Jazz and grandchildren



I’m a sixty-eight-year-old man, who loves calm. One of the things I’ve told Chris is that I must go someplace where there’s ocean and beach at least every two years. (Chris, formally Christene, spelled with one “I”, is my wife, whom I will informally refer to from time to time from this point forward.) Although I love my home state of Arkansas, being land locked has some disadvantages. There’s just something about ocean breezes, waves lapping against the shore and dodging the poop of sea birds floating down from above that’s soothing.

Man, do I love calm! Then came this afternoon. Chris, with my unnecessary consent, accepted a request from our son to babysit two of his offspring for a couple of months. How could I not consent? Millennials are having a hard time making ends meet these days. I come from a generation where keeping the grandkids mean watching them occasionally to allow their parents time for a date night. We all know that a few hours now and then are enough time to spoil those little darlings something terrible.

Then came this afternoon. Chris had to visit her hair dressers. I know that the place women go to have their hair reshaped operates on a different representation of time than men can comprehend. Two hours regular time equals a half a day or more. The little darlings are supposed to touch down at our house this afternoon to do what they do best, wear papa out. I honestly feel that they come, see and conquer, laying waste to their grandparents abode. After they leave, there’s a need to do spot-house cleaning. Sippy cups just don’t seem to hold their contents very well while a two-year-old maneuvers around furniture, in and out of nooks and crannies on a foot-powered vehicle Fred Flintstone would love.

While Chris was at the hair dressers, the little grand darlings arrived. The doorbell rang, rang again and again. My two-year old grandson is evidently destined to be a doorbell tester when he grows up. The dog went crazy, rushing to the door to give her customary greeting. Neither my grandson or his two-teeth-at the-bottom sister were near needing a nap. Of course, I needed one. After all, that’s what sixty-eight-year-old men do right…watch TV, think about honey-do lists and nap?

One thing I always try to do is to make sure one of them is napping while the other one is actively exploring our home. This strategy didn’t work that well this afternoon. As I awkwardly tried to juggle fixing a bottle for the sister, figure out what the two-year-old was trying to say to me, and shoo the dog away as she tried to get me to play with one of her toys, I had an epiphany: PANDORA! These modern-day televisions have all kinds of stuff on them. I’m a lover of jazz, so I punched the on-demand button on the remote and scrolled to PANDORA. I’ve been listening to PANDORA on my iPhone for years. I have a jazz station already programmed.

grandpa ans screamig child

Then came this afternoon: grand darlings, Shih Tzu and jazz. Thank God for His unending ability to maintain my sustainability as a sixty-eight-year-old papa! I just love them grand darlings.! I love jazz, too. Oh, Chris came home later: Nice hair!

grandkids circle of love

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

If God had wanted us to…

clouds and light

It’s a waste of time. There’s nothing good that can come from using it. It will cause brain death. If God had wanted us to have it, He would have created it. Have you ever heard these phrases before? Even if you haven’t personally, you’ve probably heard about them, or read about them in some book somewhere.

History shows us that change; technological change is not always embraced wholeheartedly. When the horseless carriage was first introduced, there were people who didn’t want it. History tells us some of the reasons why: It spooked the horses sharing the road with them; It was noisy; It was more expensive than a horse and buggy; It would be too dangerous because there would be no horse to help the driver shape the path.

As far back as we can search, there have always been some people who have felt uncomfortable with new technologies. Believe it or not, the radio and the television had some harsh critics. Some complaints about them stemmed from the belief that their usage would hamper intellectual development. There might be some today who would feel comfortable holding onto that assertion.

I could conduct a historical survey to more factually represent how people have stood against technological change through the years; however, that’s not the point I want to make. I want to talk about Facebook and other social media in general. I find it confusing that there are people in my generation (Baby Boomers), who show little interest in Facebook. I often hear comments like: “I see no good use for that Facebook stuff”; That stuff takes too much time”; It’s too complicated”. Often, upon further examination, I find people who make such comments are indicting the technology because they see no utility in it. These are probably some of the same people who would have been against television, radio, the horseless carriage and other innovations that have proven themselves useful in making life more convenient.

One of the debates I hear often takes place in the church. The older, more conservative church members are often dead set against introducing new technologies in service to the Lord, while millennials are continually decreasing in numbers. There seems to be some notion that using new tools to spread the gospel will somehow diminish its integrity. I find that interesting, since the Holy Scriptures show plainly how Jesus used different approaches to share God’s message with everyone. The approach was different, while the message was the same. God’s love came through to whomever He encountered.

Think about this for a minute: A pencil is a computer. You use it to represent language in word form, draw images, as well as a host of other activities where chronicling data is necessary. Your laptop is used to accomplish the same things as a pencil. Of course, I’m not talking about all the storage capability, accessing the internet and other things that obviously a pencil can’t be used to accomplish, but the basics of the two technologies are there with both.

mel brooks

If you ever hear someone say, “If God had of wanted…”, you might want to ask them, “How do you know He didn’t?”

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

It’s inevitable, but we fight it anyway

tree of life

Having a life-threatening illness can provide insight into one of the most fascinating things about the human spirit. If you’ve read any of my stuff, you know I have Multiple Myeloma.  This piece isn’t going to be about me and my experiences with this insidious disease. It’s going to be about the observations I’ve had, and continue to have, about folks who have this disease.

Oh, let my go back to that most “fascinating thing” I just mentioned. The battle against death is that most fascinating thing. I am a member of several social media sites that share information and provide support to folks who have Multiple Myeloma. What I’ve discovered about many of the people who have membership in these sanctuaries of cyber space is their all-out fight against death. I can hear you saying now: What do you expect them to do? Who wants to die, especially from cancer or some other horrible disease? I can appreciate that sentiment. Before you indict me as being insensitive, please be mindful of the fact that I’m a warrior in this battle, too.

From the second we’re born, we embark on a journey. This journey takes all of us to one inevitable location. That location is when our corporal selves transition to something else. In my case, I believe we take up residence in Heaven or the alternative, hell. I’m not going to discuss the comparative theology of what happens to us once we die. I’m simply sharing what I believe. You may believe otherwise. If we’re all going to die anyway, isn’t it fascinating how much energy, time, effort, finances and other untold amounts of resources are expended on staying alive? I do believe staying alive is a good thing but read on.

I often read very sad stories of how Myeloma patients are suffering from symptoms brought on by this disease. The fear-laden signs of the battle against death are often laid out without the slightest cloak. This locomotive force drives them to seek the latest treatment, the newest clinical trial that might usher forward the gift of life toward a few more months or years. Recently, I read a question on a social media site that posed the question: What do you do when you go into relapse? Some responses seemed almost hopeless, not giving much thought to the fact that they were yet alive. Acknowledging the life yet present, compared to the threat of death from Myeloma, took a back seat. Shouldn’t life be celebrated, no matter that all the pistons in the engine that animates it aren’t hitting as well as they should? Isn’t life yet existing, a state of being deserving of some degree of homage to the One who gave it? Why worry about the inevitable that will come eventually to us all?

sitting on bay

The fight against death can sometimes prevent us from finding joy in living the life we’re given. In case you’re giving thought to “quality” (or poor quality) of life; that state of existence that makes it hard to find joy when pain and discomfort are in abundance, I believe one’s faith stance can play an important role here. I, again this is just me, have faith in a creator who gives life, loves life, loves me. He wants the best for me even when my temple is infested with auto immune activity that cares not for my continued existence in the least bit. It’s my belief that when the black-robed, sickle-carrying angel of death does come to extract me from this plain, my creator, my God will welcome me to a plain where death will have no power.

We’re all advancing toward the inevitable, but shouldn’t we try our best to enjoy (as best we can) the bird in hand that we’ve been blessed to have?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Joy, too often missing, but cherished when present

dog jumping

“Yesterday I spent the day with my adult son. Picking up parts for his truck, visiting a friend we haven’t seen for a while. Running a lot of back roads with directions written on a piece of cardboard, to find some stove pellets, our original mission. Brought some lunch home for mom, repaired his truck in time for dinner. I woke up thinking today is going to be a rough one, ended feeling good almost forgot about the MM.” These are the words of a fellow Multiple Myeloma warrior, Douglas Kohl, posted on Facebook.

I just got home from attending church this morning. I’m a Sunday school teacher and the topic for this morning was, “Good to Bad.” The text came from Philippians 1:12-21. In short, these verses capsulize the Apostle Paul’s attitude of positivity in his letter to the Philippian church. Paul is in prison when he writes this letter; however, he’s writing to his fellow believers in Philippi to let them know that he’s alright, despite his imprisonment. He’s experiencing the joy of being able to share the gospel message with his captors, Roman soldiers, who are keeping guard over him 24/7. The circumstances, from which Paul was suffering, had no appreciable effect on his calling and the joy it brought him to carry out that calling.

joy in journey

As a blogger, I try to be vigilant at observing things around me. It’s the joys, mercies, failures, blessings, victories and more introduced into our lives that provide fodder for my musings. Douglas Kohl’s words struck me as something worth including in a blog. I saw an enormous amount of joy in them, like what Paul was experiencing. Being a Multiple Myeloma survivor, I have tried to live my life to its fullest. In that same vein, Douglas’ words were very powerful in their simplicity. He arose one morning, not thinking it would be a good day; however, fate (for some), (God for others) would have it that he was blessed beyond what he could have imagined. Some people might think what was so awesome about the day he describes. I invite those folks to have a life-threatening union with Multiple Myeloma, you’ll understand.

Many of us are overly burden by ailments of some kind, physical emotional, psychosocial, etc. to the point that we’re incapable of enjoying something as simple as a good day. Whenever a good day does fall in our path, as it did with Douglas, we blessing counters can’t let the opportunity to make note pass.

Douglas, my friend, I’m glad you had this good day! I’m even more thankful that you took a moment to share your joy with me and others on social media. I pray these words of mine will help others see what I saw in them. God bless you, Douglas Kohl. We don’t know each other personally, but I think we do in spirit.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Political candidates and church

church and politicsChurch provides a fertile setting for observing human behavior. I don’t intend for that to indicate some judgmental revelation is about to be offered. No. I simply want to make an observation; one that caught me off guard at the time.

Any member of a predominantly African-American church, especially one of significant size, knows that during political campaign season, candidates for office frequent Sunday morning services. (Let me confess my ignorance here. This may also be true for other churches, too; however, I know little of those environments.) The church I attend, years ago, allowed candidates to speak, but now we only acknowledge their presence among the worshippers from the pulpit. That adjustment hasn’t seemed to dampened the questionable reason for seeing candidates in our midst when the campaigning has peaked. I honestly feel that all are welcome whenever our doors are opened, but I still can’t help but ask myself, “Who’s that well-dressed person and why are they here?” Although all are welcome, I also wonder why is that person, of a certain hue, with us this morning. Before services are over, their presence is made clear.

I also wonder if some of these vote chasing visitors check off their visit on a list of activities that must be completed, during the campaign season. If so, is there any earnest intention of doing anything further should victory on election day be eventual?

Recently, I witnessed something I had never seen before. There was a woman (of another hue) in our congregation, whom I thought I had seen before; however, I wasn’t sure. After the sermon had been delivered, and all felt they had been served up an elevating word from God, our pastor acknowledged the visitor’s presence. Her reason for being there was surprising. She had run a political race against one of our members, and she hadn’t been victorious. She was actually present to offer thanks for us allowing her to visit during the campaign, and for any support she might have received from among our congregation at the polls. Now, that’s a shocker, isn’t it? That kind of made me wonder if she would have been a mold-breaker had she won the election. Just when you think you’ve got them (of all hues) all figured out, one throws you an easily handled soft ball. If there are stranger things to have ever happened with political candidates, I’m pressed to remember any.

I must admit, I went home from church with a reinforcement of my belief, which has waned significantly recently, in the integrity of political candidates. That’s a good thing to experience from time to time, don’t you think so?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Why I Blog





Anybody ever tried their hand at writing, a short story, a book, poetry, a blog? Of course, you have. If you’re reading this, you are probably a writer, a writer-want-to-be, or someone with an itch to translate your thoughts to written words. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now; however, I’ve yet to consider myself a writer. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself as such. The thought of me writing the great novel has never graced my mind.

I think I can say, with some degree of certainty, that those of us who have decided to step out and expose a part of ourselves to the world, through writing, are some brave souls. So, you think there’s nothing brave about forming a few words to a computer screen, laboring over them to try to get them just right, and casting them to the winds of cyberspace for strangers to sift through? I remember when I posted my first blog. My nerves were a bit on edge. I was in hopes that the world would come to my cyber door, read a small part of me, and lavish me with accolades. No. I didn’t really feel that way. I pray that my ego is much smaller than that of a consummate narcissist. I did, however, feel that I was laying a part of me open for scrutiny. The kind of scrutiny that would move someone reading my musings to think I can identify with that, I can see where he’s coming from, and I think he might have something there.

As I’m quickly approaching the end of my sixth decade of life, I’m finding myself more motivated to share my thoughts. All my life, I’ve been somewhat of an introvert. Though not chronic to any degree, an introvert none the less. I’m one of those types, who invest a lot of time sitting quietly, listening intently, and speaking passionately about an issue whenever I do decide to speak my mind. In recent years, I’ve felt an increasing urge to write my thoughts down, and to share them. Blogging provides the perfect venue for me to scratch this itch; an itch fed by a desire to share my thoughts in hopes that they just might be of benefit to maybe a few people reading them.

I write because I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I write for all the reasons stated above. I write because I feel there’s someone dressed in a black robe, hooded similarly, and carrying a sickle, stealthy approaching me from behind. Not to be morbid, but I do feel my mortality with much more fidelity these days than ever before. There are a lot of things I want to say, and I have less time left to say them. I just pray that my God gives me many more days, months and years to share my thoughts. Sharing on these pages will by a part of my meager legacy.

Thank you for reading my musings!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A bankable promise vs. a temporary feeling

hands of blessings

I try to write something every day. That’s right, I try, but I’m not always successful. One thing this effort produces is several unfinished pieces. Lately, I’ve been looking back through my files, and I’ve been discovering some unfinished efforts. Here’s one (…changed a bit to reflect more accurate tense):

On Valentine’s Day, two years back, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner. The restaurant to which we went had nice ambiance, and the food was just as good. We enjoyed every bite, as we enjoyed each other’s company. Later that night, I started to feel bad (for lack of a more descriptive characterization). As the night wore on, symptoms started to accumulate: fever, nausea, diarrhea and more. Around two a.m., following Valentine’s Day, my temperature had risen to 103, and I felt as if I had been run over by a Mack Truck. Being the Multiple Myeloma patient that I am, we knew it was time to make a trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, the ER I go to is part of an academic medical complex that also houses the cancer treatment center where my oncology team resides.

I was hopeful that I would spend a few hours in the ER and be released to go home. This was hope against the reality I’ve experienced on more than one occasion. There is no way the ER staff, after consulting with Myeloma caretakers, would ever allow a Myeloma patient to return home, even if the symptoms were less severe than what I was experiencing. Compromised immune system, plus the symptoms I displayed make for a life-threatening scenario.

After being admitted to the hospital and connected to an IV, containing powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics, I finally dosed off to sleep. Of course, anyone who’s ever been in a hospital knows that peaceful sleep just doesn’t happen. Nurses and medical technicians are disturbing your slumber throughout the night to check vital signs and administer medication.

I ended up spending three days and three nights in the hospital, which were just long enough to find me skirting the depths of pity. During my stay, I found myself so tired that I didn’t even have the energy to eat. Standing, sitting and, of course, trying to walk around my room were pathetic attempts at displaying normal activity. For a short time, I felt so bad that I found myself telling God that if it was His will to lift my spirit on, that would be fine with me. Then, I remembered a promise contained in the Holy Scriptures from Matthew 28:20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

You might be wondering why I didn’t think of something more appropriate at the time, given the emotional and physical imbalances I was experiencing. I’ve learned to not question whatever the Holy Spirit brings to my mind, especially when He brings flashes of comforting light. Anyway, it was the latter part of the verse that resonated loudly with me. I realized that God had promised to be with me always, even during times such as what I was experiencing. I was not lone, and I had Him fighting this battle with me/for me. His promise was one I could take to the bank and there would be more than enough funds to cover my much-needed withdrawal. What I felt would soon be gone a few days later.

I’m old and blessed with the knowledge that God is carrying me through my life-threatening journey. I hope you will be blessed to have this confidence too, if not already.

Is service better than being served?

providing service

As I sat in church today, the first Sunday of this new year, observing the installation of new officers, I was drawn to the moniker they held: servant leader. Servant leader is the title given to those members of our congregation who are charged with setting the direction of auxiliary groups and committees, established to serve the congregants. This, of course, is done with focus on God and the evangelical calling for which the church is responsible.

Servant. That’s an interesting word and far beyond that, it’s a very powerful one. Think for a moment about the many people in society who have been appointed, elected, or risen to certain positions where the assumption is that they are to be servants. Politicians are elected to office with the promise they will work hard to serve the needs of their constituents. Doctors, nurses and all members of the medical community are in their roles with the clearly defined responsibility to meet the needs of their patients. Haven’t you visited a commercial establishment or made a phone call to a service center and received a warm greeting, “How may I serve you?”

The concept of, and the receipt of service, is something that makes all our hearts feel warm. It gives us the feeling that someone is interested in our welfare; that they aren’t in their position to benefit themselves first and us, if time permits.
One thing I told myself before I put the first word in a blog is that I would try to focus on the positive things of life on these pages. Unfortunately, the gray at the least and the dark at the most must be highlighted often, in order to see clearly what the “should-be” looks like. For example, do you feel at this moment that your government (of the United States) is concerned with providing you the best service? Don’t you honestly feel that the politicians, elected by you to serve you, should sort out a way to navigate pass the roadblock they can’t get around. Shouldn’t they have service to you in mind first when they are preparing to deal with any complex issue? Shouldn’t the health insurance industry be working hard to develop a model that would allow executives and stockholders opportunities to make decent profits, without financially scalping consumers? Shouldn’t parents view themselves as servants of their family units and not be so anxious to seek something more pleasurably self-serving?

providing service 2

Getting back to my cerebrally-charged moment while sitting in church, after the installation of officers, our pastor spoke on the issue of service. His presentation showed Jesus as a servant. He was the perfect example of what a servant should look like. Shortly before He went to the cross to make the ultimate sacrifice, He took a towel and a basin of water and washed the disciples’ feet. (John Chapter 13, verses 3-14 provide the context for this event.) God, in the person of Jesus Christ, demonstrated this attitude of service during His time on Earth. You, though you may not be a Christian, probably feel a calling to serve others for the betterment of society in general.

Is service better than being served? Ponder that for a little while and think how much better things would be for us all if we thought of others first, before ourselves.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Wouldn’t more grace be nice?




I read two very nice letters to the editor of my daily newspaper the other day. These were two letters that got me thinking about how civil society would be if people had the kinds of attitude, all the time, these writers exhibited.

One letter was from an older gentlemen, who noted his age as eighty-six. He felt compelled to tell the story of how a younger person had stepped forward to prevent him from suffering a potentially harmful fall on an escalator. The second letter was in the same vein, expressing gratitude from a woman who had received assistance from someone to help her change a flat tire.

One might think why someone would take the time to write a letter to the editor of a daily newspaper to express how grateful they are for acts of kindness shown by total strangers. Let me offer an answer. I think most of us are moved by displays of kindness, especially from strangers. In the examples I just gave, the lady even apologized for not getting the name of the person who had extended grace to her. As I read her letter, I couldn’t help but think whether the individual to whom she was expressing gratitude even read the paper. I’m sure that had very little influence on her writing a heartfelt note of public thanks.

In case you’re wondering why I am spending time bogging about this. Let me count a few reasons: 1) There just doesn’t seem to be enough displays of kindness anymore; 2) Most of us welcome a smile, the opening of a door by someone, especially someone we don’t know; 3) It makes us feel good when we genuinely show kindness, as well as when we receive it; 4) If there is a God in Heaven, and I believe there is, this is how He wants us to behave toward each other; 5) Displays of kindness and the reception of such are invaluable lessons we should be teaching our children. I could think of many more reasons; however, I think you get the point.

We live in a time when the paucity of displays of grace, kindness shown toward each other is woefully lacking. News reports of our political leaders behavior toward each other is something we don’t want our children to know about. It contradicts how the workings of government are ideally described in their civic lessons. A quick tour of social media shows how people express opinions about each other that they would probably dare not do face to face. Grace toward each other seems to be too high of a price to pay towards having a more civil society.

Wouldn’t more grace be a pleasant change? If it broke out all over, it would be a welcomed epidemic.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

god's grace