Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Better Present

I often hear people talking about their past, as if a past, replicated in the future, is the answer to all of our problems. "I just wish that things were the same as when I was a child.  They were so much simpler then."  Things are always much simpler for children than for adults.  I once told my daughter that we could not buy something because we did not have enough money.  "Well," she said, "just go to the bank and get some money."  Simple.

People who want to return to an idyllic past forget that the 20th Century was virtually born into a world at war, and war has affected every succeeding generation of Americans into the 21rst Century.  They forget that women could not vote until August 18, 1920; that  black people were severely oppressed in this nation and their basic rights as citizens were denied by law until the early 1970's.  Some of us have pasts that we are glad are past and we would not return to them.

Satchel Paige once said, "Don't look back.  Something might be gaining on you."  If we spend all of our time looking backwards, the now will pass us by. Too many of us are rooted in a past that never existed, unable to move forward in the present; unable to see the present for what it is; a blessing; a gift from God. The secret of living in the present is not to live in the past but to live in the now; to constantly grow and transform ourselves into something better based on our past experiences.

Living fully in the present enables us to pay attention and to listen, really listen, to others.  It enables us to help others in a way we could not otherwise do.  It enables us to offer love without constraints.  It enables us to forgive and make peace.

We cannot return to the past.  We cannot change the past.  But God has given us the brains to learn from our past and to live better lives and become better people in the present based on the past. If we do that, then we and our children may have better futures.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Red Tide

In the early 1990's I traveled to Clearwater, Florida for a conference. I arrived at the conference the day before it began and since the conference hotel was on the beach, one of the first things I did after arriving was walk out to the beach.  I had heard of the beaches on the gulf side of Florida all of my life and I could not wait to see a beach with no waves white sand that squeaked under your feet, and water that was so clear you could see fish swimming by your feet.

Clearwater Beach did not disappoint me.  I walked for miles down the beach, waded into the water, watched a horseshoe crab swim by my feet, then sat in the sand and looked out over the calm, gently rolling tide.  I was mesmerized.

Toward the end of the day, I walked back toward the hotel and the sun began to set and it seemed that everyone on and off the beach turned to face the sun.  The music that a band was playing in the distance stopped and in the golden sinking of the sun below the water we all became one people, watching the wonder of God's hand, feeling the silent quietness of the sunset.

I walked back to my hotel room knowing that I had to bring my wife and children to this place so that they could experience what I had experienced.

I went home and described my experience to my wife and we planned to vacation in Clearwater the next summer.  The following months I talked about Clearwater to my children, describing the beach, and the water and the sunset.  They began to talk about Clearwater as if they had been there.

Vacation time finally arrived and we left for Clearwater.  We stayed at the same hotel that I had stayed in earlier. We went down to the beach.  And what we saw was a nightmare.  Dead fish were everywhere covering the sand and hundreds of sea gulls swarmed down to peck out their eyes.  The once clear water was filled with brown, slimy seaweed, and dark rain clouds hovered overhead.

After talking with several people we found that Clearwater was having what they called a "Red Tide", so named because the seaweed make the water look a reddish, brownish color during the several days it is passing through.

"I can't believe you thought this was a good beach." commented my wife.

The children had fun, though, throwing seaweed at each other.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fireworks


Dad was born on July 3, 1927 in Wilson County, NC.  Somewhere nearby, I am sure someone was shooting fireworks into the air.  Dad used to claim that all the fireworks on that day and the day after (July 4) were in celebration of his birth.  And we would laugh.

But, since his death in 1996, every time I see fireworks (no matter what time of year or what particular day), I think of him.  It is fireworks more than anything else that remind me of him.

I went by dad and mom's graves not long ago.  Dad was buried in the veterans section of the cemetery, near the flags. He and mom rest there, and my sister is buried in the same cemetery, not very far from their graves.

In the hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, there is a verse that says, "Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away.  They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day."

It is tough to think that those who lie in their graves today will someday be forgotten and no one will really know who they were.

There should be a day that we dedicate to the memory of all who have died before us.  A day in which we intentionally remember those who "fly forgotten in the ever rolling stream of time."

And, it should be a day of celebration, not mourning, with music, and food, and fireworks.

Especially fireworks.