Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.

The first time

I was reading through some older posts today, and I came across these special words. I remember the night I wrote these words and how they just poured out onto the page faster than I could put them in order. It’s rare when that happens, at least for me. This piece was, and still is, very special to me. This goes back to 2000 and the first time I saw TSO in concert. One of my favorite poems.

Where did these guys come from and how did they know?
That I wasn’t in the right place, though I knew where to go
 
My path was missing something and I knew it was all wrong
When all of a sudden direction showed up in the form of a song
 
Nobody that I knew had played Christmas songs in this manner before
Wow! It was so beautiful. I had only an idea of what was in store
 
I couldn’t dismiss the shrill of those guitars, so sharp like a knife
Shredding all the familiar notes of the songs I’d loved my whole life
 
My emotions balanced on every note, each one brought me closer to peace
The artist held me in limbo; his fingers played with a master’s ease
 
Holding me there, waiting, for the note I knew was coming next
Without fail the note is played perfect, always better than I expect
 
The sounds are so timely, so crisp, so pure and unrefined                                
Etching new meaning to the words that always play in my mind
 
I feel these emotions; they’ve been building since I was a boy
It’s undeniable, overwhelming, it’s pure Christmas joy
 
As the tunes grew on me I started to focus on each word
Somehow I still managed to avoid all the truths I had heard
 
I took daily struggles and somehow turned them to years
I caused myself and others so many unnecessary tears
 
The music accompanied me everywhere I would go
And though I wandered all over, I never missed a show
 
God’s grace followed me though I made it a most difficult task
I always knew, but ignored, to get help I need only just ask
 
A few years were damaged and I hope not all was waste
Eventually I made my way from that dark and lonely place
 
I keep these memories close to me as tough as they are
It wouldn’t be healing if I didn’t make time to recognize the scar
 
And it wouldn’t be learning if I was to somehow forget
The lessons I have learned and I am not done yet
 
Though the words are familiar they still offer a welcome surprise
Every time I am lucky enough to see TSO live

Burdened Heart

I sit here with a burdened heart, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes, unable to separate myself from my own thoughts. Dwelling not on the past, negative, or the dreary, I search for ways to share, to learn, to pray, and to heal. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be fortunate and blessed enough to help someone else along the way. Not that I need to, I am starting to lose track of the stories swirling around me that are heart-breaking, tear-jerking, and just plain sad to hear. My brother-in-law’s father, my aunt’s battle with stage-four cancer, Boston, Texas, and all the daily battles won and lost.

I read the articles today. I watched the video clips, headlines and updates today. There’s so much pain and hurting in the world. There are people far less fortunate than I. People who don’t know God the way I do. They don’t know the peace and comfort found in prayer and in the reading or sharing of the scriptures. They just hurt and they wander in wonderment of the mammoth-sized cloud of darkness and negativity that looms in the day’s headlines.

Then I started thinking about my last week or two. It’s hard to comprehend sometimes how much is happening in every second of every day. The gorgeous, perfect blue sky I looked at this morning brought a smile to my face and inspiring descriptions to my lips. At the same time, God, the Creator of the beautiful sky, has a plan for all of this. I have often thought about how God has a unique way of allowing certain things to happen, or at least to be noticeable to us, at different times so we can create our own way of coping with events bigger than us. For example, I remember when my grandfather died. He was a great man of God, a preacher, a teacher, one who would recite the scriptures; he had a Christian book store, he had preached on the radio, and lived his life for God. I remember the morning of his funeral service, the day he was to be buried, and a light, pure, white snow fell, just enough to cover everything in a beautiful untouched blanket of white. I remember saying to my parents that God had given the ground a purifying coat, a cleansing for my grandfather’s body to be put to rest one final time.

There’s a plan for all of these things. God has a plan, God’s plan. Two words that make many want to turn and run the other way, God’s plan, because it usually means something that we imperfect humans don’t understand, or don’t want to deal with. Whatever the reaction is, it doesn’t change the plan. When I was younger I fought the plan, I am sure I did. I also didn’t always understand how or why things so terrible could happen to people as part of God’s plan. I am certainly not going to pretend to know or understand all these things now either. I do know that almost always, we are a part of a plan that is much bigger than it appears on the surface.

All I have to do is look at recent events within my own family, and certainly the local and national events that everyone is aware of. With one bit of news, one event, somehow thousands, maybe millions of people are linked together by one story. The news that shatters tranquility here on earth for many is the same news that confirms a loved one’s arrival into eternal happiness. In these moments there is more good news than bad in most cases. The immediate outpouring of kindness, support, love, concern, and protection by banding together as one is heart-warming and sends chills up my spine. The images of those lost, those hurt, or the ones we know affected by the tragedies, or sickness, or disease, make us all wonder. These things make us cry, they make us mad, the make us think, and they make us feel. It’s all part of the plan; God’s plan.

Time will tell how the plan unfolds. Even though it’s God’s plan, we have a role in it. We are to be present and participating in His plan. I am in no way trying to down play any of this; this is a serious matter. There’s a message in most everything and I am willing to bet there’s even more of a wonderful message here as well. Think of the things you have heard, the things you have read, the things you have seen yourself, and the stories of the amazing coming from out of a story that is discouraging, evil, or unfortunate. Often times through the most unthinkable loss or sacrifice comes the greatest gift or the most amazing victory.

Please don’t think that this is over when the news stops running, the stories stop circulating, or the services are done. You and I may be a part of the plan. Anyone of us could be instrumental. Our words, our actions, just might be the right thing at the right time for the one who needs that spoken word or the example of God’s love they were looking for. Really it’s always supposed to be that way. We are human, and our best moments are not all of our moments. Yet the more we think our moments are our best, the more they will be. And the moment we decide that we need to be our best might just be the moment that God’s plan includes us to be the message for someone needing to see that deed, action, or thing that helps them cope and overcome.

My thoughts and prayers are with my sister, her husband Adam, their girls, and Adam’s entire family. It’s a tough time for them all. My thoughts and prayers are with my Aunt Janette and my Uncle Lloyd. I pray for a miracle in her life and God’s will in regard to her battle with cancer. I pray for, and hold in thought, their entire family. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the Boston Marathon Bombings. People died. People hurt. People saw things they need never see. People were stripped of the beautiful innocence that accompanies the harmonious gathering of strangers when they come together in support of fellow-man, simply because they can. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people and families affected by the explosion in West, Texas. If we want to settle for the face value, there is pain, suffering, hurt, darkness, and despair all around us. If we look a little harder, there is hope, there is goodness, and there is solidarity in a world filled with more and more independent individuality.

I don’t know God’s plan anymore than you do, but I trust it because it is perfect. I take solace in God’s Word, and communication with Him through prayer. There is comfort in the gathering and sharing among family and friends. God is where I go to get help with my burdens. God is who I ask for peace when my mind gets the best of me. God’s plan; at least He has one, which is more than I can say most of the time. Thank God He has a plan. Amen.

Thanks #15 (Second Chances)

I’m thankful for second chances. God has spared me. He has watched over me when I wouldn’t even look after myself. Thank you Lord. Second chances are ours to give, but they are not ours to command, or demand. Everyone’s timeline is different. Everyone has their own issues to sort through. Everyone has to take inventory of themselves to understand where they stand on the matters of the heart. Sometimes, one of the everyone’s will offer a second chance, whether they know it or not. I’m thankful for second chances and I hope to make better use of the ones I get, while extending chances myself.

Thanks #3 (Kids)

I am very thankful for my kids. I am also so very thankful for the inherent resiliency within them. Thank God for their ability to adapt, overcome, and improvise at levels we don’t give kids enough credit for. I’m thankful for these six amazing kids, who kept being kids while I worked through various models of parenting. I may never get it right, but I know that these kids are fantastic, and their potential is limitless.

The best kids ever.

 

Thanks #2 (God)

This should have come first. I am thankful for God who sent his Son to save us from our sins. The daily reminders of His power, grace, love, and patience are evident all around me. Thank you Lord.

Huddled in the Dark

Here’s to hoping that one man’s struggles can help out another
I share these thoughts as my cure and to help my fellow sister or brother
 
I sit here and let my mind go to the places where I once have been
My eyes water at my humble story looking back to where I was then
 
How can this that’s so familiar be so foreign and so wrong?
It’s our weakness that the angel of darkness depends upon
 
Herding us into the dark, unknown depths of the other side
The sort of places we wouldn’t visit but there we now reside
 
I was one of them, the folks huddled in the shadows of dark places
Standing alone, but alongside those who’d rather not show their faces
 
Thoughts, like dares from an unknown source, shattered my routine
Human, my weakness, took the invite, to see places I hadn’t seen
 
I thought the thoughts that just the month before were forbidden
Then proceeded to run past the meanings of things previously hidden
 
I ran so fast with barely a clue as to where I wanted to arrive
Thanks to God somehow I made it through that time alive
 
Somehow the sun rose each day presenting a 50/50 proposition
I had zero control over the days outcome, paralyzed by every decision
 
My rock bottom, seemed to contend each day with a point lower than then
There’s only so many bottoms to hit before it’s over or you’re on the mend
 
And so I went from day-to-day, week to week, before the pain built,
To a point I could no longer stand, action forced by the weight of guilt.
 
If you are out there, huddled in the dark, looking to the skies for your way
Find God a midst the mess and the single ray of light will come if you pray
 
It’s funny how clear this is when you think on Him for a second or two
The beauty portrayed by the dark angel can make you look the fool
 
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, that’s true
But a single thought to move in a new direction is required too
 
You can do it, no matter where you are and how far you’ve gone
God is there beside you, he’s here too, and for all of us he sent His Son.
 
Stop. Put yourself aside for a moment. Let the false picture fade away.
It will and you’ll wonder too, why it was so hard to see the gorgeous day. 
 
Just because your direction has been reversed it doesn’t ensure peace
Scenes from the movie you just left will pull at you, when prayers cease
 
It probably felt pretty easy getting to this dark land of despair
But, walking with God is the fastest way of getting out of there
 
Religion?!?! ?You may scoff. But without it; Where were you? Totally lost.
I was too. And only God can figure out how much that must have cost
 
So, kneel and pray. Put your thoughts aside as they have done no good
Let the Light lead the way. It can be done. Stand where the brave have stood
 
If you’re not sure where that place might be, look to the heavens and see
Because the God that walked with me, is there for you, and will always be
 
The journey never really ends, but the more Light you let in, the better it gets
Steps that seemed so impossible now move as if powered by jets
 
Welcome back, we missed you in the place you hid. If you don’t think so
Then just ask yourself, would you direct your child in this way to go?
 
Live each day. Enjoy. Breathe. Pray and embrace what comes each day
We don’t always get it, but God does work in mysterious ways.