The New Song Of Morning

I woke this morning, thankful for a good night’s sleep. And now I’m sitting in my apartment, drinking my morning tea, and listening to some Christian worship music reflecting on a few things.

Life. It’s not always what we expect or want it to be. For many of us there seems to be more bad times than good. But with the rising of the morning sun, we are given another day that will hopefully be better than the day before. A chance, an opportunity, a gift to improve our life. There’s a song from Jason Mraz that has a line which has stuck with me, as a prayer, from the first time I heard it. “May the best of your todays be the worse of your tomorrows.”

Death: I find it interesting that the words mourning and morning are pronounced the same. One brings us feelings of sadness, remorse, and grief. The other brings us hope, peace, and a reassurance that today is a different morning where we can leave the mourning of yesterday a little further behind us.

Love. What truly is love? Is it just an emotion or is it something deeper. Something greater. Something everlasting. I think it’s all of these and so much more. Actually more than I’ll ever fully understand. Love of family, love of friends, love of a lifetime, love of God.

One thing I’ve discovered is love is a two way road. If it was just one direction then it’s just affection or infatuation. Real love is where two become one, many times from that first word or glance. It’s an aching of the heart where you are incomplete without the other. This is true in our human love for one another and the love our God has with us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

So as the light of the new day brightens the darkness of the world outside, I pray that neither life nor death become the focus of our day but that love is where we place our focus. Our hearts. And our hope.

See you down the road….

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….

12:30 – A Love Note

Recently while flipping through some books my wife Barb had kept, I came across the following note she had written.

She wrote down scripture verses, quotes, and devotional thoughts all the time as reminders to herself of who she was and whose she was. One of her ways of journaling.

Around our home she would tape many of her reminders to the kitchen cabinet doors (both inside and out), the refrigerator door, and mirrors. At her work she had them taped to her desk, filing cabinets, and computer monitor. She kept Post It Notes and 3×5 card manufacturers in business for many years.

I have kept the notes she had taped up around our home as they are another reminder, now to me and our kids, of how strong her faith was and just how much love she held in her heart for everyone.

This note is from her years of serving youth groups at the churches we’ve attended and specifically her middle school small group from just a year or two before her cancer diagnosis.

She absolutley loved helping teenagers come to understand, know, and believe in the Christ. Not traditions of religion but how to begin and grow in a relationship with the God that loved them with all of His heart no matter their current circumstance or what they had done in their past. She knew this kind of love and wanted, no, she had to share it.

Barb’s words in this note should be the mantra for all of us that are followers of Christ. And not just for serving teenagers but all persons. I think she really understood the Great Commission.

I’m not sure what the 12:30 she wrote referenced. Was it a time or scripture verse? I plan on asking her when I see her again someday but for now I’m choosing to think it referred to Mark 12:30:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

She lived this out each day. I believe she abounded in this love and shared it with all those she met on her earthly journey. And now great is her reward in Heaven. I’m striving to do the same.

So let me encourage you to take those notes of love, love letters if you will, that come to you and tape them up in your life so that you’re constantly reminded of how loved you are and how wonderful it is to share that great love.

See you down the road….

Every Rose Has Its…

I love flowers. Especially roses.

The Park of Roses in Columbus, or Clintonville to be precise, is a favorite park for our family. Over the years, from each Spring to Autumn, we have spent many hours there walking among and enjoying all the various varieties. The colors, the scents, even the structure of each plant are things to admire and appreciate. The beauty that comes from some very prickly plants is amazing. Kind of like some folks I know and I bet you know a few too.

My wife Barb especially enjoyed the Park of Roses. The heritage varieties were her favorites. She enjoyed talking with the volunteers that grew and maintained all the plants in the park and learning about new varieties and the care of the plants. At each house we’ve lived in, she would plant one or two rose bushes shortly after moving in so we would be able to enjoy them for years to come. She was good at caring for flowers as she was with almost everything in her life. Whenever I see a rose I think of her.

The photo with this post was taken by a family friend recently in the Park of Roses. Thanks Emily for letting me borrow it. The contrast of decaying blooms with vibrant flowers, really struck me. Realizing that both life and decay were occurring from the same plant, at the same moment, was thought provoking. And inspiring.

Every plant or if I may, every person at any moment in their life, most likely will experience life and decay at the same time. One part of our life may be fading away while another is reaching full bloom. Two realities existing as one.

We experience disappointment and even hurt as things once beautiful and strong begin to slip away from us. Maybe our health or perhaps a relationship is beginning to fade. The beauty, the happiness, we once enjoyed is leaving. What seemed to be the most important thing in our life is going. And we question why. Why is this happening to me? Sadness starts to discolor our world and our joy is taken away.

These past few weeks, the message our senior pastor has shared with us at our church has been based on the book of Ephesians and the Uncommon Joy that can exist in our lives. A joy that stays with us no matter what is changing around us or even happening to us. A joy that goes deep, down to our roots, and no illness, hurt, or decay can take it from us.

I’ve found that type of joy, that internal strength and beauty, but it took me a long time to really understand what it is and from where it comes. It’s something that was always with me, planted deep inside, and over the years I’ve tried to be happy, to grow my joy, but something would always happen that would bring sadness into my life and the blooms would fade and die. I’ve repeated this cycle of growing and dying over and over again with my emotions and I probably will continue to repeat it until my time is up on this earth.

But joy is not an emotion. It’s not like happiness or sadness. Joy is not a feeling. It is a confidence and a contentment in knowing yourself and your source of life, from where life comes. A strength that no matter what this world throws at you, no matter how bad it hurts, you know that you will be alright. That is the joy I’ve come to know and allow to grow in my life. It really is uncommon yet available to everyone. Everyone.

As many of you know, this weekend Senator John McCain passed on after losing his valiant battle with brain cancer, a glioblastoma.  The same type of cancer that took my wife in March of 2017. Both Barb and Mr. McCain fought a good fight, gave their all, in trying to overcome the disease and both lost their life to it. But from what I know about Mr. McCain and from the life I shared with Barb, I can say neither of them lost their joy. The decay of cancer may have taken their lives but the blooms of joy from living and loving continue in those of us that lived and loved with them. They knew the source of their joy and it did not leave them. And now their joy is complete.

“Contentment is not about what we have but who we have.” – Mark Krenz.

I encourage you to search out that source of contentment, that joy, and claim it. Let it take root inside you and grow to make you strong. Even strong enough to overcome the decay of this life.

To be able to bloom. Always and in all things.

See you down the road….

The Road Of Remembering

The past four weeks have been pretty hectic. Life can get that way at times you know. Too many things going on at the same time which cause us to stress out. I’ve been there before. The hectic nature of these past four weeks did give me some stress but it also gave me the opportunity to remember some pretty spectacular things in my life.

Four weeks ago I retired. After 37 years of working in the I.T. field, I decided I had had enough fun and needed to get serious about this ‘adulting’ thing. So, to have enough time to figure out what being an adult really means, I retired from work. So far I have no clue and I’m starting to think Peter Pan got it right. Bang-a-rang!

Along with retiring, I also sold my home of the past eighteen years, and have now moved into a new two bedroom, two bath apartment. Definitely, a downsizing move and I’ll be spending the rest of the summer going through a lifetime accumulation of stuff. The things we keep over the years. I’m not the only one with twelve copies of the same photo of the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile, am I? Be honest now.

And just two days after moving into the apartment, I drove to Missouri for a family reunion with all my crazy cousins on my mom’s side. Thank goodness I have a wonderful house/dog sitter that didn’t mind all the boxes and clutter left from the move. Perhaps the resort style pool at my apartment complex made it a little easier for her. I hope to get to the pool myself this week if the weather gets warmer and dryer. I prefer to get wet by being in the pool and not just from walking to it.

As I was driving westbound on I70 last week, I had the opportunity to relax a little and think back upon recent events in my life that have brought me to where I am now. The time on the road allowed me to remember many things and I can honestly say, the happy outnumbered the sad many times over.

Times I’ve spent working with some very talented and carrying people. Folks that were patient and understanding with the new guy and others that were gracious enough to allow me to lead them. Memories of rubber band wars in the cubicles. Of office Christmas party shenanigans. Of long days and nights with project implementations. The many sayings of hellos and goodbyes. Friendships created. Successes celebrated. Failures learned from. All memories that I will cherish through my retirement and will bring a smile to my face.

Selling and moving out of the house my family had called home for the past eighteen years was not easy. So much had happened in that home over the years. Celebrations and conflicts. Kids struggling through school and kids blossoming into adults. Birthday parties for family and friends. The planning of a daughter’s wedding. And the sadness of saying goodbye to the one I loved more than anything or anyone in this world. All memories I will never forget nor take for granted as each one from my time at Laura Lane has contributed to who I am and to whom I may become.

This past weekend with my cousins in Missouri brought back some wonderful memories as well. My earliest memory of going to old MO for my mom’s family reunion is when I was four years old. Mom and I took a passenger train from Coshocton, Ohio, (my hometown) to St. Louis. I don’t remember why but my dad drove to the reunion while mom and I rode the train. Dad picked us up in St. Louis and then we drove the last few hours to Marshfield to see all the family. The train ride was awesome watching out the windows as the world passed by. Probably what gave me my love for travel.

Our family reunions were no small affair when I was a child. My mom was one of thirteen siblings (3 brothers, 10 sisters) and many of my aunts and uncles had three kids or more. We were a large extended family and on my 16th birthday which coincided with our reunion that year, I counted close to sixty first cousins at the reunion. Many of us took over my aunt Mary’s home for a night, supervised by some of the older more ‘mature’ cousins, where we played cards, watched a Star Trek marathon on local TV and stayed up all night doing what cousins do. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I did not grow up with any brothers or sisters so my cousins, back then and even more so today, are my siblings. Even with the miles and years between us. This past weekend was another installment of fun and love in my life with this crazy group. The hours we spent laughing while playing Liverpool Rummy for three nights reminded me of our aunts and uncles playing the same card game all those years ago while we kids could only watch. I’m sure they were all looking down this past weekend laughing right along with us as we continued the tradition. I’ll buy that (if you’ve played Liverpool you’ll understand)!

As the mile markers rolled past my car, it seemed each one brought to my mind milestones, memories of all the years I’ve been blessed to live in this world. What is life without our memories and experiences? So many good times and yes a number very sad but it’s a package deal in life. I’ve come to appreciate them all and cherish each one.

The road of life is a journey just like the drive to a family reunion. On that journey, I’ve learned to take my time and enjoy each exit, detour, and stay over for what it is and what it brings to me. And I’m thankful for what lies ahead and the new remembering the road will bring.

See you down the road…

You Look Like A Princess

I found myself watching the conclusion of the Royal Wedding Saturday morning. In all honesty, I had totally forgotten about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting married. So when I switched on the tele, ‘God Save The Queen’ was being played and the recessional was beginning.

My wife Barb would have been up at 4am to watch this. My guess is she was watching just from a much better vantage point.

The bride. The groom. The dress. The vows. The kiss. The promise. So many beautiful, meaningful moments. Barb absolutely loved weddings, as do I, and I think she would agree with me that one of the most moving moments of a wedding is when the groom sees his bride for the first time.

When escorting my oldest daughter down the aisle a few years ago, I was focused on the face of her soon to be husband. When he first saw her, his face lit up with a joyful smile and there was something like a radiance shining on him. Truly touching and a confirmation that my daughter was most definitely marrying the right man.

I remember standing at the altar myself waiting for my bride to make her way to me. When Barb and her father entered the sanctuary, I couldn’t see her until they made the turn to come down the aisle. I smiled and cried at the same time instantly. How in the world did this beautiful woman, both inside and out, choose me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. As she walked closer, I was able to gather myself and after accepting her hand from her father, I whispered to her ‘you are gorgeous, a princess, and I love you more than anything.’

Which instantly made her cry. Tears of joy I like to think.

I believe all grooms see their bride as a princess and apparently, Prince Harry did. Word is he whispered to his bride, ‘You look like a princess.’ I’m sure the hearts of millions of women melted at that point as they watched the ceremony. I know mine was touched and brought back the memory of our wedding.

Love is a powerful thing that can be quite difficult to figure out. At the beginning of the relationship, you are getting to know each other. Then slowly deeper emotions develop. A greater connection forms. The two of you are experimenting with the thought that maybe this is the right person. Love takes root and begins to grow in your hearts.

Then something happens. It can be almost anything but something happens that threatens your relationship. You begin to question. You begin to doubt. You might even begin to pull apart. Is this really the right person.

Perhaps that’s it. The relationship is over. Or perhaps through that something, that challenge, the two of you are able to work it out. To reconcile. To talk about it and grow from it. Together. Stronger. Deeper.

I have learned that relationships and especially marriage are works in process. An emotional journey that never really ends. There are struggles. Barb and I had a number of them. We came close once to calling it quits when the pressures of life around us became great. But we didn’t quit and we grew closer together through the struggle.

I want you to know that the love Barb and I had for each other was not the only thing that got us through. There were two other factors.

One was our commitment to one another. Even in those few times we didn’t like each other very much, we held to the commitment we had made to each other that this was going to be a lifelong love. No matter what mistakes either of us would make, we would do all that we could to hold to our commitment and hold on to one another. I’m thankful we were able to do that.

In tying the knot, love and commitment made a strong two thread cord in our marriage but a three thread cord is much stronger. And that third thread is faith. Not in one another as that was really our commitment, but faith in the One we asked to bless our marriage and to stand beside us and walk with us through all that may come our way.

Faith is nothing you can see or touch but when you ask God to join you in your marriage, He will be there to carry the two of you through whatever comes. He will be there to strengthen your relationship with one another and with Him so that your love may become complete. The three of you will be strong together so that the two of you can withstand whatever comes.

I believe the key is keeping God closely involved in your relationship. He will always be there if you’ve asked him to but you must also be there. Staying in love with Him and growing deeper in your relationship with Him. Just as your love for one another grows, you must together as individuals and a couple, continue to not only have faith in God but grow closer to Him. Go deeper. Trust more. Talk more. Listen more.

For our almost 32 years of marriage, Barb and I did all that we could to keep that three thread cord strong. We stretched it pretty hard at times but it and we held together. The three of us kept at it and just as our wedding vow called out, only death was able to separate us.

But that’s only true in the human sense, in this world. My love for Barb and God, our relationship, continues on as I can feel both of them present in my life. The chord has not been broken. The love grows strong. Death has no power over the promise and presence of love everlasting.

The month of June is coming up and so will be many weddings for many wonderful couples. It is my wish and prayer for all of them that they invite that third thread to join them and let it make their marriage, their love, the strongest it can be.

Thanks, friends.

See You Down The Road.

How Sweet It Is

I woke up this morning with James Taylor.

Singing in my mind that is. I’ve always enjoyed his music and this morning I could hear his song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. My foot started tapping which apparently annoyed Izzy the Doodle enough that she jumped off the bed. She must not be a fan of the original JT.

Here are a bit of the lyrics:

‘I close my eyes at night wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore, everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before.
But you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many ways,
I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop and thank you baby.
How sweet it is to be loved by you, feels so fine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.’

This is one of a number of songs throughout my life that has always picked me up. I can’t help but to start singing along and let the song put a smile on my face. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll pull up beside me at a stop light while this song is playing. I expect you to sing along with me so don’t be shy. Put the windows down and join me in making a joyful noise!

Do you have a song that picks you up? Why does it? Perhaps when you first heard it, it really connected with you. Or perhaps you heard it during an emotional time in your life and it’s been your goto song ever since. Or maybe it’s a family favorite or a song you and your childhood friends have great memories around.

Songs are memories. And tied to them are emotions. Many if not most songs have emotions as part of their title or in their lyrics. Songs such as:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (the other JT)
“Happy” by Pharrell

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

And thousands more across all genres of music. No matter your favorite artist or style of music, I’m sure there are certain songs that will forever open your mind and emotions to another place. Take you back to a time when you experienced something that made an impact on your life. A life-changing moment.

James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” has now made a new emotional connection with me. In addition to being that happy little jingle that always made me sing, it has also become an anthem since losing my wife Barb. We would dance to this song everytime we heard it. Weddings, parties, clubs, and once on a public sidewalk. I promise it wasn’t too embarrassing.

Wonderful memories of a love so sweet in so many ways that continue on even after the grave. I really do wonder where would I be without having had her in my life all those years. So many great memories and experiences that will stay with me no matter what comes. I’m very thankful for that.

So which song connects with you? I’d love to hear about your song and your story so please leave a comment to share. And while you’re doing so, queue up that song of yours. Play it loud and sing along. Get that feeling inside your bones and go electric wavy when you turn it on. Dang there comes that other JT! He’s pretty good too.

See you down the road.