

And while it may seem boring by comparison, the good life is also cleaning carpets, washing dishes and feeding the dogs. It is the freedom to have your life back, to have time to write a world-changing novel, or hold a grandbaby, or share a meal.

The good life is not being the hero, as much as we love them. It’s being there for the people you love. It’s working to pay the bills. It’s sitting in traffic. Or being an associate. Or maybe even taking out the garbage.

Oh no! I forgot to take out the garbage! I can hear the truck in the distance. Can I beat it? Will trash win or will our hero save the day? Refuse or rescue? Be the man or get canned?

Stay tuned next week. Gotta go.

Now, where’s that bull whip?

Dah, dah dah daaaaaaaaah. Dah, dah daaaaah!

Categories
Blog Courage Emotional Encouragement Endurance Featured Never Give Up Perspective Spiritual

Never, Ever Quit

I sat across the booth from Suzie picking through a shepherd’s pie while my head swam. We  occasionally looked at each other, smiled and shook our heads. I held back tears with difficulty. There’s no crying in restaurants.

“Wow,” was the best I could come up with.

“Yeah,” she answered.

There are few moments in life when perspective is possible, when you can peer down the long corridors of history, when you grasp the true significance of a moment, when you can take it all in.

Becoming a grandparent is such a moment.

The Power Of Beauty

A recent study revealed that people become more spiritual when confronted with awe inspiring scenes of great beauty. There is, inside of us, a need to ask the question,”Why?” At such moments it is easy to see that something far beyond us is at work.

Surely holding your first granddaughter minutes after her birth is a moment of awe.

It’s different from holding your own newborn, another awe filled moment, because of perspective. It’s been twenty-four years since our family held our last newborn.

We now hold in our minds the collective history of two generations that gave birth to this moment. It’s a lot to take in over dinner.

It’s kind of rethinking your life because, looking back, things take on an entirely different meaning.

In the present, life takes your full concentration. It takes everything you’ve got. You don’t have the time or the ability to speculate on where it all leads.

For example:

When Suzie faced her first cancer we never thought about the  years that would follow. If we had, we would not have imagined the blessings and joys our family has given us. We were just hoping for a future at all.

When the second and third cancers popped up unexpectedly we steeled ourselves for a fight. We never considered the joy of seeing all of our children graduate high school. It wasn’t even on our radar screen.

When the fourth cancer robbed Suzie of her ability to speak and we had to argue with doctors and nurses to get seen, we were not thinking of all of the Thanksgiving meals we would share.

When the fifth, sixth and seventh cancers appeared on a wider scan, the future all but disappeared from view. The sight of a doctor crying did not inspire confidence. We would have been thrilled to know for sure that Suzie would make it through the year. Thoughts of school plays, Christmas musicals and college degrees played no part in our determination to fight on.

The long search for “the” prom dress or helping our son pick out his first tux were not on our minds when the eighth cancer was discovered by accident. We were wondering how you  treat a cancer that no one could even identify.

When a cut lung turned a routine breast reconstruction into a life threatening event, we did not dream of seeing our children travel the globe or go on mission trips to desperate or dangerous countries.

During six long months of chemotherapy fog and nausea we did not pause to wonder whether our daughters’ engagement rings would be gold or platinum.

Wedding dresses and color schemes didn’t inspire us when seizures led to heart arrhythmia. We didn’t try to guess the subject of our son’s screenplay or the tempo of his first song.

During the dreadful year of “adjusting” epilepsy medication we never imagined our daughters working in hospitals helping others or envision the endless miles conquered in Relay For Life events.

We had no idea what would happen. We just went on faith that life would be worth the trouble.

Because there’s always trouble.

This we could easily anticipate. It became a powerful motivator. We knew how much help we needed and  wanted to be there for our children whatever trouble came.

And it came. Our children faced a lot of problems. A few of them caused by us. Okay, maybe more than a few. (Sorry about that, kids.)

The stress of growing up in a home with multiple cancers has caused more than one child to run off the rails. Ours did not. While we could be there and listen and pray, the survival of their generation is credited to them. They faced life’s biggest issues from a young age with courage and grit. Including problems we never faced.

Our daughter, over the last six years, lost three babies. Landon was immediately whisked to Vanderbilt Children’s hospital across town. She never even got to hold him. The heartbreak of that cannot be conveyed.

So the moment my brave daughter handed her daughter to my courageous wife was, in a word, glorious.

During the cancer years my wildest imaginings did not include the sight of Suzie, nineteen full years later, holding her first granddaughter.

The hopes and dreams, the struggle and survival of two generations summed up in one tightly wrapped bundle. I can only imagine what my Mom must feel.

When I say never give up, it matters . . . more than you can probably appreciate right now.

Here’s a principle to live by:

Don’t Quit Before God Does.

If God says it’s time to quit, you will quit. You won’t have an option.

So, if you are still here, then you’re not done yet.

You cannot imagine the future. You can rarely gain perspective on the past. No one can. We are trapped in the now.

But if you give your all and never give up, then one day you will reach a moment of perspective and see your life from a larger vantage point.

Trust me on this. It will be awesome.