A Perfect Storm

He knows us far better than we know ourselves…That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives…is worked into something good. (Romans 8:28)

Three years ago today, my family had one of those “perfect storm” days.  My sister-in-law lost her battle with cancer at her home while we were there with her.  Though it was not unexpected, it still left her family members crushed.  She was one tough and remarkable women, who spent much of her last years being a caregiver to others in her family.

I was there at the end and was exhausted.  So my family sent me home to get some rest.  The trip should have been from Westminster to Otter River and should have lasted no more than 15 minutes.  When my wife went home some time later, she found me missing.  As she worriedly tried to find someone who might know where I was,  she received a phone call from a friend on the Winchendon police force telling her that I had had an accident on Gardner Road in Winchendon.

Most of the events that happened that night were told to me by my wife and others because I have no memory of anything that happened from the time I left my sister-in-law’s house until three days later after her funeral.  I have no idea how I ended up on the road to Winchendon or how I ended up going off the left-hand side of the road, bouncing over a ditch and hitting a tree head-on.

So, what happened?  It turns out the year of my Chevy Impala had a recall for the ignition unit because the weight of the key fob could cause it to shut the car off cutting out the power steering and the power brakes.  Did that cause me to go off the road?  Who knows.  Then when I hit the tree, the driver side airbag didn’t inflate causing me to do a face-plant into the steering wheel.  Later when I was tested for the injuries I had, they found that I had had some sort of seizure.  It’s uncertain whether the seizure could have caused the accident or whether the accident could have caused the seizure.  Talk about a “perfect storm”…

But I said all that to say this…it could have been worse.  Despite everything that happened, I believe that God had His hand on me.  I could have died or had crippling injuries, but I didn’t.  I could have died from an epileptic seizure, but I didn’t.  I’m sure the accident was scary and painful, but I don’t remember any of it.  And today I’m at least as healthy as I was before the accident.  I don’t think that was a coincidence.  “So, I am not saying this because I am in need, because I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11)

 

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid and don’t panic for I am with you in all you do. (Joshua 1:9)

When I was much younger, I decided that I was going to learn how to ski.  This was before the days of snowboards, so I got a pair of long, thin skis.  A group of friends had planned to travel to Killington Ski Resort in Vermont.  To prepare, I visited Mt. Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts.  I later found out that Killington has the greatest vertical drop (3050′) of any mountain in New England.  Mt. Wachusett has a prominence of 1001′.  Silly me, I thought a couple of runs down the “Bunny” slope would get me ready.  Fast forward to the weekend.  I should have known I was in trouble when I had a hard time getting on and off the ski lift.  Once I finally got settled at the top of the trail, I noticed a sign that had a black diamond on it.  My friends told me not to worry about it.  Believe it or not, I actually made it down the worst part of the slope without incident. I skied very slowly and cautiously, but I skied.  As the group slowly pulled out of sight, I noticed a covered bridge coming up.  It quite narrow, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight line all the way through.  I was pretty excited when I realized that I was going to make it….until I exited the bridge and saw all my friends lined up on both sides of the trail waiting to see how I was going to handle the bump and drop that suddenly appeared.  Needless to say, my skill level couldn’t handle it and I dropped to my butt and fell off to the side.  But still managed to finish the run (my last run ever, by the way).

A group of family and friends used to vacation at a place called Camp Skyland in South Hero, Vermont.  Several of us often went out in boats to explore the shoreline of Lake Champlain.  On one of our excursions, we found a series of cliffs that we simply had to climb.  Of course once we got to the top, there was only one way that we were going to go down.  You guessed it.  We jumped.  Including the guy who is afraid of heights.  I made it and never tried it again.

It was my first time leading the congregation in songs at the beginning of our church service.  I had prepared ahead of time so that I had the melodies and the words down.  We all stood as I opened the service in prayer and then went right into the songs.  I did pretty good for about 20 minutes when an elderly saint of the church interrupted to say, “Can we sit down now?”  I never led songs again.

What possible positive thing can come of all these failures?  Simply the fact that I tried and realized that those particular activities were not going to be a continuing part of my life?  The important thing is that I tried.  I would never experience that nagging feeling of, “What if…?”  I was able to overcome my fears to try something new.  And as Joshua wrote, God was with me in everything I did.  And after thinking about it all these years later, I’m awfully glad He was!

Better With Age

young then old

Once I was young, but now I am old and yet I have never seen God abandon a good man or his children. (Psalm 37:25).

Have you ever noticed that when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night you don’t see any difference in what you saw the last time you looked.  Age has a way of sneaking up on you.  One day you’re 20 years old with your whole life ahead of you.  Then, suddenly, you’re beyond middle age and in the twilight of your life.  For those of you who haven’t reached those advanced years, remember, they’re coming faster than you can imagine.  Think of the children you have and how quickly they are growing up.  Think of all the things you’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to have the time to do them.  Since you can’t change the past and have no control over the future, remember to actually live in the present.  You’ll never have another chance to do so.

When I was younger and played basketball, I had a vertical leap of nearly 30 inches.  Now I’m lucky if I can clear a piece of paper…on a good day.  I could eat anything I wanted in any quantity at any time.  Now I eat much less, have to avoid certain foods and shouldn’t eat after 7:00 PM.  When I was a kid, my parents would get after me because when I would go to bed, I would take a flashlight and read under the covers for hours.  Now I almost always fall asleep when I read at night–sometimes with my book still in my hand.  I’ve even been known to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.  In high school, I could type 67 words per minute.  Now my fingers are lucky if I can get through a sentence without having stop and correct several errors.  (I made six different mistakes in this last sentence.)

When you feel that you’re approaching  the twilight of your life, remember that twilight occurs not just as the sun is setting, but also when it rises in the morning.  Looking back at your life is okay, but looking ahead is what will keep you young.  Rise to meet it with a smile and a spring in your step, ready face the world and what it has for you that day.

Just some thoughts on getting older….

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Any one who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”  Mark Twain

So appreciate where you are in life, make each day count, keep learning and do it all with a smile on your face.  Not only will your life be more fulfilling, but so will the lives of those around you.

Keep on trying.

keep on trying

Don’t be afraid or discouraged because I am with you. (Isaiah 41:13)

As a former teacher, I can’t begin to tell you how much I hated the phrase, “I can’t do it.”  And it seemed the older we got, the easier it became to say it.

When we were born, we immediately began to learn new things.  Whether it was learning to eat on our own, learning to talk, learning to walk, or learning to dress ourselves, everything was brand new to us.  And no matter how silly we looked or how funny we sounded while making those first attempts, we kept on trying until we got it right.  When we learned to talk, we began another learning experience; asking questions.  We asked anything and everything.  We never asked ourselves if what we were asking was silly.  We just kept asking-endlessly.

We were also never afraid to try new things either.  I remember eating bugs to see if they tasted good.  Jumping out of our second-story window into a pile of snow seemed like a good idea at the time.  Bringing home a pocket full of worms was my gift to my mom.  But somehow as we got older we were less willing to try new things.

The girls’ cross-country team at my alma mater began its first season shortly after I became the assistant running coach.  The team consisted of a couple of upper-class girls and several junior-high girls.  Never having coached girls distance runners before, we weren’t sure of exactly how to coach them.  So we simply trained them with the boys’ team and expected them to keep up.  Since they didn’t know any better, they did a great job of keeping up.  They ended up trashing most of their female counterparts  because they believed that was what they were supposed to do.  They had no fears or doubts about themselves.

The very successful coach of the UConn womens’ basketball team, Geno Auriemma, deals with each year’s new recruits with this admonition, “Don’t tell me you can’t do something.  I’ll tell you when you can’t so something.  The team has won 11 national champions since 1995 and are currently trying to win their twelfth.  Along the way, they have compiled winning streaks of 75, 90 and currently at 108 and counting.

I guess the bottom line is don’t be afraid to ask questions or to try something new.  We should always try to keep learning new things and to experiment with new activities.  Who knows what kind of new success and fulfillment you may find.  You’ll never find out unless you try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use it or lose it!

Keep moving.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12:6)

Thirty-five years ago, I used to run 80-100 miles a week to be able to run a marathon.  I ran one two years in a row.  And I finished both.  Now I run an average of once a month.  Guess what?  I can no longer run a marathon.  In fact, I have a hard time running to the mailbox.  Okay, I’m 67 years old, have arthritis, have had 3 heart attacks and am 25 pounds overweight.  But did I stop running because of my physical conditions?  Or am I in my present physical condition because I stopped running.

The singing group that I used to be a part of eventually disbanded because one of our main singers felt his voice was no longer good enough to perform.  The problem?  He only sang at our once-a-month practices and at our concerts.  Other members were part of our church worship team and sang at least twice a week.  Some of simply love singing all the time.  My wife and I recently traveled with four other friends to and from Florida by car.  We sang along with the songs on the radio for hours at a time.  When we returned home, I found that my voice was clearer and had a greater range than it had for a long time.

Our brain works the same way.  My memory is no longer as good as it once was.  Because of that, I often turn to wife to help me remember something rather than continuing to concentrate on my own to remember whatever it was.   I forget names and I forget words while having a conversation.  I know some of that happen may happen simply because we get older.  More brain cells die off.  But I wonder if using our minds more and in more complicated ways, we could help to improve our ability to think and delay the onset of memory problems.  Do we lose our mental sharpness because our mind is slowing down or does our mind slow down because we don’t use it think in ways that require mental sharpness.

God gave each of us certain talents and abilities that are different for each of us.  There are those that help us to achieve positions of authority.  Others may give us the ability to put us in the public eye and make us famous.  Others may be things that help us to work behind the scenes in total obscurity.  And many fall in between.  But if we don’t continue to do what we were made to do, our ability to do it begins to diminish.  It’s like exercising your muscles.  The more you work out, the stronger you get.  If you never use those muscles, they atrophy and your strength diminishes.

So, don’t give up on those things you were made to do and keep yourself going as long as you are physically and mentally able.  You’ll find your life will be full and you’ll never be bored.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Your Job!

gabby katie-lou napheesa

Whatever opportunity comes up, go for it and give it your all.  You may never have another chance. (Ecclesiastes 9:10).”

I have been a New England Patriots fan since they became a team in 1960.  Those were years of relative obscurity as the last franchise admitted into the old American Football League struggled to find success.  They eventually began to achieve a limited amount of success.  Then along came Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I’ve always been a big fan of the concepts of  “Do your job” and “Next man up”).  Whatever you may think about this owner, coach, quarterback, or team, you have to admit that their success in the modern era is unprecedented.  And they have maintained this success in spite of free agency, salary caps and the normal year to year injuries.  And the team mantra has been for everyone, “Do your job!”  And if someone goes down (or has to serve an inexplicable 4-game suspension), it’s up the next man to take up the slack and keep things moving forward.  But these are professionals who get paid (quite handsomely) to “do their job.”  What about those who don’t get paid the big bucks?

I became a UConn Women’s Basketball fan back in the early ’90’s when I was looking for a college team to use as an example to the players on the teams I was coaching at the time.  Under Coach Geno Auriemma, UConn went from a 12-15 record in 1985-1986 to having 31 consecutive winning seasons since.  They’ve won 11 of the past 22 national championships-including the past 4 in a row.  They have 4 out of the top 5 women’s all-time winning streaks with 47, 70, 90 and the current one of 105 and counting–with the last 2 bettering UCLA’s men’s streak of 88.  Coming into this year’s season, UConn had lost its top 3 players from last year’s team.  Those players went 1,2,3, in the WNBA draft.  Time for “next man up.”  Three “role players” from last year’s bench suddenly stepped up and, along with the two remaining veterans from last year’s team have turned the team into another UConn powerhouse.  Good teams try to never look ahead to more than the next game in order to maintain their focus on the game at hand.  UConn takes it a step further by trying to maintain focus on each play of every game.  That’s why, in games past, you’ve been able to see a 3-time All-American diving for a loose ball in the third quarter of a game in which UConn had a 40+ point lead.  Play at 100% on each and every play.  A detail-oriented perfectionist, Auriemma has told his players and everyone that will listen, that there is no magic to being successful.  You simply never slack off.  When you “strive for perfection, you achieve excellence.”

That’s a lesson these young women will carry with them for the rest of their lives–in their education, in their families, in their relationships, and in their chosen professions.  The same rules apply to us no matter what our circumstances, our families, our health, our age or our finances.  Strive for perfection in all things and you will achieve excellence.  Don’t get discouraged and take a play off.  But as for you, be strong and don’t give up, for your work will be rewarded. (II Chronicles 15:7)

What Part of Meow Don’t You Understand?

snicker-2013

Another reader in the family.

The godly care for their animal.  (Proverbs 12:10)

Yesterday, our next-door neighbor stopped by our vacation rental just as we were getting ready to leave for our day’s activities.  He and his wife are the caretakers of the property since the owners live in London.  As we opened the door, his cat, a beautiful caramel-colored animal, invited itself in and checked out the first floor and each of us.  Not typical behavior for a cat, but one I’ve seen before with our own cat.  Like most cats, our cat, Snicker, was very independent, so we apparently lived in Snicker’s house for almost 20 years.  All kidding aside, Snicker was a loving and lovable cat until she died at nearly 20 years old.  And there were definitely tears shed when she was gone.

There was a story in “The Word for the You Today” that told of a man who wanted to a certain hotel for a vacation.  He asked them, “Could I bring my dog?  He’s very well-behaved.”  The hotel owner replied, “I’ve been operating this hotel for 30 years and in all that time I’ve never had a dog steal towels, bedclothes, silverware, or pictures off the wall.  I’ve never had to evict a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly, and I’ve never had one run out without paying the bill.  Your dog is welcome.  And furthermore, if your dog will vouch for you, you’re welcome, too.”

Animals help raise the spirits of the sick and disabled.  They act as service animals for the blind and others who need it.  And many of them simply become an important part of our families.  And yet, many of them are mistreated, abandoned, and even trained to be killers.  It’s a sad commentary on our times.  Sometimes, it’s simply a lack of understanding and continuing what has gone on before.  Recently, the Wringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus  announced its last tour, in part because of animal rights activists worried about the treatment of the circus animals.  To be fair, Ringling has set up a foundation to study the African elephant and the optimal conditions that they need.  But we can also make a difference by caring for the animals in our lives and supporting those organizations that strive to find homes for, and make life better for all of them.  It’s hard to be kind and loving to our fellow-man if we can’t find love and kindness for the defenseless animals that we share the planet with.  God put us all here for a purpose.  And it wasn’t to be cruel and unfeeling to the animals.  Remember, they were here first.