Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Memorial Day, 2023

 

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.\

It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home.

 All gave some. Some gave all. Let's honor them.


Sunday, April 09, 2023

Easter 2023

 The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed...Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'...."

(Matt 28:5-7a, The Message)

In the ancient world, the message was this: "Christos anesti; al├ęthos anesti."

In our modern language, the words are different, the message the same: "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Have a blessed Easter. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas 2022


"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

May you have God's peace in your heart, not just as you celebrate Christ's birthday, but every day in the year to come. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The First Christmas Without Them

 


It's been over 20 years now since the death of my first wife, but I still get requests for this piece that I  wrote after my first Christmas without her. I've remarried and my wife has showed me that it's OK to smile, but it's still a tough time. I've been gratified at the continuing ministry of my book, 
The Tender Scar: Life After The Death of a SpouseDespite having had multiple novels and novellas published, this work of non-fiction remains the most satisfying among them all. I hope this piece ministers to those who are finding this season especially tough.


THE FIRST CHRISTMAS WITHOUT THEM
         After the death of a loved one, every holiday that follows carries its own load of renewed grief, but there’s little doubt that Christmas—especially that first Christmas without him or her—is the loneliest time of the year. 
         After the death of my wife, Cynthia, in September, I was determined to keep things as “normal” as possible for that first Christmas. Since this was an impossible goal, the stress and depression I felt were simply multiplied by my efforts. My initial attempt to prepare the Christmas meal for my family was a disaster, yet I found myself terribly saddened by the sight of my daughter and daughters-in-law in the kitchen doing what Cynthia used to do. Putting the angel on the top of the tree, a job that had always been hers, brought more tears. It just wasn’t right—and it wasn’t ever going to be again.
         Looking back now, I know that the sooner the grieving family can establish a “new normal,” the better things will be. Change the menu of the traditional meal. Get together at a different home. Introduce variety. Don’t strive for the impossible task of recreating Christmases past, but instead take comfort in the eternal meaning of the season. 
         The first Christmas will involve tears, but that’s an important part of recovery. Don’t avoid mentioning the loved one you’ve lost. Instead, talk about them freely. Share the good memories. And if you find yourself laughing, consider those smiles a cherished legacy of the person whom you miss so very much.
         For most of us, grieving turns our focus inward. We grieve for ourselves, for what might have been, for what we once had that has been taken from us. The Christmas season offers an opportunity to direct our efforts outward. During this season for giving, do something for others. Make a memorial gift in memory of your loved one to your local food bank, the Salvation Army, or your favorite charity. Involve yourself in a project through your church. Consider a local emphasis like Toys for Tots or the Angel Tree--shop for a child whose smile you may not see but which will warm your heart nevertheless.
          When you’re grieving, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Christmas, especially the modern version. The echoes of angel voices are drowned out by music from iPods and cell phones. The story of Jesus’ birth gives way to reruns of “Frosty, The Snowman.” Gift cards from Best Buy and Wal-Mart replace the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If you find the season getting you down, the burden of your loss too great to bear, read once more the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Even if you celebrate it alone, you can remember the true meaning of Christmas.  

Friday, December 09, 2022

A Texas Christmas

 

It dawned on me that I haven't posted in a while. Hope it makes the Christmas season more real for you.  It did for me while I was writing it. 



The young couple knew the long trip would be difficult, but it was the Depression, and although there was no work in the small Texas town where they had started their married life, the husband had heard of work in California. So they packed up their car, praying that it would hold up for the trip. The wife’s father slipped a couple of crumpled bills into her hand and said, “In case of emergency, Honey.” Her mother stood nearby, twisting her apron, obviously worrying about her daughter but just as obviously trying not to show it.

The couple used up the last of the daylight driving. They had reached deep West Texas when they realized it was time to stop for the night. “We can’t spare the money for a hotel,” the husband said. “I’m going to see if the folks at one of these farms will put us up for the night.”

They pushed on between pastures marked by sagging barbed wire, the road a winding black ribbon in the flickering yellow headlights. At last the driver spied a cluster of lights in the distance. “I’ll try there.”

The man who came to the door wore overalls and a gray, long-sleeved undershirt. He didn’t seem to take to the idea of this couple spending the night, but his wife came up behind him and said, “Oh, can’t you see she’s pregnant. The hands are out in the north pasture with the herd, and the bunkhouse is empty. Let them stay there.”

In the middle of the night, the young husband was awakened by his wife’s cries. “I’m in labor.”

“But, you’re not due until—“

“Just get help. Please.”

He did. In a few minutes, the rancher’s wife bustled in, laden with towels and blankets. “Just put that down,” she said to her husband, who trailed her carrying a bucket of hot water in one hand. “Then you two men get out.”

Soon, the men tired of waiting outside and the rancher grudgingly invited the stranger into the kitchen. They’d almost exhausted a pot of extra strong coffee when they heard a faint cry. Then, “You men can come back now.”

The two men were halfway to the bunkhouse, following the faint light of a kerosene lantern, when three weary cowboys rode up and climbed off their mounts. “We saw lights on here. What’s going on?”
            
“Come and see,” the young husband said. And they did. 

When he saw the mother holding a wrinkled, fussing newborn close to her, the gruff old rancher turned to his wife and said, “Well, Mother, I’m glad you talked me into letting these folks stay.”

“We had to,” she said. “It was a wonderful gift for me, seeing that little baby born. Who knows? Maybe he’ll grow up to be someone special.”

Now imagine that the scene wasn’t West Texas, it was Bethlehem. It didn’t take place in a bunkhouse, it occurred in a stable. And it wasn’t just a baby—this was God’s own Son--the Christ child was God in blue jeans, as one of my friends puts it. Does that make it more real to you? I hope so.

During this season, as you think about Jesus’ birth, don’t put him in spotless white swaddling clothes in the middle of a Christmas card. Picture him in the most humble surroundings your imagination can conjure up, the Son of God Himself in a diaper, born to give each of us the best gift we could ever imagine. 

Merry Christmas.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Message That Speaks to Writers


 Being curious, I looked him up and found that he's an author living in Austin, TX. Don't know anything about him otherwise, but he certainly spoke to the writer in me. How about you?

Friday, July 01, 2022

Independence Day, 2022


Monday is July 4, the day we celebrate the independence of this great nation. Some people will take off for a varying length of time, either for a long weekend or as part of a vacation. Others will work. Some will head for sales. Others will go to the lake. But whatever we do, let's understand the meaning of the holiday. And be especially mindful of that meaning this year.

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves free from the British Empire.The framers of our documents of freedom--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--didn't all agree. And sometimes, their discourse wasn't very civil. But as Benjamin Franklin put it, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." They argued, but they didn't loot and burn. 

Remember that these people put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors on the line to help give us the independence we celebrate. This Independence Day, may we reflect on all that has gone before as we observe this day.

 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Memorial Day 2022

 

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home. 

All gave some. Some gave all. Let's honor them.

Friday, April 29, 2022

I've Survived

 

This meme didn't originate with me, but the longer I live, the more I laugh about it. Then again, I'm still around, relatively active probably a decade or more after I shouldn't be.

My idea of retirement was to retire at age 65 and be gone by 70. But I've exceeded that, and I have no explanation for it. God apparently decided that I shouldn't become a full-time golfer after stepping away from medicine, so He gave me enough talent to become sort of a writer. Even when the ideas were harder to come by and even harder to turn into novels and novellas, I kept at it.

Our wills are over 20 years old, so I'm in the process of gathering data to update them, which is a task that will bring you up short in a hurry. But it's also good to see where I've been, as well as what the future holds. I've started a couple of novellas, which may or may not be going anywhere, but then again, they may.

My dear, sweet wife (yes, I have been blessed by the love of two wonderful women, which is evidence of God's hand) assures me that the Lord isn't finished with me yet. So I guess I'll keep on writing. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

If You Give Your Son A Baseball...

 I realize that this refers to just boys. It did not originate with me, but it brought back memories of my father (including what he did for me). Maybe that's why I, in turn, tried to watch as many of my sons' baseball games and swim meets as possible, why I served many times as judge for my daughter's speech events, why I chose to spend time doing it. Anyway, perhaps it will speak to you as it did to me. 


If you give your son a baseball, he will want a bat to go with it.

 

You’ll buy him the best bat you can find, and then he will probably want some cleats too. 

He will probably spend hours begging you to go out in the yard to play with him, even though you may want to sit on the couch and watch tv. He will insis, and nd his insistence will win. Then he will want a jersey. And when a boy gets a jersey, he will need pants and socks and a belt to go with it. And then a team.  At that point, life as you know it will end.

 

There will be no more lazy weekends watching tv. You will see more sunrises than you ever thought possible. Every spare minute of your time will be spent hauling ball-buckets and bags and stinky cleats and crazy boys all over tarnation for hours to practice for a game. 

And your house will be a mess. And your car will be dirty. All because you gave a boy a baseball. 

 

Your weekends will be spent freezing or burning to death on a fold up chair. And his weekends will be spent gaining confidence and friends and learning new skills and having fun and getting dirty. And you will be there the day he hits his first home run, his first strikeout, and his first double play. And he will make you proud. The other parents will congratulate you. But you feel weird saying thank you because it's not you at bat or on the mound. It's all him, you’re merely the facilitator.

 

When you give a boy a baseball, you give him more than just a ball. You give him a sport, and a talent, and hope, and dreams, and friends, a new family, a place to learn about life, room to grow as a person where he can push his limits. And he will have all of these things, simply because you gave a boy a baseball. 

 

Then one day, many years from today, he will be in his room and a baseball will roll out from an old dusty bat-bag underneath his bed. And he will pick it up and you realize instantly that when you gave that boy a baseball, you also gave him a childhood that he would never forget. And then he will hug you, and your eyes may leak – because you realize that everything you gave up along the way was worth it.

 

All because you gave a boy a baseball.