You Might Be Blessed, Too

  
So you already know it’s my birthday. It’s such a momentous occasion, it calls for a 2 post day. 

I don’t just spend my birthday self-absorbed. I feel a double obligation to please my readers. 
All 3 of you. 
But I’ve had several people wish me happy birthday. By text, email, phone. And it caused me to think.
I am blessed. 
Life is busy. 10 hour workdays, long commutes, house cleaning, dinner prep, fantasy sports tracking, child raising, etcetera. But I’ve had several people press pause on the daily grind to think of me. And a few gave gifts. My brother in law and best friend, Joel rearranged his life at the drop of a hat to take an impulsive beach trip with me that I was prepared to go alone. And he’s paying for everything. 
I am blessed. I already said that, didn’t I? 
It’s just so profound. And I don’t take any of it for granted. 
If more than person slows the roll on their life to pass along birthday wishes to you, you are blessed. 
Thank you all. 

It’s My Birthday

I get the cake and the presents, but it was my mom who did all the hard work.

 

The morning sickness, the bulging waistline, the months of carrying the extra weight, the
fat clothes, the labor pains, THE pain. And if all that’s not enough, I’m born on a rainy Sunday morning. She has to miss church.

 

But I get the chocolate cheesecake and ice cream.

 

It doesn’t seem quite fair.

 

Someone please call my mother today to congratulate her on the finest work she’s ever done.

 

Thanks, mom.  

Keely, The Graduate 

  

Keely graduated high school Saturday and the following is my prepared speech for her. I’m very proud of her and I’m posting it here so that she’ll never forget.

 

To really know Keely is to really love and admire her. But it’s not that easy to get to know her. One might think she’s shy, but that’s not really the case at all. She is quiet, reserved and wise beyond her years. She is a rock. Self-assured, calm, slow to speak and slow to act. Which explains the 20 hour labor she put her mother through. 

 

She is about the most content person I know. She loves people and being around others, but she’s just as happy to be home wrapped in a blanket watching tv alone, except for our
dog, Toby who will be buried deep in her blanket at all times. Her name Keely means beautiful and one look at her and you know she lives up to that name, but more than that is her beautiful spirit. And everyone in this room is blessed enough to know her and know that is so true.

 

I really don’t have much wise fatherly advice to give her. She’s taught me as much I’ve taught her.

One example is from almost 6 years ago when she was just 12 years old. We had been visiting several churches over a period of a few months, including Elevation Church. One day Keely approached Sandra and I and told us that we could keep visiting other churches but she was done. She was only going to Elevation from now on and if we couldn’t take her, she would catch a ride with her Uncle Joel. She wasn’t asking. She was politely telling us in her determined sweet way. I looked at Sandra and said that I didn’t feel God leading us anywhere else, so why not  go with it? Keely immediately joined Miss Denise’s small group, joined a volunteer team and 6 years later, she’s still involved with both. In fact, she is now a student leader on the volunteer team.

 So, I can only counsel her as my Heavenly Father has counseled me.

 

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

You are an overcomer.

You are more than a conqueror.

You are a friend of God.

All things are possible for you.

You are free from condemnation.

All things can work out good for you.

You don’t have a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind.

God will complete the good work He has started in you.

 

You are a child of the King and that makes you a princess. You are royalty. As a father I have
tried to protect and guard you as tightly as I have been able to because you are a valuable and precious jewel. I said before that you are a rock and you are, Keely, but your more than that. You’re not an ordinary rock. You are rare
and polished and smooth and you shine brightly in a world that is becoming over run by darkness.

 

Love others, but don’t ever sell yourself short. Don’t compromise who you are to please anyone else. Always live to please the Lord and that is more than enough. 

I love you, Keely.

.333

A baseball player can win a batting title hitting .333. He can be the best hitter in baseball and be unsuccessful 2 out 3 times.

Will just finished his first season of kid pitch and in his last game he walked both times at bat. The game before he walked twice and the same the game before that. He was pretty discouraged.

There’s no glory in taking a base on balls. I told him that it’s as good as a hit. But not a double or a triple or a home run, he said. Well…

So I tried to explain that while hits are great, most batters will strike out, ground out or fly out most times. But he is showing a high level of patience and skill as a hitter by making the pitcher earn every at bat. Other boys in the league swing at anything in this county and half of Mecklenburg.

But he’s getting on base a lot and you can’t help your team if you’re not on base. Such is life. Much like walks in baseball. Day in day out. Not many doubles, triples and very few home runs. No fanfare. But a lot of patience and hard work. And very few strikeouts.

Get up. Chop wood. Go to bed. Just trying to get on base to help the team.

Sometimes it’s discouraging. Then you look back over the years and the kids you’ve raised and the friends you’ve made. And you realize.

I’ve helped build a winning team.

Too Many Words

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It’s a can of Febreze. It should be as easy as point, spray and sniff.

But look at all of the words. What could they possibly be trying to tell me? Or warn me about? Should I really use a product that looks this complicated?

It’s like the prescription medicine commercials with 90 seconds of fast talking disclaimers. I feel queasy after hearing all of the possible side effects.

I can only handle 140 characters! Don’t they know that?

Some studies show that women speak about 20,000 words a day, while men speak only 7,000. What the study doesn’t say is that men stop listening at about 10,000.

It’s information overload. It’s why we grunt and point and generally have annoyed expressions on our faces by 2pm every day.

Just saying. In so many words.

New Days

I’m not in love with mornings because they symbolize the end of sleep. And I love sleep.

But I do love new days. Each new day is a fresh start. A redo. A reboot. Maybe I messed up on my diet today, but I can start over tomorrow. I didn’t get to the gym today, but tomorrow is a new day. I didn’t finish the project today, but I’ll attack it with fresh energy in the morning. Your mess up today can be a restart tomorrow.

It’s a guilt free way to live life. It’s giving ourselves the grace that God gives us.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says, The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day and all of the progress you’ve made won’t be lost in one day either. Just don’t get in a habit of always putting it off until tomorrow.

Happy Sweet 16, Shaz!

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My baby girl turns 16 today. There is a certain sadness seeing her grow up. All parents understand what I mean. But yet I’m excited to see the person she’s becoming. She’s a bright star whose light radiates onto others when they are around her. They see something special in her and about her. Complete strangers have prayed for her just from seeing her in a photograph.

I am so proud of Shelby. What I can’t give her in wealth or with a last name she earns by her terrific attitude, strength of character and winning personality. It’s a better formula anyway.

Happy birthday, Shaz! I love you deeply.

Staying

My dad just turned 78. He may not make it to 79. He’s held together by a pacemaker, a defibulator, a breathing machine, insulin and a cocktail of other medications. I doubt that he remembers the last day he didn’t have an ache.

Father’s Day is coming up and I wanted to acknowledge him.

I’ve been married for 23 years and a parent for 18. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned to appreciate about my father is that he stayed. He was always there. Nothing against my mother, but it’s hard to stay. The pressures of a husband and a father are immense and then there are the temptations that can lead to destruction. Staying is not easy. That’s why half don’t, even in the Christian community.

But my dad has stayed. For 58 years. Damn, that’s a long time.

We don’t have long, intimate conversations or man to man talks. I’m still waiting on “the” talk, but no pressure. I think I figured it out. We’ve never talked much. I’ m not sure that he knows how to talk to me and I sure don’t know how to talk to him.

But he stayed. His father didn’t stay. His father left when my dad was a young boy. So, he didn’t learn staying from a legacy. He learned it from love. I’d like to say that this staying is love for the wife, but that’s not always the story. It’s love for the kids. I saw this love a few times even though it has rarely been spoken. Once when I was 18 and stupid, I was about to drop out of college. I stopped by his work to tell him. I think he had to sign the forms (otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered to tell him). He didn’t tell me not to drop out, but said that he wished I wouldn’t. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. He wanted better for me. I never turned in the papers.

I stayed.

But staying for him couldn’t have been easy. My 2 older sisters gave my parents hell as teenagers. Sorry, sisters, but it’s true.

Even the easiest of kids make staying difficult. Staying is about sacrifice. Putting family first. Doing without the boat to buy the braces. And this is not human nature. That’s why the world is full of leavers. But not my dad. He stayed.

And he’s still staying. To the end. Finishing the race. Teaching his kids that it can be done.

And should be done.

Ok, So What Now?

Sometimes I wonder if major technological breakthroughs are a product of boredom.

Tech nerds and engineers looked at a perfectly good bag phone in 1992 and thought, “ok, now what?”

“Hey, I wonder if we could make that fit in our pocket?”

So they invented baggy jeans that people wore hanging down to their…umm, just above their knees. Flip phones were next, of course.

Bored with that and tired of carrying cameras in their fanny packs, the nerds (on breaks from playing Dungeons and Dragons) came up with the genius notion of taking pictures with the telephone device.

And the rest is history. Now no one hardly talks on it all.

People don’t talk much period. We text. We email. We update our Facebook statuses and like each other there and on Instagram, but we don’t talk. We have 439 friends on social media that we haven’t had real face to face time with since the last episode of Friends.

It may be no surprise that suicides have increased by 20% over the past decade.

There’s something that the nerds can’t improve on. They can’t engineer a replacement for it.

Intimacy.

It was God’s idea that this human need be fulfilled in relationship with other humans.

It was pretty clever thousands of years ago. And it still is.

Why don’t you text an old friend an invitation for lunch?

A Higher Power

Sometimes your vendor consistently underperforms.

You can choose to vent your frustrations and maybe you’ll be heard. Chances are that you’re not the only customer who has received similar poor service and the complaints have already been lodged and the vendor hasn’t changed.

You could complain again or you could yield to a higher power. The power to choose another vendor.

Psalm 91

Do you thank God for the things that could have gone wrong, but didn’t? Or could have been worse, but weren’t.
I tend to thank Him for the things that go well. I thank Him for the blessings, the healings, the times He rescues my bank account from the 97 cents balance.
But to thank Him for all of the infinite possibilities of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t would take a lifetime and a heck of an imagination. Which He deserves.
As a creative exercise, take 5 minutes to brainstorm all of the things that God protected you from since you woke this morning.
I usually like a strong or cute ending to these posts, but I struggled with this one which I started last night. Then I opened my Bible app this morning and the verse of the day was from Psalm 91:1, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” I decided to open and read the full chapter.

HAVE TO DO’S AND WANT TO DO’S

For a 10 year stretch of my adult life in my late 20’s and 30’s, I had to get up each morning at 4am just to get enough of my work done to stay perpetually and painfully behind.

Thank God that’s over.

Just like then, I still sleep until I have to get up. However, now it’s 7-7:30.

It’s early enough to get almost everything done that I have to do, but it’s not early enough to get done what I want to do.

Have to do’s vs. want to do’s.

The want to do’s don’t win because it requires sacrificing sleep. And as my friend Arthur says, sleep is delicious. As is sin for a season.

But occasionally I’ll pump myself up to get up super early again, say 4-4:30am, so I can do the want to do’s-workout, read the Word, pray, write, etcetera. Then the next morning, exhausted from the insanely long day before (and I’m not 30 years old anymore) I pound on the snooze bar until it breaks and I wake up guilt-ridden and deflated at 7:30.

Then it takes 7 months to psych myself into tackling the want to do’s again. There has to be a better way.

There is. It’s The Slight Edge. I’ve referred before to the book by Jeff Olson.

I am going to slight edge my sleep. Instead of trying to capture super-size chunks of time in the morning even before God wakes up, I’m going to set my alarm for 1 hour earlier than normal. I’ll use that hour for the want to do’s and over the course of 1 year I’ll have invested 365 hours in them. Or maybe I’ll sleep late on Sundays and still have 313 hours towards my want to do’s. As Olson comments, this type of small decision changes the trajectory of your life.

I’m hoping that the 2 competing lists will become one. Doing the want to do list will result in such compounding, gratifying progress that it becomes a have to do habit.

Charles Stanley said that discipline determines your destiny. But discipline starts with a decision. And I get to make that decision each morning at 6 o’clock.

Running

I imagine that the first mile of a marathon is easier than the last. I can only imagine because it’s not something I will ever do.

I wasn’t born with the crazy gene.

But life is a race. It starts the day we’re born and ends the day we die.

The Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭24‬ NASB)

But not everyone is winning the race. Not everyone finishes strong. The last mile is harder than the first. Life is not easy. We stumble. We fall. Our knees and elbows get scraped and some people give up. They crawl to their deaths. Others dust themselves off, get up and keep running.

It’s what you must do especially if your race has spectators, because those people are more than spectators.

They are the prize.

My Ugly Yard

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This guy comes up to my front door wearing a lawn care service uniform so I know he’s about to deliver a sales speech. I guess he didn’t notice the sign at the entrance of the neighborhood that states “no soliciting”.

But that wasn’t the worst of his sins.

Sales guy: Hello, sir. We service your neighbor a few houses up (I take a look and the neighbor’s yard doesn’t look so hot) and I noticed bare batches in your yard from his house. (There it is; his first mistake). I was wondering if you would like our help?

Me: No thanks.

He seemed shocked as if I just insulted his mother.

Sales guy: What about the weeds here? (He pointed to the weeds. They are there. No denying it). Do you plan on doing the same thing you did last year? (Second mistake).

Me: I’m good, but thanks.

Sales guy: Are you sure? We can save you some money. (Uh, how is that? I’m obviously not spending much on it).

Me: Really, I’m good.

And he goes away like a wounded puppy. Shouldn’t I be the offended one? He tells me my yard looks bad even from a distance and that I obviously don’t know what I’m doing and I’m a fool to do it again this year.

But I wasn’t offended. Because mostly everything he said(or implied) is true. I own it. He’s just not going to make many sales with that approach.

His mother should have taught him better manners.

Twilight Zone

So I took Sandra to Cinnebarre tonight for her birthday. That’s the theater that serves real food. Because we like to do both. Eat and watch movies.

And I had a BOGO free coupon. We like those too.

But it was like the Twilight Zone. Not the movie. That was our first date on June 21, 1983.

We went to see American Sniper because my Flixster app showed it playing there at 7:15pm. Except the ticket booth guy said it wasn’t playing. Sometimes the online stuff isn’t right, he said. Ok, what about MacFarland? Flixster shows that, too.

Uh, no.

Ok, we settle on Paul Blart. That’ll be $10.50 says the ticket booth guy. But the sign says Monday thru Thursday it’s $6.00. And it’s Thursday. But that’s not for the newest releases. Whatever.

Theater 2, he says. We walk to theater 2 and the sign above the door says MacFarland.

Really?

Then I look at the menu and decide that I’m not starving for a $13 burger. I chose $9 pita and hummus.

But the movie made us laugh and we needed it. Sandra screamed within the first 5 minutes and I laughed at her. It was a good night. Any time out alone with my hot wife is a good night.

Even if the rest of the world is a little crazy.

BCC

What century are we in? 21st, correct?

Yet I just received an email blast with 100+ email addresses that were not blind copied. And it originated from an organization. I’ll omit the name.

But really? We have to be 18 to vote, 21 to drink and 35 to run for President, but just anyone can open an email account and run amuck.

Spammers and hackers love you.

The Van

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Of course we had a name for it. Just like any family that practically raises its kids in the vehicle that shuttles them between grandma’s, play dates, doctor’s appointments, school, fast food drive-thrus, emergency rooms and church, we had a name for the blue Windstar van that was a part of our lives for almost 10 years, 150k miles and 2 transmissions. Blue Star would have been cute, but we called it “the van”.

We’re a simple family.

Yesterday the van left us forever as we donated it to the National Kidney Foundation. Hopefully, it can serve another family, but for us, it was time for the pasture.

As it was pulled away, a few memories flashed through my mind. It made a bunch of beach trips. Even though I cleaned it out the best I could, I’m sure that North Myrtle Beach sand is ground into the fabric. I recall on one trip looking into the rear view mirror and seeing one of my beach chairs fly away. You just can’t trust bungee cords.

On another trip, about 3 days in and I had been too lazy to take off the hard shell luggage carrier, we heard a thumping sound on the roof.

“You should stop and check on that. Sounds like the luggage thingie(everything is a thingie to my wife) is loose”, Sandra says to me.

“It’s fine. Just the strap banging against the van”, I replied. Once on my way somewhere I don’t like to stop. I’d rather drive 10 miles in the wrong direction at 65 mph than stop to ask for directions. Men, you get that, right? Thank God for iPhone navigation.

“You should really stop. You’re gonna kill someone.”

It’s crossed my mind.

A few more minutes and miles of this joyful banter and I finally relent. I pull to the side of the road and indeed the rear strap had broken. The luggage carrier, empty and lightweight, had been essentially flapping in the wind.

I didn’t say she wasn’t usually right.

Great, I thought. I’m miles from the hotel; I have no extra straps; the van is loaded with Sandra and my 3 young kids and there’s no room for the carrier. Maybe if I left Sandra on the side of the road…

Then I looked down and what did I see laying on the ground by the front passenger tire? You guessed it. A brand new bungee cord. This highway stretched on for hundreds of miles, yet precisely where I stopped was precisely what I needed. It wasn’t an old beer can or an abandoned sofa or an old aluminum wheel rim. Even a bag of gold coins wouldn’t have solved my immediate problem. But a bungee cord did.

Should I pause to mention that if I’d stopped earlier when Sandra first mentioned it, there wouldn’t have been a bungee cord on the ground? My stubbornness does serve a purpose.

Nonetheless, It was a bungee cord miracle. Only an ignorant and arrogant person could deny the existence of a benevolent God if faced with this situation. It was a Red Sea event.

So many other memories. Keely, so excited that the beat up, worn out van would be hers when she turned 16. Well, it was yours for a while Keely until it became too unreliable to trust with such precious cargo.

I feel silly getting sentimental about a Ford product, but it’s not really about the van. It’s about the people it carted around.

Bye, van. Thanks for the memories.

Funny Misfortunes by Will Brady

Edited and comments left by Dennis Brady in parentheses.

It all started when my mom and sisters left to go out of town Sunday afternoon.

My dad and I were an hour late getting to grandma’s house for Easter dinner. He thought it was 6pm, but it was really 5pm. (I’m sure she said 6pm).

Then we forgot grandma’s Easter present, a bouquet of red tulips. (It’s the thought that counts).

When we got there we realized they waited on us to eat and all the food was cold. Awkward. (Will’s laughing now thinking about it).

Dad brought deviled eggs and creamed spinach which are now spoiled because he left the leftovers in the car all night after we got back home. That was some rotten luck. And eggs.

Then late Monday night we decided to fix a plumbing problem with the toilet. (Water closet, Will). My dad had done it before and thought he didn’t need the instructions. (What was I thinking?). The result was a huge mess. (The kid does exaggerate). Once he had fixed it-which took a long time, he accidentally broke off the toilet handle.

My dad told me to put the wet towels and stuff on the back deck to dry. The next morning we discovered that it rained overnight and the towels were still wet.

So the next morning we went to Lowes. Before the plumbing drama we started painting some old chairs and ran out of paint. Plus we needed the toilet handle. We found they only had one can of the spray paint that we needed. We only needed 2!

Then today before we could get the towels in, it rained again. And when my dad took me to grandma’s house today, we forgot her flowers again! (Well, they’ll be here for Sandra when she gets home tomorrow night. Boy, do we need her back home!).

Though we had our misfortunes, it was pretty funny. (At least he thinks so).

The Cans and the Cants

There are 2 types of people in the world. Ok, there’s more than two, but for the sake of this Random Thought, we’re sticking with only two.

The Cans and the Cants.

The Cans see an obstacle as something to hurdle, climb over, go under or if necessary, go 22 miles out of the way to get around.

The Cants see the same obstacle as a reason to quit, take a nap, surrender.

Once over, under or around the obstacle, the Cans get to see the Glory of God and how He helped them through the trial. The Cans get to experience God at a deeper level, grow spiritually stronger and become more confident as human beings. They also get to enjoy more of the riches of life as they open more of the gifts all around them.

The Cants miss life and then they die. They may make it to Heaven, but it will be sad if they see all of the unopened presents they left here on earth.

The biggest gift of all is one they could have left for their kids. The gift of how to be a Can.