The three birds flew through the cloudy skies of northern California due north on that brisk January morning. The three friends; a Crow, a Pigeon and a Blue Jay, would have made a strange picture had anyone with a camera and telephoto lens had the mind to snap a shot. Much higher in altitude, hundreds of Canadian Geese flew in perfect V formation in exactly the opposite direction.
“Hey,” squawked the crow, “there is another group of Canadians flying the wrong way. Why do you suppose they are so confused?” He tried to point upwards with his right wing, but in doing so banked quickly to the left ramming the pigeon.
“Papa, can you tell me about Christmas?” asked the five-year-old granddaughter of the man whose knee she was perched upon at that moment.
“Sure honey, what do you want to know?” was the confident reply of Papa.
“Well first, what’s the difference between Santa and Jesus? And do Mary and Joseph live at the North Pole? And, at Sunday School we learned about the three Wise Men, but at school we sang about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Was Rudolph at the manger with the Wise Men,” were the initial round of questions blurted out by Katie, Papa’s granddaughter. “It’s all getting jumbled up in here,” said Katie pointing to her head.
“Well we don’t want things getting confused up there, now do we,” said Papa. “You could end up like Uncle Fred, but that’s a whole different story.”
Papa settled into the recliner and snuggled Katie close in. There was a lot of explaining to do, as Rickey often told Lucy. “First you asked about Christmas, so let me tell you about that. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus; the son of God. That is the main reason for all the decorations, and the lights, and the funny blow up snowmen at your Daddy’s house. We have a party on your birthday right?”
On Christmas Eve of 1914 in a field in Western Europe, German and British soldiers sang Christmas songs, exchanged gifts of pudding, games, and simply enjoyed each other’s company for a short while. It was a cold and muddy place, but the miracle of Christmas sought them out, bringing happiness to most, if only for a moment. Because less than 36 hours after the Christmas truce had started, which had been suggested by Pope Benedict XV, the warring Armies of WWI resumed their horrifically bloody battle of the trenches, replacing songs with death, and laughter with tears.
That night in Europe demonstrated with extreme bias the dichotomy that exists in our world; where good and evil, or right and wrong, exchange positions in an unlikely way, creating either grief or joy, depending which side is supplanted. Goodness found its way into a very bad place by the actions of a few great men and women; actions we often see as a requirement of the job. Continue reading →
Mary shuffled with a limp while carrying the dirty dishes from the dining table to the kitchen. She tried to hide the fact that something was wrong from Jim, her husband of 42 years, and even though his back was to her as she walked, he knew instantly something was amiss.
“Is your hip hurting again honey,” asked Jim? He had turned to see her final two steps as she reached the kitchen sink; she was clearly favoring her left side. “Hon, how bad is it?”
“It’s okay Jim, just a little stiff from the arthritis. I’ll be fine; go read your paper and rest,” Mary replied with just a little white lie. Her hip and knee were on fire it seemed.
Nate was a bully, and a braggart; he pushed his way into every conversation or meeting in the village and then always set out to prove his opinion was the only right one – which it rarely was. His height alone was intimidating at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, but add in broad shoulders and narrow waist; Nate was a man that you wanted to avoid being at odds with, but just couldn’t. He wouldn’t let you.
One day God spoke to Nate while he was saying his morning prayers. God asked him to do something that would be very important to his village and all the people in it. God said, “Nate, I have chosen you to be my instrument of change, to do something of great importance.” Nate was astonished; not really, he always thought God needed to consult him on big items.
When Seth Mooney was born a healthy beautiful boy his parents thanked the doctors and nurses who performed the delivery, the attendant who pushed Mom’s wheelchair to the waiting car, and almost every neighbor who stopped by the next week to give their congratulations. They thanked the Pharmacist, their grocer, the nice lady at Target who sold them diapers, wipes, lotion and a dozen other necessities for young Seth. They even thanked the mailman who delivered the letter and packages from family and friends across the country. But they didn’t thank God for the most amazing miracle ever to happen to their young family. The Mooney’s are not unbelievers; they’ve been to church. No the Mooney’s are part of the growing minority of people who thank their friends for a miracle from God.
The Southwest flight from Phoenix landed in Sacramento on-time that Thursday night; a welcome end to a long and hot trip as witnessed by the sweat stains on the collar of Brad Smith’s white button down shirt. Why do I ever wear long sleeves to Arizona? Because his boss thinks it’s more professional than wearing a polo shirt, even though it was 102 degrees by 9:00 am this morning, and his last sales call ended at 6:15 that evening (with a resounding and fully anticipate NO!) Clearly rejection is professional when wearing a damp and smelly long sleeve shirt Brad thought as the plane landed.
The mechanical lady’s voice coming from the speaker on the air conditioned shuttle told Brad that he was headed toward the main terminal. Rather than go straight to his car parked on the 5th level, which was normal, he was headed downstairs to retrieve his suitcase from the lower level. The jogging gear Brad packed but did not use rendered his overhead bin sized suitcase too small, so he used the bigger one; ( note to Brad – stop pretending you will ever exercise while traveling when all hotels that you stay at have a bar). The shuttle stopped when Brad wasn’t paying attention and he bumped the lady next to him.
America ought to be a place where the treatment of all people equally and with fairness as one of our highest goals. Our country is founded on that basic belief. We must fight for an equal opportunity for any individual to achieve their own goal. But we cannot and should not provide for, nor promise an equal outcome for all Americans. Every person has the right to dream their own dream and choose their own horizon. The height of the sky is an individual’s choice; reaching their unique horizon ought to be the principal result of an individual’s effort and not of their circumstance, nor as a gift from the government.
Sometimes in life the weight you are trying to lift is too heavy: the stress of a new job, the illness of your spouse, another late notice from the bank. Alone we often just cannot accomplish all that is asked of us, nor should we have to in most cases.
Long ago, probably either the Greek’s or Roman’s invented a way to increase a person’s strength by the use of a rope and pulley system. In reality, a person using a pulley (block and tackle) doesn’t get stronger; the weight of the item being lifted appears to shrink. Looping a rope over one pulley and then attaching the loose end of the rope to the object being lifted changes the direction of the force, but doesn’t reduce the effort to lift it. So in effect a 100 pound ball feels like 100 pounds when only using one pulley.However, adding another pulley does reduce the effort by 50% so a 100 pound box feels like 50 pounds.
Every Saturday morning, just after our second cup of coffee, Lea and I make a list of what we need to accomplish before sleep overwhelms our tired and spent bodies late Sunday night. The staples are always present: laundry, mow the lawns, grocery shop, and clean the pool. We rarely list the fun things; movie, dinner out or play time with the grand kids, because we don’t want them to feel like a chore. Fun, although well planned, should be spontaneous by design. When we complete an item on the list we check it off with pride. Often on Saturday afternoon we review our list together to assess our progress. If we have done something not on the list and completed the task, we add it to the list so we can check it off. Our system of measuring weekend accomplishments has taken decades to perfect and has managed to successfully keep full blown OCD at bay. We have considered teaching classes on our method, but so far have decided against it. (However, if it ever makes the list we will do it). Our weekend ritual of making and checking boxes for work activities is both functional and enjoyable for us, but I wonder, what else in my life has become a ritual of checking the box?