Friday, November 25, 2016

Walk Slowly Through Christmas

The words came to me this morning as I have been thinking about and mulling over the Christmas season.  I’ve read the lyrics to a dozen carols, I’ve revisited a hundred scriptural texts and read thoughts by other writers and this is what I’ve come up with.

Walk Slowly Through Christmas.  Walk very slowly, for if we rush, we might miss the cues, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the hints of God’s love story that is for all of mankind.  ALL mankind – Americans-white or black, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Greek, French, South African, German, Brit, Canadian, Russian, Latvian, and everybody else I’ve left out.  We are all included in this great story of love and redemption at Christmas.

Here is a sample of what I mean.

“Christ is reaching out to us today.  He is reaching through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching … longing to share with us … the very being of God.” 

This sounds as if it was written last week.  It was written in the seventies by Gloria Gaither, yet note the relevancy, the hope and the desire for today.” 

“From the azure halls of heaven to a lowly manger stall,
Jesus came, and here He gave His life for all”

There it is, in a Christmas song, the story of redemption, the story of hope and forgiveness.  That one could be easily missed.  Walk slowly. 

Remember this?
“The Word was made flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that is His as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth”

How about this?
“O come to my heart Lord Jesus.  
There is room in my heart for Thee”

And this:
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” The wise men weren’t just happy, mildly so.  They were exceedingly joyful.  They were jumping with joy.  When is the last time you let out exceeding great joy?  That must have been something to see. 

“Fear not!”  How many times in the Christmas portions of the scriptures do we read these words? 
Angel Gabriel to Mary
Angel to the shepherds on the hillside
Angel to Joseph to “be not afraid to take Mary as your wife”

One of the great messages of Christmas is this … Have No Fear!

I love this one …
“How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
the dear Christ enters in”

And this …
Cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today

Perhaps my favorite of all:
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to man

Take a slow stroll through Christmas this year.  Look for the old to become new, the tired and worn phrases that suddenly jump out with freshness, and listen with renewed ears to the songs of the season, both sacred and secular.  Hear the joy, the hope, the love and the optimism.

Merry Christmas!

Words of Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time

Thursday, November 17, 2016

One Man - One Voice

I am a writer.  I am not Thoreau, or Mark Twain, or James Patterson, but I am ME.  I have a voice, and I choose to express it in my own unique style. 

I like to sing.  I’m not one of the greats like Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli, but I can still sing.  I’ve even sung a few flat notes in my lifetime, yet sometimes people have stopped to listen.  My voice is unique to me and I sometimes choose to let it be heard. 

I took a drafting class in high-school and nearly flunked it.  I can’t design houses like Frank Lloyd Wright.  Shucks, I can’t even make a worthy paper airplane, but I am still somebody.  My skills lie in other areas, and I have worth and value. 

I love to speak.  My choice topics are hope, encouragement and inspiration.  I can’t speak like Billy Graham or other great orators, but I do have my own voice, my own style, and I sometimes have something to say.  I choose to speak words of help and hope, not hurt and harm.

I am an average looking guy.  I am thirty or so pounds overweight, I’m bald and eat with my elbows on the table sometimes.  But some still find me worthy enough to get to know on a personal level and call me ‘friend’.  I still have worth.

I play the drums.  I’ve dropped my drum sticks a few times, yet I can still play a creditable set of drums in the style of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.  I’m not as good as they were, but I can still play.

I sometimes direct choirs and orchestras.  On more than one occasion I have dropped my baton.  It even hit a viola player once, and he forgave me.  I can still direct and at times in the score you’ll hear some lovely musical moments.  Just because I have dropped my baton-I’m still okay.

I have voted in elections since I reached voting age.  My favored candidate hasn’t always won, but I’ve cast my vote nevertheless.  That is my right and privilege.  Even when my candidate was not the winner I have accepted the results, and life goes on.

We each are given opportunities to go and try and see what we can become, see where our voice is heard and accepted.  And if it is, well and good.  And if it is not … then we accept the rules in play.  Just because we have done some good in the past, or have had failures and disappointments, we are still okay, and the world will go on.  We trust wiser minds than ours, and we trust a God who is bigger than all of these circumstances we face. 

You see, I have one voice.  My voice has spoken down through all the years of my living.  That is my privilege and my responsibility.  And as a children’s song once said “My rights end at the tip of your nose”.

It is enough that I have one voice and have expressed it.

I am one man with one voice. 

That is all!

Words of Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Flunked Snorkeling

We are in Kona, Hawaii as I write this, and this memory is fresh in my mind. 

Carolyn and I have planned this trip for several months and in our planning and dreaming one of the activities she always mentioned is that she wanted us to go snorkeling.  I agreed all those months ago, but in the pit of my stomach I had a fear and a dread of that activity ever happening. 

We arrived in Kona on a Saturday and settled into a good easy vacation pace.  Nothing more was said of us going snorkeling until Wednesday.  When asked if I would go of course I said “yes”. 

On Wednesday afternoon we went out and bought our tickets and made our plans.

Thursday came and I was feeling pretty good about this outing after all.  We boarded the boat with about thirty other eager snorkelers and away we went.

The trip out to Captain Cook’s Cove took about an hour and it was a lovely boat ride.  Of course it was lovely – this is Hawaii.

We rounded the bend to the cove and the captain slowed down to a crawl allowing the boat to slowly move into position.  We went through the orientation, they passed out the flippers and other gear and we got all gathered up for this adventure. 

I opted for the view box, which meant I had flippers, an inner-tube and a box with a large viewing window on the bottom affording me a magnificent view of the sea life. 

We were some of the last ones off the boat and into the water.  I put the inner-tube around my waist, gently climbed down the stairs.  All the time I’m thinking “I want to do this.  Can I do this?  I sort of think I can do this.  Will this tube hold me up?”

Just before I pushed off from the boat, I asked the crew member if he was sure this tube would hold me up.

He assured me it would, so I gently pushed off.  His parting words to me were “Make sure and lean forward over the leading edge of the tube.”  I thought – sure, no problem.

And I did. 

I got my first glimpse of the world alive just fifteen feet below me in the sea and for a few minutes I managed. 

I’m not sure what happened next.  I felt my feet start to sink.  I couldn’t seem to move in any direction except I felt I was sinking down.  I was in panic mode and I couldn’t do anything right to correct my posture.

Thankfully Carolyn was nearby and I said to her “I have to get out of here.  I feel like I’m drowning.”  She held onto me as I finally managed the turn around and headed back to the boat which was fifteen feet away

My incredible wife – love her to death – was all encouragement and concern.  When I managed to grab onto the boat with her by my side, I felt immense relief and a good amount of shame.

Yes - shame. 

Here I was – a sixty-seven-year-old man who is constantly encouraging others to go and be and do, face danger, try for your goals, and I failed at this thing called snorkeling. 

I wanted Carolyn to have her bucket-list opportunity and immediately told her to go ahead.  I was fine now that I was on board, and with a brief moment of concern she swam away, knowing I was safely on board. 

She had the time of her life and we have the pictures to prove it.  I enjoyed her enjoyment of living into her bucket-list dream. 

And now, two days later – I’m still mulling over what happened to me in that moment. 

I felt fear.
I felt panic.
I felt out of control.

Later, in conversation, Carolyn helped me put some of this into perspective by my acknowledging to myself what I needed to do to feel safe. 

I’m still trying to come to full grips with that – but I think she is right.  For that moment in time I was not up to this adventure. 

However, I had the good sense to realize it and then make the necessary corrections to get back to a safe place.

Wow!  I think in some large way that is a huge concept.  Life can scare us; certain opportunities can scare us.  I think this – if I could have been in a less threatening space where I could feel the security of the solid sand under my feet when needed it would have helped. 

Translation – we attempt the bigger adventures in increments.  I think I bit off more than I was prepared for on Thursday.  My steps were too large.  I needed a smaller step.  Can you relate? 

Here is the main point ...

I failed to successfully snorkel on Thursday. 

However, I am not a failure.

Words of Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time