Too Often, Too Busy, What am I Missing?

Too often the autopilot of my life takes over and pushes my steps to places that I no longer see, hear, or pay attention to. How often have I woken up late – only to rush through getting ready, to get angry at other drivers for no real reason, and to run through my day in a virtual panic? How often have I been so wrapped up in something that I miss the incredible smiles of my spouse and children?

How often have I refused to stop in the midst of my overly busy schedule and see the gifts that You are holding out to me? To see the beauty of a sunset. To see the pure joy of a laughing child. To see the love and caring of people so desperate to give, but don’t know how.

Too often, my Lord. Too often.

Please my Father, my Lord, and my constant friend, hear me. Please fill my heart with thankfulness and awaken in me brighter colors, captivating creations, greater feats, and forgotten passions.

I carry a symbol of You everywhere I go. Every minute of every day, let that symbol be a reminder to me to thank you for something new. Please let me learn to walk with you in thankfulness.

Psalm 23 ESVST
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name ‘s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Amen

Toxic Thieves and Silver Linings

On this night it is not right as waking terrors are waiting.
They crept right in and caused a din and do not want to leave me.
So up I rise and walk into the bedroom of my innocent little angels,
but the beds are empty and sounds are gone and I am quite distressed.

My breathing stops and my eyes are wide and my heart beats in my ears.
Where could they be? Where have they flown? I hope that they are okay.
Suddenly, it occurs to me, I hear whispers in the closet.
Three huddled figures are terrified of a stranger in the living room.

I am confused. I am concerned. What really did awaken me?
I calm my kids and assure them too and keep them in the closet.
I retrace my steps back to my room and pick up a club from the closet.
I walk on down to the living room and come face to face with a thief.

Moments come and moments go as waking terrors assault me.
What can I do? Where can I go to protect my kids from the thief?
Then suddenly it dawns on me that that it’s not the kids he’s after.
I shake with fear and burn with rage at the thief who has stolen my wife.

Now she’s gone and left me here and abandoned the children to me.
Her child support is just a joke. She can’t even hold down a job.
The only gift she’s giving to me is a massive dose of bitterness.
She’s rude. She’s mean and quite obscene. The woodworker can have her.

Day after day the struggles rage as bitterness fights against hope.
Cascades of pain envelope me just like a massive black cloak.
There’s nothing to say and nothing to do to rid me of this burden.
Despair is there and depression too. Oh what can I do to cope?

I am so tired, I’m barely awake. How can I raise these three children?
The daycare bills are killing me. They’re higher then my mortgage.
What can I do? Where can I go to put some food on the table?
One job, now two, oh make it three and we struggle to survive.

I scream at God and yell at God and tell Him that it’s not fair.
I don’t deserve this brutal quest! Why do I have to experience it?
How can You be a loving God and let these terrible things happen?
You can’t be there, standing there, and doing nothing to help me.

Then suddenly a friend is here to teach me all about hope.
Hope is, you see, the one true thing that fights the dark clouds of trials.
One day, one step, and pray for some hope. This indeed will carry me.
One day one step to raise three kids and time will heal all the wounds.

I pray for hope more then ten times a day and fight the brutal bitterness.
It’s opening my eyes to hope helping me and giving me strength to cope.
Now I see my friends helping me in so many different ways
Helping to sew and helping to cook and giving me tips for the children.
Now I know that I’m not alone friends are there to help me.

Hope is not some squishy wish but strong and confident expectations.
Hope tells us we’re not alone, there’s always someone to help us.
Find hope in what He’s teaching to us. Find hope in His helping hands.
Find hope in compassion and hope in the love of our friends.
Oh when will we learn, when will we know, that together we are stronger.

We need to see we go through trials because we choose our own paths.
Freedom of choice is our greatest gift. We can not take it for granted.
Where our strength is gone, other’s begin, and hope helps us to see that.
In the hands of friends, we help each to mend. We are just one big family.

Look for the hope. It helps us to cope. It is the silver lining.

 

The Watcher by STGrimes

How Long Will You Say No?

The Watcher by STGrimes

Seconds turn into minutes and a careless deed is done
Minutes turn into hours and thoughts turn into anger
Hours turn into days and anger turns into revenge
Days turn into months, revenge turns to silence
Months turn into years, silence turns into pain
Years turn into decades and pain into apathy
Decades turn into death, deeds are done
All because we wouldn’t try to forgive
All because we wouldn’t discern
All because we wouldn’t love
And now, you are all alone
Addictive blackness
Incredible Pain
Turn away
Turn away
Breaks the chains
Fight the fear into courage
Taste what real freedom feels like
Seconds are ticking, the deeds are not done

Daddy’s Little Girl – Memories Can’t be Moved

Surrounded by multi-colored flowers, the scents of Jasmine and rose permeate the air. Heart-shaped candelabras are filled with flickering candles. Music completes the perfect picture. The aisle stretches out before us, beckoning us to begin the walk. I look over at the girl holding my arm. Dressed all in white, she is a vision of loveliness, Daddy’s Little Girl.

There’s something that I need to say to her, but should I stand in the shadows and be quiet? Or, should I be bold and say it. The choice that I make right now will be burned into my memories for the rest of my life. Have you ever had something on your mind, but been too chicken to say it?

The scene dissolved to my little girl saying, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Are you awake?”

“I am now …”

“Daddy, what happens when you put shaving cream in a sleeping daddy’s hands and then tickle his nose?”

I looked down to discover shaving cream everywhere. Without warning, I reached out and dropped a huge blob of shaving cream onto her nose. “That’s what happens!”

She giggled loudly and scurried away.

I remember that first weekend as a single father of a 3 year old son, a 5 year old daughter, and a 7 year old daughter. I’m in the kitchen at my friend’s house when he walks up and asks me what I’m doing. I’m all proud, “I’m grating cheese for dinner!”

“Dude, I’m sure that cheese is enjoying the massage, but it works better if you turn the cheese grater around.”

I got a lot of cooking advice after that. So much so, that I was getting really nervous. Then, finally, I got up the courage to make my first dinner! I put it in front of my kids and I waited for a response.

My little girl said, “Daddy, you are the best cook ever!”

I tell you, I make a mean box of mac and cheese. Mr. Mommy Chef!

The following morning, riding high on my great success with cooking, I decided we should go grocery shopping! How hard could it be?

So, off we went. I put my three year old in the cart and the other two rode on the sides. They were so excited! Here was an epic adventure in the making.

With a shopping list in hand, I picked up only the essentials for a bachelor cooking for 3 small children; Peanut butter and jelly, frozen pizza, and Mac and Cheese. I looked down into my cart and I was shocked! “Whose cart is this? Chocolate bars, potato chips, cookies, cupcakes, ding dongs? Where are we, at a junk food convention? Who put all of this stuff in my cart?”

My little girl responded. “Daddy, you’re having a senior moment. You put all this stuff in the cart! I saw you!”

Senior moment? Wait, what’s that underneath the cookies? an Archie comic book? “Who put the comic book in the shopping cart?”

My little girl said “It wasn’t me! I have an alibi!”

The memory dissolved and another took it’s place.

School was getting ready to start again. That meant that I had to do more … shopping. I brought a list of everything that my kids would need; notebooks, backpacks, $300 shoes … “Wait! Who put $300 shoes on my list?”

There was my little girl. “Daddy, everyone in school is getting them! If I don’t get those shoes, I’m going to DIE! I have to have them or I’m going to look like such a dweeb!”

What’s a dweeb? But, before I could respond, my son threw me a curve. “Daddy, I have to go potty.”

“Just hold it son.”

There was my little girl. “Daddy, he has to go POTTY!”

For those uninitiated in the art of a three year old telling you he has to go potty. They’re not kidding. They have no early warning system. There’s no autopilot on the kid plane – that can put them into a holding pattern until your done shopping…

Well, maybe there is a holding pattern… There was my son, holding himself and dancing around. “DADDY, DADDY, DADDY … I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE AND POO POO!”

Do you know how loud a three year old can shout? My son was drowning out the guy on the overhead speakers. And, there was my little girl “Daddy, you’re not being a very responsible parent!”

By now, every mother in the store was turning around and glaring at me. And, every father was turning away and laughing.

Being sufficiently shamed, we were walking, well, running to the bathroom when I heard “Clean up aisle 5” Oh man! We don’t shop in that store anymore.

The memory faded into me standing on the ice for only the third time in my life. “How in the world did you talk me into doing this? I feel like the jolly green giant learning to walk. If I fall, I’m going to crack the ice!”

“Daddy, just pretend like you’re marching on the ice. It’ll be fun! You’ll see. Oh yeah, don’t forget that you have figure skates on.”

With no idea of what figure skates are, I started to march and no one was more surprised than me when I started to move across the ice. When I started to go faster, I got scared and dragged my toe behind me to slow me down. Big mistake, figure skates have a toe pick designed to stop you. Suddenly, I was flying through the air like an airplane. I landed on my stomach and slid to a stop.

My little girl, filled with excitement, skated quickly up. “Wow daddy, you skate like a bird!”

The memory faded and a thousand other memories of daddy’s little girl took their place.
Cherished memories from so many years.
Painted memories ready to be relived over and over again.

Then, I was once again looking at my little girl. I was never more proud of her then I was at that moment. I knew what I needed to say to her. “No matter where you go, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, I will always love you. No matter what!”

Her glowing face radiated the biggest smile that I had ever seen.

Choose your words wisely. Memories do not care what you say or how you say it. Still, you will have to live with those memories for the rest of your life. Not only that, but whoever receives your words will have to live with those memories as well. Choose wisely.

The memories of tomorrow are made from the choices of today.
What will your memories be?
Remember, memories can’t be moved.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Col 3:23-25 ESVST

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self- control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Co 9:24-27 ESVST

Focusing Up on Three Techniques to Reduce Stress

Picture this. You’re standing in a giant tiered auditorium ready to make your presentation. You have 10 foot high screens on either side of you projecting your picture to the audience. There are thousands of strangers in the audience. But, there are also people who you have to impress in order to keep your job. Most people would get really, really nervous in this situation.

I’ve been an adult teacher for many years now. Presentation Skills is one of the classes that I teach. And, stress is one of the critical things that presenters need to overcome. Stress is a part of everyday life.

One of the most effective ways to reduce stress when you’re in a stressful situation is to deep breathe. It’s physically impossible to be anxious when you deep breathe. Try breathing in for two counts and breathing out for four. Now trying breathing in for three counts and breathing out for six counts. The audience will think that you are taking a pause in the presentation and think nothing of it. And, you will be able to calm down. It’s very effective.

Think on this. What would you do before you walked onto the stage? What would you do to reduce the stress that you KNOW that you are going to experience? That’s where journaling is extremely effective. Without filtering anything, write or type everything this is on your mind. You should spend about 10 minutes doing this. It’s called freewriting. I am continually amazed at what appears on the paper. And it does wonders in reducing my stress. Let me tell you how I do this.

Everyone should be having a morning quiet time with God. This is a time when we quietly listen, we praise God, we talk about our day, we pray for others, and we pray for ourselves. In addition, I’ve added journaling to this routine. Here’s what I do.

We have a golden retriever. I get the opportunity to walk her for abut one mile two times a day. It’s a quiet time when I get to talk with God or to just be quiet with my thoughts. When I get home, I write. I don’t filter anything. I may write one idea a couple of times. I may jump around with my ideas. There are partial thoughts. And, bad spelling and grammar abound! I spend about 10 minutes writing about whatever I am thinking about. It works great. And, it will work for you too,

This is not the same thing as creating a prayer journal where you are writing down of the things that you are praying for. And, you are writing down how God is answering them. Prayer journals are really effective during those times when you get depressed. We all have those times. And, during those times, reading about how God has answered your prayers is really helpful.

The key point here is that there are things that you can do WHEN you get stressed: like deep breathing. But, there are things that you can do BEFORE you get stressed: like freewriting and prayer journals.

What tips and tricks do you have for reducing stress?

Golden Curls

He raised upon his toes to sneak another look at her.
The golden curls did shine within the phosphorescent light.
The glint inside the folds did play a quiet game of peek-a-boo.
He held that pirouette just like a soldier standing post.
The nurse did shoe the boy away seven times or more.
Still, the boy sought out his post at least a dozen more.

The quiet voice of such a boy did whisper through the room,
“Don’t ever let a time go by where I will not remember this.”

The voice of one who’s clad in white spoke behind his ear.
“Hush my child. Still your tongue. We must not wake her up.
Now off with you and onto bed or I will tan your hide.”
Off he shot just like a blur. Yet, he still thought of her.
Time moved on just two small marks. The darkened house was ready.

Bleary eyed and clad in sweats, the brown haired boy did wake.
He kicked his ball out of the way and peered out frozen glass.
The full white moon did shine alright, but donned an eery glow.
It felt just like the hand of doom was coming in for them.
Then and there he felt his sweat cast from a nasty dream.
And off he shot with fear and dread to stand his normal post.

He used his strength to raise right up and sneak another look.
The curls did shine, but not so much as gray took hold of her.
Thunder boomed within his ears as horror took his face.
When finally he did catch his breath, he loosed a primal scream.

In a flash, the heavy nurse was here to see what trouble brewed.
Shock and terror grabbed her face, yet only for a moment.
All her training kicked right in and she began to work.
Hands were blurred and movements too as she performed her tasks.

With voices chilled and machines worked up, the sullen boy looked on.
Work was done by expert hands, but nothing could be changed.
The golden curls that shinned so bright lost their glint completely.
All looked on with heartfelt tears, as another light snuffed out.

Without a word the quiet boy jumped into the crib.
He picked her up and held her tight and rocked her too and fro.
Giant hands so filled with tears tried to pull him back.
With duty clear. He would not budge. He would not let her go.

The eery light from the full white moon shinned through frozen glass.
Then something stirred, and darkened curls once again did glow.
The quiet voice of such a boy did whisper through the room,
“I read the book and prayed the prayer, and waited for His voice.
And now the touch of relentless love has saved a darkened soul.”

Focusing Up on Relationship Mistakes

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4

To gather more crops means that I’m going to get the barn dirty. My choice to increase my crops (to better use my abilities) means that my barn will get dirty (mistakes will be added to my clean life). God is always teaching us how to better use the abilities that we already have.

Again, to gather more crops (my new abilities), I may need to grow the size of my fields. With God’s strength, I can make the fields bigger. But, in so doing, I will make mistakes because that is the only way to learn.

Mistakes will always happen in relationships because we are always looking to better ourselves. Here’s a good way to view the mistakes that happen in friendships.

Relationships are like bank accounts. I always want to have a positive balance in the account to have a healthy relationship. When I make mistakes, which I always do, then I make withdrawals from the relationship. When I know that relationships are like bank accounts, I know that I need to make deposits into that account during the good times so that my withdrawals don’t make the bank account balance go negative.

Just as yelling and anger are withdrawals, not speaking a person’s love language is also a withdrawal (See Gary Chapman’s great book The five Love Languages). Don’t misunderstand, this is true for any relationship. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses: Some people are singers, some programers, some teachers, some counselors, some leaders, etc. Speaking another’s love language is just another way to show that you care about them in a way they’ll understand. When you show them you care, you add a deposit. Grace and peace, doing the dishes, words of affirmation, hugs, and helping them with an important task that they have are all deposits.

In addition, look for signs that the bank account is in the negative. It’s not always easy to see. If the balance is negative, I know that I have to be more intentional about adding deposits and be very careful about my withdrawals. For example, if my friend tells me “Wow, you’re really screwed up” and I know that they’re not joking, I know that I have a relationship issue. If I heard that, I would need to be making lots and lots of deposits.

Remember, the value of the friendship is far more valuable then the cost of the mistake. So, don’t overreact. A true friend is worth more than any amount of gold. As a goal, look to make deposits into close friendships at least once a day.

“A true friend is one soul in two bodies.” Aristotle
“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” Aristotle
“Friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
ECC 4:9-10, Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17 ESVST

Love is just friendship set on fire.
Thanks be to The Lord our King who is constantly putting deposits into our accounts. He is a great, great friend.