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Archive for the category “A Different Look At Dying”

Exit Stage Right

I guess the hardest thing for a famous actor, actress or celebrities to do is get off of the stage.  This is especially true when they know it is their last appearance. I remember seeing Johnny Carson’s final show.  He had the forethought to give his audience notice in advance that this would be his last show.  It was expertly planned with a combination of the here and now and highlights from shows past. Watching the show brought laughter and tears to his audience as they enjoyed the memories of the past while also realizing that there would be no new memories.  It was a time of reflection and Johnny was at his best.  He was candid, funny, and very reflective of the 30 plus years that he was the host and star of the Tonight Show.

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Muhammad Ali was a Heavyweight Boxer the likes that nobody had seen before.  He had speed like a lightweight and he developed a style of hitting without getting hit.  It was his quick reflexes as he could pull his head back just as his opponents were trying to throw their knockout blows.  Almost all of the time they ended up only hitting air.  In 1967 Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the army.  His Heavyweight Title was stripped and for 3 and a half years he was not allowed to fight.  Then in 1970 he was given a license to fight in Georgia.  Ali was still good when he returned but he wasn’t the fighter he used to be.  Subsequent matches he started to get hit.  When he fought Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight crown in 1971 he was hit like never before.  No longer was he able to get out of the way every time.  Joe knocked him down in the 15th round and kept his Heavyweight championship.

Ali persevered after that fight and for 3 years he chased another chance to claim the Heavyweight Title.  Finally in 1974 he got his chance.  George Foreman was now the Heavyweight champion after defeating Frazier the year before.  Ali was a big underdog but he used his ring savvy to tire Foreman out and get his title back.  Ali had hinted before the fight that this would be the perfect way for him to leave the stage.  Ten years after winning the title to regain it against such a powerful foe.  However after he won he wouldn’t quit.

Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time in 1975 and although he won the fight it took it’s toll on both him and Frazier. It was finally time to get out with his health in tact but Ali kept fighting even though his best days were long passed.  He was getting hit and was lucky enough to barely keep his title in some controversial decisions.  In 1978 he fought a rookie boxer named Leon Spinks who had 8 professional fights at the time.  Ali had not trained properly for the fight and Spinks won the decision and the title.  Later that year in a rematch Ali won his title back from Spinks.  Finally Ali retired and left the stage.  Ali loved the limelight and surely he missed being the center of attention.  The next year he announced that he was coming back to get his title.  The fight with Larry Holmes didn’t go well.  Ali was hit like a punching bag showing none of his old talents.  He fought one more time and lost again before he finally admitted that he was through.  It was sad watching him fight at the end when there was nothing left but the memories of what used to be.

Like Ali we are given a time in the spotlight in life. Ecclesiates chapter 3 mentions that there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

One of the hardest to deal with is the time to die.  When Carson walked off of the stage for the last time he knew that his time in the limelight was up.  He dealt with it by planning his show and making a great memory at the end.  Unlike Ali at the end we only remember the extraordinary talent that he had without a slippage in later shows.  The same lesson can be learned from the end of life.  Although we will be missed we have the power to make it more of a joyous occasion instead of a sad episode with no hope.  As Christians we need to remember that this is not our home.  When our time is up there is no need to keep fighting.  That is why so many people die very peacefully.  They know that they are going to a place far better!

I have a friend whose mother was dying.  At Christmas time all of the family decided they would write her a letter telling her how much she meant to them.  Later my friend mentioned that the thinking was all backwards.  They should have had her write a letter to each of them.  It would be a letter like the letters somebody used for the meaning of the Bible which was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

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Heaven On My Mind

The song “Georgia On My Mind” was not written by Ray Charles although when I heard him sing it I thought so.  It was actually written by the roommate of Hoagy Carmichael named Stuart Gorrell back in 1930.  It might have been originally written about the state of Georgia or it could have been written about a woman. In his second autobiography Hoagy cleared the picture.  Although he did have a sister named Georgia the song was written because his saxophonist named Frankie Traumbauer mentioned that he should write a song about the state of Georgia.  He also suggested some lyrics “Georgia, Georgia.” Whether it was written entirely by Gorrell or in a joint effort with Hoagy the song was written.  Although both guys lived in Indiana and never visited Georgia it would forever be associated with Georgia because of a Georgian named Ray Charles.
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Georgia on My Mind
Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)
I said Georgia
Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines
Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you
I said Georgia
Ooh Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)
Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you
Whoa, Georgia
Georgia
No peace, no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
I said just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
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When I listen to the late Ray Charles recordings of his rendition it almost always brings tears to my eyes.  Ray was a world famous wonder with the way he could sing a song with feeling and beat.  He was also blind but truly he could see and feel in so many other ways.  Yet in all of his travels this song seems to indicate his love for his hometown and his feelings toward that heavenly place.  It isn’t a song with an abundance of spectacular descriptive words, but it is a song that when he sang it there was such a feeling of love for his great home.  There is something about a home that we all love.  It is more than just words it is something deep down in our hearts.  It’s hard to describe in words it is so powerful.  By just taking a few simple but meaningful words and singing it with such feeling Charles captured his thinking and longing for his home.
I remember a song we sang in church when I was young.  It was a hymn called “When We All Get To Heaven”, by Eliza Hewitt.  The lyrics went
  1. Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
    Sing His mercy and His grace;
    In the mansions bright and blessed
    He’ll prepare for us a place.

    • When we all get to heaven,
      What a day of rejoicing that will be!
      When we all see Jesus,
      We’ll sing and shout the victory!
  2. While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
    Clouds will overspread the sky;
    But when trav’ling days are over,
    Not a shadow, not a sigh.
  3. Let us then be true and faithful,
    Trusting, serving every day;
    Just one glimpse of Him in glory
    Will the toils of life repay.
  4. Onward to the prize before us!
    Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
    Soon the pearly gates will open;
    We shall tread the streets of gold
I remember that everyone sang this hymn with such feeling.  The spirit in the place was so happy as young and old truly felt the love of God.  In those moments I could tell that this was a song that captured our future home and our desire to be there.
Sometimes great songs are written by people without the experience of what they are writing about.  I am reminded of the song “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”  That song was written by Jack Haworth who saw a sign while riding on a subway in 1908 about a ball game to be played that day and by the time his ride was over a song was written.  He had never been to a ball game before.  The two artists who wrote “Georgia On My Mind” had never been to Georgia.  Yet they created the words that have become the state song.  Likewise most of us have never been to heaven.  Yet the words of the above hymn is in such anticipation of a great event.
Have you ever planned a vacation and dreamed about what a great time you will have?  You start dreaming about each and every event on the vacation and have a longing to be there.  As Christians that is how our focus should be.  We are here now but our future isn’t the here and now.   Someday we are going home.  Sometimes it is a thought and then a yearning as Ray Charles so beautifully stated in his song.
                                   “No peace, no peace I find
                                     Just an old sweet song keeps
                                     Georgia on my mind.
The beautiful thing is when we sing songs about Heaven be it slow, fast, rocky, or a hymn it is like that old sweet song.  We are keeping heaven on our minds and yearning for that wonderful trip.  Just an old sweet song keeps Heaven on my mind!
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#10 Days Of The Living Dead

Going to a movie only because we were given free tickets years ago brought this story and the memory of Dawn of the Dead.

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/days-of-the-living-dead/

Dawn of the Dead original VHS box cover art.

The Sin Police

I see you, you see me
Watch you blowin’ the lines
When you’re making a scene
Oh girl, you’ve got to know
What my head overlooks
The senses will show to my heart
When it’s watching for lies
You can’t escape my
Private eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move
Private eyes
They’re watching you
Private eyes
They’re watching you watching
You watching you watching you
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The song was a big hit years ago by Hall and Oates called “Private Eyes.”  What is the song telling us?  It is saying that whoever they are talking to is under their radar.  Everything they do or say won’t be missed.  When they say something untrue or do something questionable the alarm will go off and they will be exposed.  Something that the other person did has ticked them off and now they will keep tabs on that person and not let them get away with anything.
Have you ever been driving and happen to look in your rear view mirror and see a police car right behind you?  Nobody likes this situation because we fear that any kind of little mistake and we are going to get pulled over for an infraction.  We hope that making a turn will send the police car in a different direction.  How many times does it seem like the police car is following us wherever we are going?  Maybe it is just a coincidence and maybe it isn’t.  All we know is that we are suddenly on our best behavior and try our best not to make a mistake.  In short it is a very unnerving situation.  Now picture this situation happening every day.  Picture every time you get in your car and start driving a police car appears and follows you to work, to the store, or wherever else you are going?  It is not easy driving when someone is seemingly out to get you.
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This out to get them attitude is what many are carrying with them.  Many are glad when something bad happens to someone that is under their evil eye.  Our evil eye has a tendency to drop down to our mouth too.  We can be quick to criticize the person that we feel like is getting away with so much.  So many times we make a statement about karma when something bad happens to them.  It pleases us to think that their bad deeds are getting punished.  We may even laugh as we contemplate their difficulties.  Did you know that God didn’t call anyone to be the sin police?  In fact the Bible tells us not to get revenge. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah.  Usually we are intrigued as kids by the fact that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and he stayed in the fish for three days and three nights.  As a kid I think the big fish was described as a whale.  We tend to remember Jonah being in the whale but forget why he was there.  The story goes that there was a city named Nineveh.  Nineveh was filled with wicked people and God told Jonah to go and preach to these people that their city would be destroyed in 40 days.   Jonah however had an evil eye toward them.  They were Israel’s biggest enemy and Jonah didn’t want anything good happening to them.  The good would happen he feared because they would turn from their evil ways and God would have mercy on them.  Jonah had an evil eye for them and wanted nothing good to happen.  In fact he wanted their whole city destroyed.

Instead of obeying God Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He went to Joppa and paid the fare to board a ship heading for Tarshish. God caused a tremendous storm when the ship was far out to sea.  The crew fearing for their lives threw out all of the cargo to lighten the ship.  The captain of the ship found Jonah fast asleep below the deck.  “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish. Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

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Jonah 1 7:16

In God’s mercy to Jonah he saved his life by having a big fish swallow him.  Jonah prayed to God while in the belly of the whale.  He asked for forgiveness and God forgave him.  Three days and three nights later God made the fish sick and he spat Jonah onto the shore. Once again he asked Jonah to go to Nineveh.  This time Jonah went and preached to the people that in 40 days their city would be destroyed.  He must have been a sight preaching to them after being in the whale for 3 days and nights.  It made them believe his story and they turned from their evil ways.  As Jonah had predicted God had mercy on them and changed his mind.  Because of their repentance he forgave them and did not destroy their city.  Instead of being happy about God’s change of heart Jonah became angry.  It was hurtful to him that God had him preach one thing and then it didn’t come to pass.
The story of Jonah is a lesson in God’s compassion and mercy.  God didn’t want anyone to perish.  Not the sailors on the ship, not Jonah, and not the people of Nineveh.  Today God doesn’t want anyone to perish either.  Not your friends, your enemies, or anyone you may come in contact with.  When we get hurt or people let us down or we feel like that life isn’t fair we should remember the story of Jonah.  Instead of an evil eye toward people that are against us God wants us to pray for them and hope for the best for them.  He has not called us to be the sin police pointing out every bad thing about them.  He has called us to act as the police in another regard, protecting them in love and forgiveness.  Always remember that God’s private eyes are watching you.  He is watching out of love and desires that we show mercy and love like he showed to us.

Pete Maravich: The Interview

Pete Maravich was a basketball magician who was voted as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.  Yet deep down all through his playing career he was lost.  He tells about having large sums of money and yet wanting to kill himself.  Pete only lived 40 years but the last few were his most joyous.  He met Jesus Christ and his life was never the same!  You will be moved by his living testimony that is still so powerful long after he has gone to receive his higher reward!

 

A Missing Light On My Computer

Yesterday throughout the United States people were looking up at the sky with special glasses on.  The glasses were designed to block the rays of the sun that the moon didn’t block.  It was one of those events that doesn’t happen often.  The moon was lined up between the sun and the earth for a limited time.  In some places it was close to a 100% blockage.  To others like where I live it was closer to 80.  Still it was a sight that people were lined up to see with glasses in place.  Some places went dark in the middle of the day.  Others like mine became dull and reminded me of the darkened horizon before the sun sets.

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This past week I have noticed a bright light missing from my computer.  I discovered the light a couple of years ago when a skinny lady from Kenya with a huge smile and a joyous attitude entered my computer world.  Her name was Lydia Jeritoch although I noticed that many people called her Jeritoch.  I wasn’t sure if I was calling her by her proper name but she assured me that either was acceptable.  One day someone shared one of my stories with Lydia and the next thing I knew there was a request on my Facebook page to accept her friendship.  Not knowing her I sent a message asking why she wanted to be my friend?  I don’t remember how she responded but I’m thinking she told me she read a story and that she was a Christian.  However it happened she became a tremendous blessing in my life, an avid supporting friend, and an enthusiastic supporter of my writing.  Although our initial meeting was somewhat dim in my memory, the light she shined since has lit up my computer screen for the last two years.

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Many months passed since that delightful time.  Lydia was thrilled when at the end of 2015 her story was the lightenload story of the year!  Since she was in Kenya and our time zones are so far apart we didn’t always see each other online.  However there were times that I woke up in the middle of the night and there she would be.  She posted about how great her God was often and I could always feel the joy in her heart.  At the end of 2015 I was having my own health issues.  They wanted to do a bunch of tests on me that left me wondering if my time here was limited.  One night I saw Lydia and asked her to pray for me.  Lydia was only too happy to and I knew that she was a friend I could count on and really cared!
A few weeks later the tests were done and I was pleased to tell Lydia the happy news that after much testing nothing was found!  If it were possible I think she was even more ecstatic than I was!  She mentioned that she was weeping with joy!  My story link is listed below.
About a week ago I happened to get on Facebook and Lydia’s picture was staring at me.  Someone was breaking the news that Lydia had passed away.  From the details I could gather she had been in the hospital for only a couple of days.  It seemed that she was having heart issues again.  Just the day before I had seen a post that Lydia made in which she was glorifying God in her typical way.  Nothing was mentioned about any discomfort she was going through.  It was obvious she had her sights on encouraging others and not complaining about her own problems.
The eclipse yesterday to me is a reminder of her.  Though her light may have seemed to diminish much like when the moon got in front of the sun it found a way to shine through.  Eventually the moon passed from the line of the sun and we realized what a wonderful beautiful gift the sun is.  That is how it is with Lydia’s light to me.  Without it being present I notice that a true friend has departed.  Although it was never going to work out where I would actually meet her in person, someday I will.  Until we meet again I will never forget the light that she gave which shined for her God to a hurting world.  Her light is physically gone now and Facebook is much dimmer, but Heaven is a little brighter.
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It Is Well

 

When I went to church as a teenager they didn’t have the rock sounding music that so many churches offer today.  I remember one Sunday night the song leader talked specifically to the youth section.  “Tonight we are going to sing only rock songs”, he offered.  Of course we were looking forward to a change of beat from the usual hymns.  What followed was the hymns, (Rock of Ages), (Jesus Is The Rock of My Salvation), (The Solid Rock), and other “rock songs.”  One of the hymns I remember us singing back then was called (It is Well With My Soul).  I remember it especially because it was a song that had an echo in it.  The main words would go (It is well) with some of the people doing that part while a few other ones echoed the phrase (It is well) in another key.  The same echo was done with the words (With my Soul).  Anyway it was a memorable song and seemed to be about a person happy in life because they had the spirit of God in their soul!  Maybe this was a person that everything went right for and God seemed to bless at every step.  We’ve all seen those people that in our eyes everything seems to to be perfect.  They have the perfect family, have the perfect job, the nicest things, and it seems the sun is always shining on them.  Sure they can sing “It is Well With My Soul.”  For those people everything always goes right.

Horatio G. Spafford lived in the 1800’s.  He was a very successful Lawyer and Businessman.  He lived in Chicago Illinois with his wife Anna and their five children, 4 daughters and a son.    In 1871 tragedy hit the family as their son fell victim to pneumonia and that same year much of their business was destroyed by the great Chicago fire.  With trusting hearts they carried on and God had mercy on them as their business started to prosper again.  Their faith was a big part of their lives and by 1873 things were looking up.  All six of them made plans to take an ocean liner overseas for a family vacation in Europe.  Horatio was all ready to accompany his family when out of the blue an urgent business matter came up.  It would take several meetings and Horatio was forced to delay his trip.  He urged his wife and children to start on without him and he promised to meet up with them a few days later (taking another ship).

Anna and her four daughters boarded the ship along with 308 other passengers and crew.  The French ocean liner was called the “Ville du Havre” and it was a big impressive ship.  It was 421 feet long and weight 395 tons!  Four days into their journey through heavy fog the unexpected happened.  A huge iron-hulled Scottish ship called the Loch Earn collided with their ship.  Without warning all of the passengers were in great danger.  Anna ran up to the deck and met with her daughters.  They all knelt together and prayed that God would spare their lives but if not that they would be able to endure whatever awaited them.  Tragically 226 passengers and crew from the ship parrished that night including Horatio’s four daughters.  A woman was seen clinging to ship wreckage by a sailor in a small boat.  It was Anna and she was alive.  She was rescued to another liner and nine days later a wire was received by Horatio.  The message was brief but to the point “Saved alone, what shall I do?”  Hurriedly Horatio boarded the next liner and headed off to meet his grieving wife.

About four days into the trip the captain called Horatio and told him they were now directly over the area where the tragedy occurred.  The Holy Spirit must have been guiding Horatio’s thoughts as he wrote the now famous lyrics on that ship amidst his grief and pain in the most heartbreaking time of his life “It is Well With My Soul.”  You see in every ship that has sank there was the same cause.  There may have been different ways that it occurred but the diagnosis has always been the same.  More water was getting in than was staying out.  When the ships got weighted down they sank.  Horatio was determined with God’s help to keep his ship afloat.  He didn’t get into the blame game where the weight of the tragedy could get inside of him.  Instead he chose to keep all of that on the outside.  He showed us how we need to live our lives by the example he left.  Though the storms were raging on the outside he refused to let any of that disturb the peace that was on his inside.  These beautiful words that Horatio wrote with the waves badgering his ship have blessed many hearts and lives through the years!

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Chorus:

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul

The Caller ID reads “Hell”!

I heard a story once about a frog.  This frog was placed in a large pan of warm water and he was happy and comfortable.  The water was placed on a burner and it was turned to low.  Very gradually the temperature increased but because it was such a gradual increase the frog didn’t notice.  At the end the frog died from the heat of the boiling water.

The phone rings right in the middle of dinner, a favorite show, or maybe as you are just relaxing.   I used to answer all of the calls.  You never knew when somebody important was calling.  Maybe it was an urgent call or an emergency, you never knew.  That was before the days of answering machines and caller ID.  One of the greatest inventions ever in my opinion is the Caller ID! It lets you know who is calling!  In my case the ID might say Michigan Caller, or Florida Call.  These calls are obviously telemarketers because I don’t know anyone in Florida and “Michigan Call” is too vague.  We have our phone set up where if it is friends or family music plays after the phone rings twice.  Sometimes someone calls that we want to talk to that the caller isn’t in that circle.  A quick look at the ID and we can quickly pick up.  Otherwise if one of those outside callers calls they can leave a message.  Almost all of the time they hang up.  If they can’t leave a message more often than not they were trying to sell me something and knew it couldn’t be accomplished on the answering machine.

There are times where I have answered calls that seemed suspicious.  At those times I answered but my guard was up.  If there is a delay after the original hello that is a sign for me to hang up.  I know that telemarketers use a phone calling machine.  Once someone answers, it takes a few seconds for the caller to realize it and connect to that victim.  The answering machine system is not perfect.  I’m reminded of an old friend receiving my call from a cell phone.  Obviously it came up on his ID as “Cell phone call” and he answered but he was on the defensive.  After some cold comments he realized it was me and had to apologize.  The same thing has happened to calls I have picked up.  I’m reminded of someone who called from the other side of the state whose husband was featured in one of my stories.  She asked if I had a few minutes and I said “no, I’m on my lunch hour.”  She wondered if she could call back at a better time and I asked what it was about?  When she told me I was glad to make the time right then after apologizing for my rudeness.

'It's like caller ID. You get to see who's calling before you pick up.'

There is a commercial on the radio that goes like this.  The phone rings and the lady picks it up.  “I hear you are going on vacation”, the voice begins, “we are going to come over and rob your house.”  With this warning the lady yells to her husband about buying security protection before they leave.  The commercial states “Wouldn’t it be nice if life gave you warnings?”  Of course it would!  If we knew what danger we were in or were about to get into we could avoid it at all costs!  Of course I can’t remember who sponsors the commercial but I do remember them saying that “unfortunately life doesn’t usually give us warnings.”

Likewise the Devil doesn’t give us a warning of what he is trying to do.  Jesus stated that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.”  John 10:10. In contrast as the verse continues Jesus stated that “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  So in essence it is a choice between life and death.  It would be an easy choice if our guard is always up!  Unfortunately many of us find ourselves in the boiling pot not realizing that we are slowly dying.

The Devil's Ride

The Devil’s Ride

The Ride
By Lewis Hamilton c1997 from the book “The Gardener & My Garden” c1997

The man there at the carnival
gave us all a pass
He said, Ride on my little ride
I won’t make it go too fast

The crowd pushed hard, and I went too
but I wanted to turn back
That ride looked old and rusty
thee were pieces off the track

Oh, Mr. Carnival man, the others yelled,
Turn that lever to the hilt,
for this ride will get boring
if it isn’t at full tilt

So we got on that crazy ride
as crowded as could be
There were too many getting on
as even I could see

Mr. Carnival man, I yelled to him
This ride can hold no more!
But he just sneered and turned away
as he locked my little door

Please let me off this crazy ride!
It’s too crowded here for me
This ride is a death trap,
an awful place to be!

He looked my way with hateful eyes
With a mean and raspy voice
he said, You better just shut up,
You know you made the choice

I cried out as I shook that cage,
Somebody save the day!
This rides not safe and I want out,
unlock this door I pray!

Out of that crown one man came
He called out clear and loud,
Whoever wants out of this trap
I’ll save you all right now

I raised my hand, he pried that door
and I was safely free
Some others got out while they could
but most were mad at me

You’re holding up our death ride
They glared a look of hate
Quit delaying our excitement
Don’t make us have to wait

I saw the lonely, desperate looks
in their glaring, hate-filled eyes
They were looking for excitement
on that old death trap ride

The carnival man then grabbed the switch,
the ride was in full gear
The people clung on tightly
out of reflex and of fear

That old roller coaster went up the track
then it went straight down
As I had feared, the track just broke
with a thudding, crashing sound

There were bodies flying everywhere,
such a needless tragedy
I wish they would have listened
when their chance came to be free.

So I went home and thought a lot
It wouldn’t leave my mind,
just how I could have ended up
if that man was not so kind

I went back,there the next day,
surely that ride would be torn down
My eyes seemed to deceive me
with the shocking sight I found

A crowd was waiting to get on
with glaring, fearful eyes
Please leave this line, I pleaded,
and I began to cry

I saw the horrible tragedy
that happened yesterday
But most just glared right through me,
The yelled, Get out of the way!

The carnival man yanked on the switch
I heard his laugh so brash
We got some more, he yelled again
Then I heard the sickening crash

He laughed some more as his workers
cleaned up all of the debris
Come one, come all, get on my ride
It’s exciting and it’s free.

….and that they will come to their
senses and escape from the trap
of the devil, who has taken
them captive to do his will.

II Timothy 2:26

Trish, A Memory Maker!

I can still see the smile on her face in my mind!  She was at my desk telling me about the upcoming visit of Benson from Africa to her house.  She had been discussing the possibility with family and friends and was sharing their reactions.  It was well meaning comments that seemed to intrigue Trish!  Maybe the thinking was that Trish had not thought of safety first and the possibility of her stepping out in faith turning into a disaster.   “Do you mean that you are going to take in a complete stranger from another country into your house to be around your kids?”  She was telling me her answer as  a smile formed on her face along with a twinkle in her eyes!  “Yes!” was her reply to the questions of doubt!  I could tell that this was a position Trish liked to be in!  This wasn’t the first time she did the unexpected!  If she believed she was doing the right thing she listened to the concerns of others, but eventually did what she thought God wanted!  The smile on her face was a smile of  contentment and puzzlement.  I think she was proud of the fact that she was like she was!  The puzzlement part wasn’t about their reaction as much as her amazement of how once again she was defying logic!

This best captures the smile of amazement that she had!

Of course the safety concerns about Benson ended up a non factor just as Trish’s faith told her it would be.  Benson ended up being a blessing to her and her family and showed them a different way of seeing the world.  He brought to them an education that Trish relished because she was always looking for the behind the scenes view!  I remember her coming in tired one day and explaining to me that she had talked to Benson long into the night.  She gravitated to people who gave her a different perspective that she could embellish too!  For all of the good that Benson did once he was here, it was Trish who orchestrated the whole thing.  It was Trish who did not hesitate when she received the call asking if someone she knew could house Benson for a week.  “He can stay with us!” was her reply almost immediately and completely on her own.  Once Benson was here it was Trish that picked him up at the airport.  It was Trish that made the effort to get to know him and made Benson feel at home!  It was Trish that organized events where Benson could speak to different groups!  We saw Benson and his wonderful ministry up close as again Trish orchestrated a luncheon for our workplace.  Benson had a wonderful testimony but behind the scenes there was Trish making all of it possible!

Trish worked for quite awhile in our area before we got to know each other.  Usually we’d say hi in the hall or she would be bringing a gift in as part of her job.  She was a fund raiser at the University and I processed gifts.  Naturally we formed an acquaintance but that was all it was.  Then one day a little over two years ago all of that changed.  The subject happened to come up about the Christian poem book that I had written when Trish stopped by the office. Upon seeing the book Trish’s spirits picked up!  Although she never outwardly showed it Trish admitted that she was having a rough day.  I think performing the duties of her position could be an up and down roller coaster ride.  There was a lot of travel involved and she was feeling drained.  She talked some about her position before of fund raising for a church!  I could sense that although she liked a lot about her position at the University it really didn’t fulfill the big question in her life of “What am I supposed to be doing?”   She talked about her missionary trip to Africa and how fulfilling that was!  She told me that she would go back in a heartbeat!  I read her a poem from my book and she was all enthused!  Her wheels were spinning as to how she could help market my book!  She told me as she was leaving how our talk had made her day!  After that day we looked at each other differently.  Usually when we see people in their jobs we associate that person to the job that they are doing.  After that day we both saw the deeper person in each other who happened to be performing a job.

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish had a heart for missions!

Trish was a deep thinker and that was something we had in common!  I think that as a writer you tend to see things in a different way.  Instead of hiding your emotions you express them in words.  If you really hit the mark you are describing things about an event or experience that nobody really thought about!  Getting people to think not only about the obvious but the other behind the scenes factors is my dream when I write!  Trish was a writer too!  She wrote down her experiences in the form of poems.  Her poems were not usually the rhyming kind.  Hers were more of the deep reflections that were working behind the scenes.  She wrote about experiences in a heartfelt personal feeling way!  It was like here is what you see, but this is what I am feeling as you see me!

As time went by I shared my website “lightenload” with Trish.  She enjoyed my stories as ten times she left comments!  Her comments almost always included some encouragement or thanks to me along with a message to myself and my other readers!  They were based on her experiences and how she saw the topic from her perspective!  Many times they were very deep and personal comments because Trish was a deep thinker!  One time I  wrote “What Are You Waiting For?” which was a story about anticipating Christmas as kids and how much time we wait for things in life, and how we shouldn’t wait to receive Christ.  Trish responded to this story by showing her true heart!  “I love this Lewis” she stated, “I was thinking about waiting in the grocery store the other day and anyone with fewer items than I had I would let them go in front of me.  I am the same way when it comes to traffic. There are certain things to be patient for and most certainly God opportunities extended to us to act upon.  Keep shining the light!”  Trish showed her sense of humor after a poem I shared called “The Devil Is A Liar”  She said “Amen my friend, He doesn’t come in a red pajama suit with horns and a pitch fork!  He is a bit smarter than that.  I love your posts and thank you.” When I wrote a story called “A candle In The Ice” about my family getting stranded in frigid temperatures for a whole night on a Georgia highway, Trish wrote “I wish I could have been driving then.  I would have picked them up.”  Knowing Trish and her sense for doing the right thing no matter what public opinion was there is no doubt in my mind that she would have!

Trish was a light in the darkness!

As someone who writes Trish realized how important encouragement was!  Her posts were always thoughtful and always had a little encouragement for me.  She knew how hard it is to put something out there.  She knew that when you put yourself on the line you are inviting trouble along with agreement!  Trish was a great supporter and inspired me with great compliments!  She commented after “Benson’s Lemonade” which was the story of her and Benson, “Thank you Lewis, for using your God given talent to share this story.  Beautifully written and true.”   Another time even though our positions are some of the lowest rated she said “I think you guys have the most important jobs of all of them!”  She was talking about my job and co-workers of processing gifts.  I joked the other day about what she said.  “She lied to us but it made us feel so good!”  Seriously though, I believe that Trish meant it!  She had a different way of looking at things and she saw value in the little things that others didn’t.

I played racquetball with Trish once.  I had convinced her that she should take advantage of the Rec Center the University provided and she was interested in learning to play racquetball.  Although Trish was a willing student she found that racquetball was a much more difficult sport than she had anticipated.  I taught her how to serve and she delighted in the fact that she could get her serves in!  We played a game we made up where we both worked as a team to see how many times we could hit the ball into the wall without it bouncing twice on the floor.  It turned out that I stayed in the back and got a good workout running down balls while every now and then Trish hit one.  Still Trish’s spirits were high and I heard her say in delight “I like this serving!”  I realize now the attribute that made her successful!  She had a knack of discovering what she could do and following through with that!  She realized that she was just one person and she couldn’t  do everything.  Yet, she knew she could make a difference in what she could do!  The glass was always half full in her eyes!

When I got to really know Trish I was  seeing more of a finished product.  Her triumphs and defeats that happened earlier and shaped who she was at that point were behind her.  Yet she lived for the moment and the day she was in.  Her outlook was on the future and not on past accomplishments.  When she decided to accept a position at another foundation I was shocked.  Yet when she took the time to explain her decision it made perfect sense that she would accept a new challenge.  After she was on the job for a little while she came back to visit.  “They don’t know anything about fund raising”, she said as that smile came on her face.  Maybe they were shocked at the crazy ideas she had for them and the changes she was instigating!

In the last few months Trish seemed to be in her glory!  She thrilled in her role and how she was making a difference!  She was delighted to play checkers, games, or cards with people that had nobody.  She was not happy when someone died that had become her friend but she relished the fact that she had gotten to know them!  I mentioned to her when I saw her a few months ago that she was doing now what was really her.  In true Trish fashion she said “I have no bad words to say about the University.  They were very good to me!”

A comment that she made about the story I wrote called “A Baseball Game and War” really showed an amazing side of Trish!  The story was a deeply emotional one for me about a morning at my cousins and his 18 year old brother wondering if he would be drafted to fight in Vietnam.  Trish wrote a beautiful piece about her father and his experiences there.  It was so pointed and so deep as she shared his attitudes and how they were developed.  How he had buried his friends after explosions and the psychological effects that it had on him.  At the end Trish said something that was very profound and presented the deep thinker that she was!  “I don’t see the world like he does, but I didn’t experience the things that he did.”  Amazingly Trish knew that we all are affected by our experiences and that hers were of a world of hope and love.  Yet she understood that her father had experiences that shaped his view and neither views were wrong.

Most people will look at Trish’s life and say that forty three years was way too young for her to go.  That is the natural human way of looking at death and I understand it completely.  A friend made a very pointed statement to me one time that is so true.  “Lew, we aren’t going to get out of here alive.”  My pastor years ago stated another truth “the moment we start breathing we are starting to die.”  God gives each of us a time here and whatever time he gives it is up to us to make the most out of it!  When Jesus told the parable of the master that left his wealth to his three servants while he was away for a long time the master gave all three different amounts.  In the end he expected each one to take their talents given and make an increase.  Trish in her time here certainly did all that she could do to make her Lord and Savior happy!

Trish made her friends laugh!

Trish made her friends laugh!

When I wrote a story called “A True Friend”, which described the difference between a true friend and a acquaintance friend Trish made this deep in thought comment: “Very well put, I have been through a season or two where the true friends supported me in ways beyond what I can express.  The blessings of a true friend is that we go through seasons and it is a reciprocal relationship.  Cool thing about Jesus, He’s always there no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, he will take you home and he loves you.   Well it seems that Jesus has taken Trish home just like she said he would.  There are some people that you meet in life that are memorable and some that you forget.  Trish is near the top of that memorable list!  She embraced life with everything that she had!  For her taking a chance was not taking a chance as long as she knew God was leading her!  She was a deep thinker who I will miss greatly for her encouragement and support!  Frozen forever in my mind is the smile on her face that revealed everything that she was feeling behind the scenes!

Epilogue

This was a poem Trish wrote and asked me to review in early January.  For anyone reading my Leaving A Record Behind story where I talked about almost drowning in a swimming pool it seems I would be the last one to know the experience she talked about.  However the depth of her deep thoughts were so unique!  Trish was a beautiful deep person who touched thousands in a wonderful way!

living water

Surface:

I remember you…
The touch of your
Eyes, body, hands, and soul
I knew the light I saw and felt around you
You knew intuitively my affection for water
The way that I could submerge
And I knew you would never make me surface while I explored
You trusted that I knew the water
You believed I knew when to dive, ride waves, and surface
I trusted my inner world was no threat to you
I often watched you while under water
Looking through the ripples on the surface
What an amazing journey
Somewhere in me, I knew you’d jump in to save me
But I didn’t need saving
It was a magical water dance
I wish all could experience
The dance continues on
Temperatures change
Tides rise and fall
Waves come and there are hidden undertows
But knowing I have you my friend, I will surface
The water dance continues on.

Trish 12/23/2013

This Was Their Life!

It is very hard for a boxer to go out a winner. The lure of the ring with all of the fame it casts usually makes them try one more time. Although Joe Louis held the Heavyweight title longer than anyone in history and retired with it he ended up making a comeback and his last fight saw him knocked out helpless under the ropes. Muhammad Ali had a similar fate. He was the only Heavyweight to win the title three times! After the third time he retired only to be lured back into the ring. He ended up losing his last two fights finally admitting that he didn’t have it anymore.  Sadly a little bit of luster from their boxing greatness is lost when we remember how their careers ended.

Joe Louis losing fight

Joe Louis losing last fight

As happens sometimes I awoke in the middle of the night and watched an old show from 1979 or 1980 called “This is Your Life”, where they were doing the life of Muhammad Ali. Ali’s life is well documented but it was very interesting still! They brought his wife, mom, dad, and brother in and they all told tales about him. They brought the two guys that gave him his first start in boxing and even brought in his first boxing opponent as a kid. His childhood friend Jimmy Ellis appeared. Jimmy also had dreams of being the Heavyweight Champion. They both were very successful in boxing and Ali was thrilled to see Jimmy again on that day! One by one guests showed up to tell their stories about the champ. The man from Poland who Ali (then Cassius Clay) beat in the Olympics, his trainer Angelo Dundee, his tough opponent from England Henry Cooper and the guests kept coming! A friend and confidant Drew Bundini Brown appeared and told the story about how he made up the phrase for Ali “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee!” Ali was visibly moved as guests on that show always were, when their life passed before them onstage! One of the last guests was Ali’s biggest rival Joe Frazier. Although during their careers it was clear they didn’t like each other all of that was different now. They both embraced and Joe told a very funny story about meeting Ali in 1970 when Joe had the title after Ali had been stripped of it. Ali always the attention getter announced to everyone the fact that Joe and him were together that day. Frazier in a very good Ali voice recreated the moment and it was hilarious!
joe-frazier-ali-6_2049193c
A show like “This Is Your Life’ works for a world figure like Muhammad Ali, but wouldn’t work for most of us. It’s only because they are famous and people are interested in knowing more about them that the show was successful. Although nobody would care about the details of my life on a show like that, when watching it’s easy to ask what if? What if that show was about me? Who would be the surprise guests telling stories? Would I be moved and what conclusions would be made?
Wolma
Thomas and Marilyn Wolma from Grand Rapids, MI were ordinary people like most of us. They didn’t have a show like “This Is Your Life” looking their way. Thomas was a retired Government Engineer and Marilyn taught in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Bernice Wisnieski, a fellow teacher, described what Marilyn was like. “She was always the first one there when you needed something!” Marilyn’s sister in Wisconsin needed them this past week. She was recovering from surgery and Thomas and Marilyn made the trip to help out. Thursday afternoon at about 3 pm disaster struck. On their way home from Wisconsin on I-94 near the Michigan border traffic was moving well. Then unexpectedly a whiteout occurred. Apparently a Semi-Truck jackknifed and there was a massive pileup. Over forty vehicles collided with over half of them being trucks. Thomas and Marilyn were killed. (click below for video)
Tragic Pileup
whiteout wreck
After watching the old “This Is Your Life”, about a famous person, how ironic that I would learn about Thomas and Marilyn’s story!  Back to back I watched one person whose life is on the worlds radar all of the time and two people who lived under the worlds radar. One person who the world knows and two who were known only to friends and family. There will be many stories told about Thomas and Marilyn recapping their lives in the days ahead.  The stories will be told from the hearts of people that were touched by their love.   They won’t be physically present as Ali was in the “This Is Your Life” program, but the love they shared will be revealed just the same! Friends and family will hear the stories instead of a national TV audience.  Julie Schafly, a friend and neighbor summed up what will be spoken in many different ways when she said “what comes to mind first when I think of Tom and Marilyn Wolma is that they loved Jesus with all of their heart and that was first and foremost for them!”  Before this morning I knew a lot about Muhammad Ali’s life but I had never heard of Thomas and Marilyn.  After hearing Julie’s tribute I know that Thomas and Marilyn will be missed dearly by all that they helped on life’s road!  By staying the course in their Christian walk many were blessed and their legacy will continue to shine!  There will be an abundance of tears shed for now, but in time the tears will turn to smiles as Thomas and Marilyn are glowingly remembered for going out winners!

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