Friday, December 20, 2013

I Should Be So Blessed

“One of the deep secrets of life, is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” -Lewis Carroll

When Deddy was sick, just about anything he could have felt would have been justified. He could have been bitter, angry, devastated, or experienced any other negative feeling one can have in his situation, but he wasn’t. He was disappointed of the circumstances. He was sad that he was leaving his family and friends. He felt responsible for everyone around him and he wanted to ensure that everyone was taken care of. That was the most difficult aspect of dying that he had to overcome, the fact that he would not be here to see people through life. He never mentioned making more money, or buying anything else. He just wanted to be here, and not for himself, but for everyone else. However, in the end, worn down by a year of doctors, treatments, and becoming more feeble, he had accepted his fate. He had made peace with God long before his final demise. That gave everyone around him more comfort than anything.

The lesson I gained during that time of my life was what is actually important in this life we live. It’s not any amount of fame or fortune. It’s not the material things we accumulate. What is most important is what we accomplish as a person, whether or not we make a positive impact on the world and the friendships we make.

I have a lot of friends as most of us do. I know a lot of wonderful people in this world. But the true friendships are really the ones that get you through life. I have many friends that I don’t see a lot and some I have not seen in years. But I can honestly say that many of them would help me if they could in one way or another. They also know that if they needed my help, I would do anything I could for them. As I get older, friendship becomes a lot more important to me. Some of the best friendships I have are with individuals that most people don’t know I’m friends with. Several of those individuals were acquaintances before this year but became great friends to me in 2013.

When life gets difficult in one way or another, that is when you really need the people around you. Those times will come for almost all of us, and there is not an investment you can make at any point in your life that will pay more dividends than friends. My family history is not favorable for me to live a long life and I know that. It actually worries me sometimes. I hope that I can have everything in order before my time comes whether that is 1 year or 60 years. But honestly, the worry for me is two fold: the fact that I may not live to be old and that I may live to be TOO old. I think what worries me more than dying is being the last one left. “The Green Mile” is one of my favorite movies, but the end is really sad to me because all of the people that Paul Edgecomb loved have passed away. Instead of a blessing, he believes it may be a curse.

Tonight I will go to the long standing tradition of “Uncle Boyd’s Christmas Party” where I will be surrounded by family and friends. We’ll sit around and talk, shoot pool, eat, and of course play EXTREMELY high stakes poker with as much as $2 sometimes being in the pot! Without fail, Deddy will be mentioned numerous times. I will be told how much he is missed, funny stories of all sorts about him, and I will be told multiple times that I look more like him the older I get. There will be animated conversations and if any NEW guests show up and get out of hand, I will banish them from the party for at least one year. If you don’t believe me, ask someone. Uncle Sammy made some new rules last year……”NO POLITICS; you can talk about 3 things, 1. Christmas 2. Santa Claus and 3. Jesus!” Then he asked “does everybody understand me?” Everyone understood. Uncle Boyd’s Christmas Party is NOT a democracy. The Council makes the rules and everybody follows them. If you don’t like the process, that is no problem, you were not invited anyway.

Tonight reiterates my belief that friendship is one of the most important aspects of life. In my opinion, second only to family. I am so grateful for my friends. Many of you that read this particular blog may not even realize what a good friend you are to me. Friends are not just people to know, they are people to cherish. When Deddy died, Barbecue Church was PACKED at his funeral. Not only were people standing all around in the church, they were even standing outside. That is a testament of a life well lived. I should be so fortunate to look back on my own life and be able to say the same thing. I should be so blessed to have that many friends.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Greatest Time of the Year

All my life I have loved this time of year. I truly believe the last 40 days of the year bring out the best in people. In a world that has become a never ending pace of chaos, this time of the year gives us a brief period of time to slow down and spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to watch the news or listen to the problems that disrupt our community and develop a negative outlook. But we still have our freedom, we still have opportunity, and we still have each other. We also have the ability to help others. I really believe that we are more generous around the holidays than we are throughout the rest of the year, and we should be. Although most of us can complain about something, the reality is that you know someone else that is having a much harder time than you. I think Christmas allows us be a little more open minded, have a little more heart, and see the needs of others as a higher priority.

When we think about significant moments, we often think of monumental occurrences while we have been alive. However, one of the most significant times in all of our lives occurred over 2000 years ago on December 25th. To think of our Lord and Savior being born in a stable, a star indicating his birth, and three wise men traveling great distances to bow before him is magnificent. The birth of Jesus is truly a beautiful story that I believe in with all my heart.

One of the joys of Christmas is doing good for others. I had much rather give somebody a gift than get one. Expect for some people who have been bad, I don’t give them anything. Not even a lump of coal. However, I can forgive a little more at Christmas.

Most of us get to spend time with our families. That is one of the best attributes of Christmas to me. It's always good to just sit around and talk, discuss the world, laugh and have some good conversation. Christmas would just not be the same to me without “Uncle Boyd’s Christmas Party.” Many families don’t get together much during the year but make a special effort to get together over the holidays. Some families get together several times. I always feel sorry for people that can’t be home; soldiers that are deployed, doctors, nurses, police officers and EMT’s that must be on call no matter what. Those people deserve an extra merit for being committed to the life they have chosen.

Christmas also gives us cause to stop and think about how grateful we are for what we do have. Some of our fondest memories are made at Christmas and although most things don’t last forever, memories do. The world even looks better in a lot of ways during Christmas. Towns, churches, stores, malls and homes are decorated with trees, lights, flowers, and other decorations everywhere you turn. We used to start decorating our yard around Halloween and we worked on it until Thanksgiving. That is certainly a part of my life that I miss. Small towns all across America host parades where families can take their children and watch local marching bands, firetrucks, old tractors, clowns, and of course, Santa Claus roll through on decorated floats. There are Christmas programs on television constantly with “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” highlighting the season. Choirs and music groups host programs that are not only beautiful to listen to but spiritually uplifting.

There is just not another holiday as wonderful as Christmas. It brings out the best in most of us. It gives us cause to care more about others, to appreciate our family and friends, and to be grateful for what we do have. Christmas always brings back fond memories of the loved ones that have passed on before us. Although we regret that they are not here with us, it’s consoling to think about how extraordinary Christmas must be in Heaven. Although I have mentioned the decorations and festivities of the holidays, it’s imperative to remember the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The beginning of a life sent here to save us all. To contemplate that the destiny of the entire world rested on the shoulders of one little baby is very humbling. That gives us more reason than any to be grateful during Christmas.

I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas season. I hope you all take some time to relax, fellowship, and genuinely let people know just how much you love them. Consider doing something charitable during Christmas for a family, group, or any worthy cause. Above all, take time to pray and thank God for Christmas. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

May you all find peace, love, and happiness during this holiday season and may your families be blessed with the grace of God.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Miss the Paths

Where we live has always been wonderful to me. Things and circumstances have certainly changed in our area, but the sense of community is still strong. In a world that often seems dominated by disagreement and acrimony, it’s good to know that in times of need, there will be plenty of support to help us through. One of the most recognizable aspects of rural North Carolina are the paths that connect all of us. As much as anything, I miss how life was growing up. I especially miss the paths.

People used to visit one another so often that there would be a path between their homes. For years there was a path at almost every home I visited. There was a path between our house and Mema and Papa Brafford’s for probably 30 years. There was a path in front of Mema Cameron’s house for years that lead to the “Beauty Shop” and the “store”. There was an old dirt road that led from Mema Cameron’s to Grandma and Papa Ferrell’s house. Boyd Brafford Dr. is really just a path connecting the family to Barbecue Church Road. You always knew that at the end of a path, you would be welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home. I am sure that many of you reading this had paths between the homes of your family and friends. It was certainly a different world than it is now.

I don’t think anyone ever locked their door when I was growing up. There was no need. When I went to my grandparent’s home, we never knocked. You just walked in and said “hello”. My Great Papa Ferrell had paths all over his farm. He had paths we would walk from time to time that the cows had made in his pasture. We thought it was just awesome to walk those paths with him.

Our lives carry us down paths everyday. We often choose our paths, but sometimes life forces us in a direction whether we like it or not. I think growing up, a lot of the paths I went down were already established for me. When anyone has a good support system around them, it certainly gives you a better chance to make it through life. However, I think we have all seen people that have had wonderful opportunities in life but choose the wrong path time after time. But at the same time, we’ve all seen people choose the wrong paths for extended periods of time, then turn their life around. Although it seems to happen less often, people can change and choose the right path.

In the last number of years, I think many of us have had to choose a different path. The economic hardships that we have faced forced many people to find a new path. Many people in our community have had tremendous challenges with illness and health issues. Adversity in life can certainly be difficult but one can also learn a lot while trying to make things work out. I think we have also forgotten that the people of this country, especially the elderly, have been through many periods of difficulty in the last 100 years. The Great Depression was impossibly difficult and destroyed many lives. Both World Wars required a lot of effort from everyone. American women went to work in factories building weapons, artillery, and all sorts of things that they had never been done before. Items such as sugar, coffee, and flour had to be “rationed”. We get angry when we can’t water our yards at certain times, I can’t imagine if our country had to “ration” certain foods that we eat.

Tragedy in a family’s life certainly can change the paths that we follow. I know we all lose people in life and it is difficult to overcome. But there are certain people that pass away that affect the paths of a lot more people than others. My father was certainly one of those people. I think we learn to accept it when someone passes away earlier in life than we would like, but we don’t always overcome it. Many families have certain loved ones that everyone seems to depend on for advice, decisions, input etc.

This time of the year begins a significant time when people choose paths, especially young people. School starts back in the next few weeks and everybody will renew friendships, start new ones, and in some cases, move on from old ones. Teachers go back to work and most of them do the best they can to guide their students down paths that will benefit them throughout life. I had so many teachers that I am grateful to that were willing to help me anytime I asked for it. Oh yeah, there were a number of them that were willing to help me even when I didn’t ask, if you know what I mean! I am a grown man, and there are several former teachers that taught me in school that to this day, I would never want to disappoint. There are so many paths for young people that are bad that is almost unreal. But I feel that we all have a duty and responsibility to lead by example. I encourage all of you to be supportive of your children, nephews, nieces, cousins, and any other family members you have in school. Let them make their own decisions but guide them down the paths that will give them the best chance in life. I have always tried to set an example. However, some would argue that it is a “bad” example 50% of the time, but who’s keeping score? Don’t forget that the young men and women growing up now are our future. A young person doesn’t need all of the adults in their lives to be their buddy, but it’s our responsibility to guide them and be parents, uncles, aunts, and mentors.

Although they don't realize it right now, the youth of America do not need a new car, a new watch, a new necklace or any other material item. What they really need is someone to guide them in the right direction so they will have a better chance at life. That chance can put them on a path to being happy. Proverbs 22:6 says "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."

As the world continues to change, I miss many aspects of the years past. However, as much as anything else, I really miss the paths.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Lord is My Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Christmas is the most celebrated holiday of the year. And why not? People are more happy than usual, we visit with family and friends, there are often parties and it’s just a joyous time of the year. But most importantly, it is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However in my opinion, Easter is more important.

As many of you know, one of my favorite things to do during Easter is to watch “The 10 Commandments”. The story of Moses is an incredible account of a man devoted to God. But the life of Jesus Christ is astonishing. I don’t even feel worthy to write a blog of this nature, but I’m going to anyway. To think, that God would send His only son, to save the human race is humbling to me. He knew what Jesus would go through, but it would allow our sins to be forgiven. How many of us could honestly watch someone we truly love be tortured if we had the power and ability to stop it?

Jesus lived an incredible life and we really know only a very small part about it. Did you know that Jesus’ time of ministry recorded in the Bible is only about 3 years? I believe that reiterates the significance of Jesus’ life and the message he brought. Everyday we complain about aspects of our life that are aggravating. So often, things just don’t seem to go our way. But when you think about Jesus’ life and his final days, it is truly incredible. To think that “the people” chose to punish Jesus instead of Barabbas is unbelievable. He had committed no crime or harmed anyone and Barabbas was a known criminal. It chokes me up to think about how he was beaten, mocked, ridiculed, and crucified, and for what? For bringing the world a message of peace and forgiveness? It’s hard to comprehend. For him to be tortured and crucified so that we could all be forgiven for the sins we commit is truly humbling. I’m going to be quite honest with you, if I had been put in that same situation, after the first crack of a whip across my back, somebody would have been burned to a crisp with a lightning bolt out of the tip of my finger. There would also be a passage in the Bible that said; “Then Robbie looked around after he incinerated the soldier and said, ‘does anyone else have any questions? Does anyone else doubt me now?” I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. But even after all of the mocking, ridicule, condemnation, and torture, Jesus says; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

We truly have so much to be grateful for. If you look at history, Christians have gone through extended periods of hardship. Like the Hebrews being slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years. That is amazing. But if Christianity were easy, I don’t think it would prove our worth. Jesus promised us forgiveness; he never promised an easy life on earth and for everything to go our way just because we go to church for an hour on Sunday.

I certainly think going to church and being involved with your community is good for everyone. In my opinion, the people that go to church, visit with their family and friends, do good for others, and accept life as it comes, are almost always happier than people that don’t. We all face challenges and how you deal with them is what makes you the person you are. When you think of the story of Christ, he was met constantly with problems. Those who believed in him were looking for a solution to every problem imaginable. In the passages of the Bible, there are multiple scenarios where Jesus performed miracles. But what I have always wondered is just how many more he likely performed while he was on earth.

Although we all wish everyone could always have a normal, healthy and happy life, it just doesn’t work out like that all time. I think Ecclesiastes 3 sums up our time on earth as good as any passage in the Bible. But to know that if we keep our faith and ask for forgiveness, we will live for eternity in Heaven is a humbling thought. To think that Noah lived to be 950, and Moses lived to be 120, but Jesus only lived to be 33 is certainly a testament as to just how extraordinary his life was. Because of his sacrifice, we can be forgiven. We should always be grateful, but at Easter, we should certainly take the time to thank God and acknowledge just how grateful we are for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 - A Year With a Purpose

What a year 2012 was. Like most years, a lot happened. Greece imploded financially as a country while many others struggled.Encyclopedia Britannica ended their print edition of the encyclopedia after 244 years! Hurricane Sandy killed 209 people and devastated parts of the east coast, in particular New Jersey. A number of public figures passed away this year; Dick Clark, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Andy Griffith, Neil Armstrong, Mike Wallace, Andy Williams, Larry “J.R.” Hagman, Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., Etta James, and several more. Locally, several people passed away too, including Ellen Tyner who was cherished by so many people in this area.

We had a multiple senseless tragedies throughout the United States. In July, a young man walked into a movie theater during a premiere of “Batman, the Dark Knight Rises” and started shooting, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more. In early August a gentleman went into a Temple in Wisconsin and opened fire; he killed 5 men, 1 woman, and injured 3 more people including a police officer. Then he killed himself. In September a man walked into the office he was fired from and shot his boss, 3 fellow employees, a UPS driver, and then killed himself. On December 11th, a 22 year old man went into an Oregon mall and fired 60+ shots killing a 15 year old girl and then killed himself. It’s a miracle that in a crowded mall more people were not killed or injured.

However, the tragedy that will leave a scar our nation for many years to come is the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. As a lot of Americans did, I watched the “moments of silence” on the networks a week after the tragedy and to see the pictures of the children and teachers of that school was almost unbearable to watch. I think we all realized that a tragedy like that could have been any school, in any small town, in any state in America. I am not going to make this particular blog political but I do know that many people are contemplating our “right to bear arms”. I certainly think that our rights should not be taken away. I have numerous guns myself and I probably have not shot ONE of them in 4 or 5 years. I also know a lot of people that own guns, do a lot of hunting, and are normal responsible citizens that would not do anything to harm another person without just cause. But one thing resonates in my mind that I’ve heard many times over the years; “if we implement any gun control, the bad guys will still get the guns they want”. I could not agree with that more. However, I also recognize that these senseless tragedies in which people are killing other people, even children, are often not people that are considered “bad guys”. You don’t hear about someone from a gang or organized crime walking into an elementary school, mall or movie theater and randomly start shooting adults and children. Now, I am sure that has happened somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be an epidemic problem. I don’t think that our “right to bear arms” should ever be taken away, but I do think that if someone displays a psychotic nature or is being treated for a mental illness, they should not be allowed to own a gun that can easily kill 20 children and 6 adults in a matter of a couple of minutes. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that person should be allowed to own a gun at all. I know the slogan, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Well, I agree...especially crazy people, and I think that is something we should at least consider.

We watched another election year pass by while candidates spent about $6 BILLION to be elected nationwide. While America struggles to overcome a lethargic economy, Congress is getting a raise for a job well done. It seems to me that more than most other jobs, wouldn’t it be reasonable that a portion of what the leaders of our great nation make be based on performance? I think for the first time in a long time, Americans will consider what an elected official has done while in office before automatically re-electing them.

Although 2012 saw a lot of tragedies, stress, and bad things, it also saw a lot of good things or at least “interesting” things. NASA landed a rover on mars, the WORLD went “Gangnam Style”, Honey Boo Boo fever took over, the last of our combat troops were able to come home from Iraq, “Call Me Maybe” went viral with an endless number of groups singing it, James Cameron went deeper into the ocean than anyone had ever been, IPHONE 5 arrived and the Space Shuttle Endeavor was retired. FINALLY, it was proven that the Mayans did not intend for the world to end, or either they were wrong. Either way, we’re still here. If you read the book of Revelations, I assure you, we’ll know when the end is here. Gabby Giffords made an extraordinary comeback. We saw Queen Elizabeth II celebrate 60 years as the queen of England. The US had an extremely successful run at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England with Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympic athlete in history; 22 medals in all with 18 being gold. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner becomes the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance after jumping from a helium filled balloon 24 miles above earth. A concert was broadcast to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy and over $50 million was donated.

The resilience of Americans never ceases to amaze me. We will argue, disagree, and throw stones all over the place. But in times of tragedy, we are united. We are united because as Americans, we realize that no matter who we are or what we represent, we all deserve to be treated as human beings. We all deserve to be respected. We all make mistakes and we all deserve a chance to redeem ourselves. So this is what I am proposing to all of you…..I have 726 “friends” on Facebook. If all of us do something good each week, besides our normal routine, at the end of the year, we will have done 37,804 acts of kindness. But here is where I think this idea can gain momentum and make a significant difference. Let’s say out of all my “friends”, 350 read this blog and commit to the idea of one additional act of kindness a week for all of 2013. Then, they send a link to my blog to 5 of their closest friends, and those 5 people do the same and so on. If this is done just 4 times, it will be read by over 200,000 people. That would be over 11,000,000 acts of kindness that our group will be committed to in 2013. These acts of kindness can be anything good, they don’t have to be something incredible. Your act could be to donate $2 a week to your favorite charity, help out at your child’s school, reach out to old friends that you have not talked to in years, or take someone you love to dinner, a movie, or a show. I would also encourage all of you to take 10 minutes out of your day and pray for people that you know, love, and care about. We ALL know people that are going through difficult times and would certainly appreciate the prayers. Do you know how long we would collectively pray if we do that for a year?....about 13,000,000 hours. That, my friends is a lot of prayer. So, I want you to send this blog to at least 5 people closest to you. If you can send it to more or repost it on Facebook to YOUR "friends", I encourage you to do so. Let them know that they don’t even have to read the entire article, just read the last paragraph and pass it on to 5 more people. We’ll know if this is working if the counter on my blog starts going up! I would also encourage everyone to keep a journal. Write down your acts of kindness to remind yourself of your efforts as the year moves on. If some of you would like to share your acts of kindness, just send me an email, I’d be glad to hear about them. Maybe I’ll share some of them at the end of the year. Let’s not just go through 2013 as another year, let’s go through it with a purpose, and a good purpose at that! May God bless all of you.