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Friday, October 30, 2015

Calmer Of The Storm



I’m sure each one of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news reports about 9-11. I remember being glued to the TV watching the footage, trying to comprehend the enormity of it all. I remember news people trying to explain it, while others couldn’t find the words. The pictures were devastating and drove many to their knees.

Through it all, the Mayor of New York at that time, Rudy Giuliani, did his best to calm people. He did his best to reassure people. He worked to comfort people. And while I can’t remember the exact words David Letterman used, I remember him weeping on camera and praising Giuliani for all he did for the people of New York. It still rings in my heart and memory.

Similarly, I remember where I was and what I was doing when as a fourth grader in 1963, Sister Lisetta came over the announcements and told us that President John Kennedy had been assassinated. I didn’t understand it at the time, the enormity of it at the time, but I knew instinctively that something of significance had happened. I heard it in her voice. I saw the reaction of my teacher. I went home and found my mom crying. I watched the TV news when Walter Cronkite paused, wiped his eyes, and cleared his throat before he continued with the news.

This morning I read one of my favorite passages about the frightened fishermen in a boat on a very stormy sea. The point of the passage was that because of a plea, the storm was rebuked, the waves calmed, and the sea was settled. One of the men in the boat remarked, “What sort of Man is this, who can calm the sea?”

Got me thinking . . .

Not so much about the storm or the sea or the fishermen. But more so about the question, “What sort of Man is this, who can calm the sea?”

What I think the fishermen meant was, “How did this Man calm the storm?” and then I thought of how many times we’ve come across people in our own lives who help calm our own storms, and who are willing to help calm the storms others find themselves in.

What kind of person is it who can calm a storm?

I think back to Letterman’s feelings about Giuliani, my own feelings about Cronkite. But there are so many others who have walked into, and sometimes left, my life who played a significant role in being the Calmer Of The Storm.

As I said, each of us can, hopefully, point to one such person who has played that role for us.

An even more important question is, “Am I . . . Are We . . . the Calmer Of The Storm? Or, are we the Creator Of The Storm?”

Do we do our best to calm the waters, still the churning seas in others, or do we create more waves, more wind and more fury in others?

It’s sometimes easier and quicker to be the Creator Of The Storm. It’s pretty easy to agitate, to cast doubt, to repeat a rumor, to pick at, to detract, and to be cynical and angry and negligent. It’s a lot harder to be comforting, to be sensitive, to spend the time listening, sometimes holding someone in distress. It’s sometimes harder to find the right words to say to help calm the nerves and soul of someone in distress. It’s sometimes a fight with our impatient selves to spend the time someone else needs from us when we’d rather spend it on ourselves or on less uncomfortable pursuits.

So, bless those souls who have been the Calmer Of The Storm in my life.  Bless those souls who have been the Calmer Of The Storm in your life, and bless those souls who have been the Calmer Of The Storm in the lives of others. Not only bless them, but perhaps we can learn from them and be more like them. To be a Calmer Of The Storm, rather than the Creator Of The Storm. That’s a worthy goal. May we be a Calmer Of The Storm.  Something to think about . . .

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Call



Back a couple of years ago I received a call about my sister, Betty.  She had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which is very similar to Alzheimer's.  At first, the individual is aware that “something is wrong” but cannot control the downhill spiral.  In fact, one summer when she and her husband came out to visit, twice at different times, Betty said that she felt like she was losing her mind.  Not having seen her in a while, neither Kim nor I saw anything different.  Betty seemed like Betty.

This diagnosis hit me hard.  Coming from a big family, the older ones took care of the younger ones, and I was Betty’s “charge.”  She and I grew close, very close, and I can remember so many Christmas’ and Thanksgivings and camping trips.  I have nothing but very fond memories and that is how I will choose to picture and remember her – always!  Not in her present state.

I’m betting that there are many of us, perhaps all of us, who have received such phone calls.  Calls in the early morning.  Calls in the dead of night.  Calls in the middle of a laugh or a good story or a wonderful meal.

The Call is an unwelcome intrusion.  It is seldom a call with good news, though we do receive some of those.  Hopefully, we receive more of those than the other, not so good or welcome kinds of calls.

October is Cancer Awareness Month. All types, I think, because one is no better or no worse than the other.  Cancer is cancer.  It is scary and worrisome, not only for the recipient of The Call, but for those of us who live with those, who love those, who receive The Call. 

As I said, The Call is unwelcome.

As I write this, I think of Tom, one of Kim’s and my best friends.  I think of his wife, Carol, his son, Jarrett.  I think of my niece.  Two of my brothers.  Other family members, both immediate and extended.  Co-workers and colleagues.  Friends I know well, others more of an acquaintance.  Some battling courageously.  Some who have, unfortunately and sadly, been defeated.  Never without a fight, though.  Never without a fight.

In fact as I write this, I am aware of folks I rub elbows with each day, many times a day, who are silently and courageously fighting this battle.  Either they or their loved ones.  Some folks we know about, while others choose to keep it quiet and only for family and a few close friends who know.  Some of these folks we never know about, but we do know they are out there among us.  Perhaps scared.  Perhaps frightened.  Perhaps feeling very much alone.  But with an undying hope and a deeply held faith.

So today, this post is for you.  Each of you.  To those who have suffered.  To those who have received The Call.  To those who are still battling. 

I have embedded a link to a song sung by a little girl to her mother.  Her mother is battling bravely.  Her daughter wanted her mom to know that she wasn’t alone.  Her daughter wanted her mom to know that she wanted to help her.  To stand beside her.   To know that she deeply loves her.

Please take three or four minutes to watch and to listen.  Hold those close to you tightly to your heart.  Keep their valiant struggle in your mind, in your thoughts, and in your prayers.  They deserve it. We deserve it.


Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Comes Down To Choices



"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

Pollyanna Whittier to her Aunt Polly: “I'm sorry about the dress, Aunt Polly. My Father said it was a size too big, but that I should be glad it wasn't a pair of boy's trousers.”

Two slightly different ways of looking at things.  Both share a bit of humor.  Both share some insight into the speaker:  his/her heart; his/her frame of mind.

Comes Down To Choices: Pollyanna vs Eeyore.

I’ve always been mostly a “glass half-full” kind of guy and I’d rather be Pollyanna than Eeyore.  I’d rather associate with a Pollyanna than with an Eeyore.  Both can be a bit annoying.  Sometimes a Pollyanna seems to not be mindful of details or problems and can be seen as neglectful of concerns.  But she is passionately optimistic always looking on the bright side of life.  I can’t find much fault in that.

To my way of thinking, an Eeyore brings everyone down.  It is constantly gray skies and raining.  Mostly, it is dark with a sprinkling of doom and gloom and the sky is falling and what else can go wrong thrown in for good measure.  There’s humor, but at some point, it gets on my nerves.  Doesn’t seem to be any way to change their outlook perhaps because they simply don’t want to change their outlook.

Comes Down To Choices.   

In one’s life.  In one’s point of view.  In one’s eyes and in what one chooses to see . . . or not.

I guess this applies to most anything . . . everything . . . in life.  Some of our choices are great and wonderful, while some choices turn out to be pretty lousy.  Almost all choices can always be meaningful in a learning sense.  If one chooses to learn from that choice.

Some of our choices not only affect us, but perhaps more times than not, affect others.  The right or wrong word.  To smile or not.  To encourage or put down.  To recognize or ignore.  To build up or put down.

Comes Down To Choices.

Imagine what it might be like to look on the sunny side of life rather than the dark side of life.  Imagine what it might be like if we simply stopped listening to those who ring the bell of disaster at each hour of the day.  Imagine what it might be like if we took the time to, when faced with an Eeyore, to smile and move on leaving Eeyore with nothing else to say.

It really does Come Down To Choices.  We choose to make a better life for ourselves.  We choose to make a better life for each other.  We choose to make a positive difference in our own life . . . and in the lives of others.  It does Come Down To Choices.  Your choice.  My choice.  Our choice.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
When I wrote the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives, Shattered Lives, and Splintered Lives, some of the comments made to me were, “Does this really happen?” “It just doesn’t seem possible.”  I wrote that series based upon my work as a counselor and based upon my adjunct work with the Jacob Wetterling Foundation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children.  Yes, the series is a work of fiction.  But unfortunately and tragically, the series is based upon research. 

For instance, please take a look at this article in which the good guys rescue 149 kids, some as young as twelve, from a human trafficking ring.  http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/fbi-sex-trafficking-sting-saves-149-children-nabs-150/ar-AAfty4a?li=AAa0dzB  So in answer to those comments, yes, unfortunately it does happen, and yes, tragically is it possible.

But this series is first and foremost a work of fiction written in the thriller/mystery/suspense and crime genre.  If you like this kind of book, you might want to check out Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives available in both Kindle and paperback, free with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00PKKN6W4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415908221&sr=1-1&keywords=Stolen+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis

Check out Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives, also on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback and free with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Shattered-Lives-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00UZRP828/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427118727&sr=1-1&keywords=Shattered+Lives%2C+Joseph+Lewis

If you’d like some background into the characters and story, the series prequel, Taking Lives, is also on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback, free with Kindle Unlimited at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MG2JAWE?ie=UTF8&at=aw-android-pc-us-20&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, comes out in November.

Thanks,
jl

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Life Better



“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”  Words from Mother Teresa, one of my heroes. 

Made me think of . . .

David.  A young man, who just a few years ago, bravely battled brain cancer.  He had a list of things he had wanted to accomplish:  Prom, Graduation, those things.  So he did.  He and his date attended Prom, though he didn’t stay the entire dance because he got tired and a bit overwhelmed.  We had a special graduation for him and I was able to hand him his diploma.  That same month in 2012, David passed away. 

Always sad when a child leaves us, but I don’t want to focus on that.  Rather, I want to focus on the efforts of individuals to make his life, and those last few weeks of his life, a little happier for him, and for his family.  Efforts to give us all a sense of closure, even though this closure came way too soon.

Made me think of . . .

Michael.  A young man at my previous school.  Graduated with his class, but at the age of nineteen, just three years after his diagnosis, passed away.  Again, far too soon. 

But I don’t want to focus on that.  Rather, I remember a football game.  Michael was a wide receiver, but never got to play because of his illness and how weak he was.  He couldn’t take any hit because the hit would have been lethal.  But, his coach and his teammates knew how important it was for Michael to actually play in a game. 

His coach, Mark, made an arrangement with the other team that on the very first offensive series, on the very first play, Michael would catch his first and only pass- ever- and then step out of bounds.  And that’s what happened.  Michael caught his pass.  Standing ovation, even from the other team.  The cornerback came over to shake his hand.  In return, our senior captain, a big lineman intentionally false started to move the ball back.  It made Michael’s year.  Heck, it made all of our year.  I couldn’t tell you what the final score was.  It didn’t matter.  What mattered was that Michael caught his pass.

And, all of this was brought back to me when I saw this wonderful story on Facebook.  It is worth the three minutes it takes to watch.  Please do so.  This is such a cool story. It does warm the heart and bring tears to your eyes. Happy tears.

In short, a middle school football team from Michigan came up with an idea.  They told no one, not even the coach.  Just the kids.  The goal was to get as close to the goal line as possible without scoring.  A kid broke free and took a knee at the one yard line.  The coach was furious.  So angry.  The next play, the ball is handed off to one of their teammates who didn’t get to play very much if at all, and this boy scored a touchdown with the help of his teammates.
But what was really cute was the kid who told the story was smiling the entire time.  Because it allowed a disabled teammate to score a touchdown.  It allowed a teammate to actually be a real part of the team.

We don’t hear too many stories like this and if we do, far too infrequently.  I believe that what sets humans apart from all other species is our ability to care, to be compassionate, to empathize with the sorrow and pain someone else feels or is going through.  I believe that deep down, we want to help.  Deep down, we’re called to help.  Deep down, we need to help.

And in so doing, we make a difference.  We make a difference for that person.  One brief moment in that person’s life is changed for the better because we cared to change that life for the better.

But just as importantly, we make a difference in our own lives by caring, by being compassionate, by empathizing.  We make a difference in our own lives by reaching out, by lending a hand.  We make a difference, not only in another’s life, but in our own.  Our own.  In the words of Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”  Maybe we can.  Maybe we should.  Dare to.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!  

To My Readers:
If you like thriller/mystery fiction, here is my Lives Trilogy series with current kindle pricing, and all are free on Kindle Unlimited.

Book #1: Stolen Lives $3.99

Book #2: Shattered Lives $5.99

Prequel to the Lives Trilogy: Taking Lives $.99

Book #3: Splintered Lives - Coming in November!