Faithful Caring in this 63rd Year

It would probably be easier for me to set up an appointment to interview the CEO of a large company than it would be to find a good time to talk to a family caregiver. Mary Ann Hannah and I had mentioned this possibility for a couple of weeks, always keeping in mind that it depended on the kind of day Gene was having. Thankfully, this opportunity worked out just in time for Valentine’s Day. You can read more about what I learned on my visit, and why she’s sticking close to home, right here:

A 3-Step Program for the Next 15 Years

20150122_202141Some time ago, I read a series of sermons on Leviticus that brought many themes and verses into my awareness. I don’t know how much I would have gotten out of reading Leviticus on my own, but the sermon series provided an enlightening guide, and even today some of the verses stand out. Like this set in the 26th chapter:

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.” Leviticus 26:3-6 (NIV)

Now, who doesn’t want an outcome like that? I especially am interested in this part: you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I think of the worries, the concerns… the sounds, the sights, the fears… that intrude in my dreams. So I was thinking, sleeping through the night, unafraid – that is a fine goal to have.

One of my biggest concerns, workwise, is the future – 14, 15 years from now. Will I have done the things I needed to do to provide for life then? Will I spend these 14, 15 years with worry, or will I not? That thought is sort of how my plan came into being. I devised a little program for myself, which I’ll share with you here.

I looked ahead to see where I wanted to be, then looked back to see what needs to be accomplished each month, each week, most days to be where I want to be. Now, I have this level of effort in sight: this is what I need to do to get where I want to go. But I know it won’t “just happen.” So…

I asked a question: what will it take for me to be able to do this? What resources do I need within me to perform at this level, to pursue these kinds of opportunities, to get this work done? How can I personally accomplish these steps every week, given my strengths and given my weaknesses? I have plenty of things/issues that could serve as stumbling blocks – the things that start happening after fear, discouragement, guilt, etc. start taking over. So, I asked, what will I need to keep from stumbling?

I’m going to need energy and confidence. So…

My next question was: where can I find the confidence and the energy I need for accomplishing this goal? Where can I find the physical/emotional resources I will need to stay on track? The things that I’m going to need I discovered that I could put in three categories, and I came up with my own acronym.

Now, I should mention here, I’d never had an acronym before, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like having one. They seem so trendy. But once this thinking made sense, I decided “it’s time.” And here is the first letter…

A, for Attitude. You know what a stumbling block can be? A negative emotion. You’ve probably got your own list, but these things can fall into the area of feeling guilt-ridden, bitter, afraid… you know the ones. Prayer and scripture are certainly protectors of the attitude, but the other categories affect attitude as well.

Henry Cloud says you need belief to accomplish a goal; a belief that you can do it. You may have it at the beginning, but something happens and you can start spiraling. The lack of belief becomes pervasive – you think “it’s always going to be this way”; permanent – “it’s never going to change”; personal – “it’s me, that’s the way I am.” I want to stay away from that place, so I need the second letter…

A, for Activity. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, they say, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. You can’t argue with physics. Within this category is a range of everything from a morning walk to following up on a work project to writing a story or post or visiting a friend. Oh, and sometimes it’s the things I dread – something that might be “awkward,” but has to be done. In those cases, I try to remember from Isaiah 54: “Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame; do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated.” (A good prayer for the creative arts.) Motion builds encouragement. If I dread doing something but go ahead and do it, I get rid of the dread plus have the potentially positive outcome. And if it’s a negative outcome, at least I’m dealing in reality – which, they say, is a better choice than the alternative.

This A for Activity also goes out from the belief that I am not the only one active. God is active on my behalf. If I am active, He can put things in my path, and I can see them. Then, when something good happens (by any measure), it helps my attitude and increases my energy and confidence. And another thing, the measure isn’t always linear. Obviously, some activities lend themselves to more productive outcomes than others. But you don’t always know. I have made good contacts by happenstance while waiting to cross a street or while visiting a friend in a rehab facility. The main thing in common: I was in motion when it happened.

And now for this other letter…

H, for Habits. This is how I avoid the daily pitfalls and make the daily progress. A daily work schedule is in this list, and also my morning walks. The verse I think about for this one is from Hebrews 3: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness.” First of all, these 14 or 15 years will need to be accomplished during the intervening days between now and then. That means this day is important.

Also, the hardened heart is central to a negative cause and effect. Fits of pique. Disgruntlement. Things seeming permanent, pervasive and personal. If this stuff piles up, attitude, activity and habits all get sidetracked, and choices are made from which bad outcomes would follow. So I would just say, a hardened heart is a bad habit to have.

So that’s my program – A.A.H. Oh, there could be more letters, and I could put them in a different order. Maybe next year, I’ll add an H and move things around, and make my program H.A.H.A. But for now, I’m here: A.A.H.

And what does this program provide? I think of it this way…

AAH is the sound of insight, new ideas and creativity. It is the sound of satisfaction, sort of like eating a good meal and being full. And it is the sound of a relaxed spirit. Like the kind that subscribes to this promise: you will lie down at night and no one will make you afraid.

New Story Takes a Turn through Mayberry

Hope you’ll enjoy this new story I just posted, Visiting Mayberry with Doug.

Even if you don’t know Doug Rogers, if you’ve been to First Baptist Church in Montgomery this fall, you’ve probably seen some of his work. He produced the inspiring series of videos shown to support the stewardship season and also to commemorate the church’s 185th anniversary. It’s no wonder the videos were incredibly good; he’s a professional. 

Even if you don’t know Doug or First Baptist Church, there are incredible scenes in one of Doug’s videos where you have a chance to see a father’s return to his family following  six-month deployment to the Middle East. Don’t miss it. You’ll find the link at the end of Visiting Mayberry with Doug.  

Oh, and as the story explains, he’s a bit of a Mayberry aficionado.

New Story from a Small Room with a Big Purpose

Hope you’ll enjoy this new story I just posted, In the Prayer Room with Glenda.

I actually didn’t know where the prayer room was located until Glenda Driskill showed me the other day. She said, “It’s across from the old library. Do you know where the old library is?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve been going to this church long enough to know where lots of things used to be.”

If you’re not sure where the prayer room is … but more importantly if you want to know the important things happening in there … well, you can learn more about all of that right here:

Like Glenda, you never know when you may be inspired to take on a new volunteer activity. Read about how she got the idea to join in this particular ministry in this latest story, In the Prayer Room with Glenda

New Story 8 1/2 Years in the Making

I wish you could have heard it all yourself… The interview I conducted with my young friend Sam Hartzog was sprinkled with golden nuggets. At 8 1/2 years old, he’s quite quotable. You can get a pretty good picture of that in this new story, Sunday Lunch with Sam.

Read on, and you’ll see it’s almost like being there, but without the chicken divan that Summer served — and the leftovers that she sent home with me.

Yep, as Sam talked, I was panning for gold as quickly as I could. Hope you’ll enjoy the pieces I captured.

P.S. Sam has some interesting views of what confuses people about the Creation story. See what I mean when you read Sunday Lunch with Sam.

New Story about Old Friends Found Again

I did not expect this.  I had to silent my phone last night because it was buzzing from comments about a new story about a couple of people  I used to know at church.

I wasn’t sure how this story would go — the one I had written about former members and long-time friends, Mique and Rudy Morgan. The secret to my work, actually, is that I’m never sure how it will go. In any case, if you’d like to see the results now, you can read the story here:

I sent the piece to Mique and Rudy first, like I always do. When they were good with it, I thought to myself… let’s go slow with this one until I’m sure. Their family should see it next. Through Facebook messages, I sent the link to two daughters, a granddaughter and son-in-law. If they were good with it, I was going to post it on Facebook. But things got out of order. Their granddaughter Erica posted the story on Facebook before I did, so I went out there to catch up with my own post. Then Mique, Tobie, Kellie, and Ashley shared the story. Plus, I got a message from son-in-law Stanton, who is in Belize on a mission trip, saying he felt like he was in the room with me during the interview.

That’s when my notifications started buzzing, and I listened in to the comments their friends were making until I had to silent my phone and go to sleep. Hope you’ll enjoy My Evening with Mique and Rudy as much as the rest of us.

P.S. I wrote a draft and revision of this story but couldn’t get settled about it until I came up with a reason why – why would you want to go looking for friends you once knew. See what I mean here:

New Story Found Behind Magnolia Tree

I had a most interesting visit with John and Helen Figh the other day, the outcome of which is the latest story in my People I Met at Church series.

It’s not that their house is invisible – it’s not. But it is true that most people don’t see it when they pass by. I explain why in “Beyond the Magnolia Tree with John and Helen.” Be sure to check it out.

The Fighs don’t do email or the Internet, so when I finished writing this piece about them, I drove a copy to their house and listened as Helen read the story to John. I don’t have that experience often, if ever – where people read my writings to me – but, I must say, after I heard this story, I really liked it. Hope you will too.

Speaking of houses, if you didn’t know this already, John’s grandfather built the oldest surviving brick residence in Montgomery – and the only brick structure to be moved up Court Street. Plus, he was the contractor for the state capitol building. Learn more here:

A Story Just in Time for Mother’s Day

Perhaps in the technical view of the term, Cecile hasn’t been a mother. Even so, she is fully living out a philosophy within one of her favorite quotes:

“A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what my bank account was, or the kind of car I drove… but the world will be a little better because I was important to and made a difference in the life of a child.” – Anonymous

Find out how she makes a difference (over and over) right here:

P.S. Cecile takes that idea of having a “church family” to a whole new level. You can see what I mean here: