Tuesday, January 2, 2018

So Much Wasted Time

The Partridge Family aired on TV from 1970-1974 during the time I was raising my two young sons. It was a wholesome program for the whole family to watch.  David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) played the oldest son in the musical touring group.  Every teenage boy wanted to look, sing, and play guitar like him, and his good looks made him a heartthrob for every teenage girl.  In other words, he had it all. 

By the mid-1980s, he was broke and addicted to alcohol. His multiple marriages and relationships indicate he had a troubled life. A felony conviction from driving under the influence occurred in 2014. Soon after, he was diagnosed with Dementia and the effect of alcoholism was destroying his liver.

David Cassidy died on November 21, 2017. His daughter, Katie Cassidy, thanked those who loved and supported the family during their trying time, and added that her father’s last words were:
“So Much Wasted Time”

Those four words have haunted me ever since I heard them.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want those or similar words to be the last thing people remember about me.  Instead, I want to hear the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25:21:

“Well done my good and faithful servant.”

As we start a new year, it’s appropriate to think about all the time wasters that keep us from doing our best. Below are the top four that are a challenge for me and probably for you, too.

1.      Darkness — We have just experienced the Winter Solstice- the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  I love daylight and too much darkness makes me lethargic.  My energy level goes down and I have a harder time getting going in the mornings.  I want to eat too many carbs and not exercise. Overcoming inertia is a daily challenge. Spending too much time scrolling through Facebook and other Apps makes me sedentary and I am less productive.
Solution:  There's nothing I can do about the darkness, but I can get moving and throw away the sweets.

2.   Bad Habits — We all have them-things we do that could be replaced with more productive habits.  Scrolling the internet for sales and items to order—and often send back—is time consuming.  Shopping and deciding once I get it home to return it is another time thief. I could use that time and save money, too, by being less impulsive.
Solution:  Spending more time relating to other people and praying for needs is a much more productive habit to cultivate.

3.    Procrastination — It is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something.  Or as humorist Mark Twain said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”    I am not normally a procrastinator, but this past year I’ve found myself rushing around at the last minute trying to do something that should have been done the day before.  During the lead up to Christmas, I found myself waiting in long lines at stores and the post office. I should have mailed the package the  week before the Christmas crush. It’s a good lesson for me because I’ve not had much patience for others who procrastinate.  
Solution:  Work at tasks every day, so that they won’t pile up at the end. How do you eat an elephant?  “One bite at a time.”

4.   Clutter — Too much stuff in an unorganized condition makes life more difficult and robs us of time that could be more productive. We all have clutter, but too much can harm our productivity and emotional health. I waste too much time looking for car keys, glasses, gloves, and my cell phone, to name a few.  Sooner or later lost things show up, but if I’m trying to get out the door, I will often be late for that appointment. 
Solution:  Start the New Year right by finding a place for everything.  Give away the excess so that I can keep and enjoy the essential. Take time at night, instead of watching TV in my recliner, and put the house in order.

An American Founding Father wrote similar words to the quote by David Cassidy.

‘You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Light Overcomes Darkness

Today was supposed to be my Christmas shopping day.  Instead we are buried in an unexpected eight inches of snow. Georgia and snow don’t go together—too many hills and too few snowplows. After a lengthy power outage, I am back to cooking, washing, and blogging.

* * * * * * * * * *

The familiar Christmas story is most often recounted from the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. A verse tucked into the small book of Titus also tells the Christmas story in thirteen powerful words.  

 “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” (Titus 1:2)

A definition of Grace was recently posted on Facebook.

“Karma”  You get what you deserve.
“Christianity” Jesus got what you deserve.

Every world religion, except Christianity, is based on Karma.  Do enough good deeds and you can find god and earn salvation.  Christianity turns that idea completely around.  It’s not what you do for God, but what God has done for you. He broke through the darkness of this world when he sent Jesus to be born of a human mother in a lowly stable.  The Bible tells us that he was the perfect Son of God, lived his life without sin, and was filled with grace and truth. That grace is imparted to us when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord.

The celebration of Jesus’ birthday began in an attempt to counter the heresy of Gnosticism—the belief that Jesus wasn’t really born as a human because the material world and flesh are evil. The Gnostics believed since Jesus wasn’t human, he couldn’t have died for our sins and been resurrected for our salvation.  Gnosticism believes that man can find God through knowledge and mysticism. The stories of Jesus’ birth were written down and widely circulated by word of mouth to disprove that heresy.

Happy Nativity Day would have been a common saying among early believers instead of Merry Christmas. The Christ-Mass wasn’t celebrated until the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine around 336 A.D. Jesus probably wasn’t born in December, but the time of the winter solstice (around December 25th) was chosen as symbolic of darkness becoming light. That time of the year was also the time of the Jewish Festival of Lights. And, yes, the pagans celebrated the birth of the sun god during this time of the year. During his earthly ministry, Jesus declared himself “the light of the world.”  That is something worth celebrating.

After two days without electricity, I have a new appreciation for the light overcoming the darkness.  I also have a new appreciation for the over 2,000 year old event that changed the world. Grace appeared when God sent Jesus into the world. I can claim that gift and experience both abundant and eternal life.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Message to Millennials

Socialism and Communism are failed systems.

According to Shawn Langolis, Social Media Director of Market Watch 50% of Millennials—those born between 1982 and 2004— would rather live in a socialist or Communist country than in a capitalist democracy.  What!!!

“The survey, which was conducted by research and data firm You Gov, found that millennials are the least knowledgeable generation on the subject, with 71% failing to identify the proper definition of communism.”

Some millennials indicated their admiration of Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, and Kim Jong Un. Why have our high schools and universities failed to teach world history and indoctrinated these young minds with fantasies of utopia? I thought when the Soviet Union fell in the 1990s that the failed Communist system failed with it.

One hundred years ago in November, 1917, the Bolshevik revolutionaries led by Vladimir Lenin, took over the Russian government. Thus began five years of Civil War and a tumultuous period in which the workers, soldiers, and peasants took over the reins of government. The end result was a consolidation of power in which Marxism became the law of the land. All private property was nationalized by the government, and so were the banks.  All private bank accounts became the property of the state and all church properties were seized. Control of the factories was given to the soviets.

This revolution set in motion a chain of events that would murder 100 million people in Europe, China, Asia, and other places around the world. Communism not only took lives, but destroyed the dreams of freedom for millions more.

If I could talk to a Millennial who believes in Communism, the first thing I would say is,

Our phones provide freedom of information, freedom of association, access to bank accounts, and apps of every kind that make life entertaining and interesting. Communism will not allow that kind of freedom.
There will be no religious freedom under Communism. Only the State Church will be legal and atheism will become the official religion. 

No longer will you have the right to protest and demonstrate against the government.  Your individual rights no longer matter and your freedom of speech will be squelched.

You will be required to fight for the fatherland—no voluntary service allowed. Your educational and career paths will be determined by social planners and you can forget about having the money to buy cars, technology, and cool clothes.  Cuba is a good example. Sure your health care might be free, but you will die waiting for quality care.

During this Thanksgiving week, I have much to be thankful for—my faith, my family, my friends, and my country.  The United States of America is not a perfect nation and our capitalistic democracy hasn’t always worked the way it should. Poverty and discrimination are still with us. 

But, I am thankful for a band of Pilgrims who risked life and limb to stake their claim in a new land. They were the original immigrants who came looking for religious and economic freedom. Immigrants still yearn to come to this country for the same opportunities.

I am thankful for the help the Native Americans provided that kept the settlers from starvation. Today we must do more to recognize all races and people who contributed to the success of our melting pot.

Above all let’s teach history—warts and all—to the upcoming generations. Schools need to present a realistic picture of Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism.  If we don’t understand and learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Gibbs Gardens
Hold onto your wallet, hallothanksmas is here.  I can already see my bank account shrinking from the demands of the next two months.

According to the online Urban Dictionary:

“Hallothanksmas is an event running from early October to New Year’s Eve. Due to peoples obsessive need to start the holidays earlier and earlier, the three holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have merged into one huge morass of shopping.”

As the leaves began turning color in September, I saw it creeping in. The big box stores, drug stores, grocery stores, and department stores started promoting what used to be three separate holidays with                                                        displays of goods competing for shelf space.

Since October 31, I can no longer listen to my favorite Sirrus XM radio station unless I want to be bombarded with endless versions of Jingle Bell Rock and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Both Hallmark channels on cable TV plan to broadcast nonstop Christmas movies until after New Year’s Day. How many ways can a man meet a woman, fall in love, and get married just in time for Christmas?

I am not a Grinch and I enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas too, but the overload can rob me of the joy of the season.  Thanksgiving somehow gets lost in the shuffle between the candy corn and candy canes. It makes me sad because I enjoy that holiday the most.

So how do I cope with hallothanksmas?
  • Try to set realistic expectations. Don’t expect a Norman Rockwell holiday when you know that is not going to happen. Time with family and friends is very important during the holidays. However, trying to accommodate everyone’s schedules and wishes can be very stressful. 
  • Plan ahead and ask for help where needed.  Expect everyone to make a contribution to meals and parties. Set a budget for gifts and other expenses.
  • Count my blessings and thank God every day that we still are able to do many of the things we love to do this time of year.
  • Take care of myself. Keep away from too much junk food, exercise when possible, and get enough sleep.
  • Take time to pray and worship in private and at church so that the spirit of the season can wash over my soul.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Places of the Dead

Halloween is an abbreviated form of “All Hallows Evening,” which is the beginning of a three day celebration called Allhallowtide.  According to Wikipedia, it is “the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.” During our trip to Italy, we visited two sites dedicated to remembering the dead—one Christian and one pagan.

The Roman Catacombs

My studies in Christian history shaped my opinion that the Catacombs around Rome were hiding places used by early Christians to escape Roman persecution. More recent archeological studies have shown that the Catacomb tunnels were dug as burial places for non-pagan believers.  We went to Rome eager to visit this piece of Christian history. Our tour took us outside the ancient Roman walls, into the depths of hand-dug tunnels and labyrinths deep in the ground. The volcanic soil and rock of the region provided the right medium for digging these mysterious caves.

Inside the Catacombs
Pagan Rome was not friendly to Jewish and Christian believers in the first century after Christ. The rich and powerful nobility were entombed after death in magnificent crypts within the city walls of Rome. The slaves and common people of Rome were cremated and their ashes scattered outside the walls. But Christians believed that their resurrected bodies would be called forth from their graves when Christ returned, so they wanted their bodies to be buried intact. The only burial sites available to them were the underground tunnels they dug by hand.

Catacomb Painting
As we descended into the dark abyss, we didn’t know what to expect. Our passage was lit by our guide’s hat lantern as we wound our way single file through tunnel after tunnel.  There were a few places that were more open where our group could gather.  We were told these areas were used by families to share meals with their deceased loved ones.  After thirty minutes underground, I was chilled, spooked, and claustrophobic and couldn’t wait to see the sunlight at the end of the tunnel.  Quite an experience to remember, but not one I want to repeat. 

The Ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii was founded as a resort for the nobility from Rome, since it was close to the Bay of Naples and in view of beautiful Mt. Vesuvius.  The dormant volcano violently awoke in 79 AD, and within twenty-four hours belched millions of tons of volcanic ash, rock, lava, and gas into the southern Italian countryside. The ancient pagan city of Pompeii was smothered by the ash that rained from the sky.  Many of its 20,000 residents heeded the warnings of the rumbling mountain and ran for their lives, but the 2,000 who chose to stay were suffocated and buried alive.
Mt. Vesuvius & Pompeii Ruins
Explorers discovered the site of Pompeii in the late 1500s, but evacuations didn’t begin until 1748. Once the digging began, they discovered the walls, paintings, frescos, and mosaics of a prosperous Roman city preserved by the ash that buried it. After 1600 years, the shapes of bodies encased in ash were still recognizable. Plaster was poured into the shapes to preserve the remains.
It was not easy to navigate the rough and winding streets of Pompeii, but what we saw was worth the effort. We could almost picture every day activity as we walked through the remains of the large and colorful homes of the rich and powerful, the shops of the merchants, and the cramped houses of the slaves.  The giant amphitheater that held gladiator competitions and stage performances was well preserved and equally interesting.   

We remembered the dead during our recent trip to Italy as we explored two ancient burial sites. I think I prefer the Americanized version of “All Hallows Evening” as the costumed kids make their rounds saying “Trick or Treat.”

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Our Roman Holiday

It was our trip of a lifetime. For years we talked about travelling to Italy.  In September, it became a reality. We rode on planes, buses, and boats, but the only way to see the sights is on foot. According to Charles’ Fitbit, we logged 95,000 steps during our seven days touring Rome and the Amalfi Coast. 

Our amazing bus driver navigated the free-for-all streets of Rome with the efficiency of a race car driver. Most of the streets have no lane markers, so small cars, mopeds, and buses weave in and out with abandon. On the Amalfi Coast the narrow, winding mountain roads presented another challenge.  On more than one occasion, we participated in the “battle of the buses.” What happens on a sharp curve when two buses meet nose to nose—a game of chicken before they pass each other with six inches to spare?

I’ve always experienced severe motion sickness on buses and boats, so I was very nervous about this trip. My life and trip was saved by an anti-nausea watch and roll on anti-vertigo essential oils. I literally had NO nausea on mountain roads that were like coiled-up snakes, or on boats that rocked and rolled on the waves. The watch—worn on the underside of the right hand stimulates the vagus nerve that controls the balance of the ear canals. What a miracle invention!

Inside the Coloseum
Rome is a fascinating city with three distinct cultures. The deteriorating massive stone structures that defined the ancient civilization of pagan Rome were everywhere. The Colosseum, The Forum of Julius Caesar, The Circus Maximus, and The Pantheon brought back memories from my world history classes. That was the culture of Rome during the early days of Christianity. Apostles Peter and Paul were both martyred at the hands of the Roman authorities for proclaiming Christ and not accepting the Caesars as gods.
Papal Throne at St. Peter's

The Vatican and Catholic culture has dominated Rome since 380 AD. The many beautiful cathedrals and sites we visited were lavishly decorated with frescos and statues commissioned by the Catholic Church during the centuries from 1100 to 1500 AD.  Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his sculptures in St. Peter’s Basilica were breathtaking. Our tour guide took us to Vatican Square on Sunday where, at noon, Pope Francis delivered his blessing from the Papal residence. Although we are not Catholic, it was a meaningful experience. 

Today’s modern Rome has many of the features of other European cities—hustle, bustle, and traffic. It is a key member of the European Common Market and an important business, fashion, and financial center.  However, its major business is tourism. We were part of a tour group, but we met several young adventurous folks who were making their own way through Rome and Italy.  I admire their fearless spirit.
The Cold Mediterranean
The View from our Room

We spent our last four days in Italy navigating the Amalfi Coast. The rocky shoreline on the Mediterranean Sea is home to beautiful and quaint cities that climb up the mountainsides. We stayed in an old convent that had been converted to a hotel. It was a delightful base for exploring Amalfi, Positano, the Isle of Capri, and Sorrento. My walking, climbing, and hiking legs got a real workout.

We are still recuperating from jet lag and getting caught up with life here in Acworth.  It’s been good to sleep in our own bed and eat something other than pizza and pasta. As wonderful as it is to travel, there is no place like home.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Him-acanes and Her-acanes

As you can see, I took writer’s license and created two new words to describe the recent hurricanes.  For many years these dangerous storms received only female names.  But today names are alternated so that we have equal opportunity hurricanes.  I feel sorry for Houston. Its fifteen minutes of fame and its massive flooding from Him-acane Harvey is upstaged as 
Her-acane Irma targets the Caribbean and Florida. While watching and waiting for this powerful storm to hit Florida, I read some interesting and random information about Harvey and Irma. 

Harvey and Irma Schulter have weathered the storms of marriage for 75 years.  This couple from Spokane, Washington married in 1942, fostered 100 children during their long-lasting marriage, and taught children in Sunday School for many of those years.  No wonder their marriage has lasted so long.

Everything is political these days—even hurricanes.  From across the pond, actress Jennifer Lawrence pontificates that Harvey and Irma are signs of “Mother Nature’s rage and wrath” at America for electing Donald Trump who doesn’t believe in man-made climate change. I guess she has an “in” with Mother Nature.

Some see apocalyptic signs in the recent eclipse, earthquake in Mexico, wildfires out West, and hurricanes in the Gulf.  “Ahmed Ragab, a professor of Science and Religion at Harvard, argues that there is a good reason some people see doom in what’s going on: The pileup of disasters is affecting people.” (msn.com)

Max Lucado, San Antonio preacher and best-selling author, reminds people that God can be found in the midst of the storms of life. He doesn’t discount the pain people are suffering during the times of devastation, but offers encouragement and hope. (foxnews.com)

“The storm is coming, but God is with us.
Look ahead and chart a path to safety.
Look around and see who you can help.”

As Irma targets the metro Atlanta area, we are preparing for a tropical storm.  New batteries are in our flashlights and extra ice is stored in case we lose electricity from the high winds.  Many in disaster zones will have a long process to rebuild their lives. I am thankful we have a comfortable, dry house and am determined to take nothing for granted in these uncertain days.