Smiling in a Memory

It’s just a regular morning. Nothing unusual as I am very routine driven in my ways and means. Wake up at dawn or a little before, make coffee (first and foremost), get the dog dishes ready, then head outside to sit on our patio outside the Rv (appropriately labeled, “Brent’s Fort). Then, after the dogs eat, I take them for a morning stroll and they “read” a fair amount of “pee-mails” and heading back, I sit in my chair and drink my coffee. Pretty usual.

When you are immersed in the usual, your mind has the unique capacity to ponder past pieces and parcels of life…your life and it’s personal surroundings (needed a lot of “p’s” in that sentence aPParently). They say one shouldn’t dwell on the past, but I am a champion of it. It is another chance to review, reflect and sometimes revise how you view the previous missteps and moments of glory. I do it often.

This morning is not any different except I choose to write down my thoughts and share them with you.

Tomorrow my only son is getting married to the woman he loves. And so my wandering and unencumbered mind takes a beautiful trip up and down memory mountain. Memories seem always to fade any rough edges and polish the values of our living…so my thoughts of my son make me smile.

No intent to share all…as some of these mind films are for my benefit only. Most are not recorded on reel or faded photographs, but rather torn-edged snapshots in my head and heart…the things that make you smile! But we shared a lot of his young life together as a dad and son should, i.e. camping trips, visiting church members, sledding, building snow sculptors and tree houses and well, long walks in the woods (including paintball guns, throwing knives, and tipping trees by the Mississippi)!

One of my precious memories is of a day when we woke from our slumber to the awareness that my son’s pet rabbit Smoky was never to awake from his/her (really how can you tell?) eternal slumber. Very sad reality and traumatic as rigor mortise had set in by the time we noticed. There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So after consoling my son and discussing some beautiful possible outcomes (in a better place speech) for a now eternally living time-traveling rabbit in fields of clover, I declared it a “pass day” from school for preparations for a Smoky funeral and interment. Now the day took on a entirely new meaning and we began discussions regarding what Smoky would have wanted.

We needed a casket and Smoky was just the right size for a towel lined shoebox with some marker art work on the outside…including a recording of the name and date for any archeologists who may centuries later perform a dig in our back yard. We took a road trip in our Dodge truck to the Mississippi backwaters to find just the right headstone to mark Smoky’s resting place (and to keep a keen-smelling coyote from digging him up-avoiding a second traumatic discovery).

We returned with a stone requiring both of our cumulative muscle mass to carry and we took turns with a shovel preparing the hole for Smoky’s casket to be lowered into the ground. We both said some meaningfully tearful words regarding our life and memories of dear Smoky’s short life. We lowered the box in the grave and my son shoveled the dirt over the top and turned to sob into his dad’s legs. I see it and feel the emotions as if it was yesterday.

And so tomorrow my son takes a wife and she gets the man that was a boy.

My advice to her if she were to ask about my son? Understand the boy and you’ll get the man.

You see…all men were/are boys. Find and celebrate the boy in the man and you’ll discover incalculable value and insight into sharing life with the man. It really is a lifetime calling! Not all have acquired the skill and so miss out on really knowing who he is…by their inability to know how he was formed.

“God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)

And to the wonderful woman who chose my son and he her: This is my son in whom I am well-pleased! Be present-in the moment.

A Shared Destiny

I recently discovered that President John Adams (our country’s 2nd president) and Thomas Jefferson (3rd president) died on the same day: July 4, 1826…fifty years to the day that they both signed the Declaration of Independence. These two forefathers were close friends through most of their lives, aside from a brief time when they politically rivaled each other. But they were again close at the end of their lives and corresponded daily until their deaths.

Both of these scholars served as ambassadors to France together and undoubtedly had significant discussions regarding the formation of the United States and its government. They believed in God and understood the necessity of pinning our country’s underlying foundation upon morality dependent upon Him.

In light of the current political, social and normal climate of these United States; I found the following quotes by John Adams to be quite poignant:

This is the last of earth! I am content.

Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

In politics the middle way is none at all.

242 years later, we are living our democracy with great pain and duress. I wonder if this was what they imagined? Could they have conjured a thought of a society with instant and global communication? Could they have imagined a country “under God” beholding the philosophy of definition that “every one does what is right in their own eyes?”

And so both men reached their final breath on the 50th anniversary of the epic creation of the United States of America…the visionary reality they imagined and fought so hard to create. It matters to us what they did 242 years ago.

Destiny. Adams and Jefferson faced their Creator within eternal moments of each other. They were clothed in the actions of their lives…great actions as their destinies collided and created a country. They were judged on what they believed and trusted regarding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection!

Hebrew’s 9:27, New Living Translation

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment…

Being in the moment will never be more real than when you stand at the Bema Seat of Christ where He judges the living and the dead. Anticipation of that destiny should bring you to an in the moment and present face-to-face with Jesus and His work of salvation now!

Releasing Your Grip

This morning I’m faced with another “loss” in a growing string of losses. It has me pondering the ripple effect that losses invariably produce…i.e. consequences.

This loss at first blush was a tangible ‘business’ loss. A renter failed to pay rent for two months, and has mistreated our home in the process. I was immediately angry…not so much at the rent, as I knew he was struggling. But the condition of the home I cared for and poured my energy, money, and time into, had been violated…seemingly without a care. That is not the ‘real’ loss.

There is yet another loss in trust misplaced in people. Compassion and grace offered, with no return value. The bigger loss is a friendship. Someone’s integrity. A neighborhood changed.

As I wrote in a previous post, losses may also have positive dividends. We had been holding on to a house we loved and a neighborhood we enjoyed being a part of because those things are rare. When we embarked on this travel adventure, we wanted to have those cherished things to return to. This latest rental failure is another sign that it is time to move on. It has taken away the joy of our once beautiful home and enabled us to step away and see it as a house. A house that is only a home when we are in-dwelling and enjoying life within its adornments.

We have proven that wherever our abode is…there our home is as well!

And so we will chock this up to a costly lesson: don’t do business with friends, and don’t place emotion unduly on a tangible material thing…that is replaceable. And a renewed understanding of the well-worn phrase…”home is where your heart is.”

I might translate that as: Home is wherever you are present-inthemoment with those you love.

I Probably Should Fish

It is my assumption that fishing is popular. Wildly popular.

Here’s some proof I’ve noticed: One-a lot of various types of people are involved…regularly. Two-a casual walk through Cabellas or Bass Pro would seem to indicate that a major part of their merchandise has everything to do with fishing. And I don’t know if you are aware, but they seem to do a good business. Three-it does not seem to matter what your economic condition is, people who fish seem willing to spend a fair amount of money (even though in its fledgling beginnings artists renderings of prehistoric fishing showed only a string, hook, and bait flung into the water from a land anchored rock). Shows that fishing is a priority.

I’ll be clear…I have had no burning desire to fish. I get bored reasonably quick. I am not sure that my OCD-ness allows a natural inclination toward handling a slippery fish…much less whatever variety of bait may be required. I’ve also not developed any taste buds with sensitivity favorable to eating fish. I’m not even going to discuss cleaning one of these bloody scale and bone infused creatures.

But lately, I’ve found myself pondering the idea of pursuing a career as a fisherman. But I’m fighting it with every fiber of my clean hands and underwater-averse being. But…my son fishes. I mean to say, he really loves to snag himself dinner or at least an excuse to concoct a great story regarding “the one that got away!” And here’s the nagging push for me to fish: I really love my son and spending time with him. And besides, I feel guilty that I failed to introduce him to the “sport” and am battling a growing sense of guilt.

Just to review. Fishing is expensive, slimy, boring (sorry), abhorrent to my taste buds, time abuser, and boring. Did I already say that? That’s because it is doubly boring. So the physical aspects and the competitive nature of it is mostly unappealing to me.

Maybe I need to discover the “art of fishing!” It seems to hold a fair amount of passion for those who indulge in its virtues. Even the equipment seems to get stroked and cared for as it is ceremoniously given its own space in a box with a name that makes no sense what-so-ever: “Tackle.”

Fishing even has lore attached to its epic draw. The elaborate stories that are told with an eye glimmer and the frequent wink. Voices and the volume of laughter seems to increase as each subsequent tale is regaled at the tradition debrief session at the local tavern. And who hasn’t read Moby Dick?

And so I have spent a bit of time seeking the validity of this as a worthy endeavor for me to acquire. In my pondering, I found myself thinking of Jesus, the stepson of Joseph, a carpenter who found himself raising the Son of God! Jesus, when he left the carpenters shop to fulfill his mission as Savior and Redeemer, in seeking disciples to mentor…found and chose 12 men, seven of which were card-carrying members of the local fishermen union of Galilee. That’s roughly 60% of His original twelve!

That hardly seems accidental! Do your own study with a Bible Concordance (looking up any form of the reference “fish”). I can assure you…Jesus was a Master Fisherman! And used a lot of fishing references in His parcels of wisdom offered to His followers. I’m going to go out on a limb here…but I feel confident in suggesting that fishermen may have a distinct advantage in their relationship with Jesus!

Could an outline of fishing really be a seminary class on knowing the Savior? A tutorial on discipleship? Lessons from a boat regarding facing life’s storms? A blueprint for being an all-in fisher of men and women for Christ?

I’ve not yet fully developed the idea that prayer-like discussions with God would seem natural when you are immersed in His Creation! Talk about an in-your-face and in-your-head quiet time of devotion with the punctuation of the sudden hooking of a huge walleye or the snagging of a fresh water trout.

Maybe Jesus meets fishermen where they live…in the moment…in the boat. A special relationship between two fishing “efficianos” ( pardon the pun that includes a probable made up word or, at the very least a misspelled word).

What better place to be present-inthemoment than in a boat…with Jesus? “Google…where is Cabellas closest to me?”

Serenity…more needed

I saw some ducks floating peacefully in a pond this morning. I sat by an empty beach and watched birds coasting gracefully over a lake sunrise. I watched as my Pug lay on her side and basted in the soft sunlight straining through the screen.

se-ren-i-ty

noun: the state of being calm, peaceful, and without concern.

Finding myself so often in nature since hitting the road last August…serenity has been attainable. But I know for most people today, the ideal of serenity seems unreachable…a dream of vapor at best.

Let’s face it…our society places a premium on things money can buy. And we labor furiously to achieve that which always seems just out of our grasp. That shiny car, a new outfit…of course shoes, a boat.

Maybe it’s the dream home, a pool, forest with a creek? Travel the world and record the sites, walk beaches in the Caribbean.

What is it that will bring you serenity…now…in this moment?

Back to the ducks. When you watch them float about and fish, it is a picture of peace-no drama-on the surface. But under the surface their feet and legs are moving swiftly…great action! Just below the surface.

Some people you pass by have it altogether on the surface, but under the calm waters may be a frenetic battle to stay afloat. That friend who always has it together. The neighbor who has all the toys, but just might have relationship problems.

Look for the tears of the clown!

I wonder if it’s possible to be serenity for those we have contact with? To offer serenity. To example serenity. To prove serenity.

For me…serenity requires action on my part. A quiet place (in mind or reality), pausing from the regular, and contemplating prayer. Don’t get lost-but rather, be deliberate and intentional.

The result for me?

Clarity from confusion. Reflection over reaction. Sanctity versus static. Peace in response to pain.

I think of things otherwise hidden. I plan without seeing the roadblocks. My confidence becomes visible and I approach my next steps “brave and fearless,” to quote my granddaughter.

Google the serenity prayer and then find a quiet place to be present-inthemoment!

Minor Irritations to Major Crisis

Some friends of ours from our Florida Rv resort were traveling back to their summer home with their “fiver” (rv lingo for 5th wheel trailer), when it happened. They didn’t plan on it and certainly were surprised and not just a little stressed by it. Not one, but TWO tire blowouts in one day.

That’s not a minor irritation, but it is really not a major crisis either! It’s somewhere in the “definition-of-a-bad-day” category. I felt bad for them as it happened to us last Fall. It requires quick thinking, a plan, and a probable reschedule of travel.

How do you handle minor irritations vs. major crisis?

I have fair slice of OCD pie on the menu pretty regularly. Minors can sometimes play out as majors for me, all because the regimented plan went awry. I get narrow focused and honestly quite perturbed when the routine is interrupted.

So how do you respond and react when life throws you the infamous curve ball in the face??

One of the most vivid and horrific crisis I have been made aware of in my life happened in 1994. I still ponder it often. Most usually when I am faced with what I perceive as a bad day.

A mini-van loaded with a family of 8 was traveling for Thanksgiving from Chicago to Milwaukee. Routine holiday trip on a well-traveled interstate. But the unimaginable happened.

The steel bracket from a 18 wheeler mud flap had fallen onto the highway and the van carrying Pastor Duane “Scott” Willis, his wife and six of their nine children; ran over the bracket and it punctured their half empty gas tank. It exploded and the van was immediately engulfed with flames. Pastor Scott and his wife got out only to watch five of their six children perish in the van on the side of the highway. The sixth died later in the hospital from severe burns. How do you come back from that?

A few years later, I met Pastor and Mrs Willis at Moody Pastor’s Conference in Chicago. They stood on a podium that night and described this horrific life altering moment in time. They still wept. Long pauses to compose. They were asked how they managed that moment?

I’ll never forget their words. They slumped to the ground and held each other and knew in that moment that Jesus was with them. they had committed long ago in their marriage and family and ministry to always take the long view, not the short one.

The short view was agony and utter despair. The long view was their hope in Christ!

1 Thessalonians 4:13, “We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

Pastor Willis alluded that though the short view-our immediate in the moment experience-can be devastating and life changing, hearts that can give it to the Lord and look to hope in Christ Jesus- have everything they need to keep moving on in this life. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I wish I could tell you that this story has forever changed my responses to minor and major challenges. It hasn’t revolutionized stress management for me. But I have learned to take my “bad days” and lay them at the foot of the cross…eventually…when I’ve finished sulking.

Living life “present and in the moment” means we feel and see things as they are. The good alongside the awful. The blessings viewed and experienced in full color as well as the distresses. That’s living!

So Long Daisy

Travel days are always interesting…you never know! We were about an hour into the trip toward Asheville, NC. Our girls, Emma (Border) and Stella (Pug) had quieted down in back seat of the truck. Christine is playing games on her phone and I am enjoying some loud Eric Church Pandora with my earphones on. We are in the middle of South Carolina and I’m in the “nothing box” (more on that manly phenomenon later).

Christine suddenly taps my arm, so I glance at her and pull out my earphones to hear her message. “Brent, Daisy has died.”

Daisy ( beautiful Cocker Spaniel) was a part of the Christine household dog duo when we first met 10 years ago this coming December. She was the alpha and most palatable to me of the two critters that represented a part of Christine’s life I didn’t care for much. In fact, I told her I had to think about this relationship if they were going to be permanent.

Now before you form opinions…I’m not a dog hater. I just did not like dogs in the house and all that comes with it. i. e. Hair. Chris’ response? “Love me-love my dogs!”

I’ll go into the “falling in love with the dog stage” some other time. For now…She had Bob (pug) and Daisy. But understand for today’s purposes…I did fall in love: with Christine, Bob and Daisy.

We have faced the news of death and loss more than once on this Rv adventure. My beloved Dad, Cedric, passed on to eternal life last October 13. He was my rock and mentor and an example of incalculable value to me and many others. Our dear Bob left us a few weeks after that as we camped in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. He was 18 and our constant companion. My good friend and neighbor Jack died shortly after that after fighting a valiant battle with cancer. Now Daisy.

Daisy was one minute aloof and stand-off ish, the next, standing with her legs braced over the top of Bob or Stella ready to scold them or snap at them. She would choose when she needed love and attention from us, and when she did…she was all in.

I’m sure you’ll hear more Daisy stories later, but for now understand: she was part of the pack, but always longed to be “only baby.”

When we embarked on this adventure we are on, traveling this country…we had 4 dogs. Daisy was originally her ex husband Andy’s dog. When they divorced, they did not want to split up Daisy and Bob, so they stayed with Christine-and ultimately me.

So we approached Andy with idea of accepting Daisy (now 17) back into his life and take her to his home in North Carolina. He agreed and has proclaimed how much he has enjoyed having her and she was now: only dog! Off the clock! It wasn’t easy duty, for Daisy’s kidneys started to fail shortly thereafter.

Daisy was well-loved by her family and by our dear departed Bob. So when I heard she died, of course…I cried for several miles driving through North Carolina.

Long story…sorry. But life has losses. All kind and all levels of pain and sadness…I suppose even some losses are happy ones.

Saying goodbye for me has always been hard. Love lost is a particular type of pain. It is physical. It is mental. It is most assuredly emotional.

Grief is like a maze where you are suddenly plopped down into the middle stunned and blinded by sadness and darkness. In that sudden moment you just cry out in utter despair…unsure you’ll ever leave that place. In time, you begin to blindly stagger about feeling your way for a direction…and you hit many walls and you cry out more! It gets brighter and easier down one path then suddenly it gets dark and you hit another dead end. Grief is work and pain…and it is different for everybody.

As hard as it is…it shouldn’t be avoided. It is a mechanism of physical, psychological and emotional survival. It is a God-given and God shared (at the grave of Lazarus when Jesus saw his family and friends wailing at the stone, “Jesus wept.” Then He raised Lazarus from the dead, John 11). It is part and parcel of who we are and how we are made…in His image.

If you are in the maze or at the wall of grief…take YOUR time. Stand and move when you are ready. Jesus is weeping with you and knows your grief. Be present…in the moment.

Present…and accounted for

A dear friend of mine has suggested I do a devotional. I thought about it and dismissed the idea. Then I turned 60 and thought: Why not?

But…I don’t want it to be a “traditional” devotional. I want it to be raw and transparent and relatable (made that one up…but you’ll see a lot of that activity).

Let me explain: some time back I visited a small rural Bible-believing church. Wonderful people and sincere ministry… no fault with that. But it was like a mail order schematic for Bible churches! Full of trite and overused sayings and phrases…none of which are used by the same people on every other day but Sunday. Sounds critical, I know…but it is tired church talk. I crave Christians who honestly express themselves and are fair in their self-assessment.

This is how my blog will read…transparent and real with biblical expressions that relate and reflect.

Clearly understand, though I am biblically trained and have some life experience, I am in no manner an expert or theological in all things. I am an ongoing seeker and follower- who strives to understand life and a successful walk with God!

I would prefer no judgment and and negativity. We may touch on politics, but only if it relates to life and biblical truth. Please, if you cannot be positive…don’t partake in the blog! It is that simple.

My wife Christine and I travel the country, so I will be sharing our experiences and pictures that illustrate them. The devotional will be anecdotal and hopefully inspire the reader to pause and be “present and in the moment” in their day-to-day experience with God.

Btw….please no grammar police! I don’t really care about that. Also, my perspective is conservative Christian-but respectful of all walks and choices my readers may be reflect. Love the sinner…because I’m one…saved by grace!

Hope you join me and dialogue your experiences…in the moment!

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