Monday, January 26, 2015

Stranger At My Door

What would you do if you had a random stranger show up at your door asking for some food?  Or, what would you do if you had a friend show up at your door in tears asking to use your phone and grab a glass of water?  Of course, the other fun scenario is that drunk guy on the corner of Main Street, USA asking you for your spare change for, "some food."  What do you tell him?  Do you give him your change?

These questions are the premise of a book I completed reading last week.  "Strangers At My Door" by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a biography of sorts.  He (Jonathan) chronicles the adventures of making his family home an outreach/mission.  Not just any mission or outreach that you might be familiar with.  He and his wife decided to take the Bible at its word, decided to open their front door to anyone and everyone, and watch what happened in the lives that walked through the door - including theirs.

Such a powerful book.  Despite it being different than I had anticipated, the ending was indeed challenging.  Open your door.  Don't be afraid, no matter how scary the act might be.  We know the knock is coming, so be ready.  Even when the knock interrupts a meal, a family movie, or your alone time, just be ready and answer.

But, this is not a book review.  I'm not good at writing reviews.  I have a hard time finding anything wrong with books.  If I don't like the book at the beginning, I'm not gonna read it.  If I like the book, I read it and will recommend it to people.  But, to write a review, yeah, not my calling.

Let's revisit the questions above.  What do you do when you have a knock at your door?  Usually, I'm curious wondering who it is that is knocking.  But what if the knocking at my door is just a metaphor for something bigger?  What if there is a broader application of that door?  Is it possible that any knock on a door is a reference to the hungry guy on the corner as I walk through downtown?

As the book concluded, one line really spoke to me.  Jonathan is talking about family meals, the banquet John saw in his dream while on Patmos and his haphazard family sitting at his table.  "You do not know what tomorrow will bring, but you whisper the only grace that makes sense at such a meal: 'Thank you. Help us. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.'"  Simple right?  Wait, what were those two words after thank you?

Help us!  Help with what?  Reading the book, Jonathan speaks frequently of what he needed help with.  He was often hesitant to ask for help, especially when it was seemingly the same people being asked of.  But, he asked, even when it was hard.

Asking, this is what this blog is about.  What is the hardest part of asking for help?  Is it the pride keeping us from seeking help?  Or is it the shame in acknowledging our need and inability to provide for that particular area in our lives?  Maybe it is even the simple lack of knowledge of who could help.  Whatever it is, there is a huge void in our lives when it comes to asking for help.  Even more tragic, is the fact that for those of us that attend a church regularly seem to avoid seeking help even more than those that don't attend church.  Oh SNAP!!!  I just admitted that!

Yes, I'm call out myself and others that attend church.  If we need help, why are we so afraid to seek the help?  And if we are so afraid to ask for help, does that prevent us from opening our door to those who knock seeking help?  Doesn't God tell us that if we seek, we find?  If we ask, we receive, don't we?  Well, do we believe what he says?  Or is it just lip service?  And for those that are knocking at our door (literal or figurative doors), they must not be to afraid to ask.  But, are we too afraid to answer?

Am I making sense?  Am I the only one seeing this paradox?  I must confess, I'm not perfect at any of this.  Sure, growing up as a pastors kid (or church board members kid) there were times I remember a knock on our door at odd hours of the night, during meals or family time.  I remember my dad being late to pick up my brother or I because of someone needing help.  Answering the door has never really been a problem as God has always provided both the example to teach, and now continually provides a way for Janda and I to provide.  Yes, we've received calls and knocks at odd hours from bands and friends needing a place to stay, or needing a meal, or just someone to talk to.  We love that, but it doesn't mean we've been perfect.  But the part I struggle with (even after learning how) is the asking for help.

Going through my battle with cancer taught me it is okay to seek help.  I had to ask for help.  There was no way to survive without that help.  I marvel still today over how much help we received during that year.  Yet, it seems I still have a long way to go in learning how...and when to ask.  I find that I'm not alone in this lesson.  I know too many people who are afraid to ask for help, especially from the ones that are supposed to be helping.  It shouldn't be this way.  Christians shouldn't be afraid to ask other Christians for help!!!  Yet, we are.  We just don't, and it needs fixed.  But how?

Here is my challenge:  Ask.  Ask for help, even when it is gonna hurt, ask for help.  Even if you don't know what you need help with, ask.  When you're done asking, then open the door when you hear a knock.  Maybe, that knock you hear is more than just someone needing help.  Maybe, just maybe that knock is someone there to help you when you need it most and don't know how to ask.  Helping them turns out to be the best help that you can not only provide, but receive.

Yes, that is the one thing in "Strangers At My Door" that I learned.  Jonathan wound up providing so much help, that eventually, those he was helping became the ones that helped him the most.  Helped him learn to lean on God more than he ever knew he was going to have to.  Helped him to trust, even those that could hurt him or his family.  Helped him pray when he had no idea how to pray.  Helped him to just ask.

Who is your stranger?  What is your door?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thank you,from Anonymous

Dear Family of Stuart Scott,

Thank you!  Thank you for sharing your son, ex-husband, father, boyfriend and brother with us.  I could tell you all the positives I know about him, but you already know those attributes, after all, you knew him personally.  I might have lived with him in my house nightly, but you saw him daily.  You had him at your side every minute of every day.  So really, I don't need to tell you what you already know.  Rather, I just feel you need to hear an average Joe thank you for your selfless sharing of the man you knew and loved.  Or is it know and loved?

I'd also like to ask a few questions, ones that you have no answer for...at least not one for me.  But, there really isn't one you need to offer to me.  Actually, these are questions that I have found myself reflecting upon as I look at my own mortality.  I had to ask myself these questions once before as I began my battle against cancer.  In light of Stuart's passing, I've found the questions resurfacing. Please know, these are from the heart and are meant for nothing more than reliving the joys and triumphs of the life you lived with Stuart.

First, what a roller coaster life you live!  What was that like?  Seeing him graduate from high school, and then North Carolina, you couldn't have been more proud.  What was it like seeing him move south to Florida to work his first gig reporting the news?  Did you miss him?  Were you able to see many of his reports?  Better yet, were you able to take a little vacation yourselves, mom and dad, to sunny Florida to spend time with you son?  What kind of a celebration did you have with him when he was offered a position at ESPN?

Former Mrs. Scott and now current life partner, what was it like sharing your husband/other with the world?  Was your house always on some sort of sport?  How often were you able to enjoy a work trip with him?  What was your favorite city to visit?  Hearing all the stories of his passion for family, I'm sure he helped around the house, took you to dinner frequently (or even cooked a meal or two during the week) and probably watched your favorite movie with you every so often.

Taelor and Sydni, I'm sure you knew how much your dad loved you.  He spoke of it often to his peers, and I'm sure he told you every night.  Heck, he even told the world during his ESPY's speech, including hugging you, Syndi, on live TV!  Yet, I'm sure you find yourselves asking, "Now what?" and "When will I wake up from this nightmare?"  Sure, you certainly had your disagreements on when homework should be done, which friend you could have spend the night, or even which boy you could go out on a date with.  Rest assured, as a father to you, he was doing it out of a love that only fathers know.  It is that love, that fathers love, that you will hopefully one day understand how deep and unspeakable of a love it was.

Lastly, to Stuarts siblings, how many fights did y'all get in growing up?  How much mischief did he cause that somehow got you into trouble?  Did he ever blame you for being mom and dads favorite, or was it the other way around - him being the favorite?  What about the times you picked on him just because you could?

I say all this to simply say, I can't imagine what you are going through.  However, I do know the emotions of cancer.  I do know some of the thoughts Stuart had during his battle with cancer.  I have faced the prospects of death in my battle with cancer.  I struggle daily in accepting my diagnosis despite being in remission for two plus years.  I know my cancer can, and probably will return at some point in the future.  When faced with death, I asked myself if my kids, my wife, my parents and my brother knew how much I loved them?  I'm certain they had emotions that I will never understand, just as you had when watching Stuart stare face to face with both cancer and death.  I also wondered what kind of a legacy I would have left behind had I not won my battle?  I believe Stuart wondered what he could leave behind for all of you to remember his legacy by.

What now?  Words of encouragement fail me.  Sure, his colleagues, friends and peers have sent you many cards, flowers, condolences, called and what not.  But me, I only have this letter and I'm certain you will never see it.  I'm okay with that, maybe it isn't for you to see.  Maybe it is only for me to write and other random people to read as an opportunity to cope with their thoughts and grief.  It is something therapeutic for me to write these thoughts, and maybe that is all it is.  No problem, at least I hope it isn't a problem.  I hope and pray that if somehow this reaches you, you can reflect on the many great times you had with Stuart, and that these questions caused you to find solace in one of the memories.

Again, thank you for sharing Stuart with us.  Know, that if he never impacted anyone through anything other than his battle with cancer, know that he has encouraged thousands with his attitude and his never give up spirit over the years of fighting this horrible illness.  Know that my life is forever impacted by how he continually stared at cancer, spit in it's face and told it to kiss off.

Sincerely and God Bless,

Aaron C Casey
Average Joe America

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My last blog was a prelude to what this post is all about.  I have been accused of being a bit of a Scrooge.  Far from the truth.  I love Christmas!  My love for Christmas doesn't start until after Thanksgiving though.  Sure, I'll get a few things as gifts for the kids before Thanksgiving, but only if I'm out with Janda.  But, I'm usually waiting until what I believe to be the appropriate season for all things Christmas related.  This is also including my Christmas music playlist.  

Typically, I'll come up with a list that I post to Facebook throughout the Christmas season.  This year, I changed things up.  I wanted more depth to the list.  Something that caused me to work just a little harder than posting what the current song being listened to.  You know, the type of work that causes a little bead of sweat to run down your forehead.  And unlike Lebron melting in an non AC'd arena, I am pushing through the heat of getting this done.  Apparently, I am a little like King James returning to Cleveland as I find myself back in Marysville, WA - home for 21 years.  Speaking of a king, I'll get to the list of Christmas songs for the year.

Christmas Song List 2014 consists of songs with meaning to me.  Creating a list is always a fun task no matter the subject.  But, to compile a list specific to a season narrowed by a prerequisite of emotional significance makes it just that much more difficult.  That said, here is a list of Christmas songs that hopefully shed a little light into why I love this time of year.  Additionally, I hope you can take your own little stroll down memory lane and discover/rediscover what Christmas should and is about.

Growing up, my mother loved Christmas.  To this day, her love for Christmas has grown to new levels I never recall experiencing.  One thing is certain though, Christmas isn't the same without watching a little Rudolph and singing along with Burle Ives.  Song number 1 will always bring memories of sitting down, watching Rudolph and singing, "Holly Jolly Christmas."

Another song invoking those childhood memories isn't my typical desired genre.  Heck, it isn't even from an artist I listen to anymore.  Should I say, I don't listen to them except during Christmas.  Yes, the first ever concert I went to was headlined by this artist.  Yes, they are a very gifted songwriter, musician and singer.  Yes, at one time they were on a constant rotation on my record player (kids, ask your parents what a record player is...and you still won't believe that anything like that existed).  No, I have no reason to not listen to their music other than I just don't enjoy their music.  But, even after a career in music spanning five decades, and a song that maintains it's place on my Christmas play list, Amy Grant's "Tennessee Christmas" will bring me back to the many Christmas' spent in the old farm house I grew up in.

Another song that is older than my kids comes a song I love.  Sure, it made its way onto a couple Amy Grant Christmas albums, but as covers of Michael W. Smith's version.  I'm not sure when this song was originally released, or by whom, but it is the voice of  Mr. Smith that is forever etched in my memory.  I can't say I'd consider it a Christmas song.  However, those who developed the whole "WOW" collection of all things Christian music decided it is indeed a Christmas song and placed it on their 2002 Christmas album.  I must admit that every time I hear the song, I do immediately think Christmas.  For a simple song with minimal lyrics, "Emmanuel" says more than anything I could ever say.

Next up on this list is a classic.  Song yearly by many generations and in various settings, this song tells a story.  It wasn't until this past Sunday that I learned of the whole evolution of this song.  Had I not been attending church with my brother at his church, I can't say I'd have learned of the depth of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and all that surrounds the song.  Of all the versions you can listen to (and there are many I enjoy) The Civil Wars take on the song captures the chant feel that was a part of the songs centuries old start.

As I deliberated how to mix the flow of the songs, and how best to transition from old to new(er) songs, I soon realized there was no way to have a brilliant segue.  Thankfully, Joy Williams and John Paul White have made that transition much easier.  Hopefully, your still moved by their take on the fourth song.  If you are still moved, then please, go grab a tissue or two for song number five.  I know, these are only Christmas songs, but when you can have a song made into a movie, have said movie debut on The Hallmark Channel and suddenly find your song topping charts across the nation with no regard for genre/market/format, then you have done something right.  That something right came in the heart grabbing, tear jerking original from the guys in Newsong.  "The Christmas Shoes" stirred emotion in me the first time I heard it.  That was the same year I had the privilege to perform a human video for that song with Ethan for our churches kids performance.  Fast forward to 2011 - I was looking a the real possibility of celebrating my last Christmas with my family.  Cancer is a scary word and a scarier reality to live with.  To this day, I cry every time I hear Newsong's original.  So many artists have their own version that I enjoy, but none of them get to me like the original.

Another favorite of mine does take us back to my high school days.  And yes, that does mean this isn't an exactly new song.  But as you search for your favorite version of "Mary Did You Know" your sure to find artists from original artist Michael English to Pentatonix's newest version, or one of several from Mark Lowry to even Cee Lo Green.  Yet, I have always enjoyed listening to the version from Christian hard rockers Spoken.  Yes, guys used to rockin on stage show their softer side and it is a beautiful sound.  Even more beautiful than the sound is the message of the song.  I often wonder about the emotions Mary went through, and this song captures the questions I'm sure some of which were asked by Mary and, yes, even Joseph.

Another song that I absolutely have to listen to at least a half dozen times is actually a cover by a group of guys I listen to periodically.  Of course, the irony in the song is that it is a cover from a group of guys.  "All I want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey is a good song.  When a group of guys cover the song, and I find it better than her version - genius.  Thank you, House of Heroes, for making every Christmas with this song that much better.

My next to last must listen to song in this list has quickly become a family favorite.  The mark of many artists from years ago was their ability to tell a story in the song.  Not many artists today are able to do that.  I don't know if many artists even try.  But one group captured the story telling ability in this one song.  Capital Lights, though no longer together, have forever captured Christmas popularity with "His Favorite Christmas Story."  At first listen, you might hear a catchy little tune and miss the story.  Go ahead and give it a good listen a couple times through and you'll hear of a love story that was sadly missed by two people in the right place at the unfortunate wrong time.  You might need a tissue for this one too.

Finally, to end this long list for eight songs, I bring you the reason for Christmas.  In between the hustle to buy gifts, eat food, spend with family and for many others to miss their lost loved ones, there is really one reason to celebrate Christmas.  Relient K has always been a band that can provide catchy tunes.  They have also been one of those bands on my must see bucket list.  And then they came out with "I Celebrate the Day."  It is a song that stirs my thoughts and motives as to what I'm doing, and what I'm teaching my kids every Christmas.  And, am I really celebrating a season, a day, or more?

That's it!  Eight staple songs on my Christmas playlist.  Eight songs that mean more to me than most songs.  Songs that speak life to me.  I pray they have blessed you.  Mostly, I pray that as you celebrate Christmas this year, you reflect on what you are celebrating and why you celebrate.  May you find a joy that words can't explain, and a contentment that no matter what you go through, God is in control.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Songs

Tis the season!  Or, is it something else I should have opened with? Oh well. Whatever it is supposed to be, consider that is what I said.

The last few years I've posted songs daily leading up to Christmas. I've had some fun with this little exercise. Heck, the lady two years I've followed a 12 Days of Christmas pattern by paying the songs on the 12 days leading into and on Christmas. The songs had no rhyme or reason to them, except they were Christmas songs and they were/are some of my favorite tunes for the season.
So why am I telling you all this?  Yes, I'm doing the songs again, but this year there will be a reason for the season...I mean reason for the list.

Sure, the list will contain my favorite Christmas songs.  Yes, the song will be fun as well as hopefully inspirational.  Most importantly, this list will be one of songs that mean something to me.  Each song will have a meaning to them.  That meaning may be one of sentiment from years gone by, maybe a family song of today or one that means a lot to me and the Christ I call friend and savior.

Over the next few days I'll be busy spending free time, slow time and many other moments of the day compiling the massive list of fun and loved Christmas songs into a simplified list of songs meaningful to me.  The paring of songs might be more painstaking than enjoyable.  It is a task, however that must be done and will be done.  I'm not sure where I'll post this list, but it will be posted sometime before Christmas.  

As I leave you to begin this time consuming labor of love, I'll leave you a fun little tune from a fun loving band I had the privilege to meet and host for a concert.  The song is more tongue in cheek fun than truth, because it does snow in Charlotte,  Enjoy this song, and check back for my list.  Signing off for now, Aaron, with Philmont taking you out with, "It Never Snows in Charlotte."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Joy or Me As Mr. Grinch

Oh the Holidays.  The joy of family, food, fun and relaxing.  Well, maybe not relaxing, but most people try to relax just a little.  Of course, there is the pleasure of shopping, music, long lines at retailers, a movie or two and a whole lot more of other stuff one does during the holidays.

Speaking of shopping, how many of you are going out for a little Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving?  You know, Black Friday shopping?  Wait, I forgot, Black Friday is a thing of the past isn't it?  Okay, fine.  How many are going out anytime between after Thanksgiving lunch/dinner and Sunday close of business?  Typically, Janda and I participate in the fun.  Last year, we were among the masses of mean people that shopped Thursday night.  I know!  We were a part of the reason the retail workers were working.  Actually, it wasn't our fault.  We just took advantage of what was being offered.

Last year, I briefly touched on the topic of retail stores being open on Thanksgiving.  This year, I figured I'd get a little deeper into the subject and my thoughts on it.  If you are a very traditional person who does not want to change their perspective of things, you should probably stop reading now.  Or, if you don't mind seeing/reading someone else's point of view that might make you uncomfortable, then continue reading.

Not very long ago, life was simple.  Sunday's were meant for church and then family time.  Family time for my family typically meant lunch out at Burger King, Arby's, Royal Fork or Golden Corral (others were options, including a home cooked meal).  Sunday's also meant grocery stores were closed along with most of the city not in the gas or food service industries.

Fast forward a few years you find that grocery stores were now open.  Malls, movie theaters, roller rinks and almost everything else considered Sunday just a normal business day.  Sure, churches were still open.  Some of them were even adding a second or third service.  My church, we expanded to two services and were in the process of building a new building.  For the most part though, the holidays were still sacred.  Nothing, and I mean nothing was open.  Well, say for the airlines and a few gas stations, everything was closed.

Over the years, the demand to have more open on holidays grew.  Movie theaters, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and anything you could think of was now open.  As America became more of a McDonald's society, more things opened on holidays and for longer hours.  The one thing we could always count on though was Thanksgiving and Christmas were mostly closed.  Black Friday and the day after Christmas were shopping days (or return days) that had a buzz built up to.  Excitement and anticipation were reasons we bought the newspaper on Thanksgiving and Christmas (or had it delivered to your house).  This was the case up until just a couple years ago.

A couple years ago the retail game changed.  Instead of stores opening at 8am a couple of them upped the ante and opened at 6am.  Then Kohl's, Target and others opened at 4am.  Despite the cries from employees and those steeped in tradition, the masses bought  goods.  Not only did we buy goods, we bought a lot.  So much that a few stores began opening at midnight!  Now, all that has been tossed out and retailers are opening on Thanksgiving night.  Certainly, people wouldn't go out on a holiday and buy stuff, right!  Well, consumers did, and did so in record numbers.  Of course, record numbers were for Black Friday, which was now Thursday through Sunday.  Traditionalists, unions and employees didn't like this "new" shopping phenomenon, but they did so because that is what employers wanted.

So here we sit today.  Christmas items have been out since November 1st - at the latest, stores have been having sales for Christmas items almost as long.  Huge markdowns have already been announced.  And yes, many retailers are planning on opening early for sales, and by early, I mean Thursday - Thanksgiving Day - at 6pm.

Can you hear it?  Can you hear the outcries?  Stores are going to be open on Thanksgiving!  How could stores open on Thanksgiving and let people shop for Christmas?  That is what Black Friday is for!  The cries have gotten so loud that Wal Mart employees have threatened to strike in over 1200 stores across the nation (yeah, kinda ironic that it is Wal Mart - non unionized - threatening a strike) as their protest.  I guess, since you have all these retailers opening on Thanksgiving and forcing people to work means anyone shopping is going to hell.

Not so fast!  Businesses are only doing what is best for their business.  Yes, I think I just pissed off one or two of you by saying that.  It is so true though!  Businesses have an obligation to make money for themselves and for their stock holders.  Plus, we as consumers have forced their hands in catering to our desire to have things now.  When looking at the choice to be open and make money to please us the consumer or to be closed and lose out on the money that comes with the shopping, I can't blame these businesses.  I'm sure if you were put in that same position, you would think long and hard about closing the doors and losing money.

My next question lies in the non retail side.  What makes this any different that those working at a hospital or gas station?  What about the EMT, police officer or fire fighter?  How about those working in a hotel caring for your family visiting from another state?   Or the flight crew that was working the plane they just walked up the Jetway from?  I don't hear the outrage over these people working.  I don't hear of them staging a strike.  In contrast, I hear well wishes, pleasantries or laughing.  I see a genuine care, a smile and if your lucky (or unlucky) a tip of the cap as your asked for license, insurance and registration.  In these industries, people are mandated to work just as retail is now being mandated.  Sure, some of them are public service and there is no real value being made off of serving.  But, in other service industries there is money to be made.  There is a bottom line that these businesses are trying to make, and by providing these services, they too are meeting their bottom line.

Am I anti holiday observance.  Not at all.  I wish all of us could have to fortune of not working on holidays.  I wish we hadn't become a Jimmy John's society.  Reality, however, has dictated differently.  I so wish that we could enjoy each holiday as it comes.  Again, reality has shifted and hurried our celebrations earlier each year.  But, this is indeed what America has come to.

So, before you cry foul, think about more than just the retail.  Think about the service side of things too.  Think about those making life a little more pleasant for you and your family.  If your in retail and hate the fact you have to work, realize you aren't the only person unable to spend the full day with your family.  Yeah, it may suck having to work, but it is only temporary.  Make it a challenge to yourself to make an angry shopper smile - it may make both of your nights.  Lastly, if you are a consumer, one flying, getting free breakfast at the hotel or the one needing the public spanking, try giving the ones working for you a smile and a well wish.  Better yet, try making everyday a day of Thanksgiving, Christmas or Presidents Day.  Really, isn't that what life should be about instead of the chaos that surrounds some of these holidays?

Let the outrage begin.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Be still and Know

The last couple of days I have reflected on many a things that life brought my way over the last three years.  Life, friendships, heartache, cancer, divorce, new beginnings, vacation and the list goes on.  It also brought me writing.  Not something one contemplates over, but something that I learned to do as a therapy for the times I needed comfort during treatment.  Yes, writing indeed brought new insight to the trials of cancer, the treatment and the path it took me.  Tonight, I return to write once again for some therapy.  And, if any of you read my Caring Bridge blog when it was active, you might recognize the concept.

As with any normal family, my life tends to go at break neck speeds.  One kid needs to get to this place, the other across town.  I'm at work and have to get the first one when done while my wife picks up the other one.  I have tomorrow off, but gotta do something with both kids after school, and if I'm lucky, I'll get to pick up lunch and take it to my wife.  Then, after the kids are dropped off at home, I have a quick meeting via phone call that might take 20 minutes or so.  Before I know it, I'm going to bed at 11pm or later on consecutive nights.

Anybody get tired reading that like I just did?  Ha! Ha!  The above example is when there is just one kid in sports and not during baseball season.  I won't even think about trying to write down a normal day during baseball season when the son has a home game and the daughter has a track meet or swim meet.  Thankfully, the boy is gonna have his license here in a few weeks, so running him all over the place isn't going to be occurring to often.

Anyway, the frenetic pace isn't really what this blog is about.  It is just the set up.  The set up for a potential disaster.  The disaster of not taking in the beauty of life.  The gift that life brings.  The beauty of watching my kids grow into great young adults.  The joy of watching my wife pursue her passions.  The dog be the crazy (and mostly lazy) dog she is.  And, I also might miss the beauty of quite.  I might miss hearing that every once in a while.

Wait, what?  Miss the quiet?  I really did just type that.  Of course I'm gonna miss the quiet when life moves so fast.  But the sound of quiet isn't the longing for that I miss.  It is the opportunity to soak it in when I have it around me.  Sure, there might be noise emanating from various directions, but there very well could be quiet I'm not enjoying.

Do yourself a favor: sit back, lay down, prop your feet up in a recliner, so somehow just relax.  Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and listen for a couple minutes.  Repeat the process again and focus on what you hear.  What was it you heard?  Kids screaming?  Music?  Spouse typing on the computer?  Maybe your cell phone notifying you of another Facebook post about your move in Words with Friends.  Whatever it was, did you really hear it.

During treatment, I had ample time to hear everything.  One hour a day, I heard the laser preparing to zap me with protons.  The radio station in the back ground, the techs changing out molds the laser goes through.  I got to hear the room move (yes, the room - Gantry - rotated around me).  I even heard the laser not just get ready to zap me, I heard the laser start and end the zapping process.  But, there was one more thing I heard.

So, when you listened, what did you hear?  Psalm 46:10 says to, "Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted."  Every day on that treatment table, I was blessed to be still.  I got to experience first hand that through my hardship he was indeed God and he was being exalted.  I was able to gain insight into what I needed to learn through the many lessons cancer was teaching me.  Though surrounded by noise, that noise became static (and helped me keep track of how long I had left on the table) and what I really heard was God being exalted.  Sometimes it was through the music being played during treatment.  Other times, it was just simply hearing the silence.  No matter though, I got the assurance that God was in control.

Answer the question.  What did you hear.  Was it the kids?  Take joy in that knowing that God is in control despite their screaming or fighting.  Take joy in the fact that one day your kids will love each other and not be afraid to show it.  If it was that annoying band your husband listens to, rest assured that he is taking joy in hearing an art that calms him down (or his helping him get amped up for his workout in the basement).  Whatever it is you heard, I pray you enjoy it.

Repeat this process again tomorrow at some point in time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Drug

Many times over the last four years I have often joked about needing to go take my drugs.  Life with a continuous headache will cause you to take meds frequently.  Sometimes it was a prescribed med, and yet other times it was just a quick dose of some OTC meds I have sitting in my desk.  It was during those times that I often joked with Janda and coworkers that there was, "Better living through pharmaceuticals."  Yes, I said, and at times still say this in jest.

I am fully aware that many people suffer addictions to drugs.  Street drugs, prescription meds, OTC stuff.  Friends and family alike have nearly died and/or destroyed families because of these addictions.  I have an uncle who is a trained counselor who has dealt with the healing of said addictions.  So yes, when I make that statement, I'm fully aware that reality isn't a better life with pharmaceuticals.  Yet, at these times, it does help deal with the headache.  Or, it can help relieve pain, cold symptoms, allergies, etc.  Used correctly, pharmaceuticals are great.

Anyway, this post is not about pharmaceuticals.  Actually, it is the drug that I consume daily through my ears.  Music!  Music is my drug of choice.  To me, it heals, soothes, encourages and basically anything else you can think of.  It elicits emotion.

I don't care the genre, mostly.  I'll listen to just about anything.  My mood depends on the genre or even artist.  Even the genres I don't particularly care for I will listen to if there is something meaningful in a song I've heard.  Yes, that even means country, and if really desperate for something different I'll pull out the classical genre.

I've been like this my whole life.  I drove my parents nuts with some of the stuff I listened to.  And yes, I drive my wife and kids nuts as well.  But, as with most drug addicts or alcoholics, it doesn't matter what the intake is as long as it is entering my system.  Thankfully, the music is not destructive (I know for others it has been recorded it can be).  It is not something that takes over my being.  It is a relaxer and encourager.  I can share and not feel guilty about sharing.  I can play it loudly or quietly, listen alone or communally.

So, if you ever need a good pick me up, change of pace band, encouraging word, calm down tune, something to bang your head to or get a little hood into you head, hit me up.  I'll help as much as possible.  If I have to, I'll even get my brother involved in your quest to discover what to listen to if I'm not able to help.  Yes, growing up I somehow passed my love of music to him.  His love of music and variety of music is even greater.

Good night world, and may you enjoy your favorite song while you read this.  See, not all drugs are bad.