Hump Day – The Toughest Day In The Workweek

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“Hump day” – Isn’t that what folks endearingly refer to as Wednesday? Of course, in the traditional sense of the expression, the term has to with being past the halfway point in the workweek. From there it is a downhill slide to the coming weekend. Of course, Wednesday is also seen as the toughest day in the workweek.

 

I’ve known folks who lived for the weekends. They detested their job, but held on to it as if locked to a ball and chain because the money was good. Their income was enough to financially live comfortably and still have some left over for whatever met their fancy.

 

Fortunately, I’m a stranger to that. I’ve had the good fortune to really enjoy my work. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the workforce cannot truthfully say that. Some researchers say that as many as 40% of the workforce live without the concept of job satisfaction. No wonder they live for the weekend!

 

Evidence can be found around every corner. People in traffic honk their horns, angrily cut in and out in front of other cars, engage in conflict both at the office and at home, populate bars until closing time and eventually show back up at work again on Monday to start the work week all over again. It is a treadmill they hate, but they can’t free themselves from the financial security.

 

I think Forbes sorted it out accurately when they asserted: “If you hate your job, you hate your life.” If you are one of the 40% who are miserable at work, that statement should give you pause for concern. “If you hate your job, you hate your life.”

 

If Forbes is right, is the converse also true? Is it logical to suggest that: “If you love your job, you love your life?” From my vantage point, that assertion is irrefutably true. My life is good. So is my work. I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy and I think a lot of that has to do with job satisfaction. That’s not to say I am always on top of the world with a sense of elation.

 

Yesterday and last night was one of those atypical kinds of melancholy experiences for me. Truthfully, I think it had something to do with dreading “Hump Day” – Wednesday. By the way, this is the day that weighed heavily on my mind last night. I wouldn’t describe it as panic attack, but it was closely akin to an undercurrent of I’m not sure what? Perhaps restlessness is the best way I know to describe it. I found it a little unsettling.

 

Okay, so what was the source of yesterday’s meltdown? I’m overstating my response, but I’m also opting to be more transparent than I’m usually willing to acknowledge. I was bothered with thoughts of hump day, but there were also other contributing factors.

 

For example, for the past couple of days, I’ve sorted through files and focused on getting rid of a lot of stuff in my office that no one else is going to want or need.  Seriously, I’ve held on to files that I’ve never looked at since initially filing them away.

 

I had binders upon binders of minimum standards, work related policies and procedures (most of which I’ve written), stacks upon stacks of proposed legislation with highlights and notes written in the margin. The list goes on and on and none of that stuff was any longer worth the paper it is written on.

 

Best practice is always a work in progress and that means that 98% of what I was holding on to was dated and no longer relevant. I picked up a copy of minimum standards (all 300 plus pages of them) and noticed paper clips on almost every page with highlighting and notations in the margins. I had used the document to flag my memory in providing staff training related to changes in minimum standards. Other than the intrinsic value that it represented related to thought and effort in time, the document was no longer of value. It was already dated.

 

At any rate, yesterday morning I loaded up a cart with all the manuals and dated materials I’d gleaned from my office. I was on my way to the dumpster to be done away with it. When I got to the dumpster behind our office building, it was filled to over-flowing. There wasn’t room for even one binder. I looked across the street to one of our other office buildings and thought: “What about over there?”

 

As I crossed the busy street pushing the cart loaded with manuals, publications and notebooks of standards and old files, it felt awkward. Fortunately, when I made it to the dumpster, the dumpster was mostly empty. I had plenty of room.

 

So for what seemed like an inordinate length of time, I tossed manuals and notebooks into the dumpster. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was short lived. It was then that the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: “I had just tossed a paper trail of decades of my work into the dumpster”. Worthless? Yeah – probably, but the visual impact of seeing it strewn in squalor was unsettling.

 

So is that what Solomon meant when he wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…

 

The unsettling experienced of last night had something to do with the fact that I was dreading Wednesday – hump day. Wednesday, May 31, 2017 represents a big hurdle for me. It is the toughest hump day I’ve ever faced, but this morning I have the peace and confidence of knowing “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

 

Unlike the indentured servant who is eventually freed from his ball and chain, I prefer to think of myself as a hummingbird or butterfly opting to seek nectar in a different location. Isn’t that one of the advantages of retirement? Today I walk away from a job that has been a mainstay of support in lots of different dimensions. I will miss it greatly, but I’m excited about what lies around the next unseen corner. After all, there is a time for everything.

 

All My Best!

Don

A Tribute To Mother

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I have a friend whose mother recently went to be with the Lord. I thought of him first thing this morning and remember he and his family in prayer. I know that today will be a difficult day for him. He mentioned to me recently in an email that he still has his mother’s telephone number programmed on speed dial in his phone. For whatever reason, he can’t bring himself to delete the entry and he regularly finds the longing of his heart is to reach out to her in conversation.

 

No sooner had I read his message than I found myself both smiling and teary eyed all at the same time. In case anyone wants to know, my folks’ phone numbers (home and cell) are still listed in my outlook phone directory including their physical address. At least every two or three weeks, I drive by their former home in Henly and utter a prayer of thanksgiving that we were privileged to have them as neighbors.

 

Initially seeing their home on a regular basis tugged at my heartstrings. Eventually, when a permanent tenant took ownership of the property and began to invest sweat equity in dramatically improving the landscape, I felt at peace with the fact that it was now someone else’s home.

 

Their home in Henly was truthfully the most comfortable home in which my parents ever lived. We were privileged to take a leadership role in selection of everything associated to the home including granite counter tops. Dad wasn’t sure all of that was justified, but I convinced him it was an absolute necessity for subsequent resale. Dad was really proud of their home and grateful to live in Henly. He agreed with me that Henly is the edge of heaven. By the time it was home for them, I’m not sure Mother was cognitively in a place that she had that same sense of contentment, but she did like having us near.

 

It’s weird. At least a dozen-to-two-dozen times over the past several years, I’ve considered deleting their contact information from my outlook contacts, but I can’t opt to select delete. I just can’t do it.  I simply tell myself that it isn’t hurting anything to leave the contact information listed.

 

Initially following my mother’s placement in a facility for Alzheimer’s just prior to my dad’s death, I struggled with the triggers or daily reminders that kept them vividly a part of my everyday world. For example, the Tupperware container that Mother kept her coffee filters in found its way to our pantry. Each time I made coffee, it was like sitting down to share a cup of coffee with them only they weren’t there. Their absence hurt my heart but their memory was like a spring of water that made the coffee taste better. I guess you could call that a Catch-22 kind of experience.

 

The grief process is neither quickly nor easily resolved. It is simply that, a process and you have to look to God on a daily basis to fill the void and move the focus from loss to gratitude for the time-shared.

 

Subsequently, selecting a Keurig Coffee maker eliminated our need for coffee filters. Consequently, my morning confusion of sharing coffee is no longer an issue for me. What I’ve discovered with the passing of a lot of time is that both my Mom and Dad are still very much a part of my world. I live with a sense of incredible gratitude for the memories and for the support, encouragement and love they freely provided.

 

I also know that while my experience is similar to many others, it is also an alien concept to many more. Broken is the only way that we come and I have friends who don’t have the same memories of familial support, encouragement and love that flood my soul on a regular basis.

 

I said of my Mother at her funeral that her life was a sermon. She glorified God in her approach to living. What I know of God’s love, I learned first from her. I will forever eternally be grateful.

 

One of the things I deeply value about my mother was the importance she placed on relationships. She loved deeply and she loved lastingly. Sometimes along the way she threw in a truckload of forgiveness to negotiate the uphill climb of continuing to love people, but she role-modeled living as God would have her live.

 

She also loved children. She not only was the world’s best grandmother, but she had the ability to shower that “grandmotherly-kind of love” on children whenever they were in her presence. It didn’t’ matter who they were. She intuitively always managed to connect with them and was an advocate to support their well-being. She had no reservation in gently re-directing parents (Perhaps at times, not so gently) if she thought improvement was needed in the opportunities and privileges children were permitted.

 

Mother always created an “environment of home” to family and friends. She was spirited, fun to be around, and always predictably dependable in providing encouragement and support.

 

It was ten years ago, this mother’s day weekend that mother was placed in a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s care to ensure her safety and provide for her care. She went to be with the Lord three and a half years later. Mother’s illness stole from her the cognitive ability to live relationally or to exercise any independence related to having her basic needs met. But that impairment was time limited. She is no longer bound by the limitations of her humanity.  She is at home in the presence of God.

 

As long as I have the wonderful gift of memory, I can return again and again to the treasured recollection of days gone by. I can remember with gratitude the love and influence that helped me navigate my formative years and continues to provide strength and resourcefulness as I meet the needs of this day.

 

So what where the last three and a half years of her life about? The lessons to be learned weren’t for Mother. She had already mastered the lessons for life. They were for us.

  • Was it simply for us to be content in whatever circumstances came our way? Throughout Mother’s illness she never seemed unhappy or discontent. Was it a message that we, too, needed to be content?
  • Was it the need for us to learn to live with a higher dependency on Him?
  • Was it a reminder that faith is a journey – the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?

I suspect the answer has something to do with the need for me to learn more in all three of the mentioned categories.  I don’t always get it right and I’m a slow learner, but what a legacy I’ve been given.  I am grateful.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

Play Ball

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Sunday night the General told me about a telephone conversation with our son earlier in the day. She had asked him for some information about a friend who has been ill. Instead of answering her question, he replied: “I am my father’s son. All I know is enough to be concerned. I don’t have any of the details.” Of course, when the General told me about their conversation, I waited for her to add the magic tagline. How does it go? “You’ve got your father to thank for all of your problems.” She had shared something similar with our daughter.
Of course, in the General’s defense, she was making reference to Andrea’s health rather than character when she made that comment. I probably should have clarified that earlier since I’ve referenced the allegation in one of my blogs, but sometimes full disclosure of all the facts can get in the way of a perfectly good story. On the other hand, it may have been my daughter who failed to fully disclose why her mother had said what she said without providing me the benefit of the full story. That, too, might be said to further substantiate that she is her father’s daughter.
I spent last night at my son’s home. During our conversation after dinner, he shared with me another story that clearly highlights the fact that, he too, is a chip off the old block. Of course, I doubt that he recognized the similarities when he was sharing his experience. He really is his father’s son. Before I share the example he provided, let me say in my opinion Craig is an incredible parent. He is never to busy to give priority to investing his time in any and every activity involving his children. That is one of the characteristics that both he and Becky provide their children.
He shared with me that the previous weekend something happened at Jake’s baseball game that he found really upsetting. It was so upsetting for him that he had difficulty sleeping that night. As background, he told me that Jake runs really fast. He said, “Dad you won’t believe it, but he runs like the wind. Most kids don’t, he does.”
At any rate, Jake had hit the ball past second base into left field. As he made his way past first base, the centerfielder had advanced toward second base and was standing near with the ball in hand. Perhaps he was mostly lost in thought with what to do with it. Jake tagged second base and ran past almost as if running was second nature to him. He obviously then had the thought, “What I’m I doing?  I should have stopped at second.” He immediately backtracked, the centerfielder threw the ball to second baseman and Jake was tagged out with the second baseman’s glove to Jake’s chest.
Jake started crying. So was he crying because he was tagged too hard in the chest or was it the disappointment that he was tagged out?  Perhaps it was a combination. Craig immediately made his way to the field to check on Jake. His words were the customary words that most father’s come up with because they’re not thinking. “You’re alright. That doesn’t hurt.” Actually, I’m not sure what he initially said, but I’m trying to flesh out this story.
Actually, Craig did comfort and reassure Jake that it would be okay. Craig also suspected that the tears were mostly from the disappointment of being tagged out. Did I mention that Jake comes from a family where “winner takes all” is the philosophy of competitive sports. Competitive anything for that matter is the game of the day. Okay, so I’m probably overstating the case, but winning is important.
Craig provided Jake wise counsel, “If you find that you’ve overrun second base, keep running . Force the other team to make a play”. Craig said to me, “Dad, Jake runs really fast. Besides that, the ability to throw the ball from one base to the other isn’t the skill set of every player. It could be worth the effort.”
At some point before the game was over or before they left to the ballpark, a man initiated a conversation with Craig that left him horrified. The other man wanted to know, “Did I hear you say you’d make your son run if he overran second base again?” Almost without pausing, the man indicated any kind of negative sanction toward a player was out of line.
Of course, Craig couldn’t have agreed more. He thanked the man for initiating the conversation. He said, “No, what I told him was the next time he overran a base was for him to keep running rather than go back. Make the other team have to make a play.”
Craig said, “Dad, I was horrified that anyone would think I’d provide any kind of punishment for one of my kids for a glitch in their performance while playing a sport . He said, “ I recognize that there is always ‘one of those parents’, but I am not that parent. Sports are supposed to be fun and I do my best to encourage that atmosphere with my own kids. From day one all I’ve asked of my kids is that they have fun and that they play hard and in that order.
He said, “I was so upset that anyone thought I was capable of rendering out punishment to my son for his performance on the ballfield that I had difficultly sleeping that night. It wasn’t true, but what if someone else had overheard my conversation and drawn the same conclusion as the man who confronted me?  I found it very disturbing.
Like I said, “Craig is his father’s son”. I would have had the same reaction and on more than one occasion my sleeplessness is associated to similar kinds of “what would people think” thoughts. At any rate, because it bothered him, Craig sent the baseball coach an email the following day explaining what had happened and what he really had verbalized to Jake.
The coach had not overheard the conversation and assumed that no one else had found it bothersome either. He did affirm for Craig that his advice was sound. “Yes, tell him to keep running. I would agree with your strategy, if you over run it, just keep going because Jake is going to win 100% of foot races with a guy wearing a glove”.
Did I mention that I am proud that Craig is his father’s son?
All My Best!
Don

Down Memory Lane

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Based on the number of missed telephone calls and subsequent messages I receive, I spend way too much of my time in meetings. One day last week, I missed a call from an old (maybe long-term) friend is better terminology. He and I were at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene together. At any rate, when I called him back, I could tell from the tone of his voice that something was wrong. “Are you okay?” was the first question out of my mouth. He responded: “I’m doing better.”

 

Immediately my anxiety went up a couple of notches. He and I have been friends for the past 50 years and although we don’t have contact often, he continues to be an important person in the circle of those I hold dear. I immediately replied: “What do you mean you’re doing better?” He said: “I had surgery twenty days ago.”

 

I don’t know what came over me. Perhaps if you knew the kind of banter the two of us have shared across the years, you’d understand. I don’t know where the thought came from, but I announced boldly, “Well, if you’ve had surgery, I certainly hope it was cosmetic!” He managed a faint laugh and said, “It was”.

 

I was greatly relieved. He went on to tell me he had opted for gastric bypass surgery. It wasn’t because he wanted to look nineteen years old again. It had more to do with the advantages associated with lightening up. When he told me what he now weighs, I almost asked for his doctor’s name. It wouldn’t hurt me to lighten up either.

 

As we visited by telephone and relived some of the times from long ago, his voice tone changed into a more upbeat and hopeful sound. I started to tell him that talking to me was good medicine. We only talked ten or fifteen minutes, but his spirit was lighter. I could tell from the sound of his voice.

 

My friend retired from banking several years ago and now lives in an apartment adjacent to the home in which he grew up. It is located in a small town between Houston and Galveston. He mentioned that he has been working part time for a cruise line out of Galveston. He said, “I’ve met some really neat people and I like the work.” He also threw in the concept that the employee discount made his random cruises more affordable.

 

Before we terminated our conversation, I told him I’d be praying for him and that he needed to get well soon. As a side note, I said: “I can’t give you the time off to die. You are important to me and most of my memories of you are good.” He immediately asked for clarification. He wanted to know: “What do you mean by most?”

 

I was ready for his question and had an immediate answer. “Remember back, the year was 1981. As I recall, you suggested that the new car I wanted was a 1981 Oldsmobile 98 diesel”. You and your dad had just purchased one and all you had to share about it was praise. It was my first luxury car. Even to this day, I remember the fender skirts and the smell of that leather interior. It was a really nice car, but it proved not to be dependable transportation to get one from point A to point B. I had the car for nine months and the car was in the shop nine weeks during that time.  It is difficult to have a rebuttal for facts. He laughed and said: “Oh how well I remember.”

 

As luck would have it, I missed another telephone call from my friend again yesterday. Once again, I was in a meeting. At any rate, he has been on my mind this week. In addition to remember praying for him, I thought back to the first luxury car he purchased. It was not the 1981 Oldsmobile 98 diesel he purchased before I bought mine. He was sporting luxury on wheels long before I ever dreamed that I would one day drive a nice car. BTW – Let there be NO mistake. The 1981 Olds 98 diesel was not a nice car.

 

Treva and I were living in San Angelo at the time. My friend came from Houston for a weekend visit. You’ll never guess what he was driving. It was unbelievable! He was driving a brand new 1971 Lincoln Continental Marc IV. Interestingly, it was about the same shade of the green as the 1971 four-door (very married looking) Bonneville Pontiac I was driving. The Lincoln Marc IV carried with it a successful persona in a class all unto its own.

 

My friend thought he had pulled a fast one over on his dad. He failed to mention to him that he had bought another car. Although he went home almost every weekend, he never drove his new car. He drove the old one. I don’t know how many months later, his dad broached the subject. He asked, “Aren’t you ever going to drive the Lincoln home?” It took a while for the dots to connect in my friend’s head. His car insurance that was affixed to his dad’s policy and the auto insurance bill reflected the addition of the Lincoln. His dad had known for months that he had a new car.

 

This past week, I also thought about the green colored large glass terrarium with a very small neck opening that my friend brought as a gift to Treva and I when he came to visit us in San Angelo. I also remember that we got planted some kind of ivy that actually thrived inside it. How we got it planted, I don’t remember, but I do remember the gift. The terrarium was a good look.

 

When I returned his call yesterday afternoon, I could tell immediately that he wasn’t well. In fact, he was at an all time low. I think more than anything, he just needed to talk. He had talked to another friend earlier. That friend had cautioned him that he needed to let go of the anger he was experiencing. After all, it was his responsibility as a Christian to be forgiving.”
Wow! What was all that about? His closest neighbor, for whom he is the landlord, had accidently but carelessly run over his dog and killed it in his driveway. When we talked, his voice broke as though he was going to break into tears and from the denigrating things he shared about his neighbor’s ineptness, he was really angry. He had not yet gotten to the place where unconditional love was on his horizon. He was also mad with his friend that asked: “What kind of Christian are you? You are supposed to be forgiving”. He counseled him to be forgiving and he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I could feel his pain through the sound of his voice.

 

I’m not even a dog person, but I found myself hurting for him. Instead of telling him to immediately flip the switch and forgive his neighbor and let go of his anger, I took a different tactic. After all, this had just happened. I said simply: “It is okay to be angry for now. Eventually, you’ll need to let go of the anger and be forgiving because it will be detrimental to your health if you don’t. But you don’t have to worry about doing that today. Today, as you grieve the loss of your dog, it is okay to be angry.

 

He told me about the neighbor. Like I said, he wasn’t being overly charitable in his assessment. He said, she is a teacher and she just got into trouble at school. She does dumb stuff. A child stomped on the foot of another student. She intervened and asked the student how he would feel if that happened to him. She then went and brought the injured student back and asked him to stomp on the foot of the student who hurt him. Another teacher witnessed the ordeal. Consequently it didn’t play out well for the teacher attempting to teach the life lesson. Apparently forgiveness was not on her radar screen either.

 

Hopefully my friend will have a better day today. He is scheduled for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. Hopefully, he’ll get some level of encouragement that he is on track for getting better. In addition, I’m also praying he’ll find the ability to distance himself from some of his anger. That can’t play well for his recovery process. An angry spirit never plays well for the person who harbors it.

 

All My Best!

Don

The Old Home Place

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What would it be like to spend one’s golden years living in the home where you grew up? I have a couple of friends who have the good fortune to “live in and on the old home place”, so to speak and walk the acreage that previously had been walked by their father and perhaps, his father-before-him. My two friends are not acquainted and they live miles apart, but in many respects they share the same kind of pilgrimage. Both have the good fortune to have returned to the family farm/ranch and literally reestablished the ties to their roots.

 

The land has to look differently from the vantage point of mature adulthood than it did when you were still a wet behind the ears little kid and saw unexplored adventure around every boulder or unexplored parcel of land. What would it be like, not only to re-explore it in adulthood, but to have the sense that “this land is mine?”

 

Think about what that would be like. I’ve often wondered when I’ve visited in a place that has stood the test of time, “If wall’s could talk, what stories would they tell?” If at the age of 69 or 70, you are surrounded by the walls of your childhood, you don’t have to guess about the stories. For the most part, you’ve lived through them. Those stories were instrumental in fabricating the many dimensions of who you are. Sure, they don’t represent the totality of all that you’ve experienced and embraced, but they are substantive in your grounding and the totality of your existence. They represent a place with a special name. It is a place called “home”.

 

Thomas Wolfe wrote a book entitled: “You Can’t Go Home Again”. For him that was true. Thomas couldn’t go home again and the reason was of his own doing. I’ve always heard that a man shouldn’t burn bridges. Thomas Wolfe apparently failed to learn or remember that lesson. He wrote down the stories that most people tried to forget and subsequently published them in a book. I don’t recall if the book made the bestseller list, but it put Thomas Wolfe on everyone’s list whose stories were shared in his book. It was not a pretty picture. Of course, neither were their stories.

 

There is something about the concept of family secrets that become public record that can negate one’s sense of welcome in returning home. That is particularly true if you are the blabbermouth that didn’t know when things were better left unsaid. My mother would have expressed it like this: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

 

I think I have read all of Pat Conroy’s books. The books are a good read, but they are a little too autobiographical for likings of his siblings. The same was true for his parents during their lifetime. The upside of Conroy’s becoming a famous author was diminished in the shattering of relationships in his family of origin. At the end of the day, you still have to look at yourself in the mirror. If you’ve offended the people in your life that should be most important, the price of admission to become a famous writer overshadowed prudent judgment.

 

Because Thomas Wolfe chose to write stories thought to be secret and make them public, they were subsequently impossible to either hide from or forget. “Oh yeah, Thomas Wolfe burned lots of bridges”.

 

Neither of my friends who now make their home in what previously was their childhood home made that kind of mistake. Perhaps they both longed for the good old days or for the sense of comfort of finally being home again. Consequently, they both longed for the familiarity of what once had been.  Like I said, both of my friends grew up on a farm/ranch environment and were seasoned to honor the land, their heritage and the people with whom they shared life.

 

Both of my friends are not strangers to the concept of hard work. Like I said, they grew up in a ranch and farm environment and they didn’t shy away from the household chores that covered acres and acres of land. In the midst of their golden years, they still maintain that same resolve. If there is work to be done, they do it.

 

On Tuesday, I talked to the wife of one of my former roommates in college. He is one of my friends who has now returned to the place that goes back as far as he can remember. He and his wife are going to be in the Austin area the next three or four days and we’re looking forward to reconnecting after all these years. I can hardly wait.

 

My friend’s wife said of her husband. “He is now retired, but he really isn’t retired. He’s got to get back home by Monday to plant hay next week. He also leases the land for cattle to graze. He has some chores related to that. He also still preaches when provided opportunity. He stays busy. He goes to church every time the doors are open and he never misses a community meeting.  He stays really busy.  She then added as a caveat, “If he is underfoot, I usually tell someone to stop by and take him fishing.”

 

It has been at least forty-six years since we’ve last seen each other. At some level, I don’t know what to expect. I think of him as he looked forty-six years ago. He isn’t going to look the same now as he looked then. Of course, I tell myself that I do, but I don’t. I don’t look anything like I looked forty-six years ago. I guess that you could say that I’ve grown up and out. Of course, if you say that, you may be on shaky ground. I’m not sure what that means, but it could be a subtle threat. Probably not, but maybe? Be careful not to burn bridges.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

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Sometimes I’m amazed at the insightful woman my daughter has become. To begin with, she consistently is a source of encouragement. I’m not sure she’s ever publically commented on any of my blogs, but she periodically will send me a note, “Nice job Dad”. Occasionally, she’ll read my summation of the structure provided me by you-know-who and she’ll comment: “Bless your heart!” That always puts a smile on my face. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. That is not the reason I think she’s insightful and encouraging.

 

She recently paid me the highest compliment by saying: “Your blogs are better when you limit the content to your writing. You write well and none of the other content you include captures the story the way you craft the story. Stick to your words. You don’t need any others.”

 

I say all of that to identify the insightful person she’s become. In doing so, I’m going to color outside the lines and borrow a quote from a book she recently suggested I read. The author makes the observation: “IT IS BETTER TO LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE IMPERFECTLY THAN TO IMITATE SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE PERFECTLY”.

 

In a nutshell, that is the life lesson she’s figured out and she embraces life with the knowledge that it is a gift to be given away. In the process she has become one of the most thoughtful people I know. Andrea doesn’t advertise that she is thoughtful, caring and generous to a fault. In fact, she is a very private person and she’ll probably have my head when she reads today’s blog.

 

Do you remember the line from one of Shakespeare’s plays? I think it was Hamlet. Pontius says to his son:

 

This above all: to thine own self be true

And it must follow, as the night the day

Thou canst not then be false to any man

Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

 

The profound words spoken resonate with truth. Isn’t it true that one can better judge himself if he has done what he could or should have done? Obviously there is also an implied second meaning that one must be honest in his ways and relationships. Perhaps that always expresses itself when one attempts to do the right thing.

 

With the pride perhaps that only a father can experience, I really celebrate the person my daughter has become. She is her own person and she is genuine and authentic to herself. She doesn’t need me to tell her what to do. In fact, she’ll offer gentle redirection if and when I try.

 

For example, one of the problems is that I’m opinionated and/or old and set in my ways. When Andrea and Kevin were building their home, I offered an opinion or two related to her decision to use shelving instead of kitchen cabinets above the countertop. I also attempted to highlight the mistake she’d be making by mounting a television on the kitchen wall. Okay, so I was wrong. Her home turned out to be a showplace because she opted to do it her way instead of following my helpful suggestions.

 

A year and a half ago when she announced to me that she was going to quit her job later in the year, I thought she’d lost reason of her senses. For one thing, she had a prestigious position and incredibly high income. At the age of 34 she was making more than me at 68. It didn’t seem right to me either, but that’s just the way it rolled.

 

Her rationale for leaving her job related to time management. She like the work and she liked the people with whom she worked. The real difficulty is that all she did was work. She said, “I don’t want to live my life this way. I want time with my husband and I want time with my family. I don’t want to live just to work.” How do you argue with that? At the age of 34 she had more courage than I.

 

One of the ways Andrea expresses herself is through cooking. She and Kevin are hooked on the “food channel” and seldom do I walk in their home that the television mounted on the wall next to the kitchen cabinets isn’t turned on. Actually they both enjoy cooking and they do it in art form. Their world of culinary delight is often shared with others.

 

Having spent her high school years growing up in Midland, Andrea was exposed to a culture of “he who has the most toys wins” and “bigger is better”. I say that mostly tongue-in-cheek, but at some level it was a pretentious environment. Sometimes you were judged by whom you chose to decorate your home and whom you chose for a therapist. I never had the privilege from benefitting from either a professional decorator or a therapist. Consequently, that may explain a lot of things.

 

Today in the midst of young adulthood, Andrea doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body. She doesn’t call attention to herself and she lives without the need for the approval of others. She knows who she is and she is living her own life. She is not content to settle for a perfect imitation of someone else’s life. Consequently, from my observation, she’s stepped it up a notch. I really like/love the person she’s become.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Indiscriminate Random Violence

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How do we hit the reset button and opt to do life differently? Is there a way to alter what seems to be a time-released capsule of violence and destruction? Ours is a troubled and violent world. There is no other explanation.

 

Last week the focus of our state, and perhaps even the nation, was on Dallas, Texas. Micah Johnson, an Army Reserve Afghan Veteran, gunned down and killed five police officers and injured eleven others. The attack was thought to be racially motivated.

 

Three week’s before that, all eyes were on Orlando, Florida where Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and injured 53 others in a terrorist attack.

 

This week, our focus shifted from Dallas to a terrorist attack in Nice, France. A 31-year-old truck driver was responsible for the deaths of 84 people including 10 children. In addition, 202 people were injured; 52 remain in critical condition with 25 on life-support. Two of those who were killed were from Austin. One was an 11-year old boy.

 

Yesterday morning, we were confronted with yet another report of deadly violence. Three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, LA were killed and three others were wounded. Will the violence ever cease? What can we expect if it does not?

 

Seventeen years ago, I attended a small workshop where Dr. Foster Cline, a child psychiatrist, physician, international speaker, and author of books on parenting spoke. He made a statement that I remember to this day. He made the statement: “The presence of violence in this country will not be the undoing of our nation”. He went to say that almost since the beginning of time there has been a “tooth for a tooth” and “an eye for an eye” kind of mentality. We take for granted that there will be a day of reckoning for any kind of misdeed. “You hurt me. I will hurt you”, seems to be the pervasive logic we employ in “making things right by getting even”.

 

He asserted that the: “You hurt me. I will hurt you” mentality and system of justice has been around for a very long time. However, Dr. Cline went on to predict that the indiscriminate use of random violence would be the undoing of our nation. “The thing that will bring us to our knees is the indiscriminate use of random violence where people are innocently victimized. That kind of violence will create a culture that we cannot withstand. It will be the undoing of our nation”.

 

Ours has become a world in which the horror, shock, and grief associated with indiscriminate deadly violence can’t be fully processed. Almost before the ink is dry on the headlines in the news, another similar incident takes precedence and vies for our attention. We now live with a shadow of suspicion that we will forever be in a constant state of alert with the perpetual threat of indiscriminate violence?

 

Of course, we are all vulnerable. We live in a broken world and we are susceptible to other kinds of losses as well. Even if death and separation have no relationship to the terrorism that seems pervasive world wide, the void they leave in one’s life has the potential to be debilitating and tragic.

 

Where is God when it hurts? Does His presence make a difference in the midst of a storm? Have you ever stopped to consider how you’d respond if suddenly and systematically everything familiar in your life were taken from you? What would you do if your immediate family members were killed? To whom would you turn and what would you do?

 

  • How would you cope?
  • Where would you find the strength to continue?
  • Where would you turn for support?

 

These aren’t just rhetorical questions. The reality is, we need to have a plan in place, a strategy or plan of action in the back of our mind, just in case. Don’t wait until you are in the midst of grave difficulty to begin thinking what you would do?

 

Does God’s presence make a difference when one is in the midst of overwhelming grief? Does our faith walk include provisions that will equip and enable us in the midst of heartbreaking difficulties? Do we really rely on the promises of Christ: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. [Matthew 11:28-30]

 

Someone has said that sermons are best prepared with the Bible in one hand and today’s newspaper in the other. Our walk with the Lord has a very real relationship with other variables in our life. How do we balance reality and faith? Does God make a difference in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty? Is He the lifeline that supports our greatest good?

 

There is a wonderful promise in the book of Isaiah. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31]

 

The word picture here is incredible. Yet, as wonderful as the thought of mounting up with wings as eagles, or running and not being weary, the ability to walk and not faint is perhaps the greatest of all support. When you are just at that place where you are not sure you can go on, the ability to walk and not faint is a lifeline that cannot be denied.

 

Saturday night, out of curiosity, I typed the name Jonathan McComb into my computer and initiated a Google search. Many of you probably remember his name from last year’s Memorial Day weekend flood. He and his family were staying in a vacation home on the Blanco River near Wimberly.

 

“In an instant it was on us, and there was nothing you could do and no way out,” McComb said. The Blanco River swelled 28 feet in an hour and a half, pulling the family’s vacation home, where they were staying from its foundation. The house was floating down the river.

 

In fact, McComb’s wife used her cell phone to telephone her sister. She said, “We are in a house that is floating down the river. Call Mom and Dad. I love you and pray”.

 

One year later, McComb granted an interview with Meredith Land, NBC News, about loss and life. In the introduction of the segment that aired, Meredith Land said this: “Jonathan has suffered so much with the loss of his wife and two young children. His loss has been documented in interviews, government reports, and in the obituary that marked the end of life for his family. But through it all, McComb has found new hope and a remarkable sense of peace”.

 

Land went on to add: “What brings him peace is faith and his daughter coming to him in a dream”. Talking about the dream, McComb said of his daughter: “I asked, ‘What happened?’ She responded, “We’re okay. I got picked up by a man on the river and it was Jesus”. McComb went on to say: “That was huge for me”.

 

Jonathan McComb came back to Wimberley this past Memorial day weekend to the same spot where the tragedy took place. He and friends who also lost family members in that flood, kayaked down the Blanco River. He retraced their steps and he remembered with gratitude the family he had been given.

 

His story reminded me of the story of Horatio Spafford. Spafford is best known for writing the words to the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”.

 

Spafford was a successful lawyer in the in Chicago. He and his wife were close friends and supporters of evangelist Dwight Moody. In 1871, Spafford’s real estate holdings went up in flames in the Great Fire of Chicago. Of even greater loss, was the death of his four-year-old son to scarlet fever that same year.

 

Wanting to get away a couple of year’s later; he booked passage on a ship to England for he and his family. At the last minute, business affairs dictated the need for him to postpone his trip. His family traveled on ahead. On November 22, 1873, an iron sailing vessel hit the steamship on which they were traveling. Two Hundred twenty-six people lost their lives including Spafford’s four daughters (ages 11, 9, 4 and 2). Arriving in England, Spafford’s wife telegraphed her husband: “Arrived alone”.

 

Reportedly, on Spafford’s subsequent voyage to join his wife, he penned the words to “It Is Well With My Soul” at approximately the same place where his daughter’s perished:

 

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),

with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul…”

 

Perhaps it would serve us well to keep the connection intact with the One who holds tomorrow and trust Him for whatever eventualities come our way. In the process, we, too find new hope and a sense of peace.

 

All My Best!

Don