Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LOVE PERSONIFIED HAIKU


Instant Love, Chicago, IL

An imminent birth,
soon became reality,
and a child was born.

I scheduled a flight,
and traveled one thousand miles,
to meet my grandson.

I entered the room,
where the young child was laying,
serenely sleeping.

He was gently raised,
and I held a miracle,
love personified.

Friday, February 10, 2017

STRENGTHENING OUR LIVES


Sunrise Exercise, Body & Spirit, Kiawah Island, SC

Supervised physical therapy was a very critical aspect for the replacement of both my knee joints. I had known of others that complained the procedure hadn’t given them a whole lot of mobility, but they had also admitted that the difficult therapy caused them too much pain, so they didn’t finish the recovery process. Irreversible scar tissue immediately begins to form in the affected areas which is why it is so important to immediately begin physical therapy and overcome it. Also, my orthopedic doctor counseled me that I would know when to come back in for the operation based on how debilitating the joint would become. Since it is a natural reaction to favor a bum knee, we also allow the muscles and tendons around the joint to atrophy and they need to be stretched back into a stronger state that supports the joint. No pain, no gain!

All the above dictates that we begin physical therapy immediately after an operation. And the process sends natural pain signals to the brain that this area is experiencing some trauma. Normally, we associate these signals with something that is causing harm to our body and we react to neutralize the cause. But thankfully, I received a great reverse key thought from my therapist that sustained me to the end of a successful recovery. Her experience led her to remind me to focus on what was really going on in my body. She told me to focus on the key understanding that the perceived negative signals I was receiving were simply my body and brain communicating that I was experiencing “the process of weakness leaving my body”, being replaced by strength. This also applies to regular exercise and the consequences of ignoring it.

The process is definitely in play for our spirits. I still maintain that the only explanation for living in a broken world is the free will our Creator bestowed on us so that our relationships would be real. This was a big risk that could have only been made by a Creator that wanted us to grow in his created image. Creating beings that don’t have the free will to accept or reject doesn’t allow for the possibility of genuine love. Allowing us to make our own good or bad choices requires an environment in which they exist. I believe it didn’t have to be that way. We could have been created for eternal worship and left in a perfect environment, as other beings created before us. But genuine unconditional love requires work and good choices. It also requires grace when we imperfect beings fall. Love is strengthened when pain enters our lives and we have the desire and relationship that drives us to work through the trauma together.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

REVERENT ROSES HAIKU


Hellebore, Jamestown, NC

Winter is waning,
when Lenten Roses appear,
reverently bowed.

February sun,
and blustery March wind gusts,
shake stalks heavenward.

Colorful flowers,
emerge from the center roots,
amid forest floors.

Lenten Hellebores,
sprouted from a young girl’s tears,
as a gift for Christ.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

AUTO SENIOR MOMENTS


Parking Lot, Greensboro, NC

I used to enjoy listening to my older friends and relatives relate their humorous senior moments. It happens to all of us eventually and it can certainly be tragic for some, but if we can laugh at these moments while we still can, it takes the sting out of those golden years.

Within the past few years I’ve experienced a few of these moments myself that revolved around the possibility of my vehicle being carjacked! I like the old story of the senior couple that drove to the shopping center one day. The husband was complaining all the way there that he didn’t like to go shopping, so the wife just told him to drop her off and pick her up in an hour. Forty-five minutes later she finished shopping and proceeded to walk to the location where she usually parked her car. As she searched for her keys, she realized that she must have left them in the ignition again! When it became obvious that the car was missing, she called 911 on her cell phone and reported her car stolen. She waited for a while hoping for a miracle and then reluctantly called her husband who had repeatedly admonished her for leaving the keys in the car. When he finally answered, she hesitantly blurted out that her car had been stolen! “Are you kidding me?”, he barked, “I dropped you off!” Embarrassed, she replied, “Well come and get me then.” He retorted, “I will, as soon as I convince this police officer that I didn’t steal your damn car!”

I finally returned from a grueling five-day business trip on a delayed winter flight and slowly dragged my luggage down to the terminal’s parking garage. During those Road Warrior days, I always tried to park in the same location so that I could walk directly to my car on a late Friday night. That was one of the conveniences of the KC airport that has three identical terminals accommodating local travelers. As I approached the parking spot my heart raced to notice that my car was missing! My groggy brain processed all this and my first inclination was to call security and report that my car was stolen! Then the brain fog slowly lifted as I realized that I had transferred to another airline to outsmart the weather and all the cancelled flights. That airline was in one of the other duplicate terminals! I boarded a transfer bus and drove home.

A few years later and a few brain cells shorter, I pulled into the parking lot of a local restaurant with out-of-town guests late in the evening. We luckily found one of the last parking spaces and got all the doors unlocked and everyone exited out of the tight spot. As we were enjoying a nice bottle of Merlot with dinner, the manager stopped by our table and asked if we were driving a Buick? Perhaps my thinning white hair prompted the question, but we responded that we were not. In passing, she remarked that someone would possibly be out of gas when they returned since the engine was running with the keys in the car. We laughed and laughed. And only until we returned to the parking lot did we discover that my car was still quietly running!

Finally, I recently made the decision to buy a larger smart TV for my man cave to watch sports events including the impending Super Bowl. So, I did my Internet research and settled on a deal at Costco. I arranged for a friend with a pickup to meet me outside the store to cart it home. We made the connection and decided to have lunch at a nearby Panera. The conversation turned to the new Calloway Epic driver, so we made our way across the vast parking lot to Golf Galaxy for a test drive. By this time, it was getting late but we finally got the new TV installed. As I emerged into my garage the next morning, I was surprised to find that I must have left my car in the driveway overnight as I have done on occasion. But when I opened the garage door, it was missing from my driveway as well! My immediate reaction was that my car had been stolen! And then I realized that we had left it in the Costco parking lot all night.

Welcome to the Golden Years!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RESUME & EULOGY VIRTUES


Line of Good & Evil, Internet Domain

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has noted that the two accounts of creation in the book of Genesis represents the two opposing sides of our nature, which he labeled Adam I and Adam II. In the introduction to his book on character, David Brooks writes about the resume virtues of Adam I and the eulogy virtues of Adam II. In our initial struggle to survive in a very competitive material world we need our tool kit loaded with career-oriented and ambitious virtues that enable us to achieve success. We strive for victories and status as we build, create, produce, and discover. We list these attributes on our resumes and use these external achievements to support ourselves and our families. Our culture celebrates the Adam I side of our nature. The internal Adam II embodies aspects of our moral character. It’s these virtues that reveal themselves in our ability to love and connect with others. These are generally the attributes of living a moral life of faith in a greater authority and respecting our fellow journeymen which are extolled in the eulogies at our passing. This is the language of our life that people observe and choose to follow, as we have observed others that have gone before us.

As we age, we realize the importance of achieving a better balance in striving for more of a life of significance. Balance in life is good. We seek a life that acquires more meaning than money, status, or applause. We are interested in serving a higher purpose rather than our own selfish desires. As we pass through the storms of life we begin to understand that every experience of both joy and pain is never lost on those that have learned to profit from the experience. Brooks writes that “these are the people who have built a strong inner character, who have achieved a certain depth. In these people, at the end of this struggle, the climb to success has surrendered to the struggle to deepen the soul.”

Brooks concludes that people of character have generally solved life’s essential problem by using one of my favorite quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

CRUCIBLE CHARACTER MOMENTS



Potter's Kiln, Seagrove, NC
Radiant Crucible, Wrightsville Beach, NC


All of us are subject to the crucible of life at times which forms our character like a blacksmith’s crucible shapes and hardens iron to steel. The extreme heat of a potter's kiln transforms malleable clay into strong vessels. Some call this maturity. David Brooks writes in The Road to Character that there is one pattern that recurs on this road for people; “They had to go down to go up. They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb to the heights of character. The road to character often involves moments of moral crisis, confrontation, and recovery. When they were in a crucible moment, they suddenly had a greater ability to see their own nature. The everyday self-deceptions and illusions of self-mastery were shattered. They had to humble themselves in self-awareness if they had any hope of rising up transformed. Alice had to be small to enter Wonderland.”

I’ve also talked to people who have turned from praying to our creator because their requests never materialized. But we must be careful about our attitude of prayer. Not everything we ask for is provided or arrives on our time schedule. Asking to violate the natural laws of nature that God set in place or violating someone else’s free will doesn’t work either. And I’ve always liked the thought that we shouldn’t ask for an easy life, but rather a strong character.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

LIVIN’ THE DREAM


Beach Holiday, Kiawah Island, SC

The Transmission of Generations

We had just been seated at a nice island restaurant along the Atlantic intracoastal waterway as a young man approached announcing that he would be our waiter for the evening. We were all in a holiday mood and after spending our day on the beach destressing, reading, and walking with the waves we were ready to cap off the day with a cocktail and dinner. I casually asked our waiter how it was going? Without hesitation, he smiled and much to our delight replied, “I’m livin’ the dream!” But whose dream?

In his book on The Road to Character, David Brooks writes “Some people seem to have been born into this world with a sense of indebtedness for the blessing of being alive. They are aware of the “transmission of generations”, what has been left to them by those who came before, their indebtedness to their ancestors, their obligations to a set of moral responsibilities that stretch across time.”

Despite all this country’s warts and troubles, I was among the lucky five percent or so of the world’s population to be born in America. Regardless of our circumstances, that endows all of us with a privilege and a responsibility for those we share this marvelous planet with every waking day. I have never known extended hunger and I have always had a warm bed to sleep in at night, except for those dubious adventures in the great outdoors. I arrived here strictly by the grace of God and the sacrifice of my great grandparents who journeyed here on those same Atlantic waves that I've wandered into on many occasions.

I have no doubt that those folks who shared much of my DNA did not have nearly the good life I’ve been blessed with so far. Their hard lives were probably the exact antithesis of mine. But I believe they had faith and a dream for a better life for their children and their children’s children. That would be me and now I’m living that dream, so I need to honor the “transmission of generations” that got me to this place and time. And invest in “paying it forward” for others, like my great grandparents did for me.