Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Magic of Falling Leaves

Several weeks ago, my wife Melanie and I attended her Aunt Vera's 95th birthday party.  Most of her family was there to celebrate this milestone.  Missing were Melanie's father and mother and several of her aunts and uncles who were celebrating Vera's birthday in another dimension.  We all felt their absence as we remembered them in our conversations about previous family reunions.  One of those absent family members was Melanie's uncle Ozzie Osborne.  Yes, his name was Ozzie Osborne (he would tell you that he was the first Ozzie Osborne and that the other Osborne had used his name without permission).

As I sat on the porch eating and talking with Melanie's cousins, I watched the leaves from oak and maple trees falling to the ground and I remembered something that Ozzie once said.

Uncle Ozzie was an artist.  His pen and ink drawings of old tobacco barns, old houses, and trees decorate the walls of most of Melanie's relatives' homes and the pages of several books about rural life.  But I remember him most for a notebook that he kept with him. Whenever he heard something he liked or if he ran across an interesting fact, he wrote it down.  Inside the notebook was esoteric information like how to make rope; how to measure the height of clouds; how to build a fire in wind and rain...

Ozzie's drawings were filled with trees with limbs full of leaves or piles of leaves laying in the grass beneath trees.  And as I sat on the porch watching the leaves fall, I could hear Ozzie telling me again, "You know, there is something magic about falling leaves. Look at them... red, yellow, and all the colors in between, twirling and swirling down to earth, enriching the soil and our lives".  He said this as we stood on the porch of a cabin, watching leaves falling all around us.

For Ozzie, all of life, the big moments, the small moments, the insignificant and trivial, were important.  Each moment contained a truth to be discovered.  There were no lost moments and every moment was a chance to be transformed.  Ozzie thought life was an amazing journey and he knew that it was the journey, not the destination, that brought happiness.

Ozzie liked to share this happiness.  At our family gatherings, Ozzie would hug our children and whisper in their ear, "You are so special to me," meaning every word.  Then he would take me aside, his arm around my shoulder, and tell me about his latest discovery.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com




Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fear of Falling

My wife, Melanie, and I visit Virginia Beach once every four years.  This is our favorite beach and we began going there for vacation when our children were still at home.  We like it because the hotels, etc., are built back from the beach, and the beach is wide.  Between the beach and the development is a 3 mile stretch of concrete that is called a boardwalk.  Along the walkway are the hotels, a variety of restaurants and entertainment consisting of bands, magicians, street actors, artists, dancers, and you name it.  There is such a wide variety of things to do along the boardwalk that we never have to touch our car the entire week that we are there.

Needless to say, the boardwalk is filled with people walking, running, biking and skating throughout the day and night.  I like to watch the skaters, especially the good ones who turn skating into an art form.  They seem to float and glide effortlessly as they turn this way, then that way, wind blowing their hair.  There are couples who skate while holding hands, dancing on their skates to music in a nearby park; kids who race by like hockey players; lone skaters listening to their ipods.

So, I decided to try it.  "It's not like I have never been on skates", I explained to my worried wife. "I was an athlete in high school."   I didn't tell her that it had probably been 25 or 30 years since I had laced up a pair of skates, or that I  had never been on a pair of inline skates..

I could barely stand, and, as I was reaching for the nearest something, anything to hold onto, my feet flew out from under me and I hit the pavement of the boardwalk.  Falling at age 56 seemed to hurt worse than when I was 12.  So, I crawled over to the iron railing facing the ocean, pulled myself up, and baby-stepped my way down the concrete path holding the rail.

I could never seem to let go of the railing.  Each time I tried, I could see and feel myself falling and I would grab the rail.  People standing along the railing would see me coming and jump out of the way.  Where was the grace of this?  Where was the beauty?

And then I realized that the skaters I had admired were not thinking about falling.  They were not thinking at all.  They were in the moment; totally present; at one with the motion; not worried about technique or form.  My fear of falling was my foremost thought.  I was ruled by my fear.

And I never overcame it.  I sadly took the skates off and remembered the days I had spent at the skating rink with my sister.  What was different?  Maybe guys my age were not supposed to be on skates, I rationalized to myself.  But then I saw several who were my age or older on skates, gliding along.

Our fears hold us back, not just in skating, but in everything we do, whether they are real or imagined.  Our fears keep us from enjoying life the way it is supposed to be enjoyed.  They hold us back in our relationships, in our jobs, in our friendships, and even in knowing God.

Our biggest obstacles in life are internal; our fears that we are not worthy; fears of letting go of the past (even an abusive or dysfunctional past); fears of being ridiculed; fears of seeming foolish; fears of not fitting in.

The first thing that God asks of us is to "fear not".  When we fear not, we are free.  Free to experience God and life to the fullest extent; free to live in the will of God.  The spiritual life requires that we live in a different way, think in a different way, and see things in a way that is contrary to the material world.  Living a life dedicated to love, hope, forgiveness and peace will often attract the opposite- hate.  Being different requires great courage.

But, once we overcome our fears, anything is possible... even skating.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Only Thing That Matters

Henry David Thoreau was an American writer, naturalist, abolitionist, and social activist, who once described his occupation in this memorable way:
“For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully; …. I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons.”
His message, truer now than when he wrote it, is to slow down and live life; to stop looking ahead and behind and experience the now; “to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.” 

I look at my life and wonder how so many years could have passed.  Where did they all go?  What happened to the time?  What occupied my time?  And finally, when I look at the whole of my life, what has really mattered?

To answer that question, I look at my father’s death.  I was with him the last two weeks of his life.  We had a chance to talk a little that first week and say some things to each other that needed to be said.  The second week he was unable to communicate.  So, I sat by his bed.  And it was there that this great truth dawned on me. 

When it is all said and done, a person’s life boils down to those you love and those who love you.  That is all that withstands the test of time.  And into death you will carry the love of those you love.  And into life your love will be carried by those who love you.


The present moment is where life happens. Let us live in that present moment, fully realizing the wonder and the miracle of it.  Let us be self appointed inspectors of snowstorms and rain-storms.  And in those present moments let us take the opportunity to give and receive love; an eternal, everlasting gift.  The only thing that matters.


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Standing Up

 On September 20, 2013, Coach Matt Labrum of Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, stood up.  In an amazing act of courage, he met with his team and told them all that they were suspended; all 80 of them.  As of that moment, there was no longer a football team in Roosevelt, Utah.  In a small town where Friday night football and the welfare of the local team is on everyone’s mind, this is amazing.

Some parents were upset with the coach, but when they heard the coach’s explanation, they supported him.  Coach Labrum suspended his team because of reports of physical and cyber bullying, and attitude problems both in and out of school.  The coach did not like what he was hearing about his players and decided that there were more important lessons to be taught to these young men than playing football games.  The entire team needed to refocus their priorities.

So, how did the coach do this?  The day after the suspension (a Saturday), he met with his team and explained to them that if they wanted to play for him, they had to sign a contract in which they agreed to do the following:

  • Perform acts of community service such as pulling weeds in flower beds around the school, go to nursing homes to talk with and read to the elderly, clean school hallways, and wash windows.
  • Attend character building counseling sessions
  • Take classes on character
  • Memorize a poem about character
  • Do more things with and for their families

By the end of the week, all but nine players had signed the contracts and were reinstated to the team.  The newly reinstated team elected new team captains for a new beginning.

The Union High players who are going through this experience may not fully understand what Coach Labrum has done.  At a time when they needed him most, he stood tall for them.  When they were at a crossroad, Coach Labrum pointed them to the road less traveled; the road that leads to success not necessarily on the playing field, but in the field of life.  When the going got tough, Coach Labrum stepped up and put his job on the line for them; risking his livelihood and the financial security of his family.

One day each of these boys will know the full extent of Coach Labrum's sacrificial love for them.  And I hope they look him up and shake his hand.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Old Chicken Feet

I recently read a UPI.com article about a shipment of smuggled chicken feet from Vietnam that were seized by the Chinese police, which were 46 years over the recommended sell date.  Not days.  46 years!

Here are the issues that were floating around in my head after I read that snippet:
·         Why do chicken feet have to be smuggled?
·         Are chicken feet so rare, with a demand so large, that there is a black market for them?
·         Can chicken feet that are smuggled from Vietnam into China be sold cheaper than homegrown Chinese chicken feet?  I suppose that chicken feet 46 years over the recommended sale date can be sold rather cheaply.  But why would the Chinese look toward Vietnam for chicken feet in the first place?  Are there not enough domestic Chinese chickens with feet?
·         How do you keep chicken feet for 46 years?
·         Were these chicken feet passed down from Vietnamese father smuggler to son smuggler as an inheritance?
·         How many generations of smuggler family members are chicken feet good for?  Could the son smuggler have passed the chicken feet to his son smuggler?
·         Do 46 year old chicken feet still resemble feet?  Should we still be calling them feet or chicken nuggets?
·         How do we know the age of these feet?
·         Do people eat chicken feet?  Why?
·         Is there any chicken meat on chicken feet or do people just gnaw the talons?  If so, why?
·         If people do not eat chicken feet, why are they kept for 46 years and smuggled into China?

It seems that there is an answer to the last three questions.  According to Wikipedia, the world’s foremost authority on every subject in the world, chicken feet consist of skin and tendons.  No meat.  This gives the chicken feet a “distinct texture different from the rest of the chicken meat.”  As a result, “they are very difficult to eat”.

So, why is there such a demand for chicken feet that they are being smuggled into China 46 years after their expiration date?  Well, they are used as a beer snack, for soup, or a main dish.  They can be deep fried, or steamed to make them puffy before being stewed and simmered in a sauce with beans.

In this throw away world in which we live, isn’t it good to know that there are some things that never get too old or go out of date?


Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com