Smooching Stones and Sucking Wind – 3 of 21 Ireland Posts

I have always heard of the “smooching stone” in Ireland, but I never knew the work that it would take to actually gain the opportunity to kiss it.

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The Blarney Castle has been there for quite some time. In fact, the original castle was built out of wood in the 10th century. It wasn’t until around 1210 that a stone structure was placed on this site and over 500 years before the Irish stumbled on the recipe for Guinness. This was a LONG time ago!

The day that I entered on to the Blarney property was my 40th birthday! I hadn’t planned this encounter to be on my actual birthday, but the fact that it fell on this day made it incredibly special. Ireland had been a trip that I was supposed to go on with my dad, but… sadly… he passed on in a motorcycle accident nearly two years ago. So, I took him there with me in spirit and he has an incredible view today, but he would have LOVED this castle.

It was ancient and you could get up close and touch and climb and explore. There were secret dungeons you could travel through…

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Some were really scary…

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And others provided cover for some pre-Carboniferous limestone kisses…

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But, now it was my turn to ‘pucker up, buttercup’… so we made our way to the castle and looked up. The rock that I needed to kiss was at the top of that wall. Yes, at the top of the wall…

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So, we found the stairs and started climbing…

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…with my glutes burning, we kept climbing and climbing and climbing…

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…and climbing some more. Until finally, we made it to the top of the castle. The view was unbelievable.

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You could see for miles and you could tell why they had picked this spot for a castle. If an army was on it’s way, you could see and be prepared for their arrival. For us, we weren’t there to find an army… we were there to find a rock that was in need of some loving. So, we got in line and waited our turn.

There were signs to read along the way. Did the Blarney  Stone move?

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And the explanation of the difference between ‘blarney’ and ‘baloney’.

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And then… the moment came. It was our turn. I looked to the man about to secure me from falling face first into a grate and the bottle of disinfectant liquid sitting next to him. I felt good… knowing that the stone had been cleansed by chemicals some time in the last 24 hours.

I empty my pockets and prepare to do the yoga move called “upside down leprechaun”. Deep breath.

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Muah!

A lifetime of eloquence awaits.

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Happy Birthday to me!

Will I get a lifetime of eloquence? Probably not… at least not from kissing a stone. But, I will have one incredible story to tell for the rest of my life about how I spent my 40th birthday. That, in itself, is worth the smooch and so much more.

Life is short. It is here today and gone tomorrow and if you don’t step out of your comfort zone to do something crazy every now and then, you may end up looking back with no stories, but a pocketful of regrets. Saying things like, “I wish I would have…” or “If I could go back…” or “If things would have been different…”

You can’t and it isn’t!

You won’t be able to go back in time and things aren’t different. Things are the way that things are and you have one simple choice… work with what you got. Tomorrow isn’t promised. All you have is this moment right now. Start climbing those steps. Start touching those ancient stones. Get those lips ready… cause they are in need of some smooching.

Slainte!

GP

For the first post on Ireland, click here.

A Friend Died and I Met a Lion

My day started by finding out that a friend died.

 

He wasn’t a close friend. It was someone that I recently met. But it was someone that I lived life with for a little bit… and someone that I had the incredible opportunity to minister to. A person whose heart began to open up to God in our discussions and our time together.

My phone rang.

The call was from a loved one. She wanted me to fly to another state and do the memorial ceremony. You see, he was never “religious”… but… for the first time his heart was beginning to open to God and she knew this because he had talked about our conversations. My heart broke because I knew I couldn’t hop on an airplane and do the ceremony. I wanted to be there, but I couldn’t. My son had an event where he was being honored on the field of the Arizona Diamondbacks on the same day as the service. I couldn’t miss that. My family is important.

However, I committed to help. I committed to find someone. I committed to do all that I could. I did and there will be a beautiful service in honor and memory of him… without me.

It really makes me think, though.

I think about him. I think about the phone call. I think about our conversations. I think about how short life is… how just a few days prior I was talking and laughing with this friend. And now, he was gone. It was sudden. It was tragic. He leaves kids behind. My heart is sad.

I take that emotion with me. I try to take the sadness and change it to inspiration… or appreciation. I look at the people in my life and want to be grateful for the time that I have with them. Understanding that life is short and that I have purpose in this short life.

Maybe, in those final days of my friend’s life, my job was simply to encourage and love and direct and point him to Jesus… the ultimate hope… the ultimate love… the ultimate life.

The heavy Cloud followed over me today. Life is like that sometimes isn’t it? Kind of punches you in the gut and takes away your breath. You don’t know what to do. So, you put one foot in front of the other and you keep carrying on. That’s what I did today.

And then I received the phone call.

“If you want to meet that lion you need to leave now. The town is closing down the circus.”

Weird words… and I’ve never heard them before today. However, they were true. I made a statement a few days prior that I wanted a picture with the lion. I said it jokingly… knowing that there was absolutely no way that anyone was going to be able to connect me with a lion.

However, my limitations had never met a guy named Gilly Pollard. Somehow, he had made it happen!

And this wasn’t just any lion. This was “Francis the lion” who spent his time at the circus. And, if I didn’t move quick, I was going to miss my opportunity. I hopped in his truck and we were off to the rodeo grounds. That is where I got to meet Francis.

We took photos and had a great time. And, I believe that this next photo says it all for me.

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I’d be “lion” if I said this moment wasn’t epic. 
(However, that lion seems to be eyeing me up for dinner… just saying.)

You see, I lost a friend today, but I also was able to share life with another friend. In fact, one of the best friend that I’ve ever had. He’s one of the people that makes life just a little bit better. And… today I appreciated that a little bit more.

And, I believe that if you look close enough, you probably have some friends like Gilly in your life too. Appreciate them. Live life with them. Smile and laugh with them. Life is short. Make It Count. Be a friend. And appreciate the friends you have. Because… when the wind gets knocked out of you… they have an incredible way of breathing life back into you. 

I’d be “lion” if I didn’t tell you how important that was!

(OK. Last use of cheesy joke. Have a great day!)
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I Give Up. I’m Going Back to Bed

I literally said these words yesterday…

“I am going back to bed.”

And… I did. It didn’t last long and I was back up to put out more fires… and my day was quickly unraveling into the death spin of frustration, sadness and asking the question…

“Am I doing something wrong?”

Like… maybe I should just run off with my family, grow my hair long, rock the pony tail, and buy an abandoned jet ski business on an island somewhere.

Jet Ski Rental

Sounds good… but I would probably end up like Jonah plucked off the jet ski by a big fish and spit out on the shores of my hometown… Wickenburg, Arizona. (Note: Jonah didn’t have a jet ski. He was on a paddleboard.)

But I can’t run because my current reality is what the Lord wants from me today.

He wants me to endure and continue on and have bad days and put out fires and learn what it means to lead and be discouraged and to want to give up and keep going. You see, that is all part of the process of growth. You have to go through the bad days so that you can appreciate the good ones.

I don’t like it. I never have and I doubt that I ever will. I want to have everyone love me all the time. I want to be a blessing in everyone’s life. I want to be a vessel of hope and change and love and “good stuff”. But, every now and then you end up in the valley and you are ready to throw in the towel and you look around and you are alone.

Or are you?

Whenever I am in the valley, I always feel like I’m all alone and God always shows up bigger than life. He shows up in different ways, but He always shows up. Yesterday, He showed up through my wife.

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It wasn’t a big moment. No one else would have noticed anything out of the ordinary. We sat on the floor and talked about life and direction and where we were going. We took a minute to dream. I got out of my current place and was able to sit above it with her and look down at the greater picture and… the weight began to lift from my heart and the darkness started to wane.

God knew what I needed in that moment and He brought it… through my wife.

You see, God places people in your life for a reason. There are people in your circle who have the ability to be used by God… but you have to let them in. You have to open your heart wide enough to let them shine in. Yesterday, I’m happy I did. Today, I feel better because of it.

Embrace the bad days… they help you be you. They allow you to be more empathetic when someone you love is having a bad day. They allow compassion to rise and they also allow you to remember that you are human… just like everyone else.

I woke up this morning a little more excited about life. I still have to deal with stuff, but I don’t have to do it alone. God’s with me… but so is my wife. And, if I don’t know anything else… I know that the three of us can do some pretty awesome stuff together. If you ever doubt that, just look at this….

Christmas Family

Blessings!

GP

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, a season in the valley with God is so much better than a lifetime on the mountaintop without Him.

 

Fear, Friends and French Cuisine – 2 of 21 Ireland Posts

 

Ireland taught me that friends are all around us waiting to be made. We just need to step out to find them.

Before leaving on our trip I reached out to some churches in Dublin, Ireland and let them know that I’d love to serve them for an afternoon while I was in town. I told them that I could teach them a few things about using social media in a church setting.

I received a simple message back from one of the churches.

Hi Greg

Thank you for contacting us regarding your visit to Dublin and your offer of help. One of our Leaders, Joe Kerrigan, would love to meet with you when you are over.

Man! I was as happy as a puppy with two tails. Life was good!

The appointment was set and I was now going to meet with a Christian Leader in Ireland. In fact, this perfect stranger offered to come to our hotel in Dublin and pick us up. So… two days into our vacation my hotel phone rings and my wife and I head down to meet our new friends.

This is the moment when the fear and nerves began to kick in. You see, stepping out of comfort zones is fine with me in the beginning, but then you look and realize that you are actually doing it and you begin to question and sweat and worry and think and come up with excuses of why it wouldn’t work or shouldn’t work or why you should just stay home and do something more productive like plant another field in your Farmville world and…

Deep breath. 

I am slightly nervous and I’m not afraid to admit it. I mean… I am about to hop into a car with people I’ve never met to go to a place I’ve never been before to discuss a topic that I’m not sure will translate well. Oh wait. They speak English. I guess the ‘translate’ thing didn’t apply. However, I was just nervous and it crept into everything I thought about. 

So, we hop into the car and within five minutes I realize what a fool I was to be nervous. These two people, Joe and his wife, were awesome folks with big hearts, lots of passion and filled with stories that made you sit forward in your seat. Before I knew it, we were like long lost friends who found our ways back to one another.

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We drove to Joe’s house after a quick tour of the city and settled down into an afternoon tea. (Just between you and me, this tea thing is really starting to grow on me. I am traditionally a latte guy, but busting out a tea bag, milk and sugar is super quick, mighty tasty and makes me feel pretty classy. But, tally ho… I digress.)

In addition to Joe’s work in ministry, he is also a French trained chef… and an incredible one at that. Before I knew it I was tasting yummy delicacies as the room began to fill with the church leadership team. The room filled up and so did I.

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We all gathered around a big table and I began to talk about the journey of THE PLACE Church and how we have grown with the help of social media and before I knew it there was an incredible discussion taking place. There were questions and answers and laughter and dreaming.  And I looked around the table, in awe of what God had done.

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Sitting around that table were all sorts of people… there was a person who worked at Google and others who had run international ministries and others who had poured their lives into caring for the underprivileged in their community. And… here I was sitting with them because I sent out an email with a simple message:

I am here to serve.

After a couple hours the crowd thinned and the pastor asked if we wanted to grab a bite. We said “Sure” and were off. We drove the scenic route and saw sheep and castles and roundabouts and more sheep. (There are a lot of sheep in Ireland.) We pulled into a small seaside town and started walking down the lane next to shops and boat docks.

As we walked we talked. We chatted up church and God and our testimonies and music and history and our family tree and… (it was a long walk). And then we came to the steps.

The steps were about three feet tall each and there were probably five or six. They created a wall that you couldn’t see over, but you could climb up. Joe told me that he used to fish off these steps, but he wasn’t big enough to throw the line in. I imagined the vastness of this moment for a small child, because I felt the vastness of this moment for me… right then.

I climbed the first step. Eager. I climbed the second step. The top of my head could feel the cold wind. I climbed the third and fourth and reached the top of the stairs and my breath was literally stolen from my lungs. Not from the briskness of the air, but from the beauty of the moment. I knew that I had to share this moment with you, so I snapped a quick photo.

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This was my life in that moment. This was my reality.

However, I thought back to how it came to be. It was birthed in stepping out of my comfort zone. It was birthed in a willingness not to take… but to give. It was birthed in my willingness to let a stranger in close enough to know me… and in that moment, I was able to know him back.

I wonder how many of us miss out on the sunsets because we don’t have the courage to send the email. I wonder how many of us let that fear or anxiety stop us from following through on opportunities that sit all around us. I wonder how much more you could experience, if you would just be willing to get uncomfortable.

Start today. In this moment, make a commitment to get uncomfortable… to say “yes” when you’re scared… to reach out when you want to run away… to turn a stranger into a new friend.

And hurry up! Your sunsets are waiting.

Slainte!

GP

(To start with the first Ireland post “She Said Yes – Again”, click here. To read about my Irish memorial for my dad who passed away, click here.)

I’m a Crappy Friend… Until Now

They say that the first step of true lasting change begins the day when you accept the facts of your life to be true. The one fact that I have had trouble admitting until now is simply this…

I am a crappy friend. 

I don’t aspire to be this, but it’s true.

Maybe it’s the four kids I’m trying to raise or the wife I try to continuously date or the plethora of job responsibilities that I have, but my excuse is that I am just TOO STINKING BUSY to be a good friend.

I don’t send random cards or call you for no reason. There is always a reason and if you get a card… it’s probably because my wife made me write it. 

But… all this is going to change… today.

I am learning that friendships are important and they are hard work. If I don’t try, than I will be missing out on one of the greatest gifts given to mankind. 

Relationships.

The face to face… The loving touch… The call just to say HI… The sincere comment of “I’ve been thinking of you” or “praying for you” or “I’m glad you’re not dead”. All of these statements are signs of a good friend.

I heard a story the other day about a guy who sat dead in his house for a month and a half before anyone even knew he was dead. No one even noticed. And, if it wasn’t for a hot summer and no air conditioner, he might still be nestled in a Lazy Boy watching reruns of All in the Family. That could easily be me… Archie Bunker and a TV remote…  That is if I don’t choose to change. 

We ALL have a choice of how we are going to live.

So, I choose to be a better friend.

  • I will call someone today for no other reason but to say “Hi! How have you been?”
  • I will sit down with someone new this week for a coffee or tea.
  • I will answer the phone when I don’t feel like talking.
  • I will look for opportunities every day to be kind and stay present.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And, just maybe, I will make a new friend or two along the way.

What about you? 

What can you do to be a better friend today? 

She Said Yes! Again – 1 of 21 Ireland Posts

So, I never really did it right the first time.

I know what you’re thinking… GP? The hopeless romantic? The guy who just oozes public displays of affection and memorizes poetry by Yeats? That guy never got down on one knee to propose to his wife!?!?! 

Well… I didn’t. And, I stink at PDA and wouldn’t know Yeats from Jagger… but there is always hope.

So, I came up with a plan. 

Step One: Tell wife she is cut off from all of my online banking and shopping activity.

Step Two: Find the perfect ring. Emerald… cause we will be in the Emerald Isle. (Well, I guess I am “kinda” romantic.) 

Step Three: Wait for the perfect moment and take a knee. 

Well, steps one and two were cake. The third, however, not so easy. 

I knew the Cliffs of Moher would be the best place because they are so stinking breathtaking! I mean… you walk up to this:

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It doesn’t get better than that! But, then there was the walking. You see, you have to walk up steps and ramps to get on top of these beasts. We came to a dead end. We have to choose right or left. Both sides are cliffs. We toss the imaginary coin.

We went right.

“Right” led us to a beautiful watchtower and a TON of people.

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They were everywhere. If people were bad mullets, this would have been a Whitesnake concert. It was infested. People were taking photos and walking with food and kids and coffees and no idea where they were going except up and out along the cliff’s edge and edging out my hopes of ever unloading this ring which was getting heavy in my backpack.

I shuffled around waiting. More people came. I spoke… “Uh, let’s go that way.”

It was the exact opposite direction that we had already gone. But, it was beautiful…. so it was fairly easy to talk her into it.

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We begin down the trail which it nice and paved and doesn’t draw the same kind of attention as the watchtower did. But, the nice paved trail leads to a dirt one as we pass by a sign that looks like this:

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Uh… yeah. Let me zoom on that if you didn’t catch it.

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This might as well be a skull and cross bones saying, “Cross this sign and YOU MAY DIE.” But, it doesn’t seem to stop the slow trickle people headed that way… so like a sheep led to the shearers, I keep calm and carry on. (Witty British connection there if you didn’t catch it.) 

We walk. I start thinking of things to say. My palms sweat. I don’t know if it is my nerves about the ring or the 750 ft. death plummet to my immediate right. I walk. 

“So… uh. We sure do some pretty crazy things don’t we?”

I see the PERFECT spot coming up. I am going to time this moment perfectly. There is no turning back.

She replies, “Yes”. She grabs my hand a little tighter. This is going to be great! and then I hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” A British teen jumps off a rock about 25 meters ahead of us. (Did you pick up on my use of meters? Yes, it had been a week and I had abandoned use of trivial things like inches or miles.) “You’re gonna push me out there.” The teen yells to an equally loud and annoying friend while motioning to the edge and the final plunge towards eternity.

I think how quiet it could become it they get a little closer to the edge. I shake out of it. I smile and offer my patented “courtesy laugh”. They continue to be loud and obnoxious, but they are headed towards us so I know it’s only a matter of time before they pass. I speak.

“Let’s stop and enjoy the view.” 

I look out over the water choke back vomit which enters my throat as a putrid smell fills my nostrils and envelopes me. I look behind me. It’s a field covered in a liquid brown fluid. I remember the words of the bus driver from yesterday, “Eh. This is the season where we fertilize the fields for planting.” 

Of course it is. Fertilizer. That season.

My wife tries to smile through a wrinkled nose. I know it’s only a matter of time before she retreats. I look at her kindly, pointing up ahead and say, “Let’s see the view from up there.” She obliges and we walk.

We reach a part where there is more land to grip my body on one knee. So, I speak… “Let’s get a picture.” I look left. I look right. The trail is clear.

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My wife is turned away looking back down the trail towards the poop stench probably thinking, “How can we get back to the car without traveling by that field again.” I pop open the box, drop my backpack, turn towards her as I lower myself to one knee. I speak, choking back tears… “I don’t have many regrets, but always regretted not doing this the right way. Would you marry me… again?”

And then I heard the words that I had longed to hear…

“BLOODY HELL!” as a British teen jumped off a rock above my head.

No, I’m just kidding. I heard the words… “Yes. Of course I would”. I stand and we do what any good American couple would do at a time like this. We kiss and then take a “selfie” of course.

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So, there you have it. There is a lot to learn for me from this day. 

Every day is a gift and sometimes things aren’t going to go the way you want. We make our plans and things don’t always work out that way. But, don’t let those moments stop you from pressing forward. Whether it’s a crowd of mullets or the stench of manure getting stuck in your nose hairs… don’t stop. Keep going. Because… the journey is the destination. So many, stop too soon.

Embrace the people in your life who mean the most. Don’t live in regrets from what you ‘wish you would have done’. Go out and do it today. Create TODAY the kind of TOMORROW that you want to live in.

I leave you with this simple Irish blessing.

“May you both live as long as you want and never want as long as you live”. 

Slainte!

My Dad’s Final View – Cliffs in Ireland

So, I went to Ireland the other day.

Yes, it was amazing. Yes, it was a dream come true. But… it was something else.

It was a trip that I was supposed to do with my dad. Well, at least until he passed away in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.

The trip was amazing though and my dad would have thoroughly enjoyed every single last bit of it… except the driving part. He would have definitely hated that. But… other than that it would have been a perfect trip for him. 

My wife and I decided to do something a little different. We took him with us on the trip.

Not in his angelic form… because he looks ridiculous in a diaper and he doesn’t know how to play the harp.

Not in the ashes form… because he is laying down next to my mom in a grave in Ohio right now.

No… we took his picture. A subtle reminder of the trip we weren’t able to do the way that we had planned. But… one that he was with us anyways.

The final day we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I believe that it would have been the highlight for my dad. Six straight days from Dublin to County Clare went by like a flash, but the Cliffs get stuck in your brain. They are spectacular… and I know that my dad would have loved them.

So, we dropped him off. 

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You know… losing your dad is never easy. I have lost both my mom and dad now and sometimes feel like an orphan. However, I know that I am not alone and my parents did the best job they could with me. I am who I am because of what they did in my life. 

So, my dad deserved someplace special. Yes… it was sad… and has been sad the last year and a half… 

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But, we smile. Sometimes we hide tears behind glasses and sadness behind smiles. But, we move on. We continue the journey of life and take what has been given and do the best that we can with it.

For my dad, he left me looking at a beautiful life that I can only have because he never stopped loving me and believing in me. I have been unlovable many times, but he never gave up and I won’t ever stop striving to live the best life I can to bring glory to God and the memory of my parents. 

Today, my dad is smiling upon one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Want to see what he’s looking at? Enjoy a little bit of his view…

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Slainte Dad… I will always love you!

GP

3 Keys to Living In Gratefulness

Living a life of gratefulness is key to living the best possible life ever. When you think about your life, does the word ‘grateful’ come to your mind?

Oftentimes, it may only happen when we are gathered at a table with a big fat turkey staring back at us. But, when we lose something or face difficulty, gratefulness comes back into perspective in our life. When we allow gratefulness to be part of our everyday life, however, we gain a greater perspective on what is truly important.

Personally, there are 5 things that I try to keep centered in my life to remember to be grateful. You can try these too.

  1. Say “Thank You” before your feet hit the floor.Before the java hits your lips, say ‘thank you’. There are so many things to be grateful for when your eyes open. Thankful for the breath in your lungs, the pillow under your head or the opportunity to make a difference in a new day. By making these the first two words out of your mouth, you will start your day with an attitude of gratefulness.
  2. Keep your eyes open to the little things.Each day we are surrounded by so many little things that are often taken for granted. That moment we have a conversation with someone that we didn’t plan and learn something that changes us or opens our mind to something new. Or, that moment when we look around at the job or house or family or friends that we have with new eyes. These moments have the power to increase gratefulness in our lives.
  3. Ask yourself one tough question every day.
    The question is simply this. “If I only had today what I thanked God for yesterday, what would I have?” Ouch! For some of us, that question hurts. We realize that our lack of gratefulness would cause us to live in a pretty sad and empty place. I recently shared this question at THE PLACE Church. Check out the video here:

Strive to live in gratefulness. It will truly have a profound impact on how you see yourself… others… and your life.

Let me hear from you. What are you grateful for this week?

Feel free to keep the conversation on my  Facebook page. 

With a Grateful Heart,

GP

 

Sitting Shiva… Stained Ties and a Big Pile of “Keep”

Boxes, old pictures and ties from another generation fill my vision as I start cleaning dad’s house.

My mom did many things for my dad. She covered over a lot of his flaws… she cooked three meals a day… and she cleaned really well. Without her, flaws were apparent… microwave dinners became his cuisine… and dust accumulated into a protective layer that covered everything. It is into this sea of dust that I find myself swimming today. Doing what I have always dreaded… separating all of my dad’s things into three distinctive piles… 

Throw Away. 

Sell.

Keep. 

A pile of stained ties and checkbook registrars from 1983 pepper the “throw away” pile. My dad was from a generation that kept things “just in case”. So, file upon file of papers must enter this pile. Some will be shredded. Some will just move from their heap in a drawer to their final resting place at the bottom of a trash compactor. But, there are some things that “may” be used by another person that I have no desire to have. These things move into the “sell” pile…

Furniture that is so heavy that it makes you want to cuss when you move it. Furniture made before particle board was chic… or prevalent. Knick knacks and drapes and pictures of things that have no meaning to me… they are piled together in preparation for their new homes… to be spread out throughout a community who will buy them at pennies to the dollar. These are all things that enter this ever growing pile.

But… there are other things that will mean nothing to anyone but me… and those things enter a pile to “keep”. 

My shoes that I wore before I could walk that are worn down on the tops from crawling instead of the bottoms. The picture of an old man praying before his meal which has followed my dad to every place he has ever lived and encapsulated his soul and depth of spirituality. The holiday dishes that have sat in the back of his closet for years that were never used because my dad didn’t want anything to happen to them. They have sat wrapped each Christmas for their safety. However, dishes weren’t meant to stay hidden, but to be used… just like us. We are not called to simply hide in our homes and be safe, but to live life and breathe deep and venture from our boxes on to the dining room table. And… in doing that… they may get damaged… and so may we. There may be chips in the plates from wear and tear and there may be cracks in our lives from use. But, we are meant to be used and active and it is a chance that we must take.

This year, those dishes will be on my dining room table.

I found a small book that I had given him for father’s day many years ago that I wrote in. I flipped open and there was a message written under my note to him. It was something that he had written to me. It had sat in his house unread until this moment. It was written many years ago for this moment. A message that transcended the grave. 

That book will sit on my shelf. 

I found pictures that are over half a century old buried in a box of junk. Picture after picture of my mom when she was a small child. Faded photos of another generation of the people who helped nurture the ones who brought me life. I had never seen them before. Jumbled and scattered at the bottom of a box they sat there waiting for me.

Those photos will be displayed for the world to see. 

Those things that really matter. Those things that are really important. Those things can’t be replaced with a dollar sign. They are in the “keep” pile.

I am not excited about a piece of technology that can be replaced at any WalMart or some car that will only rust and die. I am enamored by those possessions that hold a memory… those “things” that carry a thought… that property which has a story that I can use to carry the legacy of my family into the future generations. These are the things that mean the most to me.

As I look around my home today I ask myself a tough question. “Am I living my days to accumulate stuff that doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of life? Am I getting goods when I should be cultivating memories? Am I providing my family with those things that rust and time can not destroy?”

I hope I am. 

Because I know that there will come a day when I will breathe my last breath and I want to know that they will be able to look at each other and smile… remembering things that we did together or time that we shared. I want them recounting the moments of laughter and joy instead of the pennies that are left in the bank.

I will continue to go through clothes that should have been discarded a generation ago and probably find that 1993 tax information that dad kept so safe. I will wipe down walls and sneeze from the dust. I will fill vaccum bags full and empty out closets. And… with each item I touch… I will make a decision.

What will I trash? What will I sell? What will I keep?

I already know what is making it into the “keep” pile. Are you building a life that will assure that this “keep” pile will be the largest when you are gone? I hope you take a moment to consider this and how you are living… it makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks for Sitting Shiva with me!

GP

Sitting Shiva… Bulldogs and Bullet Shells

So, I led my dad’s funeral service… again.

If one time wasn’t hard enough, I did it twice. This time, however, I wasn’t alone. The flesh that had housed my father for over 60 years was nestled in the corner… in a box… that has become his final resting place. He laid there void of soul… yet, I sought to bring him back to life.

With words, I sought to speak his soul back into existence. With my voice, I tried to create his presence one last time…

I don’t know if anyone else felt that… but I did. I felt him there. Not the man in the corner, but the spirit in our hearts and the memories in our minds. He was there with us. He was there.

The funeral director was a blessing… quirky and kind. He did everything he could to give us all that we needed to make the ceremony perfect… but couldn’t deliver when it came to technology. I looked at him and said… 

“So, what kind of technology do you have.”

He looked confidently back into my eyes and said, “We have a CD player.”

Long awkward pause as I looked at him… No, I was looking through him.

He smiled. 

“Uh… yeah. What else? Do you have a TV?”

“Nope. We have a CD player.”

The 21st century just collided with the 20th century and I remembered that I was back in Ohio. 

Needless to say, I went shopping. After purchasing cords and a projector and some speakers… we were ready to go.

The day of the service came and there is nothing that I have ever HAD to do that I looked forward to LESS than this. I dragged my feet… I took an extra long shower… I buttoned my shirt slowly… I finally fell in the car seat and made the drive. As I pull into the parking lot, I see that people are waiting for me.

I am nearly 40 minutes early and people are waiting for me. 

I get out of the car and say “Hello”. I grabbed my bags and turn towards the funeral home. The door opens and my quirky friend’s assistant is there to greet me. I walk in the foyer and look at the closed door that leads to the actual room.

I look at the door again. It’s closed. I want it to stay closed. I want to turn and run away. But… I don’t. 

He opens the door. I know what is waiting for me on the other side of the door. I move through the opening and speak in a hushed tone. 

“Don’t let anyone else in until I say so.” 

“Of course.” He closes the door behind my family and I while he stands like a British soldier guarding the Palace. 

I look at the corner. There he is. Open casket. Flowers perched on his bottom half… hands tucked beneath covers… mouth wired shut – flat and emotionless. Just like how I thought I should feel… but, I didn’t feel that way. I look to my son. 

“You ready?”

We walk as a unit, my wife and son and I. We stand there staring down at the open box. I talk to my son about finality. I ask him how he is doing. My wife watches as a tear falls down her face. We stand there. I glance at the flowers and then over at the flag and then at my dad’s face. It is… was… his body. He has moved on. He wasn’t with me anymore and this box is not how I wanted to remember him… so my eyes dart. But, this box was part of the process… so we stood there and paid our final respects.

I look at the bulldog guard who is perched by the door. “It’s time”. I mouth it with a quick upward shake on my head. The doors open and people begin to come in. Fifteen minutes before the official viewing is open and people are already shuffling in.

Some drove from Kentucky… others Tennessee… others from right down the street. There were cousins and brothers and friends and neighbors. There were young and old, but they were all impacted by my dad. We even had a Lieutenant Colonel from the Pentagon… (yeah… I didn’t see that one coming either). 

All in all… my dad touched a lot of people’s lives and they were going to take advantage of this moment to honor him. And… in honoring him, they truly honored me.

I spoke. We laughed. We cried. Friends and family shared their memories and stories and it was truly a time of healing. I was able to meet a man who saw my grandfather die and he recounted all the details with me. (If you want to know more, read this post). I heard about my grandpa… the hero.

With a flag laid over his coffin, myself and 5 other special men carried my dad’s body to the hearse. It was:

Herb Kenter (my dad’s best friend)

Chuck Kenter (a close family friend for many years)

Shawn Kenter (another close family friend for many years)

Roger Smith (my best friend growing up)

David Hintz (my dad’s brother)

At the gravesite, there were many people waiting for me. Dressed in uniforms with rifles shining… they waited for us. A long line of cars pulled into the graveyard and worked their way to the tent where we stood. I helped bring my dad’s body out of that hearse and we laid him down under the tent. I took a few steps back as the people gathered and I let the soldiers take over.

I can’t explain in words right now what this ceremony meant to me… but I may in a future post. Let me simply say that it was the most powerful and honoring thing that I have ever been a part of. They spoke. They gave him a 21 gun salute. They played taps. They folded his flag and placed it into my arms. The commander saluted me and I returned it. I was then given the bullet casings from the 21 gun salute. I cherish them as much as I do the flag.

Those bullet casings mean something. They were filled with something at one point. They were filled with energy and have accomplished their purpose on earth. They are but a shell today… but a shell that reminds me of the most powerful moment of my life. A reminder of something far deeper than the actual metal casing… a reminder of my hero. 

Life is sort of like that… isn’t it. Each of us will be a spent casing one day. Each of us  will have accomplished our purposes on this earth and we will be done. However, we would have given each person who was part of our life a memory… or a casing… to remember. These memories point back to the purpose of our lives and live on far longer than we do. 

I want to leave casings… like my dad did. I want to leave memories… like my dad did. I want to touch lives and be able to say that my purpose was accomplished. Not only in what was given in the moment, but in the casings that lay scattered on the floors of those that I know and love.

My life is littered with the casings of others. People, who even in this season of my life, have changed me. Those who have loved me. Those who have stepped up to help carry the burden in these long days. I simply want to thank you and ask you to keep pulling that trigger in my life and I will commit to pull the trigger in yours. Together… we can make an incredible difference and leave casings littering the floors of each other. 

Thank you for Sitting Shiva with me.

GP