Thanksgiving Joe

I woke up again with roof over head

He sleeps on a bench, newspapers for bed.

I dress in my best, ironed, polished and clean

His rags are so tattered just standard issue greens

Only once have I seen him, his name I don’t know

For the sake of this story we’ll just call him Joe

Thanksgiving’s now calling as it sits in the fridge

Traditions kept sacred because he fought on a ridge

So I’ll dine with my loved ones as he’ll stand in a line

I’ll cherish each moment, but Joe’s just biding time

I’ll pray to my father to spread blessing and cheer

He’ll pray for just one night without hunger or fear

I think of him often and what’s become of him now

And how could this man make a difference somehow

Maybe a meal to a shelter or some change when I can

For that guy on the corner, cardboard sign in his hand

Maybe clothes for their back or shoes for their feet

Or to simply not look off when by chance our eyes meet

Could I have changed his Thanksgiving? I may never know

But it’s never too late to help the others like Joe

Greg Bauer

Dysfunctional But Thankful

Tomorrow is the day when we remind ourselves that we are a blessed people.  Facebook will be abuzz as we chat about all sorts of honorable things for which we’re grateful, both large and small.  However, if most of us are honest, we’d admit that we’re mostly looking forward to gaining a couple pounds and having a few days off!  Sure that may seem simple and shallow but for this one day, even that reasoning can be appreciated.  We’ve commercialized so many holidays but for some reason the principle behind Turkey Day can’t seem to be spoiled.  Whether you’re thankful for your friends, your family, a paid day off or a paid day working, you can’t get away from the fact that the day is about being grateful.  In fact the day itself is named after this wonderful character trait.

In the wonderland that is social media, there will be themes and memes and Facebook posts.  All of them trying their best to show the  “TOP 10 Reasons” to be thankful or  declare themselves winner of the “who is blessed the most” competition.  Amidst the chaos of dysfunctional family pictures and photo shopped turkeys it’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s boastful, superficial, or simply fantastic.  (I’m hoping for fantastic)

I’ll admit that I fall into the group that is too quick to judge, and for sure to get fed up with, social media and it’s way of using the virtual to remove the virtue from most every situation.   But good can be found in our shameless self promotion .  What would’ve happened after Jesus fed the multitudes if everyone would’ve grabbed a fish, a breadstick, and a smart phone and tried to show the world how they could outdo the Big Man Himself?  That could’ve turned out pretty cool, maybe even better than our secret cranberry sauce recipes or Brown-N-Serve rolls.  (I apologize, that was disrespectful.  I think we all can agree that Jesus Himself created Brown-N-Serve rolls)

So why don’t we embrace one of the few remaining Holidays that has remained impervious to our human intentions?  If we bake the biggest spread with a turkey that is only surpassed by our ego, there is still someone in the room that was blessed by it, because it reminded them of how their Mother used to bake it.  If we throw the most lavish dinner to show off our expensive home, we can’t take away the few hours of comfort our flooded neighbor so desperately needed.  No matter what our reason is for showing off on this holiday, we simply cannot ruin the good that comes from Thanksgiving Day.

So with that I challenge you.  Arrogantly post how you’re blessed more than me, I’ll read it and even give you the big Facebook “Thumbs Up” if I’m in a good mood.  Brag on your children, and I’ll brag on mine because I blindly believe that mine are better.  Tell the world how you’re thankful for your parents or grandparents and I’ll tell you stories about the ones that raised me.  Post a picture of a folded flag letting us know we’re not American unless we thank a soldier this week, and I’ll agree with you and go shake one’s hand.  Display images of the Cross and tell me I’m not truly thankful unless I think of Jesus first and honestly it won’t bother me because I probably have already told Him so this morning.  Be comical, be serious, or be down right annoying with your Thanksgiving posts, and I promise it WILL NOT OFFEND ME!

Because if there’s one thing this country could use a lot more of right now, it is people putting aside their bickering and complaining,  and choosing to instead remind each other that we have so much to be thankful for!

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”
H.A. Ironside

Is This Election Epic?…Maybe Not

Well it’s less than 24 hours away, the most epic election in our country’s history…  Ok, I can’t even make myself believe the hype.  I tell you what, I’ll meet you somewhere in the middle. It’s the most epic election in the last 4 years.  Is it important?  Of course it is, they all are. But that’s all it is, nothing more, nothing less. It’s an important choice for the next 4 years.  Why do I believe this?  Because we have a system designed to keep it that way.  Although aging and beat up, our system does still work for the most part, and I for one always look forward to doing my part to keep it working. Each election is the most important election for that moment in time, not for all of time.  This isn’t a decision of eternity.  Neither candidate can bring salvation or take it from us come Wednesday.  Can it change the course of History?  Sure it can.  But the great thing about our system is, we can alter the course again in 4 years if we realize as a people we screwed it up.  Deep down we all have to believe this. If not, half of the country would either be moving or starting a civil-war on November 9th.

Will Hillary or Donald destroy our country or make it great again single-handedly?  No, not even close.  Neither candidate is capable of such tasks on their own.  Maybe I forgot to put on my rose-colored glasses, but about two years ago, wasn’t it fair to say that the church viewed Trump as egotistical and greedy?  Today you’d swear the hope of Christianity is resting squarely on his shoulders. On my way to work this morning, I’m pretty sure I saw a nice blue-collared Christian family leading their “faith-in-humanity” to the edge of the village to prepare it for some sort of mercy-killing in the event that Hillary wins.  When one party wins, does goodness cease to exist for the other party immediately or is it drawn out mercilessly?

I know I’m young, but how is this election really different from previous ones?  In my short time I’ve seen the first Black President, father and son Presidents, an actor President, and a peanut farmer President.  Every one of them was looked upon as one party’s King and another’s Fool.  Not once during my 40 years, have I turned to any of these men for advice on love, religion, marriage, parenthood or any other topic of how to become a better man.  Why?, because I don’t ask such things of my President.  I simply ask them to play their role in the system that is our Government of the United States of America.  The system that “We the People” are responsible for, more so than the President.  So Mr. or Mrs. President, I’m not looking to you to be a superhero or a savior, just do the best you can for 4 years or 8 if we decide we really like you.  It’s not fair for us to put the responsibility of our hopes, our dreams, or our futures in your hands. We fought valiantly to keep the words “In God We Trust” on a wrinkled dollar bill.  Now how about we fight just as hard to actually believe those words, vote and live accordingly?

Now one last drum to beat, I have a problem with good people using fear as a tactic, verbalizing that our country has gone to hell in a hand basket.  We say that we need to bring our country back to its founding beliefs, to make it great again, as if things used to be peachy and have only gotten worse along the way. Has our recollection of events really become so selective?  Please do not pray for this country to return to what it once was.  Pray for it to be better.  It has never been perfect and there has always been Good and Evil.  Because of fear and greed, we have corralled Japanese Americans into concentration camps, killed people for their land, and spent a sizeable portion of our country’s history enslaving minorities and in one way or another women too.  Most of that is gone now. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to go back there.  Plus they didn’t even have air conditioning…really people we have it good.  We’ve overcome before and we can do it again.  Let’s stop the reminiscing, the romance of it clouds reality.  I’d love to see our vision cast forward towards other things…little things like hope for Love, Joy, and Peace.  Not because of a campaign, but because of our actions towards each other.

Is this country getting worse, better or staying the same?  How could we ever know?  As a people, our baseline for measuring it changes with the morning’s side of the bed or which news channel we turn on.  What we do know, however, is that 240 years into this thing, we are still here as a country and as a free people, and that’s pretty cool. We also know that tomorrow we can walk into a booth, regardless of race or religion, and push a button to play a significant role in the ways of governing our country.

Am I pleased with our choice of candidates?  Hell No, are you crazy?  These two aren’t the best choices we could have by a long shot, but they are WHAT we have and it is our responsibility to make a choice. That, my friend, is one thing that I am VERY PROUD OF, the fact that I live in a country where I have choices.  Even if they’re not great, I have them.  So I’ll reveal my pick.  Drum roll please…Tomorrow I’ll vote for Donald Trump (I know you really cared). Am I proud to call Trump my choice?  I wouldn’t say that, but I am proud to say I made my choice.  Because that’s what makes this country great…its Citizen’s choices, not its President.

(Cue the Chariots of Fire Soundtrack)

Now pretend it’s early Wednesday morning, and if fate has loosened its grip slightly more than the dangling chad of yester year, I will present the President of the United States to my children.  I will explain to them that I don’t agree with everything that He or She believes in.  I may not even like them, but as a family, we will honor the position of President.  Because the people have chosen.  I’ll teach them that our family does not accept the convenient idea that our President Directs the character of our country, but instead that the President Reflects the character of our country.  If we have bad Presidents, rather than complain, we start fixing our character.  I’ll kneel with them that morning and show them how a man prays for leadership after they’ve been elected.  And with God’s guidance, I’ll teach them that no matter who won, we don’t speak hatred of anyone, because the power of life and death is in our tongues.

One last thing, whether or not my choice wins this election, I will try my best as a father to cast into my children’s lives the vision that their decisions, more than any President’s, holds the power to make their country greater tomorrow than it has ever been.

If I get another 40

This morning I woke up on top of the hill or so I’ve been told, like I’ve peaked somehow and it’s all downhill and easy from here. Sure, it’s been a good run but I’ll be honest it felt a little like a warmup. I really haven’t gotten any good at any of this until now. I’d hate to think that this was as good as it gets with all of the tripping on my own feet that I did along the way. Of course I’ve had blessings far beyond what I’ve deserved. I’ve lived life wide open at times and I got pretty banged up, but I sure enjoyed the race thus far.

I wouldn’t erase any of the injuries because they were hard earned on the field, not merely accidents as a spectator. I wear most of them with pride, though not all of them. Some I value only for the lessons that were learned from the pain. And no, my dear son Jackson, it’s a lie, chics don’t dig scars. You’ll get your share of your own, but try your best as a man not to cause any. That tissue is hard to dissolve. As countless romantic novels have read, I’ve loved and I’ve lost. But unlike those tragic tales I refused to let loss discard of love. The two, as it turns out, can coexist and the wisdom gained from each can make the other much better the next go round.

For several years I’ve had the honor of watching life grow through the eyes of a Father, and that’s one honor I intend to continue until my days are done. In regards to friendship, my cup runneth over. I’m not really sure sometimes why they keep me around. There’s more of them than I deserve and they’ve blessed my life in immeasurable ways. I’m forever indebted to each of them and I’ll enjoy spending the next 40 years trying to repay that debt.

If I’m given 40 more, of course, I hope to live a better life, to give until it hurts, and to carry myself in a manner my family is proud of. I pray I’ll grow a greater capacity for love so that I can do a better job at my small part here on earth. I intend to faithfully serve my God, my family, and my community to the best of my ability. Am I capable of such things? I’m not sure, none of us are ever sure of what our capabilities are until we are called upon. But try I shall.

I often hear people say that they wish they knew what tomorrow held. They desire a crystal ball to see what pains and pleasures await them in the years to come. I guess I could ask God what the next 40 years would hold for me, but that wouldn’t really be having faith would it? And plus, wouldn’t that spoil it? The not knowing and the anticipation of what’s to come is half the fun. It reminds me why I love this scripture, because only He knows. “For I know the plans I have for you, say the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

So no, I won’t ask God what He’s planned for me if I get another 40 years. I will however request just one thing of Him today on my 40th birthday. I hope and I pray that every morning until my days are done, that I wake up with the same love for life that I had this morning, and the excitement of one more chance to step off into possibility.

If you can achieve your dreams with your current gifts…DREAM BIGGER!

Seven Days to Forty – Day 7

 

journey-dream

Forgiveness

Tomorrow is the BIG 40!  I’m sitting here on Day 7 of my Seven Days to Forty alone in my recliner, because that’s my writing spot. Most everything I’ve put into this computer has been in this same chair, TV off and kids in bed. I’ve been getting ready for writing this final lesson for a couple weeks now. All along, I figured I would write about Love, because that’s fitting. Every great inspirational speaker jumps on the chance to say “what the world needs is more love!”. Sure that statement is true, but for some reason it isn’t what is motivating me tonight. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family that was full of love, or maybe I was mentored within a church that preached it from its pulpit. I’m not sure what the reason is but I feel drawn to write about something else.

It’s only fitting for me that I turn 40 this year amid all of the chaos we’ve experienced recently in Louisiana. I’ve never been the smooth and steady type anyways, so why not top the hill after the Summer of 2016? The people that are closest to me have seen my rise and fall. They’ve seen me at my best and at my worst. They’ve also seen the journey I’ve been on for several years now and they know that this year has been the launching of a new chapter and it is fresh ink being placed on that page. This hope and these blessings in my life are why the events of this year pain me so greatly. We’ve spent the last several months watching loss of life and those hurting looking for someone to blame. Even amidst all of the love and generosity after the flood it’s become natural to hold a grudge against this department for not paying or that contractor for not showing up. Throw the Presidential election in the mix and we might as well all hate each other, because our candidate says the other side is wrong, and of course our political party wouldn’t mislead us for the sake of their own agenda right?

If you told me tonight that I could pick one act or one character trait that I could grow over the next 40 years, and my wish would be granted, I now know what it would be. If you promised that if I did a masterful job of nurturing this gift, it would become infectious to the rest of the world I would only choose one thing. I would choose Forgiveness.

Our country is currently obsessed with who has done who wrong and who owes who for it. Well the fact is everyone is wrong, not all the time but some of the times. Cops do wrong sometimes. Blacks do wrong sometimes. Whites do wrong sometimes. FEMA does wrong sometimes. Democrats do wrong sometimes. And yes, Republicans do wrong sometimes. Oh yea, and Facebook is not Jesus Christ, it’s not right all of the time either. I myself have pissed off my share of people in my life and I can think of a couple that would swear that I’ve done it this week!

I know for a fact that we’ve all offended Jesus so I’m pretty sure each of us have offended most of the rest of the world. I’m sure grateful some of His last words were “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” instead of “Father, they did me wrong, now make them pay.” We’d find out really quick we’re not prepared to square up that debt.

We’ve become so twisted in being offended that we’re even posting things on social media making fun of people that are offended. We go on and on about which lives matter, but how can we prove any life matters without forgiveness?  It honestly wouldn’t take a lot of effort for black, white, and blue lives to matter a little more. It doesn’t seem like as a country we’re offering much more than lip service to prove that we do matter.  So why not be the one to make a difference.

Put some action to those words and break the chains that are holding us back.  You see, that’s the beauty of Forgiveness, it empties us of bitterness and lets love and hope fill that empty spot. It brings with it Freedom, Healing, Restoration, and Reconciliation. These are things that we as a country need desperately right now. These are things worth spending the next 40 years trying to attain.

So here’s an idea. For my birthday tomorrow I’m going to try giving a gift instead of receiving any. If you’ve offended me, I forgive you. I mean it. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone close to me or some political movement running roughshod across the country. I’m going to make a pledge to let go of it because you’re human just like me and we do some dumb stuff, I mean some really dumb stuff!  I hope you’ll do the same for me, I’m not too proud to ask for it.

I’m waking up in the morning and quite literally starting a new chapter in my life with a blank page. I intend to write a beautiful story with a happy ending, and the only way I know how is to not be harboring ugly thoughts.

I know it’s such a simple and old-fashioned idea, this Forgiveness thing. But can you imagine?  What if it really caught on? Now that would be one Hell of a Birthday!

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr.