Step out the boat.

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!  ”Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Matthew 14:29-31)

Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to amplify the hassles and complexities of our lives?  Health issues seem more debilitating.  Finances seem to overcome our wallets.  Relationships seem more fragile.  In my own family, we suddenly needed a hole in the roof patched (probably needs to be replaced in the spring), our refrigerator died ( just after the warranty expired), our front brakes needed to be replaced (where we discovered that we needed four new tires) and our alternator light went on (we hit a deer on the way to the repair shop).  Add in a cardiac catheterization and things were looking pretty bleak.

Remember the expression, “up the creek without a paddle,”? (Some of you may remember a slightly different version.)  Well, our boat seemed to be taking on water fast.  At similar points in our lives we all have a choice to make.  Do we go down with the boat, or do we step out in faith, believing that God will help us to walk on the water?  Those remaining in the boat will try to convince us to stay and not take the chance.  After all, who can walk on water?  Since I was going to get wet anyway, I decided I might as well step out.  Since I have, we have managed to keep up with our finances, the heart procedure showed no major problems, the car is still running, the roof isn’t leaking anymore and we’re learning how to direct our grief over losses into helpful ways with our family.

Life is never easy, but it’s far better when you step out of the boat.

The Master’s Hand

Now may the God of peace….equip you with every good thing to do His will. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”

Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.” Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are playing the concerto of your life. Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

– Author Unknown –

Dem bones, dem bones…

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4)

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“To succeed in lifeyou need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” (Reba McEntire, actress, singer)

Wishbone: Dream big and shoot for the stars.  Never let anyone or anything discourage you.  Some people are born with tornadoes in their lives, but constellations in their eyes.  Be one of those.

Backbone: Be strong enough to know when you are weak and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.  Be proud and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory.  Stand up in the storm and learn compassion for those who fail.

Funnybone:  Have sense of humor.  Always be serious, but never take yourself too seriously.  Be humble and remember the simplicity of greatness, the open-mindedness of true wisdom and the meekness of true strength.

Bones to live by.

Lifetime Love

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

Kiss Me Good Night

Our future looked bright—a new way of living.

We learned how to love—a new day was dawning.

Before we were two—now that would be changing.

You’d kiss me good night—and kiss me each morning.

We two became one—our lives interweaving.

We started our lives—a brand new beginning.

We gave up ourselves—by constantly sharing.

By kissing good night—and kissing each morning.

We moved on through life—with everything changing.

Each one of us grew—our interests expanding.

Together we loved—and just kept on living.

As you kissed my goodnight—and kissed me each morning.

We never had kids—no little ones playing.

The sadness we felt—was often dismaying.

But even while filled—with emotion and feeling,

You kissed me goodnight—and kissed me each morning.

We learned to give help—to those who were needing.

In church, school and sports—and sometimes in singing.

But no matter what—the help we were giving,

You kissed me good night sand kissed me each morning.

We both left our jobs—to begin our retiring.

And made all our plans—to start all our traveling.

But no matter where—we ended up sleeping,

You kissed me good night—and kissed me each morning.

Through sickness and health—we never stopped loving.

In good times and bad—we kept on surviving.

‘Til all that was left—I kept on believing,

You’d kiss me good night and kiss me each morning.

It seems now we’re old—the years have been passing.

Our lives have slowed down—our memories fading.

One day it will end—yet I’ll keep on praying,

To kiss you good night—and kiss you each morning.

Happy 46th Anniversary, Betty.  I love you more with each kiss.

Miss U….

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saint. (Psalm 116:15)

Last night was the Greater Gardner Relay for Life.  It was a special time for us as my wife walked for the first time as a survivor.  It was also bittersweet because it was the first year that my late sister-in-law was not a member of one of the fund-raising teams.  This was always an exciting time for her and important because so many of her siblings and other family member have died of various types of cancer.  It brought to mind some of the many things we are missing since her death Christmas Eve.  Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

She would host Super Bowl parties at our house (while we were away vacation).

She would call in the middle of the night to let me know that the Red Sox had just done something great.

She would call in the early morning of every birthday and sing Happy Birthday.

She loved making puzzles at our house–whether we were there or not.

She visited and became my mom’s best friend in the last years of her life.

She transferred those visits and friendship to my sister, who had lived with my mom for those last years.

She would go on vacations with us and various other family members ( her sister, nephew and family, my sister, etc.).

She took pictures for every holiday and family gathering–and sometimes just for the sake of taking a picture.

She would play Scrabble with her cousins and my wife (and Dominoes, too, with the cousins).

She would clip news and sports articles from the local paper for every friend, relative and neighbor for miles around.

We would join her in celebrating her 29th birthday year after year after year.

There were so many ways that she impacted our lives, and each day we remember another.  And each time it hurts like an emotional wound that has reopened.  And, these are just a handful of memories that I will always have of the woman who became my sister when I married her sister.  There are many, many more.

Dining Room Memories: Part 2

 

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing…(Proverbs 10:7)

Going back to my dining room…

Kindergarten was not required or even offered universally back when I was five years old.  I was already learning to read because my folks wanted me be as ready for first grade as possible.  So, my mom sat down at that dining room desk and used our black bakelite rotary to find out how to enroll me in the trial program that was being offered for pre-first graders.  After several phone calls, we discovered that the program that was being offered was limited in number and that there was no room for any additional children.  I was crushed.  I know that I must have cried many times as I was growing up, but this time I remember being heartbroken that I couldn’t “go to school.”  Imagine that…wanting to go to school that badly.

The final memory I want to share is special one to me because it involved my dad.  He had always smoked as a teenager and as an adult.  Mom never made a big deal of it, though she never smoked and didn’t like that he did.  This was right around the time that the public was beginning to become aware of just how serious a health problem smoking was.  And there were indications that second-hand smoke could be harmful, too.  When he learned that, he simply stopped smoking–cold turkey.  He couldn’t continue, knowing that his smoking could hurt, not only himself, but his family.  My mom was also glad that she could change the curtains and wash the walls that had acquired a brownish tint over the years. Unfortunately,he stopped too late in life and he would eventually die of lung cancer.

I don’t know that I consider myself all that righteous, though I try to be.  But I know that God has allowed me to have many good memories of my past and of my family–even those that didn’t seem all that pleasant at the time.  And, for that, I will be eternally grateful.

 

Dining Room Memories: Part 1

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing…(Proverbs 10:7)

When I was growing up, our home had an old-fashioned dining room where we ate our Sunday suppers and where any family gathering was held.  It was relatively small, with an expandable, four-chair table, a hutch and a desk where my parents worked on the family budget and made phone calls on our black, bakelite, rotary phone.  There were two windows, one facing west and one facing north.  Three doors led to the kitchen, living room and laundry-cum-bedroom (mine).  My mom’s coat/dress closet also opened into the room.

One of my earliest memories was of that coat closet.  I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old at the time–just old enough to realize that Santa was not going to come down our closed up chimney sometime between Christmas Eve and when I woke up Christmas morning.  So, a few days before the big day, I began to secretly search the house.  The last place I looked was Mom’s closet.  Bingo!  There were the gifts all wrapped and stacked for Christmas morning.  I was so proud of myself for my detecting skills and prouder that I never let on to anyone that I had found the present stash.  Now I wish I would have told her.  She would have gotten quite a kick out of it.

An even earlier memory was not such a pleasant one–at least at that time.  My mom was preparing to bake something in the kitchen by greasing the cake pan with butter.  I was so impressed with the idea of spreading butter like it was a crayon that I decided to use it like one to draw on the dining room wallpaper.  I had pretty much finished a creative 3×4 foot “canvas” when Mom walked into check on me.  Considering how much work and how long it took to get the grease out of wallpaper and the plaster behind it,  I’m amazed that I didn’t get more than a stern talking to.  In fact, with time, it became one of her favorite stories–right after the one about me taking my baths in the kitchen sink.  At least I was able to confiscate all of the photos of those.

It may not have been very fancy or sophisticated, but that little dining room held a lot of great memories.  It was what family was all about.