I read a post on social media recently. The author seemed to be making the point that he was tired of persons who complained that people today were more uncaring than those in yesteryear particularly in the use of technology, i.e., smart phones and private telephone conversations in public. He is certainly correct that human nature has not changed. But I am not sure how he meant that. To be gracious, perhaps he meant that given human nature we are uncaring to the degree that we have more, or less, means to be uncaring, that is, available technological tools to be uncivil or rude.
But I think the issue is broader than that. It is not merely the opportunity to use available technical tools to be disruptive, to seem always to be so involved with communication that its unavailability it tantamount to loss of life. There is a cultural difference. In the not too-distant yesteryear there was a respect and a norm about public behavior, a standard of acceptable norms that infused relationships with civility. Absence of these norms meant something…it meant that a person was ill-bred or deliberately non-caring. I don’t think that is the accepted standard of today.
People are by nature uncivilized and have to be taught societal norms for a culture to function. Once the undergirding of those norms is discarded…the reasons for civil discourse are done away with…then incivility results. (This must seem strange to someone who has not experienced a prior cultural norm absent our present technology.) And I am aware that new norms replace those that are discarded. But I am also saying that replaced normative values in this day and age when technological achievements allow us to barrage others in public are a segue to less and less considerateness for others and an eroding loss of civility in society in general.
Take a few examples: The noisy customer on his/her phone in line; the car at a stop light blaring its unwanted noise; the restaurant patron who cannot wait to tell the world of the latest gossip; the ever-present inattentive passerby with head phones on full; the train operator/pilot/car driver who often text to the dismay of many families left with death to attend to by these careless acts. Technological advancement…yes! Civility…absolutely not!
Music is life
Music has been an important part of my life since I was six. Oh, I don’t mean that it was just there as background in a family setting. Although that was certainly true. I mean that it was an intrinsic part of my life as a person from the time of my first piano lessons with my Grandmother as teacher to my continuing years to the present.
I miss those years when I could play even if badly. But my fingers worked and my heart would resonate with the sounds the piano brought forth. It was magical. There wasn’t a time I could simply walk past a piano without desiring to touch the keys and sit to play. I literally felt one with the instrument. And the music of the composers came alive and I believed they could hear and approved.
Perhaps that’s all fancy yet I felt it keenly then. I still do. What changed was the passage of youth giving place to the skilled touch of aging. Arthritis took its toll and the fingers no longer worked as they once did.
I am not, nor have I ever been, angry that I can no longer play. I am sad, and I get frustrated in my attempts to eke out a composition a note or two at a time. I am listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations as I sit at the computer. What a wonderful performance. I am taken back and my hands still move to the rhythm of various works and in my mind I play them flawlessly. Sometimes, too, in my dreams I still compose major works and envision myself playing skillfully. There are no limits there.
Alas! But I am grateful that I once played…and well. Not the caliber of the giants of the keyboard but well, nevertheless, for myself and friends. I miss the excitement of recitals and producing new compositions. I used to love to hand write my works. There was something so familiar, so connected with the keys, paper, pen and themes that flowed. It was mesmerizing. It was just plain rewarding.
How did I move on? I turned to writing as an outlet for my creative side. It is very much like composing. The one difference is that I use a computer since my ability to write by hand is clearly a problem. Even I can’t always read my own handwriting! Bummer!
But, thanks be to God, He provided a way, and I moved from piano to novels. Both have brought me joy and happiness to share.
If only they had known!
I was recently ill. Unfortunately my four-footed friends still needed food and water. So out of my sick bed and into the kitchen I crawled, got the dry food and filled up their bowls, opened a can of their favorite meat, called them in to eat and sat back weakened by the effort waiting for these two heretofore loving animals to tuck in and wipe their plates clean in a matter of minutes.
Much to my surprise, they barely ate a few morsels of the dry and literally turned their backs on the canned food. What ingrates, I thought. After all the effort I went to. Didn’t they know what I had to go through to get them the food? Saddened and a little miffed I left the dishes where they were and returned to bed less than mollified by what I believed to be ungrateful behavior. Then let them eat cake, I mused, turning over and trying to sleep.
But sleep wouldn’t come. (And, if truth be known, I did spiff up the story a bit just to make a point.) Yet there have been occasions where something similar happened. I would put out the food only to have it turned down. And it did take an effort, and I would think, if only they had known!
How could they have known? I told them. But I ask again, how could they have known? They couldn’t. It was all in my head. And then I thought, haven’t I done the same thing? How, you ask?
To which I answer: (1) By being inattentive to others and their kindnesses to me and failing to recognize the effort it took for them to do for me for what I could not or would not do for myself whether in times of need or plenty; and (2) By elevating this thought to the ultimate sacrifice paid for me and failing to recognize the enormity of the price it cost to undertake the plan of salvation by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To be sure, I’ve thought of it many times. But I admit I have yet to take it into myself in such a way that it is all-encompassing and alive and an ever present larger-than-life presence in my very being such that it is captivating, transforming and not merely a fleeting reflection passing through my mind from time-to-time.
I would that we could all say with Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain…and so for His sake we have put away all things.
I was saddened as I passed a garden recently. It was the garden of a friend now gone to seed. I remembered how beautiful it had been and the care taken. It had been tendered with love and attention, watered and trimmed and the bushes and flowers held their heads up high, proud to be seen and offer their fragrance and beauty to passersby.
But the time had passed and neglect had set in. The owner had moved and the garden once so vibrant had turned to decay. I watched as leaves swirled around, where dust collected on the furniture and the hose had been disconnected. Water had not been seen there in many weeks. It looked forlorn and desolate and I longed to see it in its prime once more. It had been such an inspiration.
I thought of going in myself and taking up the task of caring. I had the time and the inclination. It would not have taken that much effort. And it would have been restored to its former glory. Yes, I could have done that except the premises were gated and locked. My friend was not returning. And I hadn’t been asked. So I refrained.
What a shame for such a beautiful scene to pass. I wondered if others noticed or cared. Or was it only I who had this overwhelming feeling of sorrow. Life had taken an unexpected turn and left two empty places. My friend and the garden were both gone.
What was the lesson? Or was there a lesson? I meditated on this and felt there was. It was of such importance that I was not sure how I missed it. And I looked at my soul and reckoned it to be my garden and wondered from above how it looked to my Lord. Was I tending it carefully? Was I nurturing it properly? Was I giving it the attention it needed so that others could see in me a reflection of my Lord?
I didn’t fall on my knees but I did open my heart to take an honest look. Was I communing with God? Did I spend time in meditation and prayer? Was the Bible a part of my life? Had my behavior been transformed from what I used to be? Had faith been strengthened? Did I love others? So many questions. But only one is paramount: Is what I do in thought and act pleasing to God?
Tell me, my friend, how is it with the garden of your soul?
Somewhere along the way there has always been a person or situation that has been of help in my life. I may not have recognized it at the time but I recognize it now and am filled with gratitude. Large blocks of years in my life have been devoted to music, education, career, retirement and knowing God. There has not been a person or circumstance in the past seventy-five years that had not in some way contributed positively to who and what I am. Even the ones I didn’t like or with whom I had disagreements or the situations in which I had at the time perceived as unsavory or unwelcome. (You may take cavil with this. But just think about it for a moment and see if you still disagree.) And through it all there has been the steady hand of God leading me…albeit many…most?…times without my conscious awareness of His presence.
How can I possibly name the many I remember who have encouraged me or the occasions, places, positions, events or adventures that have shaped me? Were I to list them all it would take a book…and even then I dare say I would forget some person or matter of importance.
But the standouts? My grandmother, mother and step-father for music in the early years; my sons grandfather for education beyond high school; my first boss and a subsequent mentor for careers in healthcare and law; a friend from church for her exposure to writing a novel and a neighbor for her unstinting responses to my questions ever since; my mother for her devotion and faith; the street preacher from whom I heard the Gospel and those following for their steady hand in explaining the Word; the many authors of Christian books and the authors of secular mysteries; neighbors, colleagues and strangers for their often timely support; family and friends throughout the years who have been there for me through thick and thin…no fair weather friends they; my sons for their years of patience; and those uniquely significant others whom God brought into my life from time-to-time.
So I put the question to you thusly: Who have been “helps” in your life? Don’t be shy. Let’s give them all a hand…and a generous bouquet of thanks!
What’s the point?
I am doing what I hate to do…the confusing, painstaking, administrative, detailed, non-creative side of being an author. It’s the pits. Really. It’s all I can do to keep at it day-in-and-day-out. But! And this is a big but. I’ve learned something about myself and in the bargain I’ve plowed new ground.
Okay, let’s be more specific. I love writing. It’s magical. It’s unimaginably fulfilling. It’s the essence of being between not anything and something tangible. Composing was the same way for me. A theme would come to mind seemingly out of nowhere, and I would go to the piano and sound would materialize as I had heard it in my mind. A key and notes would follow. And a composition would emerge. Sometimes I was breathless with its beauty.
So here I am as an author. I’ve written a novel. There’s a cover to think about. There’s format. There’s proofing…boy is there proofing! There’s a title to consider and tag lines and a synopsis and short bio, credits, copyright. One of the biggest things for me is continuity and consistency of thought and having characters being in character all the time. And keeping notes as I go…which I’m not as good about as I should be…about names and descriptions and places and events. Somehow it all comes together. This is the fun part. This is creative. This is what I enjoy. This is what I would prefer to do.
Alas! This is not all there is to it. I am an unknown author who chose to go the self-publishing route. Rejection letters from agents and publishers have been the norm. Although there was a publisher who had an initial interest in one of my books. (I came close!)
But I’ve found great satisfaction from those who have read my works. They liked them! That was like a balm to me. Encouraging.
So the point of doing what I don’t like to do is this: I have to do it to get my books into the hands of readers who in turn have told me they love the books. That makes it all worthwhile. Publishing guidelines, print versus eBooks, pricing, getting mistakes corrected, dealing with web-based businesses…there is literally no none to talk to…metadata, ISBN’s and much, much more. It’s all part of the game. The learning curve was steep, but I did learn. And it’s been a priceless lesson/journey I would have missed if I hadn’t kept at it.
The smaller the room the closer the door
Many people as they age reduce their living space. I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ve even done it myself. Of course, this may be dictated by circumstances and have nothing whatsoever to do with aging. But it’s interesting nevertheless that as many people do grow older they “occupy” less space. Sometimes it’s necessity especially if they are disabled. Sometimes it’s a deliberate choice to relieve them of responsibilities so they can do what they most desire…less yard work, less house to maintain, less things to take care of. And presumable more time to travel, visit family or just kick back.
But perhaps there is another way of looking at it. Physically as a room is diminished the exit does becomes more accessible. Yet I use it here as a metaphor. The soul is getting ready for departure. The body is slowing down. The spirit is preparing to take leave of this world. The way out is within reach.
For some it’s a joyous occasion this closeness to the door. For others it might be a fearsome event. But at some point one’s “room” will get smaller…and the “exit” will be tangibly close.
How does one prepare? For the Christian there is no question of what lies beyond. Christ made the preparation. The soul is counted righteous before God. Heaven awaits. Entry is guaranteed. The price has been paid. Nevertheless even the Christian must needs make confession before that glorious day of freedom enters his or her life. Preparation is having done all God set forth to be done with a clear conscience before God and man.
For the non-Christian the story ends differently. As the room decreases and the door is brought closer there is no hope of entering heaven unless there is a death-bed confession to Him only Who can save and Who desires to do so. Here the other side does not open into glory but into eternal separation from God and all that is good.
As in physical life so in spiritual life. There will come an inevitable time when the room will get smaller and the door will be closer. Be sure you have chosen well. There are no second chances. We are destined once to die and after that the judgment. Fill your room now with His presence so when the clock strikes the midnight of the soul you will be ready to exit to glory. Make haste. Do it now!
Thirty-two legs and sixty years of learning
Pets are endearing. It took me a long time to realize just how much. They simply love. It took me a long time to see that as well, to internalize it and make it a part of my general outlook on life. Let me see there was Snow, my dog, then Ruffles, Feather, Spot, Charlie, Brindle, Blackie and Pepper, all cats, and now also Samantha. my second dog.
One of the saddest things I’ve had to do was to let them go one-by-one until only Brindle, Pepper and Samantha now remain. Somewhere along the line my pets became “people” to me, friends, companions, with their own personalities, quirks, good and bad days and their need for love and attention to be reciprocated.
And I’ve come to the place where it’s okay for them to occupy the whole house as their home. We share it together. I’ve moved from not knowing how to care for a pet to inviting them into my heart and life as beings unique in themselves. And they’ve taught me so much during these past sixty years that as I reflect on it I am amazed and blessed by their having been in my life. My hope is that I have been as much a blessing to them as they have been to me.
What did they teach me? Apart from the usual…love, patience, contentment, playfulness, enjoyment…I learned that I am not all that much different from them. One of the most valuable lessons was when Feather aged…she was twenty-one when she passed away…she would sometimes lose her ability to remember where to do her business. And I would become annoyed. I didn’t understand at the time that when one ages memory and bodily functions often don’t perform like they did in younger years. Now that I am older I completely understand. And, as a consequence, I pay closer attention to my “pets” and their life cycles because in so many ways they mimic what I will face or am already facing.
It is remarkable that God gives us lessons from all walks of life, including our pets, to help us grow in our spiritual lives. I am a more fulfilled person, I believe, in large part due to those “companions” He brought my way. I’d have missed so much joy and love by their absence. He simply opened my eyes to see His presence in them.
Out from the storm, a joy and a miracle!
I wrote a number of blogs four years ago and for some reason kept them in draft form. At the time, I wanted to go over them to make sure they said what I intended. Unfortunately, I forgot about them until my son reminded me they were there. It is now four years later and I see where some of those blogs need updating. So, here’s a quick snapshot of the changes in the ensuing years: My step-father died, I underwent heart surgery, I remarried and moved, I am now seventy-nine, and a new pet, Samantha, entered my life…the subject of this blog.
Samantha, Sammy for short, had been on the streets for five months before I noticed her in the neighborhood. She was shy, scared and without home or friends. Whenever anyone approached her, she would run…tail between her legs. Many of us tried to rescue her over the next ten months as she alternated between two neighborhoods. There were five households who were actively involved in the effort. Others, of course, would shoo her away some with hoses and some with shouts and sticks.
Animal control was aware of her situation even before we were involved. Sammy weathered temperatures between 27-108 degrees F outside. We, that is the five households, provided what food and shelter we could. But those conditions are fretful for anyone, let alone a scared canine fending for herself.
One day, sixteen months into her sojourn, there was an unusually severe rain storm complete with thunder and lightning. It seemed as though the heavens had opened up and wrath was pouring down. It was scary for humans let alone homeless animals. But it was during the height of that storm that Sammy ran into a neighbor’s garage. The neighbor was able to pet her as she crouched in his garage. She didn’t stay, but she had allowed a human touch. And that made all the difference in the world.
I arrived home from a weekend away to hear of the news. I had made it clear from the onset that were we able to rescue Sammy, I would adopt her. I called the neighbor whose garage she had run into, and conveyed my sentiments once more that if she could be caught, I would come over and take her into my home. The next day, I received a call that the neighbor had been able to get a collar and leash on Sammy. I quickly got into my car and drove over…and there she was as he had said. But when I approached, she balked. I was, however, able to lift her into my car and bring her home.
We found that she had a microchip. But when we tried to reach the owners, there was no response despite repeated attempts. Who knows how she got on the streets. We speculated, of course, but could never come up with anything concrete. My guess is that the Lord wanted us to be together. I think I’ll just stick with that. It was a team effort that saved her from the streets. And God heard my prayer all those months ago. Sammy has been with me for three years now, and she remains a joy in my life.
A miracle can occur anywhere and anytime. I hope one has occurred for you recently.
Perhaps Sammy’s rescue wasn’t a miracle to anyone else, but it was to me. To God be the glory!
The flower that spoke to my heart
I penned a poem years ago. It’s been one of my favorites ever since. Do you mind if I share it with you? That’s kind of you to agree. Well, then, here it is:
A Rose In Bloom
I thought I saw a rose in bloom
deep within a golden hue.
I paused to stay a moment more
and then I knew,
that it was not the rose I’d seen
and had seen,
I’m not sure why it still resonates with me. Perhaps it’s the color of red set in golden hues. They’re my favorites still. And I love the texture of velvet, so rich and royal, luxurious to the touch. Maybe it’s the simple pause to reflect and look deeply within. You’ve done that, haven’t you, looked deeply into something, sometime, somewhere?
But I really think it’s the person to be seen that holds the key. That “you” we’ve all felt a time or two, that indescribable someone who evokes the very depth of passion and love and oneness. It’s the you behind the world of the seen, the you that completes our being in life until we finally come to the everlasting you, the you of God…and then we know.
Next time you pass a bush of roses take a moment, stop, look with intent to see…and listen. Perhaps the rose will speak to you as it did to me. Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder. It is also reflected in the essence of the object viewed, its Creator evident in His creation.
I hope my little poem resonates with you. It’s been with me almost a lifetime. I simply wanted to share it with you.