Tuesday, September 30, 2014

THE DINER


Fifties Diner, Leawood, KS

The young professional couple sitting across from one another in the diner’s back booth had risen every day before sunrise that week. Their work lives were on a fast track containing employee management, deadlines, performance reviews, presentations to executives and customers at all levels, travel around the country, endless late afternoon meetings, meals on the run, technical computer analysis and research, etc. They had both worked late today and had coordinated via their smart phones to meet for a quick dinner before separately driving home to remotely wrap up their work week. Their order had just arrived at their table and they were silently consuming it so that they could move on to other more pressing priorities.

The nicely dressed older couple across the aisle at the diner was sitting together in their booth and moving in quite the opposite direction and at a far less frenetic pace. In fact they had arrived thirty minutes ago and were still far from finished with their meal. The husband liked to bring his wife to this fifties diner in hopes that the brightly lit juke box and black and white floor tiles would resurrect old memories of another time far, far away. He had been a successful businessman in the area for decades. But now he devoted his entire life to caring for his wife that had stood beside him for all those years before the Alzheimer’s diagnosis months earlier. Yes, he had the means to pay for full time care and he did have a housekeeper assist with their home maintenance. His one indulgence was a weekly tee time to play golf with his nephew and a couple of his friends who made certain that this break would be cathartic. They didn’t usually play from the senior tees, but that was understood when he joined their foursome.

The young couple happened to notice the patient, caring and loving way the older gentleman was assisting his wife with her dinner. Few words were spoken by them as well, but the “language of their lives” spoke volumes. It opened the eyes of their hearts to the reality of their relationship and the model they were observing. They paused their life and quietly discussed what they wanted for themselves as well. Then they exited the booth, settled up with the cashier and left the diner.

The senior couple also slowly exited their booth twenty minutes later and the husband asked their waitress for a check. The waitress then told him that a young couple had already paid it. When he incredulously asked why, the cashier said that they had observed the two of them having dinner together. They just wanted to pay it forward and let them know that their "sincere wish was to be blessed to have attained a similar relationship when they hopefully reached their age".

Post Script: A true story related in an e-mail by an old golfing friend who had invited me to join him and his uncle a few years ago for a friendly game of golf played from the senior tees. I filled in the blanks.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

AFTER THE RAIN


After the Rain, Jamestown, NC

An early fall overnight rain renews the land that has been in full production throughout the summer. New life that has been struggling to gather strength is suddenly given a rush of energy and life giving fluids. Wilted leaves suddenly regain their vigor and form as all of nature rejoices in the reinforcement for one final act before withdrawing as the season transitions.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I AM


I Am Sunrise, Kiawah Island, SC

In the third chapter of the book of Exodus, God captures Moses’ attention by speaking to him from a non-consuming burning bush. When he directs Moses to free the Israelites from their captors in Egypt, Moses wants to know the name of the god who is sending him, as the Egyptians had many gods by many names in those days. He responds by telling Moses that “I am who I am”, meaning that he is the one powerful, eternal and unchanging God.

It’s been stated that “I am” are two of the most powerful words in the human language. Our Creator used them to describe himself and whatever we choose to add after these two words becomes our reality. The first thing we usually ask when meeting someone is what’s your name and where do you live? Work in our society is central to our status, economic well-being and our identity. Consequently, we often respond to who we are by telling someone what we do for a living. That becomes problematic once we retire.

When I began contemplating retirement, I was given some good advice up front. I was reminded that many of us who have spent our entire careers in a particular profession and possibly a limited number of companies need to be aware of losing our identity. If we haven’t prepared to transition from a life of success into a life of significance and have already began the process to other volunteer and meaningful activities, we are flying headlong into an identity crisis. Today’s future professionals should have no problem with this as it’s been predicted that many of the jobs waiting for them haven’t even been created yet. And they will have multiple careers in their lifetime as the pace of change continues to accelerate.

God has never encountered such a crisis as He is timeless and unchanging. He is the great I Am. And His work to redeem the human race would seem to be secure.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

ISLAND BUTTERFLY


Kiawah Spirit, Kiawah Island, SC


What if a woman dreams she is a butterfly?

What if a butterfly dreams she is a woman?

Are you the dream or the dreamer?

Are butterflies real or imagined?

Mortals or spirits?

If an angel can assume the appearance of a human being,

Why not that of a butterfly?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

GROUND ZERO 2004


Ground Zero, New York, NY

I took this photo ten years ago at ground zero in New York City. Three years after radical terrorists flew into the twin World Trade Towers the area had been reduced to a gigantic hole in the ground with a lone cross fashioned out of twisted structural steel rising out of the ashes. The cab driver that took us there solemnly mentioned that she will forever hear the pings of the perished first responders’ locators that were hopelessly sounding for days afterwards. May the 3,000 innocent souls that perished on that September day in 2001 rest in peace. God must be continually asking, “When will they ever learn”?

CARRY ON


Southern Sunrise, Kiawah Island, SC

Loved ones who go before us are forever woven into the fabric of our being and forever influence who we are and how we carry on.

Of course we never forget and we are forever changed. We rebuild and are whole again but never the same. We wouldn’t expect nor want to be the same.

When life turns surreal, it's one foot ahead of the other, one day at a time, trusting in the providence of a greater power.

Monday, September 8, 2014

MILESTONES


Spartan Name Tag, Emporia, KS

Four years ago a friend suggested that I begin a blog based on e-mails that I had been sending to a short mailing list. So I decided to begin one using both photo images and short texts to describe select observations that crossed my path. This posting marks the five hundredth which I consider to be a milestone on a journey that has led me in all sorts of directions and tens of thousands of page views from all over the world.

The accompanying photo actually marks two milestones in my life. The image is a copy from my senior high yearbook. It’s fixed on a silhouette of our Spartan mascot which our class has used as name tags at all of our milestone reunions. Each of these subsequent gatherings has given us all pause to mark yet another milestone as our lives continue to unfold.

Milestones literally had their origins as stone markers that were placed along ancient roads such as the Roman Appian Way. They provided an important reference point along the road and some still exist to this day. We use milepost markers on our interstate highways to help travelers mark their progress to points of interest or to direct emergency workers to areas that need their attention.

As children, we achieved numerous developmental milestones in our growth towards adulthood. These individual successes such as understanding the word “no” and pointing to your toes, eyes and nose were celebrated by parents and tolerated by disinterested friends. One of my graduate studies involved learning techniques to develop project plans and identifying milestones along a critical path that were essential to managing resources and completion of activities. These key project milestones not only provided dates for compensation of deliverables but also trigger points to make critical decisions on the future direction of the project.

Research has shown that folks complete many of life’s major milestones before turning thirty such as graduations, marriage, children, military, launching careers, etc. But a well lived life is never finished with milestones and we should never be satisfied with making the last one the final one on the road less traveled.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

GOOD MORNING, GLORY


Morning Glory, Kiawah Island, SC

Sunrise over the Carolina sand dunes is greeted by the unfurling petals of a new born Morning Glory vine winding down towards the beach, reflecting the eternal beauty that sustains it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER


Bridge over Troubled Water, Kiawah Island, SC

I recently read a column written by Regina Brett with forty five life lessons she had penned on the occasion of her “odometer turning 90”. None of us has enough time in a lifetime to learn everything we need to know, but we can learn from the lessons learned by others that have gone before us. So I enjoy gleaning what insights and truths I can find in these musings, because they’re like pebbles in the good road of life that help us keep our footing. And really, many problems are simply well disguised opportunities! To paraphrase Kipling, if we can keep our head while all about us are losing theirs, we’ll succeed in life and be able to press onward. Our attitude in approaching any problem is golden and even large issues can be broken down into their inevitable components to make them more manageable.

Dealing with life in general and the storms of life in particular are common realities for everyone. The column contained a handful of insights that I especially liked beginning with the observation that “Life isn’t fair, but it’s good”. Once we come to terms with this reality, life can definitely become more enjoyable. No one is being singled out for challenging problems. We all get our fair share, but I’ve learned that although we can’t always control these bumps in the road, we can control our response to them.

I’ve also considered many times that some folks simply seem to have a much easier path to travel in life than others. And I’ve learned that when someone attacks my credibility or cuts me off on an Interstate highway, my response should be measured. No one can take our self-confidence or self-control without our permission. Ms. Brett counsels that we shouldn’t compare our life to others or be too quick to judge because “You have no idea what their journey is all about”. When some erratic driver gives me grief out on the open road, I now give them all the room they need to drive ahead of me. You never know what’s going on in their head at the time. I’d rather have them in a position where they can be monitored versus in my rear view mirror. Which leads to one of my favorites, “If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back”! That’s probably more correct than we’d ever like to admit!

I’ve also used one of her reflective thoughts every so often that we should “Frame every so called disaster with these words, ‘In five years, will this matter’? And even more to the point, in fifty years who will really care? And every time we think that we’re being rejected, we may just be being redirected to something better!

Finally, one of my all-time favorite truths is that we can never cross the same river twice, for by then both the river and we have changed. Ms. Brett observes that “However good or bad a situation is, it will change”. The only constant in this world is change, so we might as well pull on our big boy or big girl pants and embrace it! She leaves us with the encouraging thought that “Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don’t worry, God never blinks”! And like a bridge over troubled waters, trusting in the ultimate love of our eternal Father will enable us to lie down in green pastures and give us peace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

TROPICAL JEWEL


Tropical Jewel, Kiawah Island, SC

Who says that a precious jewel has to be an inert rock anyway? I noticed this small tropical flower blossom on a vine tucked away in the undergrowth surrounding a beach access bridge. It was unassuming and almost shy in its demeanor. But closer inspection with the help of a zoom lens revealed a beauty that most assuredly had been overlooked by almost everyone that had passed this way.

The reward for being alert to anything unusual or unique is generally a photo or experience that would have otherwise been missed. Some folks might define this as serendipity. It reinforced a wise saying that I learned years ago that “we see in life what we look for in life”. And we must be doubly careful that we do our best to see around the biases and filters that we’ve acquired as we’ve experienced life. I’m certain that if I hadn’t been making a conscious effort to look for the potential beauty hidden in the unexceptional vegetation along my path, I would have missed one of our Creator’s most beautiful jewels.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WALKING THE BEACH


A Man and His Dog, Kiawah Island, SC

The game of golf has been characterized as a good walk spoiled. And those of us who have played the game can certainly relate, even though there are still many days when all the past grief can be instantaneously forgotten. For instance, when you approach a blind shot into the eighteenth green to discover your ball innocently lying within a foot of the hole. But I can never recall a spoiled walk along the beach.

I have a theory about what mysterious urge draws us to the relentless breaking waves along the shoreline of a sandy beach. After all, our initial nine months of life within our mother’s womb were filled with the comforting rhythm of her beating heart as the embryonic fluid transmitted every sound wave to our developing senses. The sound of the sea instinctively calms our spirit as we come into range of the beach. There’s no violent crashing of driven waves on rocky outcroppings along a serene sandy beach, only the bewitching Siren song that draws us into its spell.

Any time is a good time to walk the beach, but letting the cool ocean breezes at sunrise invigorate your early morning walk seems to be ideal. There are no obstructions like trees, mountains and skyscrapers to impede the new day’s brightening rays of light over the ocean. Morning’s first light arrives well before the big combustible globe makes its daily entrance on the eastern horizon. Ancient cultures like the Egyptians and Mayans literally worshiped the sun, as they were well aware that its light sustained all living organisms on the planet. Most of us humans experience mild bouts of depression if deprived of the sun’s rays for too many successive days. Then as the shining orb nears the horizon, the eastern sky begins to glow with pastels of gold and citron and crimson. If there are low level scattered clouds of vapor droplets on the horizon, they will serve to magnify and reflect and refract the new day’s sunbeams across the sky. Only after the support players have adequately prepared us for the main attraction will the star of the show begin to rise into our view and within minutes the grand entrance is complete. Once again we’ve unconsciously managed to adhere to our planet’s surface as Earth completes another daily spin around on its axis.

As I strolled the beach this Labor Day weekend, the experience once more doesn't disappoint. Walking the beach cleanses the soul and brightens the outlook. Renewed optimism arrives on every breaking wave. Small Morning Glory blooms open their petals on the surrounding sand dunes. Shell treasures that have been deposited by the receding tides are left as one-of-a-kind rewards for the early risers. The empty shell of a large sea crab lies motionless near the water’s edge. Sea birds launch into their daily migrations along the shoreline. A young man arrives with his faithful Labrador and best friend to splash in the water. Joggers and bicyclists enjoy the pristine air sans the pollution of their routine routes through busy urban streets. An elderly couple once more walks hand-in-hand, reliving an experience they’ve enjoyed together for over half a century. A young couple arrives with a baby stroller to begin a new day and a new life as a family. And all of us are connected by a common bond as we are drawn back to our beginnings in God’s eternal presence.