Monday, November 28, 2016

Nov. 28 "Humble and Kind"

My grandfather would have been 82 today.
When he passed away in April, I tried to gather my thoughts and share them in a way that would both make him proud and clearly explain his character and influence in my life. I have a propensity to lean toward poetry as a means of expression, and over the last several months, I’ve tried writing a phrase here and there. I’ve attempted to describe how he would always start his prayers in exactly the same way. I’ve penned a line or two about his Sunday morning wake-up songs. 

At the time, in my adolescence, I didn’t appreciate that “the corn was as high as an elephant’s eye…” There were so many days that started with “Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way!” Sometimes I wonder how my childhood and teenage years would have been different if I had embraced more of my grandpa’s steady optimism from the moment the sun came up.

 I’ve attempted to string together some words that would flow and describe the way he would always suggest that Grandma stop for ice cream after picking me up from school. I’ve typed a snippet about how creative and talented he was. He would beam with pride after finishing a project. From wooden nativity scenes and Christmas lawn decorations that he labored over for weeks to the panda bear paper towel holder created just for me, it was a joy to watch him build and create. I’ve wanted to mention something about finding Bibles with the little Gideon symbol on the corner in the drawers at hotels, or about seeing tiny New Testament Bibles placed in random public locations, and how he played a part in putting them there and into the hands of so many people in his lifetime.

 I struggled with expressing how I felt that Alzheimer’s had robbed him of the last part of his life. The man who used to stand at his front door to greet me with a “Well, here comes ol’ Amander” as I walked the short distance from my parent’s house, also spent many of his last days quietly sitting in a chair looking out the big living room window into the front yard, where a variety of birds would gather to snag some seeds from the birdhouses and feeders. I remember his daily routine of filling those birdfeeders, mindful to make sure there was enough for any bird that landed to have its share. As I have attempted to formulate something that would accurately describe all of the things that made my grandpa so great, I have consistently felt like words are inadequate. I think that is why it has taken me so long to express my gratitude for him.

On the day that he passed away, I was riding in a car with one of my very best friends and Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” started playing on the radio. It was the first time I heard the song. I was overwhelmed by the lyrics and I had a strong feeling that two words in this song perfectly described my grandpa: humble and kind. The chorus says,
“Hold the door, say 'please', say 'thank you.' 
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie.
I know you’ve got mountains to climb, 
but always stay humble and kind. 
When the dreams your dreaming come to you, 
when the work you put in is realized,
let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.”

More than anything, my grandpa taught me to love God and to make every effort to love His people. He taught me the importance of supporting those you love, the importance of lending a helping hand whenever you can, and the importance of having humility in every situation that comes your way.
My family would gather often for reunions and several would meet together for a time of singing and worship. We always sang a hymn that will forever be one of my favorites. We sang the same hymn at my grandpa’s funeral. My prayer is that we would take on this idea of togetherness that the lyrics below describe, and that each of us will do what we can, with what we have, with where we are to lift up our brothers and sisters, and not tear down the people in our lives.

“You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here,
It's because we're a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God.”

As I share a little bit of my grandpa with you, it only makes sense to conclude with a prayer that begins the way that he began every prayer... “Our most gracious Heavenly Father…” Father, I thank you for the life you give. I thank you for my grandpa and that he knew what it meant to really live. Thank you for the examples that you place in all of our lives- the ones who point others back to You. May we learn to use our time well. 
May we consider Tim McGraw’s words and “don’t take for granted the love this life gives you. When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around and help the next one in line. And always stay humble and kind.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Love Well

Love is like the deepest well.
Neighbors become a human chain,
linking arms with one another just to reach the water 
to draw a pale for a few to drink.
To ease the pain, to quench the thirst from desert days,
though, weary themselves from the bright sun’s rays,
love is like the one who ushers forth the weary without so much as a blink.
Would you love well at the deepest well?
We all want a drink. We all thirst for satisfaction.
We’ll all get our fill when we grasp that love is an action.
Love well.


Friday, July 15, 2016

These Are The Lenses

Do we see the same things?
As if someone took off their glasses and said,
“ These, these are the lenses that we all shall use.”
Given the chance, they are not the ones that you would choose.
You try them on and they just don’t seem right,
but, “these, these are the lenses.”
So, you squint your eyes and ignore the blur- 
because “these are the lenses.”
You fight with your feelings because the reality is that 
we all see the world in different ways.
What if we could see the faces of our loved ones 
in the faces of every stranger that we meet?
Could we make amends and ditch the lens of turning a blind eye,
and, instead, make swift our feet.
Could we remove the lens of being so quick to make a point
that we miss someone else’s point of view?
If unity is the goal, let’s set our sights higher.
I’m convinced there’s more to be done 
in our time here under the sun
than to elevate our own desire to shine 
while our neighbor stands at the end of the line.
Can we see through eyes of grace, 
can compassion ignite the human race to find hope in every day,
Because these are the lenses.

AEJ 7/15/2016

Thursday, April 07, 2016

That Awful Crown

On the prowl with the intent to destroy,
he takes my confidence; oh, how he robs me of my joy.
Fully aware of how to bring me down,
a pat on the back as he offers me a shimmering crown.
It takes me back to a church pew- left side, second row,
where I heard, "don't ever give him a foothold..."
I should've known all along that it was fool's gold.
I try to escape, but it all becomes so ordinary-
settling for apathy, instead of a life extraordinary.
Balancing burdens that I was never meant to carry,
while that awful crown weighs me down.
I was never meant to wear it.
I thought I heard a voice call out to me,
but I didn't give it too much merit.
I've listened to so many others lately.
Prone to wander, I feel the weight of it greatly.
I try to lose that crown and get away,
but darkness surrounds at the end of another day.
Would I recognize your call as I look for just a glimmer of light?
Would I stumble and fall if I walk by faith and not by sight?
I can see it now.
There's a shadow breaking in slowly.
There's a hope in the sunrise.
New mercies defeat the lies
with a distinct call that says,
"You. Are. Mine."
He reaches down to remove that awful crown,
and now it's no longer dim.
He lifts my head and directs my sight so that I can look to Him.

AEJ 4/7/2016