48 Degrees

We are well into the second week of September, and since June 21st, we have already lost two hours of daylight. I really notice that difference when I get up in the morning. On the calendar it is still officially summer, but the outside temperature and landscape tells a different story. Splashes of color are showing up, and that says Fall is here. It is 48 degrees outside, there is a northeast breeze pushing the mist around, and in the cool morning air I can hear geese honking overhead. Like it or not, Fall has arrived.

I know there are a few warm days yet to come, but autumn has clearly made its grand entrance into the Adirondacks. This is a certainty because it’s 32 degrees, and there is frost on the pumpkins in my hometown of Bloomingdale, NY. Not far from there, it’s a frigid 27 degrees on Mount Marcy. So, to the residents of our small town, a foggy 48 degree morning is an echo of the stark reality that summer is over and Fall has come once again.

In truth, 48 degrees really does not seem all that bad, but it is a turning point. It marks the moment when those who live here must consider what is about to return. What I mean is, we get our first frost in Johnstown about the 10th of October, and that ends the growing season. However, just north of us, in the heart of the Adirondacks, frost arrives around Labor Day. A few weeks later, in early November, we will see snow flurries in the air. December brings blankets of snow, and then January arrives with it’s manic-depressive weather on steroids. It brings a mid-winter thaw, where daytime temps go into the 50’s, and this is followed by arctic blasts that plunge things down to -25 or -35.

So, 48 degrees says something important, if you can hear it. It says the fevered heat of Summer, the warm sandy beaches, camping and back yard gatherings have passed. It says school is back in session, vacations are over, and gardens are just about done. It is the final appearance of Indian corn, pumpkins and squash on roadside stands. It means fields are being cleared, leaves raked and wood piles are growing bigger in the shrinking daylight hours. It says the apple harvest is in full swing, and the last fall flowers are in full bloom.

It’s the time for slowing down, sitting by an evening fire out back, while sipping a hot cup of coffee with friends. This is the season for patiently roasting a hotdog, thick cut bacon, or a piece of sharp cheddar cheese, on a stick over the fire. It means heavy dew on the grass, no more mowing, and it is time to check the snow blower and look for the winter tires. 48 degrees is not just a number on a thermometer. No, it marks a way of life that brings us back to the basics and back to our roots. This is when we ponder where we have been, and more importantly, where we are about to go. It’s a line drawn in the sand of life, and once it is reached, you know there is no going back.

Have you reached your 48 degrees yet? Let me make sure you understand what I just said. This is the time in life when you hit a wall, and must begin to re-evaluate yourself, and everything you are doing, at a gut level. Things are just different somehow, and you may or may not, understand why. You know subtle differences are in the air, and you can feel it deep inside. The thing is, you really are not sure what to do next, and that brings unsettledness to all you do. You can sense a shift in the season of life, but don’t know what new direction that shift is pointing you in. If you are living with the above, then you have hit your 48 degree point. The geese are overhead, and certain change is in the wind, like it or not.

So what do you do now? How do you get any traction in this season of uncertainty? Due of my prophetic call, I have been in this place numerous times over the years. From those experiences, I have learned a few things along the way. Allow me share one nugget that has served me quite well. Perhaps it may help you in your season of transition. My advice? First of all, go build a fire, sit in its light and warmth, and invite a few choice friends to join you for a hot cup of coffee. You might be saying to yourself right now, “What? What kind of wisdom is that?” Well, there is more truth in those words than you might expect, so just keep reading.

What I am saying is more profound than you might think, so let’s break it down. First of all, you need to gather the wood for a fire. That is, you have to get focused, slow down and try to calm your anxious thoughts. Anxiety never solved anything for anyone. Take the time to settle your thinking so you can build the fire of passion you once had for life. Discover a fresh passion for what you love to do. Uncover the hidden talents and skills you have acquired in life. Don’t go rushing off into the dark night in a panic. Gather your thoughts and build the fire of your passion once again. This will bring the light of fresh vision, and the warmth of new possibilities to you that your soul really needs.

Second, invite a few “choice friends” to sit with you as you build your fire. You do not want to bring those who usually hang with you on this journey. Those friends who are currently in your circle, probably helped bring you where you are right now. If they lack vision and direction, most likely so do you. That’s just the way it is. You need friends around you who have a vision, passion, clarity and a desire to succeed. Sit with those who speak life, and those who have a positive attitude. You need friends who will challenge you to stop whining, encourage you to fan the flame of your passion, and help you step outside your comfort zone.

Finally, you need those who are willing to drink the coffee you serve up. That is, these must be people who nourish themselves the same way you do. For a Christian, that means they must love and rely on Jesus the same way you do. They need to be connected to a good local church, submitted to good leadership, and looking for life’s answers in Scripture. People, who seek out what the world offers, will always end up with second best. Those who seek God are always going to take you in the right direction. Most importantly, these friends need to be people of integrity who will pray for you, and with you. Others, who are highly qualified, may be willing to share your fire, but if they don’t drink what you drink, it’s going to be a problem. The spiritual unity of all those on the journey, is the key that correctly aligns and unlocks your future.

If you sense a change in the wind, and are feeling a bit disoriented in life now, perhaps it’s time to go build a fire. Put on the coffee pot and invite a few choice friends to sit with you and stoke the fire of your passion. Enjoy the personal conversation, savor a cup of hot coffee and roast some sharp cheddar. In this rich atmosphere of insight, guidance and care, light will begin to penetrate the darkness, and fresh direction will come.

Remember, this season will not last forever, but it will bring change, so you might a well embrace it and get the benefit. When it’s over, things are going to be different. For now, why not go take a look at the thermometer of your life. If it reads a cool 48 degrees then change is on the way and it’s time to go light the fire!

Finding What Matters

school-roomWhen I was in elementary and middle school, I was not what might be called an ideal student. I disliked the homework, the rules, the group activities, the slow pace of the classes and the wasted time spent in my seat. I was bored most of the time and looking for ways to entertain myself during the long hours. I would much rather be outside fishing on the river, or hunting with my single shot .22 rifle.

I was the kid who shot spit balls at the most studious girls in the class, or snuck under the outside fire escape at school so I could peek up the girls dresses when they went out for recess. I was the kid who tripped any boy who walked by my desk. I was the kid who got a transistor radio for Christmas that came with an ear piece. I brought it to school and told my teachers it was a hearing aid, and I was going deaf. Oh yes, and I was the one who deliberately misspelled a word on a spelling test just to keep the whole class from getting a perfect score. When I was told to spell that word correctly 50 times while everyone else was at recess, I would misspell it in a different way all 50 times, just to drive the teacher crazy.

No, I was not your ideal student simply because I learned the material when it was explained, and in my mind, after that, my life was being wasted. None of the rest of the class time really mattered. Then one day in the ninth grade something happened. A switch clicked in my head when I realized that somehow Science did matter. The funny thing is, I spent all my working years teaching science, all because of this one day. So, this particular class we were having a “science take down”, where the class was divided and stood up on opposite end of the room. The teacher asked science questions to the students one at a time, and whoever answered incorrectly had to sit down. The team that sat down first got homework that night.

As the team I was on stood in line, I pretended to look at my hand, as if to read an answer, and then to everyone’s shock I answered my question correctly. The kid next to me whispered, “you’re gonna get caught”, and the contest went on. One by one students on both sides were taken down until there were only a few of us left on each side.  Every time I was about to be asked a question, I would glance down at my hand, pretending to find an answer. Sure enough, no matter what was asked I would be right.

Those in their seats were almost ready to riot when the only two students left standing on opposite teams were me, and the smartest kid in the class, Greg Hosplehorn. At this point everyone was wondering why the teacher had not called me out, since it was clear I must be cheating. Then to my great joy it happened, she told the class that whatever team lost would have a 500 word essay to write that night on why it never pays to cheat. She then instructed me to not look at my hand, and answer the next question. The team I was on began to moan, some of my team mates threatened to beat me up. It was not pretty.

The teacher smiled, asked the killing question, and without any hesitation I shot the answer right out. The class was stunned into silence. She asked Greg his question and true to form, the answer flew right out of his mouth. Back and forth we went for the remaining 10 minutes of the class, until the bell finally rang. At that point the teacher asked me to hold up my hands up for everyone to see. To the astonishment of all, they were empty. The teacher smiled at me, shook her head and said “I guess this means no homework for anyone, since neither team lost that game.” I walked into class that day as a dope, and an irritation to many. However, I walked out as brilliant, and a hero in the eyes of all.  Why? Because, something finally mattered.

What things really matter to you? Do you know what they are, and are you going after them with all your heart? What are the passions in life that cause you to shine the way you were designed to be? If you don’t know, then it’s time to stop everything and discover this undiscovered territory. Set time aside to be with the Holy Spirit and let Him define you with breath-taking specificity. You will never hit your high place of excellence, satisfaction and productivity unless you first know what you were made to do, and where you were made to do it. In other words, you have to find out what matters.

As a Christian, I was called by God to be a teacher, a writer,  a preacher and an apostolic prophet. I build ministers and ministries. I write books and Bible studies. I bring clarity to those who are confused. I am a spiritual father to many and a friend to all. I mentor those who desire to grow, and guide those who need to know. These things all flourish in my life whenever I get focused, and choose to participate in them the way God intended. Because of this, I find great satisfaction, and an ease of productivity filling my days. I bring God’s blessing to those who get near me, and my life is filled with purpose. When I am living in my high place, everything just works, and I love it.

Perhaps this is the season for you to discover what really matters. This may be your time to stop the endless activity,  get quiet, stay focused and uncover who you really are.  Let the searchings of your heart go deep. Find out what your passions are, and most importantly, where they are pointing you. If you desire it, you can live a life of purpose and productivity. You can find that deep place of satisfaction only God can bring you, and only He can keep you. It is in this place alone, where you find what really matters, that life has its full meaning. Once you find this, you can joyfully spend the rest of you life living it. Now… go find what matters, and be a blessing to others by doing it.

Into The Furnace

FB_IMG_1520563152233.jpg

At times life is just not what we planned. Our own stupidity, or the thoughtless words and actions of others can derail things in the blink of an eye. What was a reasonable situation can become intolerable before people realize what has happened. All it takes is unreasoning anger, fueled by unrestrained emotions. As the old saying goes, things can go from the frying pan into the fire, and from the fire into the furnace for no apparent reason. When that happens, what do you do then?

It seems clear that some people tend to be more prone to emotional plunges than others. What I mean is, there are those individuals who just fall into one mess after another, and their life is punctuated by difficult moments of drama. They don’t look for trouble, it somehow seems to find them. In fact, as you looked at that last statement, someone or some situation probably came to mind. These are the one’s who have issues that come up, but before things get resolved, another problem arises that simply compounds the first. For some, this is an all too familiar way of life.

Over my years of counseling, I have discovered that the issue is not so much about “what” is happening, but it is more about “why” it is happening. The “what” is basically the same for everyone, but the “why” holds a key that unravels it. Everyone loses a job at one point or another, or hates their new job, or gets sick. Everyone gets taken advantage of or has a friend who walks away. Everyone has misunderstandings, or get’s pulled over by the police, or says the wrong thing at the wrong time. That’s just part of life on this planet. However, this does not happen to everyone on a regular basis. If it is happening to you, then it’s time to ask “why”.

Let me give you a beautiful example from my own experience, and that may help you understand what I’m talking about. Seventeen years ago I met my beautiful wife and when we were a few days from being married I decided to sell a trailer. I was planning to use that money for some of our wedding expenses. One day a man showed up to look the trailer over. He seemed reputable, was very likeable, and assured me he would be back on Friday to pick it up and pay for it. We shook hands and he headed out the driveway. As he was about to leave he returned and asked if I would mind him taking the trailer now, since he was already here, and Friday he would stop by to pay me.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed what happened. At my secretary’s great concern I handed over all the paperwork and we parted company.  He was in fact a licensed guide in the Oneonta, NY area. Since my father was a guide I felt he could be trusted. Unfortunately for me he was also a con-man and a thief.  He never returned with the cash. When I called him on it and even drove down to his house, he lied to me in every way possible way. The bottom line was simple. I was and easy mark, I was taken for one thousand dollars, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

The “what” in this situation is very simple. I had been taken advantage of by a liar, a thief and a very slick con-man. However, the “why” in the situation is what’s really important. I really wanted that money for my wedding, and because of the urgency I was gullible enough to believe others were as honest as I was. Because of this I signed my trailer over to someone whose words and character were both worthless. It was a very hard lesson to learn.

Without asking yourself the “why” of something, the “what” will never change. Like it or not, this is the cold, hard truth we all have to face. For instance, I was getting tea at Burger King the other day and there were several young people sitting there, waiting for job interviews. The manager told me she had two shift slots available, and apparently these were the applicants for the jobs. All of them seemed reasonable, but there were distinct differences with two of the four, and I watched the interviews for the human interest value, just to see what would happen.

All of the interviewees arrived on time, and all had filled out their applications, more or less correctly. All could begin work immediately, and none of them had work restrictions. Two of the four were clean-shaven, hair combed, neatly dressed in blue jeans and a casual shirt. They had no visible piercings, tattoos or odd mannerisms. The other two were, shall I say, quite unique in every way. One had short cut purple streaked hair, a scruffy beard, a nose ring, dressed all in black and had black nail polish on every other finger nail. The other young man had a hand and one arm covered with graphic tattoos. His pants were hanging down and his underwear could be seen. He wore a ball cap sideways and written on his t-shirt was the witty saying, “Out Of My Way, I Have No Time For A_ _ Holes Today”. Need I say which two did NOT get the job?

The point here is quite simple. If you never ask the “why” of things in your life, then the “what” in your life will never change. I wonder if those four young men were all thinking they had the job, as they left their interview. Did it dawn on two of them that first impressions are important? Did they consider that how they dressed speaks volumes about how they represent the company? More importantly, did any of them ask “why” they did, or did not, get the job? When things in life just don’t go your way, over and over again, perhaps it’s time to ask “why”. Better yet, maybe it’s time to seek out those who will give you a painfully honest and very truthful answer.

If you are tired of life in the furnace, then answering the “why” of things is one of the keys that can unlock your future. Look in the mirror and really see what others see when they look at you. Check you attitude, your actions, your facial expressions and your appearance. Are they are conducive to the life you think you deserve. Examine your words and your interaction with others.  Are you are building, or sabotaging, the future you want? It may shock you to find out just how far out of step you really are with the place you dream of going. In the final analysis, once you begin to as the “why”, the “what” will take care of itself.

A Needed Storm

storm

It’s 4am and I was awakened from some much-needed sleep, by the approach of a mid-summer storm. I could feel the distant rumble of thunder, and the flashes of lightening in the dark sky drew me out of bed like a magnet. I flung open the windows of my house just in time to catch the sound of a million drops of rain hitting in the distance. A moment later I felt the wet, sweet, cool breeze these storms bring with them. It wondrously drifted through our house, and I filled my lungs with it’s delicate aroma. There is nothing quite like it to break the smothering grip of a sweltering July night.

I mention this because here in the Northeast we had a miserably cold, damp Spring. I came to identify it as a new season, “Sprinter”. That was followed by a direct flip in the weather, and overnight it became sunny, hot and dry. The change came so suddenly that people had little time to make the transition. In mid-May summer just arrived, and that was it. Today is the 17th of July and we have had blisteringly high temperatures in the 90’s for what seems to be weeks on end. Lawns are turning brown, my garden needs to be constantly watered, rivers are at all time lows, wells are running dry and air conditioners are nowhere to be found in local stores.

So, the coming of a rain-filled thunderstorm in the heat of a summer night is a welcomed release. The damp, cool air flowing over the sunbaked land, the sound of rain hitting the roof, splashing on the road and soaking into the dusty soil, means something. It means that a change is in the wind, and with that change comes the promise of days that are a little more balanced, a little easier on both the body and the electric bill. The point is, it takes a well-timed storm, with all it’s potential danger, to bring about the change that is needed at this moment.

Life as we know it is exactly the same way. We can get locked into a routine and begin to forget there is more to living than what we have been living with. We may have become comfortable with what is, and finally surrendered to something that is smothering us like a summer heat wave. And then it happens. A storm blows our way one dark night, and we are awakened from our slumber. We are brought back to reality, even fascinated by the approaching danger. It causes us to fling open the windows of our soul that have been closed for so long, and in the storm of uncertainty, we begin to come alive.

In the moment of an approaching life-storm, let the lightening and rain come. Enjoy the show in the dark of night, because in that storm you will feel a sweet, fresh breeze that clears the air. Every clap of thunder, and tear drop that falls, is setting you free to be yourself once again. These things are good because they are stripping away the fevered-heat of a life that has held you captive. Let the storm rage all around, and do not fear what it brings. With it comes some much-needed change, and when it’s time, it will pass and you will be free.

This is a needed storm so wake up oh sleeper and enjoy what has come your way. Let the rain fall, and the thunder roar in the night season. These have come to bring the fresh breath of moist, cool air that you have been waiting for. This is not the storm of your destruction. No… If you can embrace it, it is just a rugged moment of life-change for personal deliverance. So…why not sit back, fling wide the windows of your heart and enjoy the ride? When it’s over you will be a different person, one who finds new freedom in a landscape washed clean from the heated dusty days of the past. From this place you can find the balanced life you’ve always wanted, and most importantly, become the person you were always supposed to be.

The Wounded Walk

isWhen I was 19 years old I ran my parents marina at Meacham Lake Public Campsite in the Northern Adirondacks. That summer I was chopping wood with a single bit, 2 1/2 pound Collins axe, and being tired, I managed to miss my target. The axe head slammed squarely into the tibia of my right leg, splitting the bone lengthwise and producing a sliver of bone that jutted off to the right, under the skin. I went to Saranac Lake General hospital where they put me back together and spent the next 6 weeks recovering from that mishap. The wound forced me to adjust how I walked until the pain went away. The residual side effect is that my leg bone aches every time the weather changes, and that changes how I walk.

Fast forward 20 years. Now I have 3 wonderful sons, I am a permanently certified k-12 teacher in NY State, and an ordained minister who is living in a very difficult and rapidly disintegrating marriage. One hot July day I decided to clear my head and go fishing on one of my favorite trout streams. In my haste to get out of town, I put on leather sandles and soon discovered what a huge mistake that was. A mile or so up-stream I slipped, and the knuckle of my right big toe gets a compression fracture as the weight of my body wedges it between two slippery boulders in the stream bed. Over time it heals, leaving a calcium knot that hurts with every step I take. Once again, the wound forces me to adjust the way I walk  in order to avoid the pain produced with each step.

Fast forward another 20 years, and I am living in Johnstown, NY. I am married to my beautiful wife Esther, our 5 children are all married and happy, we have 10 grandchildren and we are pastoring the same church. I am retired from teaching, but I am still subbing in a local school system and loving every minute of it. This brings us to my current situation. May 16th I had a motorcycle accident, and yes once again there was trauma to my right leg. Several breaks to the same axe-chopped Tibia, and additional injury to the same compression-fractured toe knuckle. Once again I am in recovery, and dealing with pain. Once again I have to adjust my walk because of the wound I suffered. In fact, I am not just having to adjust my walk, this time I am having to learn how to walk all over again.

The point in all of this is that any wound we receive, especially those that are emotional, always impact us more deeply than we realize. The pain we internalize always forces us to adjust our life-walk in ways that may not be evident at first. We might just feel a dull ache when the emotional weather shifts, and we simply learn to embrace it as a normal part of life, but it is not normal. Other times, the trauma may be so painful, and so overwhelming, that we actually have to learn how to function in life all over again. The thing is, there is no shame or disgrace in being wounded. NO… that comes when we let the wound control us, and permanently allow it to change our walk because it is what we have settled for and chosen in life.

When my motorcycle accident happened, I could have stayed in that roadside ditch, bloodied and broken, and pushed away all who stopped to help. I could have just let traffic pass me by until I bled out and died. What I did do in all that pain and wreckage, was grab hold of everyone present and told them to call an ambulance, call my wife and call my son who lives near by. I got hold of my church members and asked them to pray, and they set up a support team to help me and my wife, when I could not help myself. They cooked meals, cleaned the house, mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, took me to doctors appointments and checked in on me in my broken condition. Only because of them will I have a 100% recovery.

You, my friend, are exactly the same. If wounding has changed your life-walk, it’s time to grab hold of the support system that is around you, and stop living like you are a victim. You are NOT a victim, you are simply wounded and need help to be restored to the full vigor God intended you to have. You must face the fact that there are some things you cannot fix on your own. You must reach out to God, and to those who are traveling the same road, and ask for help. Last of all, you must be patient, seek out and follow the advice of those who really know how to help you recover from your kind of injury.

Because of the physical therapy I am now going through, I know I will walk my trout streams in full strength again. My wife and I will fully do life together again. It is painful right now, but twice a week I still go for therapy. Why? Because the physical therapist knows exactly what I must do in order to get back on my feet, and live my life again. She is helping me do what I cannot do for myself. Without her help, a full recovery would be impossible. Like it or not, it is the same for you. Now is the time to get the help you need. Go find healing for your wounds, and learn to walk your life once again. Once you do, you will eventually get to the point where you can actually run the race that is set before you, and become the winner you were designed to be. Now go find the help you need, because it is time to get up out of that ditch!

The Simplified Life

At the bottom of Herrietstown Hill, about 5 miles outside of Saranac Lake, NY is a northern Adirondack landmark. It holds as much meaning to area residents as the view of Whiteface or Slide Mountain. This is a family owned dairy called Donnelly’s. I worked there for over a year starting in the summer of 1980. I drove a refrigerated milk truck, making 4:30am home and commercial deliveries to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. In those days, eggs, bottled milk, bottled heavy cream, cheese, yogurt, butter and other dairy products were brought right to the door step. It was the last hold-over of the horse-drawn milk delivery of years gone by, and I was very happy to serve our local communities in this way.

The centerpiece of the entire Donnelly “empire” was not it’s dairy, or it’s delivery trucks. No, that distinction came from it’s ice cream stand that stood in front of the farm. This sold, and still sells, the unmatched glory of “Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream”. People drive from miles around, and never mind standing in line, to taste the creamy delight that pours out of those ancient machines. There are other places to buy ice cream, but none is quite as rich as Donnelly’s, and everyone knows it. The picture above is the sign in their window. It reads; “We pick the flavor, you pick the size”. It offers a “flavor of the day”, picked by the Donnelly’s, that is twisted with vanilla and gives an invatation for the buyer to pick how much of it they want.

To those who live in a consumer driven, cater to the masses, Starbucks-mentality kind of world, this is totally foreign. However, this business is a true reflection of simple, life unchanged in the Adirondacks. Those of us who are blessed to have generational roots in this place, know the rugged simplicity, and unchanged purity of life in these mountains. We also know and appreciate, the value of a good product that has stood the test of time. When I was a kid, the old timers always said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In other words, if it works, then just leave it alone. Donnelly’s “flavor of the day” is a clear example of that ideology. It basically all boils down to this; “Here is today’s flavor. Buy any size you want or step out of the line… NEXT!”.

This brings home a basic reality; life has the potential to be quite simple at it’s core. We all tend to make it unnecessarily complex, and full of pointless emotional drama. Our selfish demands, the desire for unending entitlements, and the need to satisfy the uncontrolled want for more of what we really don’t need, fuels the fire of complexity. We serve ourelves first, instead of looking for ways to help others. We do help, as long as it benefits us, and when it becomes an inconvience, we tend to find another cause to “support”. Many now march in the cities demanding change. They fill the streets with hollow voices that have no power, and make no real, lasting difference. Why? Because, these marchers have never paid a price for anything. Everyone knows a soft life has been handed to them, and genuine hard work, or the struggle to better themselves, is not part of their personal history. They are pampered frauds, demanding more of the things they haven’t earned, and don’t deserve.

These are the affluent unhappy, the entitled unappreciative. They live at a higher standard than most of the world and somehow still feel neglected, unheard and emotionally fragile. They demand change but offer no honest solution to their self-imagined problems. They are offended and angry when things don’t go their way. They resort to name calling and emotionally charged rhetoric when confronted by real facts. Worst of all, they use any position of influence or notatriety to degrade, insult, challenge and defame anyone who disagree with them. Listen to any Hollywood award ceremony and you will get an ear full. These have made living so complex with issues, emotions, fake news and vulgar comments, that there is no longer an ability to recognize the simple truths of an honest, honorable life.

This is where Donnelly’s ice cream comes in like a soft, sweet spring rain. It cuts through the excess baggage, eliminates the unnecessary, endless choices, and offers an honest, simple taste of reality in an unrealistic, liberal, snowflake world. They dont caters to every whim. They are not obligated to make you feel happy. It’s your job to be happy with today’s offering, and you get to pick just how much happiness you want. You can have the flavor of the day twisted with vanilla. That’s it! Don’t like today’s flavor, today’s situation? No problem. Keep smiling and come back tomorrow and things will be different!

This is life in its purest form, and you get to live it just the way it is, rather than control and manipulate it to meet your every want and need. Welcome to real, unrefind life in the raw. It’s a pure, personal, self adjusting kind of life that brings everything into focus. It hands you what’s out there, and you have to grow up, deal with it and learn to appreciate it for what it is. No sugar coating or chocolate sprinkles. No special blends of crumbled cookies and candies of your own choosing. Nope.. It’s the real deal, and you can either eat the flavor of the day and enjoy it, or go away grumpy, without it.

This is life simplified to it’s basic form. You either enjoy it just the way it’s handed to you, or you can come back another day and try another flavor. And what if you don’t like vanilla twist? Such is life, and this is not the place for you. You don’t get special treatment, you don’t have it your way, and no one is going to accommodate your wish for something else. My father put it to me this way one day when I was complaining. He said “Bill, life is not fair so it’s time to grow up, stand up and make the best of what comes your way.” Perhaps that is the point in living a simplified life. You might want 50 flavors but life brings you to Donnelly’s. The thing is, how you respond in that moment is more important than the flavor being handed out that day. Get back to the basics. Who knows, you might capture the life you always wanted.

A Life Worth Living

Image may contain: motorcycle, tree and outdoorOn May 16th, my grandson and I were coming home from the Wheelerville School. I was the substitute teacher in his classroom that day, and the bonus for him was that he got to ride on the back of my Honda Shadow VT1100C. We left school and came down off of Clip Hill, heading for  home in Johnstown, NY. The rumble of my motorcycle on that beautiful spring day was accented by the warm, moist air rushing by us, and the brilliant sunshine that was pouring down from a deep blue sky. It was one of the most perfect Spring days I have experienced in my 48 years of riding motorcycles.

We were traveling at normal highway speed in a line of traffic, and at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of us. As we approached the Sir William Johnson Fire House, which was just outside of town, something happened. At that moment, I glanced down at my odometer to check the mileage, and make a quick mental calculation on when to stop and refill my gas tank. My eyes were off the road for about three seconds, but when I looked back up, terror gripped my heart. The driver in front of me had decided to suddenly break and make quick left-hand turn at the very moment I had looked down. It was a perfect storm of chance events, and the results were not going to be good.

When I looked up at the road ahead I realized there was not enough space to stop my bike, or manuever around the stopped vehicle. I downshifted, hit both breaks and leaned the bike over trying to protect my grandson, while getting as much stopping power as I could before we hit the vehicle. We impacted it’s rear right bumper at about 25mph and my bike went down on the road while my grandson and I were catapulted into the air. He ended up with a few abrasions on his knees, and a scraped up faceplate on his helmet, but I did not fare as well. My right side bounced off the road, I slid along the tar and finally flopped into a muddy ditch 35 feet away. I had a few crack ribs, four breaks in my lower right leg, an open fracture, cracked bones in my right foot, strained tendons and ligaments in my right leg, and numerous cuts and abrasions all over my body.

Ambulances came to take us to a local hospital where my grandson was checked over and released with a few scrapes. I was rushed to Albany Medical Center where I underwent emergency surgery on my leg. After setting the broken bones, and two and a half hours on the operating table, I was brought back to my hospital room in pain, but happy to be alive. My leg now has 4 titanium screws, 25 stitches and a long titanium rod running inside the full length of my right Tibia. I have weeks ahead of me with my leg elevate, and more weeks of physical therapy for me to return to full strength. And the bike? Well it has relatively minor damage that can be repaired, but I have no collision insurance so it’s all on me.

The obvious question I have been asked by numerous people who visited me since the accident is: “So are you ready to give up the motorcycle?” My answer has been pretty much the same each time,”Why? Did you stop driving when you wrecked your car? Did you give up fishing when you hooked yourself? Did you give up walking when you fell down?” Now let me clarify that I will drive with more care. I will stay back even further from other vehicles. I will stay even more alert to what is ahead. Yes! But, will I stop riding my motorcycle and no longer enjoy that sweet pleasure of life? The answer will always be an emphatic, No! Not until the Lord says it’s time to give it up. When I hear that from Him, it’s over!

A life worth living is the one you can enjoy without fear controlling your decisions. It is filled with risk, and blessed with reward. It is punctuated by mistakes and elevated by victories. It may be colored by pain at times, but it is also made real with unbounded joy. Most of all, it comes alive in moments of glory, or seasons of sorrow that happen as we live it to the fullest. Some may opt to live a safe, protected, bubble-wrapped life, but I submit to you that such a life is not worth living. It is simply existing in the safety net where risk is eliminated and so is passion. When victories are minimal, and the adventure of living has been sanitized away so that routine runs the show, and there are no unwanted surprises, this is no life at all. It is simply existing in a protected safety zone of comfort until you die.

How do you categorize your life? Is it neatly packaged, and clearly ordered so that you feel secure and safe, and the adventure is all but eliminated? Is it an air-conditioned, climate controlled, bug free, green zone of organized boredom? Life is short, and you must make the most of the time you have. Perhaps it is time to strap on a helmet, feel the wind in your face and see what it’s like to live a little on the edge. Break out for your deadly routines and try something different, even a bit dangerous. You can begin to live the adventure you always wanted. It only takes one decision, one step in a new direction.

You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, jump out of an air plane, trek to the South Pole or walk the Great Wall of China. Others can do such extreme things. No, you only have to break out of the mold, the comfort you have surrounded yourself with, and try something different, simple and new. It could be eating at a very different kind of restaurant, reading a new book or learning to dance. Perhaps it is vacationing in a new spot you saw on a map, or learing to drive a motorcycle or paddle a kayak. The possibilities are endless. Once you get a breakthrough, nothing will ever be the same. The question you must ask yourself is this; “Is my life the unmarked trail of adventure I want it to be, or is it the predictable, sign covered road I will safely walk, till I die?”

What is a life worth living? That, my friends, is the million dollar question we each must answer for ourselves. Mine will be very different from yours, but such a life will leave you breathless with anticipation for what might come next. It will stir your imagination, require fresh courage and fill you with the joy of discovering something you never experienced before. It will have moments of danger and risk, but it will bring the satisfaction of doing something others look at and wish they had done. A life worth living really is there for the taking. It’s just one decision away, and you can have it today. The question is, do you want it, and will you take the first step to get it? If not, take a moment to discover what’s holding you back and then move beyond it. Your life, the one you always wanted is out there waiting for you.. now go get it!