Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude


  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe that it's that time of year again. I can attest to the fact that the older I get, the faster the time seems to fly. Last Sunday I was watching Dr. Charles Stanley on TV. He's a preacher who has a program on every Sunday on TBN. I really like what he has to say. Because Thanksgiving was just around the corner, he spoke about gratitude, and how Thanksgiving has become more of holiday revolving around food, football and shopping, and much less about acknowledging God and his goodness to us. When I went to church later, our pastor also spoke about gratitude and giving thanks, and being thankful even for those people or circumstances that don't seem be what we would consider good things in our lives. Many years ago, when I left the farm where we had lived for ten long years, I had mentioned to one of my friends, who happened to be an elder, that I hoped to be able to go halibut fishing with him again, even though I wasn't part of the community any more. I was told that he only took members of the community and I wouldn't be able to take part in the halibut fishery with him. I was devastated, and a little angry. As it turned out, I was able to acquire my own boat and fished during some years that qualified me for halibut quota. That quota has been worth tens of thousands of dollars over the years, but I wouldn't have it if I had just remained a crew hand. God knew all that in advance. To me it looked like a raw deal initially, but it turned out to be a great blessing. The moral of the story is just what the apostle Paul mentioned, give thanks for ALL things. Even that which doesn't look good at the time.  By the way, he wrote those words while in chains in a Roman prison.When I came in to my office today, I started sorting through some papers and I saw a note I had written. I had copied it off of something, I don't recall what right now. Anyway, the note says- What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?  I know one thing, I sure wouldn't have to worry about all the clutter around the house. Would I have my wife though, or my kids? What about my good friends? The abundance of food that I enjoy every day wouldn't be here. My house, my work, my health, they'd all be gone. I'm an expert at bitching and complaining. There's no end to the things that get me upset- the weather, the boneheads running this city, state, country; the neighbors, prices at the store, things that don't work; good Lord I could write for the rest of the day and still not be done; but what if I instead turned it around and thanked God for the weather, and the neighbors, and our leaders. We're supposed to be praying for those over us- politicians, bosses, teachers. What if we did that? What if we thanked God for the president and asked the Lord to give him integrity and wisdom? Frankly, I can't stand the guy, but being angry won't change him, prayer will. We have major issues in  our lives today. Health issues, family issues, terrorism issues, job issues. Let's not get overwhelmed with all that's wrong in the world, but lets thank God for all that's right.  I know that God is far above us in all things, but there are some similarities between man and God as well, one being that we're more apt to do things for someone who appreciates what we've done than someone who only complains. In any event,  I hope that tomorrow as you sit down to your holiday feast, before the football games or a trip to the store for some Black Friday shopping, you'll remember who makes our very lives possible, and the very many blessings we all enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dark Sky Island



   Wooo Hoooo! One of my favorite musical artists has just released her latest album today. Of course I'm talking about Enya and her album, Dark Sky Island. I was able to pre-order one song about two weeks ago from I-tunes, and there was a teaser video put out by the Enya web site that you could get on to both view and listen to the songs available. I've already ordered five of them, and depending on what happens, I may order more.Something that just came out today as part of the promo package is a video of Enya singing Echoes in Rain from this album. She's accompanied by an all female orchestra, and it's quite pleasant to view. Prior to the introduction of the I Pod, if a person wanted to hear a particular artist, they had to order the whole album and listen to songs they may or may not enjoy in order to hear the ones that they really care for. Back when I was growing up, individual songs were available in vinyl records the played at 45 RPM's. Entire albums were also available that played at 33 RPM's. As mentioned, when you ordered the album, you usually got songs that were not your cup of tea. Much like when I was a kid. My mom would buy boxes of candy called Bridge Mix. Inside were chocolate covered goodies of assorted shapes, sizes and flavors. I had a particular fondness for the chocolate covered peanuts, which I always honed in on. Occasionally, I would accidentally grab a raisin instead. At the time, my tastes weren't so well defined and I would spit them out. As all the peanuts disappeared, I would resort to eating the other candies. Some were OK, but many of them had questionable fillings, no doubt made to discourage young children from partaking in candies that were meant for adults, hence the name Bridge Mix. I used to bite the candies in half, and if a white or pink filling was inside, I would spit them out and return them to the box. Of course I got in big trouble for such behavior, but how else could you tell if the candy was any good or not? As mentioned, in the realm of music, the good folks at Apple took care of that, so now we can order individual songs of our favorite artists. Anyway, back to Enya. Until the release of Dark Sky Island today, her most recent album was a Christmas one titled, And Winter Came. What a great title! If you're sick of Jingle Bell Rock and Santa's Coming to Town, and all the conventional Christmas songs that start playing just after Halloween, you might check that one out. In typical Enya style, it captures the mood of the holiday without the usual sounds associated with the season.
   For those who might be wondering, Enya used to sing with members of her family in the Irish group Clannad. Her sister is Maire Brennan, whose voice rings out in several movie soundtracks including Last of the Mohicans and Circle of Friends. Enya is unmarried. She mentioned in an interview that she puts so much time and effort into her music, that at the end of the day she didn't feel like she would have the energy to devote to a relationship and it would be unfair to her partner to subject them to that. If memory serves me correctly, she lives in a castle, I believe in Ireland. It's a little unconventional, but then, what would you expect from such a person who has been blessed with such talent? In any event, I hope that you'll check out her web site or I tunes and listen to a few songs. If you've never heard her before, you may discover a whole new venue that you might enjoy. Good listening.







Friday, November 6, 2015

Whatever happened to the class of "70"?



















   Recently we received a package in the mail from a friend of Jan's who still lives back in our hometown. She had attended the class reunion for Marion Harding High School. It's been forty five years since we graduated; hard to imagine. Where does the time go? I've never had any inclination to attend. For one thing the reunion always takes place during the height of fishing season. Even if there wasn't a financial component involved, I would much rather fish than fly back to Ohio to meet with a bunch of people who for the most part I don't remember. While high school was much more enjoyable for me than any of the previous grades that I  had attended, largely because we had more freedom, I can't say it was especially fun. I'll admit, it's where I met Jan. First day of Art class. I was smitten right from the start, but other than that, I don't remember having much fun. Of course like any endeavor, the more you put in the more you get out of it. I didn't care for sports; wasn't academic, good with my hands, outgoing or charismatic. I had a tendency to be a bit of a wise guy, outspoken perhaps on occasion. The only competitive thing I participated in was ping-pong up at the YMCA, but that wasn't sanctioned by the school, which was just as well or I might not have enjoyed it, or even joined in. What I enjoyed most was fishing, which isn't a team sport. For some unknown reason I pursued a general course of study- kind of a middle of the road education. I could do all the basics, read, write, arithmetic. I ended up taking Spanish for at least one year for reasons I still can't fathom. I'd taken it in Jr. High and hated it then, so how I ended up with it in high school is a real mystery. One year I took Business Math, percentages and decimals and all that. I rather enjoyed it because I could do it and get A's. Plus, Mr. Bell, the teacher was pretty cool.  Somehow I had this unrealistic approach to life, kind of an Ozzie and Harriet way of looking at things. I just assumed things would come out ok without too much effort on my part. Anyway, this post isn't supposed to be about me per se. It's about the class of "70" - the group of kids that Jan and I graduated with so many years ago. In the packet that we received was a music CD with some of the songs that were popular back then. Of the 21 songs listed, I realized that I only like about four. Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress/ The Hollies, To Love Somebody/ The Bee Gees, Piano Man / Billy Joel and.... well, maybe I only liked three. I guess I didn't fit in to  the pattern of the rest of the crowd.  I was looking at the program for the 45th reunion. 6:00 - Welcome by the Planning Committee. Class photo at 6:45. 7:00 Prayer and Dinner. Whoa... I was surprised that its still ok to have a prayer at a function like this. I'm glad to see that. At 8:00 was the start of the regular program, beginning with remembering classmates who have passed on.  I was quite taken aback by the number of my classmates who had died. Of the roughly 400 students who graduated with me, 57 have since died, including three just this year. That number seems uncommonly high. I picked up the yearbook and looked through the pictures. Some of the folks I remember as being a little bit on the fringes of society, living a fairly risky life style even back then. A number of those who passed on were overweight even in high school. Whether or not that had anything to do with their early departure is hard to say, but it probably didn't help any either. It doesn't say how these folks died. Perhaps to satisfy my curiosity I may spend some time looking up obituaries this winter. Was there a car accident, were they ill, could it have been a drug overdose, did they drown while out fishing in a leaky boat...what happened? I saw that one set of twins had passed away. One in 2008 and one in 2011. They were both big guys, football players and shot put throwers. The first guy on the list of departed was a fellow I worked with at Super Duper supermarket when we were in high school. Others I remember the name but not the person. Jan had all the stuff related to class reunions together, so I happened to find our 30th class reunion book. It gave names and addresses and some folks had opted to give a little information about themselves. A startling number of my fellow classmates elected to stay in Marion Ohio. Wow! I could not do that! A number of them had been married for 25-30 years. One gal whom I had home room with had 12 children. That was fifteen year ago. I wonder if she cranked out any more since then. I thought we were pretty prolific with seven. I checked out a newspaper article from 2010, our fortieth reunion. Ninety classmates attended that one. At least two of the people shown have passed on, including one of the twins. Some of the faces look familiar. Lots of grey hair (mostly on the men), some folks are getting bald, again, mostly the men. Of course we've all aged, there's more pairs of glasses showing, and probably a little more weight. I'm sure there's wrinkles, but it's hard to see them from a distance. I see one fellow has an eye patch. Wonder what happened. Who knows maybe he thinks the pirate look will help him get a date. In any event, seeing the picture, and reading the list of the deceased makes me realize once again that life is short and life is precious. It's to be guarded and enjoyed. We don't have an expiration date on our birth certificates. Who knows when time's up. I hope I have a few more years and I hope I use that time wisely. I think that when 2020 rolls around, if I'm still in the land of the living, I'd like to attend the class of "70" reunion. It will be interesting to see what each of us has wrung from life fifty years later. In the interim, I hope that God's hand of blessing and safety will be one each one of us and our families. If I had a glass in hand I would raise it in a toast to each and every one of my fellow classmates. I hope to see you again.