Differences of Memory

“That’s not what you said before! Your memory is really getting bad, and you are always changing your story!” The disagreement had turned into a personal attack – again.

When I heard that account of the wife becoming angry at the husband’s supposed lapse of memory, I cringed. My immediate thought was, So what if he doesn’t have perfect memory? None of us do. And, why did the wife act like a tiger on the attack? Is it conceivable that her anger is a defense mechanism for her possible memory lapse?

That particular misunderstanding was regarding Scripture in John 11: Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, and requested that He (Jesus) come and heal Lazarus; but Jesus waited two more days before going to Bethany. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” Some people think Jesus specified “Lazarus” so that all the other dead would not come out of their own graves.

Back to the fuss mentioned above: the wife thought the husband previously said there were others buried in the tomb with Lazarus, where the husband thought he merely mentioned the potential of other people rising from the dead. But again, so what? Does a lapse of memory – on either side – justify an attack on someone’s integrity? I don’t think so.

What is memory anyway? (Note: this article is not about Alzheimer’s.)

Memory is the process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Encoding takes place while information is received from visual, electrical, chemical, and physical stimuli. Storage, the second stage, includes maintaining information over periods of time. The third stage is the retrieval of information for conscious consideration. Some retrieval attempts may be effortless, while other attempts are difficult due to the type of information we have stored, and life’s experiences we have encountered since storing that information.

“The hippocampus, an extension of the cerebral cortex, plays a big role in storing memories, but it’s also important in recalling them.” says Ulrike Schmidt, a Head Research Coordinator, RG Leader, Managing Senior Psychiatrist at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich. Schmidt continued: “And a damaged hippocampus causes weird things to happen in the mind.”

Also, a lack of sleep often impedes memory storage; and you can’t recall what wasn’t stored.

However, as people age, a certain amount of brain atrophy – including the hippocampus – is normal. Early symptoms of hippocampal atrophy can include difficulty recalling the recent past, and can produce disorientation.

Our memories are also subject to contamination and distortion. Lawyers often fool us with suggestive questions, and false memories can easily be manufactured. And even though a woman named Jill Price became famous and inaccurately labeled as “The woman who couldn’t forget,” it has been proven that photographic memory and total recall is not 100% accurate. We all have faulty memory – some of us more than others.

Example: if five people witness an accident, we would have five differing testimonies – and all five would most-likely be at least partially correct. Nevertheless, some folk, such as Jill Price, do have excellent memory about things she continually reviews.

So, what is the key?

There is no one key. Proper nutrition, proper sleep, and especially paying attention to what you are experiencing are foundational. Your brain is where memory is stored, so take care of your brain; but that demands proper care for your entire body. The schools, training, mental disciplines, games, etc. are secondary.

Living peacefully, primarily internally, is especially important. Jesus Christ is interested in how we live because our understanding – including wisdom – determines how we mature as individuals, and how we grow in our relationship with others. A good memory aids in this endeavor. Galatians 5:22-23 briefly lists the fruit of the Spirit. They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

So, control yourself, be gentle, and stop disputing or arguing. Instead, learn to discuss, but don’t be pushy or aggressive. In non-critical issues, it’s better if you don’t demand that you are right and the other is wrong. Admit that no one’s memory – yours included – is perfect, and admit that not all erroneous memories are reason for conflict. Kindly agree to disagree and preserve your relationship.

However, go ahead and work to improve your memory. And when there is a difference of memory regarding a non-critical issue, let it go. Rise above the situation; allow the other person freedom of expression. Isn’t that what you want? Who knows: it may very-well be that you both are partly correct – therefore, partly incorrect.

Don’t lock-up; lighten up. As you release tension, you create the mental and spiritual environment that makes it easier to recall the truth of the matter. Sadly, the couple mentioned above hasn’t figured that out yet. But you can if you try, and ask the Lord to help you.

A Little Humor Goes a Long Way

Fred told me about a negative interaction between him and his wife, Jacquie. The 6-month-old baby threw a temper tantrum so Fred tapped the baby on the thigh with two fingers and firmly let him know that the screaming was not allowed. The baby, still crying, at least stopped screaming. So far – so good.

Jacqie thought her husband was cruel and started scolding him in front of the baby. Fred told her to hush, turned her toward the door, and ordered her out of the room. Bad move!

Jacquie, now in a rage, turned and began pushing Fred. She had shoes on, but he was wearing socks without shoes and the floor was shiny hardwood. Losing traction and beginning to fall, he managed to somehow hop toward the bed. But Jacquie was still pushing and Fred realized that as they fell she might hit her head on the steel bed frame. Fall, they did! But he held onto her and managed to land both of them on the mattress. Good move!

Fred was breathing heavily, grateful that they were both safe. Jacquie was also breathingPICT0008 heavily – still in a rage! That’s when Fred whimsically said, “Now I know why we should never come between a mother bear and her cubs.”

Jacquie chuckled … Fred laughed … and they both burst out laughing which lasted for several minutes. The humor had broken the tension, and helped them to think through the situation in a more relaxed atmosphere. Excellent recovery!

He apologized, she forgave, the baby survived, and Fred & Jacquie are still happily married. Henry Ward Beecher said (paraphrased), “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – it’s jolted by every pebble in the road.”

Doctors and psychiatrists tell us that we should have five good belly-laughs a day. Why?

To start off, Proverbs 17:22 (NCV) tells us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Laughter is a strong and powerful force that has positive effects on the body. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, relaxes muscles, releases stress, and reduces pain. This God-ordained medicine needs no prescription, is free, and has been available forever. Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Laughter reduces pain by increasing the body’s natural painkiller: endorphins. In hospitals, doctors use humor therapy after surgeries to enhance the healing process and improve health.

PICT0409Having a sense of humor releases our native creativity and helps us to properly interpret events that happen to us. The way we perceive events determines whether we feel challenged, happy, threatened, puzzled, joyful, etc. Tense situations are where you need to laugh the most. Humor helps us to overlook the aggravating trivia that tend to grow out of proportion and block our vision.

Laughter is contagious and connects us with others; if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. My father used to say, “If someone’s got to be upset, it doesn’t have to be me.”

And yes: my wife, children, and I laugh a lot.

Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems benefit more from twenty seconds of laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. Through laughter, muscles release tension and neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, creating the same feelings the long-distance joggers experience as “runner’s high.” Also, ten minutes of laughter helps people sleep more soundly.

Bob Hope said that laughter is an “instant vacation.” Jay Leno said, “You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.” And I remember another comedian saying, “If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.”

Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience burnout and depression; and they will most likely have a more fulfilled life in general – including a long-lasting marriage where they can enjoy their 50th wedding anniversary.

So lighten up. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Rather than focusing on what you want out of life, think about helping lighten someone else’s burden. And laugh with them.

I Took a Short Break

What do you do when you’re tired? You are correct: you take a break; and that’s why you didn’t see my blogs for a week or so.

Carol and I returned from a 10-month trip around the good-ole USA, and enjoyed about 99% of the trip. We had been thinking about a trip like this for over 30 years, and it was time to fulfill the dream.

What about the 1%? Oh, just minor glitches in the plan, but no major disruptions. One of the glitches was when we reached Memphis, Tennessee on the way back home. We showed up at the RV park and they were filled up. When I told them about my reservation, they had deleted it. I couldn’t blame them; because with all the rain, the over-flowing Mississippi, Arkansas, and other rivers, and people fleeing the flooded RV parks, the non-flooded parks needed to make room for them.

Only a minor inconvenience. We found the empty side of a Wal-Mart parking lot right next to an IHOP restaurant and spent most the night.

I said it was a 10-month trip, and that’s correct. But before we started it, we had taken a 5-week trip up to the northeast part of the country. So in the past 14 months, 11 of those months was on the road in a 20-foot pull-behind trailer.

Before we left, one of my friends asked, “You’re going to spend 10 months in a small trailer?”

I responded, “We think of it as spending only 1 day at a time. It’s easier that way.”

We drove 26,267 miles, and traveled through 27 states which included the four corners of the country. When we returned home, another friend asked what it was like being cooped up in a small trailer with my wife for almost a year.

“I wasn’t cooped up with her,” I responded. “It was a joy to be with her every mile of the way. We’ve been married for almost 53 years now and we still enjoy traveling together.”

That’s why I took a break from blogging. But you’ll just have to put up with me again, because I’m home.

Have a great weekend.

Memorial Day – 2019

PICT0051Memorial Day! The very sound of the name resonates with deep feelings within the minds of some Americans. Parades with marching bands and the rippling Red and White stripes with the Blue field of white stars (one of the most famous flags in the history of the world) will be a major event in many towns dotting the landscape of the United States of America.

This Memorial Day, let’s take time to honor our fallen Americans and give thanks to Almighty God for the freedoms we have. Memorial Day is a celebration of freedom!

So I want to honor the one who taught me to honor God, my country, and my fellow man. This memorial is about my late father: Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr. Chaplain Corps, USN.

Stanford was born in Houston, Texas on October 13, 1920. Always involved in the community, at age 16 he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and became Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 13.

He lettered in varsity as he played right guard on the high school football team in Mercedes, Texas. He was also first-chair clarinetist in the band; and with his mother accompanying him, he won the Texas State Championship for instrumental solos in 1936.

Texas A&M and other schools wanted Stan to attend their schools on music scholarships. But at age nine, he heard John Philip Sousa and the United States Marine Band on Sousa’s last tour, and Stan developed a burning desire to be a Navy musician.

Nine years later, passing the music test administered by Chief Musician John Liegl (who had been assistant director under Sousa), Stan was sworn into the Navy on January 11, 1939. Sixteen years later when I was nine years old, John Leigl became my own music instructor, for which I am deeply grateful.

At age nine, Stan had also accepted Jesus into his life and suspected that he might become a preacher. He stayed away from alcohol, but by the time he joined the navy he had begun smoking cigarettes. However, a change was coming: he met a beautiful girl named Verna May Hall who liked the clarinet but didn’t like cigarettes.

Verna lowered the boom: “I won’t marry you if you keep smoking.” So Stan decided to quit. But after a two-week cruise on “The Original Fighting Lady” (the USS Yorktown CV-5), Stan came back smelling like a chimney.

“You said you were going to quit.” Verna challenged.

“I tried, but I couldn’t.” Stan was smoking almost three packs a day.

“Did you pray about it?”

Stan retorted, “No.”

But at Verna’s encouragement, he prayed then and there. The Lord helped Stan; but Stan also exercised his God-given will power, and never touched a cigarette again.

When he gave up smoking, Stan also totally rededicated his life to the Lord, and his shipmates nicknamed him Deacon. In everything he attempted to do from then on, he endeavored to honor God.

During the Battle of Midway, the Yorktown was severely damaged by bombs and torpedoes. Believing the ship would capsize, Captain Buckmaster gave the order to abandon ship. The USS Balch, a small warship called a destroyer, rescued Stan and many others. (The Yorktown sunk two days later.)

Stan recognized a sailor who was a Christian and said, “Let’s get together for a prayer meeting.”

The sailor moaned, “Deacon, I’m the only Christian on board the ship.”

Stan didn’t believe it. He scouted around and found eight other men, each of whom thought he was the only Christian on board. Stan got them together for a praise service on the fantail (stern) of the ship. Eventually, thirty-two men met each night as more sailors accepted Jesus Christ into their lives.

Stan was transferred to the USS Portland – a heavy cruiser with 850 men on board. He ordered Gideon Bibles and started a Bible Study group.

After the war, Stan left the Navy, continued his schooling, and in 1954 reentered the Navy as a Chaplain. He spent another twenty years serving the Lord and his country to the best of his ability. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Dad was not loud or boisterous (if he didn’t need to be), but was boldly dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dad taught me that living to please our Lord was more fun than living to please myself or the world. He said quite often, “I’m only going this way once; I might as well make the most of it.” Applied in a Christian sense, I’ve found that to be true.

Dad taught me the motto attributed to Davey Crockett: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. Of course, I’ve made mistakes, but I do my best to honor God, Country, and Dad.

Dad passed away in 2010, but I’ll see him again when I get to heaven.

A Day At A Time

Carol and I recently completed a ten-month trip around this wonderful country. Starting the trip with 30,159 miles on the odometer, we ended the trip with 52,143. Simple math says that we drove 21,984 miles. However, the trailer we pulled logged only 9,105 miles which reveals that every time we parked the trailer, we did a lot of other traveling. Moss does not grow on our wheels.

And a special note: after ten months of being cooped up in a 23-foot trailer with each other, Carol and I are still deeply in love with each other.

In those 10 months and almost 22,000 miles, we were blessed with no major malfunctions in the trailer, car, or driver. Although we missed a turn here and there – excuse me, I missed a turn here and there – we never got lost. We just recalibrated our GPS, made a correction, and kept on trucking. We took the trip one day at a time and enjoyed it.

That reminds me of my Uncle Bert. In April of 2014 we visited him, Aunt Evelyn, cousin Cathy and her husband, Curtis on our way to Washington, D.C. We hadn’t seen them for several years and were looking forward to this visit.

Uncle Bert – a United States Marine, a poet, and a former minister with the Church of Christ pictured here with his daughter, Cathy – was 94-years-old, and he delighted us with his quick wit and good memory. He spent some time regaling us with stories of the past including memories of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal in World War II.

But what fascinated me most about Uncle Bert was his devotion to Jesus Christ and his wonderful ability to play the piano at 94 years of age. When he asked if I had read his poem A Day At A Time, I told him I had not. He brought it out, and it made a strong impression on me as I read it. He gave me an autographed copy and gave me permission to use it any time I thought it might help people.

Here it is. Please read it and consider the message:

A Day At A Time:

I take life a day at a time,

That’s the way it’s given to me.

Don’t make plans too far down the line,

Today’s good enough, don’t you see?

I may be here on the morrow,

And then again, I may not.

But my heart’s not filled with sorrow,

For life’s given me a lot.

For my Father’s in control,

And He’s been so good to me.

He gave His Son to save my soul,

His Grace is sufficient for me.

So I take each day that He gives me,

And fill it to the brim

Until He comes to take me

To go and live with Him.

Why did it make such an impression on me? Uncle Bert wrote it in 1991 – twenty-three years earlier! Not only is it filled with hope, faith, and confidence in the Lord, but it was as true in his life at 94 years of age as it was when he was 71. And it is true in my life, as well.

The poem reminds me of a song that starts with these words: “One day at a time, Dear Jesus; that’s all I’m asking of you.” But because we humans are easily prone to get stressed out, I think Jesus would respond by saying, “On the Contrary: One day at a time, Dear Christian; that’s all I’m asking of YOU.” Scripture exhorts us to take a day at a time, for Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s concerns are enough for today.”

Jesus isn’t telling us not to plan for tomorrow, next week, or next year. He is simply exhorting us not to worry about anything. If our faith is truly grounded in Jesus Christ, and if we know that He cares for us, we will not worry.

Not only does worrying contradict our faith in God, it damages our physical bodies. It also blocks the creativity we need to solve today’s problems. So read the poem again, and ask the Lord to help you to truly trust in Him.

Aunt Evelyn graduated to heaven in her mid-nineties, and Uncle Bert when he was 99. I hope to see Cathy and Curtis again in this life, but I’ll see Uncle Bert and Aunt Evelyn in heaven.

Until then, I’ll just take life a day at a time.

Take Time to Relax

Get your coffee or tea, sit back, prop up your feet, and relax while I reminisce for five minutes.

Several years ago, Carol and I spent a month in Southern California assisting with some family issues. As a native of San Diego, I don’t visit California without visiting the coast. Watching the waves roll in with the accompanying sound of the surf is therapeutic for me. I can sit for hours watching the ocean; it changes from one minute to the next. What some people call “the pounding surf” is actually music to my ears.IMG_0151

I also like to walk on the beach, especially at low tide, and collect shells. Sand-dollars are my favorite, but any pretty unbroken shell goes into my plastic bag. Many people collect sand dollars and use them in their hobbies and craft-work. They are commonly used in creating home décor: wedding favors and place cards are high on the list. Some paint beach scenes, sunsets or put personalized messages on them. But I collect the shells, clean them, and give them to family members and to children who don’t know how to find the unbroken ones.

It’s amazing to see how many people like to go surfing. No, I don’t mean surfing the internet or television. These men and women ride their surfboards (from 6 to 12 feet long) for hours, day-after-day trying to “catch the big wave.” The boards are usually tied to their ankles so they don’t get away when the surfers get dumped. Their wet-suits keep them relatively warm, but they also reduce sunburn.

Remember The Beach Boys? They enhanced the popularity of surfing by writing and singing their 1963 hit: “Surfin’ USA.” The words to the second verse are:

“You’d catch ‘em surfin at Del Mar (Inside, outside, U.S.A.), Ventura County line, Santa Cruz and Tressels, Australia’s Narabine, All over Manhattan, And down Doheny way: Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Many of those dedicated surfin’ souls hit the water at sunup, and surfed until they needed to eat or tuckered themselves out. And as I watched them, I couldn’t help but hear the refrain running through my mind: “Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Carol and I enjoyed walking on the second-longest wooden pier on the west coast (a DSCN12901,954-foot-long pier in Oceanside), eating at Ruby’s Restaurant at the end, and watching the California Brown Pelicans go fishing. They would circle an area where the school of fish were, fly to about twenty feet above the water, then drop like a dive-bomber – folding their wings before they hit the water. Under water, they immediately open their beaks and scoop up fish. Surfacing, they swallow their hapless prey, then start the process over. Many times thirty or forty pelicans were fishing simultaneously.

Where the pelicans were diving, there was often a flock of California Cormorants sitting on the water. They would dip below the surface, swim to the school of fish, grab their share of the meal, then resurface. To everyone’s delight, the dolphins would often show up. Everyone liked seeing the dolphins surfacing; leisurely taking a breath of air between gulps of fish. And, of course, the ever-present sea-gulls were squawking as they fought for the left-over food. For that group, it was definitely first-come-first-served! On our last walk on the pier, we saw a school of anchovies swimming around the pier. The school was about fifty-feet in diameter and perhaps twenty-feet deep.

No fishing license is required while fishing on the pier, and we saw people from many DSCN1358different countries tending their fishing poles. Sand-perch, sting-rays, skates, mackerel, and anchovies were the common catch on that trip.

Thinking of fishing makes me hungry, so I’ll remind you: the food in Ruby’s Restaurant at the end of the Oceanside, California Pier is very good!

I remember another trip we made to the Coast in January of 1993 for my Grandmother Linzey’s funeral. The weather in Southern California was mild, as it usually is, and Michael (our son who was ten at the time) said, “Dad, a California winter is like a New Mexico summer!” Indeed, it was. The temperature was around 73o F on the Southern California coast at the time.

That’s enough reminiscing for now. This evening, why don’t you sit back, relax, and take time to review some of your memories?

The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

Enjoy the Trip

SWOOOOOOOOSH!! It seems that a powerful gust of wind blew into our house, flipped 1280px-Strommast2the pages on the calendar, turned our hair a little whiter, took money out of our wallet, and blew back out of the house leaving us a little off balance. The birthdates of our kids and grandkids seemed to be but a blip on the radar screen. Does time fly that fast for you? Time seemed to 0go a lot slower when we were younger.

When Rebecca, our younger daughter, was in high school she asked me, “Daddy, how can I make time go faster?” I said, “Either learn to like what you are doing, or become very busy.” That didn’t quite satisfy her at the time. But when she went to college and loved her time there, time began to fly. Now that she is a wife and mother of five children (four girls and one boy), she is wondering how to slow time down.  However, she told me recently that she is learning to make the most of each day with her kiddos – and logging the life-enriching memories.

With the days and months seemingly whizzing by, is there something you have been intending to do? A project waiting for you? A book you want to read? A trip you want to take? Maybe something you want to write? Don’t wait too long because we never know what tomorrow brings.

Some years ago, Carol and I found a way to slow time down – a little. We refrain from putting too many items on our calendar, and we spend more time with each other, helpingjanuary-2019-calendar2 each other. Relating life to a cross-country trip, Rev. Chuck Swindoll summed it up in six syllables: “Stop, and smell the roses.” He informed us that merely putting miles behind us does not enrich our lives. We must stop! Get out of the car. Walk around. “Smell the roses.” In other words: Don’t just finish the trip – enjoy the trip. Learn something. Do something meaningful for yourself.

Make your life count or be significant within the context of other lives. This doesn’t require a New Year’s Resolution, a Masters’ Degree, or $25,000 in the bank. Instead it requires the desire to really live life fully – in a Godly context, of course. And it produces peace, less stress, a gentler pace of life, and most likely a longer life.

All that is sometimes difficult to do because we have a hard time deciding what to eliminate from our hectic, overcrowded schedule. You’ve probably heard the statement: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” But you can ask for help getting back into the boat, and seek counsel to make better plans.

Some of the best counsel you can receive is found in the Bible. When my grandfather was 96 years old, he told me, “Everything you need to know is in the Bible. You can learn a lot of things, but everything you NEED to know is in the Bible. Study it.” He is right. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. You will be surprised at the wisdom for everyday decisions you will find there. The added benefit is reading, studying, and living by the Godly principles there enables us to experience a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

So, cut out a lot of the unnecessary busyness, and think about that project to do, book to image00771read, trip to plan and take, or book to write. Lighten the load by eliminating unimportant things. Keep the important items. Don’t make your life more hectic, but more valuable.

Spend time with family. Attend worship services regularly. Stop and smell the roses.

And all year long remember this: God loves you.

Anti-Social Hummingbirds

“Hummingbirds are so cute” Carol said. We saw then flitting around the yard several times, and Carol suggested that we buy a feeder to give them a treat. At Wal-Mart we found two feeders: one for a dollar and one for six. We bought the cheaper one just to see if the critters would flock to our yard.

There are about 300 species of these aerial acrobats. They live only in the western hemisphere: twelve of which spend the summer in North America. They flap their wings from 50-200 times per second, fly up to 34 mph – even upside down, weigh up to three DSCN8828Bquarters of an ounce, average four to five inches long, have a heartbeat of 225 beats per minute at rest and up to 1,260 beats per minute in flight, and have an average lifespan of about four years.

We bought the feeder and a bag of Instant Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate. Filling the container with the red juice, we hung it on a pole just outside the dining room window so we could observe the poor little critters as they enjoyed our gift of life. At first one or two visited us, but then all activity stopped. Curious, I stepped outside to see if there was a problem with the feeder.

There wasn’t a problem with the hummingbird feeder, but with a hummingbird eater. TheDSCN8421B neighbor’s cat was waiting for breakfast to appear. But when he saw me, he sauntered off for less populated pastures.

Within minutes, a green ruby-throated hummer zoomed up. He came within six inches of the port, hovered as he looked around, nervously darted back and forth, seeing if anyone was going to attack him. He finally inserted his needle-like bill, had lunch, and zoomed to the nearest crepe-myrtle tree.

I thought he had tired himself out hovering while drinking and needed to rest. Wrong!

As Carol and I watched, two other hummers zoomed up, stopped in mid-air to see if it was safe, and approached the ports. The first critter came back at full-throttle and attacked the newcomers! Apparently, as the first visitor, this pugnacious little rascal had laid claim to my feeder.

I wanted to catch the little beast and take him miles away, but I learned that another one would just take his place. They are territorial, and it is definitely first-come-first-served. But upon reading about them, I found that they need to eat/drink more than their weight in nectar each day merely to stay alive. That alone explains why they are viciously protective of their find. It’s a fight for survival.

So, where we hoped to make life easier for these cute little creatures (that are relentlessly in search of food) by being nice to them, we were merely successful in creating a new battle-ground for them.

That reminds me of back in 1958 when my father asked me, “Would you like to see someone become angry by being nice to him?” I incredulously asked, “How can that happen?” Dad said, “Just watch.”

Relativity 15BHe called for two of my brothers. Dad gave one a dime, and the other a nickel. The one who received the nickel exclaimed, “That’s not fair! I should get a dime, too!” Dad asked, “What’s not fair about it? You both received a gift. You didn’t earn it and it is not part of your weekly allowance. It’s extra. Go spend it.” The one brother was unhappy and began fussing until Dad gave him another nickel – which was his plan anyway. Then Dad told me, “Don’t forget that lesson. It will come in handy sometime.”

It sure did. Throughout my adult life, I’ve worked to support and accrue benefits for my family. But some of our citizens are truly handicapped and cannot support themselves, so our elected leaders have made benefits available to them – and rightly so. But many others have seen “the feeder with the red juice” and zoomed up full throttle to claim and demand gifts that are not rightfully theirs.

But there is a better way to live.

If people could see who Jesus really is, see all that he offers to those of us who listen, and the minimal he asks from us in return, life would be much more meaningful. Matthew 6:33Bible says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you [assure that you have] everything you need.” Living by that principle would greatly reduce stress and result in greater fulfillment in life. 

I’ll continue feeding the hummers, but I strongly admonish you readers: live to honor Jesus, and reap his rewards.

Life Viewed From A Higher Plane

Trip with Bill and Marilyn0003Several years ago, our son (Ron) and grandsons (Josiah and Joshua) flew from Oklahoma City to the Grand Canyon. For those of you who may be geographically-challenged, one way to reach the Grand Canyon is by driving about 80 miles north-northwest out of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Since they are not birds, they flew in a single-engine low-wing airplane. Josiah was seventeen years old and was taking lessons to receive his pilot’s license; therefore, the owner of the plane (Josiah’s instructor) flew with them. The picture of Josiah in the yellow plane below is not the one he flew to the Grand Canyon.

When I asked Josiah about the flight, he said, “The flight to the Grand Canyon wasDSCN1723 wonderful! We flew in a Piper Turbo Arrow and the altimeter had a reading of about 10,000 feet for the majority of the flight. It was amazing how things appeared to be so small when we were in flight. Structures that are rather large on the ground seemed to have minimal noticeability from the air. The ground looked like a map that had been laid out beneath us, and we could see almost 100 miles in every direction.”

The Piper can fly at 19,000 feet if necessary, but it gets better fuel economy at 10,000. They took off in Oklahoma City which is already 1,200 feet above sea level, and flew to the Grand Canyon South rim which is 6,800 feet. So it appeared that they were losing altitude throughout the westward flight.

While a car will travel a mile in 51 seconds (at 70 mph), the Piper while flying about 185 mph (169 knots), will take 20 seconds to cover one mile. Several other comparisons: our car is dwarfed by the size of the 80-foot 18-wheelers, but those trucks look like ants from the plane; the country-sections (square mile plots of land) look like a checker-board; and there is a LOT LESS traffic at 10,000 feet altitude!

Put briefly: everything seems to be a lot smaller and life is much calmer when viewed from a higher plane. (Excuse the pun.)

Do you know that can be said about us while living in our every-day life here on the ground? Mothers with babies can get tied-up-in-knots as they try to balance home-making and tending to the needs of the family. Adults can get caught in the proverbial rat-race while trying to make a living and making ends meet. Administrators and managers can lose sight of the goal in the midst of financial and employee crises. Pastors and elders can lose their sensitivity to the Lord while attempting to counsel parishioners, balance the budget and building the church. And people can get totally dis-oriented and derailed in the midst of hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Life can become one grand maelstrom!

PICT1706But things are much calmer when we view our situations from a higher plane – from God’s perspective. Josiah said, “Flying in a plane presents a good comparison of what God sees when looking at our lives. As we need to trust our flight instruments, we also need to trust and obey with the understanding that He sees the big picture.”

Josiah is correct: in the midst of your personal storm – whatever it is – ask the Lord to help you rise above the problems and see the bigger picture. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:19, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.”

Therefore, it is possible that the bad that seems to be happening to you might be allowed by God in order to bring something better into your life. But planned or not, if we trust God with our lives and obey Him, He can bring good out of every situation. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

If your storm is a result of your own error or sin, repent; ask the Lord to forgive you and to help you to rectify the situation. Did you lose your job? Ask the Lord for direction. Is your marriage on the rocks? Don’t blame God or ask him to help you get a divorce; rather, ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Are your finances lacking? Ask the Lord for wisdom on how to live within your available income – then you can ask Him for guidance regarding increased income.earth

Ask the Lord to help you see life the way he sees it. Life is calmer from his vantage point because we can see from a wider perspective. God enables us to see the causes of our problems and how to resolve them; and there is a lot less frustration, less worry, and much more peace when we view life from a higher plane.