Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the category “Faith”

Lenten Resolutions

Many devout Christians give something up during Lent.  Often it is something they enjoy, such as giving up chocolate or alcohol.  Some people use this period of time sort of like another chance for a New Year’s resolution.  I have a friend who is trying to refrain from using profanity.

I have not researched this in a scholarly manner, but I suppose the tradition of preparing for Easter by fasting, repentance, and  discipline is in recognition of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice.   How small is giving up chocolate or beer or whatever in comparison to Christ’s giving up his human life for us on the cross?

Our small sacrifices are minor, yet symbolic.  Our sacrifices can help us remember what Christ did for us.  Our disciplines can help us focus on the cross.

Another idea consistent with such symbolism is to do something positive, just as Christ’s ministry was positive and his sacrifice was for salvation.  Maybe we can think of the positive effect of giving up things like laziness and selfishness so that during Lent we do something positive for other people.  Maybe for you, volunteering or donating money to the Church, charities, or other good causes also reflects Christ in your lives.

I don’t know what you should do or what you should give up during Lent.  I am just reminding you that it is Lent, so prepare for Easter.

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Facing Fears

In the sci fi movie, The Highlander, certain people who are “immortals” cannot be killed by anyone except another immortal cutting off the head of the vanquished.  (Otherwise, the immortals live for centuries without aging).  When the victor cuts off the head of his opponent, an electrical power surrounds him, somehow bestowing the power on him from the one he defeated, making that victor even stronger.

Sometimes I feel like that.  When I face my fears, I emerge stronger than before.

There is a phenomenon that a person who survives a battle, even with wounds and scars, becomes stronger for the next battle.  Most battles are not in war, but personal problems of a normal life.  Most scars are not physical, but emotional.  Most courage is not a lack of fear, but a facing of fear.

John Wayne, my favorite philosopher, said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

You, dear readers, have your own examples from your own lives, when you have saddled up and gotten back on the horse.

john wayne quote on courage

Things We Learned From the Fire

Fire11

A year ago, we were recovering from a fire.  (See post entitled “Fire in the Hole.”)

It seems long ago and it seems like it just happened.

It was hard but we got through it.

We learned that some people we did not expect to help were there for us; some people we consider friends did not offer to help.

It was bad enough but could have been much worse.

Now our house is better than ever after the fireplace was replaced and some new furniture.

God protected us and provided for us.

Amazing Grace

Members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina have amazed me with their gracious forgiveness.  Many family members of those killed at the church last week appeared in court to face the gunman and communicated two important statements.  They told the gunman of their pain from his murdering of their loved ones and they told him that, as Christians, they would forgive him.  What powerful witnesses!  If they can forgive when anyone would understand if they did not forgive, I ought to let go of my hurts to forgive those I have such trouble forgiving.

The rioters in Ferguson, Missouri could learn a lesson from the fine people of Charleston, South Carolina, who practice what they preach.  Bless their broken hearts!

A Good Quality of Life

Bill Sweeney, the author of this post, is an inspiring individual whose faith sustains him as his body withers from A.L.S., aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. My Uncle Luke suffered and died from the same condition. The courage shown by both men is heroic.  They demonstrate that Victimhood is a choice.

Unshakable Hope

I’ve been thinking a lot about quality of life issues lately. More specifically, I’ve been trying to figure out why some people that (in the natural) possess virtually everything we think would make for a good quality of life, yet they’re miserable. Conversely, many others have almost none of the ingredients that we think must be in the mix for a good quality of life, but they seem perfectly content.

I think about this issue more and more as life with ALS becomes an even greater challenge. If ALS takes its natural course, the victim will die of respiratory failure. The muscles needed to breathe become weaker and weaker to the point where you just can’t breathe anymore. Oftentimes the flu or pneumonia are just too much for those with advanced ALS and can speed up this respiratory failure.

I had a severe case of the flu in February, and…

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How To Be Missed

His wife drove the car to the car wash.  It was not a self-serve car wash.  Rather it was one that involved going inside to pay and wait while the car goes through the line.  It was an arrangement that involved interaction with employees, or at least an opportunity for that.  Or not.

The man at the counter commented, “So Forrey has you bringing in the car today.  That’s a surprise.  How is he?”

“Forrey died last week.  A massive heart attack.”  She started to weep.

The car wash employee joined in.  He too wept.  “Forrey was always so nice to me.”

Forrey was my uncle.  He was a man who quietly made people enjoy contact with him.  He was generous and kind.  He had a good sense of humor without trying to be the center of attention.  He was cool and humble at the same time.

I don’t know, but I guess that the guy at the car wash got to know Forrey (Forrest) because he came in a lot.  He always had nice cars.  (The week before I left for college, Uncle Forrey brought over his Mercury convertible and had me drive him home so I could keep it that week.  That was cool.  That was fun for me and my friends.)  The car wash guy recognized the car.  Forrey probably gave remarkably big tips.  Forrey probably learned the man’s name, called him by name, and asked about him.  He probably learned about his family.  He might have said, “How is your son’s little league team doing?  Did your mother get back from her trip?”  The man felt that Forrey not only noticed him, and appreciated the work of keeping cars nice, but cared about him.  The car wash guy wept because he lost a friend.

You never know who will miss you.

Not only me, but everyone who knew Forrey misses him still.

What would Jesus do?  Forrey knew.  I doubt he ever thought of himself as Christ-like.  He just was.

See also, https://cowboylawyer.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/brothers/

Bravery of Cowards

This is about facing fears.

Fearlessness is not the same as bravery.  The rugged John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

So which is braver:  the child who is not afraid to jump off the high board or the one who is afraid of heights but jumps off anyway?   One is fearless, so he has no fear to overcome.  Not being afraid of what others are afraid of can be admired, surely, and can be of great advantage, particularly in a physical fight, but the person who overcomes fear and does what is difficult because it needs to be done, is being brave.  That is courage.

And there is a paradox that goes with this.  At least in my experience, when I do what I do not want to do because I am afraid to face the consequences, yet face those frightening consequences, afterwards I feel stronger, maybe proud of myself, and probably trusting more in God who got me through what I feared.

That does not mean I necessary was wrong about the pain of what I feared, just that I got through something that I did not want to have to go through.

I sometimes think of the movie, The Highlander.  It is a ridiculous premise about immortals battling until there is only one.  What I took from it is that each time one immortal defeated (by beheading) another immortal, the victor became even stronger, taking power from the other he vanquished in moving up the tournament ladder.  I believe that each victory over fear makes one stronger for the next battle with fear.

It has not been my experience that facing the dreaded unpleasantness necessarily makes it less unpleasant.  Often I try to encourage myself by asking myself, “What is the worst that can happen?”  Sometimes the worst I imagined does happen.  Sometimes it is even worse than I imagined.  But when I get through the experience I wanted to avoid, whether it turned out to be not so bad, just as bad, or worse than I imagined, having gotten through any of those categories makes me feel stronger.

Also, when I need to trust in God, I recall the question which the Lord asked Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”  Numbers 11: 23.  The correct answer is “No, the Lord’s arm is not too short to deliver you.”
When we trust and obey, we are not alone, and can have the power to overcome fear.  Even us chickens, including Moses and John Wayne, can be brave.

I Wasn’t Always Like This

A group of people, a family I supposed, emerged from the restaurant next door to where I was sitting outside the art gallery wherein my wife was hosting an exhibit of western art.  She had recruited some excellent artwork by local artists.  I was outside the gallery as a decoration in my cowboy hat.  I was playing a character — me.  As people passed by me on the sidewalk, I would invite them in to see the western art exhibit.  I solicited the group mentioned above.

A young man, college age, was pushing an older gentleman in a wheelchair.  There was a middle-aged couple, an older lady, and a younger woman.  The man in the wheelchair stared blankly ahead and did not participate in the conversations of his companions.

I smiled my award-winning smile and initiated eye contact with some of them.  The man in the wheel chair did not smile back.  Nevertheless, the group went inside the gallery.  Sugar took over the public relations.  I went in too, to see her in action.

The young man pushing the wheelchair kindly placed it in front of one of the walls adorned with paintings of Old West scenes, such as Remington or Russell created, scenes with cowboys, buffalo, cattle, Indians, locomotives, mountain scenes, running horses.  He waited patiently for the man in the wheelchair to take it in before moving to another wall.  The man in the wheelchair was not staring blankly.  He was intent, studying the images.

As I watched him, a lady came up behind me and explained that she and the man in the wheelchair had been professors at the university.  She added that he, Dr. _____, used to teach a course on The Philosophy of Art.  No wonder he seemed to be enjoying the art exhibit.

I introduced the doctor to Sugar.  She had a table of treats and beverages.  She asked whether he would like lemonade, coffee or wine.  He spoke.  He told Sugar he would prefer wine, using one word — “Wine.”  So Sugar brought the professor a little bit.  The young man, who we learned was his caregiver, pointed out to his charge, “This is not juice like you drink at home.”  The young man seemed surprised that the professor was partying at the gallery.  The professor smiled at Sugar and indicated that he would like more wine.  She gave him a little bit more.  He smiled again.  He was enjoying the gallery scene.

I am glad that the professor visited us.  I watched him studying the art and saw him in a new light.  At first, I just saw him as a person who seemed very limited in his abilities.  Now I saw him in the light of his history and accomplishments.  I could imagine him back when he was teaching college students.  He must have been knowledgeable and  bright to engage them.  He must have been respected.

He was not always like this.  And his present condition was not exactly as it appeared.  He still could enjoy a night out on the town.  He still could enjoy art.  And he still could choose whether to have lemonade, coffee, or wine.

And he can still be respected, and loved.  And he is.

Unchained Heart

Readers familiar with this blog know that our dog, Beau, is a free spirit.  Yesterday he was more free than we desired.

We do not have a fenced in yard.  Past dogs have stayed home without containment.  Sadie is a current resident who follows that protocol.  Beau has normally done the same except recently he ventured away and was ultimately located at a neighboring ranch where Beau found their chickens.  We had been searching for him fearfully until our neighbor tattled.  Sadie, who did not leave, being a goody-goody, kept her mouth shut about Beau’s whereabouts.

Consequently, Beau is either: inside the house, in a stall in the barn, outside with us, or outside without us.  He is unchained except for that final option.  His “chain” is a rubber-coated wire leash with a metal snap thingy to connect to his collar.  The chain is about thirty feet long, allowing him to either lay by the back door on the deck or roam 30 feet into the courtyard or to a grassy knoll the other direction.  He has water and shade.  He also has Sadie for company.

Regardless of those favorable conditions, Beau tested the limits yesterday.  He discovered that chains and leashes are only a state of mind.  His positive attitude was rewarded.  Like Dr. King’s vision, Beau was free at last, free at last.  I don’t know whether he thanked God, but he did recognize that his restraints could not bind him.  He might have been inspired in his daily Bible reading by the story of Samson, breaking the bonds that formerly bound him.  Beau is a dog with great faith.

We were unaware of Beau’s achievement because when we looked on the deck, he was laying there with Sadie.  He said nothing.  Sadie said nothing.  However, someone said something.

I got a call from a man who tattled on Beau.  The man told me that our dog came running out on the road to see him, and the man noticed that a long cord was fastened to Beau’s collar.  Afraid it would get caught on something, the man kindly removed the cord and hung it on our front gate.  He told Beau to go home, and he did.  The man noticed that our other dog, Sadie, was on the porch, where Beau returned.

I went to the gate and retrieved the broken cord.  Apparently it is engineered for smaller dogs, or at least for dogs with less faith.

I read the story of Samson too.  Beau is getting a haircut and a new chain.  Beaurunning

Gramma’s Favorite

There was a time in my life when I could do no wrong.  Actually, I could do wrong many times, but not in the eyes of my Gramma.  She told me that I was the best boy in the world.  Often.

My sister was, coincidentally, the best girl in the world.  Each of my cousins was either the best girl or best boy in the world.  When my cousin Bob got married, his new wife became the luckiest girl in the world.  I have over the years reminded Lynn that she holds that title.  Bob reminds her too.

It might seem to you that Gramma was inconsistent by having more than one grandchild be the best in the world.  But to her, who was without guile, she meant it every time.  She believed it.  We all could simultaneously be the best.  She often was scared by how awesome we were.  She would say, “________ (fill in the blank with the name of ANY of her amazing grandchildren) is so smart it scares me.”

Our respective parents did not always share in Gramma’s opinions.  My own mother recklessly endangered my self esteem by pointing out my failings, such as when I broke Gramma’s garage window.  Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear.  I was around four or five years old at the time.  I was not yet in school.

Gramma scolded Mom for being a tattletale.  “Betty, he did not mean to break it.  He is such a good boy.”  (You will recall that I was the best boy in the world or at least tied with Cousin Bob).

Mom persisted, “He did it on purpose.  I saw him hit the window with his gun.”  Our house was next door to Gramma’s house, which put Mom in an excellent position to spy on The King of the Cowboys.

I had indeed done it on purpose, for a good and noble purpose.  My friends and I were playing cowboys, as usual, and I had seen Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger or one of those good guys use the butt of his pistol to break a window to get into the outlaws’ hideout.  It is, clearly, the accepted procedure when capturing outlaws.  The next step would have been to crawl through the window, despite the shards of glass, and get the drop on those badmen.  Mom was obstructing justice by interrupting what I was doing to keep the world safe.

Mom did not understand, but Gramma did.  “He was just playing.  What an imagination.”  Gramma automatically turned what I did into a compliment to me.  She admired my imagination.

I was remorseful after Mom pointed out that now Gramma, not the outlaws, had a broken window.  In my imagination, as Gramma recognized, it was not Gramma’s window but merely a window in the outlaw hideout.  Gramma knew that.  She did not view herself as the victim of vandalism.  I was still the best boy in the world and I had the best imagination in the world.  Gramma saw the situation so clearly for what it was.  It was her sacred privilege to have the best boy in the world break that window due to a superior imagination.  She was the most fortunate of grandmothers.  I believe that she actually felt sorry for all the less fortunate grandmothers whose dull grandsons lacked the imagination to break their garage windows in pursuit of justice.

“I’m sorry, Gramma,” I told her with all sincerity.  I might have even cried.  This was not going right.  The Lone Ranger’s mother never interfered like this.

Mom wanted immediate measures taken.  “We are going to call your father at work and tell him what you did.”  She was not one to wait until Dad came home for the news to be delivered.

Mom lifted me up and sat me on the kitchen counter so I could reach the phone.  She dialed, then handed the phone to me.  I asked the receptionist if my Dad was in.  He was.

“Dad, I’m in big trouble.”  I got right to the point.  No sense asking him about his day.

I had to explain about breaking Gramma’s window with the butt of my gun in order to climb in.

Dad told me, the best boy in the world, that what I did was wrong and that I needed to tell Gramma I was sorry (which I already had done) and then he came up with some penance for punishment.  Dad said that we would fix Gramma’s window when he got home.  I needed to fix it, but he would show me how.

So Dad and I fixed Gramma’s garage window.  It was the right thing to do.  After all, Superman and I both stood for “Truth, Justice, and The American Way.”  So did Dad.

Gramma was happy.  She told me I was the best boy in the world.

I miss Gramma.

I miss Dad too.  He was one of the good guys like Superman, Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger.  I miss them all.

I wish that I had gotten Gramma one of those tee shirts that one frequently sees.  You know, “World’s Best Gramma” tee shirts.  She deserved it.

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