Friday, December 31, 2010


Another month has come and gone and as I turn the page of the calendar a brand new month and year stare me in the face.  Funny, isn't it, how ritualistic we all become over time.  Every year at about this time nearly everyone I know says something to the effect, "Where did the time go?"  Even funnier, when you think about it, the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months of 2010 actually passed no more slowly nor quickly than did the previous twelve months.  Yet, it does seem as though time continually picks up speed with each passing year.  Why?

All of us get caught up in the superficiality of life.  Our days are passed with endlessly meaningless tasks that we assign meaning to because we all want our lives to actually mean something.  So, as a result, we funnel our attention to trivialities such as the things we possess, not realizing that many of them actually possess us.  We take for granted the precious minutes that are allotted us and become impatient when the clock doesn't move quickly enough for us.  As we watch the time, urging it to move more quickly, we squander the here and now of the passing moment even though in reality that is all we have.

We go about doing things rather than being ourselves.  In our society, if we aren't busy, we aren't being productive and, therefore, are not contributing anything important to the world.  But just doing something to be doing it leaves us empty, without direction.  To be ourselves means that we have to know ourselves and there is precious little time in our lives for that what with all the doing that's going on!  We become bystanders to the parade of life rather than intimate participants and as the parade passes us by, so does life.

This new year is a perfect time to discover what it means to be!  What exactly does it mean to be a human being.  Are all we are is what we do?  Or are we something far more complex than our actions?  This may sound like the ramblings of a middle aged man seeking direction in his life, but I can assure you that in talking with many friends and acquaintances about this subject, I am not alone. 

All of us wants to get the most out of each moment that we live and breathe.  We have it within our own power to do just that but it will take courage because it is necessary for us to swim out of the mainstream of life and take in what society sees and non-productive elements of life.  Take time with your spouse.  Look at them through the eyes that you first looked at them with the first time you saw them.  Yes, they have grown older and may not have that youthful charm burning from within, but perhaps, just perhaps, if you try to capture them for what they have meant to you all these years, you will have a better understanding of who they have become and, consequently who the both of you are.

Look at your children.  They are the gems of life, yet how often do you lose patience with them as they struggle to grow up in a society that more and more often would deny them the precious years of childhood so they can grow up and earn a decent living?  Take them in as they are and see yourself in them.  They will never pass this way again and neither will you.  Drink in the moment and realize that they are reflections of you and are the hope of our future.  Nurture them because they are the greatest gift God could ever bestow upon a couple.

To those whom you call friend, give thanks.  Friends provide that necessary balance in life that keeps one from feeling alone.  The old saying about us not being able to choose our family but we do have the ability to choose our friends says so much about the value of a trusted friend.  They do not have to accompany us on our life's journey.  They have volunteered to be our companions and often prove to be our life rafts!  Friends, too, are very special gifts from God and one who has a friend has riches beyond anything the world can provide.

So as 2011 gets underway, take your first steps on the path to being true to yourself and your life.  Are you happy where you are?  Instead of worrying about tomorrow, next month, or next year, live in the moment.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.  Realize completely that the only thing we have at this moment is this moment!  The past is gone and the future is yet to take place.  Nothing can be done about either one of them.  However, by being in the present and living life to its fullest will make the past more meaningful and the future more hopeful!  Don't worry about the things we now call vitally important.  Worry about your relationships both with one another and with God.  They are truly the only reality that matters.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Remarkable Year

As we near Christmas and the end of the year, my mind seems to naturally want to drift over the last twelve months in order to see where I have been and to where I might be headed.

The year 2010 is one that will stand out in my mind for years to come and will probably still be standing when I breathe my last.

While it is true that every year can be considered remarkable in its own right, 2010 seem to hold a confluence of events that taken by themselves would most certainly constitute those events we call life changing.  They are the events that, when recalled, evoke emotions and thoughts that may have been long since submerged into the subconscious mind.  However, this year, these earth shaking events seemed to come all at once over a twelve month period that no one could in their wildest imaginations call dull.

This year produced losses of monumental stature.  It delivered shocks that blindsided all.  It also brought the joy that life craves and demands sharing.  It had nearly everything. 

In the spring of 2010, the Smith family (my wife's family) experienced the sudden and tragic passing of the family patriarch, Lloyd.  Lloyd was an uncommon man in that his gentleness and way of life touched each one of us in ways that were so very personal and tender.  He reveled in his family over the years and took great pride in all they accomplished.  He loved every member in a unique way and showed that love by simply sitting back at family gatherings and smiling at all the activities swirling about him.

I shall never forget the April morning that he died.  He had been in the hospital for five weeks battling heart disease which was only discovered upon his admission.  For nearly four weeks, he had been unconscious after his heart stop for nearly seventeen minutes late one night.  He died shortly after 7:00 in the morning of April 9th.  His passing, while a shock, was not unexpected.  I remember driving the short distance to the hospital to see him in that bed one last time as though it was yesterday.

There was an irony to the morning.  It was early spring and all the ornamental trees were in full bloom.  The hills were alive with color for the first time in months.  There was a chill to the air that morning, but the a warming breeze gently blew the delicate flower petals in the bright sunshine.  Birds were beginning to sing loudly and all throughout the day.  Earth was coming to life after a long winter's slumber.  The sting of his passing still lingers within all who knew him.  Each of us treasures personal memories as we approach this first Christmas without him.  Our sadness is balanced by the wonderful moments we recall with the passing of each day and in remembering, it doesn't seem as though he is far away from us at all.  In fact, he isn't.  He is within each of our hearts.

Later in the year, on the King side of the household, two elderly members of the family were struck ill quite suddenly and unexpectedly shortly before another monumental event was to take place.  My dear daughter-in-law's grandmother and grandfather encountered health issues that shook the foundation of the family.  Anticipation of what was about to happen was tempered with the realities of older age and declining health.  But even in this, we were reminded of the wondrous resilience of the human heart that is dependent on God for its strength and tenacity.  Both members are doing fine for the moment, but, inevitably, trouble will come once again, and yet, because of the enormous faith of this family, all will be well.

Shortly before Independence Day, I received a phone call as I was driving to work that took me by surprise.  My mother, I was informed, had broken her hip and now lay in a hospital bed.  We rushed to her side and watched her lie still for three straight days under the influence of pain medication while levels of the blood thinner coumadin lowered in order that surgery might be performed to repair the damaged bone.  Eventually surgery was performed successfully and her rehabilitation began.  She moved to a nursing home where she received intensive physical therapy.  Through it all she showed her great determination and strength.  She vowed that she would return to her home in an assisted living facility before the end of the year and just a few short weeks ago she met that goal.  Her strength is remarkable.

In the fall of the year, my niece by marriage, Becca, set off for her first semester of college.  A very intelligent and charming young lady, she looked forward to the new adventure with great anticipation.  Mom and dad had a lot of anticipation as well and looked upon this new page of life with a bittersweet glance.  Their little girl, the light of both their lives, was moving into a new world.  She was truly becoming her own person now and that was both gratifying and frightening.  I am sure that the emotions ran high on that hot August day when Becca moved away from home and took up residence in her new world.  I am happy to report that she took to her new life with great excitement and embraced her new found independence in a manner that has made us all proud.  She has now completed her first semester of college and is embracing life with the vigor and enthusiasm as only a young adult can.

Life this year, as I said before, was a very mixed bag.  Yes, there was a lot of sadness with death, illness, and accidents visiting one right after another.  But there was also the joy of new life coming into the world.  In September, little Noelliah King came into the world to join her two bigger sisters and mom and dad.  There is nothing quite like the birth of a child regardless of whether it is the first child or the twentieth.  With each birth, we are reminded of the sanctity of life and how blessed we are to have new members of the family.  We are reminded that our sadness is not something that will last forever.  Sadness will be eclipsed by the joy of new life every time even though a part of us may remain sad over a loss.  With new life there is a future and with that future the one thing the human heart craves right behind love--hope.  To see Noelliah is to see the future and to know that God is looking out after us.

And so 2010 is almost history.  It was a year of death and life that was, at times, very difficult to bear.  However, because we have a family that survives on love of life and of one another, we have kept the proper perspective of things.  Yes, we will miss Lloyd, most especially as Christmas comes upon us.  His empty chair will remind us of the empty space in our hearts left by his passing.  But we will be heartened by the room full of family because it is in this that he lives on.

Our joy of our newest little one reflects the joy and hope of the season as we celebrate the coming of Jesus into this world as a man.  His was the ultimate sacrifice and we should take comfort in the fact that He knows exactly what this year has been for us because He lived among us as one of us.  It is in Him that we place our hope and our love and know that the wounds of 2010 will be healed by this Great Physician.  We also entrust to Him the newest members of the family as well as the rest of us who continue to live our lives out and who, in 2011, will come to love Him even more deeply.

And to all of you who read this, it is my wish that you have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and that the loving Father who is God and Lord of us all continue to bless you with all good things and the promise of life eternal.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is Nothing Sacred?

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has always been the storehouse for artifacts and memorabilia that has marked the history of this country.  Within its massive walls you will find such things as John Glen's spacecraft Friendship 7 that carried the first American to orbit the earth.  The venerable Spirit of St. Louis, the plane piloted by Charles A. Lindbergh, the first flier to cross the Atlantic alone, can be found suspended from the Air and Space wing of the museum.  A complete collection of the evening gowns worn by the First Ladies of this country are also on display.  Nearly anything with historic value and interest can be found within the Smithsonian's confines.  For all of its history, it has been a dignified repository of America's historic pieces.

However, in the last few days, the museum has seen fit to display a vile image of large ants eating at Jesus crucified.  The display entitled "A Fire in My Belly," also included other questionable pieces of "art."  But this image of Jesus on the cross being consumed by ants is way over the top.  To say the least, it is a defilement of an image that millions of people across this land hold sacred because of what it represents to them.

We do have freedom of speech and expression in this country but does that really mean that anyone can say and/or do anything they want and label it as freedom of speech.  One of my greatest objections to this display has been the complete disregard for believers in Christ the artist and the Institution have demonstrated in allowing this display.  Their freedom of speech seems to completely disregard of countless Americans to worship as they please.  Where is the diversity displayed in this exhibition?  Where is the compassion and the caring for those with whom you may have a philosophical disagreement?

Certainly the question must naturally arise, would the artist and the Smithsonian permit this exhibit if the victim of the hungry ants was Mohamed?  I think not.  The Muslim community would raise a chorus of protests and rightfully so.  The more extreme wing of the Muslim faith would most likely promise violence as a form of retribution for such a public display.

Is nothing sacred these days?  It seems not, especially when it comes to the Christian faith.  Those who preach tolerance seem to mean through their actions that they will tolerate only those who happen to agree with their particular points of view.  Anyone who disagrees with them is fair game using any method to attack.

There is very little explanation why there is such ignorance in the world with the exception of stating emphatically that this exhibit is yet again a sign of the reality of Satan in the world.  There are those who groan and moan and roll their eyes at the mention of Satan, relegating that particular belief to the status of myth that only those who are uneducated and unsophisticated believe.  Even the President of the United States joined in in this philosophy when, as a candidate for president, he talked about the masses who cling to their religion and their guns.

We need to pray for these individuals.  This is a form of persecution, this exhibition.  But we could and should have seen it coming for Jesus predicted it.  To paraphrase Him, He told us that we should not be surprised if we were to be persecuted since those of His time persecuted Him for His teachings.  What makes us any different as followers of the Master?

Fortunately, late today, bowing under pressure, the Smithsonian relinquished and closed the exhibit.  However, the damage to this venerable institution has been soiled badly.  We must look to Christ for direction in situations like these.  We must condemn the actions of groups like these but we must also remember to treat them with dignity and integrity for they, too, are children of God even if they do not believe.

Is there nothing sacred?  Yes there is!  And it is the dignity of man simply because we are all children of God.  The battle will not be won on some field somewhere with weapons.  It will be won with prayer and gentle, yet firm admonishment of artists and institution who are insistent on exhibiting such vile pieces of "art."

Friday, November 26, 2010


Now that Thanksgiving 2010 is in the books, it is time to look back at the holiday with some insights that may be new, but probably not.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending the holiday with members of my wife's family.  We were invited to their beautiful home in the Ozarks for a wonderful feast celebrating the things we are most thankful for.  That  is what the day is for, after all.

When all thirty or so of us had gathered, it was time for grace, to acknowledge God as the center of our lives and the reason for the feast which we were about to partake of.  It was interesting how the group gathered for the prayer.  We all assembled in a circle.  No one directed this, it just happened.  It was interesting that we did this because the circle is a never ending thing.  It has no beginning and, hard as you might try, you will never find an ending.  It is perpetual. 

That is what a family is in a way.  At one point in history it may have had a beginning with a young couple united in matrimony starting a family.  As time goes on more and more members join the unit whether they are born into it or join it through marriage.  As the circle grows, it becomes more diverse, stronger.  The love that is shared has a perpetual quality about it since the love shared in the present will resonate well into the future.  The circle will continue to enlarge or it may shrink, but the love that binds will not diminish.

Family is what Thanksgiving is ultimately about.  Sure, we're all individually thankful about various elements in our lives.  However, for most of us, the thing we have to be most thankful for are those people we call family.  Without family, life is a hard and cruel place.  Yes, families do feud from time to time and some may even go years without contact or speaking to one another.  But even in these less than acceptable conditions, there is still that familial love that binds and will continue from this world to the next.

As we gave thanks in prayer, our attention was drawn to the center of the circle.  There was nothing there but empty space.  At least that is what the physical world told us.  However, in reality, the center of that circle, the focus of our attention, was the love that was shared for each individual standing around that geometrical shape.  And that love, in that moment and into the future, came from a loving God who had gathered us together for this occasion. 

So you see, God was and indeed is, at the center of this family's life.  May He continue to bless us with His bounteous love and take us well into the future as Thanksgivings continue to come and go.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Time of Thanks

This is the traditional time of year that we all look back over the last year in order to take into account what we have to be thankful for.  Most of the time for many of us, we like to look over our treasures, both little and large, to gauge just how well the year was for us.  But I would like to reflect over the next few moments at something a little different than goods and services that may have in some way improved our lives.

This has been a year of remarkable swings in the fortunes of the families that I am honored to be a part of.

The year began as any other year might.  All were filled with hope and anticipation that 2010 would be at least a little better and kinder than 2009.  However, as the time moved forward, things took a turn for the worse for my wife's family.  Their father, Lloyd Smith, was diagnosed with severe heart problems and operated on in the early days of March.  He came through the surgery without any problems, but soon after surgery, he lapsed into a state of unconsciousness that ended, sadly, on April 9.  The giant of the family had gone home.

On my side of the family, however, 2010 brought the hope of new life and the future.  On September 11, 2010, our fourth granddaughter was born to my son Josh and his wife Melissa.  What a blessed event it is to see new life ushered into our midst!  Their family, three girls along with mom and dad, have much to be thankful for.  About a month later, in mid-October, my other son, Josh's twin, welcomed into this world the first King grandson.  Again, new life brought forth new hope.

And there were the minor, almost unnoticed details that make up a bulk of the time of a man's life.  Good and bad, they constitute living and living is far better than not being at all. 

This year has been a treasure in so many ways.  Through the tragedy of the spring, I saw, and was a part, of a family drawing closer together as they bid their father farewell.  It was heart wrenching to see the sadness and grief on their faces as they lay to rest their parent.  But Lloyd would have liked the outcome.  He would have liked the fact that all came together in a celebration of his life as they remember the myriad of stories recalled during the funeral.  There was far more laughter and nostalgia during those few days of mourning than there were tears.  The fabric of the family was not torn nor was it weakened.  Rather, it was strengthened and made anew with the memory of a beloved mother and father as the centerpiece of the life of the siblings.

Through the joy of the fall, I witnessed the hope of new life.  I saw the future burn bright for young families who are the building blocks of our destiny.  The smiles of newborns are hard to resist because they dispel the darkness in one split second and somehow, the world doesn't seem such a lonely and cold place in which to live.  The hope of a future filled with promise and excitement looms before this family and life, energetic, exuberant life, charges forward.  And through it all, our spark of life is renewed and rekindled.

And then the treasure of a spouse who you do not know what you would do without comes to mind.  Joan is not only my spouse but my friend, my confidant.  She, too, gives life and energy to me and makes me understand the important things in life.  She is my heart and soul and life is simply unthinkable without her.

So as we gather around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow, regardless of whether that table is a magnificent tribute to the bounty that we have been blessed with, or whether that table is a humble offering of the love reflected in the family gathered to give thanks despite its meager contents, may we not forget to pause and give thanks for one another.  Then, in the end, but certainly not last, may we remember to give thanks to God for all His blessings large and small.  As Archbishop Fulton J Sheen once said, "Life is worth living!"   May we always live it to the fullest filled with thanks each and every day for the people in our lives who help to make us who we are. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Oprah's Stuff

I realize that what I am about to write may evoke some anger among some who may visit this site from time to time.  My purpose is not to anger anyone but to share with you my viewpoint of the incredible Oprah giveaway that took place on last Friday's (11/20/10) show.

As usual, the audience gathered for the show in Oprah's Chicago studio not knowing that this was her annual gifting fest.  As far as the audience knew, the shows subject was to be meditation.  The adoring fans awaited for Oprah's appearance and she did not disappoint.  The audience obligingly rose to their feet amidst screams of adulation as though some great military hero had just entered the room.  She began the show by introducing the subject and then pulled the surprise.  From here on out, the audience could barely control itself.

As each prize or gift was announced, the audience once again obliged by going wild.  Both men and women jumped and clapped and screamed at the top of their lungs as the gifts were either distributed or shown to the audience.  It appeared that there was about to be a mass fainting spell at any moment.  This orgy of celebratory nonsense went on for what seemed to be hours even though the show is only an hour long with commercials.

This frenzy continued throughout the entire show.  It was amazing to me how excited the members of this audience became over these gifts.  Mind you, the gifts were not your ordinary gifts.  There was a plasma TV and expensive jewelry among other things.  But such display of hysteria over mere material gifts was beyond my understanding.

Now there may be some of you who would say to me that I might react in the same way.  Since I have never been on the receiving end of such opulent gifts, I wouldn't know how I would react.  I would hope that I would be far more restrained than Oprah's audience was.  To me, this display was bordering on the obscene.  It highlighted the notion for me that our material world has completely hijacked any notion of common sense and robbed us of the values that have made our society envied throughout the world.  I have to wonder how many of these people complained about the lavish travels of Michelle Obama to Spain complaining of her spending so much money while millions were unemployed and finding it difficult to feed their families.  I wonder, will any of these audience members sell their gifts and give the money to charities who look after the poor, the hungry, and the homeless?

All of us like to receive presents.  Its fun.  We all enjoy being on the receiving end of someone's generosity.  But what I am saying here is that this is materialism gone wild.  I am not questioning Oprah's motivation.  She may be, in fact, a very generous person.  What I am saying is that her gifts to this group of people and their resultant reaction tells me something disturbing about society as a whole.  I'm afraid that there are many of us who would react in much the same way.  Have we reached a point when materialism has become our god?  Or has the drive to obtain things always been this ferocious?

Christmas is the time when we celebrate the ultimate giver, Jesus Christ.  He gave His life so that all may live.  I wonder if the joy on display on the Oprah show as the presents were rolled out will be duplicated in the churches as we celebrate the coming of the ultimate gifter!  I rather doubt it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Special Day

I happen to share my life with a very special woman.  She has come to know me better than anyone else has ever known me in my lifetime.  She gives me grounding and courage to fight the daily battles that we all face as soon as the door opens to the world in the morning.

I can count on her for her wisdom and humor.  She laughs at my lame jokes and puns and is always willing to accommodate my sudden urges to go somewhere and do something on the spur of the moment. 

We laugh together and have cried together.  We are truly each other's best friends, not in the adolescent way, but in the way that gives life meaning and understanding between two people.  We look to one another for understanding and comfort.

Remarkably, we have faced numerous crises together and have always come out the better and the closer for having done so.  In her battle against breast cancer, she taught me the true meaning of the word courage.  She taught me that even though fear can run deeper than anyone might possibly imagine, you can face that fear with courage and determination that defines the word dignity.  She was determined to overcome this potential killer and did through her faith in God and confidence in the amazing medical staff that saw to her every medical need.

Today is an important day in our lives for on this day we celebrate yet another birthday.  She deserves all the happiness in the world on this day because she has brought an abundance of happiness to not only me but to her sons as well as her family and friends.  One of the greatest blessings I have experienced in my life is the blessing that God has bequeathed in allowing me to grow older with her.  Life is far richer, more interesting, and more meaningful because of her presence.  She gives of herself without a word of complaint and loves me despite all my faults.

Happy Birthday my dearest Joan.  This day is for you.  This day is a day for celebration and looking forward to our lives together in the future.  May God bless you with all the happiness you deserve on this day and may our future years together be as wonderful and enriching as the past years have been! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010


As the last of the brilliant October days come and go, our minds turn to November.  November, that month of deepening chill and heart-warming activities. 

During this month we could possibly see the first few snowflakes of the season.  The weather's chill begins to set in permanently as the fall harvest, if not already completed, will soon be history.  Sunny skies give way more frequently to cloudy, chilled afternoons with the wind whistling through the newly-barren trees.  Trees that only a few days and weeks ago now stand as skeletons against the sky fully prepared for the frigid temperatures that may lie ahead.

Our minds also turn to the holidays, that time of year that everybody says they dread yet look forward to with great anticipation.  Thanksgiving marks the end of the month but this is not the only holiday of significance in this month.

There's Veterans Day, November 11, a day set aside to honor all those who have served their country in the armed forces.  It was on this day in 1918, on the 11th of the 11th hour that the Armistice between the allies and Germany ending WWI was signed.  It is a day of solemn remembrances and ceremonies to help us never forget the sacrifices of previous and present generations who have served the United States with honor.

With Thanksgiving we usher in the time of the year that seems particularly devoted to gatherings of friends and family.  We come together in a ritualistic sort of way to celebrate the bounty that we all enjoy.  We celebrate our personal blessings and also remember the blessing that have been bestowed upon us by Almighty God as a nation and pray that He may continue to shower us with such favors.  For some families, this holiday will be touched with sadness because of the departure of a loved one.  Perhaps an empty chair will be placed at the table to remind all of the loss but even more importantly of what that person meant to everyone who have come together.

This year, our family will remember its patriarch, Lloyd Smith.  Although he's been gone for a little over half a year, he is still thought of daily.  Each of us, as we come together as a family once more, will privately remember back to last year's observance of Thanksgiving and the time we spent with him that day.  Yes, there will be a slight feeling of melancholy this year, but more than that, I believe there will be joy in understanding what happiness he brought to us over the years and for that we shall all be thankful.

November.  Another transitional month as we bid so long to the routinely warmer days and head inside to brace ourselves against the chill of the approaching winter.  Let us all take some time daily to remember those things for which we feel most thankful.  May we remember to thank one another for the things that they have done for us and for what they mean to us.  And may we always be thankful to God for His blessings and presence in our lives.  This is truly a season for giving thanks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


For a few, all too brief shinning hours, the world actually seemed to come together to witness, through television pictures, 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped a little more than 2,000 feet below the surface for nearly seventy days.  It was a stunning accomplishment.  The success of the rescue happened in the way it did because for once, a multitude of nations came together to determine the best way to save the lives of the imprisoned men.

We witnessed some of the most remarkable technology the 21st century has to offer.  A space age capsule designed in large part by NASA, served as the lifeboat for the victims of the cave in.  The capsule was equipped with lighting so as to ease the fears of the miners as the device rose slowly to the surface.  It also had oxygen on board in case the men felt a need for such a thing.  Blue tooth technology was employed in order to keep in constant communication with the rescued worker as he ascended.  A liquid drink developed by NASA provided the needed calories to help the men maintain their strength during the harrowing ride to the top.  A simple, yet, I am sure, complex system was invented to lift the capsule from the floor of the chamber that housed the men for these past 70 days.  In short, the whole rescue mission was a tribute to the intelligence and creativity of man.

But there was another element at work in all of this.

Many of the miners, upon reaching the surface, either knelt to give thanks, or made the sign of the cross to symbolize their gratitude to God.  This aspect of the story cannot and must not be overlooked.  Each man seemed to have a deepened faith due to this ordeal.

The trials through which these brave souls passed could not even be imagined by you and I.  Can you really imagine what it must be like to be entombed in a small room with 33 others for 70 days not knowing whether or not you'll ever see the light of day again?  And, yet, these men have survived!   And while this accomplishment is a testament to the mind of man, it must also be seen as an act of mercy by a kind and loving God. 

In light of the success of the rescue mission, we must understand that God alone can bring good from bad.  He is the author of life and can do anything He pleases.  Nothing is impossible with God!  (cf Lk 1: 47)  All of us are heirs to His mercy not because of anything we have done to deserve it, but because of the sacrifice His Son made for us. 

Ever since the first miner came to the surface, stories of the men feeling the presence of a 34th person have circulated.  The press covering this story has chosen to either ignore it or, at best, gingerly and almost sheepishly, mentioned it as an aside.  But I am certain that these men did experience the presence of that unnamed 34th person.  I believe, as do many of them, that they experienced in a very real way the presence of Jesus Christ.

We can all learn a lesson from these men.  In their time of supreme struggle, they somehow found a way to not only survive but to maintain a healthy quality of life despite their surroundings.  Their faith increased as they realized that the only real thing they possessed was their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior.  This belief sustained them, I am sure, through some of the bleakest moments underground.  Those first seventeen days when it was not known if they were dead or alive had to the among the darkest of days for them.  Then they were given the news that while they might be rescued after all, that rescue probably would not come until Christmas at the very earliest.  The world paused and much of it offered up prayers daily for the successful return of these men to the world.  And those prayers were answered.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."  (Eph 1: 3)  Thus, in the end, this whole long and drawn out trial can be seen as God creating something good from something bad.  It would have been very easy for the miners to have sunk into deep despair over their situation and I am sure they did experience moments of depression.  But they maintained their faith in God through the knowledge that God is a just and merciful God.  They also knew that the world above was praying for them.  Pope Benedict XVI sent them rosaries that he blessed and kept track of them day in and day out from the Vatican.

What we have witnessed is, indeed, a miracle.  There is no other word about it.  Man's ingenuity and creativity is a reflection of God Himself.  The men in the mine were certainly not alone in their ordeal.  Neither were those who diligently worked night and day on solving the problem by discovering solutions.  And neither are you and I.  We are, in fact, never alone.  Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, is with us always!  We, too, have the gift from God that the miners felt.  We have His Divine presence with us all the days of our lives.  And what a miracle that is!  We give thanks for the successful outcome of the disaster in Chile.  And, most importantly, we must give thanks for such a loving God!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Political Mean Season

As we come down to the final three weeks of campaining for the mid-term elections, we have now entered into a particularly mean season.  I don't know if you have noticed it or not, but the ads are getting more and more personal and acidic in their approach.  It is the rare ad that actually tells what the candidate in question might do once they achieve the high office they are running for.  Most of the ads are bitter personal attacks on the opposing candidates themselves, their party affiliation, or their private lives and their families.  Its like watching a bunch of kindergarten kids squabble on the playground, only on a far larger scale and one of infinitely more importance.

The bottom line is that politicians, whether those in office or those seeking office, think we, the elcetorate, are stupid.  They think we'll fall for the stuff they put out, that we'll somehow believe their opponenet is apparently Hitler reincarnated.  They are quick to take shots at the opponents pasts and project that on to how they'll act in the future never once considering their own miscues and mistakes of the past.  Those candidates who are now threatened with defeat in November don't look at themselves and blame their lack of attention to their own constituency.  No!  They'd prefer to blame the republicans, the democrats, the tea partiers, or maybe even the witch doctor down the street!

I honestly do not know what the anwer is to this dilemma.  We need to elect officials who respect the public and it's wishes and opinions and not just when every election time roles around.  We need to elect politicians who have the courage to step foward and say what they stand for and what they will do and let the chips fall where they may.  We need term limits so that those who go to Washington to serve do eventually come home to once again become an ordinary citizen instead of that official who comes home to the fried chicken circuit!

I, for one, am glad to see an abundance of the voters getting involved in the process.  More people than I can remember are interested in the politics of the day.  It's just too bad that they have waited this long to become involved.  We need every last voter involved in the process.

We need politicans who are willing to work together regardless of party affiliation or political philosophy, to move this country forward in a direction that builds up, not tears down.  There is so much bitterness in public life that the best of us would never think of running for elective office because they have no desire to place themselves or their families in the line of fire.

Lastly, we must pray for guidance.  The United States is not what it once was.  That's both good and bad on many levels.  We once were a place where people from all lands could come, work hard, and achieve success through the sweat of their own brow.  It was a melting pot.  And that pot melted all those wonderful nationalities into one even greater people:  Americans!  We are no longer Americans.  We are African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and on and on.  Keeping the homeland's culture and customs is great, but we must remember that the United States' strength has always been our unity.  We are now divided into numerous ethnical camps.  Our leaders need to foster an atmosphere where the unifitcation of a people does not threaten their individual heritage.  But as long as the mean season stays alive, unity will be a goal that is nearly impossible to attain.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Early Autumn

Every autumn I am surprisingly amazed at the gradual transition of nature from the deep greens of summer to the vibrant, alive and ever-changing colors of fall.  I remember how the trees and shrubs looked last year, but, in some way, I am once again dazzled with the vast array that mother nature presents us with year after year.  It is like a reward after enduring a season of broiling hot temperatures and humidity levels that are normally found in the tropics!

This season is no different.  On an unseasonably warm fall afternoon, Joan and I set out on an adventure to capture the early color of the annual fall colors.  We didn't have to go far.  Trees, in the process of change, dot the landscape all around our home and none of these scenes is farther than five miles away from our front door.

Deep reds, almost cranberry, dot the trunks of numerous trees as the vines that makes their home in such places begin to reflect the metamorphosis.  They stand in stark contrast to the deep green of the leaves still hanging on for dear life if only for a few more days or week or two.  Clear blue skies bring those marvelous colors out even more.

Some trees are tinged on the upper reaches of their branches with the colors that the entire plant will sport within a matter of days.  Warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights hurry the colors to the surface of the leaves making the transition a living, breathing creature. 

I can be driving along at times and out of the corner of my eye spot some brightly colored tree or bush.  My reaction is to pull off the road immediately and take the sight in as though I will never see anything like it again.  In a way, the fact is that I won't see that same kind of image again.  Each plant, each leaf, like we human beings, is different.  Although a tree may have yellow leaves, if you look closely enough, you may notice that on that same tree, perhaps even the same branch, you will see several different shades of that very same yellow.  It is a marvel of nature how she paints her creation in such subtle and majestic ways.

As we move deeper into the season and the temperatures cool even more, the fall colors with emerge even more brightly and I won't be the only one stunned by their beauty.  It is important, I think, to take these brief visitations of color in.  They are God's gift to us and delight us year after year.  He brightens our lives with the gift of His creation and we must be good stewards of that creation for it reflects His overwhelming love for us.

So this autumn, get out, take a walk, and absorb what nature has to offer.  You won't be disappointed and may even be surprised by what happens to you as you surround yourself with the tangible evidence of God's love for the world in general, and the human race in particular.  It will relax you.  It will inspire you.   And a walk in the glory of the season may even change your life.  Whatever happens, one thing is for sure.  We live within a spectacular creation!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Come, October!

Who among us of a certain age does not have a certain wistful, almost sentimental feeling about the month of October?  It is a month of contrasts and dramatic changes that delight and intrigue all at the same time.  The seasons have finished their transition with the beginning of the month as the pageant of color begins its magnificent parade.  Wildlife of every kind can be seen busily gathering food and eating more than their normal share in preparation for the cold, stark months ahead.  Afternoon skies, deep blue more so now than at any other time of the year, begin to usher in the chilled evenings as air conditioning gives way to fireplaces and iced teas give way to hot chocolates and soothing hot tea.  It is a time of magic, a time of shifting our gears as our playground now begins to shift from outdoors to in.

Again, who among us of a certain age, cannot fail at this time of the year to remember the aroma of leaves burning in late afternoons and early evenings.  Neighborhoods would gather on their lawns for the annual harvesting of the summer leaves now lying still upon the ground as precious tree sap retreats to the insulation of underground for their winter nap.  Those leaves only days before painted canopies of color that even the most talented of artists could not possibly capture with any accuracy.  The gentle winds of the season blow them about as those released from their branches dance their way to the earth.

We retreat indoors more frequently and, in some ways, rediscover each other.  We reach out to family and friends for more substantial meals beyond the hot dogs, hamburgers, and ribs of our summer cookouts.  Aromas of slow cooked sumptuous meals fill the house with an intoxicating smell that cannot be experienced in any other way except for being there in the moment. 

The boys of summer close their season as the gridiron warriors take center stage, the nation's pastime giving way to the nation's passion.  Football parties in living rooms, family rooms, and the ultimate fans sports room takes on a ritual feel. 

Chilly rains and leaden gray skies lead us to think more frequently of the upcoming months, the months filled with holiday preparations.  Afghans appear on the backs of couches as the weather cools and cozy becomes a comforting thought.  The north winds begin their season long dominance as the southerly breezes make fewer and fewer appearances.  Thoughts of snow begin to creep into the consciousness as reports reach us of mountain snows in the distant Rockies.

October!  A month of excitement and celebration.  A month of warm sunny days at the start of the month, and a month of crisp autumn nights as the month closes out with ghosts and goblins roaming the cityscaspes and countryside.  There is no other month like this one because nature delights in ways beyond the color and enchantment of spring.  For a few short days, the colors seem beyond that of nature as we treasure our moments with them, knowing that the browns and plain colors of late autumn and winter await.

October calls us to live life to the fullest.  To enjoy each passing day with the enthusiasm of a child who sees their first multi-colored leaf.  It invites us into ourselves and our families unlike any other season and month.  It calls us to treasure the moments of our lives when family warms our hearts and gives us the comfort of life continuing no matter come what may.

October!  Come, October, and enchant us all once more!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peace Be With You

Peace.  That elusive element in all our lives that we spend so much time searching for really isn't all that elusive at all. 

We human beings tend to look for the things for which we most yearn in every place possible except the most likely of places.  In the matter of peace, we search out places, other people as companions, certain situations or settings and while we may actually find some sense of peace in these places, we can never seem to come to rest.

Since our beginnings, we have wrestled with chaos and peace.  The peace process is not an easy one, especially within ourselves.  Many of us are born into chaotic situations that make peace within ourselves a near impossibility.  Still others are born with what seems to be a wandering spirit, always unsettled, always searching.  We look for inner peace because inner peace leads to peace between peoples. 

The woes of the world, I believe, can be directly linked to the inability of a vast majority of us to find that inner peace for which our soul cries out for.  We are insecure beings, always looking over our shoulder for the approach of the enemy while often the enemy comes from within. 

It is hard to look inside in an honest fashion to discover what may stand in our way to our path toward peace.  It usually involves reliving to a certain extent painful memories of incidents that may have long since ended but whose effects still live on in our hearts.  Often, on our way to this inner peace, and thus, harmony with ourselves, we discover that we must forgive others or even, perhaps, ourselves.  This is a most difficult task that requires a great deal of energy, time, and most importantly, an honest love for ourselves in humility and understanding.  We must hold ourselves accountable for those things which stand in our way to peace.  And we must develop the ability to move on beyond our deepest wounds so that peace may provide the healing balm to our woundedness.

There is only one true source of this kind of peace and you cannot find it "somewhere."  You cannot touch this source as you might touch the softness of a newborn.  You cannot see its majesty as you can view the power of the mountains as the sun sets gently beyond the horizon.  This source is mystical and divine in nature and far beyond our poor power to explain or understand.  To experience this source requires the faith of a child and the observation of a hawk in flight.   It requires surrender to ourselves and our surroundings so that nothing interferes with our journey.  It has had no beginning and will have no end.  And, yet, there is no physical evidence of its existence, nor is there any proof that it acts in humanity.  Yet, we know that it does.  Who or what is this mysterious "it?"  God.

God is the source of all true peace.  His is the peace of the divine not the mortal.  His peace is beyond all understanding and is given freely to all who earnestly seek this gift.  Seeking the gift requires prayer, moments of contemplation, and study. 

Prayer allows us to open our hearts to God.  Every time we open our hearts to our Creator, our hearts become a little softer, our judgements a little less harsh.  Prayer unites us in mind and spirit with God and we are taken in to Him and encounter His peace.

But prayer is not the only thing we need to practice in order to acquire this peace.  We must be still.  Too often we bombard God with endless babble that we call prayer but which is really only our feeble attempt to cover physical silence with spiritual nonsense.  We must still our minds, being careful to eliminate all "clutter" and then, and only then, will we be able to clearly hear the voice of God. 

In addition, we must study the word of God as found in Sacred Scripture.  We must prayerfully contemplate the words of God to gain a deeper, more meaningful and realistic idea of who He is.  This takes time and persistence.  But it can be done and we will be the better for having done it.

Once we find the heart of God, we will have found the heart of peace.  Then we shall have discovered that peace that all of us yearns for.  And then, once we have become awash in God's peace, we can communicate that peace with others in our lives.  Harmony will follow, though not without difficulty.

Peace.  That elusive state of being and mind that seems to escape us all is quite attainable.  We have a God Who is more than willing to lead us to this state.  We simply must cooperate and follow His will.  Then, despite the chaos swirling around us at any given time, peace, true peace, shall be ours!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September: A Month of Transition

Among the many mysteries and marvels of life, one stands out in my mind that we seldom give much thought to.  What an amazing mystery and truth we have in the changing of the seasons.  The change is as predictable as anything we encounter in life, yet, every time the seasons change there is something different, something almost mystical about it.  The month of September is a perfect example.

Early September still resembles August.  There is still the heat and humidity with little relief over night.  But as the month progresses, a change, which has in fact been occurring since late June, begins to be very noticeable.  Each day, the sun sets a little earlier than the next.  We don't notice it because of the majestic and ever-present spinning earth slowly but surely moving north to south and south to north on its axis.  However, in early September, there seems to be one day when almost everyone notices just how dark it is getting so much earlier.

Birds seem to be hungrier than before.  At our feeders just outside our living room window, birds flock in higher numbers than in the summer months, gobbling up all the seed they can in apparent preparation for the harsh winter months ahead.  Many who only weeks before sported the bright colors of their breed now begin to molt, their color fading in preparation for the stark landscape that awaits us all.  Humming birds in particular, gather in greater numbers with voracious appetites as they seek as much energy producing they can find just ahead of their great migration to the south.

Skies, once milky white, filled with heat and humidity brought about by the summer climate, now become a deeper blue.  When clouds gather and rain falls, the temperature drops noticeably and the ceilings above us somehow look much lower. 

Our thoughts begin to turn to more indoor activities even though there is plenty of warm weather left to enjoy the great outdoors.  Such events as Halloween and Thanksgiving begin to announce their arrival if only on he fringe of our consciousness.  With the kids back in school and football in full swing, the thought of family get together arises and we begin to recall those rituals that we may have celebrated as a family for years.

September is a month when life slows down a bit from the frenetic pace of the summer months.  Sure, there is a lot to do especially when kids are present and school activities begin, but the month is a time to shift gears.  We begin to prepare ourselves for the long season ahead of chilly days and cold nights.  The reality of the cycle of life begins to renew itself in this month of change and while the colors of autumn have not yet made an appearance in this part of the country, it is but a few weeks before the majesty of fall makes its presence felt.  September ushers this dramatic change in as the deep greens of summer fade.  Cornfield ripen into the gentle golds that stretch from horizon to horizon.  Soy beans late in month ripen into their familiar browns.  When the north wind blows towards the end of the month, we begin to feel its chill for the first time in months.

September.  A month of transition.  God's gentle way for preparing us for the months of darkness and chill that are just as necessary to life as the warm months that come alive with outdoor activities.  This month is a mystical experience that occurs so slowly that we, with our busy lives, barely notice until the changes become so dramatic that we cannot help but see.  Take some time to notice the changes and realize the miracle of the predictability of this time and marvel in how much different this September is from last and how much different next year's September will be from this one.  It is a mystical season!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11...A Proud Day!

As the United States observes the ninth anniversary of the attack on America, we in the King family have a whole range of emotions.  Certainly, we feel the sadness and relive the shock of that horrible September day those many years ago.  We feel for the families of all the loved ones who perished in that tragic turn of events.  However, there is great joy in our hearts as well because at 3:45 this morning, September 11, 2001, the newest member of the family took front and center stage.  Noelliah Hayden King began her adventure in life at 7 lbs 1 ounce and 19 inches long.  She and mom are doing quite well and there are two big sisters who are thrilled with their newest family member.

What great pride and joy we feel at this wonderful event.  New life is always a matter for celebration and joy.  I believe that the joy we feel on this particular day is one of the healing balms that God has allowed to heal at least a little part of a hurting world.

Just as her sisters before her, Noelliah represents hope and anticipation for the future for our family.  She has a lifetime ahead of her of growth, of life, and of loving life and embracing it.  She is truly blessed to be surrounded by a mom and dad who are fully dedicated to her in these her first hours, and who will continue that devotion throughout their lives.  She has two sisters who eagerly await to show their new sibling "the ropes."  One thing is for certain, with Aliyah and Kiki around,  little Noelliah will certainly become a book lover!

Noelliah Hayden is love personified.  She has been lively all during the pregnancy as if to show her parents the kind of spirit she has.  I can't imagine anyone who could be any prouder of the moment than her grandfather.  There is a quiet joy within me that has brought a sense of peace to me.  Being a grandparent is a relatively easy thing.  We get to spoil the child and then return them to her parents to undo some of the little things we may have thrown out of whack!  But it is all done in love.

Celebrate with us, if you will, this new life and new hope for the future.  Life is extending itself on this morning and afternoon of tragic memories.  Tragedy is replaced by supreme good and while we still may feel the sting of that 9/11 of nine years ago, the happiness of the birth of Noelliah Hayden King, reminds us that with faith and belief, joy will return!

Happy Birthday Noelliah!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Milestone Moment

As I write this I find myself experiencing a sense of complete awe.  A long journey that my wife Joan and I began over five years ago has come to an end.

You see, five years ago this past February, Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Not only did she have cancer, her cancer was in stage three, no a good place to be.  The tumor measured 4.5 cm by 5.5 cm, roughly the size of a small egg.  Doctors delivered the news grimly and with great urgency because of the large size of the tumor.

Immediately, she began what was to be six rounds of chemotherapy in an attempt to combat the cancer prior to surgery which would be performed down the road.  The hopes were, in the beginning, that the tumor would, perhaps, shrink by half and hopefully not have metastasized.  Every three weeks, we traveled to Springfield, Illinois, where, under the watchful eye of the staff of the SIU School of Medicine, the toxic chemicals were administered.

The staff couldn't have been better.  They were kind and very understanding.  We had heard so much about the horrible complications of chemo, yet, we also knew it was the one way we had of combating this dreadful disease.

I watched as Joan braced herself with each visit for all the sticking of needles and the slow drip, drip, drip of the medication that was formulated to seek and destroy the cancerous lesion.  One of the chemicals, a bright red liquid resembling cherry kool-aid had to be administered by a nurse who was dressed head to toe in a specialized suit designed to protect them from the chemical that they slowly injected into Joan's frail veins.  The chemical was so strong that if but one drop happened to spill onto the skin, it would quickly burn through the layers.  Fortunately that never happened.

Round after round of chemo, I watched Joan and developed a deep admiration for my wife that I had not had before.  Her chemo treatments involved a number of different needle sticks.  This would not be a problem if she had veins that were easy to access.  However, her veins did not cooperate.  They rolled, shrank, and did everything but disappear the minute the cold steel of the needle came into contact with them.  Time and again, she withstood the stabbing without uttering a word.  I saw the pain in her eyes, but she was determined that this not get the best of her and it never did.

In addition, the violent illness we had heard so much about surrounding the administration of chemo never materialized.  This was due, in part, to some wonderful drugs that were administered a couple of days before and after the chemo itself.  And, if these things weren't enough, within 48 hours of the chemo, she had to return to the doctor to endure a shot of a drug designed to boost her immune system so that she would not be susceptible to such things as colds and flu which, without her immune system in full strength could prove to be fatal.

After six rounds of chemo administered over an 18 week period, doctors found upon examination of the tumor that it had shrunk to nearly nothing.  It was now time for surgery.

On the morning of August 9, 2005, the woman that I love so very much, accompanied a surgical nurse down the hallway of the operating suites of Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, to have the tumor excised and to ensure that there had been no spread of the cancer. 

The clock, at that moment, stopped for me.  Every second seemed an hour and every time someone came through the door from the operating rooms area, I jumped up expecting to talk to her surgeon.  I tried to read.  I paced.  I drank what seemed to be gallons of water from the nearby water fountain.  Still, no doctor.

Now during this time, your mind likes to conger up everything that could have gone wrong or imagine that a new and even more frightening discovery has been made.  Finally, after about 50 minutes, the doctor came through the surgical suite door and called out my name.  I sprang to my feet and was at his side in a second.  He then delivered the good news.  When he entered the area where the tumor was located, he could not find it!  It had shrunk to 2mm!  The surgical team could literally not even see it, finding only the little clip that was implanted into the center of the tumor before chemo began.

Once Joan healed, she then faced 36 radiation treatments.  Every day with the exception of Saturday and Sunday, we trekked over to Springfield for her five minute treatment.  With radiation, she was first given a general area dose of the invisible rays.  Her last 10 treatments, however, were concentrated on the exact spot where the tumor had resided.  This caused intense burning that was every bit as painful as a deep sunburn.  Still, Joan did not complain.

Once the treatments were complete, it was time to go back to the doctor and for the next five years, visits to the oncologist became a way of life. 

Today, on our final visit to Springfield, we were given the word.  There has been no recurrence of the cancer and it is, in fact, in complete remission!  In other words, the doctor said, Joan has been completely cured of breast cancer.

What an emotional moment.  I remember back to the dark days right after the diagnosis and my sleepless nights worrying and wondering how all of this would turn out.  I turned to God and my faith to sustain us.  I knew that the Heavenly Physician would take care of things and that if it meant a cure, fantastic.  But I also understood that it was quite possible that a cure would be impossible and that would have to be fantastic as well.  Whatever the outcome, we would deal with it in dignity, integrity and with complete faith in God.

Thankfully, the route granted by God was a cure. 

During these five years, much has happened.  Joan's mother died shortly after chemo had begun.  It was a sudden death.  We welcomed into the family a little girl named Keirah who brought a sense of joy into our lives that cannot be expressed.  Earlier this year, Joan's beloved father died, also quite suddenly.   And, then, of course, there were all those daily stresses and strains that make up life. 

I am humbled by so many things in this story.

First, I am humbled and eternally grateful to a God who stood by us through the whole ordeal, giving us the strength to press on.  He gave Joan the courage to endure the pain of chemo and surgery and the burns of radiation without losing her faith in Him.

Secondly, I am humbled by the courage and bravery exhibited by Joan.  No one can ever know what she went through inside, but I had the honor to accompany her on this journey and saw the inner strength of a woman that is beyond remarkable.

Thirdly, I am humbled by all those who offered their prayers and support through all of this.  In particular, I am so thankful for Joan's family who, like a rock, served as an anchor through it all without ever really knowing it.

And fourth, I am humbled that I could have been guided to marry such a courageous soul as Joan.  She has always sustained me and I was only too glad to lend what support I could to her as she endured the physical and emotional pain through this trying time.

Now that we have emerged on the other side of this journey, I can truly say that we are closer than ever before.  God has granted this miracle (one of the doctors actually called this a miracle!) so that we may now reach out to others in our own way so that as they begin facing the crisis of a cancer diagnosis, they do not have to give up or give in.  Through Joan's story and countless others similar to this, they can know that real miracles can and do happen in this day and age.

As the future unfolds before us, I ask a gracious God to guide our path to do His will, to give Him honor and praise in thanksgiving for this amazing outcome.  Take this story into your hearts and hold onto it for those days when all seems lost.  For, as I have learned, nothing is ever lost as long as we have faith!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Koran

The deicision of a Florida preacher and his congregation to burn copies of the Koran to commemorate 9/11 this coming Saturday is not only outrageous but a completely cowardly act.  The minister, whose congregation numbers about 50 members, is completely misguided in his pending actions. 

Yes, constitutionally speaking, he does have the right to burn the books.  There is no arguing that.  The same can be said for the planned mosque in New York.  The owners of the property do have a right to build anything they see fit on their lot.  However, in both instances, the right does not translate into the prudent act.

Burning the Koran will undoubtedly lead to violence against America and Americans accross the globe.  It is an unneccessary act that will only promote more bloodshed in an already too bloody conflict.  The Koran is the holy book of Islam and, as such, should be respected for that reason alone.  If a group of Muslims were to publicly burn copies of the Holy Bible, what would the minister say to that?  How would he respond to such a provocative action?

Our Lord is very clear on this subject.  There is no room for debate.  He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."  (Mt 5: 44-45)  This is the real course of action that should be taking place this Saturday.

We do need to take a stand where extremism of any kind is concerned.  Extremists, also known as Zealots, never bring anything good.  They do not stop to consider the position of the oppostion and become self-righteous in the process.  This is the case here.

What will take place if the Koran is burned, is not an act of a Christian, a true believer in Jesus Christ.  In a sense, this misguided minister becomes just like those whom he protests against--an extremist.  He performs an abhorrent act using religion as a convenient cover for his hatred and anger.

All of are saddened and angered when we think of the events of nine years ago.  Who can forget the images that were burned into the American consciousness that morning of the two towers belching black smoke accross the clear New York sky?  Who will ever forget the horrifying pictures that came to us of people jumping from windows 100 stories above the pavement rather than facing burning to death?   We will never forget those events of that day, but we must not allow ourselves to become an extremist in response to this kind of action.

Does the minister have the right to burn the Koran in protest?  Yes.  Is it the prudent thing to do?  No!  We must find more peaceful and more powerful ways of communicating our anger and distrust than the destruction of the Koran or the books will not only be consumed by the flames.  The flames of hate will, if we are not careful, will consume us as a society, destroying the best hope for peace on the planet.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kiki's Day

A very sweet little girl who is so special in the hearts of all her family, celebrates her fourth birthday today.  Four years ago as she made her entrance into the world, we all sat in exciting anticipation.  Her big sister Aliyah was probably the most excited since, with the arrival of the new little one, her position in the family would be elevated to that of "big sister."

Keirah, or Kiki as she is most commonly is called, is a bundle of love.  She has a sweet and loving nature and when she looks at you with those beautiful eyes, you melt and would willingly do anything that she asked of you.

Kiki loves to share.  As her grandfather, we have shared many a moment going over an incomplete inventory of dolls and other collectibles that she has accumulated in her four years.  The only reason the inventory was incomplete is because we seldom have enough time to make a thorough scan of all those things.  She is sharp as a tack, able to name all her dolls, stuffed animals, and other assorted goodies she can produce in a heartbeat from her room.

She and her sister are inseparable.  Oh there are little disputes between them from time to time as can be expected, but neither would ever dare to think what it would be like to be without the other.  Aliyah delights in looking after Kiki's needs and Kiki delights in mothering everyone in sight.  Even at four years old, she seems to have an innate sense about those who may be in need and is more than willing to do something for them.

Most of all, from this grandpa's perspective, Kiki is a spark of life that is beyond precious.  She slowly warms up to me on those times I am able to see her, but once she does she has my heart.  She brings a wonderfully warm sense for life with a smile that is filled with love and a twinkle in her eye that tells of her enormous spirit tucked away inside this little dynamo's body.

Kiki is special to all the family and being her grandfather is a blessing indeed.  Now, as we celebrate her fourth birthday, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new sister.  She can't wait to be an older sister and she has had an excellent role model in Aliyah.  Kiki, I am sure, will shower her new sister with all the love she can muster and this new little girl will never be without attention.

Happy Birthday, Kiki!  God has blessed us with you and you have lifted our spirits higher than you will ever know.  I am quite sure that you will be the best big sister any little girl could ever want!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Season of Lunacy

September.  Labor Day.  The unofficial end of the summer season.  And, also, the start of the season of sheer lunacy also known as campaign time.

It is the time of the year when our thoughts turn toward those cool, crisp days ahead filled with yellows, golds, crimsons, and every other color imaginable.  Football once again resumes and the days grow shorter as thoughts of the upcoming holidays begin to creep into our minds.  However, along with all these pleasantries comes the blaring on radio and television of ads touting one candidate for congress and the senate over the other.  They aren't ads that educate since most of them tell us what kind of jerk they're running against.

The biggest joke of this political season stars (who else?) President Barack Obama.  Here comes a man, a great communicator, who will tell us that happy days are here again because the unemployment rate climbed another tenth of a percent from 9.5% to 9.6%, a clear indication (says he) that things are really improving.  His befuddled vice president Joe Biden gleefully declared that this was to be the "recovery summer" where the economy is concerned.  Well, Joe, take a look around you!  Unemployment is climbing (despite what you want us to think) and there doesn't appear to be an end to this mess any time soon.

Then there's the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) Michelle Obama.  Michelle is out there telling every parent in the land that she know how to control the problem of obesity.  She is telling the medical profession that they should begin prescribing medication for children with weight problems to bring this epidemic under control.  She urges people to eat more healthily, which is a good thing.  However, every time you see the Obama family out and about whether on one of their many vacations or in Washington, we are shown images of the First Family gleefully downing huge ice cream cones!  I thought that stuff was supposed to kill you!

On the Republican side of things, we have a party who does nothing but tell you how wrong Obama has been on everything.  They try to convince you that they have all the answers.  Just leave it up to them.  Well, we did for the first six years of this decade and what happened?  Record deficits piled up as our national debt climbed to dizzying heights.  Two wars drained our treasury and, worse yet, took thousands of young American lives.  Constant bickering and posturing ruled the day and then, like now, nothing ever was really accomplished.  The question must be asked, then, "Why should we put you back in charge?  Because you aren't Barack Obama and the democrat party?"

What we need to do is become more and more involved as citizens.  We need to look at our elected officials with respect but also with a sense of profound suspicion.  They give lip service to how important we are in between election cycles and then go right ahead and do as they please.  (See health care reform!)  We need to hold each one of them accountable, questioning all their decisions and weighing their judgement by what we want as a citizenry.  Yet, in this season of lunacy we are told how intelligent and important we are, that we have the wisdom of Solomon and will do what is right for the country.  Don't believe a word of it.  They are simply jockeying for power and prestige.

Follow the campaigns in your districts and states this season.  Follow them closely.  If a candidate says something, challenge them through email campaigns, town meetings, and debates.  Don't let them answer in the political speak that the mainstream media just blinks at and participates in.  We as a populace are intelligent and we can see for ourselves what is happening.  Try telling one of your neighbors, friends, or family members that the economy is getting better just after they lose their job.  See what that poll will tell you.

Democrats need to be fearful of the results this fall but republicans can take little solace while salivating over what appears as a sure shot take over of the House and the possibility of gaining a Senate majority once again.  Both parties are a disgrace to the American system and this experiment that was begun well over two hundred years ago.  Time for the jokes has come to an end.  We, as the electorate, must turn the lunacy season into the serious season whereby we, the people, assert ourselves once again in the American political process.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Page Turned...A New Chapter Begun

At long last, the longest month of the year (at least in my opinion) fades into the pages of history, and with it, meteorological summer!  This has been an uncommonly long month filled with broiling heat, stifling humidity, and seemingly endless nights in which the temperature failed to drop below 80.  There is only one good thing about August--it ends!

Now we move into September and the hope of a fall with cooler temperatures and the promise of vibrant colors as Autumn looms on the horizon.  This year there is an added bonus to the family.  Within the next several days, the latest King will make her appearance.  She is already showing the world that she is one energetic young lady by doing gymnastics inside mom while growing and developing in preparation for life.

How fitting that the family's newest addition comes in as the seasons begin to change.  She will be welcomed with open and loving arms and will be a marvelous addition to the ever-growing list of grandchildren.  Spring is seen as the season of renewal and growth, but Autumn is the season of enormous beauty and hope.

Trees turn bright colors as the chill of the season begins to replace the oppression of the summer.  One cannot go more than a mile here in the Midwest without being struck by the glory of nature in transition.  Likewise, we, as a family, will also note a magnificent transition with the arrival of this new granddaughter.  There is no limit to the love that this little one has engendered.  She has already captured the heart of the oldest to the youngest members.  She is a reminder that life flows through human existence and will not be denied.  She is a manifestation in her own right of God the Creator Himself.

Her parents Josh and Melissa are now counting the unknown hours till their new joy arrives in this world.  Time seems to slow to a crawl at this point, but, as we all know, before we realize it, the youngest grandchild will charge through life and the passage of time shall seem to be measured only in seconds.  But what glorious seconds they will be.

And so, as we bid farewell to August, and with it the ravages of an inhuman summer, we look forward to the freshness of the Autumn breezes and that of a new life.  We enter this season with love in our hearts and hope in our very existence.  God is indeed glorious and giving and this is one transition that will be greeted with all the joy of the meaning of new life!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Life holds endless opportunities for growth and understanding.  From the moment of our conception, our parents begin teaching and guiding us through the many perils and pitfalls of life.  We learn how to relate to others.  We learn how to communicate.  We learn how to make decisions and see them through.  We learn how to embrace the things which are good for us and reject the bad and deal with the consequences of those bad choices we will inevitably make.  Most of all, we learn how to love.

My mother is a spry 83 years old but is struggling with a new lifestyle that is difficult for her to accept.  When I was a little boy struggling with whatever things I may have struggled with, she was there, listening, allowing me to vent and try to work out things on my own.  She would step in only if she saw what I was about to do would end up hurting me worse than I may already be, or she would step aside, knowing full well that whatever she may say or do I was hell bent to do it regardless of the cost.

As we age, we hopefully begin to acquire a sense of wisdom gained mainly by listening to our parents.  But it seems like it often takes some time for us to practice such wisdom!  Eventually, we usually do employ this quality making life a little easier to bear.

One of the most unique aspects of life I have discovered is the fact that as both we and our parents grow older, our roles begin to shift.  Once, they parented us, looking out for us, caring for us, and seeing to it that all our needs were taken care of and that what we did possess allowed us to experience a degree of happiness. 

As my mother has aged, there have been times when I have felt that I had become the parent and she had assumed the role of the child.  My mother has rarely come to me to talk to me to help her with some problem or issue she was grappling with at the time.  That just isn't in her nature.  Or so until very recently. 

There has been a great deal of gratification in this.  But, also, there is a sense of sadness.  Gratification, because I am able to draw upon years of life spent finding my way through those very pitfalls that she once helped guide me through.  But, sad, too, because I realize that she is now more dependent on me than I am on her on several levels.  I welcome this role and thank God for the honor and the opportunity to lend my ear to this very independent and proud woman. 

We all find ourselves at various points throughout our lives finding ourselves amidst surprising clarity.  It is now more clear to me than ever before why I have experienced the things in life which I have experienced.  God has allowed me to undergo trials (many of which were initiated by me), in order to apply the outcome of these trials to those around me who are in need--including my very own mother.

The moral of the story is this.  No matter how old you may be, no matter how aggravated you may become with your parents, always find a way to be present to them.  It is very clear that as they age they will need you in ways beyond your wildest dreams.  But you need them, too.  Not so much to protect you from the bumps in life, but to continue to grow within, thus becoming a better human being.  Never take them for granted for God has given them to you for very special reasons.  Embrace them as such.  Hold on to them, and once they are gone, keep alive the memories that you have of them by sharing them with succeeding family generations.

One day, if we all live long enough, we may very well find ourselves in this role reversal.  It is not an easy task but it happens because our loving God embraces us with the power and the ability to love someone on levels that He will continually reveal as long as we draw breath.  Even after our parents pass from this life, we continue to learn from them because, again, a loving God has given us minds that are capable of traveling far beyond our mortal existence.  Take strength in your parents and treasure each moment, each phase that you share with them.  Realize that this is the love of God touching your life in a very special way!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Amazing Story

My mother continually surprises me at how amazing she can be.  On June 30 she fell and broke her hip in five separate pieces.  She was forced to lay flat in a hospital bed for three days awaiting levels of coumadin in her bloodstream to lower to the acceptable level so surgery could be successfully performed.

Surgery went well and her recovery began.  A week or so after her surgery she was transferred to a nursing home in the nearby town of Peoria about ten miles from her home town.  While there, she has gone through weeks of painful physical therapy as well as a drastic change of lifestyle that includes dependency on others for nearly all of her needs.

Over the weeks she has grown stronger and stronger and now, almost two months to the day she had the accident, she is ready to move back to her home town.  That is remarkable in itself, but the most remarkable thing is how she arrived at her decision that it would be necessary for her to spend the rest of her life living in a nursing home.  This is something that she has been steadfastly against for as long as I can remember.

My mother has never been a particularly religious person.  At least she has seldom spoke of her relationship with God.  I know she has one, but to what extent I had no idea.  She told me on the phone that the other night as she lay in bed, she grew fearful of what was to become of her.  She wanted to return to the assisted living facility that she has lived in for the last several years.  But that was not possible given her accident and blindness from macular degeneration.  She said she turned to God and said to Him, "I lay all my fear at your feet and ask you what to do."

This is an amazing statement from a woman who is not easily given over to her emotions.  She is not one to wear her faith on her sleeve.  Never has been.  However, one of the things she has become involved in while in the nursing home is a Bible Study group in which the members not only study scripture but talk about how their faith effects their lives.  She said that she has spoken up in this group about her faith in very personal ways like never before, certainly not to strangers.

God does, indeed, work in mysterious ways!  During her stay at the nursing home He has obviously used this time to open her heart to His Word and the Spirit has guided her to learn from this experience.  She said she had her answer in about 45 minutes when suddenly a sense of serenity came over her in a way that she had never felt.

Never, in my life, had I ever thought I would hear this kind of personal story from my mother.  God's majestic ways happen in the most unlikely of places to some of the most unlikely people.  And when He does act, His actions not only effect the person to whom He answers, but often to those around them. 

My mother's story has touched me deeply.  Her testimony to me came as a complete surprise.  Her faith in God and trust in His will has set me to thinking about my own faith and trust in God.  God, in His own unique way, has touched both our lives and we are the better for it!