Life Was SO Much Simpler

Life was so much simpler – when we were less informed.

With the advent of social media and electronic delivery of news, we are instantly aware of things that would have taken hours, days or even months to filter down to us. Life (as we used to know it) moved at a slower and happier pace. Reaction times to news or events barely crawled along. We had to roll out the morning paper or listen to morning radio or TV to hear about national or world events. Things took time to soak in. Once things were known interactions between people happened face to face or voice to voice. Discussions were had around the water cooler or in the break room. We interacted with one another on a person to person level. We were a much more tolerable people because of that. Interactions with friends, co-workers or relatives included every other aspect of life, and not just about the most recent political scandal or salacious affair in Hollywood. We were rounded in our dialogue.

Today the war of words is hateful, spiteful and full of half-truth and innuendo. No longer do we spar or duke things out with multiple rounds to determine the clear winner. Both parties of any argument people now go for the jugular within seconds. We don’t talk things out with honest conversation or debate. We pass judgment immediately based on “clear” lines of distinction. Those differences are usually spelled out with two simple letters – D or R. If you are a D you are labeled immediately as a wacko left-wing commie radical with not an ounce of patriotism in your body. If you find yourself with an R next to your name you are branded as a right-wing extremist bible-thumping gun-toting intolerant hater who thinks refugees should be pushed off of the boat.

In the real world both sides have a handful of people that go to the extreme in their views (left or right). But for the most part our society has a mix of ideas and values that make us land somewhere  between those two dreaded letters. A distinct problem with social media (and instant messaging) is the fact that whoever is the quickest, sharpest and craftiest deliver a stinging message that’s portrayed as pure and honest fact.  The ones who get the most attention are those who yell a quick unverified half-truth, peppered with underlying deceit and deception.

Political correctness has gone amuck. If you dare say anything about race, religion, national origin, sexual preference, or anything that is a social hot point you risk your fortune in a matter of hours. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true or moral. It only matters that you have no right to inject your belief system, especially if it steps on toes of any special interest group. And those “special” groups garner less than 5% of our entire people group.

I consider myself a technical progressive. And that’s a feat for someone my age (early sixties). Many of my peers have only given up their flip phones after the carrier no longer supported their dated technology. I am all for the latest and greatest wireless remote applications that automate everything. I’m waiting for the day that an app can buy, season, cook, and hand feed my food to me (that day is coming!).

But how can we roll back the information age to a saner, kinder and gentler time?

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Normalcy – Crazy is Normal Too!

It really hasn’t been all that bad. People say “oh I am so sorry for your loss” or they have very careful responses when we are forced to tell them “our home was damaged in the tornado”. People have been really kind, but guardedly careful in their responses to us – as if we might just break down and boo-hoo on the spot. We’ve even gotten to the point that if the subject comes up (for whatever reason) we are starting to avoid telling people of our plight.

There have been annoying aspects of having things change so quickly – but being displaced by a Christmas tornado is not the end of the world. We all have stuff in our homes – like clothes – and appliances – and tools and closets full of food, and other items we can’t seem to live without. But to put it bluntly, virtually everything at our home either got thrown in the trash, tossed hurriedly into a suitcase or moved to a warehouse in very short order.

In the middle of the really drastic changes of the past 50 days we’ve been able to gain back a little familiarity in the past few days, by simply getting our hands on a couple of our own chairs. Hotel and rental furniture leave a bit to be desired in the posterior and lumbar departments. And excitedly one of our cars came back “home” last week after an extended excursion to a tropical body shop. The other car hope to make its escape this afternoon. So instead of driving my beat up pickup truck or the wonderful borrowed car from our daughter (which we were very grateful to have), we are getting back a few things that we depend on to help make things seem “normal” again.

We are undoubtedly part of the “Golden Agers Club” in our trendy apartment home. It is definitely a change parking in a garage that has more than one level and wondering each day what choice spot we’ll score (and hoping it is close to the correct exit). Then there’s the walk from the garage to the mailbox, and then up the elevator to the frigid hallway to our new paradise. Was that a right then left, or other way around?

But somewhere in my past I heard that new experiences are supposed to stretch you keep you young, aren’t they? If so we should have trimmed about 20 years off by now! At least things are not mundane and boring. One positive is that we’ve found like twenty new places to eat while waiting for a place where we could actually cook a meal or two on our own. Making our own food this past Friday night, was fine dining indeed. Hog heaven was more like it.

Over the course of time we’re learning to sit back, see the scenery, and enjoy the ride! What comes around the next bend might be yet unknown, but it surely will be just another adventure in the twists and turns of a crazy trip!

 

Light Bulb Moment today

I had one of those light bulb moments early this morning.
It came to me as a single word – Mission.
What does Mission mean?
Webster defines this as: an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation, or an important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed: or sending or being sent for some duty or purpose.
 
For a number of years I felt like I had several missions in life. Among those were to be the provider for my family and to be the man God called me to be, for the protection and nurture of the wife  and brood he blessed me with. Another mission was to raise our kids in the “right” way. That mission was a joyous and rewarding endeavor.
 
A little later in my adult time I had a mission to be a leader among, and with, men of faith. That became a passion that was shared with other like minded guys who were in various stages of their lives. It was also a rewarding and fruitful experience and watch as God blessed and prospered that deepening faith experience. 
 
All the kids are gone now. They are pursuing their own missions now. So, for the most part my fathering mission is pretty much accomplished. My provider mission and role of provider has changed to being the provider for my wife and myself. The men’s ministry mission waned in recent years, as some of my closest allies and comrades left this place for a better land.
 
A discussion began last evening with my bride about the frustration we feel as believers in that the population at large are very much different than we are. Our society is very much “into themselves” and searching for happiness in things and events that we personally find no joy or purpose in. We sort of feel out of touch with the mainstream. We want to be and attempt to be relevant and “part of the crowd” yet we just can’t embrace many of the activities and attitudes that make the multitudes happy nowadays.
 
So, as often happens early in the morning, the Holy Spirit speaks. Not with great detail but with single words like MISSION. In the “mature age” of our lives I think we need a new mission. We need something that we are jazzed about. We need to throw ourselves into something that makes a difference in the lives of other people. And we need to be on the same page as a team for this mission. At this point I have not a clue what that might look like or be? But the same spirit that injected this new word into my thoughts, will also bring something to us that will energize our batteries and give us new meaning and purpose.
As we allow our spiritual gifts to be employed openly in the mighty hand of God, there will be purpose and drive and success. There will also come with that the fulfillment of knowing that what we are about is something that makes our creator smile.
I’m ready to find my new calling, whatever that might be. Stay tuned for further mission news!   

Remiss in Writing. But time for new life.

I’ve been remiss in my writing and posting lately. Many different things jockey for our time. Most of them are worthy things that occupy my time. But there should always be a time to stop and think and reflect and record what’s going on.

I’ve met a ton of people in my life. Growing up I was not as outgoing as you’d think I might have been if you know me now. I guess I had the complex of being the heavy kid. And heavy or fat kids don’t get the greatest of respect at times. So the tendency is to take the back seat and stay in the background as the rest of the pack excels in relationships and life in general can be the norm. Yet even us fat kids were quietly building our lives, even if nobody even realized or cared.

Fast forward to now and I think I’m pretty self assured, even though I am still the “big” guy in the pack. As aging has set in I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter what I look like or how fat I might be. I’ve decided to be a friend even to those I might not know. That doesn’t always work out, but I try and find things in others to talk to them about and find out details of their lives and the things that makes them tick. I’ve found that I find joy in learning of other’s experiences. I try and encourage others on their journey. Life is fleeting and we don’t have a ton of time to live our lives to the full.

I get reflective at times. For some reason the changing of the seasons has a tendency to fuel thoughts. As the natural order of the plant world changes from life to death to life again, so our lives take on the same form. Spring has sprung and death becomes alive again. Former living things that were brown and wilted and gone, are now sprouting forth with tender and green vegetation.  The air is full of fresh air as the plants take a poison gas (carbon monoxide) and turn it into life giving air for all of human kind.

Go and enjoy and soak up God’s creation and be thankful for new life. It is all around us this time of year!

Charting Unknown Waters

OK. I just started my journey into the unknown. The uncharted waters of life in my sixties began yesterday. I guess I must have thought that yesterday I would have somehow “felt older” or that my memory would suddenly disappear into the abyss or something else drastic might happen. Well I’m still here today and alive and relatively well (for my age!).

I’m really enjoying life these days. In some ways I’m coasting down life’s highway. But in other regards I am still squeezing out from my resources of memory and experience to eek out a survival in the corporate world. Most days it is still an adventure for me. And other days it seems to have the word “drudgery” attached. But all in all, I’m still having the time of my life and getting the job done in the best way that I can.

I treat my own job and duties with the same sense of drive and determination as if it were my own personal business to care for. And it really is. Perhaps it’s just me, or my generation, or my upbringing. I am hoping it is not just a generational thing that will someday be gone forever. Having this type of mindset should really be the norm and not the exception. Some day I really do hope that someone else will pick up my mantle and carry forward with the same sense of pride and care that I’ve come to enjoy and expect from myself. My faith has played a crucial role. 

Sometimes we sell short the generations behind us as being uncaring or lazy. As with any generation I’m sure there is some of that at play. But I see a bright future in the midst of some shaky and dark things in this world when I see innovators and those that are “up and coming”. Our followers will certainly face new and different challenges in every aspect of life. But I look forward to seeing if what my generation modeled will be repeated or built upon, in new and exciting ways of innovation.

As I begin the fall of my life, my calendar and some days my body still screams that it really spring time. Away with the dead of winter. With anticipation we watch the explosion of newness in everything around us as the plants wake up and start singing. And with the new chorus comes color and beauty and tons more oxygen to fill our lungs again. The whole process is refreshing. Seasonal change is one of the wonders of life (and death). It’s a stark reminder that out of death can spring forth new life.

So even though my driver license now says I’m older, I refuse to fall prey to the dullness and negativity of getting old. I choose to be happy and fulfilled and complete. And out of my own “deadness” I look for new and green and colorful life as I travel toward the winter of my days.  

Ready to Retire? Always!!!

Well, today we say farewell to my good buddy Curtis. I’ve had the privilege of working with Mr. Curtis for almost 4 years. When I walked into this place for the first time (through what I thought must have been the back door to the business) I was smack in the middle of the customer service department. I was there looking to interview for a new job and Mr. Curtis was the first person that greeted me.

It really helps when you walk into a new place seeking employment to find some like Mr. Curtis. Whatever fear and trembling I must have felt was tempered quickly by the ease of style and friendly character of this fellow. While waiting for the person interviewing me, it was only a few sentences in that I and my buddy were talking food and especially BBQ. Funny how God uses people and passions together very quickly, isn’t it?

Well, I ended up getting the job. And I worked in a different building but shortly thereafter we moved to another location and all of us were finally all together. It was here that I learned about the life and adventures of Curtis. And what a storied life! I thought I had done a lot of things in my time. But I met my match.

Once you meet Curtis, you will never be the same. And if you’ve met him you will understand (without a doubt) that he has a deep and abiding faith in our God. And yes we do share the same One and only God, expressed in the form of Jesus the Christ.

Speaking of Jesus, one of Curtis’s common questions is to anyone he knows is this – “Did you know that Jesus loves you and I do too?” I would kid him at times and say “I sure hope so!” Or I might tell him “I know Jesus does, but I’m not sure about you.”

He ends all Facebook or email messages with “Love Ya”. Now it takes a real “manly man” to boldly tell someone (anyone) that he Loves You. But that’s how he rolls. And it is his signature.

He told me last week that he would be moving on to greener pastures this week and move to the retirement home. Well, at least he has plans of staying home more. And fishing. And singing and whistling and humming. And doing just about anything he wants to.

But I have a suspicion that as he enters this new phase of fun that God will have some new things for Mr. Curtis to be involved in. And I’m sure it will be spreading good news somewhere in his world.

We all have “stories” to tell about our lives. But Curtis really does have a life changing story of redemption. He’d be the first to tell you that he was a real stinker in his earlier life. And it wasn’t just doing all the wrong things. He was a real life agnostic. Webster’s defines this with several flowery words. Doubter, Scoffer, Cynic, Skeptic, Unbeliever.
agnostic – a person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist)
It’s interesting that the descriptors of such a person seem to all be negative. But the Curtis that I know is anything but negative. So how’d that change happen?
It was a complex, yet simple, change that he attributes only to God’s “wonder working power”. Not only was Curtis ill and close to death more than once, but he was despondent, depressed and pretty much without hope. Yet in the midst of his pain, someone kept praying for and encouraging Mr. Curtis that he’d turn to God for help and healing. Finally Curtis did “simply” turn to God for his “complex and complete healing power”. I can’t recall how many years ago that was, but the main point is, it was not a temporary “fix”.
God took that piece of clay that was broken and made it pliable again. And what he reconstructed was a “man after God’s own heart”.
I didn’t know the old Curtis Shelton. I only know the redeemed man that God healed and changed. Happy Trails my friend! I know you’ll keep telling the Good News of God’s redeeming power.