You’ve read this before. You’ve seen it displayed in Facebook memes. It’s been shared often enough that it seems by now to be old hat – kind of like those old uniforms all modern veterans think so quaint and plain . . .
“A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.”
It is unfortunate that war can be exotic and interesting in its ugliness. Citizens stand along the curb during parades, applauding crippled and maimed vets and elevating their plights and life challenges to a heroic status they themselves are often embarrassed to accept.
Veterans deserve that honor.
All of them.
This is a note showing appreciation for several generations of American men and women who wrote the blank check made payable to the USA who seldom if ever are recognized for their service. Yet if they had let down their guard even once during their enlistments, things in our nation would look and feel much different now.
They are the Cold Warriors who quietly, efficiently served America during the years following World War 2 until the Berlin Wall was removed in 1991.
Some of those postings were nice; most were not. America’s Cold Warriors served in isolated, remote places all over the world; though they requested preferred stations, they got wherever their career field was needed most. They left wives and children behind, boarded a plane, and went wherever they were told to go.
Tin City . . . Kotzebue . . . Keflavik . . . Cape Romanzof . . . Thule . . . Tatalina . . . Cold Bay . . . Havre . . . Reykyavik . . . Shemya . . . Fortuna . . . and hundreds of icy, wind-ravaged spots around our continental borders. Those lonely outposts were leftovers, mostly from WW2-era materials and buildings. Because of their harsh environments, they were cobbled together, interconnected, and upgraded only as necessary to continue their mission.
Many of those places no longer exist. Cold Warriors served during what was technically called ‘peacetime’, even though wars like Vietnam raged all around them. Therefore, they received little or no recognition and any skill upgrades were usually ignored and paperwork may or may not have been forwarded. Rank was excruciatingly slow.
I could go on. Generations of these quiet professionals lived and died with no fanfare other than a small flag on their gravesite during weekends like this one. Therefore, I’m offering for each of them something no one ever thought to give any of us. Medals of America now offer both medals and ribbons, and certificates are available.
Fellow Cold Warriors, now dead? I salute your service and your memory, for I know firsthand what your service was like, and how good you all were at your specialties. I’m glad I knew you, and had the privilege of serving during a war that stretched on for roughly 50 years of American history.
Rest well. Those of us still able wear these proudly in your honor.
I’m saving this so I can remember. The original source is unknown – Dan
So we don’t forget….
Today is Friday, May 1, 2020.
– We are at 53 days of social isolation.
– Schools have been closed since mid-March and are teaching remotely on-line. Proms and graduation ceremonies are virtual.
– Employees who can work from home are doing so.
– Non-essential stores are closed since late March. Hobby Lobby tried to fight this and was ordered to cease and desist. Kohl’s is closed.
– There are lines / tapes inside the stores to keep people 6 feet apart. Office Depot, Aldi’s, Meijer, Kroger, Lowe’s and Menards are all open with early closure for cleaning & disinfection.
– Bars and restaurants open only for home delivery & pick-up. Starbucks has been closed for more than a month now.
– Parks, beaches and walk-in places are not accessible to the public at this time. They have taped off playgrounds.
– KY Derby has been postponed…1st time since 1945.
– All sports competitions have been cancelled. There was no March Madness.
– All festivals and entertainment events have been banned.
– Weddings, family celebrations and birthdays have been cancelled. Funerals limited to 10 people.
-Zoom, which was a business application, is being widely used by everyone to gather groups of people virtually – socializing, funerals, weddings, religious activities are being scheduled on Zoom.
– People are doing drive-by parades to celebrate birthdays!
– People are doing drive-by baby showers by dropping gifts off at end of driveway.
– Young kids can’t understand why they can only see grandparents & other extended family and friends on a screen or thru a window if someone visits in person.
– Hugs and kisses are not given.
-Airplanes are flying but majority of flights are canceled and only a handful of people per flight.
– The churches are closed. Online mostly. Some drive-thru.
– We have to stay away from each other; 6 feet separation recommended.
– Primary voting will be done via mail-in votes.
– Shortage of masks and gloves in hospitals & other medical facilities.
– There are fewer ventilators than there should be. *** Edit: Early models showed a need for more ventilators. Auto companies were converted over to manufacture more. Now we have too many due to less people needing them than expected.
– People are wearing masks. Some places even REQUIRE that you wear them to enter! People are even making their own masks for sale or donation to medical facilities!
– Absolutely NO visitors allowed in hospitals, nursing homes, senior living, etc. If you go to the ER, you must enter alone, unless you’re the parent (or guardian) or caregiver.
– Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and anything Lysol or Clorox is in short supply and limited per person…. IF you can even find them.
– Flour and yeast are also nearly impossible to find.
– Meat producers ordered to stay open regardless of how many sick employees they have. Shortage of meat on grocery shelves.
– Freezers nearly impossible to find.
– As of today, gas prices range from $.99- $1.69
– Stores are closing early to disinfect everything. (24 hour stores are even closing by 9pm)
– Store check outs, pharmacies and even fast food drive thru windows have added plexiglass between employee and customer. Patrons have to reach around or under to pay!
– Only 1 family member per cart in stores. Most stores are only allowing ages 16 and up inside.
– You can’t find isopropyl alcohol easily, and supply per person is limited.
– Banks only open using drive-thru.
– Moving has been limited or banned in many places.
– Australia, USA and Europe have closed their borders, along with many others.
– Western Australia has been divided into 9 territories & an instant $1,500 fine issued for crossing the border without a valid reason. (Transport workers, Essential services etc)
– No one is travelling for leisure. Airports empty. Tourism has the worst crisis in history.
– Hair salons are closed. Some people are cutting or coloring their own hair who never have before.
Why do I post this?
Next year & then every year after, this status will appear in my Facebook memories feed. And it will be an annual reminder that life is precious & that nothing should be taken for granted. We are where we are with what we have. Let’s be grateful.
This text is anonymous, it’s not mine, but I copied because I want to remember.
Reverend James Ogden braved a nasty storm to drive twenty-three miles and have the heat and lights on in the country church building that Sunday morning. He sat listening to some praise and worship music while waiting for the sanctuary to warm up, and for the local folks from surrounding farms to arrive.
He checked the clock on his phone again. He knew it was time to start, and he’d learned that, even though country life can’t always be scheduled, the church congregation was punctual about attending worship.
Ten minutes past. Hmm. Well, there’s no point leaving lights and heat on. I knew when I accepted this parish there might be times like this. I know I prayed and prepared the message I knew God placed on my heart, and I’m glad I did. ‘S good truth.
He got up, turned off the music, and was reaching to adjust the thermostat when he heard a vehicle pull up outside. Standing, he waited until the wizened old rancher pulled the door closed behind him, stomping the water and mud off his boots. Hat in hand, he walked over and offered a calloused hand.
“G’mornin’, uh—Charlie, isn’t it?” The old man nodded. “I was just about to shut everything down, because I know you all are careful about being to church on time, and I didn’t want to waste power or gas. Have a seat, and I’ll play the song I chose to go with this message.”
While the 4Him song played, the young minister looked at his sole parishioner . . .
"We were boyhood pals, the best of friends
And time was on our side
And we thought the world was in our hands
We were young and full of lifeBut in the twinkling of a moment
Before a chance to say "So long"
You were taken from our world
And now you're goneBut I'll see you when I get Home
In the sweet by and by
And we'll walk along the streets of gold
With angels by our sideAnd time will have no meaning there
In a land of no goodbyes
Oh, it's good to know
I'll see you when I get Home . . .
He was dressed in Country Sensible, a staple of which is almost always faded Levi’s or Lee Premiums and western boots of one type or another. Weekdays called for broadcloth workshirts; yet on Sundays, the men always wore one of their “dressy, go-to-meetin’ ” western snap button shirts. This morning, Charlie’s was a bright yellow.
The minister was surprised, as his eyes traveled up and focused on the old farmer’s face, to see twin rivulets coursing down the sun-creased cheeks and dripping off his chin. Wow… Lord, no wonder You kept reminding me of that song.
Oh, what a celebration
I hope you all will come
Oh, the Father now is waiting
And soon He'll take us HomeAnd I'll see you when I get Home
In the sweet by and by
And we'll walk along the streets of gold
With angels by our sideAnd time will have no meaning there
In a land of no goodbyes
Oh, it's good to know
So good to know, it's good to know
I'll see you when I get Home
Turning from shutting off the player, Pastor Ogden was stopped by the sight of Charlie bent over, face in his hands, weeping as only a grown man can do. His shoulders shook with great, gasping sobs, and it seemed like five minutes passed before the old man could catch his breath, loudly blowing his nose on the old red bandanna pulled from his right hip pocket.
Seminary never covered this . . . Closing his Bible and laying it on the small pulpit, he stepped down from platform to check on the distraught man. “Can I get you some water or something, Charlie?”
The grizzled, white-haired man took a deep breath as he shook his head. Pausing a few seconds, he directed a level gaze at his young pastor. “James, I’ve said from the first sermon you preached here you were one of the best we’ve ever had. But I ain’t – haven’t – been real welcoming to yuh, an’ I’m fixin’ tuh work on that.”
“See, I heard all kinds of preachers claim to be hearin’ from God. But I haven’t heard one yet who’s convinced me of that until the message you just preached to me.”
With raised eyebrows, Pastor Ogden began, “What? But I nev—” Charlie interrupted him. “Yeah, you did. You just didn’t know it. Every other preacher I’ve ever knowed – known – woulda kept his Bible open and commenced tuh speakin’ forth. You didn’t. You heard from God to play that—that . . .” Here the old man’s voice got husky again. “That song. There’s no way you could’ve known how I needed to hear that message, but God shore did.
“See, there’ve been some things stuck sideways in my craw I ain’t – haven’t – wanted to do anything about. I knew they was wrong, that they was keeping me away from God and those I said I loved. But I didn’t wanna do nothin’ about ’em. Fact is, I kinda liked being a pain in everybody’s butt. I don’t want to go into it with you right now, ’cause I gotta do that with God first, and I have a hunch I’m gonna get beat down, some.”
“I wanna thank yuh. An’ if you have time this week, I’d like to meet you at Annie’s, buy yuh breakfast, and tell you the story behind the best sermon you never preached.”
Long after the sounds of Charlie’s old Dodge farm truck faded, James sat there.
“Lord, what this boils down to is that this ministry thing isn’t about me at all. It’s about You, about Your Word, Your power to change events and lives.”
In his dusty 12-year-old Nissan, he couldn’t help himself. He kept glancing in his rearview mirror, watching the church building recede into the distance until even the spire had disappeared. Sure, it’d be nice to land a pastoral charge at a big, city church with all the trimmings. He’d always secretly envied the guys who always seemed to get them. Yet something told him few times like this morning would happen there.
Given the choice? If he was honest, he would like to have more such times of seeing God move, of feeling, sensing the Holy Spirit wo-o-oshing His personal presence like that.
After he’d pulled into his driveway and shut the car off, he pulled out his phone, clicked on the calendar, and for Monday morning he typed, “Call Charlie RE breakfast and The Story.”
The man’s steps slowed, and he hesitated at the unknown road leading off to the right.
Silver-haired and of normal build, he wore casual, comfortable, neutral-colored clothes, for he usually walked as weather and schedule permitted. He stood for a moment, eyeing the safe, regular, normal route leading straight ahead.
That was his usual route.
Musing, he sipped steaming coffee from the travel mug he always filled before leaving his house. Thoughtfully interested in this lane he’d never before noticed, he chose adventure and discovery over normalcy.
Wonder where this goes? I never noti–I mean, how many times have I walked this road? Might as well check it out. Might be interesting.
Unbidden and subvocally the whisper of Grace said deep within him, “You have no idea . . .” He heard nothing. His subconscious did. His eyebrows briefly met as he hesitated just for a few seconds, slanting his eyes leftward at the road he regularly walked. Shrugging off the strange feeling that washed over him, his left hand lightly brushed the Benchmade folding knife he never went anywhere without as he turned to his right and started along the unknown road.
On the breeze, he thought he heard, faintly, ‘Blessed Assurance’ being played on a piano. “M-kay, that’s weird.” Shrugging, he stepped off to the right.
As he walked, jumbled thought-fragments and memory-Post-Its piled haphazardly in Granger’s mind like a miscellaneous load of laundry waiting to come out of the dryer.
The whisking of weeds and the occasional small tree branch against his faded, broken-in cargo pants reminded him of boyhood explorations.
His muscles tensed as a wheat-colored grasshopper approximately big enough for a collar broke cover from the grass and weeds growing between the twin dirt tracks. The bright yellow of its wings reminded him of the big, black, red-winged ones he remembered from childhood – the ones that sounded too much like an irate rattlesnake for comfort.
As he strolled along the dusty road, his mind paralleled its gentle winding contours. His thoughts alternately ambled and gamboled like a curious pup, some–There’s that piano music again . . . “Lookin’ for fun, and feelin’ groo-vy”– specifically pointed and others softly shaded, just as the budding trees dappled his form with sunlight and shadows while he casually watched and walked.
The sight of a half-fallen, rusted barbed-wire fence reminded him of the weathered, broken sections of fence he and his father had taken down, saving the staples in an old Folgers coffee can, and cutting up the greyed, splintered posts for firewood . . . “When It’s Spri—ngtime In— The Rockies”
He glimpsed the remnants of an old railroad track, weed-overgrown and rust-dulled, which brought memories of the girl for whom he’d registered his heart in Heaven as they one day walked together along the tracks on the way to school . . . “You ask me if there’ll come a time I won’t require you–“
An ancient, cracked bit of pavement staggered off to a diagonal left, generating fond memories of him and his boyhood pals riding their bikes to new adventures wherever unexplored roads led them . . .
The William Tell Overture? Someone is playing a piano out here somewhere. Shaking his head, he walked on.
A huge old weeping willow tree caused a wide grin of recollection as he remembered him and his chums playing for hours in just such a tree (or B-17 bomber or USS Nautilus or Fort Apache or–) in one of their yards . . . There it is again. Seriously? That’s . . . that’s the theme from “12-O’Clock High”!
He saw off in the distance through the trees what looked to be a rambling old barn, weathered and warped, board-bare and leaning to the left. A long-seeing stare settled in his face as he recalled the equally-weathered, massive old wooden church camp tabernacle where he’d driven down some spiritual surveyor’s stakes as he and God came to terms – and where he’d met his lifelong companion.
Speaking of campmeeting, there’s that piano again. That’s–that’s “TOTAL PRAISE!” That hadn’t even been written back then! I’m sure I heard it, but there’s nothing, no one out here. Granger remembered as a teenager, sitting and plunking on that old, rough upright grand piano that seemed to have grown into the wooden platform . . .
He was so pleasantly rapt in the richness, the reliving color and vibrancy of his memories that he didn’t at first notice the dual symmetry and wide opening of the overgrown gate. Eyebrows arched, he gave his head a quick shake and stood for a minute, looking at the brickwork. Someone who was very good at it laid these bricks.
“They sure did.” It took a split second for him to realize he’d answered himself and spoken out loud, which made him chuff softly through his nose. Those who spend long hours in solitude often find themselves speaking inner thoughts aloud. He grinned at the idea of him vocally agreeing with his usual quiet self.
His eyes swept the inlaid metal embellishments, hinges, and imposing gates, equally overgrown with weeds and vines, yawning open. Their weathered gray-green patina and vacant openness was an eloquent shrug. “Come in if you wish.”
He grinned again at his immediate response when he looked up beyond the gate and saw the old house. “Oh, I wish!” —And a little clearer now, he heard “Come On In, There’s Still Room In The Family” by Gold City. He thought again, Okay, somebody can really play the piano! Where in the world there’d be one out here, though . . .
He walked slowly along a winding lane. His steps automatically faltered as he took in what was once a lovely two-plus-storied home with an imposing tower on its right side, emerging from the shrubs and decorative trees that had shielded it from view.
Granger’s imagination began to unconsciously list scenarios, poignant vignettes of who once lived there, what they were like, what they did. In his high school days, he’d taken architectural drafting, so he admired the lines, the enriching detail that spoke of a loving, exacting hand.
The colors of sidings, shingles, and beautifully-mitered and trimmed window frames had faded across time into a gentle soft-edged camouflage that shifted as he walked closer. This was one gorgeous house in its day. Once again, the subvocal words of Grace quietly purred: “I was more than a beautiful house; I was home to some truly amazing people.”
Granger stood still, listening with spirit ears. There were no further words, no sound at all — except for what sounded like a little child playing Chopsticks on a piano. Yet how can that be? Then there was nothing more, yet the silence was comfortable, companionable – as if the stillness was a lovingly-woven welcome mat.
Stepping carefully up the four risers to an expansive veranda, he probed cautiously for loose or rotten boards, dodging around a hole and ducking the magnificent web of a beautifully-made-up garden spider. Admiring her, he said, “Enjoy your breakfast, old girl. You’ve worked hard and earned the meal.”
Granger stood at the threshold, looking through the door into the dust-carpeted entryway. Other than the slender legs of a broken chair over in a corner, and wind-swept leaves and assorted plant life, the rooms he could see from the doorway were bare. Glancing to his left, he admired the beautifully-faceted glass panes of the sagging door. He stepped inside, once again sensing a thrill, an unsettled yet warm feeling. Old buildings have stories . . .
Standing quietly just inside the wide, carved front door, Granger let his mind and spirit do a scan, sweeping slowly through what was once such a lovely home. By habit, he silently thought, “Lord, what joys and laughter lived here? What enriching relationships happened in these rooms? Who were the amazing men and women who made this stunning building their home?”
Curious, he walked quietly on into what must have been a welcoming room, for an even larger room opened off to the left, beneath one side of a sweeping staircase. To the right, a doorway led to what must have been for it’s day a gourmet kitchen. He started to step inside when he heard Claire de Lune being softly played on a piano.
I knew I heard a piano! But how— Where? I’ve never seen this place before, never knew it existed, and it’s obvious nobody’s lived here for—well, ever.
Backing out of the kitchen, he stepped across into what he figured was once the formal living room. His eyes swept the room, seeing large multi-paned casement windows, mostly unbroken, that flooded the huge room with light. Again, Granger mused at the social events that once made this place ring with laughter and excited talk and—
There it was. Toward the back of the immense room, standing alone, was a exquisitely carved old grand piano. It was hard to tell what its original color was under all the accumulated dust and debris, but it seemed to have been a rich chocolate color. Dust, dirt, and assorted wind-borne stuff covered the keys. There was no bench.
Granger stood reverently. He remembered every time in his life when God seamlessly wove Time and Timelessness into an unforgettable encounter, either by himself, or through him to someone else. Every time one of those strange melds happened, he felt his faith surge. He felt his will to live on as God’s man more empowered.
There hasn’t been any water or electricity to this place for at least, I don’t know, forty years? Fifty? A hundred? And there’s nothing else out here that could explain the piano music I heard on my way here. As unlikely – okay, impossible – as it seems, the music I heard, both sacred and secular, came from . . .
Granger looked around to his left, refocusing his eyes on the dirty, scuffed, dinged old piano.
. . . That.
Turning to check the rest of the old house, he glanced at his watch. He’d spent almost four hours immersing himself in what he was sure was a piece of history; it was past time for him to be getting back to his office.
Outside again, he turned once he was out in the lane far enough, took his phone out, and got a couple of pictures of the house. He figured he could get pics of the interior – and especially the piano – when he came back. And, oh yes, he was definitely coming back.
Once seated in his chair, Granger decided to ask Sparks, his cop friend, about the property where the old house stood. Firing up his laptop, he pulled up his phone’s picture gallery to transfer the two pictures of the house onto his compu—
Okay, that’s odd. Where are those two pictures? Weird.
He called Sparks and asked him about the property. The deputy was silent for a few seconds, then asked, “Property? That’s county land as far as I know. And I’ve never heard of the road you’re talking about. Tell ya what, I’m just getting off shift, so why don’t I swing by and pick you up, and you can show me where you were.”
Sparks drove them out to where Granger usually walked, and they stopped and got out. Granger said, “See, right over there is that road I—” Baffled, he cast his eyes all around, seeing nothing but weeds and rotten fenceposts.
Sparks stood watching. He’d been with Granger a time or two when things nobody could rationally explain had happened; he knew better than to rib his older friend. The deputy understood: Granger had some very close, unusual ties with God – and when things like this happened, there was always a reason, even when the explanation was delayed.
On the way back to Granger’s office, Sparks respected his mentor’s silence as he processed the day’s events. Pulling his patrol Charger up in front of Granger’s building, he sat and waited. Granger soon looked up.
“People of every era believe theirs to be both the best and worst. In both ways, they’re right. What distinguishes them during their own lifetimes is which outlook occupies most of their thoughts. Those who see nothing but life’s worst only build temporary things, hold temporary jobs, leave nothing of value in their wake, and generally die unhappy.”
He waited to see if Sparks was following, then continued.
“It’s the others who build houses like the one I saw, who live and love and laugh in those amazing rooms I was admiring – and who make majestic instruments like that stunning grand piano. They always leave things that outlive them, and their lives while here are full of music, of creativity, and packed with blessings – because they choose to look for those values.”
Sparks sat there, absorbing Granger’s analysis. “Okay. That’s some heavy stuff, there, pardner. But how do you explain all the piano music you heard?”
Granger looked into his friend’s eyes, then his expanded into Middle Space as he half smiled, slowly shook his head, and answered,” I haven’t a clue. Some things God holds close to His chest.”
Long after Granger went inside and closed the door, the young deputy sheriff sat there thinking. After ten minutes had passed, he was no closer to figuring it out than before. Still quiet, he shifted his ride into “D” and headed into what was turning out to be one of the most lovely sunsets he’d ever noticed.
Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once told me, “You grow when you can’t go on, but you refuse to quit!”
I took what he said to heart, because I know he lived that philosophy. I’d read after him for years, and finally got the chance to meet him. I patiently stood in line for 8 months. When I stood before him, he was seated; so I did the automatic thing I’d learned as a hospital chaplain, and knelt to be at eye-level.
He was over 80 years old, a cancer survivor. The disease had ravaged his body and taken one of his eyes, for which he wore a black ‘pirate’ patch. I’m unsure what I expected as I offered my hand, but before I could speak, he strongly gripped my hand, scanned my face, looked me in the eye, and with a knowing, thoughtful look spoke his first words to me . . .
“Oh, you’re one of us, aren’t you?”
Somehow, my own health journey from certain death to life registered, and he knew it. He sensed it. I said yes, I am, and mumbled something semi-coherent about it being my honor to meet him after having spent so long reading his wisdom and amazing great attitude and wit. I started to stand, respecting the long line of others wanting to meet him.
He wasn’t having any of it. His face broke into a brilliant smile and said, “No-no-no, the honor is mine, and had we time I’d love to hear YOUR story.” He didn’t let go of my hand, but pulled me close, opening his other arm and embracing me. Being a believer in hug therapy, I welcomed it and carefully hugged him back. It was during that memorable moment he spoke in my ear those unforgettable words:
“You grow when you can’t go on, but you refuse to quit!”
I don’t remember much from the rest of that weekend business conference, for my spirit kept returning me in a glorious racetrack holding pattern to Charlie’s last words to me. I never saw him again before he was freed from this life to the Next.
I imagine him, excitedly exchanging human life episodes of amazing grace with hundreds of thousands of other ‘miracle’ survivors, uproariously laughing at the sheer audacity of God’s stunning interventions and the jaw-dropping awe they left in their wake.
When I one day join that merry band, I hope I can recall something I just read on a friend’s Facebook post this morning during quiet time, because I want to tell Charlie.
Being a recovering perfectionist, as a kid I rarely ever practiced my trumpet nor my voice outside of band, stage band, or choir. See, I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone – especially my parents – hearing me flub and frack notes. So I just didn’t practice at home, combining it instead with actual time in each of those classes.
I did okay, depending on natural musical ability to carry me. Point? I may have snookered the choir teacher, but I know John Sheeley, our band teacher, wasn’t fooled. I managed to keep enough chops to maintain my spot as 3rd Trumpet in Stage Band, and 2nd Section (I think, and mercifully so) in Band.
I could have been so much better . . .
Oh–you’re wanting to know what my friend, a gifted music teacher, posted?
You practice FOR rehearsal, NOT DURING rehearsal.
Wow. That’s for those who somehow get the notion life is a dry run, a dress rehearsal. We all know better. Youth foxes us with ideas of forever youngness – and suddenly here is my graduating class from 1970 prepping for our 50th class reunion this coming August.
My teacher friend’s trenchant directive sounds just like something Charlie’d say.
In all the excitement of being Home one day, I hope I remember to tell ‘im. And thanks, Karen, for the great reminder. It’s not hard to see why you’re the teacher you are.
My Valentine and I have been holding hearts for over 45 years, and we’ve managed it in the same way any of us walk with Jesus: by grace and through faith.
It has been neither simple nor easy. We’ve literally known each other all our lives, so we sort of knew what we were getting.
She’s the one whose sentences I can usually finish . . .
She often as not mirrors my thoughts . . .
We could likely keep a doctor’s appointment for each other . . .
We’re able to enjoy our separate pastimes, either in the same room or in the same house, without bugging the other.
Exactly alike? Nope. In some ways, we’re complete opposites.
She’s numbers — rational, logical, blunt, undemonstrative, and explosive.
I’m words — creative, thoughtful, intuitive, diplomatic, passionate, and smoldering.
Babycakes is an instinctive, terrific cook; I survive. She’s Math and facts; I’m creativity and ideas. She’s into love stories; I prefer history, war, crime drama, or action movies. She stays inside, despising housework; I do all the outside work, loving the fresh air, greenery, and plants.
We have two different offices for a reason. Mine is zen shades of green, including mood lighting, with aircraft pictures on the wall and coffeemaker and several roasts of whole bean coffee bagged up on a shelf.
Hers is in shades of lavender and light grape, with accounting books and office stuff. We respect the other’s privacy, always waiting and knocking, even if the door is open. Well, except for Ray. If our doors are even the slightest crack open, he lowers his head, does the linebacker’s deal, and invites himself in.
We’ve managed to keep holding hearts for all these years because we hold a mutual respect toward each other; we are true friends beyond all else. Sharing a fierce love that bears the scars of long decades of assaults that would have lacerated most marriages, we choose to recognize our differences, and celebrate them.
Perfect couple? Not hardly. I’m an Intuitive introvert, and she’s NOT. We have spirited discussions about our opinions, yet we’ve both learned – again, by grace and through faith – to make time to understand the other’s point of view. It enables us to realize and even come to appreciate our separate likes and dislikes.
So, yeah–I’ve been holding hearts with Babycakes for a whole lot of years. During that time, we’ve both kept learning to ask that time-honored 4th grade question: “Will you still be my Valentine?”
And every time I think of where we’ve been, the lyric plays again in my mind . . .
On my own I’m only Half of what I could be I can’t do without you We are stitched together And what love has tethered I pray we never undo
‘Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs God gave me you for the days of doubt And for when I think I lost my way There are no words here left to say, It’s true God gave me you, gave me you He gave me you
~~~from album Red River Blue, written by Dave Barnes, sung by Blake Shelton
I originally came across this great little story in August of 2007. Approaching Valentines Day, it seems to me with the national psyche and popular culture at its current state, it’s time to revisit the subject. I want to share it and some time-modified comments with you as Valentine’s Day 2020 approaches. Please–read on. . .
Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all of the others–including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all repaired their boats and left.
Love wanted to persevere until the last possible moment. When the island was almost sinking, Love decided to ask for help. Richness was passing by Love in History Supreme, the most expensive yacht on Earth. Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?” Richness answered, “Oh, no, I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’ve got a bunch of silver and gold and goodies aboard, and… well, I know you understand. I just don’t have any room for you.”
Love decided to ask Vanity who was also passing by in Earth’s biggest yacht, Azzam: “Vanity, may I ride with you?”
“I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet, and this IS a Leoni interior.” Vanity answered.
Sadness was close by so Love asked for help: “Sadness, I know you’ll let me go with you, right?”
“Oh, dear…. Love, I—You’ve been there so often for me; but right now, I’m so sad that I just really need to be by myself!”
Happiness passed by too on a party yacht, but she was so giddy and preoccupied with the party, and the music was so loud that she didn’t even hear when Love called her.
Suddenly, there was a calm voice: “Come, Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that he forgot to ask the elder his name. The craft in which they rode together was plain and nondescript among the opulence of all whom Love had always thought were his friends, yet it was strongly built and had seen much good use. When they arrived at dry land, the elder quietly went his own way.
Love realized how much he owed the elder and asked another elder, Knowledge, who was unloading belongings and supplies: “Who was that who helped me?”
“That was Time,”Knowledge answered. “Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me when no one else would?” Knowledge stopped working, straightened, smiled, and with deep wisdom answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
You’ve read it before: Unless they know you real well, people will forget a lot of what you say; and people will forget most of what you do—but people won’t forget how you made them feel. And therein lies the magic of this 2nd Cup I originally shared in February of 2007.
Thirteen years have passed since then . . . Thirteen.
Love takes time to mature. Think of Knowledge’s potent words: “. . . only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.” If over the passage of years what you feel towards another has shifted from Gotta-Be-Around-Em-24/7 to Hide-Me-It’s-Him/Her-Again, that might not be Love, love. It’s entirely possible that’s just gas.
Around 7 minutes is the average time between TV commercials, even the ones about love and marriage. We know 7 minutes does not a marriage make; and 7 years is just getting started.
You may have grown up believing it normal to dissolve any non-thriving relationship. Guess what? All relationships occasionally hit a patch of maintenance and coasting. It’s normal to the ebb and flow of any human interaction. Nevertheless, quitting isn’t the norm. Perseverance is.
Love takes time to mature. If over the passage of years what you feel towards another has shifted from mild appreciation to a dawning awareness that to lose personal contact with that person would carve a huge hole in your heart–well, now that there’s LUV, love. It’s the real deal, on-purpose, Time-proven; the stuff of great friendships and terrific marriages.
“. . . only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
I wonder how long it took Love, standing there with eyes unfocused, to understand what a huge compliment the brilliantly-influential Time had paid him? Do you understand? Given the choice to be Love or Time, most would choose Love. What’s not to love about Love? Everybody loves to be loved. “How sweet it is to be loved by you… “I need your love— I need your love— God speed your love to me.” Less by far are those who choose over time to create Lovers in their wake. . .
That’s what Time was doing.
Time isn’t an elder by virtue of age. Time’s an elder because he has established his own niche: Time is a creator of champion lovers. Wherever Time goes and whatever else may be his task, he is forever and always alert, watching for those into whose lives he can pour some of himself and his own ever-widening dimensions of love for others.
And Time’s focus is precise. His intent is to create an extension of himself within the hearts of any who will pay attention to who and what he is .
How often do you need to hear someone tell you they believe in you before you begin believing in yourself again? There is no easy answer, for some never do believe in themselves to the point they climb above where they’ve been and begin moving toward personal and spiritual excellence.
And how often do you need to hear “I love you” before you start loving yourself again? Once more, not an easy thing. Some never do escape their own loveless gravity and allow the love of someone else in until they can shock their own into beating again.
No guarantees accrue. You are the sum of your own choices. It can be disarmingly easy to bury landmines, calibrate laser tripwires, install infrared sensors and keep everyone at attitude’s-length. It is possible to live an entire lifetime convinced that your perpetual loneliness and surface-deep friendships comprise the way you always intended to live. It also will eventually push away the very ones that Time will reveal were your best allies.
Time is a creator of champion lovers. Time softens locked jaws and impacted notions. Time reveals that things are rarely what they seem. Like a laser, it will soon sear straight through nonsense and popular opinion. Time is a creator of champion lovers, because “only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
If you’re like me, this will take awhile to soak down into the richness of the kind of Love for ourselves and for others that far too many have given up ever experiencing again.
Seek Wisdom as you let that happen. Loving people who are not always lovely is no simple task. It can be overdone or underdone, and often both. Sometimes your best won’t work and your worst will, and only Time and prayer will ever make a difference.
And sometimes people choose to walk away from God, and your best isn’t enough, and “Good-bye” is forever. That doesn’t mean loving others doesn’t work. Sometimes the most loving thing you’ll ever do is to watch them go and never call them back.
I encourage you to love anyway. Become a creator of champion lovers–men and women who dare to run counter to the vapid, lip-deep, politically-advantageous and cynical “love” tossed around by the world and way too much of the Church.
How? Ask God to help you love others more like He does.
I did that. I asked Him to help me with that. Oh, boy. . .
To do that, He began revealing things about others to me, little by little, which made me at times back away–and every time He gently said, “Remember? You want to love others more like I do. I remind you: I know EVERYTHING about you and I love you with everything there is in Me.” Well, there is that. God brought to mind this verse:
Oh, how can I give you up …? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you …My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows… for I am God and not a mere mortal.
(Hosea 11:8-9 NLT)
Valentine’s Day, huh? I’d rather love those who love me back. I, like most people, heartily dislike rejection. It is way too easy to mentally write off those who cut-and-slash. But if I am serious about loving like God does, I can’t do that. Neither can you.
So, I challenge you–work to become a creator of champion lovers by being one yourself, patterned after the greatest Lover of all eternity. And while there’s Time? Well. . .
“Only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
What you’re experiencing right now is the residual effect of your past thinking. Memories, past events, old relationships, and especially your own thoughts regarding them all? They’re influencing where you are right here, right now, today.
It’s not the things. It’s your thoughts about them that are driving you.
Or holding you back.
What determines who and what you become is the difference between your hopes and your fears. Everything in your life revolves around whether you focus on what you want and like, or what you don’t want and don’t like.
You’ve encountered hardships and rotten treatment in life. You’ve been used and taken advantage of. Had your heart broken and figured you needed your head examined.
Big deal. So has everyone else. You can focus on all that, wanting to be exonerated and setting everything right.
Or you can shrug it off and let it all go, and focus instead on what you really want throughout the remainder of this life.
It’s your choice. Yet you must choose; you cannot do both. As I once read, retribution and self-fulfillment are rarely served on the same plate.
I often have Pandora’s ‘Relaxation Radio’ playing softly in the background while working here at my desk. One piece I always enjoy is a smooth, thoughtful accoustic guitar styling of ‘Let It Be Me’. At some point I must’ve hit the ‘thumbs-up’ icon, because it’s a rare week I don’t hear it at least once.
Half-listening to it yesterday, some new thoughts began emerging. “I bless the day I found You, I want to stay around You . . .” The other half of my brain kicked in about then, remembering “I Miss My Time With You” . . . “I need to be with you each day, and it hurts Me when you say you’re too busy–busy tryin’ to serve Me! But how can you serve Me, when your spirit’s empty? There’s a longing in My heart, wanting just to be a part of you, it’s true—– I miss My time with you.”
Needless to say, I got a little quiet for a minute or two.
“Lord, if there’s someone You can use to lift and encourage another today?
Let it be me.
Let me be that one . . .
—who cares when others don’t or won’t.
—who prays, then in a few days follows up on it.
—who remains a loyal friend, no matter what.
—who cheers and encourages.
—who looks for the praiseworthy in others.
—who dares to love fiercely.
—who is passionate even while being patient.
—who always wants God’s best for you.
I could keep adding to the list, but you get the point. In a culture fractured by self-interest and ambivalent toward anyone else, God still issues the challenge, “Who will go for our side? Whom do I send?”
I don’t – won’t – speak for you. I do believe our crazed American social scene will most effectively be healed in one way: you and I being God’s best kids, impacting others one by one in ways that lift them and please Him.
Saying that, I make no case for laying yourself open to hurt, abuse, and being used by those who’ve made a lifestyle – even built careers – out of squeezing the hearts of good people. Part of the passionate patience to which I refer above is learning to wait on God’s timing; and listening to His prompting.
Oh, yeah. And maybe the next time you hear “Let It Be Me”, it’ll make the message a little more special.
Why I write: because creating something that didn’t exist before is as close to magic as I’ll ever get.
I wander through fiction to find the truth.
Sometimes you can’t calm the storm, so it’s best to stop trying. What you can do is to calm yourself. The storm, no matter how violent, will pass.
Your life will get better when you realize it’s better to be alone than to chase people who don’t really care about you.
Real strength, empowerment, and inner peace begin with the ability to let go. Then focus on living in the moment according to what genuinely pleases you, instead of trying to look good to others in order to earn their favor.
Lazy is such an unpleasant word. I like to call it ‘selective participation’.
underneath my outside face / there’s a face that none can see / a little less smiley, a little less sure / but a whole lot more like me
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
Well, my friends, that’s enough for now. It is my hope something herein, either the words themselves, or some thoughts and impressions of your own that snuck quietly from between the lines, will generate an idea of your own.
We are together a formidable force when we forego letting others speak for us, instead being our own advocates and building our speech and conversations on the product of our own reasoning, guided by God’s wisdom and grace.