And The Night Comes

What is it about the stillness of the night?

You should be sleeping but in the quiet, your mind is replaying the events of the day, the things you should’ve said and done, or what you need to do tomorrow. There’s not a sound in the space around you but in your mind it’s a non stop race of thoughts.

I spent today catching up with a good friend over lunch, helping another with some car issues, and hanging out with my daughter while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. There were laughs and hugs. It was a good day and yet tonight I’m lying in bed trying to sleep and just can’t seem to get my mind to relax.

I’m thinking about friends dealing with illness or addiction. Others grieving the passing of loved ones. The struggles some families are going through with their kids. Couples in conflict. Souls feeling rejected and forgotten. The misused, mistreated, and mistaken.

My life has been pretty good lately. Actually very good and I’m thankful for that. But this world we live in is still full of problems and as I see others going through tough times, I’m reminded of the struggles and challenges that have come my way over the years. Some easier to live through than others but all changing me from who I was to who I now am.

Next week I’ll turn 59. Just another number. Another step in the marching of time. My life, just as most everyone I imagine, has been a cycle of ups and downs. Good times and bad. Things expected and some not. But they all have led me to where I am now.

And tonight, as the night comes, in the midst of my sleepless thoughts, I’m asking God to not quiet my mind but to show me, to use me, to somehow help those that I can. To be brave. To be true. To be compassionate. To be a friend.

A common saying among the followers of Christ is ‘to show others the love of God in all that we say and do’. I haven’t been very consistent with that. I’m human and my humanness often overpowers my faithfulness. But I’m working on it and as a work in process, I’m grateful that regardless of the mistakes I’ve made I’m still given opportunities to do what is right and be who I’m called to be.

So tonight until sleep does come, my prayer for myself, for all of us, is that we find hope and peace right where we are. That we are thankful for all that has been and that when the morning comes, we’ll be ready to bring that hope and peace into the lives of those that we hold in our thoughts. In all that we say and do.

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. 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.  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 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….

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….

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….

Route Recalculating

Hey there. It’s been a while.

Life got very busy for me over the past three months. I retired from a thirty-seven year career in the I.T. field, sold our family home of the past eighteen years, moved into an apartment for the first time in my life, and I’ve been helping my daughter get her business off the ground.

Yep – I’m taking it easy in retirement.
Not really sure how you do that but I’m working on it.

Retiring at Fifty-eight was not in my original life plan. Nor was losing my wife to cancer. But one thing I’ve discovered through the past few years is that when the road we’re traveling in life changes and our destination becomes uncertain, who we are as the traveler doesn’t really change. Here’s what I mean.

Throughout my working life, I’ve always worked with computers in one way or another. Programming, in my opinion, is a form of art. It’s creative, it can be original and unique, and it can be awe-inspiring to see the final outcome of your work. It’s not a symphony by Beethoven or a masterpiece by Monet, but in its own way, a well-done computer program is a work of passion that any I.T. geek can be very proud of.

I loved the various types of work I did and positions I held over those I.T. years but in all honesty, over these past few months, I really haven’t missed it. What I’ve learned is that it wasn’t the type of work I was doing that was fulfilling to me but it was working with others that were just as passionate about their work that brought me wholeness. My experiences with my teammates, my coworkers, my “life traveling” companions is what made it all fun and meaningful.

As a child, I was pretty much a shy introvert. I had a hard time feeling comfortable in meeting new people and being in large crowds. I preferred to just hang out with a few close friends in our neighborhood most of the time. This led to some lifelong friendships but also kept me from getting to know a whole bunch of other folks. I sometimes wonder how many friendships I missed creating back then and experiences lost.

But when I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license, my world expanded in both area and relationships. Those four years of high school were a time of so many memorable experiences for me and I cherish them all. The good, the bad, and the ones I’m still surprised I survived.

At my 40th High School reunion a few weekends ago, many of us from the CHS class of 1978 laughed and enjoyed looking back at our high school journey and reliving the past. Matter a fact we relived it so well that the local deputy paid us a visit around 2am at our hotel. We’ve still got it was our motto for that night! Not sure what that ‘it’ really is these days but it’s still ours.

While I was driving home the next day after our reunion, I was thinking about friends that were not able to make it this year and some of our shared memories. In particular, I was thinking about one childhood buddy that wasn’t there with us. Bob. He is one of the twelve classmates we’ve already lost. Cancer got the best of him in 2017.

A number of us talked and laughed about times with Bob during our reunion weekend but while driving home I became rather angry over it. Angry that this damnable disease has touched my life and the lives of so many of those I care about. Everyone dies but cancer, this horrible disease, takes too many too early.

I hate it. I asked God to destroy it or take it far from this earth so it could no longer strike down those we love. I was becoming quite upset when at that moment a song came on the radio that brought me out of my anger and back to a place of peace. And the next song that played confirmed that peace and a few tears of thankfulness.

The songs ‘Praise You in this Storm’ by Casting Crowns and ‘Even If’ by MercyMe, both speak to the struggle we face in our lives due to illness, relationships, or any hardship. Dark things that we can’t control that are put in our path that we have to somehow try to navigate around, no, make it through. Horrible things. Things not planned in our life journey.

Both songs brought me back to my faith and belief that there’s really just one way to make it through those dark times. We can try all the human ways of dealing with tragedy and death, and believe me I’ve tried many over the years, but the one thing that has gotten me through is giving the anger, pain, and hurt away to the One, the only one, that can truly make it easier. Not necessarily take it away but carry it for me. I’m grateful for that each and every day.

This past weekend here in Columbus was the Pelotonia. The annual bike ride to raise funds for cancer research and to find a cure. Many of my friends touched by cancer rode again this year. I believe for them as well as myself the lyrics from ‘Even If’ sum up how we feel and where our hope and strength lie. Give both songs a listen to perhaps hear for the first time how you can make it through.

“They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

May it be well with you as you continue your life journey – see you down the road.