A KICK TO THE SHINS

kick to the shins

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My buddy Curt and I were sitting outside having breakfast the week between Christmas and New Years. It’s a local, non-franchised little place that has a group of regulars.

The place was crowded so we sat outside to eat. It was a bit cold which deterred any other outside diners. The place started to get busy so the owner had the hungry customers sign in on a clipboard attached to one of the front stucco columns.

A dad and his two kids had signed the clipboard and were enduring their time outside while waiting to dine inside. The daughter was the oldest and looked to be about 10 or 11 years old. She was about a foot taller than her little brother who appeared to be 7 or 8.

It didn’t take long and the both of them were bored out of their gourds. They started to pick at each other to pass the time. The process escalated to the little brother giving an accidentally-on-purpose step on his big sister’s toes. Her response was less than subtle. She grabbed him by his shoulders and kicked him as hard as she could on his shin! Ouch! It looked painful… The boy turned away unfazed.

The both of us started bustin’ a gut immediately. We shared stories from our childhood that had similar results.

I’ve played both roles as a kid. I’ve been the one to pester my siblings, I’ve also been the one to administer justice. Being the youngest, I freely confess to the former significantly more often than the latter.

Generally the justice is taken from the instigator without retaliation. Interestingly that only usually happens with people we love or care for greatly. As kids, if anyone outside our family treated us the same way we treated each other we would attack to protect the ones we love.

As I sat laughing at the boy who reminded me a bit of myself a long time ago, I realized with years not that much changes. The ones we love and live with are the ones we have the least patience for. We know each other so intimately that we know which buttons to push in order to aggravate or get under the other’s skin.

The ones in this life who should be getting the best of our personalities, sometimes get the exact opposite. I know I’ve been guilty of wearing the talking mask of manners around all day long and taking it off as soon as I walk through the door. Sometimes behind that mask we hide a monster.

What were some of the adjectives Jesus Christ used to describe love? Oh yeah, patient and kind. Never mind the rest for now. If we can conquer with God’s power in us just those two alone, we begin to bring God honor and the loved ones He’s blessed us with as well.

We might be able to get an academy award for our acting throughout the day, but the people we live with know the truth. No one knows our strengths and weaknesses like our family.

I’m not condoning conflict, but we all get a taste of it in an ongoing basis. I’ve learned the last place and the last people I want conflict with are the ones God has placed closest to me.

These are my gifts. I can never possess anything more precious than these in this physical world. They are part of me with strengths and weaknesses just like mine.

I desire what they desire, love, peace, and happiness from a Biblical perspective. Isn’t that what all of us want?

Most conflicts in life are similar to that step on the toes, repaid with the kick to the shins. “You Get What You Give.” What are we giving the ones closest to us?

For the record, I don’t miss being kicked on the shins…

ONE OF THESE DAYS

one of these days

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I’ve heard people my whole life say something like, “You know one of these days I’m gonna…” Finish the sentence just about any way you can think of and we’ve probably already heard it.

I’ve found that people that talk about change rarely earnestly attempt it.

That’s why New Years resolutions never made too much sense to me. If I feel a need for change I’m not going to wait for a new year to get started on it. If it’s important enough to warrant a change it shouldn’t wait until a certain date, unless there is a binding contract or agreement involved.

I remember when my dad quit smoking. He didn’t make a New Years resolution, he contemplated it for years. One day he threw out his pack of unfinished cigarettes and never lit up again.

I have to confess I ate like a horse over the weekend of Christmas, I had let down my discipline a bit for a couple months even prior to that. April from Blessed Beyond Measure (add shameless plug for your friend’s blog here) had a picture of a candy store in one of her posts. My mouth watered just thinking about it and knowing the delicacies I’d soon be consuming.

I knew it was time to get some extra cardio. I didn’t wait for the week to end so I could start fresh in the New Year. I started that day. The day I realized the need. I’m not saying I’m exceptional for having done so, I just know that my human nature if allowed to put something off, will very likely continue to put it off, whatever it is.

One thing I do at the start of the New Year is make a list. The title at the top of my list is “Goals.” The things I want to be a priority in my life for the next 12 months. I fold up that list and keep it in my wallet. My list of goals is with me every day of the year. I don’t look at it every day, but occasionally pull it out, unfold it and measure where I’m at on my quest for the year.

Things like doing cardio to lean out or landing a literary agent don’t make it onto my list. I figure if I take care of the big things, the little things will take care of themselves. Here is a sample of my last list.

1. Trust God in everything.

2. Learn to have only fear of God. (no fear of the world)

3. Be of the highest character during everyone else’s meltdown.

4. Honor God by how I love my wife.

5. Be a bigger part in my kids lives.

The next two lines were business related and the goals for my Lacrosse girls regarding work ethic, character, and their self-image. OK, yes, and to win a state championship.

In truth resolutions and goals are essentially the same thing. We have to be resolute or determined and unwavering in our pursuit of fulfilling our goals or desires.

I like to use goals, not only due to the negative connotation that have become associated with resolutions, but also because goals don’t ever have to be completely attained in order to receive gratification. I think anything attempted in life that is done for the right reasons and is carried out with passion and perseverance carries the gratification within the process, not just the outcome.

I’ll make a new list of goals for this year. I’ll have to carry some over from last year, probably even every year for the rest of my life. Each year as I do a little better and get closer to my goals I’ll be encouraged. God honors seekers…

“Someday” isn’t one of the days of the week. I’ve also heard it said that “someday never comes.” Whatever day of the week it is, regardless of what week or month it is, it is today…

Do you know what today is…? TODAY’S THE DAY!

GOODBYE 2010

goodbye 2010

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It’s over… no sign of Christmas at our house. It looks like it never happened, although we have some pictures with dates and all to prove it did.

Chalk up another victory for me in my battle against the Christmas tree. I thought about tapping out a couple times, but I sucked it up and walked away with another victory. I had to get extra tough on him this year. He seems to fight harder every year from being sent back to the garage in his box.

I hope I didn’t hurt him too bad… I’ll know next year if he doesn’t light up, I ended his career. That ole’ tree is a bit like me. He’s getting older, a sight stiffer, and he leans to one side more than he used to.

I said goodbye to him for another year. I’ve said goodbye to a lot of things in my life. Some good, some I didn’t want to say goodbye to.

Some of the stupid things I did when I was younger I don’t miss. When I said goodbye to some of them I even said, “good riddance.” Truth is I probably wouldn’t have said goodbye to any of them if it weren’t for the change of heart directed by God.

That change of heart is really a change of thinking. That new thinking the Bible calls wisdom, I like to call, “a heavenly perspective.”

I use that perspective to consider some of the goodbyes in this life. We all said goodbye to 2010 Saturday morning. Some of us were awake to send it off. Some said goodbye before they went to sleep.

My little one and me said goodbye to 2010 with a bang… Literally. We stood out in the freezing midnight air lighting fireworks in the middle of the driveway.

The years are like those fireworks. They burn bright, fast, and then they’re gone… Many people come in and out of our lives over the course of a year. Sometimes we are connected by circumstances or fate for several years. Occasionally we get decades.

Often when we part ways or say goodbye it’s forever in this physical life. Unfortunately, there have been people in my life that most likely thought, “good riddance” when we parted ways. I suppose that would be OK if it were for the right reasons. I’m certain that’s not always been the case.

Change is inevitable in this life. We change before we’re born in the womb and don’t stop changing until we breathe our last. We say goodbye to childhood, middle age, and finally old age if we’re lucky or blessed.

Those are the major goodbyes, but we also have the minor goodbyes. We leave our family members for the work day, vacation, college, and when they leave home. It varies from a kiss to an, “I love you,” “Have a good day,” “Be good,” “Be careful,” and maybe an “I’ll see you  soon”!

As the seasons change so do our lives. With changes come the ever present “goodbyes.” After a parting or goodbye what impact will we have on other peoples lives? Will our existence and interaction have been a positive or negative influence?

Will those people who touched the fabric of our lives remember us as strong, compassionate people of God, or typical humans that blend with the masses and have no lasting memorable traits?

The majority of people are scared of goodbyes. To the lost people who don’t know God, goodbye is the end. For us who know God, we don’t look forward to the goodbyes, but we have no fear of them.

Our paths lead across this physical life and cross over into the next dimension. Our goodbyes are temporary.

Where ever your path leads you in 2011 may you be blessed and strong.

Whether our paths cross this year or in the Great Beyond, I’ll look forward to seeing you. We’ll have a nice chat and a pat each other on the back, maybe even a hug.

I think Roy Rogers said it a little more eloquently,

“Happy trails to you”…”Till we meet again.”

Goodbye 2010…

HAPPY NEW YEAR

happy new year

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There are many special days in a year. Days are special to different people for various reasons. Christmas is special to my family because of its significance to our belief in Jesus Christ.

The days of family members, birthdays are special as well. Other special days include Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Presidents’ Day. For some of us every Sunday is special, for others maybe even Groundhog Day. We get 365 days to choose from.

Something feels very significant about the last day of the year. For younger people, it’s a celebration of just the day. For me at this point in my life, is the fact that it’s done, over, no mas. The year is history, it’s behind me, in the past. There is nothing I can do to change whatever happened in the last 365 days.

I can only think about 2010 now. My opportunity to make any difference in anyone’s life including my own has now passed.

A year ago we were with friends at our house. We watched the ball drop on TV. (Not actually on our TV, but the live coverage from downtown) everyone smiled and wished each other, “Happy New Year”! My wife and I exchanged the traditional New Year’s kiss, I said quietly in her ear, “Happy New Year girl.” She always replies, “Happy New Year Babe.”

I can’t say I’ve been happy all year. I’ll never use that word with its modern social implications to describe how I felt this year when my dad was taken home to be with God. In truth, even this Christmas which is usually “Merry,” had mixed emotions due to that fact and some were less than happy.

After six years coaching Lacrosse the reality that it was time to move on was evident, but it certainly didn’t make me happy. It’s been another tough year in business. Happy is the polar opposite of how I’d describe the business climate right now.

I’m not saying I’ve been sad all year. I had some sad days, but I think that is a reality of life. To be perpetually happy, I’d have to be with God in heaven. I know this isn’t the Garden of Eden. The condition of my human heart makes that perfectly clear.

Think about the words, “ Happy New Year ”!–“Happy birthday”! –“Happy Anniversary”! It’s nice to hear those greetings from others isn’t it? Few of us feel like or say, “What’s so happy about it”? Or, “Don’t tell me what to do”! No, we generally say, “Thank you”! Or, “Same to you”!

So what does it mean? If it’s not anything else, it most certainly is a tradition. I believe the tradition started like many other traditions, from a biblically-based action handed down through generations.

Like our term “scapegoat” is used today. Its origin is from Leviticus 16. Aaron was to send the goat out with all the sins on his head into the wilderness. Hence the term “escape-goat”.

Tradition for a Christian New Year’s greetings probably sounded more like “Blessed New Year.” The New Testament definition of “happy” is “supremely blessed. Wow! To be  supremely blessed over the course of 365 days would truly make it a “happy” year.

Although I had difficulties like all of us do over the course of a year. I know I’ve been “Supremely Blessed” this year. That doesn’t mean I go jogging along, jumping up and clicking my heels together all the time. It means I walk through each year understanding that each breath is a gift. That breath is given in order to honor the One who provides it.

We only get a number of breaths.

Our hearts will beat for only a set number of years.

I pray each one will be used wisely according to God’s desire for us.

I hope you get many happy days this new year.

More than that, I wish you a “Happy,” or better yet. A “Supremely Blessed New Year”!

THE CODE

the code

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I enjoy watching the reaction when my oldest girls get to see each other during break from college. They act like children again. They’re only three years apart, so they spent a lot of time together over the course of their short lives.

They love their little sister, but they haven’t shared with her what they’ve shared with each other. Thinking back to my childhood I see how close they are, similar to my two older brothers for similar reasons.

My girls think their little sister is somewhat spoiled or not held to the same standards they were, similar to my brothers thought process at that same age regarding me.

There is no substitute for reliving past memories with a sibling.  The same stories told in almost the exact same way bring  joy to the past participants and shore up the bond that old memories help create.

I chuckle to myself as I think of some of my own. The Christmas Bobby, Sheral, and me all got new bikes is a standout, not for just the best Christmas presents ever for us, but for the memory of the look on our oldest brother Dean’s face when he opened his present to find a new typewriter!

I’ll never forget that sheepish smile on his face as he tried to not hurt our mom and dad’s feelings. I think of the time I shot Bobby with a sling shot… He dropped off the swing set like a dead man.  I didn’t hang around to find out one way or the other, I ran just as fast as I could!

Right around the same time Dean was teaching Sheral to shoot a BB gun. Somehow I ended up getting shot in the process. We never did tell our parents about any of the accidents. Everyone has those similar stories of the struggles through childhood shared with their siblings that somehow create a bond like soldiers in wartime.

My kids have theirs as well. Kenz and Ali made a pact not to tell who wrote Ali’s name on her stomach in indelible ink. Ali was too young to write her name at the time, so that left her big sister as the prime suspect. The two held that secret until Kenz was a teenager.

The three of them decided to walk to the store to get their mom a present. They weren’t allowed to go to the store by themselves. Karson was too little to walk that far so they put her in a wagon to accomplish their task. We didn’t find out until a year later where the scratches on her hands and face came from. Turns out the wagon tipped over on a corner taken faster than the wagon was designed for.

When you’re a child you live by the code of siblings. That code states you have to trust each other with secrets.  The parents aren’t the enemy, they’re more like Generals of the Army.  In my case the oldest is the Colonel, second oldest is the Captain, third is the Sgt., and for those of you who are the youngest, or close to the bottom of a big family know the title for the young ones; Private.

The interesting thing about that code is you never quite outgrow it. The oldest still call the shots in most cases. Several years back my mom and dad had their 50th anniversary. I was busy with work and didn’t have time for the 3 1/2 hour trip. My oldest brother called after he learned that I couldn’t attend the surprise anniversary party for our parents. He simply said, “Floyd, I think you should be there.” That’s all it took.

Of course, he was right. I know what my children are still figuring out.

“You gotta stick to the code.”