Mom's hands

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, May 12. As I found myself thinking about my mother, who moved on to be with her Lord and Savior July 5 of last year, I went looking for a note I wrote to her back in May 2015. Actually, the note was more to me, since she was well on her way into the deepest, darkest room Alzheimer’s could design for her. At the time I wrote this note, I was spending some precious time with her, giving my sister, the primary caretaker a much needed break.

This note, for some reason, has much more meaning for me now than when I wrote it. I hope you can appreciate the state I was experiencing mentally and emotionally at the time. Here it is:

Momma, as I look at you, I see a foggy image of what you were. At 84, you still possess the natural darkness of hair you had at 48. At 64, I somehow don’t view your years beyond me as old. Momma, I talk with you, but the memory from which you draw topics retrieves points of reference from many years gone by. As you talk about these memories, you paint them with colors as fresh as if they were applied fifteen minutes ago. While your memories of events from fifteen minutes ago are quickly etherealized. Momma, I find myself stretching to be patient and understanding of your lately acquired mental acumen. I listen to the same stories at intervals of minutes that are much too short. You must have done the same for me, in my youth, some time ago.

Momma, when I visit you, you take much more time to prepare yourself for a visit to the house of worship, the place where you still light up as if you were already in heaven. After you’ve cleaned yourself up well, you often consume a lot of time in a search for your purse. We often find it under your bed, where you have placed it for safe keeping, seemingly even from yourself.

Momma, you often get confused; you get angry; you accuse those who love you dearly of doing things we would never do. And then, on good days, the momma of times past surfaces to show love, support, understanding and compassion that we remember with great fondness.

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Momma, I love you just as you are, as you loved and still love us. Your memory has been realigned, but your heart for the last 64 years has been the best momma to me.

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

Faith: It’s a personal gift

Ebb and flow of faith

One of the things I hold dear to me is my faith. My faith is what exactly? For one thing, it’s based on a being far greater than I; one who’s described in ancient scripture as the creator of all that l can and cannot see. One, who if he decides to withdraw his support from holding all things together, the universe would cease to exist. I often think about this being, this entity that I can in no way truly fathom his state of being. I can only, through faith, believe that he exists, and that he has my best interest at heart. That’s the only way the existence of an all-powerful being can make any sense, to believe that he cares about me as if there was no one else on the planet. And, to believe that he loves everyone the same way.

I think sometimes that the sheer enormity of God’s being is too much for me to understand. In a strange way, it has becomes routinized. I get up each morning without concern for another twenty-four-hour solar cycle, and all the other physical occurrences that mechanically function with the precision that supersedes the workings of the finest Swiss watch. Being a member of a faith community, I often hear what I call “faith speak”: God is good and good all the time; Give God what’s right… not what’s left; A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing; He who kneels before God can stand before anyone; In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma, but never let him be the period… Those of us who have been a part of the faith community for some time, have become accustomed to hearing saying like these. They’ve become platitudes of sort, intended to project the depth and width of our faith. However, we hear them so often until they have become platitudinous, seemingly holding insufficient reverence for the celestial landlord of the little blue dot which we occupy. These sayings, oftentimes, seem no weightier than, “have a good day.”

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I often find myself in awe of the one I pay homage to for his work as creator/sustainer. I can’t always find the right words to communicate during personal prayer and meditation. Of course, scripture tells me that I need not worry during these times, because there is a spiritual connection that ensures my true thoughts and feelings are made known, whether I know how to say them or not. It’s that dynamic that makes it clear to me that my faith is more than platitudes. I can’t sum it up in little sayings intended to be truly heartfelt expressions of faith, but somehow sound like factory produced mantras for the masses, who lack appropriate words of their own, as do I.

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My faith is indeed more than platitudes, more than what others might want to offer as a definition for it. It was authored by God and given to me. He has honored me with exercising stewardship of it. I’m not always a good steward of it. I can’t seem to keep in a state continuous linear projection. My faith ebbs and flows; however, it’s mine, given to me by God, and I thank him for it.

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

The world continues in agony

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This morning, April 21, 2019 is Easter Sunday, according to most of the Christian world. As I leave home this beautiful morning for church, I hear a story on National Public Radio which has become so ordinary on the surface. (I hesitate to use the term ordinary, because of the loss of human life in large numbers; however, the slaughter of people does seem to solicit no more than an objective mention in news reports these days.) And the public response to these kinds of stories is no more or less matter-of-fact. But there is something significantly different about this story. The story is about some terrorist acts in Sri Lanka, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of individuals. Furthermore, the attacks seem to have been targeted at Christians. Easter, is the day of the year when Christians, are joyful, thankful and moved to glorify Jesus. It’s a day when life anew is celebrated. There is no room for the senseless death of any, especially Christians who have gathered in the spirit of praise and worship.

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The stark irony of listening, on my way to church on Easter Sunday, to a story about the slaughter of Christians in Sri Lanka made it clear to me that inhumanity has no compassion, no sympathy, no shame. It takes shape wherever and whenever it desires. It cares little for the sanctity of human life and the idea that love, if given a chance would prove to conquer evil. The holy scriptures tell us the God has no favoritism, and that He loves the world (the people who populate it) so much that He gave up His Son for a sacrifice. Inhumanity, on the other hand, selectively reigns its horror on those who for some reason are deemed not worthy of life and joy. The sick irony of people losing their lives, in church on Easter Sunday, celebrating God’s victory over death is too tragic to ignore. It warrants more than a mere objectification by a news outlet.

The world aches, groans and contorts in agony as it suffers one calamity after another. Sure, there are earth quakes, massive fires caused by natural occurrences, and many other forms of destruction for which we have no control. However, whenever hate prompts one human, or a group of humans to wantonly take the life or lives of another or a group, it is an act for which control can be exercised. As I look at history, I often wonder why we haven’t erased ourselves off the surface of the planet. Then, I realize the grace of God is real, and it reigns supremely, providing providential protection over all.

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The world continues in agony, a symptomatic state brought on too frequently by inhumanity. But, by the grace of God it continues.

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

No, you didn’t do it by yourself

help upward 1

I often wonder, whenever I see people who have attained a significant of amount of success, just how much help they had along the way. From a purely existential perspective, God was certainly involved in the mix. They wouldn’t be here to play the music, sing the song, perform the life-saving surgery without the souls of others being invested in their journey of accomplishment. After being a cancer survivor for over nineteen years, since diagnosis, the reality of all of us being the total of all our experiences to this point is a reality of which I’m keenly aware.

It’s confusing to me to hear anyone tout their accomplishments as if they were developed in a self-constructed vacuum. As brilliant or average as anyone may be, none of us can say unequivocally that we did it on our own. I recall one of my graduate school professors telling a story of a college professor, who routinely ignored and devalued the custodial staff in his department. One evening, when he chose to work late, there was a snow storm. The weather was horrendous. When he left for the evening, went to his car and tried to start it, it wouldn’t work. He didn’t want to get stuck away from home all night, so he went to the one custodial worker, who was on duty for the evening for help. To his disappointment, the staff member, who was on duty told him he couldn’t help. He said there was no jumper cables, or anything in the department that could be used to help him start his car. That was certainly true, but what the staff member didn’t tell him was that he had a set of jumper cables in his pick-up truck. That professor lost an opportunity to have another human being contribute to his development along his life’s journey.

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I’m sitting here stroking away at the keys on my laptop, trying to communicate an idea to you. The simple task of me collecting thoughts and using symbols to place them on this electronic representation of a page, wouldn’t be possible without an enumerable host of people, who have entered my life at various points along the way. There was the first-grade teacher, and all the teachers through elementary and secondary school. There were college professors and mentors, who set aside time to share their knowledge and wisdom with me during times when they saw something lacking in my development. The amazing thing is that I can’t think of any souls, who had my best interest at heart, short-changing me of any guidance they had to offer. I am what I am due to all that I’ve experienced.

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No, none of us does it on our own. Wouldn’t it be great, if we all could produce a list of all the people, who have made contributions to who we are after thirty, forty, eighty years, and send thank you notes to the ones still surviving. Short of that, consider trying to remember them all and make a pray of thanks to God for all of them. Somehow, I do believe those words of gratitude will get to the right place.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Spring time is very good!

Spring flowers one

Then God saw everything that He had made. And indeed, it was very good. So, the evening and the morning were the sixth day (New King James Version of the Bible). The preceding comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 31. Every time I read that verse; I’m moved to think how it must have been at that time when creation was finally at its height of glory. There was no ruin from humankind; no smoke stacks, exhaust from burning fossil fuels, no fast-food wrappings strewn across the landscape. There was just nature, unspoiled. If you’re reading this and you don’t subscribe to the Biblical account of creation, that’s okay. This piece isn’t meant to be an attempt at protolyzing. However, I would find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t believe that at some point in the distant past, nature was indeed unspoiled.

ppy Spring

There are parts of the United States that are still shivering from the frostbite inducing effects of winter (or is it early spring weather?). I live in the South and though we have some cold weather during winter, this time of the year winter finds itself giving up to the gentle approach of spring. It’s not uncommon, this time of year, to find some trees still transforming to showcase their fine greenery. The struggle between one season clutching to hold on and another trying to push through can be more than a minor inconvenience. I often leave home earing a light jacket and later removing it due to rising temperatures. You are probably asking yourself, when is it safe to plant my vegetables, when will the threat of frost succumb to warm, humid nights?

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I find myself experiencing a sense of rejuvenation during spring. The state of dormancy from which the trees and grass are trying to wake themselves, describes me too, to some extent. I too, have been lying dormant somewhat, staying inside mostly, not anxious to venture out into the wet, cold dreariness of winter. It’s funny how winter didn’t seem to bother me much in my youth. There seems to have been an inner thermostat that could regulate my body temperature, keeping everything at a comfortable level just fine for optimum operations. Now, I feel sometimes that I’ll shortly be one of those frail old folks, who will be caught wearing a coat in the middle of July.

Spring is very good, and each day brings forth an evening and a morning, as I enjoy to the fullest of God’s creation.

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


Shoes well-worn

Do you have a pair of shoes that you’ve been thinking about donating to your favorite charity? However, each time the idea invades your mind, you gently push back the very thought of parting with the well-worn, comfortable feet coverings. Those things to which we have developed a comfort level to the point that parting with them is such great sorry, we often exhibit an unreasonable degree of connection.

I’ve been slowly getting rid of stuff on my side of the closet that serves no purpose but to occupy space. When I retired, now over five years ago, one thing I promised myself was that I would send unnecessary clothing and other junk packing. Well, since inanimate objects have no conscience or means of self-mobility, what I really mean is that I would pack them up and carry them away. There are pieces of clothing that I have not worn during the entire five-year period I’ve been retired. These things could be serving someone else’s needs. But there’s some senseless comfort in seeing them hanging on racks, laying on shelves, just being there.

Familiarity is a quality that fits well with more than “things” in my life. It also wears well with certain people. Over the last three decades, I’ve developed a comfortable, trusting and intimate relationship with two of my healthcare providers, my optometrist and my dentist. I recall when both started their practice. My dentist bought out a practice that I had already been going to. It was operated by a young man who was a school classmate of my wife’s. He was a rather pleasant fellow; however, I didn’t stay with him long before he sold his practice and moved into corporate dentistry. I’ve had countless conversations with both my dentist and my optometrist about politics, weather, various social trends and life in general. These folks have left indelible marks on my life and anatomy (especially my dentist). She has shared my cancer journey by caring for my teeth during a time when chemotherapy and other cancer fighting medications have had their way with my dental health. I stopped counting years ago the number of extensive dental procedures she’s had to perform to keep my oral food processor in fine working order.

My optometrist has cared for my vision with a degree of dedication, and passion that I could not have asked for. Now, that I have early signs of Glaucoma developing in one of my eyes, he sees me more than he did decades ago, when an annual eye exam was enough. He and I share a comparative degree of faith in God and devotion to family that make my visits to his office quite delightful. A few months ago, he informed me that he had sold his practice. This was not news I wanted to hear; however, I understand his motivation for doing this. He’s been in practice for a long time. The frustration of running a small business, with the plethora of regulations he must navigate, is overwhelming at times. He made sure that he would be around for the next three years before leaving patients, like myself, with whom he’s developed a good relationship.

While sitting in the chair, having preparations for replacing a crown that was put in place twelve years ago, my dentist informed me a few days ago that she had also sold her practice. She also plans to stay around for the next three to four years, phasing out towards her final retirement day.

Familiarity saying

Familiarity is a comfortable feeling and the thought of losing it can be a bit unsettling. When you reach my age, you realize you probably don’t have decades upon decades to build strong connections with new friends, associates, healthcare providers and others. Losing the well-worn and comfortable ones from your life means things are winding down in a way, never to be quite the same. However, I must take stock in my relationship with God. He’s always been there, and my faith tells me that He will always be there, offering a kind of familiarity that no one else can provide. I’m grateful that He’s added so many familiar ingredients to my life, resulting in a mix that has been a pleasant taste to savor.

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

We don’t all think alike: a problem much too often?

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I often observe things that make me ask the question: Why do they think like that? I’m a regular social media user. Facebook is one of my social media hangouts. Occasionally, someone will post a question to Facebook, which functions as somewhat of a survey. Recently, there was one that posed the question: If you could delete anything from the world, what would it be? I don’t always respond to these little informal surveys; however, this time, I was game. When I read the question, I focused primarily on the word “thing.” To me that indicated and inanimate object or a concept. I don’t know why exactly; it just made sense.

If you’re a Facebook user, you know that once you respond to a post, you’ll receive notification when anyone else responds to that same post. The question previously mentioned garnered many responses, and they started to come in almost immediately. Most people indicated things like hate, disease, cancer, bullying, the kind of things that affect human behavior or the human body, leaving a mark that the world community could very well do without. I’ve come to notice that whenever someone posts a question like this one, there is a small number of people who respond in a way that indicates a bias against a human being. By the way, my response to the question was hate. I think hate, if eliminated would shut off the entry to all manner of social ills that plague human kind.

Before I go any further, I must admit my bias might shine through, though I hope dimly. One of the responses to the question indicated “Obama.” I found that response rather odd. First, most people evidently thought like me, apparently thinking a concept, an infection, destructive weather, earth quakes, or something that forces itself upon all of us should go. However, the response that indicated the name of a former President of the Unite States was troubling to me. Mr. Obama is no longer president, yet this person felt he, and I’m guessing here, had left a mark on the political landscape that would only be erased by his elimination from the planet. As I thought more about the response, I couldn’t help but think: How violent, how cruel a response this was. Furthermore, I thought this response came from someone who was infected by the thing I indicated the world could do without: hate.

Our country, the United States of America is quite divided now. This division is nothing new. There has always been an under current of hostility that has been bucking to get loose and openly project vitriol against “them’; those other folks who don’t look like us, talk like us, or who by virtue of birth/culture occupy a demographic that is deemed minority status. I have come to think that anyone who hates, for any reason, but especially because of some warped stereotypical concept of another human being, is just as much a victim as the person to whom they project their sick thoughts.

Being a person of faith, I take the Holy ancient Judea-Christian scriptures seriously, and when they tell us that God loved the world (the people in it) so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice, I see the inestimable quality of that sacrifice. This sacrifice was offered out of love, but the perpetrators who carried it out administered it out of hate.

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A world without hate, would be a marvelous thing, and it will be eventually. Oops, my faith is showing.

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