Collateral Damage from a Day of Fun

20170925_105354

Despite the gloomy weather of late as the seasons change from Summer to Winter with little evidence of Autumn, except for the lovely foliage colors, I thought it appropriate to share this photo. Yesterday it was 70 degree F. in the afternoon, and today it was a cool 27 degrees F. this morning. Regardless, I like this image because it is the aftermath of grandchildren playing with some of their toys at our home…they eventually were picked up with their assistance. They have learned responsibility.

These toys are considered rudimentary these days, but they bring back fond memories for me. We try to keep life simple, yet Elliot (4 years) can maneuver through an iPad faster than I can turn it on!

Our lives seem so complicated these days. You may call me a bit old fashioned, but I believe there are just too many activities, too many videos, too many texts, too many tweets, too many meals outside the home, etc.. Families and friends have little time for, well, family and friends.

Funny, as I have aged I have become more introverted, but I value relationships as much-if not more- than when I was younger. Rather a paradox which I don’t quite understand at this stage of life. Perhaps circumstances are to blame, however, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that we don’t take a moment of life for granted. Whether very young, an adolescent, a young adult or full-fledged adult with a family…every day is precious. I’ve been through depression so I know what it’s like to not feel this way, but feelings are deceiving. Even during my worst moments, I knew deep down inside that every day mattered, and vowed to wait for the good moments to reappear. That took quite some time. I still struggle, as do many of you, but I consider myself fortunate.

Be encouraged by God’s word; ” For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Sometimes we just need to have faith to get us through the tough times. This doesn’t necessarily mean loads of money or excellent health or even stellar jobs…It simply means to be blessed with His presence of peace which leads to a prosperity of a far better kind. I had to learn to be patient, and I am still learning. Please join me.

 

L A Y E R S

img_9419

Sunrise, Lenexa, Kansas, USA, at approximately 7:30 am or 0730 hours, January 31st.

Walked to my car from the health club after a workout and this is what I witnessed.

The actual sunrise was much more outstanding than my photograph, especially as it changed colors and shapes by the second.

After downloading this image to the computer, the layering seemed to magnify itself.

So, I thought about layers. We sometimes hear that certain things are only skin deep. At other times we hear that some things are buried so deep they can’t be found.

The reality is that when it comes to life, most everything that lives has layers: whether it be physical, emotional, mental or anywhere outside these realms. Life is complex.

I would like to limit this post to humans. We are fragile, yet flexible. We are strong, yet weak. Courageous, yet cowardly. Compassionate, yet cruel. Kind, yet mean. We are amazing. We are a mystery.

Like an onion which has a layer of silky skin upon juicy layers of zesty fruit, we can peel away and come to the heart of this vegetable without really understanding its uniqueness. We simply take for granted that is how all onions are and so be it. Like them or not. I venture to say that people are similar to onions in that we possess a complexity of layers.

We are not single cell organisms like some bacteria, but complex in every discernible way. This complexity is patterned after the Creator of the universe. Appreciate the commonness as well as the uniqueness.

If you can relate, I am so tired of the charade that is taking place in our world-especially in America. So many are divided. So many are angry and critical. So many are giving up. And, so many feel lost. This doesn’t even cover the majority of our world who don’t have a clue as to what I just stated-they are simply trying to survive. Can you imagine that…existing each day merely to make it to the next?

So, I return to the topic of layers. Explore the diversity, the uniqueness, the amazing in others, and in yourself. This may take some time as you peel away each layer, but discovery awaits. But, please, do not forget to explore the oneness we all have as human beings created in the image of God. May we all experience, and exercise, more peace and patience each day. The world needs it, you need it, and I definitely need it, as well.

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.                                                                                         

 

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose Of Sharon 7-31-10 003

 

Hibiscus syriacus is a deciduous flowering shrub with large blossoms of various colors. These exotic looking shrubs can be found all over the world, and produce flowers from Spring to Autumn. They are a hardy plant and require little to no maintenance.

 Symbolically, in The Song of Solomon, Jesus is referred to as the Rose of Sharon. Sharon was a lush plain in Palestine at that time. The rose is considered by many to be the most perfect of all flowers. Since Christ is the only perfect man to walk upon planet Earth, the use of the rose in describing Him seems fitting. However, rather than Jesus (as the bridegroom) giving His people (the church) roses as a man would offer his beloved, He became the gift as well as the giver through His sacrifice.

 Hence, when I look upon our shrub producing a plethora of blooming roses throughout the warm Summer months, I smile and think of Him. Christ’s love and mercies-which are new every morning-refresh my occasional weary soul and remind me that life is a gift to be enjoyed daily. Just as hope springs eternal with each bloom, so His love endures forever. I hope you experience the Rose, and in doing so find peace and contentment.

 

 

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

 

A Time for Everything

60D 10-23-15 039

The folk-rock group of the mid 1960s to the early 70s, the Byrds, came out with a stream of hit tunes. Probably, the most famous being, Turn, Turn, Turn from 1967. This song was a reflection of the times when protests over the Vietnam War were rampant across our country. The melody and vocals of this hit song are unforgettable once you start to hum it, and the words cemented this song in rock & roll history.

Taken from a book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes (Greek for Preacher or Teacher), the words and wisdom of King Solomon force us to examine time and events, and their effect upon man. Although not written verbatim, but pretty close, the only major change comes in the last stanza where the lyricist replaces, “…a time for war, and a time for peace…” with ” a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late”.

The verse which best fits this time of year, the changing of seasons from Summer to Fall, is actually found in all of the verses because the dynamic revealed in each stanza is occurring somewhere in the world at this very moment. The cast iron planter above reflects several of the symbols found in the words of  this section of scripture and song. Autumn can be so beautiful and the earth so generous. Thanks be to God !

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 

a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 

a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

T O S A V O R

2-24-13a

To savor is to enjoy the moment, the event or season of life to the fullest extent possible. To savor can be something as simple as sharing a favorite cup of coffee with your closest friend, to experiencing the birth of a child or looking back at a year in which everything in life held the greatest significance and most contentment.

To savor a moment is like pausing time, stepping back a few paces, and observing in your mind what an incredible thing is taking place right then and there. You are cognizant of what is happening, but are savvy enough to not mess it up…it is just being. All else is pushed aside-at least for a focused episode of time- and nothing matters but what is occurring. Moments such as these are to be cherished.

As events go, you could be at a party, a prayer meeting, a family gathering, a football game, a concert or most anything which can transport your mind and emotions to a higher plain than everyday living. Events are for a relatively short period of time, as are moments. I don’t know if an event or a moment makes a greater impact than the other, but it doesn’t really matter as long as there is a positive outcome and a pleasant memory. Special events are like time-released capsules of pleasure.

Seasons of life-now those are another subject unto themselves. Whereas moments and events are for brief periods of time and are readily known, a blessed season of one’s life can last a summer or a decade, and the full impact unravels slowly until you are fully aware of how amazing such a time was. This is not to say that a moment can’t affect you for the rest of your life; far from that. I have had several moments where I still feel the fulfilling effect of that occurrence. However, seasons hold a special place in one’s life because of their longevity. As we are all aware, this life is relatively short. If we can benefit from a longer place of inner satisfaction then so much the better. How very blessed are those who are privileged to experience a savory season in life.2-24-13dAs I gaze upon my furry companion, Carson, I see the contentment he is experiencing while resting. He has no fear and makes himself vulnerable. He knows no pain while he rests. I see peace and I see renewal…something most of us don’t experience nearly enough. Carson represents a sort of savor that is limited to those who slow down enough to be in the present without distractions. His savor seems too easy…too unfair. Cheryl and I sometimes state that it would be great to be Carson for a while (as long as we were his guardians!). Can you relate? The adage, “It’s a dog’s life”, was built around a beloved pet who has not a care in the world. This lacking for nothing while experiencing the utmost of most anything pleasant is similar to children who are born into fine families and raised in loving environments. No worries, at least not until they grow up.

So, how do we, as humans beings, become more at ease with ourselves, and more at peace with our world? How do we savor?

I realize clearly that this question applies to only a minority of our worlds’ population. There are well over two billion people who are living in extreme poverty and millions more who know no peace or good health or love. For these, the question about savoring a piece of life is a foreign concept. I wish this were not the case, but it is.

For those of us who have the ability to recognize the possibility of savoring something worthwhile, it is to you whom I speak. I challenge you, as I have myself, to slow down and savor many moments, events and seasons. Be present and consider just how fortunate you are to have experienced such a time. Gratitude comes to mind as I consider the many savored experiences I can recall. I am awaiting the next with positive anticipation. Perhaps helping someone else savor a slice of this life is a savoring experience in itself.