Two Celebrations (featuring Guest Author, Steve)

Today there were two expectant parents awaiting the arrival of their son.
They both longed to see him. They have three other children and this will be the last. It will complete the family. What a blessing! Their love for him began at conception and for too long they had waited.  He had to mature, it had to be his time, and finally the day had arrived.

dMy father died today.

In the blink of an eye he walked into the gates of heaven into the loving arms of his parents, his siblings, a host of aunts and uncles, and even a granddaughter all waiting to see him. He was literally born again. I’m sure my grandparents couldn’t wait to see him. I expect the anticipation is a lot like the day of his earthly birth.

Was Blind But Now I SeeOur perspective changes based upon our vantage point.
In sports, two people in different parts of an arena can see the same play and come to a different conclusion. To one, with their viewpoint and biases the player clearly scored. To another spectator with their own biases and a different vantage point, the goal was stopped. Both would swear to the correctness of their report.

Only one is correct.

CSo I suspect it is with death.

To those of us left behind, we call it death. It is a terrible separation that rips our loved one from us. We are left with that tremendous empty sensation that has no earthly solution. In contrast, to those in heaven it is a day of rejoicing as their loved one finally “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” (January 28, 1986 | President Ronald Reagan). The interpretation of the event is again controlled by ones perspective and vantage point.

Ultimately, the biggest perspective difference is our understanding of what happens to us after death.

It changes everything.

To those who believe that life ends here, death must hold a level of emptiness and pain that I cannot comprehend. For those like me who live in the hope of life eternal, death and its associated separation has less pain. This hope comes with the promise of reunion. Yes, we must endure separation, but ultimately there will be reunion.

SIn 2 Samuel 12:23, King David comments on the death of his son. He says: “But now he has died. Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” King David lived in the promise of life eternal as I do.

Although my father will not return to me, I will go to him and I look forward to our reunion. I suspect for my parents, my earthly death will look like birth from their new vantage point. So when you think about birth and death, unless you precede them in the latter, your parents celebrate both.

Ponder that a bit. It is truly wondrous.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

I Corinthians 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”


Recommended reading:
I Corinthians 15  The Holy Bible, Paul the Apostle
Everyone’s Back Home Once Again, bywordsthatlastforever
The Best Christmas Gifts, by Just Behind the Door
Anticipation: The Art of Mourning, by Pilgrim Out of the Water

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A Sliver of Joy | Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

A favorite hang-out | Pink fountain for a good cause. Cheery mums galore.

Favorite weather | Autumn hints, cleansing rain, cloud-break.
Lingering mist.

Favorite time | Post-breakfast desertion. Kids safe at school. Sigh …….

A slice of time,
A shy, favored friend.
A Sliver of Happy.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
~ Joseph Campbell

“A friend is one to whom you may pour out all the contents of your heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~ Unknown

“Find the joy in your life. Laugh hard, laugh long, and laugh loud. There is something that brings joy to each of us. Find out what it is for you and work hard to get more of it.” ~ Stephen Deal

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Referring articles:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/weekly-photo-challenge-happy/
vimeo.com/stevedeal
(Twenty minutes on decreasing sadness, increasing joy)
https://thoughtfulpaper.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/weekly-photo-challenge-happy/

My Thoughts on Aging, from the Guest Author

The other day I was talking with a 75-year-old woman about the frustrations of aging. The aches and pains, the limited mobility, the failing memory, the sagging skin—how it all created significant frustration.

We joked about the 98-year-old woman who told me the best thing about wrinkles is that they don’t hurt. Then, in a tone more serious, she admitted she just didn’t understand the value of all this “getting old” business. She posed a valid question. The question prompted some thinking,
Might there be a valid reason?

My Dad always told me he wanted as many birthdays as he could have as long as he knew he was having them.
Over the years, he collected more than his share of serious ailments. No one loves his family or wants to be with them more than Dad. So far, he is still hanging in there. But I wonder if he is beginning to question that statement.

Like me, my Dad is a Christian. We believe in the place the Bible calls Heaven, and life will be better there than here. It is a beautiful place filled with reunion, the pain and suffering will go away, and the tears will be wiped away from our eyes. Life will be better!

So there, in the midst of that conversation, it struck me. Maybe this horrific thing called aging has a purpose.
By allowing us to change our sights from the here and now to the eternal, it reminds us that we are visitors here, waiting for our trip home.

And most of all, it reassures us that the best is yet to come.
The few glimpses of Heaven in the Bible show it to be an extraordinary place, a place so wondrous the Apostle Paul could find no earthly words to describe it. For our families it takes away a bit of the sting of death. When they compare their loss to the gain of the loved one passing, only the selfish can wish for the situation to be different.

So what should we do in the meantime?
Remember the answer to the riddle attributed to King Solomon? The riddle inquires—What four words will make a happy man sad and a sad man happy? The answer was inscribed on the inside of a ring—“This too shall pass.” And in either case, isn’t this the truth? Life is indeed fragile and every moment is a gift from God. Because of Heaven, we can have peace in the midst of all circumstances and hope in a future that bears no suffering.

This life does not end here. It is just the beginning.
So for now, love the life you are given, accept the ailments as a badge of honor, and remember—your Heavenly Father has a better life ahead.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

 

Daily Prompt: Young at Heart

“Remember … Make Hay When The Sun Shines” from the Guest Author

His voice echoes in my mind as if it were yesterday. It was a simple statement with more wisdom than my young ears could discern at the time. “Remember … make hay when the sun shines.” I was just a kid having fun on his farm. He was my grandfather—a farmer with only a third-grade education, but a man from whom flowed endless wisdom. All you had to do was listen.

In a superficial sense I knew about hay. You had to cut the grass while it’s sunny so it dries well and won’t be musty when you bale it later. As I grew to be a man, new realities dawned and the simplicity of that statement bore deeper meaning.

First, there is the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities you’ve been given. Before our modern era, a farmer’s hay in the barn was like money in the bank. The stored hay would feed your livestock. The healthy livestock then supplied food for your family. Storing extra food and hay in the barn meant you were prepared for potential problems. You never knew when it was going to be a long, cold winter or a hot, dry summer. Again, this preparation kept the livestock alive and provided for your family.

Today our lives are different. I don’t need hay or a barn, but the principle is unchanged. The opportunities to make money varies at different times in our lives and we should seize on them. Sometimes the economy is booming and we have the good fortune to work and store extra by having a supply of money in savings—“hay in the barn”. When the sun shines and opportunity avails, it’s important to take advantage of it.

The Bible’s Old Testament tells the true story of a man named Joseph. With God’s guidance, he led the Egyptians to save during seven bountiful years so they could survive the predicted seven years of drought. It worked and the people survived. Like my grandfather, God has given us an example of the need to save during the good times. Again we see the principle—saving during sunny days created extra resources.

We should follow these examples. Lean times will always come but with preparation you will be ready. The trend of the current time is to allow our standard of living to rise during good times and rarely put “hay in the barn” for hard times to come. Whether you’re a farmer in Western North Carolina, an Egyptian, or anyone else—you must force yourself to save.

I’m not an alarmist but facts today point to an impending economic storm. In the face of any disaster you will need three things: a faith life to support you in the midst of the storm, money in the bank (hay in your barn) to keep your family alive in the immediate aftermath, and an education to help you rebuild.

I’m encouraging you to be prepared. I hope you’re storing hay in the barn—the storm is on the horizon. Are you ready?

Thoughtfully,
Steve

A Tale of Agony {Or Whatever Happened to Winning?}


I’m not sure when it happened, but some time during the last thirty years our culture forgot how to celebrate success. We forgot how to be proud of achievement and became more concerned about the feelings of the loser than the accomplishment of the victor. It’s happened in almost all areas of life, but is most easily noted on the athletic field, in the classroom, and now has crept into the business and financial world.

I first noted the change on the athletic field when my kids were small, participating in league sports. When I was a kid, there were winners and losers. Trophies were awarded to the champion and perhaps the runner-up. But for my kids, everyone took home a trophy or a medal. Even the kids that came in last got to take home a medal. Somewhere we lost “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Instead we became a culture that celebrates the “thrill of participation.”

I learned a lot in athletics but a key lesson was this—I learned more from losing than winning. But even beyond, the most important lesson I learned was that I didn’t like losing! This extreme dislike made me work harder to improve, perfect, and finally accomplish.

From that spawned another lesson—I liked success. The entire crux of the matter found its summation in the most crucial lesson of all—between the reward for success and the negative feelings of failure, it didn’t take me long to realize the extra effort was worth it. Failure spurred me into high gear. No one can achieve perfection but failure drove me to deeply look at how to do things different. In this quagmire of self-examination, success begins. If the self-examination of failure is removed, accomplishment declines.

The classroom is another place I noticed this. Academically, we started celebrating mediocrity. The best example of this is the change of the bumper stickers given out to kids in school. First, we had the bumper stickers that said “My Child is an Honor Roll Student at Fiddle Faddle Middle School” but this obviously offended the non-Honor Roll student so soon the signs changed to “My Child showed Good Character at Fiddle Faddle Middle School.” I’m not knocking integrity but anyone can show good character with very little effort.

Kids that work hard today get passed over, snubbed, even dismissed because we have to lift up those that “showed up.” This is ultimately discouraging for those trying to achieve. Why do we not celebrate their success and achievement anymore?  Extra effort that leads to success was the foundation for the greatness of American achievement, but is a time-tested truth for any society that aspires to greatness. We did not succeed by celebrating mediocrity in any arena.

(Please note—I believe celebrating the Honor Roll Student is correct, but the parents should teach humility by placing the bumper sticker on the refrigerator and not on the car. That way the child has their success celebrated and is also taught the importance of caring about other’s feelings.)

Now, about the financially successful, most have worked extremely hard. They worked harder in school than most, some continued their education, and they work more hours than those who don’t succeed. Certainly we can point to other reasons for their success but largely, we make excuses for it. “They are smarter, they had more opportunities, they had a good home life.”  The real truth is we don’t like to admit someone else worked harder that we did.

But perhaps this honesty can cause us to return to the principle of hard work, learn the lessons of failure, empower our abilities, and celebrate the success of others. Let’s not settle for mediocrity. Let’s relish success and achievement. Every time I meet one of the successful I look at them with the joy of knowing with some hard work I have the same opportunity.

So where did we screw up? I think we simply forgot how to celebrate the success of others and the important lesson failure teaches. It is truly okay to have winners and losers. We are not all created equal and have different talents. But there is no denying we are each called to use our talents to the best of our ability. And this usually comes with a healthy combination of desire for success and fear of failure.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

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