A Funeral For A Friend

Ever since I was a teenager, Elton John has been one of my favorites. His music in the seventies was new and unique and combined piano and rock in such a way that it connected with me deeply. Your Song, Candle In The Wind, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, and A Funeral For A Friend to this day still move me when I’m listening and singing along.

Sir Elton is currently on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and I’m planning on going next Friday night here in Columbus. I’ve never seen him in person and I’m excited as a teenager to get this opportunity before he stops touring. And let me take this opportunity to apologize in advance to all those that will be sitting around me for the raspy singing you’ll be hearing. From me, not Sir Elton.

Rock music has always been my favorite genre. I’m a child of the seventies so I guess that makes sense. I have many friendships that began listening to this music. Cruising Main Street on a Friday or Saturday night, windows down and 8 track speakers cranking out the tunes. Singing loud and sometimes dancing around the car at the stop lights. Great memories of great times with great friends.

The song Funeral For A Friend holds special meaning for me today. This morning I was among many who celebrated the life of a dear friend. Richard was a brother in Christ and he made his final journey home. He had a long struggle with illness and finally, thankfully, he found his rest.

There’s a mixed blessing at a funeral you know. Feeling both sadness and joy at the same time. I felt that today. A sadness in the missing of him which we will all feel for a long time and the joy in knowing that he lived his life to the fullest, called all strangers friend and loved his God with all his heart. He was truly a good man. My prayers go up for his family and all of us that were blessed by his friendship.

Today brought back strong emotions of when my wife finished her journey home. Hard to believe that it’s been eighteen months since Barb completed her race on earth and went to Heaven. I miss her still and always will but knowing that she, Richard, and other family and friends are together now in Heaven gives me great comfort and peace. I’ll see them again and that gives me an even greater hope. Death is not the end.

So after today’s memorial, I was back in my apartment and remembered the song Funeral For A Friend. I asked Alexa to play it. In its own rock way, the song, which starts as an instrumental, took me to a place of peace in my mind. It allowed me to flash back to memories of wonderful times. I found joy in playing my air piano and air guitar along with the song. Don’t laugh. I know most of you play air instruments too and let me say we’re all pretty good at it! Rock On!

Anyway, the second half of the song is actually called Love Lies Bleeding. I believe it’s about a romantic breakup if you follow the lyrics. But for me, on this day, that title holds a different meaning.

The main line in the song is ‘Love lies bleeding in my hand’ and today those lyrics took my thoughts to another person who both Barb and Richard knew very well. The person that truly did have love bleeding in his hands. The one person that did what no other could do for a friend and our world. God himself giving his life in our place. ‘The’ Funeral For A Friend.

Tonight as I sit here in my apartment listening to the rain, I’m thankful for the love Barb and I shared. The friendship Richard shared with so many. And the sacrifice made by the One for all of us. Yes, there is joy to be found in a funeral. I felt it today and still do tonight. It will remain.

If you’re on Sawmill Parkway in the days ahead, don’t be surprised if you see me dancing around my car and singing ‘It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside’. Just put your car in park and join me. And be sure to bring your air guitar or piano too.

Rock on my friends and see you down the road….

Please and Thank You

I think it’s highly likely that we all have either had children or were one at some point in our lives. There are a few of us that I think are just now living out our childhood years. I know I am in retirement. I can’t really do all the childhood physical things now but in my mind, I can.ย And it’s glorious except for the whole aching joints and sore muscles thing of course.

My grandkids are helping me to remember how to live as a child again. My grandson Teddy is only six months old and his way of living is still pretty much eating, pooping, sleeping, and smiling a lot.ย  He’s quite good in all these categories. Funny the similarities between the newborn and we aging.

My granddaughter Heidi is two and a half years old or as she says ‘Big Girl’. She’s funny, inquisitive, loving, active, and quite the communicator. She loves to tell me what she was doing or what she is thinking. Most times I can follow her story but on a few occasions her words get going faster than I can follow and I have to try and catch up by asking ‘Did you really?’ or ‘Ok what else?’ or ‘Was it fun?’. I don’t always understand her completely but for now, I have her fooled. I think.

As my mom taught me and as my daughter is teaching Heidi, it is important in communicating with others that you be polite and always use our Please and Thank Yous. Heidi is picking up on this and has summarized that part of the conversation to save time by simply just saying Please and Thank You together up front. Genius don’t you think? I mean why wait to the end of the conversation to thank someone.

I thought about this tonight while enjoying a dinner at the opening night of a restaurant here in Powell. I sat at the bar, grabbed the corner ‘Norm’ stool which I am claiming as my spot, and while chatting with the bartenders and owners I noticed how polite everyone was speaking to one another. Staff and guests all were pleasant and appeared happy to be there. Enjoying each other and their conversations. Cliff didn’t show up while I was there. He must have still been out on his mail route. But Claire was there tending the bar but I’m going to call her Carla. (Where everybody knows your name…)

Anyway, my mind wandered as it often does, and I started to think about life and how important it is to keep our politeness or let’s say kindness always present in our encounters and conversations with others. Even when our lives are not going that well and we’re struggling with one thing or another, I’ve found that if I purposely show kindness to others, I receive it back and my mood is improved. It’s important to understand that if we aren’t kind to those around us, we will probably not receive kindness in return. Seems pretty basic, right?

But unfortunately, it’s not that basic anymore. I hear too many times parents being rude and harsh with their children, couples heatedly arguing with one another, strangers or even friends getting very vocal with each other and belittling one another. And all this in public settings. It’s saddening to see this happening and that our children are picking up on it and emulating this learned behavior. It’s not how we are supposed to relate to each other. It’s not how society is to successfully live together.

Kindness is not something you earn from others. It’s not a right or entitlement. It’s something we should freely give away. Even in our disagreements and frustrations, if we are kind to one another, we can almost always find common ground and a way to first understand each other’s opinion and secondly maintain mutual respect for one another. It’s as easy as starting out with Please and Thank You and letting those simple words guide our encounter.

If you are a follower of the Christ, we are shown many times in the New Testament writings, how we should live with one another. Two verses that come to my mind are Hebrews 10:24 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds‘ and Ephesians 4:2 ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love‘. To me, these are not just good words for Christians to live by but good for all humankind regardless of your faith, religion, or belief system. Kindness is universal and for all people to freely give and receive.

Not sure why my mind when in this direction tonight during dinner but thought I would share it with you. My hope is we can all share kindness in our everyday living to all those around us. To our families, to friends, to strangers, and especially to the children.

Please and Thank You, my friends, and see you down the road….

The Fun In Puns

A Pun: the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.

If you’ve seen my posts on Facebook then you know I enjoy a good or maybe not so good pun from time to time. I think a little laughter is always good in our lives considering all the shouting and arguing going on these days. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then I’m not sure we’re living in reality. Humor is good. After all, we’re all born with a humerus bone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The origin of punnery has long been debated. Some feel it began with Old English in or around the fifth century. A recent article from the New York Post sites the first recorded pickup line, “I asked, it must have rightly hurt when such an angel as thee fell from heaven?“. Guess that line wasn’t first used in the seventies after all. You know who you are.

Thankfully Shakespeare improved the art of pun by the sixteenth century when he wrote these words spoken by Mercutio; “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” A little morbid perhaps but still a good ‘play’ on words. Get it. A play.

And now in the twenty-first century we have raised the pun bar to new heights with memes. Here’s one that made me chuckle:

And another:

It doesn’t really matter if you get a laugh or eye roll from a pun. The joy is in the sharing and I’ve been pretty joyful these past few months.

Our lives are full of serious things and tough times. This world is not always kind. But life is meant to be a balance of joy and sorrow, good and bad, happy and sad. We need to find ways to even the scale. The sharing of laughter is one of those ways.

So let me encourage you to jump on the pun wagon. Share a favorite on social media to help our world smile a little. Dads, keep those jokes coming. Moms, continue to silently laugh at those dad jokes. And kids, remember one day you’ll be just like your parents.

As one light bulb said to the other, “Lighten up, watts your problem?”

See you down the road….

A Walk and A Talk

The sunsets the past two nights here in Central Ohio have been gorgeous. So many hues and colors. The science behind why this happens is very interesting but for me it’s the beauty of it that amazes me the most. I just have to pause and give myself time to take it in. To be awed and inspired.

Tonight while walking the Doodle and watching the kaleidoscope of color in the western sky, I found myself thinking about the past two weeks and the people and places I’ve encountered.

I recently returned home from a trip across the Northwestern United States and during that trip I visited places and met people that were truly beautiful and awe inspiring.

I traveled by plane, train, and automobile (sounds like a movie huh). I visited Glacier National Park, Multnomah Falls, Mount Saint Helens, and Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

I saw the beauty of plains and prairies, mountain peaks and lakes, pristine forests, mighty rivers, and a glistening ocean. So many spectacular places that moved me, many to tears, by their splendor and majesty.

I was inspired by many people I meet as well. Daniel, a Native American Blackfoot, who shared some of his life story about growing up and living on reservation. Neil, a driver and baggage handler at East Glacier Lodge, who made a living working seasonal jobs across the country. I met Martha and Karl as well as Ron, at the two Airbnbs I stayed with and was blessed by their hospitality and kindness. And I was happily surprised to meet up with an old young friend, Austin, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a few years.

My trip was a wonderful journey which allowed me to see some pretty amazing places and get to know some pretty cool folks. And my trip has also given me the opportunity to think about all the places I’ve been and people I’ve known along my life journey. I think it’s when we reflect back on our lives, that we truly see and appreciate where we have been and who we have known. And helps us to better understand who we have become.

The message our senior pastor shared this morning was a message focused on belonging. He talked about how in today’s society, we are encouraged and even pressured, to do everything on our own. To be self-reliant and independent. To be strong. To be successful. To be a force of one.

He went on to explain that as a follower of Christ, we are called to find our strength, our greatest potential, not by going it alone but by belonging. Belonging to a God that loves us and belonging to one another through love. That the strength found in belonging is greater than anything we can achieve on our own. My life experiences show me this is true.

I see it this way. Through belonging, our individual strength is increased because of the support and encouragement we receive from those around us. Those we belong to. And in return, our increase strengthens the group of those we belong to.

It’s a cycle that is like a mountain which over time continues to strengthen and build itself higher with each new uplifting addition. And like a river that continues to grow deeper and wider from the inflow of its tributaries as it flows to the ocean. And like a forest that grows stronger and closer with each new sapling. Belonging to someone and something greater than ourselves. This is where strength comes from.

Tonight, once the sun had slipped below the horizon and the night sky began to replace the setting colors, the Doodle and I finished our walk. While we were walking, I talked with God about what I was thinking and feeling. I thanked Him for the beauty of His creation and the people he has brought into my life so far. I thanked Him for accepting me, no, make that saving me, so that I can now belong in a family, His family, where I can become stronger with those that love me. And I asked Him to continue to guide me to the places I still have to go and people I still have to meet.

The world around us is an amazing thing which can be overpowering at times. But you don’t have to go it alone. May we all be strengthened, inspired, and awed in belonging to God and one another.

See you down there road….

The Calm After The Storm

Not quite the saying we’ve all come to know. Usually we say ‘the calm before the storm’ for which I’ve found this description: “a quiet or peaceful period before another period during which there is great activity, argument, or difficulty.”

Since childhood, I’ve always been intrigued by the force and the fierceness of storms. How the world around me can go from its normal, everyday commonness to a thunderous downpour of raging rain and wind. It can happen so quickly and sometimes totally unexpectedly. You’re not prepared. You’re caught in it.

I’ve been caught many times in storms. Riding my bicycle on the backroads of Coshocton County as a kid. Or at a football game and not close enough to the car. Or sitting in our kitchen as my mom tells me my dad had just died in the hospital from his cancer.

The first two situations were true surprises. The third was not but in my 15 years of living, it was by far the most devastating storm I had been caught in. Even though I didn’t show it.

I don’t remember exactly when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer but I believe I was still in middle school. I know my teachers and school officials knew what was going on but only a few of my closest friends knew.

It was hard for my adolescent brain to fully grasp the depth and importance of something like that and I mostly tried to live my school life in denial. I created in my mind a world that was at peace. A calm place. I tried to ignore my dad’s cancer and in that process I also ignored him.

Dad went through a few years of different treatments. I would stay home or at a friend’s house when mom would go with and later drive my dad to his appointments. I seldom would ask how the treatments were going or what was next. When you’re living in a world of denial, that information isn’t required.

So for that time period between my dad’s diagnosis and his passing, I lived in the calm before the storm. But his passing for me wasn’t really a storm. It was just something that happened. It was over and my life went on. Calmly just as before.

It wasn’t until my wife lost her fight with cancer that the storm really hit me. It’s like over the 40 plus years since my dad’s death, it had been slowly brewing within me and was released a little at the time of Barb’s diagnosis and then exploded in full force the morning of her passing. I was caught in the middle of the strongest, fiercest, darkest, most devastating emotional experience in my life and I had no idea if I would get through it.

But somehow there was a growing peace that soon subdued the winds and rains and brought me out of the darkness. Back into light and the calm. An assurance that the storm was over. That I was okay and Barb and my dad were okay too. The calm after the storm.

It’s been three years since Barb’s diagnosis of brain cancer and roughly eighteen months now since her passing. As many of you know, I started writing about what I was experiencing during my wife’s journey with cancer as a release or therapy to help me process my emotions as well as my faith. I’ve continued that writing since her passing and I have found a calmness, an assurance, that is true and I know it will sustain me through all the remaining storms that will blow into my life.

More storms will come, I know that. I don’t know exactly from where or when but they will come and that’s okay. Because I know that there will always be a peace that will get me through and a calmness waiting for me after the storm.

Storms come upon all of us. I encourage you to search for the calm that is waiting for you and the peace that will get you through your storms.

Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago but felt it wasn’t time to share it. Knowing that many folks are experiencing Hurricane Florence tonight, I thought I’d share this now. My prayers go up for all those in the path of this storm and those ready to help in the midst of and after it. May the calm come quickly.

See you down the road….

Tiny Little Dog

Go back and read the title of this post again but hear it in your mind with a Native American accent. Keep that accent and add a little Canadian to it as I introduce you to Daniel. You got it, eh?

Daniel was the driver for the Sun Tours 8 hour trip I took yesterday around East Glacier National Park in Montana. He is a full member of the Blackfoot tribe to which Glacier Park is a neighbor.

Daniel showed us beautiful mountains and stunning views of many areas of the eastern side of the park. He also shared with us historical information about both Glacier Park and the Blackfoot nation. His humorous approach in telling us stories was a whole lot of fun and I highly recommend him for a tour.

The Niitsitapi, which is the native word for the Blackfoot nation, means ‘The People’. Daniel explained that many of the North American tribes call themselves ‘The People’. I like this. How cool is it that the majority of the members of over 500 different tribes all see themselves as part of one large group of ‘the people’. Unity with variety. We non-native American tribes can learn from this.

He mentioned a few tribes refer to themselves with other names and one of those is the Cheyenne. He said they call themselves not just ‘The People’ but ‘The Beautiful People’. Touch of ego? Probably not as Daniel laughed his almost Santa like ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ (remember that native American Canadian accent) and told us that most other tribes agreed. The Cheyenne are beautiful people. Which made me think, aren’t we all both inside and out?

I asked him what his traditional name was as many Native American families have an ‘English’ name as well as a tribal name. He replied, ‘I’m just Daniel’. But then he added, his mother’s family has the tribal name ‘Shoots many guns’. Ho,Ho,Ho he laughed again.

He told us stories of other Blackfeet members and their names. He mentioned the elected mayor of their town, Jack ‘Makes Cold Weather’. Sounds more like the name of a meteorologist to me.

It was wonderful hearing Daniel’s stories and learning about him and his people. But the thought came to me that he and his people are really no different than you or I. All of us know folks with funny sounding names right? Be kind now. ๐Ÿ˜€

We may live in different places, live different lives, and speak a little differently but are we really that different? I think we humans have much more in common than not. We should do better at living in that unity with our variety.

Today is my last day at Glacier Park. I board the Amtrak westbound train again tonight to go to the Portland, Oregon, area. The beauty of this place is breathtaking. The creation around us, both down the street and across the world, is something we all should try to see and experience more of.

Nature, our world, wants to show us that life is best lived simply and in harmony. As I was thinking about these things sitting at the East Glacier Rail Station, I noticed etched into the outside of the station’s wall the words ‘Tiny Little Dog’.

I’m wondering if this was a Native American traveler or a well trained Shihtzu just passing through in ’76. Doesn’t really matter as I just hope they really enjoyed their stay at Glacier and the journey they were on. I know I have and am.

See you down the road….

And in the morning….

It’s 6am and I’m somewhere in North Dakota. I’m traveling on the AMTRAK #27 Empire Builder train on my way west to Glacier, Montana.

The light of morning is just starting to brighten the eastern sky. Just enough that I can see there is a mix of clouds above us. Should be a pretty colorful sunrise. That’s my hope.

While waiting on the sunrise this morning, I was reminded of this verse from the book of Numbers:

“Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening until morning. When it lifted in the morning, they started out. It didn’t matter whether it was day or night. When the cloud lifted, the people started out.” – Numbers 9:21 NIRV

As a simple description, the cloud in this verse was the guiding spirit of God that was leading the people of Israel to the promised land. I’ve often reflected on that last sentence, ‘When the cloud lifted, the people started out’. In other words, the people didn’t move until God did.

Have you ever been waiting for God to make his move? To show you what to do next? I have. Many times. And many of those times, my patience wore thin in the waiting and I got mad at Him. I went ahead and made my move without Him. Bet you can guess how well that went for me.

No matter how impatient we become waiting on God to do something, it really is in our best interest to wait for Him. What I have learned is that while I’m waiting I need to be calm and secure in knowing that the move God will make in my life will come at exactly the time that is best for me.

So as I wait on God’s timing, I’m doing my best to be patient and prepare myself to be ready to go. So I can say “It didn’t matter whether it was day or night”, I was ready to follow.

See you down the road….