All I Could Do Was Laugh

The computer manager where I worked at the National Laboratory told me my computer hard drive needed to be cleaned. We didn’t have the funding to for a new computer yet, so I needed to tune up the one I had.

“Okay, how do I go about it?”

Although I didn’t know much about computers at the time, Nolan was extremely computer savvy and he rattled off the instructions as he was leaving my office. What he said made sense, I understood what he said, and I figured I would do the job within a couple of days. But in my hurry I didn’t take notes.

My father taught me when I was in high school (over 55 years ago) to take notes when someone gives me instructions. Dad said, “Paper has a longer memory than you do. Write things down.” He was right, of course; therefore, I normally did record instructions – but forgot this time.

In my position I was involved in almost every aspect of our group’s operations. Later that day, I was called to check on one of our buildings that was emitting smoke. (A large fan motor mal-functioned and was smoking.) I investigated a forklift accident and wrote up the report: that took several days. (The critically-injured man lived.) Inspectors called me to check on potential radiation-contamination at another site. (It was only natural radiation that accompanied sunlight, but I still had to write the report.) Things like that kept me busy; and because of my many duties, I didn’t get to the project of cleaning my hard drive for several weeks.

But I finally got to the relatively simple task. After all, Nolan explained it very well.

Now, what was it that Nolan said? Oh yes: make sure you have all the software for the programs you use, and save all your work in a separate folder. Transfer that folder to an external hard drive. Then erase the resident hard drive and run the cleaning program. Afterwards, reinstall all software, then reinstall your work. Easy enough. I had four hours of dead time and decided to get it done.

After saving eight years of data into a separate folder, I erased the hard drive and ran the cleaning program. But after reinstalling the software, I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find the folder with my eight years of reports, investigations, presentations, spread-sheets, laboratory history, and myriads of other documentation.

Then I remembered: I had saved all my work – ALL OF IT – in a separate folder on my resident hard drive. I forgot to transfer it to an external hard drive.

Thinking of all that I had just lost, I got the worst sinking feeling I had ever felt in my entire life. IT’S ALL GONE!

I had two options: I could either cry, or laugh. Since crying wouldn’t help anyone, all I could do was laugh. And I did. Then I called Nolan.

He came to my office right away. After hearing my miserable tale of woe, Nolan said, “Believe-it-or-not, yesterday after you left, an idea came to my mind that wouldn’t leave. So I came to your office and I stayed until 9:00 pm backing up your hard drive. I now realize it was the Lord who prompted me to do that, and you’ve lost nothing.”

All I could do was laugh. But this time for JOY!

Nolan, a Bible teacher, reminded me of Romans 8:28 which 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. (NLT)” I was certainly grateful for God’s mercy in the work-place, and for Nolan’s timely obedience to God’s prompting.

But not everything turns out “good” like that. Tornados destroyed friends’ homes, dad died of cancer, two of my sister lost their houses in a fire — do these work for our good? Amazingly, they can.

If we keep our faith in God for Who He is (not for what we want or expect), we’ll grow in our relationship with Him. Things of earth are to be used while on earth, but all material things will eventually pass away (Matthew 24:35). It is our relationship with God that is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

When bad things happen, turn to the Lord. He really does love you. Trust Him in good and bad times, for this world is not our home. Memorize Romans 8:28, which 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.”

And, feel free to laugh.

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.

Are You Creating a Legacy?

Are you creating a legacy? That’s actually an invalid question, because you ARE creating DSCN1350ba legacy. There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. So, what kind and what quality of a legacy are you creating?

Webster’s dictionary says legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor, or from the past. It also refers to the memory of those who have passed from this life and to what contributions they made to society while they were alive; and that reflects on the person’s character. So, if you were to leave this life in one, five, ten, or fifteen years from now, what legacy would you like to leave? How would you like to be remembered?

A funeral setting might help you think about it. When the person (parent, relative, friend, neighbor, whomever) in the casket was lowered into the ground and you left the cemetery, what left with you? Money? Land? Clothing? No. So if none of that left the cemetery with you, what did?  MEMORIES! The person’s character – exemplary or disappointing – does not get buried, but remains in the minds of all those who know him or her – or even know OF him.

I’ve read about a funeral where the talk of the town was how much the man loved people and how much he will be missed. Hundreds of people attended the funeral. But although the deceased didn’t have a penny to his name, he left a rich legacy. Another time I observed the funeral of a wealthy man where the attendance was minimal – not even all the family was there. Oh, they got their inheritance – the physical portion of the legacy – but the spiritual side was bankrupt. In that case the talk of the town was how the world will be better off without him.

Sadly, in the second funeral, even the money (physical legacy) that was left to the heirs will not, in the long run, help them live better lives. Their bitterness (spiritual legacy) will lead them to use their money unwisely, and they will be left with nothing but disappointing memories.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against money: I could use a little more of it, myself.

That reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler On The Roof: “If money is a disease, may God smite me with it; and may I never recover!” Yes, that was intended to be humorous. In that film, Tevye’s legacy was (in spite of his faults): stability within the community.

Another way to view a legacy is a launching pad. It takes thousands of workers to build our rockets and space shuttles. I was on several of those teams. Each person designs, programs, or builds his own portion, then hands it (the legacy) to someone who takes the product to the next level. There is always someone who will pick up where we leave off. If we do our part well, we have created a good legacy. Then when all the parts are finally assembled into a rocket and space shuttle and placed on the launching pad, what happens? If the vehicle is assembled properly the passengers will safely reach the space station, the moon, or whatever destination has been programmed.

So, what legacy are you creating for those who come after you? Remember, the physical legacy is needed and helpful if used wisely. But it needs the support of a wholesome spiritual legacy to fully help family, friends, and society. Someone is going to take what you hand them and build on it. So, what do you have to give?

A.W. Tozer once said, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies. The legacy of the man lives on!”

Paul said in Galatians 6:7, “You will always reap what you sow.” And it has been proven throughout history that others will be either blessed or hurt by how we live. Proverbs 11:18 tells us that if we do what is right, we will be rewarded. Proverbs 22:9 informs us that those who share what they have with others will be blessed. Those three verses talk about our legacy.

So, what is the name of the legacy are you creating? Selfishness? Hedonism? Monetary? Loving? Giving? Godly? Altruism? Think about it: will people remember you for what you gave them, or for who you are? How will you be remembered?

The answer to that question will be your legacy.

Charlie Russell Museum in Great Falls, MT.

DSCN7601Carol and I are taking a prolonged trip around the country, and we have hundreds of new memories. I took her to see the 201-foot-long Roe River in Great Falls, Montana, and the Giant Springs that feeds the river. My brother, Paul, and I visited the river in June of 2016 and I was anxious to see it again. (Visit Paul’s web site at http://www.paullinzey.com)

Returning from the river and springs, Carol saw a sign and excitedly said, “Turn around!”

An obedient chauffeur, I turned around and found my way back to 400 13th Street North. I could hardly believe my eyes. I blurted out, “The Charlie Russell Museum? I didn’t know it was here! You want to go in?”

“I pointed it out to you, didn’t I?” (Good point.)

In Southern California I learned to know the artist as Charlie Russell, but perhaps most of you know him as C. M. Russell. Also known as “Kid” Russell, Charlie is perhaps the greatest painter and sculptor of Western America.

Charles Marion Russell was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 19, 1864—a year before IMG_4181the American Civil War ended; and he apparently had the desire to sculpt and draw as a child. Through the stories of his grandmother (Lucy Bent Russell – her brothers were Charles and William Bent who founded Bent’s Fort in Colorado), Charlie became infatuated with The West, and when he was sixteen years old his parents allowed him to head west to work on a sheep ranch in Montana—often called Big Sky Country.

He became a cowboy; but no matter what you saw on television, being a cowboy was not all “Yippie-yi-yo, Get Along, Little Doggies.” It was a rough life, but Charlie stayed on and learned almost everything there was to know about the job. He often sketched scenes, painted, and made models of wildlife to pay for his room and board.

Gifted artists are not usually great businessmen, therefore, he had difficulty paying bills and keeping food in the pantry. But when Charlie married Nancy Cooper in 1896, she became his manager. When Charlie might have settled for $25 for a painting, Nancy knew the true value and sold it for several hundred dollars. With Nancy as his manager, Charles Russell entered the national limelight.

Charlie’s memory was amazing, but he frequently used props and models. Sometimes Nancy and another friend would dress up in Native American costumes to model for him. He would often create a quick reference sketch then join in the fun and dress up as well. His studio was filled with Native American and cowboy tools, jewelry, clothing, etc., which he used for reference.

Charles M. Russell died of congestive heart failure on October 24, 1926.

DSCN7986Arriving at the museum in Great Falls around 1:30 pm, time escaped us as we visited the gallery. The Charlie Russell Riders Sculpture Garden in the front of the museum is beautiful. But once inside the gallery, we were amazed with the paintings, sketches, sculptures, and carvings! Even the model stagecoach looked realistic.

Charlie was observant! Seeing what most others glossed over, Charlie saw the beauty in a galloping horse; sage brush in twilight; sunset over the rugged plains; and the fearsome look on the face of the Indian Chief sitting on his pinto without a saddle. He had a memory for detail that far surpassed most people: A gunfight at a saloon with rowdy cowboys riding their steeds on the boardwalks became a beautifully-detailed painting. And looking at another painting, I could almost feel the pain in the cowboy’s wrenched back as he tried to “break the bronco.”

The museum is very-well laid out as it reveals the evolution of Charlie’s life: professional as well as personal. We found high-quality gifts in the C. M. Russell Museum Store. The personnel are friendly, informative, and a joy to be with. I learned a lot as I spoke with them. In 2009 the Wall Street Journal called the museum “One of America’s premier Western art museums,” and I fully agree.

As we drove back to Dick’s RV Campground, I marveled at Charlie Russell’s abilities. DSCN7522B Dick's RV Great Falls, MTAlmighty God is a great and loving Creator. I believe that God gives everyone some creative ability or talent at birth, and it’s up to us to discover what it is and develop it. Charlie did.

I encourage you to visit the C. M. Russell Museum at 400 13th St. North, Great Falls, Montana. You’ll enjoy it.

Slow Down and Live

Some years ago, I was sitting at my typewriter – actually at my computer – looking out the window. It was cold with a light breeze blowing. The clouds, which are usually water vapor, looked more like swirling snow ready to grace our countryside. My snow shovel was ready, my boots were at the door, and Carol could have hot coffee or hot chocolate ready within five minutes if I needed to leave my comfort zone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

We lived in a community of 3,000 people in the hills of northern New Mexico at 7,825 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Albuquerque, NM is about 5,000 feet in altitude.)  

A winter storm would often drop two to three feet of snow at a time, sometimes up to five feet,PICT0181 and we would be temporarily locked in the house. That was great for the skiers, and it made the landscape look more beautiful than words can tell. And if there was no wind while the snow was falling, the big fluffy snowflakes absorbed all the background noise which created a living Winter Rockwell Painting. Beautiful!

If the snow was less than two feet deep, my 4-wheel drive vehicle with good tires would get me anywhere I wanted to go. But if it was deeper than two feet, we just stayed home. Carol would get out the coffee or hot chocolate; maybe bake several dozen cookies. We would start a fire in the fireplace, make sure the cat and dogs were warm if they weren’t playfully romping out the in the field; and Carol and I would do what we enjoyed doing best: Spend Time With Each Other.

With our schedules jammed and our lives so full of activity, being snowed-in gave us time to tell each other what we meant to say several days or weeks previously. We had time to actually LISTEN to each other.

PICT1265With critters in front of the fireplace, a table nearby with a puzzle or a scrabble game on it, steam rising from two cups of hot chocolate or coffee, a big window across the room with snow gently falling outside–we have another Rockwell Painting. Periodically I would go out and clear the walks and uncover the car before the snow got too deep.

Carol and I understand the value, and the need, to spend time together; so at times we still declare a “snow-day” and stay home. Years ago, we decided to slow down and live. Slowing down can actually make our lives fuller and richer. Not fuller with more things to do or richer with more money in the bank; but fuller and richer with what really counts in life.

Since we don’t have a guarantee that we will be alive on earth tomorrow, why not invest our time and our lives into people now? After all, material possessions can give satisfaction for a little while, but healthy, wholesome interaction with family and friends can last a lifetime–and beyond.

It’s called making memories together, and it’s more enjoyable than watching a football game.

When family members or friends that we love leave this life, we will miss them. We will be sad, and tears can flow. But if we invest our lives into them while they are here, we will have those memories to hold on to, and those memories will help sustain us in our sorrow.

More importantly, we should invest our time studying the Bible and learning to know Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:13-14, which applies to those who live for the Lord, says “But we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (NRSV)” What a promise! Therefore, even in sorrow we can experience joy.PICT0192B

Well, it didn’t snow that day, but my boots and the shovel were ready just in case it did. 

Oh, Carol just told me that lunch is ready. I think I’ll turn off the computer and spend time with her. Maybe we’ll play scrabble. We like that game. As of this writing, we are tied at 368 wins.