As seen in the "The Heartbeat" and published in the Hot Springs Village Voice
As my mother would tell me time and time again, "Be careful who you associate with!" She was correct because as we have heard, "Actions speak louder than words." We can all look back and remember these and many more sayings our mothers, grandmothers, and other important figures in our lives would say. I call them my "granny-isms." I tell you, she was one wise woman.
Try to get onto any military base in the United States and you will get questioned as to your business, that is unless you have a military identification card. The guards at the gate are given a great deal of authority to allow cars to enter, to pull to the side and receive a pass, or to be turned away all together. Responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the base lies at the highest echelon of command on the instillation, but the authority is filtered down through the levels of command to those standing guard at the gate.
Some of you may remember a song released in May 1971 titled "M. Big Stuff." Jean Knight was the vocalist and sang "Mister Big Stuff! Who do you think you are?" It was a song sang from a woman’s perspective toward a man who strutted around trying to attract the attention of the ladies. He was different by the way he walked and the way he talked. He was different and he knew it. But the ladies weren’t falling for the flamingo-like attitude.
Since my wife and I have moved out into the country, things have gotten much quieter. We do miss some aspects of being in a subdivision, one of which is Halloween. Before we moved, we lived in a city north of Little Rock where Halloween was a big deal. People would bring their kids to the entrance of the neighborhood, park their cars, and everyone walked from house to house. It was like one huge block party, and much safer for the young ones concentrating on the treats and paying no attention to the traffic.
I must explain up front – I’m not a contractor! Even though in my young age I worked with my father to renovate homes, I don’t believe I could build one from "the ground up." A common phrase (the ground up) we hear applied to a lot of processes which refers to a beginning or starting point.
One of the items that suffers a quick destruction on Christmas morning or at birthday parties is the wrapping paper. The gift recipient rips the paper from the present to see what is hidden underneath the wrapping. And then the paper is discarded in multiple directions. For those of us who have seen many Christmas mornings, there is a distinct difference between the tearing of copy paper and the sound of wrapping paper being torn.
My father was part of a big, post-depression family. With six other brothers and sisters, and his mother’s two youngest siblings, there were plenty of hands to work on the central Oklahoma farm. But with all those mouths to feed, everybody had a part to play in the daily chores to help put food on the table.
I remember living in a foreign country when I was very young. My brother and I couldn’t understand the people on the television, so we spent our time "shooting marbles" and reading/trading comic books. Looking back, I’m certain some pretty valuable comic books by today’s standard’s passed through our hands.
This is the question many students may ask themselves after graduation from high school or college – what next? The completion of something we’ve worked toward for so long can produce some anti-climactic emotions. They may consider "do I continue in my education or grab the world by its tail?" For those who think the latter, they may find letting go once the tail has been grasped a little unpleasant, sort of like grabbing a tiger!
We don’t think a thing about it, other than the inconvenience, when we sit on an airplane for three hours. We board on one side of the country and exit the aircraft on the other side and don’t think much about the distance we’ve just traveled. I remember traveling home from the middle east for "R&R" from one of my deployments and it only took fourteen hours to go halfway around the globe (including stops).
It’s an old saying, but can we really have writing on our heart? When we were young and preparing the small gifts for our classmates on Valentine’s Day, we carefully chose just the right candy to place in each bag. And it was the special people who received the little candy hearts with the messages written on them in red – the pink ones, yellow ones, and blue ones. And there was that special person who received the little heart that read "be my valentine." We certainly didn’t want to send the wrong message to the wrong person!
How many times have you heard the following come out of a little child’s mouth: "I don’t want to and you can’t make me!" Young children are notorious for digging their heels in when they don’t want to do something, go somewhere, or take much needed medicine! It wasn’t their idea in the first place, and frankly it’s a way youngsters show they have decision-making power over the matter at hand (even though they really don’t!!!). We as parents then calmly explain the advantage of carrying through with our wishes, and most probably the outcome if they don’t – it’s called parenting.
Well here we are, as one of my past sermons is titled "Between the Turkey and the Tree." When Fall arrives, the shorter days seem to trigger a need inside us of adding blankets to the bed, stocking up on firewood, and dragging out the heavy afghan for cozy TV watching. And with all this preparation for the impending winter, our thoughts turn to the holidays.
Somewhere in the top of one of your closets or on the top shelf of your garage where appliances go to die you might have an old VHS player. Remember the tapes you used to rent from the movie store – the one with the sign on the wall "be kind, please rewind?" Yes, this is the "Video Home System" (bet you didn’t know that one) we used to play movies on, rent tapes from the stores, and even record our favorite sitcom when we were away from our homes.
It was this time of year when I was a young boy when hope flowed more so than the rest of the year. The Christmas catalogs began to populate the mailbox, and the hardware store began to put up decorations in the store windows. Even the little town where I spent much of my childhood began to put decorations on the lamp poles lining main street. It was a sign of the fast-approaching holidays and all the celebrations and parades to come.
One of the newest technological innovations is the driverless car. As I understand it, the car uses multiple input sensors to keep the vehicle safe in traffic, as well as global positioning system (GPS) satellites to traverse roads and highways to reach the destination which has been input into the computer system. Considering I lose satellite signal on my television during a thunderstorm, I’m not completely on board with this new type of technology just yet.
What does it mean to be sold out? The best synonym I can think of is committed. When we put ourselves totally into an activity, relationship, or vocation, we are "sold out". People see the performance of athletes or the love shared between couples and say the same thing.
Ever take a cruise? Rarely would you run into the captain during operations of the ship, as he/she would be busy directing the navigation of the vessel. I remember taking a tour of an aircraft carrier many years ago. I found it most interesting when we were told the captain can almost be a prisoner on the bridge during operations. They have their own stateroom below deck, but while the ship is underway the captain stays on the bridge in a very cramped room where they sleep, eat, and accomplish other duties – never leaving the bridge.
In any building project, no matter the size, scope, or place, the most experienced engineer will tell you the foundation is the most important part of the plan. Just name the enterprise and in every case the foundation is the critical, without question. If the foundation is wrong or inadequate, the building or project suffers.
A common phrase we hear in many sports circles is "strive for perfection." The goal is to execute the perfect play, or to have the perfect golf swing, or to make a perfect basketball free throw every time. Perfection can be, and sometimes is the only level of performance we accept. But if it’s carried to extremes, we develop a "perfection obsession."
Numbers mean different things to different people. You have statisticians who use
numbers to describe properties of a group of people, whether it is behaviors, medical conditions,
or in this day voting preferences. Entire companies and corporations have been established for
the sole purpose of gathering numbers (data) and using them for predictive purposes. But be
wary, statisticians can make numbers say what they desire. Numbers do not lie, but the use of
them can be questionable.
In today’s society, we are driven by titles. The military is very strict on titles, having everyone called by their rank and then their last name, e.g. First Sergeant Walker, or Chief Walker. But sometimes titles can be very misleading. As an example, a person we are all familiar with, the school head janitor can be called "Director of Refuse Relocation." While this is a little amusing, here are a few titles that actually exist: "Wizard of Light Bulb Moments" (Marketing Manager), "Beverage Dissemination Officer" (Bartender), and finally "Genius" (Sales Associate at Apple), which isn’t far from the truth for us technically-challenged adults!!
Mankind cannot live by bread alone; we must have relationships! Or maybe you’ve heard this one – no man is an island. It’s a funny way to state it, but we need to have relationships in our lives. Even though some may dream of living all alone in the mountains in a little log cabin, isolation can be maddening. But we’ve seen the documentaries of men living alone in the woods or mountains, and how they interact with the animals! Ha! Gotcha! Relationships!
Messages and opinions seem to abound these days. Or it might be more accurate to say they take up most of the news cycle and talk shows. Everyone has an opinion about issue "du jour" and are all too ready to give it to the listening public. As a listening public, we need to be keenly aware of several aspects of the issue, such as the message, the messenger, and sadly the motive in the delivery. Suffice it to say we need to be an educated listening public, taking in as much data as possible before forming our own opinion.
A word that can bring fear into students everywhere at any level – STUDY! Teachers and professors do their best to convey subject matter during classroom time, but work outside the classroom is needed to be successful. But try as they may, the professor just can’t get some students to understand it’s important to not only study classroom notes, but to also read the book!
We see many things in our daily lives, some minor and some major. We get so complacent in our regular travels we sometime realize we don’t remember the last few miles we’ve driven, especially on Highway 5! Our mind wanders and we relegate the task at hand – driving – to second-level cognitive processing because we’ve become too used to traveling a certain road it’s almost like muscle memory, or as some would say second nature.
Growing up my grandmother and mother both told me "don’t point fingers!" It was hard to understand at an early age just exactly what they were trying to teach me. And no, I didn’t learn after the first warning!! Many times, my hand was slapped when I continued to point because I didn’t heed the teaching point, no pun intended.
Twenty years might not seem like a lot in terms of church birthdays. Take for instance the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico which is somewhere around 400 years old. Some could argue that the oldest church is somewhere in modern day Israel, having been established immediately following the death of Christ, which would place it in round figures, around 2000 years old. Be mindful that no such church building exist today, only a mention in the Bible of a remnant of Jesus’ followers who had gathered somewhere around Jerusalem. (Acts 2)
"You want me to write a weekly article for the newsletter, and the newspaper? What? Are you kidding me?" I’m pretty sure I said those words out loud when I was informed of this expectation. While I have written many things for a number of church newsletters, the focus was always informative in nature, I wouldn’t say they were ever inspiring or thought-provoking. Knowing that the audience was going to be much bigger concerned me a bit. What could I ever say that would cause anyone to stop and read my article. Surely they would just skim right on by my headline.
Miracles are an interesting thing to consider. There are lots of varying options about miracles, as to their existence or even their validity. I think it is a matter of how one looks at things. It’s always that half full or half empty point of view.
I love cardinals, I’ve probably spoke of it before. Currently if you follow me on Facebook, you will even see that my page has an awesome picture of a row a cardinal all lined up on a fence. Over the last few years, these beautiful birds have played a role of spiritual significance for me. Many who know this often share with me pictures and quotes concerning the cardinal.
Have you discovered the joy of decluttering and organizing your home and belongings? If you happen to frequent Netflix maybe you have stumbled across Marie Kondo and the series called "Tidying Up". Marie is a Japanese organizing consultant and assist families in bringing peace to their homes by getting rid of the clutter and organizing in such a way that everything has a place.
There is a real art to moving! In 25 years of marriage I can count 10 different moves, and prior to that there were at least 5 more…not even counting my college days. I will never forget the day my aunt taught me the art of wrapping and packing. Over the years I have honed the skill of making the best use of space in any box. I have learned the value of packing like things with like things, and last but not least the need to let somethings go.
For five years now we have traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to celebrate New Year’s. This all started because the suggestion was made, and the rest of us jumped at the chance. We rent a house for a couple nights, we pile in with our kids in tow…we play games, we sing, we dance, we laugh, we even cry. We toast the New Year and make merry for the friendship we share. Our time together has become a hallmark of great memories and a special bond we share.
December is always a whirlwind of planning, prepping, and sometimes puzzled as to what gifts to buy. Fortunately I don’t have an extremely long list, but I do try to buy gifts that have purpose and meaning. And, no, I’m not one of those who buy gifts early and store them away. I would inevitably spend far more money than I should because I would forget those stowed away purchases.
Our oldest daughter took it upon herself to take on a second job for some extra spending money. Much to our surprise, she was hired on at local restaurant in her college town. She loves it! And she really loves it on the nights when the tips are good.
For the past 200 plus days I have been on a journey. I haven’t talked much about it, but right after Easter I made a decision to live a healthier life. Not only had there been little scare with my blood pressure, but I was tired of not being in optimum health. I had two vices that I needed to say farewell too; Diet Coke and Sugar. My dependence on these two things played a vicious role in my fully being my best self. I knew that it was time to say farewell to these habits. I had to start somewhere and so I picked the most evident.
Flying doesn’t make me anxious, but not knowing where I am going once I get there sure does. Most of the time when I fly somewhere, I am certain to meet someone on my arrival to pick me up and take me to my destination. Most of my flying experiences are to see friends and family, or traveling with my spouse. This time I was flying by myself, and arriving to an unfamiliar city, a day early for the event, and I had to navigate my own way to the hotel. The challenge was that the hotel did not offer a shuttle service, so I had to find my way to ground transportation take a taxi.
One of my mentors has taken on a new exercise routine, and was recently talking about how his trainer was teaching him to breathe. I, too, have had to learn the value of breath when I’m exercising. I can remember back in the day when I wanted to start running and the hardest part of running was to gain control of breathing. It was my brother who taught me that you should inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. If we breathe through our mouth while exercising, we tend to work much harder and find ourselves in that "trying to catch your breath" place. The more we exercise the more we learn that our breathing is crucial to the whole process.
This Sunday is a special day in the life of the church…It’s Pentecost Sunday! On this day we remember when Peter preached a powerful sermon that brought the power of the Holy Spirit to fall upon the people and dwell within them. If you read the book of Acts you will discover this powerful beginning of the 1st Century Church.
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