Lessons Learned

My family and many of my friends know that although my taste in music is a bit eclectic, I mostly favor country and western and love songs. When I’m in the car on the road I pick my favorite Sirius channel, turn up the volume a bit, and sing to my heart’s content. I don’t know all the words to all the songs but that doesn’t stop me from trying to sing along.

One recent morning on the way to my office at Legacy Deo I was listening to Prime Country, mostly C&W songs I’ve known for years. That particular morning I heard Tracy Lawrence’s rendition of Lessons Learned. I thought the words worth sharing, so here we go:

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I was ten years old the day I got caught with some dime store candy that I never bought.
I hung my head and I faced the wall as Daddy showed me wrong from right.
He said this hurts me more than it does you. There’s just some things son, that you just don’t do.
Is anything I’m sayin’ gettin’ through? Daddy, I can see the light.

Oh lessons learned, man they sure run deep. They don’t go away and they don’t come cheap.
Oh, there’s no way around it, cause this world turns … on lessons learned.

Granddaddy was a man I loved. He bought me my first ball and glove,
Even taught me how to drive his old truck, circling that ol’ town square.
He spoke of life with a slow southern drawl. I never heard him cause I knew it all.
But I sure listened when I got the call … that he was no longer there.

Oh, lessons learned, man they sure run deep. They don’t go away and they don’t come cheap.
Oh, there’s no way around it, cause this world turns … on lessons learned.

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Many of us have learned lessons similar to those articulated in this song. Whether doing the stuff we knew was wrong or taking loved ones for granted or maybe even things that could be considered much more serious, lessons were learned, sometimes the hard way.

My father taught me many lessons during his lifetime of 66 years, six months, and four days. I also learned many lessons from my mother, still living today at the tender age of 101 years, two months, and five days. Lessons learned also came from my dear wife, children, grandchildren, pastors, teachers, peers, and friends. I thank God for all these special people in my life!

Even more significantly, I have learned lessons from the pages of Holy Scripture, many from the red-lettered words of Jesus himself such as these from his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-10):

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Aging

Elderly

Today’s quotes:

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.”
– Edward R. Bulwer-Lytton

“To be 70 years young is sometime far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week Terry and I are attending a conference on aging. We’re spending three days with a number of pastors and their spouses, all within a few years of my age. Some are a bit younger but all of us are at or near the three score plus ten number.

Most people who reach that age have experienced their share of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, difficulties and blessings. That’s the stuff of which life is made.

Sorrows, defeats, and difficulties tend to accelerate the aging process, sometimes leading to pessimism, depression, or despair. Joys, victories, and blessings often delay the obvious signs of age and produce a greater sense of optimism, appreciation, and generosity.

Physical health, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual maturity are very significant factors in the onset, delay, and effect of the aging process. Those qualities matter at all times, especially in the last quarter of life, particularly for those who may already have heard the two minute warning.

Regardless of your age or attitude toward life, consider God’s message to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “Even when you’re old, I’ll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I’ll support you.” Is. 46:4

Here’s to happy and graceful aging!

Sufficiency

bernard-baruchFor centuries many famous and quite a few not-so-famous people have uttered words of wisdom. At least several weeks I plan to share with you some of their observations, counsel, humor, and musings. At times I might offer a specific application that connects these words to a scriptural or spiritual principle. On other occasions I may simply let the quote speak for itself.

Some but not necessarily all of those I’ll be quoting are Christian. Wisdom and common sense are not possessed only by those who confess the Christian faith. Here’s today’s quote:

“There is not much difference, really, between the squirrel laying up nuts and the man laying up money. Like the squirrel, the man—at least at the start—is trying to provide for his basic needs. I don’t know much about squirrels, but I think they know when they have enough nuts. In this way they are superior to men, who often don’t know when they have enough, and frequently gamble away what they have in the empty hope of getting more.” Bernard M. Baruch (1870-1965)

Baruch also said: “To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”

God bless your day!

Old Farmer’s Advice II

windmill-182287_1280Following last week’s first installment of Old Farmer’s Advice, I received many expressions of appreciation. Sometimes the simplest truisms hit home more precisely than lengthy profundities.

So here we go with the second installment of simple but true bits of wisdom from an old farmer:

• Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
• The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
• If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
• Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
• Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and enjoy the ride.
• Most of the stuff people worry about, ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
• Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
• If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
• Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
• Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
• Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
• Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
• Always drink upstream from the herd.
• Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

Bet you can’t guess what I’ll write about next week! Stay tuned. Until then and even after then, I pray that God will bless you with both wit and wisdom!

Old Farmer’s Advice I

Credit: Robert S. Donovan / photo on flickr

Thanks to the many of you who responded to last week’s “I’m Ticked!” article. While I’d love to reply to each of you who went to the trouble to write, other responsibilities simply won’t allow that. Nevertheless, if you replied to last week’s article, thank you for doing so!

The one thing that was crystal clear in your responses is that, indeed, a bunch of folks have felt my pain when trying to conduct business over the phone by communicating with an automated response system. Some told me just to throw the useless statements in the trash. Others told me to cool it. One said I was overreacting. A few said cold beer would help!

This week and next week I plan to share some stuff I first saw several years ago. It’s not particularly theologically profound. Yet often practical theology is manifested in the common sense way of how and why we do some things and how and why we don’t do other things. So here we go, with the first installment of an old farmer’s advice:

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Don’t corner something that you know is meaner than you.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.

More advice from an old farmer will be added next time. God bless your week!

Think Before You Speak!

megaphone-147176_1280Some people say things seemingly without thinking. Here are a few examples I saw recently:

  • A question asked of a contestant in a Miss America contest over 20 years ago: “If you could live forever, would you and why?” The answer of the contestant and subsequent winner: “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.”
  • A famous singer/actress: “Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.”
  • A well-known actress during an interview to become spokesperson for a federal anti-smoking campaign: “Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”
  • A college basketball player: “I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body.”
  • A former mayor of Washington, D.C.: “Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”
  • A major league baseball team manager: “Half this game is ninety percent mental.”
  • A former U.S. Vice-President: “It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”
  • Another former U.S. Vice-President: “I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.”
  • A collegiate ROTC instructor: “We don’t necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.”
  • An Australian government official: “Traditionally, most of Australia’s imports come from overseas.”
  • The Department of Social Services in a U.S. city: “Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”

A well-known adage is this: “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Proverbs 21:23 says: “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut and you will stay out of trouble.” And David said in Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Think before you speak! What you say and how you say it does make a difference!

Cranky Old Man

Old Man 1From Facebook: When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed he had nothing left of any value. Later, the nurses went through his meager possessions and found this poem. It so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took it to Melbourne. It later appeared in magazines across the continent and now wings its way around the world over the Internet.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see, nurses? What do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply,
When you say in a loud voice, ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who, resisting or not lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten, with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another.
A young boy of Sixteen, with wings on his feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide, a secure happy home.
A young man of Thirty, my kids now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
My wife still beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my wife is now dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young ones of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
And now I’m an old man and nature is cruel,
Its jest is to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now just a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells,
And now and again my old battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people, open and see:
Not a cranky old man,
Look closer! See ME!!

I’m reminded of Psalm 103 (selected verses):

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, O my soul!

 

Remember this poem and this Psalm when you next meet an older person whom you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. By God’s grace we will all one day be there, too!