The Seasons of our Lives

The time of year for my Saturday hibernation has arrived once again. That means I am a college football junkie. and unapologetically so. That does not mean I miss the games that are sometimes scheduled on the odd weeknight and every Thursday. Of course this opening weekend there are also Sunday and Monday night games. This season is not really any different from many of the other sports as I am really a sports junkie. So I live my life from baseball opening day until the Red Sox and Braves are eliminated, to football season (college and pro), the NBA season and NCAA basketball and around and around it goes. With golf lasting approximately 11 months of the year, I never have to get off the merry go round. And I watch all golf; PGA, LPGA, Euro PGA, PGA Tour Champions and many of the minor league tours around the world now. I realize I watch too much TV, but I multi-task a lot and reasonably well. Much of the time it is simply white noise in the background and I watch the replays when he announcers are even more excited than their general level of overly-enthused.

I am sure there are people who just rely on the four seasons of the year, but I think we are short changing ourselves if we only recognize four. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentines, Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc…also take us from event to event of our wonderful lives if we will let them. As someone who constantly battles depression, it is important to me to have things on the calendar that have the potential to raise my interest level besides the number on the day. It was such a huge, wonderful, amazing, happy time when my boys were born, how could I not get excited every year when those two dates come around. They probably have no idea I am as excited and reflective as I am on those days and I should probably make it more apparent, but they are big days to me. The day my bride said I do 34 1/2 years ago was the biggest single blessing God has given me with the exception of the day that I agreed to receive his greatest gift of salvation, so how could that not be a huge deal on my calendar and in my heart. Again, I should make her even more aware of my joy, although I try to make a pretty big deal about it.

So, yesterday was a very fun day for me as the first Saturday of a new college football season and my defending National Champion Clemson Tigers got off to a very pleasing start. You also now know as much about me as it would take to carry on a very long conversation. Yes, I enjoy sports with their wins and losses, but they are not the most important dates on my calendar, nor should they be. Those days that we remember our greatest blessings are, and should be the most memorable days in my year and they are. I need to do a better job of letting the people who are a part of those days knowing how much the day and they mean to me and I need to always remember to be thankful to God for the blessings he has given and continues to give with each day of life.

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The Human Spirit

I have had a confluence of events and readings make me feel a lot better about the people I share the US and the globe with. I read that during the period that the eclipse was making its trek from Oregon to SC that there was no mass fighting, road rage, looting, etc… The reason this is surprising is that there were huge groups of people gathered together and it got dark. More than a half million people entered the state of Wyoming alone and none of the things we often see with large gatherings took place. I read in Time that the same was true on a global scale when the first moon landing occurred and in our country when the US won the Gold Medal in hockey at the 1980 Olympics. I am certainly not a trained psychologist and most acquaintances would probably suggest that I am closer to a “psycho” and most days I would agree. But, I think that just maybe these events have a few characteristics that make us less volatile or warrior like for a period of time.

First, they are free. Almost anyone could find a pair of eclipse viewing glasses being given away so safe viewing was available for the wealthy or poor, have’s or have not’s, urban or rural dwellers, or any other divisions we may associate with other happenings. I think the same has been true to a lesser degree during and after the horrific losses of life and property as a result of Hurricane Harvey. I think when we see that disaster does not differentiate between the divisions we often create or is existent, we somehow feel more connected. So, that would be to me the second idea. When we think we are connected by an event, positive or negative, we simply are nicer to each other. The sacrifices of those able to help those who need help have been huge. The small metro area I live in had one television station raise more than $1 per person of population in about a 16 hour period. The last thing, I come up with, is that the events are so large that we realize our smallness. But, in our smallness, we can do amazing things together. In our smallness, we become less concerned about how quickly traffic is moving or whether we have to wait in line at the gas pump.

The last thing I have been reading a lot about lately is the free GRACE provided by God through Jesus. If there is something that is free to every person on the planet, then I have to believe there is a potential that we can be more together as a people of every color, creed, tribe, sex, or any other difference that exists. I am known to find the black lining in every silver cloud, but in this, I see optimism. Someone will say my head is in the sand because the husky dictator of NK has WMD’s, or IS is popping up in different parts of the globe, or we don’t have enough clean water for 7+ billion people. I realize that there are, and have always been, huge risks in the world, but the same God that offers us free grace has always kept us from destroying humanity. I think that will only happen when he decides it is time and everything I know says we can not and will not know when that will be, so me worrying about it is illogical.

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Blessings from illness

As someone who has dealt with a chronic debilitating illness for more than twelve years now, I should never be surprised at where I find blessings I did not expect. I just had the wonderful experience of talking with someone undergoing immunotherapy for treatment of cancer. I know it weakens one and I tried to call and just speak to his wife, but because I had sent him a card recently, he heard my name and insisted on speaking with me. He spent more time thanking me for the card than it did for me to write the note I sent. That is just the man he is and why I had avoided calling him directly, because he is to kind not to talk even if he does not feel able. I have not learned that grace yet, but I pray that I will and that I will find a way to make people feel better after talking with me than I feel at that time.

While this person is putting up a valiant fight, he knows that there are no guarantees and that is OK because his faith will be there even if his body fails him. As someone who attempts to comfort and sometimes needs comforting, I read something that really stuck with me a few days ago. We should not expect everyone who finds a major illness, or other obstacle in their path, to become an olympic hurdler. Almost everyone loves life and does not want to have it taken away from them when they feel like they had so much left to give and do. However, we are not all endowed with the same ability to put on a brave face and move forward at full force. We should also realize that the brave face we see is often not what is lurking just below the surface. I know because I try to always do the same except with those closest to me. It has been stated ad nauseam that telling anyone we know to be ill, “but, you look so good” is not helpful and may, in fact, be very hurtful. There is not only a war going on in their body, but also in their mind and the guilt that comes along with feeling like less than whole person is one of those internal mind battles we face every day. To that individual, “but, you look so good”, may say to them that there is some doubt in your mind as to their real illness. I know that is not what anyone means, but our words are interpreted by other’s brains in very different ways.

I guess I would summarize by saying that we should always be very aware of our words and maybe more so to someone who is ill. ” I would love to think that I could hold up as well in similar circumstances” may be so much more positive and remove any statement that speaks directly to a person’s appearance or feeling. Also, reach out to those who you know are hurting or ill if you are in need of a blessing. more times than not, you will receive much more than the effort you are giving. I am certainly glad that I did today and received far more than I was giving. Thank you!

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The unheralded in our lives

I was listening to a podcast this morning from Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA. It was delivered by their Senior Pastor, Louie Giglio and I am giving him credit for the general idea and also a warning; if reading about the Christian faith is abhorrent to you, I really wish you would keep going, but…

My thinking went back over my almost 57 years and all of the people God has placed in my path. I can remember elementary school friends who I have kept some contact with and teachers from the same period. “It was The War Between The States”, because there was nothing civil about it. That came from my fifth grade teacher and has stuck in my consciousness all these years. I imagine most of us have similar poignant memories that may be much more consequential. The thing that stands out more for me as a person of faith are the people who God knew I would need to be in my life long before I knew.

Most of these people were friends with special skills, but more importantly, very big hearts. I became ill 11 years ago at the age of 45 and was past my working days by the age of 50. My family would go through some very different financial twists and turns and those were painful and eye-opening. The most painful was being a fifty year old man who could not adequately provide for his family and had to be cared for instead of caring for others. When you read stories about the chronically unemployed and the psychological impact that it has on men and women throughout the US and the world, it is more real than you could ever imagine. We were never poor, homeless, unfed, or unsupported, just not used to receiving assistance or telling a child there was something that they could not have and I fully understand the difference between that and truly poor.

God had placed certain people in my path who were able to do things I could not, even if healthy. I had an amazing friend who builds houses that did so much to just help keep mine livable. I had a neighbor who wanted to teach his son the value of doing for others even when pay was minimal or none at all. A friend who had many contacts within the building industry who sent me people who worked for way below market fees because they knew my friend, not me. My parents were both able physically to be of tremendous help and became my legs, arms, chauffeurs, cooks, and many other things you don’t ever imagine not being able to do. I believe God kept them healthy, in part, because he knew how much I would need them. My Dad has been gone for about 15 months now and I know from my Mom that he spent hours on his knees, in tears, asking God to make me well and even when he started to lose some cognitive ability, would do anything I asked even when he was not really able. I had a pastor who would come up with funds to cover things that were just costs of living and those giving never knew exactly where it was going. He also made sure that I had a visitor from time to time who didn’t come to console, but to try to learn things I was learning from reading and watching the financial markets because that was my last career. He made me feel I was imparting something he could use or just wanted to know.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point, probably nauseatingly. I can tell you what I have learned over the past decade plus. Everyone you meet  is important to the God I believe in and should be to you. Not for what they can do for you, but because their life has no less value in the eyes of God than you. Never be too proud, or stubborn, to accept help from others; it will likely mean more to them than you. You can trust God to supply your needs; maybe not your wants or the way you would do it, but trust is an amazing value between Him, us and others. Share what you have with others, even if that is only a smile, encouraging word and God’s love. I learned that many of my assumptions about the less fortunate were born of arrogance, hate, ignorance, appearance, etc… I was wrong about every single one!

Finally, I would be remiss to mention the incredible lady who is my wife. I have to stop there because I can’t read through tears and the space taken up would make this a novel.

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