A DVR LIFE

Like millions of people in this country, I remember a time before television. When a tv set found its way to our house, it was a boxy, metallic gadget that weighed about as much as a gun safe. Over the years, we’ve witnessed the growth of programming from three channels to thousands and a plethora of shows that compete for our attention. Even when we “can’t find anything to watch,” the DVR offers another group of shows for our entertainment. Wouldn’t it be something if we could run our lives on some kind of DVR?
Just imagine what we could do with a DVR life. First of all, we could re-run or fast forward through all sorts of stuff. How many times have people whispered, “If I could only go back and do that over?”
When a mistake is made, all we’d have to do is hit a button and then re-do things. Hurtful words and actions would be wiped away, and life would be a happier, less stressful thing. If we’re too lazy, we can simply fast-forward passed the situation. Perhaps such abilities could put an end to wars, divorces, economic failures, or domestic abuses. Just this past week, our country could have used a rewind button to undo the deaths of citizens and police officers.
Folks would also use the “Pause” button often. We could hold on to those happy times in our lives. I think about the birth of my children and the wedding of my daughter as times I’d like to have stopped for a while. An event when all our family members are present would be another time we’d hold on to. I know that some of those ball games that Dallas played would be on the pause list, and I would like to enjoy once again times when my grandson was small and loved everything I did. I could stop them and savor the moments just a bit more.
The fact of the matter is that we don’t have the ability to enjoy DVR lives. No, we’re put on earth to draw breaths and make choices that have consequences. It’s what’s called “choice.” Oh, sometimes outside forces or individuals bring about events not of our making, but for the most part, each of us is in control of what happens in life. As masters of our fates, we rarely have anyone else to blame for the messes along the way. At the same time, our personal decisions can bring about much joy.
A DVR life defeats the sweetness of existence. Sure mistakes are costly, but they also are instructive. As a teen, I drove my mother’s car home from an event on a rainy night. I came to a stop sign and decided to give the 383 engine the gas. The next thing I knew, the world was spinning by as the care twirled down the rain-soaked pavement. After what seemed to be an eternity, the back end of the vehicle thumped and came to rest in a ditch. From that point on, I learned the danger of an auto and my limits to control it.
The same thing is true throughout our lives. We learn from the bone-headed things we do. The same is true with sadness. The loss of a pet helps a child to prepare for losses in future. We learn to be strong in the face of our loved one’s passing. Losing a job can teach us about ourselves and what is truly important in our day-to-day lives. Setbacks can really be God’s way of telling us that we need to rely on something more than ourselves, or they can lead us to finding a better, more fulfilling way of making a living.

The rough patches in life are the very things that teach us most. Few of us have much desire to learn when everything is going well. As crazy as it might sound, being able to pause good times or fix past mistakes cheapens happiness. Show me a person who is always happy, and I’ll show you a bored man or woman. The low times make happiness more precious. I suppose that having a DVR life cheat us out of a complete existence.

SUMMER MEALS

Summer’s hot weather has wilted plenty of folks this year. To be honest, it’s zapped me more than usual, and on a couple of occasions, I’ve almost “white-eyed.” When the temperatures are so stifling, appetites turn for a while, but the truth is that some foods taste better during the dog-days of summer. 

Not many moms and wives want to spend much time in front of a hot stove. Heavy foods like pork chops, chili, or roasts with carrots and potatoes are delicious, but they land like rocks in a summer
stomach. Instead, folks retreat to decks and patios to fire up the grills. There, hamburgers, hot dogs, and even chicken are preferred alternatives. Charcoal grills add the best flavor to those foods, but most of us have opted for the use of propane to fire up our outdoor cooking stations.

Potato salad is another one of those fantastic summer foods. It’s a “must” with picnics. Yes, those potatoes must be prepared first on the
stove, but they don’t require large amounts time and energy from the person who prepares them. As an aficionado on potato salad, I must insist that it be chilled in the refrigerator before being served.

Sandwiches often replace traditional supper menu items. Downing a bologna, ham and cheese, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwich is easier than regular items. A more complete meal includes a pile of chips and a cold drink. Sandwiches put a dent in hunger without making folks feel queasy.

Summer garden produce is in demand during the hot season. Many people look forward to eating a fresh tomato, one that has a wonderful flavor. They are much better that the tasteless orbs that are served on hamburgers or sold in grocery stores during cold weather. Corn on or off the cob arrives on many dinner plates, as do “messes” of green beans with a hefty portion of onion. If the cook of the house is willing to whip up a pan of cornbread, the meal is fit for royalty, at least here in the south. Washing it down with a big glass of cold milk makes the meal almost perfect.

No discussion of summer food would be complete with the inclusion of two dishes. First, wilted lettuce was a regular part of our meals in years gone by. Lettuce from the garden, mixed with green
onions is cut up into a large bowl. Then a skillet full of bacon grease that’s been stored in a metal container on the stove is poured over the greens, and sometimes bits of streaked bacon are also sprinkled in the bowl. The good lord knows just how much folks love it.

While the skillet was hot, a bit more bacon
grease can be added and pods of okra that have been cut into pieces and floured are dumped into to a pan. When it’s finished, the stuff is poured into a bowl lined with paper towels to soak up the extra oil. The crunchier it is, the better it satisfies.

Oh sure, the dishes from years gone by aren’t at all healthy.  Back then, bacon grease was a prime cooking agent. Not even a single bite of wilted lettuce or fried okra has passed my lips in years. My blood pressure and cholesterol medications can’t begin to counteract the effects of such dishes. Still, I crave them in my memory, even though I know that eating them would leave me clinging to the toilet bowl as I projectile-vomited the stuff.


Most of us choose to eat lighter during the summer months. However, before long, we’ll again mimic bears and stuff our gullets with heavy, filling foods that will help us to survive the winter, even though we won’t lose those extra pounds as our furry friends do. 

MORE THAN JUST FIREWORKS

July 4th is one of only a few days that has become a national holiday. We Americans know how to celebrate it with style. We spend bundles on explosives that fizz or whir or boom for a few minutes,
and all we’re left with are aching ears, smoke-filled eyes, and empty pockets. Still, we think we know a good time when we see it.
At the same time, folks across the country take the opportunity to share the day with friends and families. Some neighborhoods even come together to share food and fellowship and then top the day off with those
fireworks displays. Nothing is better to eat than hamburgers, hotdogs, and potato salad, all washed down with a variety of beverages, both sugary and alcoholic. It’s a glorious summer day of celebration.
The fact is that Independence Day is something much more than Boom’s Day. This is the one day when each of us should think about what freedom means to the life, breath, and survival of our country.
I’ve heard about as much as I can stomach about the Constitution and Bill of Rights from folks whose
main agenda is winning an election or taking over power in our government. The Constitution is like the bible; both are subject to personal interpretation, and every person can read into them what he or she thinks will provide an edge. Neither the right nor the left has all the answers. I’m pretty sure that none of us knows all that the founding fathers had in mind as they cobbled together the Constitution. So, let’s put a stop to those who declare that only they have the right answers.
If we are to be a nation that declares it offers freedom, then it’s time make it available to all Americans. That means that we have to accept as fellow citizens the Hispanics who have deep roots in the country. It means that we have to include citizens who have different beliefs in religion. It means that folks have the same rights to the good things of this nation, even if their lifestyles don’t jive with ours.
Something else we must remember is that one person’s rights end where another’s begins. No, you do NOT have the right to do whatever you want because your actions might offend or encroach upon the lives of others. Living in the U.S. is a privilege; I suppose it’s like winning the lottery. We citizens of
this country are caretakers of it; we are charged with the solemn duty to make it better than we found it. That means making the country a place that does offer the last best hope for mankind. Of course, in achieving that lofty goal, it follows that individuals from other countries will want to make their ways to America so that they, too, can share in the bounty.
We can have differences of opinions. That’s one of the most wonderful things that goes with the U.S. I can spout my beliefs and you can do likewise. However, at some point, it is incumbent upon us, and especially  on the elected officials whom we send to Washington, D.C., to stop the debate, roll up sleeves, and find common ground. Stalemates like we’ve seen the past few years have done nothing to make this country greater; to the contrary, they’ve led to divisiveness and hurt feelings and polarized sides. I contend that what’s been going on recently is the antithesis of what our founding fathers had in mind.

So, enjoy July 4th. Eat, drink, fellowship, and bathe in the gifts that the country bestows upon us. At
the same time, remember that this country deserves our best acts to keep it the shining beacon to the rest of the world. We all might bow our heads and ask for just a bit of guidance on how to do that before the holiday is over.

YOUR TALENT

On “60 Minutes” the other Sunday, a young boy played jazz piano with the stars of the genre. He amazed even the pros with his abilities to understand the music and to include his own interpretations, something difficult for most seasoned veterans. Last weekend, I traveled with other church members to Marion, VA, to work for Project Crossroads. The skills that my friends possessed amazed me and led to the construction of a large shed that was almost perfectly level and plumb. What I realized is that each of us has talents that wait to be developed.
The first part of the task is to identify exactly what our talents are. My wife Amy is a born problem solver. Our daughter is a creative person whose abilities have served her well in working in the music industry. Our son Dallas is a kind, sincere, and dedicated person whose leadership abilities are evident to all.
Each person has a special talent; no arguments about that can convince me otherwise. The good lord blessed us with those talents; one person might be a good listener while another might be good at fixing things. A quick inventory of self and the things which spark excitement in us leads to identification of the special skills that we have. A passion for something is a sure indication that we need to give it more attention. It is a gift that we’ve been given.
The next step is to take those infant talents and to mold them. That means devoting time to them and building on them with practice and simple hard work. All of us will to some degree have success if we pay attention to the gifts we’ve been given. No, not all of us can be the best in an area. Maybe baseball talents don’t translate into a pro career, but perhaps they lead a person to coaching young players. The ability to play piano might not be good enough to become a professional musician, but it just might be the very thing that a church or assisted living facility needs to reach people. I’d like to say that I’ve become a world-class writer. The truth, to the contrary, is that I’ve been blessed to write for this paper for several years and to publish some books, articles, and other short pieces. One person told me in the beginning that I should forget about ever writing for a paper or anything else. No, I’m not rich or wildly successful, but I love what I do each week.
The next area is the hard part. If a talent is a gift, it is important to share it with others. That means that our jobs are to reach out to others and to help them as we use these talents. Being able to budget well is wonderful for personal finances, but it’s also a talent that can serve to make others’ lives more successful. Perhaps teaching how to budget to a group at church is the way to share. Using the talents that involve construction or plumbing or electricity might best be shared with the many who live in substandard housing. The ability to teach should be used to reach children struggling in school and adults looking for a way to better their lives through education.
Finally, sending up words of thanks for the talents from God should become a daily thing. Yes, we might develop talents, but they were instilled in us by something larger than ourselves. Only after giving thanks can we find joy in those special skills and double their values by sharing them with
others. In the end, the world might be a better place simply by your one act. Never fail to use your talents; it’s an important step in fulfilling your destiny.