Tag Archives: attitude

Hold on to Joy

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Loving Joan was not optional. She was eminently lovable. I preached in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for a decade and could count on Joan and Joel (or, “Joe,” as she called him) to be sitting up front cheering me on every time the doors opened. Joan cheered everybody on.

It was sad to hear that Joan died last week at eighty years young after a heck of a fight with cancer. But it would be a discredit to her memory to linger in sadness.

Joan was no stranger to challenges. Before my time in Mississippi, she lost her son in a tragic car accident. During my time in Mississippi, she encountered the American law of eminent domain when the government decided to put a highway through the house she and Joel intended to inhabit for the rest of their retirement years. After my time in Mississippi, her “Joe” contracted Parkinson’s Disease. And then there was the cancer.

But Joan never let a challenge dampen her positive attitude. She often quoted a line from an old sermon that she accepted as a life approach: Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Joan spent her life giving to others, but she jealously guarded her joy like she was Ebenezer Scrooge.

It has been years since I saw her in person, but Facebook worked its magic to keep us in distant contact. Joan “liked” lots of things on Facebook. That fit her well. Joan was a really good liker of things. She would have made it just fine without the frowny-face option.

One of my favorite memories came as a result of one of Joan’s worst days. Joan had two children, the son whose life was tragically cut short, and a daughter who was her pride and joy. Joan’s daughter pursued a successful career and chose to marry later in life. Joan was ecstatic about the wedding and could not wait to travel to the ceremony. But one afternoon, while shooing blackbirds away from the back porch, Joan fell and broke both ankles, landing her in a rehabilitation hospital and threatening her ability to make it to the wedding.

True to form, Joan kept her joy and started to work. She soon knew everyone in the hospital and worked hard at physical therapy with that beautiful wedding ceremony as her inspiration. The fateful day came when the doctors would decide whether she was fit to travel, and despite her very best efforts, Joan was not cleared for takeoff. I’m not exactly sure how devastated she was, but the rest of us were heartbroken.

In those days before Skype and FaceTime, we tried to invent things like Skype and FaceTime just for Joan, but alas, we were in over our heads. Joel traveled to the wedding alone, and the family had the clever idea to use a cell phone during the ceremony so that Joan could listen in. A group of us from church went to her hospital room that day to share the occasion with a corsage, wedding cake, and being good Southern church folk, sparkling cider. It was a party, but it was no pity party. I will never forget Joan trying to hand the cell phone to the rest of us during the ceremony so that we could listen and our laughing and frustrated refusals — This is for you, Joan!

It remains one of my best days. A terrible day somehow turned into joy.

That was Joan. And today, in her honor, and while mourning her loss, I will hold on even tighter to my joy.

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Increase the Challenge

PrincePrince died one year ago today. His death was a terrible blow to the music world, and it was also a terrible blow to my wife, who is the biggest Prince fan that I know. I never doubted that she loved me more than Prince, but then again, the three of us never were in the same room.

Regardless of your personal thoughts, Prince was undeniably an amazing performer and a musical genius. In the days following his death, I stumbled across a video produced by the NFL that featured his unforgettable Super Bowl halftime performance at Dolphin Stadium in 2007. Football is tough enough in a rainstorm, but I can only imagine holding a twelve-minute worldwide concert in the driving rain. Come to think of it, I couldn’t play a guitar in high heels under perfect weather conditions.

The video is worth eight minutes of your life, but since all Prince fans have probably seen it and the rest of you probably won’t take the bait, I will share the best part. With the storm bearing down on Miami and threatening to ruin the show, a producer said to Prince, “I want you to know it’s raining…Are you okay?” Prince calmly responded, “Can you make it rain harder?”

When I have work to do in this life and adversity rears its ugly head, that’s the attitude I would like to be strong enough to adopt. Make it more challenging. It won’t stop me.

Resolute (Or, 17 for ’17)

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I resolve to do the right thing even if it appears illogical.

I resolve to laugh more often and at inappropriate times.

I resolve to spend more time with people and less with screens and devices.

I resolve to see otherwise invisible people.

I resolve to spend more time with my eyes closed listening to good music.

I resolve not to listen to music when I’m driving.

I resolve to go for long runs in new places.

I resolve to spend more time outdoors in familiar places.

I resolve to try something new.

I resolve to treasure something old.

I resolve to feed my mind, body, and spirit healthy things.

I resolve not to give anyone or anything the power to choose my attitude.

I resolve to replace a noisy, busy life with a simple, smooth rhythm.

I resolve to read books and learn stuff.

I resolve to use my talents to make the world a better place.

I resolve to love my wife and daughters more than ever.

I resolve to live resolutely.

June Gloom

The cool temperature is what tourists find most surprising about Malibu weather.  I blame the Beach Boys: Good Vibrations did not imply that it would ever be your teeth chattering.  Now don’t get me wrong, the weather is heaven here—just heaven with a light jacket for the evenings.

Those who visit Malibu in June are surprised to hear locals describe the entire month as June Gloom, an unflattering name for a weather pattern that occurs when a marine layer produces overcast conditions that typically give way to sunny skies in the late afternoon.

Here is what cracks me up.  On, say, May 31, or, let’s say, July 1, we locals don’t know what to do with overcast skies.  Oh, the weather nerds will claim May Gray, but the rest of us say, What’s up with this weather?  We expect nothing but blue skies on our Memorial Day and Independence Day parties!  But if the calendar happens to say June, we all declare in definite tones: Of course, June Gloom.

June has developed such a negative reputation.

This makes me wonder about my own personal weather reputation, but if you want to play along, you can wonder about yours, too.  There are people in the world whose gloomy condition is to be expected, and there are others who are shockingly out of character when in a grumpy sort of mood.  What do people expect from me?

In Malibu, people anticipate gloom when June arrives.  I’d like folks to expect something better from me.

Life with an Exclamation Mark

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I took this picture in a little house in South Mississippi thirteen years ago before my daughter Hillary’s first day of kindergarten at Magnolia Park Elementary. Three years later, Katrina did shameful things to that little house, but this picture survives and brings its own flood of memories.

Yesterday, Hillary graduated from Malibu High School, and I am a proud and thankful dad.

You may recognize me from the NA (“Nostalgics Anonymous”) meetings, but I am not a sad nostalgic. Instead of asking What happened to my little girl?, I choose to say Look what happened to my little girl! The punctuation is important. Approaching life with a joyful exclamation mark is preferable to a despondent question mark.

As a nostalgia-holic, I began rummaging through old computer files and stumbled across a journal entry from when Hillary was six years old:

Recently, I was snuggling up with Hillary on the couch, tickling her and playing, her infectious giggle in steady use. I said something about her being my angel, and then I feigned seriousness and asked her, “Are you an angel, or are you just a regular human being?” She giggled her honest response, “I don’t know.” After a moment of playful reflection, she added, “I feel like a regular human being.”

I’m still not convinced but am as proud today as ever.

Whatever the marker in life—from first days to last days and all the big days in between—I side with Viktor Frankl in saying that although Attitude is a required course in life, there are several from which we get to choose. Instead of weeping for days long gone or frustrated longing for days yet to come, I choose to celebrate life’s markers with wide-eyed wonder.

Look what happened to my little girl!

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