How Do I Feel About Growing Old With You?

Today is Linda’s birthday. The Big 70. I follow next month. It has been a long but fast journey since we turned 18 when we met. At that age we did not think about reaching this stage in life. It was all about a wonderful courtship progressing with excitement and daily signals of affirmation at just the right pace and punctuated with “pinch me, is this for real?” moments.

However, about 11 years later and 8 years into a marriage, we were afforded an opportunity to ponder many questions to make a good marriage a great marriage: a safe environment to delve into deep personal questions that challenged a relationship. Self-image. Money. Sex. God. Children. In-laws. Death.

But the one question that caught us off guard was “How do I feel about growing old with you?” It was the prelude to confronting death in a safe, constructive way. We encountered some discomfort but conquered the subject with trust and openness, like the friends we were before we were lovers. Our lifelong relationship salvation has been to stay in that friend-zone and to sound the alarm if we veer so that we can return.

Even though we had been married for 8 years at that point, and our wedding vows just as sacred, I was floored as I came to the realization that we were married for a lifetime. Until the end. I was in awe that the pinnacle of marriage was the ascension from the altar, ever-growing and a little bit ahead of every step.

And a spiritual thing. As we approach 50 years of marriage and into our 7th decade on earth, the cumulative effect washes over me. Not just one year of marriage 50 times over. Strong spiritual arms have been wrapped around us since the day we met and have never let go. And will never let go as we asked for the firm Hug each day.

But wow! We confronted and embraced the idea of growing old together at what now seems a very young age, but dang if we haven’t ended up turning 70 together!

I find myself pausing to simply bask in the moment.

So, Happy Birthday, Linda. We celebrate your milestone still hand in hand. Sometimes I got ahead and pulled you along, and more often it was you grasping my hand without having to say, “let’s go.” It has been a lovely stroll.

I Love You!

Lewis

Dear Class Bully … I Need To Tell You Something

It’s summer, and another miserable year has passed watching you bully people in and out of school. It’s not so much me any longer since I ignored you in elementary school and finally faced up to you in middle school. You mostly left me alone except for laughing at me occasionally and letting me know I am not in your circle of friends. But I watch you bully others. That bothers me just as much. Maybe even more. I need to tell you something.

You need to know how it feels to be bullied. Every single day is dreaded. I can’t say I’m ever happy knowing that you will eventually come along to say or do something cruel. The bullied feel lonely and many times unsafe. We see how your cruelty continues to be more severe, uglier each year. Sometimes at night in bed, I can’t sleep, replaying in my mind something you said or did that day. I often feel ill.

I consider you to be dangerous.

I would never harm you, but I must tell you that at times I wish you harm. If only you could feel for one moment how you make other people feel. Threatened. Singled out. Distracted. Lousy. Worthless. Angry that another person can have that kind of influence.

I would never harm myself. But I must tell you that I think about it. Sometimes I want to do something drastic to show you how much you have hurt me. But then I realize how many people love me deeply and how I would hurt them. That won’t ever happen. Yet there are days you have put me in that zone of despair. And I resent it.

Most of all, I wonder what made you this way? Deep down I question whether you are a happy person? Do you act this way to cover up something? Do your parents ever ask you if you are being bullied or if you are a bully to others? My parents do. They read the news. They worry about me when I am sad or simply just quiet. They know when something is wrong. If I were a bully like you, they would be right in the middle of finding out what is going on with me.

They also speak up quickly if I say anything offensive about another person. They have taught me to respect others. They encourage me to look for the person in the room who needs a friend and to be that friend. They have taught me to look for the good in others. And yes, I even see the good in you. You are good looking, you are funny and you are smart. But there is much more involved in building healthy relationships, my parents say.

I want you to know that I don’t need you as a friend or to be in your circle of friends. I have my own. It seems strange to me that your friends are much like you, although you are clearly the leader. What part of you enjoys that growing spiteful teasing of others in front of your friends? That seems sick to me. I wish you would seek some counseling. I wish your friends would stop supporting your behavior.

While I don’t need you as a friend, I wish we could be friendly. I have only a few deep friendships, and I am perfectly fine with those few, but I want to be friends with everyone. It’s not a popular thing. It’s a human thing. I don’t want to have any regrets in life, especially on the simple things like how to treat another person.

I want you to be thinking about something over the summer. The day school starts, and every day after that, I am going to call you out for bullying. I will be reporting you to the School Resource Officer or the Principal. I would normally try talking to you personally, but my attempts in the past have only led to more harassment from you. I will stand up to you, because I think you need a mirror held up to you.

I don’t want anybody you bully to seek revenge. I will risk outing your behavior and report you to the authorities before something happens, and then I regret not doing something. And before you, your friends and your family are overwhelmed with a deeper regret for being responsible.

Yet, I will make an equal effort just to be friendly to you and to persuade you to do the same with me and with everyone you see.

It will be your choice.

Your Classmate.

Two Girls & Four Painters

LFM Note: I was fortunate to be invited to read to each of my granddaughter’s classes about four years ago. Instead of reading a book, I wrote my own stories. This one was adopted from a story circulated on the Internet (author unknown) that you will recognize. Our granddaughter Lily loves art. All three of our grandchildren do. However, Lily is all about art and has a gift to draw and cut out three dimensional objects that fascinate us. This story was for her class. I wrote an original story for Lindsey, two years older, when she was in either kindergarten or first grade. This age was great to be around.

When I arrived, the classmates were sitting at their desks. The teacher, Ms. Holland, told me to sit in the rocking chair close to the far corner of the room. I thought I was going to read to the kids at their desks. Then she told the kids to sit on the big rug in front of the rocking chair, literally up against my feet. I have never had such an attentive audience in my life. Legs crossed, chins on their fists, the scene as they peered up at me is a fond memory. Just so you will know the names, Mr. Morris, the Head of of the Lower School just retired at Trinity Christian Academy, the most loved man at TCA after 40 years of service.

I offer this to you as a suggestion to make up your own stories to your young kids and grandkids. I see at least 25 potential stories in the cute and funny Facebook quips and clips you send around every day. The personal touch is appreciated. As with many stories, you can also convey many life-lessons.


 

Two Girls & Four Painters

Lily was not happy. She was rolled into a hospital room two hours after surgery on her leg. They told her she would be staying for about three days before she could go home. She didn’t want to be in the hospital unable to get out of bed. Lily wanted to be home with her paint set. She was happiest when she was painting or creating a craft project.

The hospital room had two beds separated by a wooden wall that went about halfway to the ceiling. One bed had a window and the other bed didn’t. Lily got the bed without a window. She went from being unhappy to being disappointed as could be seen by the frown etched on her face.

“What’s your name?” Lily didn’t realize there was already somebody in the bed on the other side of the room – the side with a window – until she heard the voice.

“My name is Lily. “What is your name?”

“My name is Lindsey. Welcome!”

“I don’t like it here,” said Lily. “I’d rather be home painting.”

Lindsey said, “You’re a painter? I am, too.”

“What do you like to paint?” asked Lily.

“Just about everything,” Lindsey replied.

Lily had brought her paint brushes and some paper to paint on while in the hospital. But she was in no mood to paint. In fact, she didn’t really have an interest in talking to Lindsey. She just wanted to pout. It even bothered her that Lindsey sounded so happy. How could anybody be happy in a hospital bed? Even if you had a window?

Lindsey could sense that Lily didn’t want to be there. She had been there for two days and had one more day before she could go home. The surgery Lindsey had on her foot had kept her in bed, but she was trying to stay positive. She hoped she could get a roommate who was more pleasant than Lily seemed to be.

The day ended with Lily and Lindsey falling to sleep without saying much more to each other. Lily wondered what Lindsey looked like. It was strange talking to someone she could not see because of the wall between them.

The next morning Lily was awakened when Lindsey yelled, “Lily, wake up! Wake up!”

Lily buried her head under the pillow. She wanted to be left alone.

“Lily, there’s a cardinal on the window sill!”

Lily couldn’t resist this comment. The only things she loved more than painting were birds and animals. Any kind of animal! Especially baby animals. Lily couldn’t think of an animal she didn’t like.

“Is it a male with bright red and crest on his head,” asked Lily?

“Yes, and he is very big. He looks like he has just eaten a big meal.”

Lily wanted more details. “What is he doing?”

“He’s looking in the window like a curious neighbor watching kids playing in the street. Except he is looking in instead of out. He is cocking his head back and forth like he sees me but can’t quite figure out who is in our room.”

“Gee,” said Lily, “I wish I could see out the window.”

Then Lindsey told Lily the cardinal had just flown away.

Nurse Stephens and Holland then came in to give the two girls their breakfast.

Before long Dr. Morris came in to check on Lily and Lindsey to make sure their leg and foot were healing from the surgery. Everything was looking just fine.

While Lily had perked up after hearing about the cardinal, she slumped back into her bed and began to feel sorry for herself confined in a hospital bed. The day went by, night came and both girls fell asleep. Lindsey was worried about Lily being unhappy and hoped that the next day would be better.

The next morning started off about like the previous morning. “Lily, Lily, wake up! I can see a dog park from the window. It is Saturday morning with tons of families with their dogs running and playing in the dog park.”

Lily sat straight up in her bed. Without thinking she reached under her bed and pulled out her pad and paints. “Tell me what you see, Lindsey. Don’t leave out a thing.”

Lindsey described the dog park that had many trees. There were also benches where people could sit as their dogs ran free. There was a large oval water pan at one end of the dog park. It was about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long. Next to the pan was a low place where dogs had splashed so much water than it had become muddy.

Lily stopped Lindsey and asked, “What color are the park benches? How many are there? How many people and dogs are there? Tell me more about the water puddle? What color is the mud? Are most of the dogs big or small? Are any of them fighting or all playing?”

As Lindsey started describing the dog park in more detail, Lily started painting. The benches were made of metal with green tops and seats on gray piping. The trees were tall and provided about half sunlight and half shade. There were about 20 dogs of all sizes. They were all playing, many running in circles. The mud was brown.

“What color is the brown,” asked Lily? Reddish brown like a bowl of chili or a dark brown, like a grizzly bear.”

The more Lindsey described the details, the faster Lily painted.

“Lily, there’s a little dog chasing a big dog in circles, and their pathway goes right through the mud puddle!”

“Really? Tell me more” giggled Lily.

Lindsey said Big Dog was lopping along like he was happy with his ears flapping in the wind. It was almost as if you could see a smile on his face. Little Dog was trying to show Big Dog how brave he was, but when Big Dog stopped suddenly, Little Dog slid right under Big Dog’s belly. Lindsey was shouting each movement like an announcer at a football game.

Lily’s giggle turned into a belly laugh. She had to put down her paint brush. She could imagine what the scene looked like. She was laughing so hard that her sides were aching. “Oh Lindsey, please tell me more!”

By the end of the day, Lily had painted three scenes of the dog park. She was exhausted, but it had been a very good day. The evening ended with Lily and Lindsey talking for several hours in their dark room. They both talked about their favorite students at their different schools. They talked about their dreams when they went to high school and then to college. They talked about family vacations. They talked about church. They fell asleep talking about God and their understandings of Jesus and the Bible. They both prayed out loud as they drifted to sleep.

Lily slept so soundly that she was awakened only because Nurse Holland brought her breakfast tray to her. “Where’s Nurse Stephens with Lindsey’s tray?”

“Lindsey checked out of the hospital early this morning” said Nurse Holland. Dr. Morris said it was time for her to return home to continue healing.

“Oh no,” said Lily, “I didn’t get to tell her goodbye.”

Nurse Holland said, “Well, one more day and you can go home, too.”

Lily said, “Nurse Holland, would it be okay if we moved my bed to the other side of the room so I can be near the window?”

Nurse Holland looked puzzled and said, “Lily, why would you want to move? The window looks out to the brick wall of the building next to us. You can’t see anything.”

Lily was confused but then got mad. “Lindsey lied to me! She said there was a dog park she could see. She described it in detail. Here are three pictures I painted after listening to her tell me about what she saw.”

About that time Nurse Stephens walked in to hear the conversation. “Lily, it is impossible for Lindsey to have seen those things. Not only is there a brick wall outside the window, but Lindsey cannot see at all. Lindsey is blind. She has no eyesight.”

There was a silence in the room as the two nurses and Lily looked stunned and just stared at each other. Nobody could think of what to say.

Dr. Morris walked in the room and asked what was going on. There was a commotion as Lily was holding up her paintings and the nurses were trying to explain.

He then started laughing, adding to the shocked reaction to Lily and Nurses Holland and Stephens.

“Don’t you see what we have here? This room has been home to two girls and four painters.”

“What do you mean?” they all three said at the same time.

“Lily paints with brushes and paper. She uses colors and brush strokes to tell a story. The types of strokes she chooses add emphasis to details she wants people to see. The images she forms communicate a message between Lily and the person looking at her pictures.”

“Lindsey, on the other hand, is the second and third painter. She paints in her mind. She does not have eyesight, but the images in her head are clear and have color and details just as vivid as if she had painted them like Lily.”

“Lindsey also paints with her words. She has a rich vocabulary. She is a writer and a poet. Words can describe the details of many things. Not just colors. Words can describe how things smell, feel and sound. Lily, one of your pictures shows two dogs romping around a dog park. I can see fun, I can see action and I can see humor in your picture. You drew that picture that says all of those things from the words used by Lindsey. Neither you nor Lindsey actually saw those pictures until they were put in your heads by words.”

Lily had to think about the different kinds of painters for a few minutes as did Nurse Stephens and Nurse Holland.

Then Lily said, “Dr. Morris, you said there were four painters and described three. Who is the fourth painter?”

“It is you, Lily” Dr. Morris said. “When I talked to Lindsey as she left this morning, she told me about how much she enjoyed you. She said you kept motivating her to see more details. You pulled those details out of her imagination. If she had eyesight, you would have been encouraging her to look closer and deeper at things. She described two dogs running around in circles. You made her see the action, the fun, the life of the event. That is also want a painter does. So you are the first and fourth painter. Lindsey is the second and third painter.”

They all heard a noise and turned around to see Lindsey’s mom pushing her in a wheelchair. They had returned to the room to pick up an iPod Lindsey left in the room.

Lindsey rolled over to Lily’s bedside and gave her a hug. Lily was in disbelief that Lindsey really was blind. She told Lindsey how she now understood. Lindsey was trying to help Lily cheer up. She knew it was by giving her something to paint so that Lily would snap out of her sadness.

Lindsey explained to Lily that while she did not have eyesight that she really was not blind. “I saw a dog park, but you made it crisp and clear, with more colors and with a lot more action than I saw at first. I am the one who should be thanking you for giving me better sight. I also saw your friends and family and pets and everything you described when we talked and prayed after the lights were out. During that time we both were relying on our thoughts and our words to see in the darkness. God gave both of us certain gifts. Those gifts are even greater when we work together!”

Lindsey and Lily both promised to call each other each week so they could “paint” over the phone. LFM

Adapted and embellished from a story circulated on the Internet (author unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The World, But Not Of It

I wish Bruce Springsteen had not cancelled his North Carolina show tonight due to his stance in favor of LGBT issues. I know I don’t agree with Bruce on many things, but I just would like to enjoy his music and shows. If he had cancelled in Dallas this week, it would have ended a love affair.

I wish the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas would not be political from the pulpit. He can write all he wants and appear on TV shows, because I do not watch those. But to start out a sermon with political anger interferes when I want to listen to his message about Christ from the Bible. I cannot be ministered to by a political activist.

I wish I could watch just one TV show without them having to weave a LGBT character into the plot – every single time. Even in a period show, can’t anyone write about a British/Scottish story two hundred years ago without including a gay issue? You see, I really don’t care until it gets shoved in my face. I scoffed at Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy a few years back.  But I actually do prefer it.

I wish the Pope had not continued to cave in with his recent position on LGBT issues. I am not Catholic, but I look fondly at the Catholic Church. Linda and I were once part of a huge Marriage Encounter movement that was started in the Catholic Church. We were involved with our wonderful Catholic friends to start the program in the United Methodist Church. But the effort to save a church by boosting the effort or making it obligatory to recruit the LGBT folks is what bothers me. I am okay with worshiping God with a gay person next to me. But the in-my-face stuff, even a desire to support a LGBT recruiting program, is where I stop.

Oh, you could say, then Lewis, don’t watch those shows and don’t go to those places where you are going to be offended. It may surprise you, but I am perfectly okay with me removing myself to a certain extent. I’m not interested in fighting. It’s not that kind of anti-LGBT thing for me. I just don’t like being compelled to be pro-LGBT.

But I like artistic things of all kinds. Brilliant acting. Dramatic plots. Rock ‘n Roll. I’m a little bit conservative and a little bit liberal. I can handle a wide range exposures. I just don’t like it when the LGBT message is the main message. How can People Magazine devote that many front covers and stories about the “woman” formerly known as Bruce Jenner?

This is not my world, but I am forced to live in it. “Of the world, but not in the world” as some Christians might say. I don’t want to convince anyone to give up their LGBT lifestyle and to be like me. I just don’t want the LGBT folks to proselytize me. I don’t see the movement as progress. If it is, I don’t want to be progressive.

If I am headed toward the life of a recluse, then I’m actually okay with that, too. If it weren’t for having grandkids, I would worry little about what is ahead for generations. The Greatest Generation was the one my parents were in, but I know that was lost a long time ago. And I’m okay both relishing the good parts of their generation and glamorizing the bad parts. Since I am in the second class of Boomers, I know my generation was the transitional phase. My generation managed to screw up and set the stage for what came afterwards. In fact, the early part of the Boomers is quite different from the middle and later part. But we managed to let go of something that is not likely to ever return.

I do know that if an organization, whether a business, church, military, education or non-profit, is to survive when there are Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials working together, it takes organizational and management skills beyond me. I’m okay with admitting a lack of patience or skills. I’m okay with turning all of it over for someone else who cares to fight and lead. God bless them.

I do have the skill of being able to filter at times. I’ve never agreed with Bruce Springsteen’s politics, but I only hear his music. I can still enjoy a Rock Hudson movie and not see him marching in a LGBT parade. Because he didn’t. It might have been just after his heyday that I stopped watching any of the awards shows. Now you have to endure everybody wanting to champion their political or social issue instead of celebrating the talent factor of the awards ceremony.

I no longer believe this is my world, and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. The pendulum has swung too far, and it won’t swing back in my lifetime. I hope it does by the time my future great grandchildren and beyond are here. But I doubt it will.

My statistical lifetime almost exactly coincides with the end of the next two presidential elections. I don’t see anything getting better and the probability of them getting worse is extremely high no matter the presidential candidate.

But I will be happy or at least content. The things I cherish in life: family, Christ and friends will stay intact. I can turn off the TV, and I do. I can pick and chose the music I listen to. We already carefully research the musicals and plays ahead of time. My analytical skills and tools I use continue to advance. I’m having more fun than I ever have had with my work. I can be in the world but not of it due to decisions I make and things I control. And I will not compromise on those. LFM

 

 

Maslow & Municipal Services

I was fascinated with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs back in college. I won’t use this space to try to fully explain his theory, but I strongly encourage you to explore on your own. It didn’t occur to me then how I would later apply it later in my career and personal life. Before long I had no trouble applying the hierarchy to municipal services and even at other levels of government.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

Physiological.

Most of us live in good cities measured in several different ways. We can best understand just how good we have life by taking away the first line of government, counties, schools and cities. We generally know we are going to have water brought to us and wastewater taken away from us before we can even build a house. And cleaned before and after. Just those two services allow us to move into a community, but it has to be continued to keep us there. Else we end up like Flint, Michigan. In case we were to get lax or just fussy about spending money for receiving and returning clean water, we have federal, state and local standards. And levels of necessary bureaucracy to enforce those standards.

Actually, it doesn’t matter what the cost is. If you are having to pump water from a lake 100 miles from you, and the lake was built in the recent decade rather than in the 1950s, then it is going to be very expensive. If the water is of a quality that requires above normal amounts of treatment (look up the word “brine” or “brackish), then it is going to cost more. If you move to a city that has charm promoted in the form of “beautiful hills” and terrain, don’t be surprised if your sewer bill is higher due to the dozens of lift stations as opposed to a city where wastewater gets to the treatment plant through gravity flow. Big difference.

My municipal career started right after the Clean Water Act of 1972 was created. The sewer bill was a flat $2.00 a month, as I recall. Up until then the usual phrase was “the solution to pollution is dilution,” but you had to say it with a heavy emphasis on “di” in dilution to sound Texan. Treatment plant were actually by-passed during heavy rains with massive amounts of rainwater inflow and infiltration from aging or shoddy lines going straight into the streams. So, yes, my friend Maslow was correct, there are basic physiological needs that have to be met before we can have a viable community.

Safety.

Let’s face it. If we have to live every day worrying about getting killed or someone stealing our property, we have no focus other than staying home with a gun in our hands. It is easy for jokes to come forth on this one, but this is not a Redneck issue for most of us. Yet it is always on our mind or at least we get frightening reminders when we hear of a home-invasion crime that has occurred close to us. As you get older, this concern increases. So, you are not going to have a good life or a good community if you don’t feel safe. And to know that if you need help, the response is only a few minutes away. But it does cost money. In fact, a response time of 30 minutes for a serious crime call instead of 5 minutes might save tax dollars. Which do you want?

And the same response time for a fire or rescue emergency is hardly a choice. Those minutes mean you either go to the hospital or to the morgue. I find it interesting that many of my peers want to retire and move way out into the country. At an age when they may need medical assistance the most. Not me. I want to live in a safe community with doctors and hospitals close and emergency workers who can get me to the care centers quickly. The bottom line is that fire and police workers are expensive and are always going to get priority in budgets. Besides, do the math. There are 8,760 hours in a year. For every worker you need 24×7, it takes 4.2 people to cover – and that is if they didn’t take a single day of vacation, holiday or sick leave. The real number is well over 5 people for every one employee needed for full coverage. Then add the logical team/squad requirement since you don’t send a firetruck with just one person on it.

The Others.

Each of the top three are as important as the first two in my mind if we want to live in communities and enjoy the benefits while also increasing our own personal growth. Linda and I don’t need a huge stadium full of friends, and prefer being homebodies to a full calendar of social events we lived as younger people. But we do need friends. We are more “waving” neighbors than social butterflies, but we like having good neighbors. We like to live where medians are well groomed with a sprinkling of color beds. It is nice to have city (and HOA) people who will enforce codes that keep weeds from becoming a problem. We are grateful for animal control who comes when we call about those obnoxious dogs behind us. We like a community full of churches.

We love going to the nicely groomed, well-lighted sports fields and recreation centers where we live and go watch our grandkids play. I cannot express the joy we feel being around young families and their kids. We get energy from their youthfulness. Our favorite thing to do is to see live entertainment – plays, musicals, dramatic readings, idea forums (like TedTalk) I mentioned recently. We get the benefit of enjoying not just McKinney but also the surrounding cities, Frisco, Fairview, Allen, Plano. We probably go to venues in Dallas every week or two. Our jaunts to Fort Worth and several cities in between have introduced us to some great venues.

I have attended college courses at the local community college and gone to enlightening, though provoking events held for vocational and personal growth. The first thing we did when we moved to McKinney is get our water turned on. The second thing we did is get library cards. The most wonderful sight when we go to the library is seeing a mom walking in or out with three kids, each holding books. That’s community!

Conclusion.

The most vibrant communities nourish the citizen and let them thrive to reach every level of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. Our children and grandchildren can flourish in these kinds of communities. Jobs are available here or nearby. Every need we have is met. We can partake as little or as much as we want. We can give, and we can take.

The real test is whether we can also be a good player in our larger region from which we can give and take? And that is my topic for tomorrow. LFM

This Side of Easter

We have a benefit over those followers of Jesus in His day walking the earth. We remember the events leading up to the cross, but they lived it. However, we know before He dies, he will rise again. What an advantage! We see everything on this side of Easter.

Today we celebrate the empty cross, the Risen Lord and all we have learned about what comes after the discovery of the tomb that could not hold Him. Our grief yields to celebration. Despair turns to hope. We lift our heads and look high. A new Day has been born.

The Re Words.

There are dozens of them. I call them the “re” words. They are almost all powerful words. They are Spring words. Renewal. Revisit. Rejuvenate. Restart. Reconcile. Return. Reconsider. Rethink. Recommit. I love them all. They all blend “surrender” in with “power.” To yield is strength when we see from the back side of a decision.

These words apply to people, to relationships and to communities themselves. A visionary sees the entire continuum. A wife or husband can see the necessity of healing, and the results. Some fast-growing cities are overwhelmed with new growth. A mature mayor and city manager place equal joy on rebuilding the old parts of town. Birth and rebirth taken together result in resiliency and vibrancy.

Easter Song.

While I mentioned hymns on Good Friday, it is actually praise music that has added to my re-energized soul in recent years. Many churches have blended the old hymns with lively praise, often in the same song. I like that. I am one of those who firmly believes that Heaven will be filled with songs of praise and worship. It is the worship service today that gives me the best glimpse of Heaven. I don’t see Heaven being a passive experience.

It is this spirit that I direct you to a few links of some praise music. I searched with pleasure and found way too many to make it an easy choice. If you have never heard of Hillsong, then let me introduce them to you. This is a church in Australia that has turned their music into a ministry of its own. A highlight is a woman named Darlene Zschech. We were fortunate to see Hillsong and Darlene a few years back at a church in Carrollton.

The first song is called Hallelujah Choir Opener. I like this version (Darlene is not in this one) because it involves normal city scenes that show how we can be in a mindset of praise in the middle of our busy lives. It also gives me hope to see Gen-Xers and Millennials taking the lead.

The second song involves Darlene singing Shout to the Lord, one of my favorites. She is joined by Michael W. Smith. When our son Kenneth was a young teenager, he attended a Christian sports camp in Missouri. The owner of Kamp Kanakuk, Joe White, was a friend of Michael W. Smith and had him surprise the campers one night for their very own show.

If this music speaks to you, I promise you could fill your day searching YouTube, and you will be richly blessed.

Happy Easter! LFM

 

Thinking About My Bro

This was the eulogy I gave at my brother’s funeral December 19, 2015:

Bob

James Robert (Bob) McLain

James Robert McLain. The James is from our Uncle Jimmy. The Robert is from our Uncle Bob – Our Dad’s two brothers. And no, not once to my knowledge was he ever referred to as Jim Bob.

He was born on January 8, 1952, the day Elvis Presley turned 17. He passed away on December 14, 2015. We know these things because Bob’s birth and death certificates say so. And because family members were there to witness both events.

Humor. Bob would have appreciated these tidbits of information being highlighted at his funeral. If we could hear him right now, he would be ready to follow with at least three corny jokes – in his head. But only one he would have gotten out.

You see, BEFORE Bob told a single word of a joke he would start laughing. By the time he was 15 seconds into the joke, he would be wheezing at his own humor, as red in the face like an apple.

His jokes were best when he had a table or a knee to slap as he attempted to tell it. He added rhythm to his jokes in a sense.

I don’t remember a single joke out of the thousands in his repertoire. But I remember everybody in the room wheezing by the time he got through one. We know this because we all heard him and laughed with him.

You never had to guess what was in Bob’s head. That’s because he was unfiltered. Whatever he was thinking was seconds away from rolling out of his mouth. Bob was usually not politically correct. But that was part of his charm.

If you weren’t laughing with him, you sat there – (sometimes in fear, sometimes in awe) – of what he was about to say. We knew this about Bob by being in his presence.

Goodness. There are many words to describe Bob, and perhaps I gave you a glimpse, but I’m sure those of you who knew him have a pocketful of endearments for Bob. The one that dominates my thoughts right now was his GOODNESS. You can precede the entire vast inventory of Bob’s traits with “He was a good ______________.” Person, Son, Brother, Husband, Dad, Granddad, Uncle, Co-Worker … the list is endless.

But all can be wrapped in genuine, golden GOODNESS. To the core. Without reservation. He was the real deal. We knew that by being blessed by Bob.

Bob was the hardest working person I’ve ever known. Our Dad passed down the trait to us. Thank God for Blue Collar upbringings. Bob worked for me several years, most of the 1980s.

All I had to do is point to the work and step out of his way. Quickly. He picked up a set of skills largely on his own and by cook-booking my work. And then he turned it into something better, adding his own brand.

When he was a young teenager, I once visited him at a hamburger stand where he was working. He could talk, laugh and flip hamburgers with his hands moving faster than I could keep up with. The scene remains a Kodak moment in my mind.

He was a fantastic utility rate analyst and consultant. But the fact is – he loved work for the great value that comes with fulfilling, hard work of any type. Many of us knew that by bearing witness to his productivity.

Bob was a Christian. And more than in name, he had a true relationship with Christ. Knowing this eases the pain. It’s a huge factor in our acceptance of losing him!

You didn’t have to guess about Bob’s faith. He felt it. He showed it. He shared it.
It would be impossible for me to count the number of times he told me that he was praying for Linda and me. We felt Bob’s love.

There are wonderful analogies that help understand or at least accept the mysteries of death and beyond. For example, the Chaplain in the hospital said we walked Bob to the bridge, and then Jesus and the Angels walked him to the other side. I buy that.

Others I like (and now am stealing) include about Bob being in a quiet boat on a calm lake slowly drifting to the other side to be received into his heavenly home. I’ll take that one, too.

But the fascination I have is with the actual moment of his entry into Heaven. I wish Bob could tell me about it right now.

Was it like the peripheral views of the camera in the opening scene of Gone with the Wind going from the outside and swooping through the huge doors of the mansion and into the room full of music and dance?

Were there 10,000 Angels singing at that moment and even now? Oh, how wonderful! Did the sounds wash over you, Bob?

What is it like to be in the presence of Jesus, to hear His voice, to touch His hand? What does the Voice of God sound like to the ear?

Was there a warmth, an indescribable embrace? Did you fall on your knees in awe? After all these years of grasping and savoring the reality of a Savior, Bob, what did the Lord’s arms feel like?

We don’t know exactly yet, … but Bob does. Bob is there with full knowledge, complete benefits, totally absorbing the ultimate experience! We will miss him here, but it is hard to be totally sad knowing he’s There. Praise God for Bob!

Lest you think these thoughts were formed just to eulogize Bob, his son Jason found a love-poem I wrote Bob 25 years ago on his birthday recording about 80% of these thoughts and observations. Like I said, Bob was the real deal. And he knew it.

Big Brother. It dawned on me last night that for Bob’s 64 years I have been the big brother of sorts. Ahead of him in school, driving, college, marriage, parenting and career. But on December 14, 2015, Bob became MY big brother. I find solace in that thought. And that is how I will think of him until we meet again. LFM