Spring

7-30-14 010

Soon, we will see the vibrant colors of Spring.

Soon, we will smell the fragrance of lilacs and all other blooming flowers.

Soon, we will feel the texture of lush leaves and delicate petals.

Soon, we will witness bees and butterflies pollinating, and birds propagating.

Soon, we will experience the full wonder of this season.

And, if we keep our eyes, ears and noses open to her transforming beauty, Spring offers treasures we cannot make nor buy, but simply enjoy for free.

Spring also offers her greatest gift…Resurrection.

May our hearts be open to all that is Spring.

 

Double Vision

snow-shots-2-25-11-014

When this double vision ends and I see clearly again, will I be any better off and make sense of life? 

When I feel that my existence seems like that of a spectator, will I ever become a participant?

When the cold of winter and loneliness of the holidays overwhelm me, will I cry myself to sleep?

When faith flickers like a dying candle, what will become of me? Will I have mattered to anyone?

snow-shots-2-25-11-016

I will be better off, and so will others, once I regain clarity, and I will understand my life’s purpose.

I am already a participant, I just need a little encouragement to help me understand this truth.

I will cry no longer-even though I needed to for a moment-because joy is just around the corner.

I will light another candle-thus keeping my faith-for my life matters very much. It matters to those who love me and to those who are yet to know me; to the lost who need me and to those who have helped me; to the sojourner who has double vision and to the blind who can’t see at all. No more tears, no more despair, and no more loneliness for there is One who loves me just as I am. Prince of Peace come join me now and help me to show others the way. 

 

 

 

Tis’ the Season…a Prayer

20131231_164932

 

I believe most people, regardless of religious affiliation, want to live in peace. This is preciously why Jesus came to earth. The angels announced when He was born, “Peace on Earth and good will towards men” (women, too). Why there is so much division among various peoples of the earth can be easily explained. Man is inherently selfish and prideful, and wants his own way regardless of who is afflicted or abused. In fact it is those whom Jesus focused on the most-the downtrodden and forsaken.

I sincerely want everyone who reads this post to know that I pass no judgement because of one’s beliefs (or lack of beliefs). And, I am very, very grateful for those who follow my blog and for those who stumble upon it. I find it gratifying to know that even one person finds either what I have to say or the the photographs I take to be of enough importance to stop for a moment and sneak a peak at one of my posts. I certainly enjoy some of my fellow bloggers’ words and pics, and am especially grateful for the regulars who visit me. As always, I welcome your comments. Now, for my prayer.

Please Lord, let there be peace upon the earth, and let it begin with me.                                                                                         

 

 

Where Did The Wonder Go?

I wish I could take credit for the title and idea, but that honor goes to my pastor Nathan Miller who preached a superb message about losing the wonder, the awe about God as we age. For those who are interested, he referenced Mathew 13: 53-58   which is a short excerpt in the Bible where Jesus is preaching in his hometown. All who heard marveled at Jesus’ command of scripture, but they rejected him because he grew up among them and was familiar to them, therefore not accepting his message or ministry. In the end, Jesus said that a prophet is not honored in his home town. Of course, he was much more than a prophet which increased their rejection of the message, and ultimately him. I felt a tinge of remorse as I realized I often regard Christ through too familiar eyes.

Please hang with me as I share some thoughts about life using this theme. As much as this message applied to people’s relationship to God, it also applies to so many other critical aspects about our daily lives. Wonder can be defined as “a feeling of surprise mingled with  admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable“. The photos I will be sharing are of Elliot, my grandson, who is full of wonder. These images are cell phone shots taken impromptu, but I believe they get the point across as you watch Elliot in fullness of wonder. And yes, I don’t mind sharing him with you!

20151101_153048

It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. I know that is harsh and not always the case, but there is a ring of truth to this statement. Familiarity also results in boredom and a withdrawal from what we once cherished. This is probably the most common result and occurs over time. It is seldom intentional. In fact, we don’t usually know we have reached this stage until we are either confronted by someone who remarks about our adjusted position about something or someone, or we have an epiphany of sorts and realize that what used to excite and engage us does so no longer. However, there is hope!

20160530_090932

Wonder is a beautiful thing! Whether we are experiencing something for the fist time or the hundredth, when we capture the essence of what it is that thrills us we become filled with awe and joy. The key in keeping ourselves from falling out of this mindset is rather simple, yet in reality so difficult to maintain.

20160106_181447

To view life through the eyes of a child is one such key to maintaining wonder for the sublime which surrounds us each day. I am not speaking of what some consider to be a foolish Pollyanna who blindly sees life through rose colored glasses. I am speaking of the Pollyanna who believes that good things will happen rather than bad, and remains optimistic even during adversity. To wake up each day with the expectation to simply enjoy each encounter and experience is a good start. Elliot is quite adept at this. I didn’t say perfect, though!

20160103_082452

Ah, but there is a battle raging all around us, as well as inside of us. There are so many enemies which seek to rob us of our joy and the wonder of life which God has so graciously given us. We fight pain and fatigue, money worries and relationship hassles, poor health and fear of death. Negativity and chaos bombards us from every outlet possible: social media, politics, war news, seeing poor sportsmanship, experiencing greed and corruption, and on and on. It seems for every positive there are three negatives. However, that is not reality, but what we are lead to believe is our reality. We must change our perspective and rise above the debris which has caused us to become bored and afraid. Circumstances may not change, but our mind and hearts can.

20160419_151041

We must strive to rid ourselves of cynicism, malice, bigotry, inflated egos, fear, exaggerated regrets, unrealistic expectations, and all that is unhealthy to our souls (it’s not the same for all of us-only you know what stirs your soul). Perspective is borne from hope and appreciation for what is rather than what we want. There is nothing wrong with desiring more or better things in our lives as long as we are balanced in seeking such. Wonder is not easy to maintain because life can be cruel and very hard at times. But, anything worthwhile takes effort. Personally, I want to expend my efforts as Elliot does. I want to train my mind to view each day as a gift just waiting to be opened! Yes, I am an adult and have adult responsibilities which I take seriously, but that shouldn’t prevent me from having the heart of a child. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these“.

 

 

The Soul of a Coffee Shop

Tuesday's CoffeeWhile visiting a well-known-chain coffee shop during the Christmas holiday, I decided to sit for a while and enjoy my drink rather than scoot out the door to my next destination.
The cacophony of sounds which embellished this locale reminded me of an orchestra tuning their instruments prior to a performance. At first the sounds seemed like unorganized noise – and could even be considered annoying if in a grumpy mood. But since I slowed down that morning, I heard instead, a strange harmony.

As I listened, I heard eclectic Christmas music playing through the overhead speakers; steamers making hot milk and froth for lattes and cappuccinos; employees taking and repeating orders; a middle-aged man talking with a younger man about weekly events and faith (a Bible lay on the table); two men sharing stories at a perimeter table; the gentle clicking of a young woman typing away on her laptop; the shuffling of the morning newspaper; and the constant stream of people coming and going while exchanging pleasantries and orders with the staff. And, of course, continuous texting.

Most of the customers were in a hurry, but a few not so much. They seemed to be the frequent visitors known by manager and employees alike. There were somber-looking people and joy-filled souls, and preoccupied folk from all walks of life. Some ordered regular coffee, but most selected specialty drinks, custom-made to their particular tastes. Many of these specialty drinks are rather expensive, too, but this is an affluent community and the average customer wants for little materially. Nevertheless, there are needs…there always are.

As I sat listening and watching the steady flow of consumers and busy staff, I realized that this coffee shop (like most) represents a cross-section of our current culture. Some of the people I witnessed could be on the verge of a collapse: emotional, relational, career-wise, health related or possibly financial. Most, I suspect, struggle with something. I certainly do. This much I know…everyone has a story. Some are tragic while some are remarkable and inspiring. Most fall somewhere in between. Perhaps this is why we are drawn to the exceptional, the heroic, and the inspirational. Average can seem so boring.

If we are honest, the majority of us see ourselves as average – and we probably are. There is nothing wrong with that, for without average, we wouldn’t have exceptional. Those who are exceptional-who excel above most-are flaunted and often placed on precarious pedestals of admiration. To be considered the best or most popular at something is alluring. Haven’t we all thought what it would be like to be the best athlete, musician, surgeon, writer, race car driver, entertainer, etc.? And yet, if we actually achieved this vaulted status, we would become susceptible to a host of potential problems, such as loss of privacy, inflated egos, self-absorption, detachment from average people and average lives, forgetting those in poverty, and the list goes on. We’ve all read stories of celebrities and athletes who still struggle to find love and acceptance, despite having achieved fame and worldly success. So many dream of achieving some sort of remarkable status or gaining peace of mind, but, instead, find ourselves miserable, especially during the holidays.

I think most of us try too hard in just about everything we do. Whether at work, at home or at play, we push-push-push until we have nothing left to give. Life becomes a balancing act, and peace and contentment are forced out of the daily equation. We miss out on the simple act of living-of being alive. There is this constant striving for that piece of golden fruit which is just out of our reach. When we fail to secure it, we panic inwardly and ask ourselves, ” Why not me?”. When some of us do grab onto it, it soon loses its luster and we become dissatisfied again. We humans are masters at repeating this cycle.

With the world seemingly spinning out of control, we become even more anxious. This tension leads to lives devoid of hope, and ultimately, joy. I know about anxiety and striving and even self-pity. I don’t come to you as one who possesses exceptional anything or as living a care-free life. On the contrary, 2015 has been a very difficult year for many reasons. Yet, I awakened today. No chalk lines outlining my body. Inward wounds perhaps, but I am still alive and have eternal promises spoken to me by the only One who can legitimately offer and secure them. Yes, this source is Christ. His love is extravagant, and far better than any of the gifts we may receive or give.

My Christmas wish for all is to find Him who seeks us. By doing so, all of our problems won’t vanish immediately, but our souls will be renewed, and a sense of peace and joy will eventually take residence. This world has nothing close to compete with this gift of love filled with grace. His fruit will never tarnish nor fade. Merry Christmas !

Samsung 1-1-14 391

 

Quote & Pic of the Day, No. 19 of 24

 

This is Elliot Michael, our grandson. He is eighteen months young, and is a very special boy. Elliot will share his family with a sibling come September !                   3-8-15 014” When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. ”                       Jean Shinoda Bolen

GRATITUDE

SL-1 184New Year greetings from the frigid Midwest. Another arctic cold front has swept down upon our landscape and has caused temperatures to plummet. When we have periods of cold such as now, I am most grateful for a warm home and car and coats and gloves. Hot meals and coffee help, too, as do caring people who express warmth with a smile, a hug or a hand shake. Kind words spoken with sincerity certainly spice up a dreary day.

Personally, I have been in a funk for the past month due to a variety of reasons: long work days and related stress, lack of sunshine, and the gnawing feeling that I was meant for something more than what I am currently doing. I have noticed that one of the first things to suffer during these morose times is my creativity. Hence, I haven’t posted for a while. So, I really appreciate you visiting my site at this time.

I have a couple of short stories to share which reveal people full of gratitude. My hope is that by sharing other’s thankfulness, we will become more grateful for our blessings.

Recently, I was the recipient of someone’s gratitude whom I didn’t know, but would like to. The gratitude was not for me, but for something far better. Cheryl and I were at a local restaurant with three other couples. The server was a pleasant gal from Bogotá, Columbia, South America. I am always intrigued by accents and tried to guess her native country. I didn’t guess correctly, but the interaction led to a most startling and beneficial discussion, albeit brief since she was working.

As discussions often go, one question and response lead to another, and another. My companions were also very interested in what we learned in such a brief time. As our server, Selena*, spoke of her coming to America she shared how her father had been shot in the head by a drug cartel member. He survived, but lives in a walking semi-vegetative state. Her mother runs the small propane business once ran by her father. She makes ends meet for them. Due to the seriousness of the violence by the drug cartels in the area of her native city, Selena came to America to receive her secondary education. She ended up in Kansas City and began attending college. As she spoke to us of her recent trials, she showed no self-pity. In fact, her voice became stronger and more impassioned as she spoke of the great opportunity she was given in our country. Suddenly, Selena’s voice came to a crescendo as she stated, “God bless America!”. She then qualified her display of sincere gratitude by acknowledging that many say those words, but don’t really mean them. She wanted us to know that she most definitely meant them. And, she made a point of telling us that she didn’t want or expect entitlements, but was more than willing to earn her way through the new life she has discovered in our country and in our city.

She then continued to serve us in a very efficient and self-assured manner. Needless to say, we were touched by this lovely person who could have easily expressed anger, fear or a host of negative emotions, yet she proclaimed convictions that I want to carry with me daily such as courage, perseverance  and thankfulness. I am grateful for Selena (*not her real name) as she has reminded me that gratitude should not be limited to those who seem to have it all. In her case, she does have all that is necessary to live abundantly. And, so do I. May we all be so fortunate.

My other story focus’ on a gentleman we met while on vacation in Mexico. Carlos is the general manager for the Marriott’s five or six restaurants at this facility. Carlos smiled a lot and made a point of looking for us each morning as we had our breakfast. He told us that he has worked for Marriott for twenty-plus years and has been able to put his kids through college because of his vocation. He loves his job and the company he works for. He loves life as is evidenced by his graciousness and willingness to assist us in any way while we visited. I am proud to have had our photo taken with this wonderful man.

I hope these simple stories help to illuminate your lives with a brighter perspective. These two gracious people have certainly done that for Cheryl and me. I am reminded that gratitude starts with a positive attitude. The ‘g’ is tacked onto the beginning of attitude to emphasize this dynamic. Selena exhibited a soul-deep joy that she couldn’t keep down. Her cup ran over and we felt her gratitude pour over us. Carlos’ enthusiasm and willingness to bless us was contagious. How wonderful it could be / would be if I lived life with the same zest as they do. Just think of how many people would be encouraged by my cheerful heart. The thought of such a thing brings a smile to my somewhat sullen face and a tear of joy to my eye. I am blessed and want to be a blessing to others. With the Lord’s help, this is what I hope to become.                  Cellphone Pics to 11-18-14 057

Happy New Year Everyone !