The Seasons Change

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Always has been and always will be. It seems to connect with my soul in a way that the others simply do not. Are you like that? Which season connects best with you? Why do you think that is?

Each brings its own uniqueness and beauty to our world. Winter’s beautiful snow falls and long restful nights. Spring’s reemergence of life and the lengthening of daylight. Summer’s thrill of thunderstorms and the longer hours of warm sunshine. And Autumn’s transition of beautiful colors and the glow of bonfires at the end of the shortening days. Each in its own way is special. Each brings its own joys and challenges. Each shows us that our world is at constant change.

And so are our lives. Over my nearly 60 years or 240 seasonal transitions, I’ve experienced many changes. Moving from one season of my life to the next. Many seasons were fantastic times in my life while others were horrible. Most memories I cherish while others I dread recalling. And a few I wish to never experience again.

But I can honestly say each season of my life brought to me something special. Something to learn from. Something to share with others and something to experience just by myself. Something that has become a part of me and has helped shaped me into the person I am today.

I’ve experienced the long nights of darkness and cold with the passing of those I’ve loved. I’ve enjoyed the birth of new life through my children and grandchildren. I’ve thrilled in the times of family vacations and road trips with friends. And I have found great joy that I can now look back to and see that what I experienced, as easy or difficult it may have been, was just part of the transitions that must occur in life.

The world and our lives were not made to stay the same. Everything around us and in us is constantly changing. Growing, dying, and coming back to new life. Just as we see nature shine and dim through the seasons, we too experience the same shining and dimming in our lives. The world goes on and so do we.

There may be seasons where we feel it’s our last and eventually that season will come for each of us but until then I say let’s roll with the changes. Let’s make the most of each season. Experience it. Take it in. Let it change you. Let it become a part of you that is special and unique.

At the end of November, I will turn 60. Just another number and actually I’m way more excited than apprehensive about this change. Just like yours, my life has not always been easy but transitioning into my seventh decade, I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot control much if anything in this world. So I choose to accept what comes and live both in the current season and look forward to the next.

As Autumn comes to me, I’ll be admiring the beautiful colors of my surroundings in both nature and in the people I’ll meet. And I’ll be enjoying the warmth and light of the bonfires where ever I find them over these days ahead. And probably some roasted marshmallows as well.

Live well during your season my friends and see you down the road….

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

Over the years I’ve lived in seven different houses or apartments. All of them were home in one way or another. Some were ranch style, some were two stories, one which was the most recent was an apartment. Although the shape and size of each was different than the rest, they all felt the same because they were home.

Be it marriages, kids, family, neighbors, friends, parties, illness, or deaths, each occasion, each happening that occurred made that building, that place, feel more like home. So I guess the saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ is true. You take home with you no matter where you go.

The Terra, the new RV home for the Doodle and I, makes the eighth home for me. We’re three weeks into RV living and other than a few maintenance issues and one oops on my part, all has gone pretty well. Both of us seem to be adapting to waking and sleeping in the Terra. Our schedules and activities have already slowed to a calmer pace. There’s still been stress in making and breaking camp at each location and some anxiety for me in driving this 38 foot condo on wheels, but really for the most part, we’re doing well.

Case in point, yesterday morning. When pulling out of the KOA in Coshocton, Ohio, I had forgotten to lower the TV antenna on the top of the Terra. But no worries, a few of the stately maple trees along County Road 10 reminded me that the antenna was still up. There was a loud scraping noise and then leaves flying in all directions. I pulled over to inspect the damage and thankfully the antenna didn’t break and still worked great. It just shifted a little from the experience. And the trees came out just fine too, although a few leaves where missing.

Have you ever had an experience like mine? You forget to do something and that leads to an unexpected situation or problem? I would bet all of us have and most likely we all still do at times. Or perhaps it’s the other way. We do something, either intentionally or by chance, that causes discomfort in either our life or in the lives of those around us. I used to get angry at myself when I would put myself in these situations. How could I be so dumb! What was I thinking! Oops, I did it again! (Britney’s song just popped into your head didn’t it?)

Our experiences, be they good or bad, do cause us to shift a little. Sometimes we come away with just scratches and sometimes we loose a few leaves. Maybe we mend and maybe we don’t. Each experience changes us from who we were to who we are. Hopefully for the better but not always and that’s a truth I know about myself. How we live life afterwards is all up to how we respond to the shift, or scratch, or loss.

Yesterday was a wonderful day as I got to visit with some long time friends. Note that I did not say old friends. Age is just a number and its really how old we think and feel that matters. After the cold beers last evening, I’m feeling a little older this morning.

I had the joy of having lunch yesterday with six of the ladies from the Great 78. All of us were members of the greatest class to ever graduate from Coshocton High School. The Class of 1978. Yes I’m a bit bias but I really think we were the best class as we still have great relationships. Our class reunions every five years are so much fun and everyone that attends has a great time catching up. It doesn’t matter if we ran in the same circle or not back in high school.

The years have shown me and life has taught me that who we were then was just the beginning of who we are now and today our circles cross and over lap and blend almost into one at times. I’m so thankful for how my relationships with my classmates has deepened over the years and as such, I can now truly call everyone friend. Our reunions and get-togethers feel like home and for that I’m very thankful.

Lunch yesterday on the patio of the Old Warehouse in Roscoe Village was very nice. We talked about things currently going on in each of our lives. We talked about our kids and grand kids. We talked about our marriages, divorces, current relationships, illnesses, and deaths of those we loved. We shared some laughs and hugs and memories of the good times. Even a few tears. I felt honored to have been invited to join the ‘girls’ for lunch.

Last evening, I was able to meet up with more high school friends and one of my nieces and her husband at the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery near Fresno, Ohio. It was a beautiful evening sitting outside on the Pig’s patio enjoying their local brew and chatting for a few hours. The beer is really good and a nice selection for such a small brewery. But even better was the time we spent together talking and laughing about our past and current lives.

I hope to get home like this again during my journeys over the months ahead. I know I’ll take yesterday with me no matter where I go. It will be home.

Bon Jovi sang the song ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’. The last verse and chorus of the song, hit me last night as I was sitting in the Terra.

It doesn’t matter where you are
It doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road
Take it in
Take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home?

Who says you can’t go back?
Been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?

Home is where you’ve been and it’s where you are. And more importantly it is a place you will always have with you. No matter where life takes you, in your mind and heart, you are home.

See you down the road my friends, see you at home….

The Rocks and Stones

When Jesus Christ Superstar came out around 1970, I was just 10 years old. Through my teenage years this musical perspective of the days leading up to the Christ’s death on the cross, the songs from the musical, especially the lyrics, led me to want to learn more about the story.

I’ve always loved rock music and the JC Superstar production is one thing, possibly the main thing, that led me to read the Bible, talk to God, and 15 years later at age 25 accept Jesus as savior and begin to follow Him.

I’m still following and trying each day to live my life to the fullest. Not always easy and many days I fail in following Him. But because of the grace God has given me and the sacrifice the Christ made for me, I go on.

There’s really nothing in this world that can change that. Many things have tried but no pain, no sadness, no success or failure, not even death can stop the shouting in my soul of my thankfulness to God.

The song Hosanna from the musical has the following lyrics, which I believe for all of us that are followers of the Christ, really convey the joy we feel.

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?

Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.

If every tongue were stilled

The noise would still continue.

The rocks and stone themselves would start to sing

As we walk through this week leading to Easter Sunday, it is my hope and prayer that each of you are intrigued by some aspect of the story and the mystery of the Christ.

And that you explore what Easter is really about.

And who this Christ really is.

Happy Easter Friends.

See you down the road….

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd.

The night before the night before Christmas. Not the most significant day of the holiday season is it. Maybe you spent it doing some last minute gift shopping or purchasing all the food for your Christmas meal. Perhaps it was spent traveling home or getting the house ready for friends and family to arrive. Or maybe you’ve been alone all day, just like you will be tomorrow, and on Christmas.

It could be a day that’s different each year. Perhaps last year things were going well in your life and you were happy but this year it’s been one problem after another and there just isn’t much to be happy about. The tree is decorated and presents surround it but there’s still an empty feeling. There’s someone you miss or you are concerned about. Or maybe you’re waiting on a lab report to come back after the holidays.

At Christmas we all like to have the holiday spirit but some years it just doesn’t come that easily. We try to be merry, cheerful, and glad but underneath our smiles, we’re hurting. And if we were honest we would say that the Christmas season really isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year.

The past four December 23rds for me have been just about as diverse as they come. A holiday rollercoaster ride if you will with tremendous ups and downs.

Dec. 23, 2015 – it was just 4 months before that my wife Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had undergone surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and had recovered pretty well from that but in early December a follow up MRI indicated another surgery was needed. So the Christmas of 2015 was spent by our family being thankful for the support many were giving us and also preparing for another unknown outcome. We would spend New Year’s Eve in the hospital with Barb celebrating with her as she recovered from what we hoped was her last surgery.

Dec 23, 2016 – the past year had seen Barb not require any further surgery for which we were very thankful. She had completed her radiation treatment and had been receiving chemo treatments for a number of months and was surprisingly strong and doing well. It had been 16 months since her diagnosis. It was our first Christmas with our granddaughter and even in the midst of uncertainty, we celebrated the season and thanked God for His love and gift.

Dec. 23, 2017 – this was our first Christmas without Barb. In January of 2017, the cancer began to grow again and Barb made the decision to not try any other treatments as there were none that were viable and would give her a good quality of life. She declined quickly and went to her heavenly home on March 7. It was the lowest of times for me. I had never felt more lost in my life. But as the year went on, I came to understand that even in the midst of my grieve I could still celebrate the Christmas season and be thankful for all the years I shared with Barb and the way God walked with us through both the good and tough times.

Dec. 23rd, 2018 – today. The present. Another Christmas just two days away. This holiday season I’ve been missing Barb, again. The kids and I are continuing our traditions of putting up the tree, baking sugar cookies, and having our family Christmas eve dinner but each of these still have a feeling of incompleteness. Not really sad but just not the same as before. That will probably always be the case. And that’s okay because our traditions were made with Barb. So I will celebrate and honor those memories as I thank God for where He has brought me and how He continues to love me. And for who He is bringing into my life.

I don’t know where Christmas Eve Eve finds you this year but let me encourage you, if you are down, to not give up but to look up. And if 2018 has been good to you, I encourage you to lift up those around you that are feeling down.

In good times and bad, God’s love for us and His gift to us does not change. He is always there. No matter where we go or what we endure, He is with us. Look for Him. You will find Him. Emmanuel is right beside you this day and every day. And He loves you.

I pray that this Christmas you may experience the glad tidings of the good news that the season is really all about. Look beyond where you are now to where God can take you. Where He will go with you.

Merry Christmas my friends and 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….

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. 😉

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….

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….