August 29, 2012

What Do You Want to Be?

Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, was riding the train in his native state of Massachusetts when he was approached by the conductor. When Holmes began to fumble through his pockets as if he were looking for his ticket, the conductor recognized him, and said, "That's okay, Justice Holmes. Don't worry about your ticket. When you find it, just send it in."

To which Holmes replied, "My problem, Sir, is not, where is my ticket, but where am I going?"

In one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies, Macbeth suggests that our time on earth is devoid of meaning and our days on this earth serve no purpose.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
How many of us let our days slip by in a “petty pace” without giving thought to where we are going or what we want to be.

When I was 46, I created my bucket list, twenty goals I wanted to accomplish in my life like “learn a technical skill; write and publish a song; visit Greece and/or Sweden; and quit smoking, weigh 175 pounds, and go to church every Sunday . . . all at the same time."

As I reflect on that list now, I wish I had contemplated, instead, what I want “to be,” not what I hoped “to do.” If I had done so in 1977, perhaps my list would have read like this: I want to be “a loving and considerate husband; a good father; an appreciative and contributing member of society; and a faithful servant to my Lord."

Despite the fact I never recorded such goals, I hope my family and friends believe I have accomplished some or all of those latter objectives. I tried.

You may already have goals in life, but have you ever thought about what you want to become?" 

PS One of my goals in 1977 was to parachute from a plane. In 1992, I decided to delete    that goal.

August 22, 2012

The Ultimate Comfort Food

Nancy and I recently attended a small gathering of family members and friends at which our hostess served comfort food, which Wikipedia describes as “food prepared traditionally that may have nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” Wikipedia also suggests that comfort food “may relieve negative psychological affects or increase positive feelings."

The most popular comfort food is probably chicken soup which many people believe has curative powers for those stricken with a cold or flu. The comfort food prepared by our hostess was macaroni and cheese made from a family recipe that is at least eighty years old or more. Seven of the ten people at the table were familiar with this recipe, and I have enjoyed this dish for more than seventy years.

The recipe was handed down from my mother who was still making it when she was in her nineties. It is a dish she prepared with a loving heart which I believe makes it not just comfort food but food for the soul.

You can grill expensive steaks for company, and your friends and family may enjoy them, but they won't necessarily bring back fond memories of family and friends. However, bacon wrapped shrimp on a skewer, brushed with barbecue sauce, lovingly prepared and grilled by our son, Doug, will remind every member of our family of good times vacationing on the Emerald Coast of North Carolina.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus declared:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 
The Bread of Life refreshes us when we hunger for peace and thirst for the truth. It strengthens us when we are weary and sustains us through life’s trials. Jesus is the ultimate comfort food prepared for us with love and paid for by his death on the cross so that we might have eternal life.

As our young folks might say, “That’s awesome!”

August 15, 2012

Accepting Compliments and Gifts

How do you respond when someone compliments you? Do you accept the praise gratefully or do you suggest that the accolade is unwarranted?  Some people cannot accept a compliment with appreciation.

How do you respond when someone gives you a gift? Do you accept the gift with thanks, or do you suggest the occasion isn’t really important and the gift is unnecessary? Some people cannot accept a gift with gratitude.

Finally, how do you react when someone gives you a helping hand?

Recently, as I was leaving a store, I held a door open while a mother and four small children entered. No one acknowledged my modest courtesy except the smallest child who was about five years old. She said, “Thank you."

Some people find it difficult to accept compliments, gifts or a helping hand. Perhaps it’s a matter of pride and their need to feel independent. They fear that if they accept gifts or help, they will appear to be weak and incapable of helping themselves.

The fact is just about everything we have, except our own initiative, comes from somewhere or someone else. Our education, manners, freedom, opportunities for prosperity and our very life itself have all, or in part, been the result of some other influence in our life. Knowing that, we should all be humbled.

There is a gift that is available to each one of us who believes in the promises of Scripture. It is the gift of forgiveness for our sins.  No one should allow pride or arrogance to keep him or her from accepting this remarkable gift promised by Jesus and ratified by his blood shed freely on the cross.

August 7, 2012

An Opportunity for Penn State University Football

Despite the long range crippling effects of the NCAA actions, the current members of the Penn State University football team have an opportunity to accomplish something which can be legendary.

They can take the events which have cast a cloud over the University, and demonstrate that the 2012 Penn State football team is not about the reprehensible actions of Sandusky, or the failures of Paterno and key administrators. It’s about the commitment, passion, skill and determination of the individual members of the team. Marines call it Espirit de Corps.

If the team needs a motto, they can borrow another one from the Marine Corps . . . Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful __ faithful to each other, Penn State University, their fans and the football program.

Americans love competitors who overcome adversity to become winners, and what a marvelous story it would be if, despite everything that has happened, this team is a winner. It will take exceptional discipline from coaches, every member of the team and enthusiastic support from all Penn State students, alumni and fans, but if they meet the challenge, their success will be legendary.

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II represented the courageous spirit of the people of that country when faced with impossible odds. During the darkest days in England’s history, Churchill inspired his people with quotes like this:
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration  and survival.” 
My hope for the 2012 Penn State football team is that they shall be resolved that out of the suffering the University has endured, the participants will find the inspiration to succeed beyond all expectation.