Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Year to Forget


This year has already proven to be a year that many of us would like to forget.  COVID-19 has evolved into one of the most problematic viruses in our lifetime.  We have had to change the way we travel, visit, work, and just go through our daily routines.  Almost 200,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus and we are all just tired of it. 

Dissension in the United States is at an all time high.  I don’t remember as many controversial situations existing at one time as there are now.  So many people are filled with anger and rage. You can’t have an opinion without offending someone, and the time for listening to each other and being reasonable is long gone.  We now live in the “Divided States of America” and for most of us, that is really sad.  I still believe in my 80% rule.  80% of every color, creed, religion etc., can get along with 80% of every other group that’s different in some way.  But the 20% in every group is often louder, unwilling to compromise, and no longer feel that having respect for others is relevant.  I honestly believe that if you only had the 80% of us that were reasonable in every category or group, you would eliminate 99% of the problems in America. 

It astonishes me that so many people have forgotten that we are a democracy.  The same people that use the words socialism, marxism, racism or fascism will berate someone for having a different opinion while claiming to support a democratic society.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking its only one group that does this, there are people in both parties and all groups that do it.  In the world we live in today, it’s easier to find a reason to be angry than to be reasonable.  That is something that I will never understand. 

For the first time in my life, I lost a really good friend of mine. When the coronavirus caused everyone to be on lockdown for a while, I spent more time working from home that I have in 10 years.  One year in particular, I was on the road for 48 out of the 52 weeks during that year.  During this lockdown, I got to know my neighbor Art better than I ever have.  If he saw me outside doing almost anything, he was in my yard within 30 seconds!  We tore a golf cart apart that I’m still working on, he helped me work on my truck, lawn mower, and boat motor.  We would discuss what was going on in the world almost every evening.  We went fishing one evening during the middle of June.  We caught some fish, laughed, told stories etc.  When we got home, I told him one last story and he was walking out of my yard laughing and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”   The next morning when I took Charlie out, there was an ambulance in the yard.  I went over to see what was going on and walked in the front door.  I asked his wife Elaine what was going on and she just responded, “He’s gone.”  I was in complete shock.  62 years old, he had just signed up for Social Security, had probably been in the best mood for 3 months that I had ever seen and just like that, he’s gone.  As I am putting that golf cart back together, I think of him often.  Several people asked me, “Can you get that golf cart back together?”   I would always respond, “No, but Art can!”  His wife asked me to do his eulogy and his Mother told me he had 2 best friends in his entire life, a good friend he grew up with named “Roosevelt” and me.  His brother Sean told me that every time he talked to Art, he would mention doing something with “Robbie.”  I’m glad we spent the time we did together those last 3 months. Art told me numerous times that as he got to know people in the area, he would always tell them that he lived beside me.  He said he was surprised that very often when he did that, they would respond by talking about what a great guy my father was. Art mentioned to me several times that he regretted never meeting Deddy. 

My mother’s health has declined again this year.  It was determined that she had a critically low copper level.  I never even knew that could even be an issue at all.  After some infusions, her levels are back to normal so hopefully she will start to see some improvement sooner than later.   

My father’s best friend, Mike McNeil passed away a few weeks ago.  Mike came to see Deddy often while he battled cancer.  After Deddy passed away, he would call every few months to check on everyone and make sure things were going ok.  Although I regretted hearing about Mike’s passing, I am sure that Deddy was waiting for him when he arrived in Heaven.   A story I told a few weeks ago about Mike was when Mama had surgery for esophageal cancer, she had a major setback about 2 weeks into recovery.  Mike called me that night about 9:00.  I explained to him the situation and that the circumstances were serious.  He said, “I’ll see you tomorrow about 12:00.”  The irony was that he lived in Florida.  But the next day, about 12:00, Mike and his wife walked in.  When I was born, Mama was in labor from Christmas Eve until the 26th of December.  It was probably because my head was the same size when I was born as it is now! But for years, Mike called me or texted me on my birthday.  I asked him a few years ago, how he always remembered my birthday and he explained to me that he was at the hospital with Deddy during the entire labor.  I had never known that before.   

Today marks 20 years since Deddy died.  I still miss him as much as I ever did.  I regret that he is not at Little League games with us, not golfing with us on Sundays, not at Uncle Boyd’s Christmas party and not there to offer patient, constructive advice.  But I don’t miss the fact that he cannot see the bad in this world.  I hope he cannot see the anger, the acrimony, and lack of respect that many people have for each other.  I honestly don’t know where we go from here. No matter how bad things are, I think we would all like to know there is a brighter future on the horizon.  I have friends from all walks of life.  They have different religious views, are a different race, different political views, or have other differences in one way or another.  But although I may not be exactly like them or even agree with them, I can still respect them.  Sometimes, its ok to agree to disagree. That’s something that I think we really need to get back to.  This era of forcing your beliefs on others is not working and all you have to do is turn on any news channel and you’ll realize how right I am.  My father set a great example for Travis and myself by being kind to people, showing compassion, and especially practicing forgiveness.   

Although I miss my father, I’m glad he doesn’t have to watch hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, catastrophic fires, riots and anger gradually destroy the Earth. I feel better knowing that he is on the other side welcoming his family and friends that pass away.  I’m sure Art finally met him.  I know he and Mike were glad to see each other again.  And I’m glad he is in a much better place than the world we live today.  

Sunday, April 12, 2020

This Easter is Different

     Usually at this time of the year, we are going to church, planning a Sunday afternoon with family, coloring eggs and honoring the most significant week for Christianity.  But this year is different.
The world is in the midst of battling a virus unlike anything we have ever seen in a lifetime.  

     The challenge is that it’s a virus that has already mutated several times.  We know that the elderly and people with health conditions are very high risk.  However, this virus is killing young, healthy people in some instances and we just don’t know why.  Social distancing is the norm and that effort seems to be the best strategy for now. 

     Over 2000 years ago, the world was also battling a crisis.  One that was much more significant.  Jesus Christ was here to save us all and he was condemned by almost everyone around him.  The leaders of Rome ruled the world at the time and had absolutely no faith in what Jesus preached.   The religious leaders of the time considered his teachings blasphemy and wanted him put to death.  They were actually pressuring the leaders of Rome to execute Jesus.  The people turned on Jesus too.  They had observed the miracles over and over, watched Him heal the sick, forgive the sinful and show compassion to those in need. Yet when given the choice between Jesus or Barrabas to be freed, they turned on Jesus and started chanting Barrabas.  Pontius Pilate did not even understand why the people had turned on Jesus because he did not think he had committed a crime.  The fact that Pilate was having his own internal struggle with what was going on indicates just how wrong the situation was. 

     So they condemned Jesus.  They beat and tortured Him, they mocked Him with a crown of thorns and they made Him carry His own cross to the top of Calvary. Then they nailed Him to a cross with spikes.  He was hung high on the hill to bleed to death while some of the soldiers gambled over his clothing.  And by the afternoon, Jesus appeared to be dead. 

     What occurred next indicated to the world that Jesus Christ was indeed the Savior.  The sky turned dark for 3 hours, there were earthquakes, rocks split in half, and one of the centurions exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  The religious leaders realized they had made the biggest mistake they had ever made when the veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom and the temple was destroyed by an earthquake.  The world was consumed by fear and grief from what had been done.  His disciples were in shock and disbelief.  His followers were lost and confused.

     But three days later, Jesus was resurrected and the faith of his followers was restored.  During challenging times, our faith is often challenged.  There is just no rational explanation why some things happen in this world.  Why in the world did a virus like COVID-19 ever even come into existence?  I’m not sure but I do think it brings out the best in many people.  All across America, health care workers are working harder than ever to help those in need.  Cities are taking a moment each day to cheer on the doctors, nurses, EMT’s, policemen, firemen and anyone else that is going the extra mile to get us through this pandemic.  Factories have stopped making consumer goods to make sanitizer, face masks, face shields and other imperative equipment needed by medical staff all over the United States.  Individual citizens are setting up shops in their homes to make face masks for friends, family and hospital staff.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t have such a supportive attitude all the time as a society.  So much more could be accomplished if we worked together to make the world a better place each and every day.                                                                                                                                                                                  
     It may seem like social distancing, community spread, and economic downturn are going to last forever. It will not. Right now, we are in a time of uncertainty, similar to the 3 days after Jesus’ crucifixion.  But we will discover keys to treating the virus, we will develop a vaccine, and we will get back to a normal society again. We have to maintain hope, be of good courage and continue to support each other.  Challenges exist, but faith will see us through, and the Lord will be there for us the entire way.

Happy Easter to all of you and may God bless your families during these extraordinary times. #keepthefaith #heisrisen #jesusisking