Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sunday Series – Amazing Grace

Were it not for God’s Amazing Grace I would probably not be here to write this blog, or to do anything else for that matter. This is yet another heart wrenching, tear jerking hymn from my youth that hits me between the eyes to this day. There are so many versions of Amazing Grace on You Tube that I can sit and listen to the song for hours with many awesome variations. I have always loved percussion and have included one such version of Amazing Grace right here.

I didn’t write this post just to listen to different versions of the song, but to dig into its meaning, at least what it means to me. I look up the meaning of the words, amazing and grace. And even though the meanings say so much, the real life observance of Amazing Grace is where I really know the meaning. Let me combine two of my favorite meanings of these words for you. Amazing: so extraordinary or wonderful as to be barely believable. Grace: in Christianity, the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God. So that would be: the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill that He has shown me is extraordinary, wonderful, and is barely believable.

I have lived half of my life, maybe two-thirds of it, and I am sure this hymn, these words, will mean even more to me than they do now. I can tell you that this song and these words already mean a tremendous amount to me. I hear the words, or just hear the song played, and I think of the meaning to me. The simultaneous thought I have every time I hear Amazing Grace, is thankfulness. Which is closely followed by humility.

There have been too many times in my life where the tune and words of Amazing Grace have kept me from harm. Those are stories for another time perhaps. I will say that I have memories, as an adult, when all around me seemed dark and constricting, but Amazing Grace was there to light the tunnel and give me just enough wiggle room. I know God put that tune in my head or those words on my lips just when I needed them.

I am a fortunate man. I am a thankful man. I work on being a humble man. I am so glad God has shed his amazing grace on me. He continues to do so. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. So true, the sound of the words and their meanings, the sound of the song’s melody, the sound of life and all the moments in it. What a sound.

I once was lost, actually I have been spiritually lost more time than I would like to admit, but now I am found. I am glad there’s two parts to that line. This reminds me of another hymn, the being found part, Just As I Am. There have been times when I’ve lost my way and been so blind. Now I see. Sometimes the light flickers, but I can see. And really the Light never flickers, sometimes I just blink or rest my eyes and retreat to the dark imperfections of human nature. The Light is always shining.

The fear of God. Maybe we will cover this later. Let me just say that fear is not always a negative emotion.

Maybe my second favorite verse is the one referencing dangers, toils, and snares. This verse isn’t always sung, but it’s meaningful. I think of the places I have been, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally and His amazing grace is how I have come through them so far. Safe and sound. I know it’ll be His grace that leads me home. I am not going to get there on my own.

Life is good. Life is filled with moments that nobody would consider good, but the good is what is learned upon getting through those moments. It’s also good to look at life differently upon getting through those moments. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right? That’s good. Good doesn’t mean a joy walk through life. For what is beauty, ease of one’s steps, and enjoyment without perspective? It’s the opposite of fulfillment is what it is. Dissatisfaction is what it is. How many times have any of us seen people in positions we would die for and then upon further inspection, we notice these people don’t appreciate what they have or totally abuse it? I don’t want that. Appreciation is understanding the value of what it is you have because you have the perspective of knowing the difference of not having it. That’s obviously in my own words but it makes sense to me.

Eternity. That’s how long we have to sing God’s praise. I can’t wait to see a place that’s as bright shining as the sun. I love that line in the song.

A wretch like me. Wow, that sounds terrible. Some of may still think so, but I know I have been many of the definitions given the word wretch. I don’t want to be that person. Amazing grace has brought me here, saved from being a wretch, saved others from me being a wretch, I am happy to be found.

When you look at yourself in the mirror and think on the times in life you can’t imagine you got through, maybe it’s amazing grace that brought you there. When the memories hurt and through the tears and shame you reach for the reason you can’t explain as to how it is you made it here, maybe you weren’t the reason, maybe it was amazing grace. When you look straight into the eyes of right and wrong, and choose wrong because you think you can, if you live to tell about it, play some amazing grace. When your mind is bogged down and indecision runs you right past indifference towards carelessness, maybe its time to sing a couple verses of amazing grace. When the war you are waging inside seems as though its spilling into your daily life, find a copy of Amazing Grace and play it. When your character is battling your reality, and reality has reduced character to the word act, that’s it, it is an act, listen to some Amazing Grace and think on the words. Listen to the words, write them out. If you have ever been in a situation that would move you to pen such words yourself, then listen to it knowing that you are not alone and that maybe, just maybe, its amazing grace that brought you to this realization. When the battles have been fought and won and you feel like you can finally stand on your own two feet, listen to the words of this great hymn, because none of us get through the tough times on our own. If you don’t believe it, look up every meaning of wretch you can find, and then know how strong we are on our own. It’s alright. Our pride can take the beating, usually pride needs to be cut back like a rose bush anyways.

As I looked towards the open, starry skies, like I was in a tunnel pressing on me from every side, I lifted my head and listened to Amazing Grace in my mind. Then and there in my darkest hours I knew God was watching over me. The weight of my situation made it difficult to move, but like any journey, it started with one step. I know that God’s Amazing Grace has been here with me all along the way.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

(this verse is not part of John Newton’s original version)                                       When we’ve been here ten thousand years…                                                                bright shining as the sun.                                                                                                      We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…                                                                          then when we’ve first begun.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Sunday Series – preview

Come back tomorrow for the 3rd installment of my Sunday Series. Tomorrow I touch on the hymn, Amazing Grace, and it’s meaning to me. Thank you for checking out 1inawesomewonder.

Deer in the yard

This is not uncommon at our house. We get deer in the yard all the time. Somehow I never get tired of it though. I love wildlife and deer are among my favorites. Moose are tops on my list, but deer aren’t far behind. One of these days I will post a blog on moose, probably more on deer too, and I will definitely cover black bear too. Occasionally a photo opportunity does arrive and I can get some of the wildlife in pictures. There are more times when I see something pass through but don’t get a chance to take a picture. As I have stated in previous blogs, we don’t really have much of a back yard … yet. It’s wild out there and I think that makes the deer, hawks, eagles, foxes, raccoons, bats, coyote, fisher cats, otters, and black bear a little more comfortable passing through.

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The deer are not afraid to eat from the trees they can reach.

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I love the white stripe around the snout. What a beautiful animal.

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Classic deer pose. All deer are taught this at a young age apparently.

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Birch trees hold their own beauty, but adding a deer to the mix, just makes it perfect.

Think outside the box

Recently I overheard a conversation that was based on what I call, ‘in the box thinking’. My definition of ‘In the box thinking’ is expecting an outcome to materialize according to what you think should happen, or even what a popular belief would think should happen. Really it’s kind of like wanting something to happen because that’s what others would expect too. This happens a lot. I think it happens a lot.

My question is, when in life does life take the course we think it will? Or when does a plan ever go exactly as it was designed? Better yet, absent of our own thoughts, research, or informed conviction, we expect events to turn out the way everyone else would think they should. Isn’t that like taking a spot in your thought process and allowing society to dictate what belongs there? It would be similar to complaining adamantly about who was voted in as our President without voting yourself. I know that I have thought, or not thought this way myself, and I am sure I still do at times. Why, though? Why would any of us do this? Are we afraid to ask questions? Are we afraid of what the answers might be? Are we shy, or too busy to really look into that thing? Probably a little bit of all the above. So, how can we be upset or push back when things turn out differently, since we allowed society to replace our thought process, than we expected?

If the ‘box’ is what popular opinion would suggest, or just ‘the way we always did it’, then we need to get outside that box. I am not saying tradition or history don’t have their place, not at all. I am saying that if we expect the answers to be the same as they always were, or in the same order, then we are in for some surprises and disappointment. Principles stay the same. Values should stay the same. The right answers don’t change either, really, the questions and the order of the answers are changing all the time.

Basically, life is really lived outside the box. We all probably could not begin to count the number of times we said something like, “I never thought that would have happened”, or “I never thought I would be in this situation”. It happens all the time. Priorities change. Times change. Needs change. Sometimes there is no right answer when it comes to what you and I might think, or even what popular belief might say. Not to mention the fact that, who ever said we each needed all the right answers? As long as someone in the situation has the right answer, it doesn’t have to be us.

So, if someone does something in a way that you wouldn’t have, or if something doesn’t go the way you would have thought it should, don’t sweat it. Think outside the box, let things go as they may, sometimes that is the best answer. Sometimes finding our own way, or discovering ourselves, the how and who we are, happens in a way that none of us would have planned. But it still happens. Outside the box it happens. Don’t get all bent out of shape over what could have or should have been , but think outside the box as to what is and what can be.

I remember a statistic from many years ago that the average American millionaire had quit school by age 16. I don’t know if that is still accurate or not. I think it’s interesting that while many of us were struggling to find the motivation to go to school, others quit school and went to work. They did the work, the did the innovating, they made the millions. Now I am not saying there’s anything wrong with school or an education. Knowledge is power. There are people who did leave their education at a young age, went out and worked, undoubtedly developed a specific knowledge, and perfected it. I would be willing to bet that very few, if any, of these individuals followed ‘in the box thinking’ for themselves or for their parents. I know it’s not for everyone, which is exactly why people, situations, generations, shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush, that’s ‘in the box thinking’.

While people are stuck figuring it out, frustrated with results they can’t control, or worrying themselves sick over what they or society, think should be done, I would rather be thinking outside the box and figuring out the best way to get the results that are needed. You don’t have to be told how everything should go, sometimes it’s OK to figure it out yourself. Think for yourself. Think outside the box.

Sunday Series – Just as I am

The sermon closes, the organ and/or piano plays, the congregation is standing and singing. Those singing are on the edge of tears, pulling for those who battle the urge to come forward. One steps to the aisle to come forward. A tear runs down the face of many who fight the urge to walk the aisle with someone they don’t even know. The sermon was moving, powerful, maybe even memorable. This wasn’t a sermon scripted to fit the hour between 11 and noon. Rather, this was molded from a combination of the scriptures and the life those in attendance brush up against each and every day. The preacher stands at the front of the church, he’s come down from the podium to join the rest. There’s equality at pew level, man and women alike. The feeling is strong, emotions are high, you can hear the intensity in the sound of the hymn perfectly sung by an imperfect choir of many. The hymn of course is, Just as I am.

I can’t even tell you how many times I saw this scenario play out while growing up. I guess I didn’t understand fully then, and maybe I still miss it now, that silence in solitude is so much more comfortable than a voice in the midst of many. I was in so many church services over the years, and I heard so many incredible preachers and evangelists bring their best to the pulpit on any given Sunday. Just as I am was often times the closing hymn of the service. As it should be.

I may be biased here, but my dad, the preacher, the man at the front of the church, was the best I ever heard. Not because he’s my dad, but because he poured all he had into each sermon, he left nothing in the sanctuary. When I got older and spoke passionately on various subjects in meetings, or coaching sessions and presentations, I too, learned what that meant. Remember, I was a teen for many of those church services. I wanted to be anywhere but in that church a lot of times. Like many teens I wanted to challenge my parents on what I thought I knew better than them. So, I wasn’t sitting there in my pew with stars in my eyes, although I wish I had more of that then. Dad just knew how to bring the message to everyone in terms they could relate to, even for a teenage boy who fought going to hear dad speak yet again.

I can hear it now, the sound of everyone singing the simple, powerful words of Just as I am. Listen to the words, read them, know how simple they are, but how much power they contain. Just as I am, there is no prerequisite. None.

I can’t think of another way to put my thoughts on this. The preacher wears it on his sleeve, gives it all he has, heart and soul committed completely to the words he speaks. Then to level the playing field, this imperfect human steps out from behind the barrier between man and many. He invites those searching for answers, or even those who don’t know what questions to ask, they just know something is missing, to come forward and join him and pray the prayer of salvation.

Here’s how this played out and still plays out in my own mind. I never made that walk physically. I believed. I just believed, and still do. But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I made that walk in my mind, in my heart, and with my eyes following someone else who did, dozens of times. It was emotional EVERY time. The emotions still hit me, even as I listen to the hymn while I write this. So in my own words, in perhaps an odd approach, and this may get deep into the walk itself and what it represents to me. This me sharing this with all the layers peeled back, just as I see it. So, here we go.

Just as I am, I come. There is no other way for me to come forward, this is me, who, and how I am. I have no plea. No excuse. No urgent request. It’s me and I come because I was asked. And because I know there seems to be more here at the front of this church, filled with strangers, for me than in the world I closed the door on at 11. I don’t have the answers and maybe neither does this preacher, but this is most sense I have made in an hour since I can remember. Oh, and I have conflict, I have doubt. That’s why it took six verses for me to leave my spot at the end of the pew. The spot I chose in case I needed to leave without commotion. I figure the folks can start singing verses over again if it helps me or anyone else avoid the door without addressing the void in our lives. I took several steps before my heart signaled my brain that I was really walking. Now I can’t go back. Oh yes, there’s conflict. But this walk is less conflict than the internal conflicts that play out each night while I should be sleeping in heavenly peace.

I come. I am poor. I have nothing to offer. Maybe even less. I am out on a limb here. What happens next? I get to the front, completely in tears. Feeling about as small as the person I have been. Then the preacher welcomes me and another puts their arm around me, just because. It’s genuine, and it feels right. The preacher says God will receive me, welcome me, relieve me, if I believe. I believe something very real is happening here, because I wouldn’t have walked to the front of a classroom to write on the blackboard among friends, but here I am in front of strangers singing at me. Yes, maybe its God’s love, because, today, in this moment, I can’t find any barriers. The people around me, the pew in front of me, the sense that I was more calm, cooler, than the rest; those were barriers just to name a few, but here I am. So, just as I am, I come. Just plain old me. I come. I pray. I believe. Just as I am at noon. I feel better already.

As I watched that walk time and time again, I wanted to walk with them. I wanted to hold their hand. I wanted to wipe their tears. I wanted to comfort them with a hug, or with my arm around them for support. There’s strength in numbers even if that number is just two. EVERY time. I wanted them to know that everything would be alright. I wanted that feeling to never end. The feelings, the emotions, the fearlessness of some, the song, the presence of God in our midst, all of it. I never wanted it to end. There were always several reasons why, but mostly it was the powerful sermon and the song. Those words. Simple. True. Powerful. Just as I am.

1. Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

2. Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

3. Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

5. Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

6. Just as I am, thy love unknown hath broken every barrier down; now, to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Gallery

18 months of twins

This gallery contains 109 photos.

The twins, Theodore Jamison and Jacqueline Sophia, were born in the same minute, at 7:45pm on April 20, 2010. Yesterday they turned 18 months old. As I went through folders and folders of pictures, realizing that I have thousands of … Continue reading

Gallery

Cross country poem and photos

This gallery contains 50 photos.

I woke up this morning to an email from my son Ryan who is out in California following his dream of playing baseball. He is a freshman at Ohlone College in Fremont, CA. Of course being three hours behind us, I … Continue reading