Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Garden of Gratitude

A good friend of mine, Nelson Williams who lives up in North Carolina told me a story that happened to him some time ago. Nelson is a really nice guy and loved by everyone who knows him. He lives next door to an elderly lady who is a great flower enthusiast and gardener.

She was talking to him one day and told him that she was going to take a vacation and needed someone to watch over the flowers. In particular, the geraniums growing in pots on her porch and around the front of her house.

She spent quite a bit of time telling Nelson about the flowers and the importance of the spending enough time to make sure that they flourish. Apparently geraniums need a lot of help and should have good drainage and fertilizer. She also stressed the importance of “deadheading” which is pinching off the flowers that have died to make room for more blossoms and richer growth of new flowers.

Nelson, being the responsible guy that he is, took this assignment seriously. For the first few days after she left Nelson trudged over to the neighbor’s yard scanning all of the flowers in the pots for dead blossoms. He dutifully pinched off the dead ones and threw them away.

At this point in the story, Nelson got that wistful, far off look in his eyes, the kind that make you know that something profound is coming, that you are not nearly as smart as the guy talking, and that you might learn something.  Nelson was like that.

He told me that on his morning trip next door four days after he began ‘deadheading”, as he gazed at the pots he noticed how brilliant and colorful the geraniums were. He suddenly realized that he had spent the first part of the week focusing on the dead flowers, looking intently for the "dead and gone" and what he could "bury”.   He realized that he had overlooked the beauty of the entire garden, and each individual plant by looking for death instead of life. He became incredibly GRATEFUL for life and being.

While he dutifully continued to do his job and pinch off the dead blossoms every day, he had a new appreciation for the beauty of the living flowers and for how he had been so distracted by looking for the dead blossoms that he missed the show. 

In thinking about our conversation I started to realize how often in my own life I have concentrated on the dead flowers in my experience and missed some of the beauty of all the good that is going on. How often discouragement, failure, missed opportunities and fear had kept me from being grateful for life, from seeing the beautiful, the good and the true picture.  How sometimes, in my focus on acquiring or keeping money or material objects... "Things", or pursuing less than noble goals, or viewing situations negatively, I had overlooked life’s most wonderful treasures.

As a result, I can see the tremendous power in being more positive in  life, for being  more grateful for the good that surrounds us, for every loving and joyful thought,  for family, for friendship, for being alive and able to share God’s love with those around me, and with those far off who are in our thoughts.  Gratitude for seeing "Life" instead of death and its dead blossoms. 

It is surely true that:  “Seeds of Discouragement Won’t Grow in a Garden of Gratitude.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ice Man and Early Biker Experience

Chillicothe, Ohio... Mid 1940s

Gee that morning sun is sure bright, and really warm for a Fall day. 

Here I am sittin’ on the curb like I had good sense.   Look at that spider on those leaves in the gutter. Should I pick him up? No, I’ll just watch.  

Wonder when the ice truck will get here?  Today is his day for our neighborhood.  I know this is the day because everyone had the ice signs in the window. All you have to do is to turn the sign up to show how many pounds you want. If you want a 25 pound block or a  50 pounder, you put the sign in the front window set up so that the amount you want is right side up.  The Iceman will look at each house to see what you want and he chips off your portion from a huge cake.

Guess I better get up and be ready. All the other guys in the neighborhood will come running when they see the truck. We love it when the ice man cuts the block into pieces with his ice pick  because there a lot of flying ice chips and they taste so good on a warm morning like today.

Later today Herb Valentine said he would come to give me a ride.  But I could go for a ride ONLY if my Mom said it was okay.    Herb is a young black guy, about 18 years old,  that lives a couple of blocks down the street.  His Dad, Mr. Valentine walks by our house on the way home from work a lot of days and he is a special friend.  I walk with him as he goes by the house and he is always cheerful.  I had told him that I wanted Herb to take me for a ride on his new motorcycle and he agreed to tell Herb.   

Herb stopped by on his way down the street yesterday.  Even though I am just a kid, he is kind enough to have spotted a motorcycle lover waving furiously from the sidewalk every time he rode by.    Yesterday he showed me his BEAUTIFUL Indian bike.  It was a Scout or a Chief, I think.  I wasn’t so interested in the model but that it was big, and red, and had a side gear shift, and a big old seat, and it smelled like gasoline!!


Well, Herb came by today.and I am sort of in trouble.   Here’s how innocent kids get in trouble.  I’m sitting on the curb and Herb pulls up.  First question, “Did you ask your Mom if you could go for a ride?”.  The answer that popped out, sort of accidentally, was, “Yep, she said it would be okay.”   Stuff like that happens to me, accidents of the mouth.

So, I jumped on behind Herb, held tight around his waist, and we took off on that Big,Beautiful, Red Monster!! I was in heaven. We cruised down Jefferson Avenue and out to Route 50.  Herb knew some wonderful back roads that were covered with the falling leaves.  The smell of the gasoline, the leaves scattering in our path and in our wake, the sun shining, the motor roaring… this must be what Heaven is like.  

We rode around for what seemed to me like a very short time, but I guess I was mistaken.  It must have been longer than I thought since when we pulled up in front of my house, a crowd had gathered.  It seems that some of the neighbors had seen little Pat get on a motorcycle with “some man” and taken off.  Not the sort of thing that Mothers want to hear.  I guess they were ready to call out the Army to look for me.  But Mom was relieved that it was Herb and that I was home.   

 Herb, in the true spirit of an experienced biker, nodded, smiled and headed for home!!

Well, another day in the big city…. Sigh….

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Milk Cart

Clip, clop, clip, clop.... Early morning in a small Ohio town, early 1940s,  clip, clop, clip, clop,  the sound of the milk cart horse’s hooves rings through the crisp fall morning air. 

This is Chillicothe, Ohio,  774 Jefferson Avenue to be specific. A small boy sits on the front steps of his modest house waiting for the milkman and the faithful horse which pulls the cart. In a small boy’s eyes is a wonderful thing to see. The big brown horse making funny noises with his lips, steam coming from his nose,  pulling the milk cart so effortlessly.

Most fascinating is that the horse knows exactly where to stop along the street to drop off the milkman. The milkman mostly walks the route, stepping  in and out of the cart as it stops in front of a customer’s house, selecting the items he will need for this house, and for one or two more houses next door or across the street.   As he steps out of the cart, the horse, slowly, dutifully starts on down the street to stop at his next appointed stop. The horse never seems to refer to a route guide, or a list of customer addresses,  but just  “knows" what to do.  

Now it is a wonderful thing, in this present time, to be able to go to the grocery store and pick up ice cold milk that's been homogenized and pasteurized and bottled or placed in sterile cartons for immediate use. But it certainly can’t match the charm of being able to sneak out of the house first thing in the morning on a cold day and to spy the bottles of non-homogenized milk in which the cream has risen up to the top of the bottle. On a really cold day the cream will have frozen and pushed the paper cap off making a really inviting pure cream “ice cream substitute” for the little boy who forgets that the penalty will be a spanking when mother finds out. It certainly proves that the boys have very short memories as this scene will be repeated a number of times with the same result each time.

The milkman quickly trots up to each customer's house to put the milk, cream or other products on the front porch, sometimes placing them into a box that is set up for this purpose. Then he goes to the next house eventually ending up back up at the milk cart where the horse, knowing the entire route, has stopped and is patiently waiting, or maybe impatiently waiting, but who can know what a horse is thinking as it stands there with his head down gazing at the ground.
Clip, clop, clip, clop, the horse and milk cart move on down the street.  Having observed, marveled and partaken, the boy sits back down on the porch to await the next adventure, the ice truck.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


"Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. "
(The Holy Bible - I Timothy 4:12) 

How easy it is to take on the name of Christian but not follow with a Christlike life.

Am I changing colors to "fit in" like the chameleon? Do I put on a show for the benefit of others but fail to live the life of Love and Soul, imaging forth the Godliness that is my heritage? Am I ashamed to be different and to set the pace for others... and myself? Are my statements of faith and understanding, and my stated deeply held convictions different than what I actually demonstrate in daily life?

It is SO easy to proclaim one standard for oneself but then not live up to it in "real life".  It has been a real struggle for me.   This post is a repeat since I am revisiting the issue and reaffirming my determination to overcome judging, criticizing and seeing others as less than God's expression or perfection.

A good friend once described his definition of integrity as "The coincidence between what we SEEM to be on the outside, and what we REALLY ARE on the inside.

Today I will strive earnestly to live the life that I proclaim to live, reflect the values that I hold dearly and be a genuine follower of the example that Christ Jesus set.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Love the Bees

What a wonderful example the little honey bee sets for us.  It is always busy, never time for complaining, never criticizing, always about her business, helping the flowers to live and reproduce, providing food for others and serving faithfully.

Negative thinkers may only see the bee as something that stings, other more positive folks love the bees for the wonderful example of industriousness that they set.   If we can follow their example, and spend our hours and days loving others and supporting them, our lives will be blessed.

"Have one God and you will have no devil.   Keep yourselves busy with divine Love. Then you will be toilers like the bee, always distributing sweet things which, if bitter to sense, will be salutary as  Soul; but you will not be like the spider, which weaves webs that ensnare."  Mary Baker Eddy 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

God's Little Reminders !!!!!

 There have been times when I diligently prayed to hear and feel the reassurance of God's presence. It seems that most the time we don't see a large billboard showing God’s answer but if we watch carefully and listen closely, God gives little reminders of his presence and protection.

In the mid-1980s I was running a consulting company in the Middle East. We lived in Kuwait and had a residence in Oman and traveled among most of the Middle East countries in the Arabian Gulf area frequently.

At that time there were a number of airline hijackings and it was of great concern to those of us who traveled between Europe and the Middle East and within the Middle Eastern countries. On one occasion I was in London and preparing to return to Kuwait. During that time, several Middle East airliners were hijacked and there was a threat that terrorists intended to hijack multiple Kuwaiti airliners during one week.

I became very concerned and prayed for a better understanding that Divine Love alone governs man. My prayer was mainly focused on feeling a sense of God's protection for me and for all who traveled, and to know that Love alone is the motivating power of man. Also I prayed to know that evil can't tempt God's precious children to hate or hurt anyone.

The night before I was to fly back to Kuwait I prayed and thought deeply about the Bible citation in Psalms 139, and the Psalmist’s prayer for reassurance of God’s protection and his acknowledgement that God is everywhere present and always with us, when he said: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? And whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there, if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me.” Those thoughts calmed me and bolstered my flagging confidence.

When I arrived at the airport the next morning, I must confess that I was still somewhat concerned, but then God gave me a “little reminder”. As I walked towards the boarding gate I looked out the window of the terminal and saw the front of the huge British Airways 747 that I was preparing to board. Painted on the side of the plane, just under the cockpit window was the plane’s name…. Wings of the Morning. I thanked the Father for the wonderful reassurance and sense of relief. I boarded the plane, feeling probably like the lame man described in Acts 3 in the Bible, that Peter and John healed at the gate of the temple, “that walked into the temple with them Walking and Leaping and Praising God”, all worry left behind.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God. Mary Baker Eddy