And the Setting of the Same…

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When the day comes to an end and the sun slowly drops below the western horizon, it is a good opportunity to give thanks for another day; whether it was good or bad, evil or holy.  It is a moment to reflect that our world, though filled with trouble, does not compare to those who just lost everything in the wind and rain of a storm.  Our life, though disappointing at times, does not come close to the devastation that some suffer as they learn of the violent death of their loved on on the field of battle.  Let us be thankful.  Today, we drove to work and made it home safe.  Today, we earned money to buy food, put shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs.  Today, we celebrated the rising of the sun and the setting of the same.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

kDear Lord of Light,

As the weight of the world builds in our hearts, may we breathe in your goodness and breathe out our pain.

As the chaos of our work week accumulates all around, may we breathe in your order and breathe out our frustration.

May we breathe deep the breath of God.  May we take into our very being your grace and peace.  May we be enveloped by your sweet fragrance of love and mercy.

AMEN.

Changing The Way You See It

“Mercy triumphs over judgement.”  James 2:13b

First, read this four-word nugget of wisdom again.

Now, think about the last time you were judgmental.  Perhaps it was in the line at the grocery store when you questioned the items of the person in front of you.  Maybe it was at your last family gathering when a sibling started talking about their financial struggles, again.  Or, on the other extreme, when a coworker blathers on about their new car, boat, TV, or their latest trip to some exotic location.  Or it might be every morning on the highway as that car cuts you off and speeds away.  We often begin and end our days with judgement.

We are very good at judging others.  We should be; we practice it enough.  But what does that get  us?  I would suggest it gets us nothing more than a jaded perspective and a hardened heart.

Now think of the last time you showed mercy.  It’s not as easy to come up with examples, is it?  Let me help:  It could be the time you listened to your coworker, spoke gently to your children, forgave your brother, encouraged your sister or bought lunch for a stranger.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.  It could if we practiced it more often.  I should if we allowed it to be a driving force to our actions.  It will when we stop thinking of our selves and really pay attention to those around us.

Shades of Gray

2013.09.18 - CopyAnswers to hard questions are seldom black or white.  Even when we think we have the obvious solution to a difficult problem, it is doubtful that we’ve exhausted all the possibilities.  If we look hard enough, we discover other viewpoints that provide valid routes to the a successful and final destination.

This is as true in relationships, business, school work, sports or any other area of life.  Creative thinking and honest dialogue almost always reveal new options; some times as obvious as the proverbial “Nose on our Face”.

Take for instance the government shut down.  The issue isn’t really black or white (or Republican or Democratic, if you will).  But no solution is evident because our governing officials aren’t looking for any shades of gray.  They only see the black and white.  And until someone shuts their mouths and opens their eyes and minds, everyone loses.

It’s been said, “No man is so blind as those who choose not to see.”  It’s time to look at new options.  It’s time to consider a different shade.

Memories of Bananas

18001452168Many, MANY years ago, I snapped this picture as part of a photography project for art school.  The assignment, to complete a set of pictures as part of a series, was a fun task that challenged my creative nature and technical skills.  I decided to carry a bunch of bananas with me to various locations and take pictures of them in unusual situations.  These locations ranged from a downtown city street to a hog lot at the Davis Purdue Ag Center.  By the end of the project, the bananas were black, slimy and disgusting.  I got an “A” on the project.  It was after all, great art.

My favorite shot occurred in front of the swing set while my nephews played in their back yard during a family gathering.  The picture itself won high praise from my professor who loved the angles (roof of the house, swing set, and shadows) , the compartmentalized individuals (my nephews, my father-in-law on the porch, my wife to the far right), and the action occurring while the fruit is in the foreground.

This picture also is one of my favorites because it represents a more innocent time in our family’s life.  It is a symbol of life “Before”.  This shot was taken when the boys were young.  It occurred when we were all living a more simple life.  It was before tragedy had visited.  It was before Alex’s accident and death.  It was before Granny’s stroke, the cancer diagnosis, the fall down the stairs.  It was before Alex’s accident, his death and funeral.

It is a moment of time, captured in that perfect state with shadows stretching long over the newly cut grass, children’s laughter ringing in the air and the smell of barbeque lingering in the cool evening breeze.  And it is a moment that will never be again.  When this picture was taken, the bananas were still fresh and ripe in the basket. 

I love this picture…for so many reasons.

A State Fair To Remember

There is nothing more enjoyable than a visit to the State Fair.  This year’s trip was later in the run but it wasn’t any less enjoyable.  We saw all the sites and tried most of the food and were pleased by every minute of the day.

The Boys Are Out

IMG_4644One day they were here, drinking our milk, eating our meat, leaving dirty dishes in the sink.  The next day they were gone.

My two boys (young men of 23 and 18) signed a lease together and moved nearly all of their worldly belongings to an apartment in Indianapolis yesterday.  It was a day of celebration and a bright future; Both are employed full time.  Both posses their own cars.  And both enjoy spending time together.  So, this is the perfect arrangement.

Another two trips with the truck and they’ll be completely out, or nearly so.  I’m sure we’ll find a random book on a shelf or a single sock in the drier, but by the end of today, the dirtiest of the work should be over.

Life transitions are good.  Even when they are hard.  Even when they are painful.  Even when they are uncertain.

Babies learn to crawl.  That’s good.

Toddlers learn to walk.  That’s good most of the time.

There’s a first day of school:  Good.  First lost tooth: Weird but good.  First crush, first date, first kiss:  All good.

There are school programs and graduation.  There’s a first job.  A first dented fender.  And the first home away from home.

We’ll miss them, sure.  We’ll wish they would stop by once and a while, of course.  But this transition in life is long overdue and much anticipated.  They’re going to love being out on their own.  I love that they are out on their own.

Yes, the boys are out.

Day 157 – High Mountain Ride

2013.07.28 SundayToday was amazing.  We started the morning with a horseback ride up into the mountains where we were fed a wonderful breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes.  We all agreed, they were the best pancakes we’d ever eaten at 7,000 feet.

We then saddled up again for another three hours of riding through pine forest, over rocky canyons, across stream beds and along ridge lines.  Always, ALWAYS we had an amazing view.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat astride a horse and my legs were pretty wobbly when we dismounted at the end of the trip.  But it was worth every minute and every penny.

If I thought I’d be able to walk tomorrow or the next day, we would do it again!

More of the Same

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow Austin’s Acre, you know that I post pictures, thoughts and comments from time to time.

But did you know that I also post daily to my second blog, “My Journey to 50 Blog“?  It’s true.  If you are one of the 120 people who follow Austin’s Acre, you might also enjoy some of the posts in Journey to 50.

Journey to 50 is my attempt to track my life during this last year of my 4th decade of life.

Feel free to visit, to read a little and to follow the blog.  By clicking the button in the upper right-hand corner of the page, you’ll get an update every time I post.

It might not change your life but it surely can’t hurt.  And that’s really my goal.

http://myjourneyto50blog.com

The Meaning of Life

IMG_4373You might find that some people have a smile on their face all the time.  They may have discovered the meaning of life.  Or, it’s possible that they’ve finally found the right combination of medications.

You might find that some people are constantly boasting about their newest grand purchase.  Perhaps they are showing off their third boat, or their second home, or their sixth car.  They may have more money than is good for them.  Or they may be longing for something real to fill the void in their life.

You might discover people who are in perfect shape.  They spend countless hours running, jogging, or biking.  They eat just the right amount of protein.  They count their calories to three decimal places.  They roll their eyes at you when you offer a slice of cake.  They may live longer than us all.  Or it might just feel longer.

I’ve decided that the meaning of life isn’t just about how fit we look.  It isn’t about our possessions alone.  The meaning of life is not singularly reflected by the smile on our face.  It can’t be about just these individual things.  That’s shallow.

In truth, the meaning of life is a finely tuned balance of the medications, the money and the especially the cake.  Now that’s living.

Beating the System

new radarI saw this on Facebook today and already it is raising eyebrows.  Mine sure went up.

How can the government be allowed to place silent, unmanned radars in remote locations?  How is it possible that they are allowed to monitor my MPH’s?  It use to be a free country.  My rights and liberties are being infringed upon.  I will not stand for this.  Don’t tread on me.

But, I have a plan.  I know how to beat this new electronic surveillance system that is invading my privacy and challenging my right to drive any speed I choose:  I’LL DRIVE THE SPEED LIMIT.

That’ll fix ’em.

Confidence and Calm

IMG_4208Dear Heavenly Father,

As the clouds roll in and the rain pours down, may we stop and listen to the thunder and know your majesty.  May we listen to the patter of the rain and know your concern for the details.

May the storm and the rain convince us of your ability to handle the situations that weigh heavy on our hearts.

May the wind and the water remind us of your knowledge of our position and your desire to handle every part of the problem.

May we turn our eyes to the sky and our hearts to you.

Amen.

My Fellow Birders…

IMG_4172[1]I spoke with someone this week who is trying to convince her husband to travel but he seems reluctant.  By what appeared to be a calloused  manipulation of a man’s passion, she’s looking at places she’d like to go, exotic locations in which there is good birding so that he’ll come along.  He loves to bird watch.  She thinks she has the hook she needs.

More importantly for her, she loves tennis and hopes to see every major tennis event in her lifetime.  She’s working hard to combine her love of the game and his love of birds.  For instance, January would be a great month to visit Australia with average temperatures in Sydney close to 80 degrees, perfect birding and the Australian Open just beginning.

Shameful.  As a fellow birder, I’m shocked that she would stoop to this level just to see some tennis. 

On the other hand, that could be some pretty good birding.  His wife gets to watch her tennis.  He gets to spy some amazing life-birds.  It’s all guilt free travel that fulfills life-long desires on both parts.

What’s not to lose?  This is a win-win!  This woman is brilliant.  She should book the flight, dust off her sun dress and polish his binoculars immediately.  Down Under, here they come!

 

Happy Father’s Day To Me

042This is one of those days when the person in the chair doesn’t really know what to do with themselves.  Being a dad isn’t about getting pats on the back and high-fives for a job well done.

In fact, Father’s Day smacks against what it really means to be a father.

Men take hills and conquer armies, they don’t sit back a soak up the sun in the quiet of their back yards.

We keep our heads down and power on rather than look for congratulations and “job well done”.

There isn’t time for a day to honor.  There are yards to be mowed, trim to be painted, bushes to trim.

We can’t wait for breakfast to be made at 9:30 when we are use to being up at the crack of dawn.  We’re hungry at 6:45 and ready to get out the door before the traffic gets heavy.

On the other hand…It is awful nice to hear what a great dad you are.  And the little ankle biters did buy me an awfully nice grill. And I have been wanting to try roasting a chicken on that grill.  And it is suppose to be a beautiful day.  And I do have live Reds baseball streaming on my phone.  And it wouldn’t hurt me to take a day and rest.

By golly, I’m doing it!  I’m taking full advantage of this Hallmark-driven holiday.  I’m cooking my chicken and listening to my game and I deserve it.  I’m getting hugs from my kids and soaking up the glory because I’m a Father…and I deserve it.

But for my own piece of mind, hide the mower.

The Drama and the Color

IMG_4158Dear Lord of Light,

Thank you for the flowers that dot the landscape.

Thank you for the variety of shape and size.

Thank you for the splashes of color; some muted and subtle, others vibrant and bright.

Thank you that they don’t all come at one time but instead, share their beauty in turn, giving us all a variety of beauty over the course of the season.

Thank you for the art.

Thank you for the flowers.

AMEN

Old Man

0008_In%20FocusIt was nothing more than an attempt at Intaglio printing; my first print from 1982.

It doesn’t have a name and there is only one copy remaining in my portfolio.  And yet, it is one of my favorite prints.  There isn’t anything about it that will win awards.  It doesn’t excel in composition, line quality or style.  It doesn’t tell a story.  It is doubtful that it will ever hang on a gallery wall.  But I like it.

It represents a time when I was trying to learn a craft.  It reflects a moment when I was willing to take a chance.  It reveals a period of my life when I stretched my comfort zone and explore new media, new ideas and new goals.  It tells the tale of a desire to be different; to be better.

When is the last time you took a chance?  When is the last time you stepped out into the unknown?  Was it 1984?  Have decades rolled past without a challenge?  Have you stayed in your comfort zone so long that the idea of peaking over the fences into greener pastures is terrifying?

Since 1982, I’ve changed jobs (pastor, deli manager, warehouse worker, ICU clerk, law firm lackey, research coordinator) and each new position brought new challenges.  I’ve become a writer (blogging since 2004, 3rd place winner of Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition) and some of my stuff is really good and others stink.  I completed my Fine Arts degree.  I completed my Master of Divinity degree.  I’m starting on my Bachelors of Science in Communication degree.  I’m learning Spanish.

Perhaps more important than any of these, I’ve learned how to cook the perfect roasted chicken and a yummy Beef Bourguignon that would make Julia Child very proud.

But the point is I’m still that guy who drew this face back in 1982.  I’m willing to try it.

New job?  Sure.  Different food?  Of course!  A revolutionary idea?  Why not?

What will you do today to stretch your comfort zone?  What will you try that is new and different?  How will you grow beyond the self-imposed boundaries that you’ve created over the years?

I suggest you try drawing an old man, rather than becoming one.