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.

The Name

Will had a game yesterday at 9:30am. It was 37 degrees. Throw in the 15mph wind and it’s subarctic temperatures. We just needed snow to really set the mood.

But the game must go on. Must it?

I was wearing 4 layers of upper body clothing and still freezing. Then I remembered another jacket I had in the car. I got it and man did it help.

I said to Sandra, “This jacket is great! It makes all the difference because it really breaks the wind.”

She looked at me as if I was growing another ear off my chin.

“It’s a windbreaker,” she said.

“I know. I said it was breaking the wind.” Maybe she needs the extra ear.

“No, it’s called a windbreaker because that’s what it does. It breaks the wind. It keeps the wind off your body.”

“Ohhh! That’s a genius idea and a great name for it. It’s called by what it does.”

So if you call yourself a Christian it’s because you do the things Jesus did and said do, right?

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭43-44‬ NLT)

Happy Birthday, Will!

He’s funny, quirky, eager to please and smarter than me. Most importantly, Will is 9 years old today. I don’t have words to express how much I love this boy and he’d rather I show him anyway with Dollar Cone ice cream and Happy Meals. And I am glad to do that!

Happy birthday, buddy. You’re going to have a great one!

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Know Thyself

I’m learning a few things about me. Know thyself, Plato said. It’s taken almost 48 years, but I’m getting there. 

A couple of things I’ve learned recently: my body was not designed for early morning workouts and I’m better staying away from sweets. 

I enjoy working out late at night. 10pm, 11pm, no problem. I take advantage of the “anytime” USP part of Anytime Fitness. But a morning workout brings on nausea worse than a Hallmark movie. 

We all know that sweets are unhealthy(even though my daughter, Shelby thinks they are the foundation of the food pyramid) but only recently has that fact become a painful reality for me. I started eating healthy on September 5, 2014. Yes, I know the date. Since then I have lost over 20lbs and 5 inches in my waist. In my fat days sweets didn’t bother me. Today is a different story. 

A couple of weeks ago at a birthday party I had a thick slice of chocolate cake topped with sea salt caramel gelato icecream. The next morning I woke up to a headache and nausea hangover. Not convinced, last night I had a cone of peanut butter, caramel and cookie dough icecream. I am a sucker for caramel. I’m just a sucker, really. This morning I awoke again feeling like garbage. 

Thing is, there’s really nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat or even the rare over-indulgence. As disciplined I am with my diet and exercise these one-off treats don’t move the scales or my waistline. But once a body has been cleansed of junk, it doesn’t appreciate it’s re-entry. 

There’s a spiritual lesson there, too. 

But the biggest lesson for me as I’m getting to know myself is that something may be okay, but it’s not always the best thing for me. 

There’s a lot of application in that truth. 

Power

Like most people in the 21st century, I charge my phone on my nightstand while I sleep. I wake up in the morning, unplug it, start using it(to check NFL news, read the Bible, check email and the weather. Rarely to talk to anyone) and I notice something happening. 

The battery percentage starts dropping.

Once unplugged from its power source, my phone starts draining, losing its strength. 

There must be a spiritual lesson in this somewhere. 

Trusting

Will’s opening ceremony for baseball was scheduled for this morning. Because of the forecasted rain, the commissioner broadcasted an email last night that he would send another email this morning if the ceremony was cancelled. 

So as we were driving in the rain on the way to the ballpark this morning, I wondered where that email was. Surely I’m not the only one who sees the rain and has the good sense to stay out of it. 

Then as I pulled into the parking lot, the email arrived with apologies. The commissioner explained that the league website was down and he’d been trying for over an hour to send the cancellation email. 

It occurred to me that I was wrong to have any doubts. I don’t know the commissioner, but leaders are chosen because they are trusted to make good decisions. And there comes an occasion when that trust is put to the test. Saying we trust is worthless when the test comes and we don’t trust.

We doubt. We complain. We criticize. 

You say you trust the parachute, so are you jumping out of the plane?

Once upon a time in high school I was supposed to pick up Sandra from her part time job. I never showed. And she was more than not happy. To put it mildly. This was before cell phones or beepers. Turns out, I had a wreck on the way to pick her up. It was a trust test and in her youth, she failed it. I think she would do better now. 

We say we trust God and sometimes circumstances enter our lives that put that trust to the test. I’m preaching to the choir. I tend to worry more than trust. Shame on me because He has proven Himself over and over. 

And He’s never late getting the message to me. 

Stay Tuned

It’s what they say at the end of episodes of TV shows. Stay tuned for scenes of the next all new episode of…

But I don’t want to know. I don’t want a preview. I can wait a week. I want to be completely surprised. Don’t ruin it for me with a sneak peek. I’m good with anticipation. 

But I would like a sneak peek of my near future. Will the struggles get easier? Does life simplify? Or the stresses multiply? That I’d like to know. 

But I do know something. My God is faithful. I’m still here. My family is well and healthy. There’s peanut butter in the pantry, milk in the fridge and gas in the cars. We’ve made it another day. 

And my future is in The Lord’s hands. That’s what the Good Book says. And I did skip to the end of it. 

We win. 

Bare Minimum

I have fantastic children, but sometimes they provoke a lecture that usually turns into one of these blog posts. 

One such example recently has been about bare minimum people. People who only do the bare minimum required to get by. Barely meeting expectations, but no more. My children are not these people but at times they clone these behaviors. 

To be truly exceptional you only have to do a little bit more than required each time. Over the long haul this little bit extra each time has a compounding effect, not only in the direct results, but also in the type of person you are becoming and the person that people see. It’s a very small code change in our thought programming, but it can positively propel the trajectory of our lives. 

Read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This is his concept, not mine. I’m just using it to teach my kids.