Thursday, June 21, 2018

EXPANDING BOUNDARIES

Youth Bike, Jamestown, NC

Passing through the neighborhood this morning on my way home from the gym, I noticed a youth bicycle that had been painted Carolina blue and parked against a tree as a yard decoration.  I had just been driving for a few miles in the latest of a long line of carefully selected automobiles representing my lifetime romance with the road less traveled.  Leaving the sanctuary of my home block was never in my thoughts this morning or any morning in recent memory.  I ventured out with no compunctions of crossing streets or staying within designated boundaries.

But the sight of that bicycle resurrected long-lost memories that flooded back into my thoughts.  I remembered the idyllic summer days of my childhood when I rode my first bicycle in endless circles around our city block.  I was under strict orders not to cross the street and venture out into traffic or suffer unknowable consequences that would not be pleasant.  So, I pedaled around the cracked sidewalks with increasing speed and agility to test my wings for the great escape!

And that momentous day arrived when my mother finally gave me permission to venture off the concrete sidewalks and across the forbidden asphalt street to visit a neighborhood friend from school, provided I stop and look both ways before proceeding.  From that day on my clipped wings began extending exponentially and before long I was riding with friends further out beyond the invisible boundaries of the world around me.  We eventually crossed one of the main thoroughfares not too far from home and explored the nearby college campus with its wide sidewalks, stadium track and scenic bridge over the local lake.

Later in life, I graduated from college and drove my first new car to the big city in search of a career job and adventure.  That experience then led to my first jet plane trip out of state to Chicago for a business meeting which pushed the boundaries even farther.  Those trips led to changing employers and opportunities to travel out of the country where people no longer spoke my language and considered me the foreigner.

My world has admittedly retreated somewhat these days even though I still enjoy travelling for pleasure and strictly avoiding those 6:00 am redeye flights.  I no longer ride a bicycle for safety’s sake.  But I still enjoy diverting my drive home many times and simply circle the neighborhood for old time’s sake.  And now that I think about it, I was also expanding a multitude of life boundaries while I was forever pushing those boundless physical boundaries!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

TIME ENOUGH

Early Morning Summer Day Lily, Jamestown, NC

A Day Lily has only one good day to shine,
but that is time enough.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

MISCUES


This morning I accompanied a tournament threesome of American Junior Golf Association players as their scorer using an iPhone app. The world is in good hands with young men like those three from Texas, California and Portugal. They’re obviously still learning the mechanics and head game, but their game has already surpassed mine that has matured over five times the years that they’ve been alive!  They are very focused, driven to succeed and have a low tolerance for mistakes even though those are inevitable in life as we grow.  I found it interesting to reference that "a miscue in billiards and other games results in a failure to strike the ball or shot properly".  I’ve had a lot of miscues in billiards as well as golf over the years.  I mentioned to one of the walking fathers that Tiger Wood’s father wrote in his book about Training a Tiger that he instructed him to take ten steps every time he had a miscue before he did anything else to calm his mind and put it aside in preparation for the next shot.

We talked at lunch that miscues are part of the learning process and an indication that we’re expanding our present boundaries. Each one can be turned into a positive learning experience and we’ll never lose if we remember not to lose the lesson.

And golf imitates life.  I’m still learning and taking ten steps every day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

POSSESSIONS, TIME AND TREASURES


Storage Units, Jamestown, NC

A house is a pile of stuff with a roof over it.  A home is where love abides.  I recently drove past a cluster of storage units and it reminded me of renting one of these units when we were transferred to North Carolina.  Our Kansas City house like many others had a full storage basement which was touted by the builder as the best square footage value in the world.  I guess that would be true if it was put to good use, but we like so many ended up using the space to slowly and steadily store all manner of unused possessions.  We had moved my wife’s mother into an assisted living unit by this time and our basement cache included all those sentimental items of value that she no longer needed.  As life played out, neither did we.  Folks say that many times a job expands into the time available.  It turns out that also applies to the material things we possess which expand into the space that’s available.

Needless to say, when we arrived in a state where basements were not practical, the first thing we had to do was find extra storage room.  We soon found that we actually had no need for all these possessions after moving them across the country and paying to store them.  So, we began giving them away to local charities for someone who could actually use them.  In retrospect, we were paying to keep possessions that we had no need for anymore!  That’s approaching one of the definitions of insanity, which is what Jesus was referring to in his parable of the rich fool. 

Jesus taught about the man who had not learned the life lesson that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. When the country gentleman had a bumper crop, his only thought was how to keep his hold on it instead of sharing his great blessing with those in need. So, he tore down his barns and built bigger barns to hold the great harvest. His plan was to lay back, eat, drink and be merry. But that night his life was demanded of him. What a sad legacy. His great harvest was left for his heirs to divide and his legacy was that of greed and gathering for himself instead of gratitude and gracious sharing with others.

Luke also records a chance meeting between Jesus and a rich young man who had followed all the commandments and wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus knew his heart and instructed him to sell all his possessions, give to the poor to store treasure in heaven and follow him.  The young man went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Folks don’t need to take this lesson literally and sell everything, but possessions were obviously a first priority and had morphed into a game changer.  Jesus taught people to store their treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  And as with possessions, where you spend most of your time is that which you treasure most.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Monday, May 14, 2018

THE GIFTS OF PAIN AND FEAR



A New Day, Kiawah Island, SC


Worry, Anxiety, Courage and Hope

Pain and fear are great gifts from God that none of us want and none of us can live without.  We all go through seasons of worry and anxiety because of the nature of the broken world we live in and the function of the early development deep within our brain that alerts us to danger for survival.  When I first read about the “gift of pain” in a Philip Yancey book, I was incredulous that pain would even be considered as a gift.  But on further examination it became apparent that without the sensations of pain that are transmitted to our brains we are subject to all manner of life threatening injuries.  Sadly, the many instances that result in the loss of limbs in lepers is not the direct result of this terrible disease, but the loss of feeling on nerve endings which leprosy destroys.  This lack of pain sensations results in a person not alerted to a severe cut or infection that soon can cause the loss of a limb.

The amygdala area of our brain provides us such critical functions as automatic breathing and the “gift of fear”.  Once Again, calling the very real experience of fear a gift seems to be a big stretch!  But we’re a direct product of the DNA of our very early ancestors that were primitive survivors of all manner of threats to their lives such as volcanic eruptions and attacks from saber tooth tigers!  Today we have weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, plagues and many other new threats to our existence.  The red flag of fear results in the automatic response of fight, flight or freeze!  Even today this response can save our lives, but if the response begins to recycle in our head it can also quickly get out of control.

Adam Hamilton in his book on Unafraid offers an acronym to combat our fears:

·         Face your fears with faith.  (Scripture can be helpful)
·         Examine your assumptions in light of the facts.  (Don’t rely on a runaway imagination)
·         Attack your anxieties with action.  (Therapy can be helpful)
·         Release your cares to God.  (Turn over those things totally out of your control)
·          
The instruction “Do not be afraid” in one form or another appears over 140 times in scripture.  That teaches us that fear like pain is ageless but faith can help us find peace.  Many heroes have stated that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather moving through our fear in spite of it.  My physical therapist helping me recover from a total knee replacement advised me to consider pain as “weakness leaving my body”. 

One of my favorite quotes from Mary Anne Radmacher is that “Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”  Biblical scripture offers us both courage and hope and my favorite quote comes from Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-7); “The Lord is near.  Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”

Monday, May 7, 2018

SOUVENIRS

Shell Souvenirs, Kiawah Island, SC


I bet that you, like me, have collected more than a few souvenirs of our trips around the sun in our lifetime!  These tokens of remembrance are objects we acquire for the memories we associate with them.  Scholars have broadly classified souvenirs as markers of locations, pictorial images and symbolic natural items or mass-produced objects that can probably be purchased on-line at home.

I certainly like to take interesting and unique photographs of the world I’m traveling through at the time, both to record the journey and also to sharpen my focus on the place in time itself.  For instance, if I’m able to photograph a masterpiece painting, I will focus on only one section that catches my eye.  Some folks wouldn’t ever recognize that it was taken from such a recognizable work of art.  On trips into nature, I might gather up a small rock or shell as a remembrance.  Vandalizing an area is sadly all too common.  I remember walking up the Washington monument in DC and noticing all the remains of objects that had been torn from niches in the walls.  And watching a family encourage their child to pick colorful wild flowers close to a sign that read, “Take only memories, leave only footsteps” on a trail in a national park. 

But it isn’t just material things that we collect on our trips around the sun.  In the final analysis, it’s the relationships and lasting memories of good times that sustain us.  Unlike material souvenirs, these keepsakes do not change in importance over time.  They help to shape our character and their significance is priceless.  And only we can relate those souvenirs which we have retained in our possession over the years to our own personal experiences and the people we shared them with on our trips around the sun. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

SIMPLE PLEASURES


Elaine's Coffee Call, Chicago, IL
           
Once I had posted my essay on The Indulgence of a Rainy Morning, it occurred to me that I had written other posts on the simple pleasures of life.  So, I searched my blog on observations and highlighted others that involved simple pleasures.  Then I just finished converting these posts into both an electronic and bound book on the subject.

Psychology Today defines simple pleasures as “experiences that are brief, positive, emerge in everyday settings, and are accessible to most people at little or no cost. They are highly personal, meaning what is a simple pleasure for you may not be a simple pleasure for others.”  The researchers found that folks who have a better awareness of these moments are able to make steady progress on their daily goals by checkmating daily hassles with these positive, uplifting feelings.


It's not always the big changes in life such as a new house or car that have a positive impact on our lives.  Simple pleasures give us the happiness, energy and perspective we need to carry on and accomplish the difficult but important issues in life.  

It turns out to be a neat exercise for everyone—try it!

Here’s a short list representing some of the simple pleasure posts in my blog:

·          Rainy mornings
·         A child’s view of the world
·         Mountain vistas and nature sounds
·         Walking the beach
·         A full moonrise
·         Sacred quiet places
·         Colorful tree cathedrals
·         People watching
·         Walking a dog
·         Morning coffee
·         Catching fireflies
·         Playing catch
·         Watching the season’s change
·         Sitting on a porch with friends and relatives
·         Viewing and smelling a flower bloom