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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Exist Or Live?

Part of Kim’s and my honeymoon was spent in a hospital.  True story.

We were camping with some of my family members way up in Northern Wisconsin and Kim had to have an emergency appendectomy.  In the middle of the night, I ran to get two of my sisters, both nurses, and we drove 30 miles or so to a small town and the nearest hospital.  A 40 bed hospital . . . yes, 40 beds.  It was that tiny.  Kim was the youngest by light years!  Frankly, it seemed to be more of a holding tank for the very elderly.  More like a cross between a nursing home and hospital.  Except for Kim.

Down the hall was a very ancient lady who spent the days in bed in a prone position staring at the ceiling.  Someone, not sure who, came in everyday and read her Bible passages.  She never left her bed and to be honest, when I would peek in her room from time to time, it didn’t seem she had moved.  Another lady right across the hall was informed by her sons and daughters that she was leaving the hospital to go to a nursing home.  She cried and protested, but the family thought it was best.  It was all very sad.

I bring this story up because of a conversation I had with my niece, Jodi, when we gathered together to celebrate the birthday of my 99 year old mother this past week. 

Jodi told the story about her 80 year old aunt, Frannie.  She plays golf.  She rides a bike long distances.  She gets together frequently with friends.  Goes shopping.  Plays cards.  Frannie is also nearly paralyzed on the right side of her body from a stroke.  She also has seepage in her brain stem that cannot be repaired due to where it is located.  Frannie describes herself as a “ticking time bomb”.  She could die any minute, any day, any night.

But . . . Frannie made a decision to Live rather than merely Exist.

To Exist Or Live.

Today is the last day of the year, New Year’s Day. 

Many of us will choose to make resolutions and promises and decisions.  Most of those might last a day or so, maybe a week or two.  Some perhaps longer.  A few might make it through the year.  A few. Very few.

To Exist Or Live.

It seems to me that a worthwhile resolution or decision might be to make a deliberate, conscious choice to Live rather than to merely Exist. 

I think we’ve seen both.  I think we’ve crossed paths with those who Exist rather than Live.

Those who Exist are tired.  They go through the motion.  They lack passion.  They lack vitality.  They move from day to day, week to week, through life, through love, in a rut, in a routine. If I were to give them a color, I’d choose gray.

And then . . .

There are those who Live.  They grab at life.  They push themselves.  They laugh more.  Cry more.  Feel more.  There is energy.  Their minds are active.  There is clarity in their eyes, their speech.  They listen.  I would color them anything bright, but not gray.

It seems to me that a worthwhile resolution for each of us . . . for both you and I . . . would be to make the choice to Live rather than to Exist.  To Live fully, completely.  Embracing all that life has to give, to offer.  To make the most of it for ourselves, and to help those around us to make the most of it for themselves.  Helping each other to Live rather than Exist.  Is there really a choice?  Really?  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

 

Friday, December 27, 2013

After The Party

Just a few cookies remain. A bit of ham.  Presents mostly tucked away.  Gift cards and gift cash spent or planned for.  Next step is to take down the decorations and take the tree to the curb.

Of course, this is after we drive the almost 1,000 miles home. 

Tired.  Worn out.  Bushed. 

Funny how that cycle of emotion ebbs and flows.  From the Anticipation I wrote about just last Tuesday, to now, the feeling of Tiredness.  Up, then Down.

The kids spent the night with childhood friends.  Friends they hadn’t seen in ages.  The house was too quiet last night.  Quite the departure from the hustle and bustle of just a day or so ago when there were more cousins and aunts and uncles around that filled the little house with noise, and laughter, and joy, and stories that brought even more laughter.

After The Party.  Time to recharge.

But . . .

We can’t lose, mustn’t lose the feeling of joy we brought to others.  The joy that was in their eyes, in their voices.  We can’t lose the joy we brought not only to others, but to ourselves because of our giving, because of trying to create and carve out joy for others in sometimes an uncaring world that sometimes brings careless words and careless actions into our lives. 

A time for rest.  A time to recharge. 

But then, to begin anew to create joy, to bring joy to others, and thereby creating joy, bringing joy to ourselves.  To our world and to those who depend upon us for this very thing.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Monday, December 23, 2013

'Twas The Night Before . . .

Aren’t you just a little excited?  A little?  Maybe a lot?  Have to admit, I am.

A little bit of shopping and wrapping to do, but that’s okay.  Last minute stuff.  To be expected. 

Today, we drive Emily to visit a childhood friend.  Been friends forever, it seems and the only time they get together is this time of year when we travel back home.  (Funny that after five or six years, I still call Wisconsin home.)  Hannah visits her old friends later in the week and again, the only time she really gets to spend time with them. 

Tomorrow, family drifts in so we’re all together again.  Only time that happens, except for weddings and funerals, right?  Then, we head to church- one of my favorite services.  Look forward to it each year.

In the next few days, I’ll drive my family to my brother’s house for a visit.  We’ll stop in and see my mom and spend time for her.  She turns 99.  Pretty cool to be that old.  Saw a lot.  Saw much.  Lived it too.  And we’ll see more family and visit and talk and reminisce and catch up.  Lots of stories.  Retold many times, over and over.  Doesn’t get old, at least for me.

Anticipation.

As kids, we looked forward to the presents.  What did we get?  Who got what?  Whose stack is biggest?

As an adult, I like the presents, but I like to watch everyone open their presents up.  Mostly, I like the visits, the laughter, the stories.  And of course, the food.  Lots of it.  Way more than I need.

Anticipation.

A really good word.  A nice word.  One of expectation, of expecting.  A word of mystery, of surprise, of suspense. 

What’s around the corner?  What’s in store?  What’s down the road, around the bend?  What’s in the future?  What are the plans? 

Anticipation.

May your surprises, your mysteries be good to you.  May they be joyous.  May they bring you laughter.  May they bring a tear or two so you can appreciate the good we have, we see, we share.  May your surprises bring you hope and of course, love.  May you recognize the small, as well as the big.

May each of you find all you need and so much more.  May there always be love in your heart, a sparkle in your eyes, a kind word on your tongue, warmth in your heart.  May there always be someone to stand with you, beside you.  May there always be someone to lend a hand when it gets hard, a word of encouragement when you feel like giving up, light when you might not know your way.  And may each of us be all of that to others.  Each of us.  Something to think about . . .  today, each day, always.

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Need To Be Peace



Growing up in the Midwest, especially as a youngster (more than many moons ago), I couldn’t wait until the first snowflake fell.  There is a silence that takes place.  It is quiet.  Depending upon the size of the snowflakes, if one listens closely, you can hear snowflakes fall upon branches of trees.  If you listen closely, you can hear their gentle touch upon the window.  It is truly Peaceful.

So many times during the holiday season . . . any holiday season . . . sentiments of Peace are expressed.  People talk about the Peace and Joy of the Season . . . the Peace and Serenity of Christmas.  It brings a smile to my face and lightens my heart.  It’s a great feeling.  There’s joy and the expression, I believe, is intentional.  There is sincerity in that expression.

I’m not sure where I heard it or read it, where the idea was expressed, that Peace isn’t a feeling.  Peace isn’t a circumstance or situation.  Peace isn’t an expression.

Instead, Peace is a way of speaking, a way of behaving, a way of listening.  It was expressed that Peace needs to be more than wished for, and more importantly, Peace isn’t something to attain, to gain, to have.

Peace cannot be expected to last unless and until Peace is lived.

Peace Cannot Be Expected To Last Unless And Until Peace Is Lived!

Khalil Gibran wrote, “No one can find inner peace except by working, not in a self- centered way, but for the whole human family.”  Gibran also wrote, “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”

So . . .

I would like each of us, this Peaceful season, to contemplate how we think, how we speak, how we act, how we listen.  I would like each of us to consider that there is A Need To Be Peace.  In our lives.  With each other.  For each other.  I would like each of us to consider that Peace is more than a feeling.  Peace is certainly more than a sentiment, an expression no matter how sincere, no matter how much joy that expression brings.

I believe Peace is a way of life.  And . . . if each of us considers that Peace is a way of living, a way of speaking, a way of thinking, a way of listening, how much better will our relationships be!  With ourselves . . . with each other . . . with those whose lives we touch day in and day out.  Perhaps then, we can achieve what we’ve only expressed up until now.  Peace.  It’s something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

God Doesn't Make Mistakes!



Most every Monday evening, my family and I watch Monday Night Football.  It really doesn’t matter who plays.  We just like football.

I found last evening inspiring.

Now that I got your attention, I realize an 18-16 score game isn’t exciting, especially when our favorite team wasn’t playing.  But I was inspired nonetheless.

Before the game, during all the commentary about who should win, who won’t win, why they will win, and why they won’t, there was a piece . . . a segment . . . on Joey.

A little girl who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School while she and her class were celebrating her birthday.  Almost her entire class was murdered.  A tragic loss.

What inspired me was her story.  How her parents reacted.  Their devastating and tragic loss.  A stupid and senseless loss.  My wife and I wept.

But in the aftermath, what followed, was that a playground was built in her honor.  There was an inscription . . . I wish I could remember the entirety of it and I’m afraid I can’t, I’m very sorry I can’t . . . but the inscription was something to the effect of “Joey can’t be here, but she wants you to play.”  And her mother said, that Joey spent most of her life playing.  Playing on a playground.  And when the idea came up from a fireman to build a playground in her memory, her mother stated, “Yes.  Someone who gets it.”  And as she said it, she smiled and looked up.  She looked up and it was a beautiful smile.  I won’t forget that.  Not ever.

And while her story was so moving, it was Ray Lewis, the retired linebacker and leader of the Ravens who tied it all together for me.

He sent a letter to the family and that letter has come to mean so much to the family.  When Ray Lewis was asked to explain why he sent the letter to the family . . . and again, I’m not at all doing justice to him, to his thoughts, to his meaning, nor to the memory and impact that Joey had on, well, most everyone, especially me, he said, “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.”

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.

I needed to hear that.

I wrote two posts recently, Inconvenienced By Tragedy and Final Applause, that spoke to the death of my nephew and its impact on my extended family . . . the impact on me.  Ray Lewis’ statement, “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!” pretty much summed it up a heck of a lot better than I could.  Than I did.

You see, he explained that evil is all around us.  All around us.  But God has a way of using that evil . . . a tragedy . . . to bring about some good.  To bring an impact in our lives . . . in the lives of others.

Gang, I’m not a great philosopher.  I write words and most of the time, I hope and pray they spring from my heart.  Sometimes I fall flat on my face.  Sometimes . . . I hope most times . . . I manage to rise above the floor a little bit.

But, while you and I might not ever know of the good that springs from evil . . . God might turn an evil around and into something good . . . I truly believe, like Ray Lewis does, that God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.  Not ever.  No way.  There might always be evil in the world.  Unfortunately, always.  Yet, I honestly believe . . . deep in my soul, deep in my heart of hearts . . . that there will always be good.  And, I believe more importantly, good will always trump evil.  Always!  I might not understand it.  I may not see it in my lifetime.  But I believe that good will always trump evil.  Because in the end, God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.  That is something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Christmas Wish!



Kim and I dutifully ask our kids for their Christmas list at this time of year, every year.  When the kids were younger, their lists were lengthy, but there has never been anything too extravagant or outlandish.  As they got older, their lists have become noticeably shorter and a lot more predictable: videos, a cd or two, gift cards to their favorite clothing stores (man, had I known, I would have bought stock!).  In fact, not only have their lists become shorter and more predictable, Kim and I had to remind them several times so we could go shopping for them.

And in turn, the kids will ask us what we want.  Hmmm . . .

You know, as I get older, I’m harder to buy for, though much of what I want isn’t in stores.  Probably wouldn’t fit in a stocking.  Not sure if Santa could fit it into his sleigh or get it down the chimney.

So, what do I want?

I’d like continued health as I get older.  I don’t want to worry about routine doctor’s visits and what he/she will find.  I want the glaucoma in my left eye to stop growing, so I don’t have to worry about what I will or won’t be able to see.

My mom turns 99 years old in two weeks.  I’d like to see her get to a hundred or beyond, even if she doesn’t necessarily remember me even after I remind her two or three times in a visit.  Turning a 100 years old would be a really neat gift . . . I think for her, for me, for our family.

My extended family has gone through some tough times lately.  Jared passed away in October.  My sister-in-law is battling an aggressive cancer.  My sister is slowly, painfully ill and had to be hospitalized until . . .  One of my other sisters almost died once a while ago, but survived.  She can’t get around like she once could, though she’s what we would call “a gamer” and does her best.  I’ve gotten closer to her lately and want that relationship to grow.  Not ready yet for that to end.  I’d like for my extended family to have a peaceful lull.  To have peace.  Nothing but joy, laughter at least for a little while.

I want my kids to be happy, to be successful, to enjoy a life they choose.  I want my kids to survive the bumps along the way and for them to know that I love them so very much and that I always will even if I get grouchy now and then, or picky, or pushy.  That I will always support them.  Always love them.  Always.  And that I would do anything and everything I could for them.  And even more if I could.

I want those kids in my school who don’t have much, to have much, to have at least enough.  To not go hungry.  To not worry about what or when they are going to eat or where they will sleep.  To not worry about their mom or dad who are and have been out of work trying to make ends meet.

I want the teachers in my school who are suffering quietly, who are worrying silently, who are battling something terrifying in their lives to have peace, to experience joy, to be embraced by warmth and comfort, by a gentle touch, a knowing nod, and to know that they aren’t alone and don’t have to go it alone.  There are a number of them I know about, and I’m sure, a number of them I don’t know about.

I want my wife and I to grow old together.  To continue to laugh, to experience joy with each other, to know what each of us is thinking without ever having to tell the other.  I want her to know she is my best friend, my very best friend.  Always has been and always will be.

I suppose there is a lot more I could put on my list.  A lot more.  Not sure how Santa will work this list out or fit it all onto his sleigh or down the chimney.  Not sure where my kids will shop for it all.  Not sure if they have enough money in their wallet for it all.  But this is my Christmas Wish.  For me . . . for you . . . for all of us.  Something to hope for.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Need Of Balance


You know, when I push away from the Thanksgiving table, I know without a doubt I over did it.  Stuffed, and I’m not just talking the turkey, though some would argue I am a turkey.  They might be right.  Probably right.

I think most of us feel like that after a Thanksgiving dinner.  Not the turkey part, but the stuffed part.  Who doesn’t?  Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pie.  Lots of pie!

And then we feel bloated.  More than just full.  Mostly, ready to explode.

In Need Of Balance.

School was canceled for the past two days.  Snow, sleet, ice.  Unsafe for buses and unsafe for young drivers.  Needed to proceed with caution.  Better to be safe.

Nature dumped on us like it does sometimes.  We reacted and created balance.

Of course, a pile of work awaits me upon my return.  Observations, the write ups, the post observation conferences.  Games rescheduled for another day.  Lessons that had been prepared will be taught another day, but then those lessons taught another day, and on, and on.

In Need Of Balance.

Sometimes our words, our actions, perhaps our lack of words and our inactions cause us to be out of Balance.  We tangle with each other, ourselves.  We harm ourselves, perhaps others, knowingly, mostly unknowingly . . . at least I would hope so. 

There is the need to gather ourselves, to find our center, to find the mid-point.  There is the need to find the Balance between action and inaction, to find the Balance between words and silence, to find the Balance between too much and not enough.

Each year, one of our teachers organizes a food drive to feed those families who might not have much to eat.  Kids and teachers contribute hundreds of pounds to feed many who just don’t have.  This year, our social worker put up a tree in the staff workroom and instead of ornaments, had possible items that could be purchased and donated to families who don’t have much or nothing at all.  Within 30 minutes, the tree was stripped clean.  All items taken by staff willing to help contribute.  So, she put more items on the tree, only to find those items taken by willing staff members.. 

Each year, my administrative team delivers poinsettias to each staff member as a way of saying thank you, as a way of saying we appreciate what you do, what you’ve done.  This year, several of my staff members suggested that we give inexpensive gift cards, such as Starbucks, Subway.  They reasoned that then, those staff members who want to can give their cards to our social worker who can then give them to needy families.  Pretty cool idea.

In Need Of Balance.

We can create Balance.  I believe we seek Balance.  We have in our nature to be in Balance.  We know intuitively when we are out of Balance.  We feel it: in our body, in our mind, in our soul.  And I believe it is in our nature to help others create Balance when we recognize those who are close to us are out of Balance.  And, as adults, it is so very important to help our children learn to maintain Balance in their lives, in their souls, and in their minds.  Such a very important lesson to learn.  One of our greatest charges, I think.  Our future, their future, depends upon this.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!