Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Smells of Joy

Been a couple of weeks since I have done my blog but have a few minutes to pull my thoughts together on this holiday.  Much has happened in my life since I last wrote but today, as my wife begins the cooking process for our family meal tomorrow, I am impressed with the wonderful smells of Thanksgiving.  I love the food we will be blessed to experience tomorrow but this day with grand kids running in all directions bringing in snow from outside after rolling in it, NO I NEVER DID THAT, having quality time with our children and their spouses in a warm home, I found myself just breathing more lightly, smelling the coffee, listening to the conversations and smiling about how great life really is!  Then to be manicured, pedicured, back scratched and a new hair do by my three grand daughters, well, you get my point!
Now that the herd has departed for Thanksgiving meals with the spouses' families, Alicia is now underway cooking for our family meal tomorrow. I love the smells of Thanksgiving that are almost as satisfying to me as the food itself; well, sort of!  But what I love more than any of it are the experiences of this life that may be very good or perhaps not very good but resolve in greatness. Wow, doesn't that feel great when that happens? ANSWER: YES!
I was greatly pleased to work two jail services yesterday with my great friend, Pastor Neal Wheeler, in which we were about to bring church to roughly sixty men. The presence of the Lord was so evident and it was a pleasing aroma to know hearts had been touched and, prayerfully, that lives will be changed due to the experience those men had in song, in word and in prayer.  The smell of coffee inside the chapel seemed especially lifting in retrospect.
Last week while at The Cove of The Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, NC. the smells of Fall wafted through the beautiful woods. The food, which was amazing, was part of the whole worship experience I believe but for me the food tasted even better with the beautiful contact with the people that served us at The Cove.  All were gentle, helpful, kind, funny and efficient plus that light North Carolina accent made the aroma of the whole experience even more of a blessing. 
So I have found joy in the woods of North Carolina, in the jail, in a beautiful Thanksgiving Eve service at my church last night and in my own home just in one week; wow, my smeller is overwhelmed but it is tempered with a deep sense of love for a God that provided all of this.  So on this day, take a deep breath, inhale the blessings all around you with family, friends and make it a point to call, text, email, smoke signal or scream loudly to someone that has made a difference in your life with their special fragrance!
For those of you that read this, please know how much I appreciate you and your touch on my life in word, comment, encouragement, and caring. Yep, feeling pretty blessed as I ready for my next major league inhale of some great smelling labor from the hands of my wife for I know she does it with her heart for our family; all smelling pretty good!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kiwi --- Life is Good!

Many of you will know exactly what I mean by the title of today's blog for if you have been in the military, we know the aroma of Kiwi.  When I attended Officer Candidate School, the Alabama Military Academy in 1973-1974, I had two pair of Corcoran jump boots.  I did basic training at Fort Bragg, NC in 1970 which was home of the Airborne so loved seeing those guys in their dress greens and bloused pants with highly spit shined jump boots.  From that experience I worked very hard to learn the art of spit shining.  I love highly shined shoes but it requires work and focus.
Those two pair of boots had no telling how many thousand coats of black Kiwi. I learned the key to spit shining was a soft cloth, water and a light flame.  You put a heavy coating of Kiwi onto the shoe and then run a light flame over the waxed area to melt the wax into the leather. Then you take a very soft cloth like an old cotton diaper that has been washed about a thousand times, wrrapping the cloth tightly around three fingers, you soak the cloth and begin a circular motion on the shoe using plenty of water. You continue that process with increasing elbow grease until the shine begins to show.  Drying the remaining water, you cake more wax on the heel and the toe of the shoe and repeat the process again and again until you can count your teeth in the shoe. I am not being cute in saying that.
As the years have moved on and shoe styles changed, I basically left spit shining in my memory basket until about a month ago when I purchased two pairs of solid black Florsheim leather shoes. Yep, you know where I am going with this!  I have fallen in love with spit shining all over again. It is something very personal to me for it brings such great memories.  My daughter will tell you that I would have her stand in my jump boots when she was two years old so I could spit shine the leather out in the sunshine. I enjoy taking thirty minutes, now, to get the stuff out, take a deep breath from the wax and then smell it melting into the leather; ummmmmmmmmmmmm! I would then take Johnson liquid wax and coat the finished product of my boots.
Tonight as I did my shining, I let my mind think about the process in the context of life. We all want things we hold dear to be the best they can be, to feel a sense of pride that something fresh and special can bring but remembering it always takes work.  The work does not just happen for it has to be done via a process; cloth, water, flame, technique and energy expenditure. Sounds familiar to many things in life does it not?
Tomorrow will be a very busy Sunday for me but I look forward to seeing what God will bring into my pathway for I had a great mentor a few years ago tell me something that has remained with me ... if you are going to see the King, you should dress like you are going to see the King. Another great mentor told me once it only cost one more dollar to go first class.  Another said that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing it to the best of your ability.   As I finished with the latest session with the Kiwi, I must admit I sat the shoes in a bright light and found myself admiring them but admiring the fact that the process yet again worked. I felt very good about the energy burn and the melted wax. Nobody will probably even notice but I will know for when I dress for my day at church, I seek to be the best I can be. Our quartet is singing a great song in the morning worship service, AT THE RIGHT TIME. I believe that song will be wonderful fit with the sermon our pastor will bring.
So why did I choose this unique topic for my blog?  Simple, whatever is worth doing is worth doing the best you can.  My AMA brothers and sisters and many veterans that will read this will understand it immediately. It is not about the wax, the shine, the flame but it is about readying yourself to meet someone greater than yourself. I know God will be in the house at Canton Baptist Temple tomorrow and any of us being part of the meeting in worship should and will do their very best in every aspect of the worship experience. My shoes are ready, too! Ummm, love that Kiwi smell!!!!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reality when it becomes Real!

Last evening I had a wonderful experience with many part of that wonderment when I "dated" my eight year old grand daughter to a Father / Daughter Dance because her dad, my son-in-law was unable to go with her. Was I excited about loud music with a hundred screaming little girls?  Ah, perhaps not but I was ecstatic to have some real TIME with our Bella. She is a very quiet, low key young lady with wonderful manners and very sweet disposition.  She is the one of our grandchildren arrangement that we all feel is most like her Grammy at a personality level to which I fully concur.  It was two hours of blaring disco music, yep, DISCO, with hula hoops, scream sessions and all the things that  make a grandfather's ears to hurt and burn a bit. But it was a great night for many reasons!
One of those reasons was captured in a FB post I put up last evening:
Met a young Army Sergeant E5 in full dress uniform at a Father / Daughter Dance because he was just back from second tour in Afghanistan and his daughter wanted him to  wear   his unform. He is a drill sergeant additionally. I did my crisp hand salute which he returned, hugged each other and talked for about 15 minutes. Departed with another hand salute and a hug; thrilled my heart yet again. We talked about my days in uniform and about his time in Afghanistan. We have some great people pulling a heavy load. Tonight; priceless! (and he loves his daughter very much)
I have found myself continuing to process that time with that young E5 in watching the gleam in his eyes in talking with his very excited daugther all dressed up for the dance.  He stood out, of course, in Army Dress Greens with all his decorations and patches perfectly displayed. He was a combat engineer and was expert in demolition meaning he blows things up; a very dangerous job in a combat zone some of you will attest.  He was so happy to be home, to be with his family, to share that night with her and, hopefully, our fifteen minutes of "talking Army" was memorable to him also. I loved it for getting to render a sincere hand salute and hand shake and many times a hug is something that I love to experience. I have experienced many tears with veterans, wives of the veterans, family of the veterans as their pride for their own unique veteran is rekindled.
But the point that has most embossed my heart is seeing the blood and flesh of these young men and women that go to fight with their lives and the lives of their loved ones for us.  The gravity of that came back to me in so many hues last night as he and I spoke.  These people we hear about on TV as numbers or statistics can become just that to the watching / listening public. I remember the body counts shown on news casts during the Viet Nam War and, in retrospect, feel almost guilty because I did not give the due respect to the implication of those numbers multiplied by a factor of family members and their hurt and loss.  Seeing this little eight year old daughter all dressed up in her formal dating her dad in his Class A uniform made it all so very real to me yet again.
As I have stated many times in my writings, I am very displeased with this Administration, the Congress that has grown dysfunctional and the decay of our society eroded by growing entitlement and government spending and corruption are all increments of a nation moving backward on the global stage. But looking more deeply, in the coal black eyes of that Sergeant last night, I was reminded that it is they that must "carry the water" for a nation. Frankly, they deserve much better that we give them.  We are nation that is tired of war and in that exhaustion I fear we are losing the warm blood of true patriotism-driven emotion from We the People for what they are doing for us.
I did not intend this for "Veterans Day" hoopla but the experience last night with that E5 made it all so real to me again and thus reliving losses I expressed in friends not that many years ago in that faraway place nobody could find on a map that made names like Khe Sanh and Highway 1 household names.  War do that you know. Who on earth ever heard of Gettysburg or Sharpsburg or Verdun? Nobody until much American blood was shed and families torn apart for generations.
My ending will be to thank each and every veteran I have known, have taught, have saluted, have shook their hands, dabbed our tears of thanks and memories knowing the end of not to be seen for the Bible is quite clear that there will always be wars and rumors of wars; that is the human endeavor.  We are blessed as a nation so find a veteran and thank them with your HEART!