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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Valuing How the Other Sex Communicates!

Men and Women Really ARE Different

James Wright Foley
American Journalist

David Haines
British Aid Worker

This is a precarious time in our world, and the leaders of many nations are struggling as they seek to decide how to respond effectively to the various threats in our world, and especially to the barbarous threats posed by ISIL/ISIS or whatever the latest name is.  

I have viewed reports in the past weeks of the murders of American and British citizens by the ISIS thugs.  First, was the report of the beheading of James Wright Foley and yesterday the report of the beheading of David Haines.  I can make little sense of these actions, as Foley was a journalist and Haines was a British Aid worker.    A Brit, who was there TO HELP PEOPLE!  Oh, OF COURSE, that  is clearly a person who ought to be killed!!!  

My heart and my prayers go out to these families.  I sometimes even wonder if it wouldn't be wiser for the news media to completely ignore these bloodthirsty and attention seeking gangsters, rather than place them on international news status.  At the same time, it has helped wake up the world to the kind of people we are dealing with, so there is more than one way view the matter. 

It was the interview of Diane Foley, the mother of James Wright Foley, by Anderson Cooper that caught my attention.  As my wife and I watched the replay of the interview on CNN, at the end of the segment, one of the news anchors responded in a way that truly surprised me.  Diane Foley stated in the interview that during her son's imprisonment, the Foley’s were doing all they could to find out his whereabouts and what they could possibly do to procure his release.  They made the accusation that they were way ahead of the United States government in the investigation, as the FBI and others came to them seeking information they had gleaned themselves in Europe and elsewhere.  The other accusation was that individuals from the Executive Branch of the government made threats of prosecution against them if they did anything to attempt to raise ransom money.  There may have been more to the discussion, but this was the part involved in this episode. 

Jim’s mother expressed her struggles in a very articulate manner, asking piercing questions of American policy as well as sharing her frustration with it all, ultimately ending in the murder of her son.  After raising all sort of difficult issues in relation to the kidnapping and American foreign policy, the news reverted back to the co-anchors, a male and a female team.  The first response was by the woman anchor, who made an extended comment on the composure of the mother as she gave her interview.  That is where the issue arose, because I opened my mouth.  I said, “Can you believe that?  All the issues that poor mother raised, and the most important thing that news anchor thinks needs to be discussed first is the composure of the mother during the interview?”  Big mistake.

My wife responded without hesitation, something very close to, “Hey, women are interested in that, in the emotional side of the mother’s experience.”  Not having learned a lesson, I chirped up, “But first?  That’s the first thing that needs to be discussed?”  The reply?  “Men and women are different, and interested in different things.”  Sigh.  I’m old enough that I should have known before I ever opened my mouth.  I get tired of the touchy feely news media always asking individuals in crisis how it feels…but then, I’m a guy.

This same issue arises, I notice, in commercials as well.  There is some weight loss television commercial out there where a woman talks about how women always talk about how they look or what the best way is to lose weight.  Then she announces that she finally got down to what really matters, and it is how she feels.  Hmmm.  I probably am not going to be motivated by that.  But then, I’m not a woman. 

Sometimes we go watch movies, and afterwards we talk about whether it was a good movie, a boring movie or what.  Sometimes, especially if it is a really slow movie, I will reply, “Well, the problem is nothing got blown up and there wasn't a single car chase or anything!”  That’s when she sighs.  Or rolls her eyes.  Or, on her good days, just ignores me. 

I have noticed that very rarely do two individuals see things exactly the same.  Oh, they may intersect with some things, or they may have similar concerns, but exactly the same?  I have noticed this happens a lot between men and women.  This is nothing new. 

I love old movies (she does not, by the way), and watching them one will find the same themes played out time and time again.  I especially enjoy Henry Higgins struggling with the female point of view in “My Fair Lady,” during which he asks Colonel Pickering in a mocking tone of voice (in my recollected paraphrase), “Would you be jealous if I went out with another man?  Or be devastated if I showed up in an identical outfit at a party?  Of course not!”  A key point for women to roll their eyes once again.  Which, having been involved in the raising of girls, is a skill perfected at a very young age and practiced regularly. 

It seems to me that these differences are a major part of the challenge of marriage, and possibly a major factor in divorce.  All too often one spouse is frustrated because the other does not see things the same way as he/she does.  Or because the things they do don’t make sense to them.  We forget that one of the advantages of not seeing things the same way is that we end up with a more balanced perspective by taking two points of view into consideration.  With two opinions, we end up with more information by which to make decisions, and learn that there is something beyond our personal way of thinking. 

Instead, we get too entrenched in our own little worlds, and become convinced that we are right and any other opinion is simply wrong.  Everything from squeezing or rolling toothpaste tubes to toilet paper coming from the front or back to the way we cook, do dishes, make the bed…even identifying the important points of a new story!

On the radio while driving today, we listened to a program where an underwater explorer discussed the wonder of discovering things deep in the ocean as he has done in life.  

Folks, that is NOTHING, compared to figuring out the opposite sex.  

One view the whole matter is to realize that learning about how this beloved member of the opposite sex experiences life, chooses values and deals with issues that arise is the discovery adventure that can last a lifetime.  You are NEVER done with that.  Individuals are just that complicated.  That is why when you think you have your spouse all figured out, something will happen and the response will surprise you.  You don’t have it as figured out as you thought.

So instead of letting it get to you or frustrate you when this spouse makes no sense or can’t seem to see the obvious things that YOU do, why not decide it is one more chance to learn something about your spouse that you didn't realize?  Too often, we try to make that person think like we do, but in so doing, we have forgotten the time tested adage:  “Variety is the spice of life.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ray Rice, Janay Rice and An Opinion


I saw a news report that compels me to write today’s blog.  This will probably be one of the hardest blogs for me to write, as the issue of domestic violence is one that I find especially troubling.  Forgive the length of the blog, it is a topic dear to my heart.  Sadly, I have known far too many women (and men), who have suffered abuse in the home, some already married, some who married the individual after the fact as Ms. Rice has done.  It is such a terribly sad and unacceptable home life. 

I have also learned that while physical abuse is an awful thing, there is also the harder to define emotional abuse which is equally devastating.  Let me say at the very start, if you are physically striking your spouse or being struck by your spouse, please seek counseling now, before it is too late.  If you know someone suffering in this way, you could offer to go with them to a counselor or someone who can help get the healing started.

So with that, let me tell you what happened today.  I am sure that you, like me, have seen newscasts about NFL player, Ray Rice, and the abusive episode with his then fiancĂ©.  Now a video has been aired of the event and in the aftermath, his wife, has spoken about how troubled she is that so many are intruding on their personal life.  Understandably, it must be very hard for her or them to be able to work through their difficulties with the whole world scrutinizing them.  

It is all very sad.  

Watching the video, it is clear there was more going on between the two than that Ray simply slugged Janay; it appears to be quite an aggressive argument by both parties.  Nonetheless, when Ray throws the punch…lots and lots of lines have been crossed.

In CNN’s Headline News report this morning, a twitter post was shown written by an abused woman who stayed with her husband and explained why.  Included was a mention that her pastor told her that God hates divorce.  That was when I decided I had to address the abuse issue in a blog.  I don’t know who the woman was they were quoting, whether it was Ms. Rice or somebody else.  And I don’t know whether that woman’s tweet indicated she was still with her husband and everything worked out, or whether she eventually left.  But I was a bit miffed at the quick mention of the pastor who told an abused woman that God hates divorce. 

If that is all he told the woman in this matter, then she walked away with the understanding that God hates divorce MORE than he hates seeing her beat up by her husband.  That doesn’t fit with the description of God that find in scripture.  

Nowhere does scripture indicate that husbands are allowed to abuse their wives (nor is it right for husbands to be abused, either, and I have known some of those.  

Unfortunately, guys are even more embarrassed to admit they are being abused than abused women are.) 

Based on the descriptions of marriage found in scripture, an abusive spouse has already clearly abandoned the sanctity of the marriage vows.  A husband beating his wife is in NO WAY submitting himself to Christ or laying down his life for her or doing everything he can to make sure her faults are covered and protected, or treating her with respect and recognition of the fact that she might be physically weaker and therefore needs to be treated with care. 

Let me ask you:  Does God hate divorce more than He hates when husbands (or wives) flagrantly disregard their marriage vows and violate them with raised fist?  I think not.  In fact, if I were selecting the lesser of two evils, I think I’d vote for divorce long before I’d approve of genuinely abusive relationships.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I fully believe that the very best solution is for a couple to deal effectively with the dysfunction of the relationship, stop the abuse, each face his or her own issues, and then together build a marriage that is healthy and good.  And I believe that divorce should be way down the list of options, that every attempt should be made to build a healthy marriage.  

But what if only one spouse is willing to address the dysfunction?  

What happens when the abuser refuses to recognize his or her own need to change? 

Well, of course that one spouse should make meaningful attempts to bring about change, and God may well use that spouse to cause the changes.  But not if things escalate and that spouse dies from abuse.  After all, it takes two to make a marriage (actually, three when you count God), and one spouse cannot make marriage work alone, especially when he or she is beat down at every turn. 

There sometimes comes a point when something needs to be done.  There are times that choosing to walk out of a marriage could be the thing that makes the more guilty spouse wake up and face his or her abusive behavior, and realize that sinful actions carry awful consequences.  A victimized person should not be victimized again for choosing not to accept the charade the marriage had become. 

Sometimes it seems that some Christians and pastors think that the only thing God ever said about divorce is that he hates it.  That reference is found in Malachi, and yet that same Hebrew Bible contains in Deuteronomy instructions for how to divorce.  In other words, God gives instructions on how to properly do the very thing that he hates!  Why would he do that?  When I think of the important scriptures, I think it is very significant that the one record we have of Jesus dealing personally with a person apparently divorced tells of the incredibly compassionate way he treated the Samaritan woman he met at the well, described in John 4.

OF COURSE God hates divorce!!!  So do most people who have gone through one.  It is NOT a fun experience, and leaves people broken, mistrustful, devastated and lots of other things.  I hate going to the dentist, too, but that doesn’t mean that the drilling in my teeth isn’t sometimes a necessary or even a useful thing!   It is apparent from scripture that even God recognizes that in this world filled with imperfect people, there will be times that marriages don’t work, and so hate it though he does, he gave the instructions for divorce.

When the pastor told his parishioner that God hates divorce, she likely walked away with the understanding that God hates divorce, but he doesn’t hate the beatings she suffers...at least not as much.  That’s a stark contrast to the exuberance the Samaritan woman felt when leaving the presence of Jesus.  Having counseled with a number of abused individuals in the course of my ministry, I know first hand how awful the stories can get, and how dangerous the situations can become.  I remember one young woman who was sometimes beaten in front of a very young daughter, and I asked her if that is what she wanted her daughter to grow up believing is the proper way for a man to treat a woman.  Heartbreaking though it was, she wrestled with the choice of staying or leaving, and decided to stay.  I am hopeful they worked things out well, but do not live in that area any longer, so do not know for sure. 

Do you suppose that pastor with his advice that God hates divorce wanted the woman to stay in the marriage until “premature death at the hands of her husband” do they part?  That isn’t what the marriage vows say nor intend.  If not, and the abuser refused to change, how long DID he want her to stay legally attached to him in a relationship that does not even deserve the name “marriage”? 

Well, I’m ranting now.  I guess the truth is that pastors like that are the reason I wrote the books I did, because individuals who have experienced divorce, and especially those in the church, need to know that they still are precious to God, and that God dignifies their being, rather than diminishes it.  And the books attempt to fill the gap that too many in the church leave void for those who are struggling with divorce, because all too often the only thing they are told by the church is what that pastor told the woman above.

Finally, for any who have suffered real abuse at the hands and words of someone who is supposed to be loving you, realize that what you are experiencing is NOT love from that person, no matter how often he or she apologizes.  And realize that you are a person who deserves real love, not the treatment you have received.  I know that because Jesus decided you are so worth loving that he died on a cross for you so that you could experience the love of God throughout eternity.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Famous by God's Standard


The above familiar names are just a few of many whose names have been much in the news lately after having passed away.  There have been numerous tributes to some of these famous people, reflecting upon their lives and careers, highlighting the impact their work has had on fans and successors.  Many times the reporters discuss how great these people were both as individuals and in their work.  Like many of you, I have enjoyed much of their work, most especially the work of Robin Williams and James Garner. 

Names of famous people are also bantered about a lot when there is a divorce among them, a wedding, or if (heaven forbid!) any one of them would dare to make a fashion faux pas or display an ounce of cellulite!  Frankly, I am glad my divorce wasn’t played out on national television.  And I definitely don’t think I’d like any fashion police evaluating the clothes I wear!  Don’t you feel the same about areas of your life?

Famous people such as these are made to seem larger than life, almost super human as every detail of their lives is magnified, glorified and repeated ad nauseum, because they are SO special.  Sadly, many of them give the impression that have come to believe they are super special and super human.  Many seem to feel trapped by the fame, believing they have to live up to the super perfection expected of them, as pressure is placed upon them to be something more than they really are.  It isn’t entirely their fault that the fall into that trap, because many of us feed that ego by our over the top adulation.  Now, my point is NOT to run down famous people…just like each of us, they are also people created and loved by God.  No, my point is elsewhere, so bear with me.

  Frankly, I think we do these people a great disservice to treat them that way, as evidenced by the problems so many of them have in their fame.  Granted, some of them eat up all the attention, but I’m not convinced that is such a great thing.  Sometimes it seems that their fame leads them to believe they are the wisest of the wise.  I always chuckle when I hear someone famous such as an actor, sports figure or musician pontificate absurdities outside their area of expertise, as if being on the silver screen or the cover of People or Rolling Stone makes one expert in all things political, psychological and scientific.  I have noticed in particular that insights into the world of theology are often very misguided.  But what is just as absurd and causes me to shake my head and chuckle again is when I hear people oohing and ahhing over such proclamations.  I’m sure you recall as many examples as I do, no need to name names here. 

Just for the record, if you look it up in the dictionary, under the word “famous” you will not find wise or smart listed as either the definition or a prerequisite.  The former provides no guarantees of the latter; fame is simply fame.  Fame is often a result of great skill and hard work, but in this day and age, contacts, marketing, luck, family name or family wealth and sometimes ruthlessness can play a role as well. 

I’m not sure exactly how famous someone has to be in order to be considered significant enough to be mentioned on CNN or to have the Hollywood set pay tribute if you die from natural causes.  But for those of you who, like me, are not famous, it may help to realize that God doesn’t operate by the same significance scale. 

I have known many individuals whose names would be unrecognized outside their own circle of family and friends, and yet the significance of their lives seemed immense.  Sometimes they are parents or other relatives who encouragement and support have valuable impact for good in the lives of those In some cases, they were teachers who had great influence on the minds of your children.  Others were custodian types who worked hard to provide for their families by making sure that everything was clean and in good working order for others to be able to accomplish their work and dreams.  Some were nurses or nurses’ aides who daily did unglorious tasks that eased the suffering of people in their care.  I have known others who faithfully taught God’s word to children and adults in Sunday School or study groups, and quietly prayed as someone entered the Kingdom of God by giving his or her life to Christ.  

So who really are the ones whose lives are so significant that major life events are newsworthy?

In Psalm 116:15, the scripture says that the death of His people is precious in the sight of God.  He notices each one, and places great significance on each one, whether anybody else notices or not.  I also believe he observes and weeps for each marriage that falls apart in divorce, especially if one of the partners has been bound in an abusive situation for far too long. 

My life, or your life, may not make national headlines.  Our names may not flash across a silver screen, or attract a huge crowd of followers.  But in God’s scorecard, that isn’t what counts.  His hall of fame is based on things like hearts that are attuned to him, on acts done in faith and obedience, and the practice of godly love.  This is most profoundly pointed out by Jesus himself in Luke 21 when he comments to his disciples that the greatest giver was not the individual who put lots of money into the temple treasury, but the widow who donated everything she had, even though it was only two copper pennies.  Her name was probably not inscribed on any pillar or stained glass window, nor would she have been welcomed and lauded in the courts with the famous people of the day.  But she was never forgotten in heaven, and her example was recorded forever both in scripture and on the heart of God. 

So I just want to encourage you that, no matter your situation, each pain you suffer is close to Gods heart.  And each act of your life done in faith and obedience to him has great value.  Even though none may notice, and your name may not be familiar to any but a small circle of family and friends, those are not the standards by which God determines the significance of individuals.  And at we hear of the passing of Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, James Garner and other famous individuals, may we never forget that their deaths are just as significant as the countless others who died the same day.

Jesus reminded us that many who are first will be last, and the last first, so if you are one who seeks God but feel like you are pretty low on the totem pole, realize that the red carpet you walk on may not be at Grauman’s Chinese Theater or the steps of the White House.  Instead, it may be laid out for you on streets of gold.   Even those who do walk the red carpet and fly private jets in this world are wisest when they realize that the approval of God is more important than the fickle applause of the masses.  Because the only determination of significance that really matters is the valuation made by God.   

I wonder, is that what YOUR life reflects?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Wisdom of Investing in Your Marriage


In the news of the last few days, I saw reports of several couples who had gotten married or were planning their weddings.  The focus of some of those stories was a discussion of the venues people have chosen, including some that were literally fairy tale castle type places.  I can’t imagine how much renting a place like that for a wedding must cost.  

Sometimes we hear of couples who get married while skydiving or under the water in scuba gear, or in very exotic locations on land.  There are other shows on television about people getting married, that include plans for very elaborate cakes, or feature the brides trying on wedding gowns that cost $25,000 or more.  I can’t imagine dropping that kind of money on a dress to be worn once, or a cake that will be consumed in a few hours.  I had a college student once, who was a first generation American from another country, telling my about weddings in her home country.   She said she wanted to go back when she got married to have her wedding there, because those weddings last for a week or more and have something like 10,000 guests.  That is incredible.  Since her country is not one of great wealth, I wondered how such elaborate proceedings are financed. 

I have performed a number of weddings myself over the years, and taken pictures for a great many more, so I have a pretty long standing connection with weddings.  And over the years, I have done pastoral counseling with individuals in troubled marriages.  I find a stark contrast in the amount of money couples are willing to invest in a wedding ceremony compared to how much money they are willing to invest in counseling to work out their marital problems.  That contrast is something I have raised with couples whose weddings I have performed over recent years - challenging them to consider the time and money they are investing in the wedding versus what they have invested in planning the marriage.

I am a hopeless romantic in some ways, but I am also a great cynic in others.  I have seen thousands of dollars spent on weddings designed to flaunt or impress and I have also seen individuals living in abject poverty.  

I believe there is a fine balance between appropriate celebration and sinful indulgence. 

I have seen far too many couples spend fortunes on weddings but whose marriages fall apart because they are unwilling to invest themselves in ways that will make their marriage work.  

I wonder how much our perhaps misguided emphasis contributes to the divorce rate.  Sadly, there is no guarantee that a huge investment in a wedding will correspond to a successful marriage or the willingness to make a similar investment into that success.  (Remembering of course, Jesus reminded us that the only investments that truly endure are those invested in the Kingdom of God, such as helping the poor or living lives guided by the love of God…but that is another blog.)

It is notable that when you hear the old, “they lived happily ever after,” at the end of the fairy tale, you are hearing it at the point of the wedding, without describing the reality of marriage or what true happiness is.  Some say they aren’t supposed to, because they are fairy tales.  Maybe that is true.  

However, I think it is much wiser to help those we love prepare for the life that is beyond the day of the wedding.  I sometimes remind my couples during a wedding that in spite of all the efforts and planning and struggles to get everything right for that day, all their preparations are actually the easy part. The hard part is living out day by day in the drudgery of real life -  the lofty promises made in the vows.  When we focus only upon the one and ignore the other, I suspect we are contributing to a divorce rate by exemplifying misplaced values and priorities. 

Frankly, if I had to make a choice between a beautiful wedding and a beautiful marriage, I’d choose the latter.  But maybe that’s because I’m a guy…I have noticed women perceive these things differently.  Even so, not many women I know want only a beautiful wedding and not a good marriage as well.

 Perhaps today would be a good day to ask how wise the investments you have been making have been.  I know that a good marriage requires reinvesting day by day to ensure returns that will last. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Memories in the Midst of Everything


Memories from a lifetime

After posting my last blog, an anonymous reader posted a comment.  You could go back and look at it yourself, but it simply was that he thanked me for what I shared, and then wrote:

              “There are good memories in spite of some that are not so good.                                                                                    All of it is relevant to where we are today.”

I kind of liked what he/she said, do you?  Because I think there is some good wisdom in it.  So I thought I’d use it to elaborate a bit on some important concepts. 

The first part of the comment points out that mixed in with the memories that are painful or sad or tragic there are also the memories that bring us joy and good feelings.  Now most of us realize this is true.  Most experiences in life have something in them that can bring us joy or meaning.  But very few experiences are “perfect.”  Weddings almost always have some little glitch that brings frustration.  Family reunions often include some moments of tension.  Though we may be excited to move into new home or apartment, we may still miss the old neighborhood, and will inevitably find something in the new space that isn’t quite what we had hoped it would be.  Everything comes with mixed baggage.  But divorce, like many experiences in life, can so absorb our energy and our focus in such a way that we have a hard time seeing those good moments because the awful experiences loom so large.  But as the comment suggest, there are always both.  Sometimes it takes intentional effort on our part to remember that, and then to look for the things that are good. 

I have some friends who are currently in the midst of some pretty serious medical crises.  She is in the hospital recovering from an emergency surgery, and her husband is handling all the things that come with such an event.  He is one of those “glass half full” sort of guys, and so as he talks about all the difficult things that are going on, he always say that if you watch closely, you will see that God is always doing something.  We sometimes merely need to have ears to hear and eyes to see to be able to rise above the hardships.  In a lot of ways, it is the old “every cloud has a silver lining,” except we are not merely talking about what we might see afterwards, but being able to see in the midst of the storm itself.  How important it is that we find ways in the hard moments of life to notice the little things that bring us joy and meaning.

 The comment also includes a reference to the perspective and emotions that come each day.  While the writer did not explain exactly what is meant, I think it is fair to realize that perspective and time make a huge difference.  Sixteen years ago, I could see nothing good about my getting divorced.  A friend asked me if there wasn’t something which I was looking forward to, and the only thing I could speak of at the time was an upcoming birthday trip I had arranged for my daughter and I in celebration of her 16th birthday.   Everything else looked bleak.  Now, all these years later, with the emotional upheaval behind me and so much of the pain healed, I find that there are a lot of good things that have come in my life beyond the pain.  Even as I grieve the loss of my parents, perspectives change day by day.  Some days my emotions are more fragile, and I have a hard time seeing the good.  Other days, I find much to look forward to and the memories hold a special place of joy for me rather than mere sorrow. 

And so, I resonate with the comment that was made, and would encourage all of us to realize that the blend of life with good things and hard things is what brings richness to living, and that with the passing of time, things that seem awful in the moment may become beautiful memories as they are shaped by the growth we experience.  So if you are feeling down or low today, remember it is just today.  Tomorrow may be better, or a year from now may be when you see things fresh.  And resist the urge to become so focused on the overwhelming things that you are not also noticing the little God moments right there in the midst of the struggle.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Matter What, the Memories are Always There


The Crooks' Family at one of the infamous family get togethers
circa... 1970's

Many years ago, there was a lady I used to visit in the nursing home.  She was widowed, and as far as I could tell, relatively healthy both physically and mentally.  But it was also clear she wasn’t strong enough to be able to take care of herself at home, hence her move to the facility.  I never knew how the decision was made, but it was clear there was family involved in the decision beyond just her…children I think, but it has been a while.  We used to have pretty enjoyable visits, I thought.  What I do remember, though, is that we used to have conversations about how much she missed her house (in a nearby town), and all the things she had kept around her there. 

One time, I arrived for our visit, and as I entered her room, she had a big smile on her face.  She pointed over toward the wall where there stood a simple little five drawer upright dresser.  Nothing fancy, just kind of a box style pine.  She told me that the dresser came from her house, that she had gotten somebody in the family to bring it down to her.  That simple little dresser was for her a connection with her home and so made her feel more at home in her room.  Then she said something to me that I have never forgotten.  She said, “They can take my house, and take my things, but they can’t take my memories from me.”  And then she proceeded to tell me stories she remembered, especially stories about Elvis Presley, because she somehow knew him and sometimes he had even called her at the nursing home, though she said, “the staff likes to get on the phone when he calls, so I don’t always get to talk with him so much, but that’s okay.”  Quite a lady.  Quite a memory.

Probably most of you know that my father passed away last spring, and mom a couple of years ago, since I have mentioned it here before.  I am now in the position of having to sort through and make arrangements for the various household items that need to be passed on, sold or donated.  It is, of course, a daunting task.  And a very emotional task.  Today I was cleaning out some shelving, and ran across a silly little item that I have not seen since I was a child.  I didn’t even realize it was still around.  I had forgotten it, and thought it actually had been thrown away many years ago.  It was a simple souvenir from a trip to Mexico when I was very, very small.  Suddenly, I had lots of memories come flooding back, and my eye was not quite as dry as it had been a few minutes before.  It has made me think of the wisdom of my friend in the nursing home. 

Memories are precious things, aren’t they?  That was perhaps one of the hardest things for my dad, that my mother’s illness affected her ability to remember things, so he was no longer able to share and discuss memories from years gone by with her.  

Having spent a lot of my life working in photography, I remember hearing it said once, that the Chinese referred to Americans as the people who cannot remember…because we are always taking pictures of everything we see as we travel.  Guilty as charged!

These things have also made me think of some of the things I lost because of my divorce, items I will probably never see again, opportunities that can never be repeated.  In some ways similar to my father who could not share memories of his younger days with my mom, neither do I share memories with my ex wife, and the memories my wife and I have now are from a much later period in our lives.  But it is still important to remember, I might lose items in the divorce, and I may lose opportunities or have relationships impacted, but they can’t take my memories away.  Of course, since it was a divorce, there are memories that are just as well not recalled, but there are others that are still important for me, especially memories about my children or the church I pastored during their childhood. 

I think God has given our memory as a pretty special gift in life.  Memory is how we learn to not touch a hot stove, or how to find our way back home from school.  Memory is a treasure trove that brings us joy, sorrow, nostalgia and sometimes the encouragement to continue on as we remember we have conquered hard times before.  The little item I found today is really not anything significant.  The decorations on it have been tattered, faded and lost.  The metal parts are rusty, and the wood is rough and aged.  It isn’t the item that matters at all (which is part of why I am not telling you what it is), except that the item is a bridge to some special memories I had not thought of in years.  Some memories are triggered by scents, others by places we go, and others by items or photographs that transport us to another time and another place.  Memories make life full and sweet, and some of them make us realize how far we have come, or have good God has been. 

If there are some empty places in your life these days, perhaps a stroll down memory lane might just be the ticket to a smiling face and a warm heart.  Pull out that old photo album or scrapbook, or whatever would send you back, and enjoy a time of thankfulness for what God has done in your life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Sense of Wonder and Delight


I’m a person who loves to read (probably part of the reason I have been writing books…there are several others well on the road to publication, topically unrelated to divorce, by the way).  I also like flea markets and antique stores.  At a relatively recent stop at such a store, I ran across a book from 1970 that is a step by step recounting of the Apollo 11 moonlanding of 1969, including some of the processes it took to get to that point.  The book is called First on the Moon written by several individuals in conjunction with the Apollo 11 crew.  As a really old person, I actually remember watching that moon landing on television.  As a matter of fact, I remember watching most of the launches of the Gemini and Apollo mission, too.  I remember being thrilled at the concept of space exploration and even considered pursuing a career in the field myself.  But then, what child didn’t back then?

Reading the book, I have relived some of those happy memories, and once again been touched by the wonder of what was accomplished.  I have learned some things I didn’t know, such as that the entire time Mike Collins was circling the moon by himself, nobody knew exactly where it was in the Sea of Tranquility that the Eagle had landed…so every pass he was given an assigned area to search for it.  (According to the records provided in the book, they didn’t finally confirm the location until the return flight had actually entered the pull of earth’s gravity!)  And the author, especially because of the fact that his writing was so close to the time of the landing, conveys well the absolute wonder and idealism involved in the entire project.  He projects the enthusiasm and awe we all felt at the mind staggering achievement, and people around the globe shared in it.  It was with wonder we saw Armstrong and Collins step out onto the lunar surface for the very first time.  Majestic.  Stupendous.  AWESOME…not just as a fad word, but truly AWESOME!  Or, in the vocabulary of the day, Supercalifragi…..no, skip that.  There was actually no words that adequately described the pride, the feelings, the wonder of that time.  And part of me wished that I could have been in Florida for one of the launches at some point…even into the era of the space shuttles.  I did get to visit Cape Canaveral in recent years, and saw the Saturn engines up close and personal, and I did work at a lab that did studies on lunar rocks (have an electron-microscope picture of one of them, in fact).  But still…I never got to be there when it was all happening.

Then I thought about the fact that I actually watched only a few of the space shuttle launches or landings.  I know the names of very few of the later astronauts, but most of the names of the early ones.  And I thought about the wonderful portrayals in the movie “Apollo 13,” and the scene where Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell is making a space talk presentation for the television audience, even though unbeknownst to him, the talk was not being aired on television, because the public was no longer interested in watching such things.  Until, of course, disaster struck and the mission was jeapordized.  (Yes, I remember that, too.)

Okay, so what’s the point, right?  The point is, reading this book, I have been struck again by how incredible the entire space program is.  And how sad it is that we take it so for granted.  But, as the book points out, before the Wright brothers, or even right afterwards, nobody would dreamed that a flying machine would ever be able to cross an ocean, or carry more than one passenger, or be so affordable that ordinary people would fly in them on a regular basis!  Those flights were marvelous moments, too.  The old saying is that familiarity breeds contempt.  I don’t know if contempt is the best word or not, but it familiarity certainly causes us to lose our sense of wonder and awe. 

I remember one of the first times I took my oldest child to watch an Independence Day fireworks show, and the wonder in her eyes as the colorful explosions lit up the night sky.  I remember my exhausted children suddenly coming to life when they heard the noise and saw the lights of the late night Electric Parade at Disneyland.  I have many such memories, because somehow, having young children around helps us to see things fresh as they see them for the first time.  In some ways, it would be a great thing if we could always see things as through the eyes of a child, so as to preserve the sense of awe and wonder at this incredible thing we call life, and the amazing universe we inhabit.

And, sadly, many of us lose the sense of wonder we first had when we realized and experienced God’s love for us and the power of the forgiveness we know when we open our hearts to Christ.  We get used to the idea that if we pray, God really does listen and care.  We take for granted that there are words for us from God, written down in a collection of books called the Bible.  We glibly say the name of God, not remembering the awesome and incredible nature of the being we refer to when we utter that word.  Maybe that is part of why Jesus said we need to come to him like little children.  Maybe that is what Paul desired us to gain when his prayer is that we can know the height and breadth and length and depth of the love of God, or that we could experience peace that passes understanding. 

Landing on the moon, and all the things that led up to it were incredible.  The man’s book even predicted that something like the space station and the Hubble telescope would be built that would expand our knowledge exponentially.  But those things, incredible as they be, are miniscule in the presence of a God worthy of the adjective, “Awesome.”