End of October

End of October, the sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter (Dan Fogelberg from Old Tennessee)

Entering the last week of October, the coolness of the air and the falling leaves whisper softly, “Slow Down.”  I have always loved the Fall season and the changes it brings. My front yard is covered in the leaves from where the trees are throwing off the weight of summer preparing to rest for a while. Neighbors are beginning to seek warmth, evidenced by the smoke going skyward as it exits the confines of the chimneys. The aroma of burning wood brings back memories of my boyhood days. The cooler months meant pushing a wheelbarrow up the hill behind my Dad’s workshop, using extra caution so the uneven weight of the firewood didn’t shift and lead to a reloading. Though there were times I despised the work, I always loved the fire. Now as I near fifty years of age, I still stack firewood and push a wheelbarrow load of it to my back porch, but thankfully not up a hill. I often think of  my Dad during those times of moving firewood and wish I could hear the buzz of his chainsaw again, preparing for the cold months to come. He seemed to like winter as well. Maybe an appreciation for the cold months is one of the gifts he silently gave me, a gift I didn’t recognize as such until he was gone.

The cool air, falling leaves and the scent and glow of a fire are gifts from the creator of the seasons. Fall has a purpose and beauty, like all of the seasons. It is a gateway to a period of dormancy. It is that last crescendo of life before all goes quiet and sleepy.

Woke up one morning the wind through the window
Reminded me winter was just ’round the bend
Somehow I just didn’t see it was coming
It took me by surprise again (Dan Fogelberg from Old Tennessee)

 

 

 

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I Want, I Won’t

I want______________. Fill in the blank. What is it that you REALLY want? That one thing that would make life better or make the situation better or give you a sense of purpose and meaning to existing. Have you ever paid attention and counted how many time in a given week you say, ” I want…”? I’ve never done an analysis of myself. Not sure I would like what I see because I would bet that I say it quite often.

I believe we all want, have desires and wishes. However, I have noticed in myself that I can go from one want to another want without a breath in between. I read posts on Facebook and have to pause at times when I get a constant barrage of “I wants” from people. It angers me at times and other times it saddens me to think that we think such trivial, meaningless things will actually satisfy. There is no end to the “I wants.”

When we say “I want,” aren’t we really saying “I won’t”? I won’t trust God to fill the emptiness in my life. I won’t be satisfied with what God has provided me at this point in my life. I won’t be content without MORE!  God, I won’t let You be enough for me!

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. It begins with the above statement and could have been that single verse and encompassed the secret to the contented life. With the Lord, we lack nothing. We want for nothing. He provides all that is needed and He can be fully trusted to do just that.

If you continually want, then  “I won’t” has taken over. Look to the Shepherd and you shall not want.

 

Saturday’s Song You’ve Never Heard

I know it is not Saturday, but I will be unable to post tomorrow so you get your song early. I thought it would be a bad idea to miss the second installment of a new series.

This week’s song is “That Lonesome Road” by Mad at the World from their album Through the Forest.  I love the crispness of the acoustic guitar that starts this song prior to it becoming more of a rocker. I hope you enjoy the song. Lyrics below the frame.

I’m traveling down that lonesome road
My head is heavy and my soul’s so cold
And it feels like Satan’s waiting there for me
He lives on the end of this one way street
On the end of this one way street

Down, I’ve never felt so down
I’ve fallen down in pieces on the ground
Emptiness in my heart again
Empty because it’s full of sin again

I’m traveling down that lonesome road
My head is heavy and my soul’s so cold
And it feels like Satan’s waiting there for me
He lives on the end of this one way street
He lives on the end of this one way street

Cold, as cold as cold can be
I can’t believe what has become of me
Once I knew how to keep the faith
And once I knew how to run this race
And not fall on my face

Free, I used to be so free
But then I gave away my faith so willingly
Bound by those sins I used to hate
I fell for those lies from hell that tell me it’s too late
And this will be my fate

Lie Down with Dogs

Back when I was young, if you hung out with the wrong crowd and got in trouble, the old-timers would say, “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” They were right. If you hang out with people who do things that could get you into trouble, eventually you will get into trouble. So don’t be all surprised about it and act like you’re an innocent victim.  It’s kind of like “play with fire, you get burned.” Don’t take no rocket scientist to figure that one out!

The lie down with dogs principle is precisely why people in addiction recovery are encouraged to find new friends because if they spend all their time with people still in the throes of the addictive behavior, the odds exponentially increase that they will fall back into the negative behavioral patterns. Same is true of other issues as well. If you spend all your time with people who have a disdain for God, it is just a matter of time before you share in the disdain. This is why followers of Christ are told not to forsake or abandon the discipline of meeting together. Followers grow followers. Forsakers multiply forsakers. You become like the people you hang around with.

Just like getting fleas when you sleep with dogs, the opposite can also be true. If you want to learn a certain skill or discipline, you will have to invest time and energy in learning the skill.  Learn from others that have traveled the path before. If you want to be a good leader, spend time with leaders you admire, immerse yourself in how they think and act, and practice the disciplines they practice. If you want to write, read about writing, take a class and by all means, write something (I put that in as a reminder and sermon for myself). If you want to be more godly, spend time with God and read the Bible. And again, read the writings of others and learn about the lives of those you would want to be like. How do/did these men and women live? How did they spend their time? Who did they learn from?

So what do you do if you want to be different than everyone around you? Start today and make changes. If you are bold, tell them you want to change. If they care about you and are really your friends, they will be your friends in, through, and after the change. If not, then they probably had fleas you didn’t want hopping all over you anyway , so you are better off. However, you may inspire change in them as well which would be a good thing.  Whatever the case, begin the change.

So decide who you want to be and fill your life with people and activities that move you toward that end.

Get rid of those flea-infested dogs and start this day anew.

Saturday’s Song You’ve Never (or probably never) Heard

I have been listening to good music ever since my days of digging The Beatles from my cradle. (Their album 1965 came out the year I was born and is still one of my favorites by them) I enjoy all types of music: punk, electronic, country, Christian, classical, heavy metal, solo piano…you name it and it is probably represented somewhere on my iPod.

Since I like to hear new music, I thought I would add a feature to my blog here to introduce new music to you. Each Saturday I will give you the Saturday’s Song You’ve Never (or probably never)  Heard.  The featured song could be from an artist or band you have never even heard of or it could be a lesser known song from a known artist. The styles will vary as well, so no promises that you will always like the song. I am sure over time, you will hear some you like. I hope so.

I plan to include lyrics when possible, so you can sing along.

Here is Saturday’s Song You’ve Never Heard:  Let’s Spin by The Swirling Eddies (lyrics below video)

Let’s Spin!

Yeah,We got no reservations
We’re gonna let it all go
Got our eyes on heaven, a hand to the plow
and curse the devil below

Yeah we be callin’ on the rumba king
and trackin’ down the black sax man
We’re gonna dance in the street ’till the cows come home
and there’s revival in the land

Let’s spin! everybody
Let’s spin!
Hey everybody let’s spin!
We’re gonna spin right up to heaven again!

We’ll do the shimmy shimmy shake,
the shing-a-ling, and the missionary stew
And if they punch us in the face, we’re gonna
turn the other cheek
and do the cha-cha too

Come on! come on! get ready to rumble
Put the heat to the street
Cos’ when the saints go marchin’, the war is on
and there ain’t no retreat

Let’s spin! everybody
Let’s spin!
Hey everybody let’s spin!
We’re gonna spin right up to heaven again!

‘Round and ’round and ’round we go
Dancin’ to the Righteous Rag

We got all this and glory too
The best time we ever had!

We put our hands together
We’re doin’ curlys on the floor
We sweat like pigs, but it’s a steady gig
That’s why we’re cryin’ out for more

More! more! more!
We’re gonna preach hell fire
and the Kingdom come
We’re gonna love our neighbor as we love ourselves
And then we’re gonna have some fun

So let’s spin!
Everybody — let’s spin!
Come on, come one, come on, come on let’s spin
We’re gonna spin right up to heaven again!

My my my my my
Let’s spin!
Hey everybody, let’s spin!
We’re gonna spin right up to heaven again!
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Let’s spin!
Hey everybody, let’s spin!
Hey everybody, let’s spin!
Hey everybody, let’s spin! right up to heaven again!

 
Lyrics from <a href=”http://www.elyrics.net”>eLyrics.net</a&gt;

The Regular

I often find myself wanting to be off on some adventure, to just be somewhere else (or even be someone else). I have those yearnings for a “change” or to have a “different” whatever it may be at the time. In thinking that my life would be better with only a little something else, I miss out on the regular in my life. The “regular” is that place or time that is repetitious and seemingly forever never-changing.

My commute time every morning and afternoon is in the regular. The hours spent at work are also in the regular. Most of my evenings are also part of the regular. Most of my time, roughly 90%, is made up of the day-to-day tasks and activities that are consistent and on-going.Most of my life is spent in the regular. I guess much of your life would be the same.If most of our time is spent in the regular and we are discontent with the regular, then it makes sense that the result will be our being a discontented, unhappy people.

Scattered here and there throughout the week,  the “irregular” pops in, those moments of that are completely different, or out of the norm, so to speak.  Instead of waiting for the irregular to pop in and make our lives interesting, why don’t we redeem the regular. Each minute pushes us toward the end of our days and each is part of our regular.

Your regular is different from mine so I can’t tell you how to redeem your regular, but I can give you some examples to get your own creative juices flowing:

(1) Open your eyes and really pay attention to what’s around you. Have you ever driven to work taking the same route you have taken for years and not even remember the drive? You know what I’m talking about. Try this. Make it a point to be aware and learn from your trip. Dialogue with yourself, someone else, or God and ask questions or make observations.  I wonder who lives there? or When did that store open? or Wow, the colors of the mountains are amazing! or Why would anyone want a purple car? Really see the life moving and breathing around you.

(2) Change the atmosphere of your regular. Turn some music on that you would not “normally” listen to or turn the music off and enjoy the quiet of the moment. Read a book out loud. Light a scented candle. I recently changed my regular by using an app on my phone that reads the Bible to me instead of just reading it myself. I follow along while it reads, but it has changed what could easily become routine or just a part of my regular.

(3) Create a new regular. Make a decision to do something different. Who says you have to do things the same way every day for the rest of your life? Travel to work a different way each month, switching the route up and inviting new things in. Instead of watching the TV tonight, why don’t you clean out that closet so the monopoly game doesn’t fall on your head every time you open the door. Or do like Robert D. Smith would say, Eat Dessert First.

The regular may be routine, but it doesn’t have to be humdrum and boring. We do not have to be so entrenched in the rut of our lives that we are always wanting something else. We have so much right there in front of us all the time. See it and enjoy it.

Redeem the regular and throw off the discontent.

Earliest Memories

Have you ever sat down and tried to remember back as far as you can? Time travel in your mind back to your earliest memory?  Our entire lives are stored there and our minds will release these memories periodically when the proper password is provided. The password could be a sound, a certain smell that takes you to a particular time and place. Since music has always been an important part of my life experience, songs unlock portals in my memory and transport me to specific moments.

But here’s a question I have pondered often: Why can we only go back so far in our memories? I am not a doctor, but I am sure there is a reason why we can’t retrieve the details of our birth or most of our first few years. I bet it’s there, though, and wanting to be seen.

My two earliest memories represent experiences common to mankind: pain and longing.  Pain is not something we wish for but often shows up in the journey; longing is always in our hearts, the desire for more than what is and knowing there is something  coming and that it will soon come to pass.

My earliest memory associated with pain happened when I was 4.  I remember getting out of our station wagon and running toward the house of a family friend that lived in Stewart Lake Apartments, Lithonia, Georgia.  I was about to spring up the front steps when I tripped and my head hit the side of the concrete step. I was rapidly carried back to the car and transported to Dr. Foster’s office where he stitched my head. 4 stitches on a 4 year old.  A short distance away on my head and I would have impacted my temple and most likely died. Because of trauma it was permanently carved in my mind.

Pain.

My memory of longing has me standing in front of our house on Covington Hwy waiting for my  3 big brothers to come home from school. Since I was several years younger than Mark, my brother closest to my age, I was still at home while they all went to school. I would long for that big yellow bus to come into view and creak to a stop at the end of our long driveway. My brothers would bounce off with their book bags and my longing for playtime with my brothers would be fulfilled.

Longing.

Pain and Longing. Life is not always easy and the pain can be overbearing at times.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He understands that both pain and longing will exist together. We experience the pain, disappointment, and hurt of the world, but God provides longing with his quiet voice whispering, “There is more than all this. Hang in there and you will see. I have more for you…so much more than you can ever imagine. I am making all things new.” The longing and hope get us through this crazy pain-filled life. We hurt and long for what is to come.

And it is coming…you’ll see.

In the beginning…

….this site was going to be called Pickle Moments.  After doing some internet searches for the title, I decided to stick with a title I had been using on my book review site, The Biggerness.  What is a pickle moment? Glad you forced me to ask.  To understand, we must go back to the beginning of time.

Hold on, Jon, not that far back. We’re telling them about pickle moments and God didn’t create pickles in the beginning.

Okay…A couple of years ago, sitting on the sofa with my wife and our granddaughter sandwiched between us, we were eating Krystals (small square fast food hamburgers).  I had taken a bite out of one of my Krystals when my granddaughter pointed at it. I thought she wanted a bite and I was going to let her have one, when she reached up, pulled the pickle out, and popped it in her mouth. My bite had exposed the pickle and she had managed to see that speck of green and went for it.  It was one of those times when you appreciate the small things, the laughable blessing moments that God gives us each day. Pickle Moments. Pickles then became a snack that I continue to enjoy with my granddaughter and in the journey I have even been given the nickname Pappy Pickle.

I frequently get so caught up in the activities of life, that I fail to be right here, right now, in this moment. We can’t get moments back and we have lots of them. Don’t miss them. So when God allows you to have a glimpse into how special each moment is, take it in. Reach out and grab that pickle, pop it in your mouth, and savor it. Enjoy that Pickle Moment. I promise you that you have more pickle moments than you think, if you just pay attention.