Friday, May 30, 2008

Can't Make an Omelet Without Breaking Eggs!

Fractured Friday. Reporting late, but with good reason. I arrived here at the office shortly before 5 a.m. Beautiful starlit morning but one BIG problem, no electricity. This is the second time this week this has happened to me. Last Tuesday we had one of those freaky thunder bumpers that somehow took down two utility poles in our subdivision. I was home before 7 p.m., but the power was off until nearly 9 p.m.

This morning I did my best to carry on without the conveniences we all take for granted. I scratched some of this blog on paper by candlelight. No wonder so many people in those old photographs had those frowns on their faces. That had happened to them over a long period of time as they squinted, trying to see what they were writing. Needless to say, we do take our modern day support tools much too seriously, don't we? Even the quietness of the morning was somewhat eerie.

At 5:30 a.m. I went and sat out on the front porch of the office building. We are located out in the country so the sounds I began to hear brought back many childhood memories. I heard one rooster fairly close crowing his wake up call, then I heard another one answering a little further away. Finally, a third one in the far distance was doing his best to make it a trio. A heard a train sounding its horn far, far away. Birds were getting their voices tuned up for the day. Frogs were doing what frogs do. Some crickets decided they wanted to chime in and make a little noise of their own. Now dogs, they just bark to hear themselves bark, and there were plenty of them far and near to keep the echoes going.

We do live in a fast paced world. To tell the truth, I typically would not have paid attention to all those wonderful sounds I heard on the porch this morning. That's a shame in one sense but understandable in that we all are in such a big hurry, all the time! One fellow did call in so I suppose the little backup system on the phones still has some power. He said he had talked with the power company and there are at least 5,000 folks waking up in the dark dark. He said they didn't describe the problem and they didn't give an estimate as to when service would be restored. Nice!

One thing is sure. It is very quiet inside this office. I think I heard someone crank up one of those gasoline powered portable generators maybe a half mile down the way. Lucky! Maybe they couldn't take the quiet any longer or needed to check on an important EMAIL. Okay, confession time. The number one problem for me thus far in trying to cope with these great deprivations: NO COFFEE!!!! I always make a quarter pot of very strong coffee when I first arrive but not today. Hey, the diabetic police have taken away most of the stuff I love, therefore, please allow me this one indulgence!

The Bible speaks through the Psalmist in the 49th Division, Verse 9: "Be still and know that I am God." Therefore, I should have been using my time to reflect on God and His great Goodness to me and in counting the blessings I am missing this morning, like the lights, the a/c, the computer, the internet, and the COFFEE MAKER!!!!! Sorry, that just slipped out. Have a great week ending Saturday and try to start your brand new week on Sunday by gathering at the meeting place with God's people. Until next time, may God bless you and yours! (Power back on at 6:15 a.m., coffee is being consumed as we speak, and life is good again!) Amen. ....More later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thoughts for Thursday!

Last night at our Wednesday evening Onward Christian Seniors class, I was reminded about how we older folks have many in and around us and many near and dear to us, who are in need of God's touch. Perhaps it is because of our age that we see things through a different lens or some of it is because many of those near to us are older and they are dealing with related challenges. My wife played piano and we sang some wonderful songs that helped lift our hearts and our voices towards our Great God. Seeing her up there playing reminded me how she used to play piano when we were teenagers. She's played in regular Church services, she's played for hundreds of children's programs, and there she was, still using her talent for the Lord. She would be the first to say it's not that much of a talent but look how she has used it for over forty five years!

She didn't hit every note correctly but she did exactly what God is pleased with, she was willing and she gave her best. He is always well pleased whenever His very own recognize Him as their Father through their willing heart to give service as a way of demonstrating their love. Last Sunday we heard from a lay minister in our Church who spoke on the subject of being a servant. He commented how that we don't become a servant by serving, we should have a servant's heart that leads us to serving. Many can do servant like things. But God always reads our thoughts and our motives. Yes, I tell people to keep on keeping on in serving even when their heart is not in it because I know they have the potential to get back on track with God much sooner than if they throw in the towel. However, our speaker made a good point. How much more pleasing to God and honoring to Him whenever we lead with our heart that then directs our hands!

I remember hearing a great preacher say one time that on the day when crowns are going to be passed out and rewards given, he just believed many will be shocked at who becomes the most recognized on that day. He illustrated this by talking about someone who, in this life, had very little of this world's goods, but spent many, many nights on their knees praying for others. He envisioned all the great preachers, the great theologians, and the great scholars sitting and waiting for their names to be called. Suddenly, from the back of the room, a little old lady who no one had ever heard of, is called to the judgment seat to be personally commended by our Lord and Savior. She had given what she had from her heart and because of that she was piled up with crowns that she could then lay at the feet of her Savior.

That's a great word picture for us today because we do live in a world where the strong, the powerful, and the polished, seem to dominate, even within our Churches. However, as the story said, God is not impressed with our ability and polish, He is always reading our heart. One little old lady on her knees night after night making a difference for time and eternity. So, if you ever believed yourself to have very little to offer to the kingdom business to which we are all called, then you need to think again, and allow God to flow through you in making you a servant, from the inside out. When we do this, He will take whatever it is He gives us to do, regardless of how small we think it is, and bless it for His honor and glory. Always remember, as the song says, "Little is much when God is in it, Labor not for wealth and fame, There's a crown and you can win it, If you go in Jesus name." Amen. .......More later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Remembering People and Their Stories!

It’s Wednesday and I want to pause and remember a couple of individuals whose paths I was privileged to cross during my sojourn here. This past weekend I reflected on the passing of these two gentlemen that I had the privilege of working with during my nearly 24 years with the big company.

Mr. Baine Kerr passed away last week at age 88. Mr. Kerr was a highly effective leader of my company for many years and helped steer us through some very troubled waters. Mr. Kerr's obituary was one of those very long ones reflecting a tremendous life with many great accomplishments. While he was a high level executive, I did have a number of occasions to relate to him and his duties. In my capacity over all computing and telecommunications I was responsible for publishing the company phone directory. We saved a huge amount of money by bringing this directory in house but that meant my people were responsible for its accuracy. We had a young man named Kerr who worked in one of our programming groups and due to a missed error, a new directory had he and Mr. Baine Kerr’s numbers substituted for each other. This was after weeks of painstaking checking including being checked by the executive support staff. However, it was a big time mistake and it caused some grief and I thought at the time it might cost me my job before it was all over. (Just so you know, my boss wasn’t happy about it at all! They tend not to like being thumped on top of the head over something one of their groups do.)

A second remembrance had to do with a huge lawsuit where my company won the largest single settlement from another company ever awarded in U.S. history. Mr. Kerr had helped shepherd the proceedings during an 18-month period of legal battles. When the company received the settlement funds Mr. Kerr was awarded a special bonus of 10 million dollars for his efforts along with another principal in the company who received the same amount. I was fortunate enough at that time to be in a special awards program but was very sad when I received notice that the windfall proceeds from the settlement would not be considered for calculating the award amounts. While I was very much okay with the very large awarded bonuses, but leaving us out, now how wrong was that? Sure, we didn’t show up at court each day but my group did provide all the computing and telecom services needed as well as working around the clock on special data gathering efforts. Oh well. Later, a disgruntled executive left the company and sued over his being excluded from any of these proceeds. His case was based on the fact that some did, in fact, receive awards based on the settlement; therefore, he contended it was unfair to exclude others who were in line to receive benefits through this special compensation awards program.

This lawsuit also went on for several years. I had left the company before it was concluded but became EXTREMELY interested in its outcome. It would have meant a very sizable sum plus interest to me if the court had ruled in his favor, but alas, in the end, the Federal Appeals Court ruled that pretty much a company can do what it wants to do especially as it relates to determining bonus money and who will and will not get any. In the end, I feel blessed to have been in that program at all since only about 100 out of more than 10,000 employees were selected to participate, and it did pay out some nice awards over time, but with all due respect to Mr. Kerr, I think I along with many others had also labored hard and long during that difficult time and should have been included in the rewards, but, God had a better, different plan, which His different is always a better plan, and I thank Him for blessing the way He has.

The other fellow who passed away last week was Jack Mitchell, 85. Jack was a WW2 veteran and a senior computer analyst that I worked with for 15 or more years. He was part of a huge gas distribution company that we merged into our parent and he came with the deal, having to relocate from Shreveport, Louisiana, in the late 1960’s. He was an expert in the programs written in archaic computer languages that kept the gas related activities going. One of those programs was a billing cycle that ran nightly, producing thousands of postcard bills. It was an old system and Jack and one other fellow were the only two people who could work on it when it broke, which it often did. When we would call Jack at 2 a.m., in the morning, his wife would tell us that he was not at home. We could tell she was very uncomfortable telling us this because we knew that Jack had never not been at home in his life. He just did not want to come in and work on those programs. He was a character and he always said exactly what he meant. (In some ways he reminded me of my grandfather, Paw Paw Mac.) He retired about 5 years before I left the company and I lost touch with him. In reading his obituary, it was good to see Jack’s many contributions to his community and his Church mentioned. I was particularly struck in how beloved he was as reflected in the comments made by his family, especially his grandchildren. One of his granddaughters expressed how much she will miss him and how blessed she was that he had been able to enjoy her child, his great grandson. Now that’s a fitting tribute at the end to any life and I most certainly can identify with it! …..More later.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Monday on Tuesday!

Well, here we are starting a brand new work week on Tuesday. I know some, like my wife, had to work over the holiday weekend but many of us were able to be off. She was able to drive over to Louisiana last Friday and spend some time with her two brothers and her sister. They had a brief visit before our Bro. Milton goes for his next phase of treatment for his prostate cancer. She is also looking forward to a 10 day vacation coming up later this week. As for me, I figured out how to fill up my entire weekend and ended up wondering where it all went as I rose up from bed this morning around 3:30 a.m.

Early Saturday morning I was up and working on my Bible study handout for Sunday. At 7 a.m. I picked up our 2 year old grandson Alex. His brother and twin sisters had a swim meet across town and his mom had a full schedule of hair clients, therefore, he and I hung out together all day. He's in the midst of that painful potty training program and his Poppy did his best to keep him on track. He watered his MiMi's plants, his Poppy, and himself, before he was done. We went to the park and he played there for an hour. With food preparation, potty scheduling, nap time, and other duties as needed, let's just say I was very occupied. His MiMi returned from Louisiana and he was very glad to see her. We then dropped her off for work and he was back home before 4:30 p.m. Can you spell: e x h a u s t e d.

We had wonderful services on Sunday where much was said about those who have died defending our great nation. As I was up very early I began to think about the privilege of being able to make the choices I was making regarding going to Church services, or not going, if that was my choice, and how this directly reflects the principles of freedom and liberty that so many have given their lives to preserve. I came away from Friday's blog with one of those quotes ringing in my heart: "Their silence sings our national anthem." May God help us all to connect the dots and realize the high cost of freedom that we all take for granted.

After service Sunday morning I went up and had lunch with my wife at the big mall. That's always quite an exciting adventure as you see people of every size, shape, color, and ethnicity. Again, I was reminded that all those milling around the mall reflect the price that was paid that gives them the freedom to do so. I returned home and tried to take a nap but that didn't work out so well, therefore, I mostly piddled around until my wife came in from work.

On Monday I was up and working on my Bible lesson for this next coming Sunday. We later had breakfast with our middle son and his family. Then it was off to the mall to drop my wife off, only to return at 4 p.m., for supper with her which was her lunch. I did quite a bit of maintenance on her computer and mine as well and again tried to do one of those nap things. I made it for 15 minutes which is not that bad for me. My wife had some trouble getting everything balanced at the store and we didn't get home until after 10:30 p.m. I did talk to my mom several times and even had the opportunity to talk briefly with dad. All and all I certainly didn't accomplish as much as I probably could have but here I am at my desk at 5 a.m., thankful that I am thankful to God for the life He has given to me, for the family I have, and for the privilege of knowing Him, serving Him, and living in this country so many have died for. I do pray that you and yours will have a wonderful rest of the week. Amen. (Thanks to my Uncle Asa and one of my sons for telling me they missed my blog on Monday. It's good to know that someone is reading.) ...More later.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day, Don't Forget to Remember!

It’s a rather lengthy read, but worthy of your time for a Friday. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, will be observed this coming Monday. It is a time for us all to pause and remember those who have given their lives on our behalf, for this experiment we call the home of the brave and land of the free. This special commemoration has been observed since just after the Civil War and was originally on a fixed date schedule of May 30. Some veteran’s organizations believe changing it to make a 3-day holiday weekend diminishes the sacrifice of those who shed their blood for our nation. However, there seems to be little sentiment in changing it back to a fixed date.

America has lost approximately 625,000 of our brave soldiers as a result of combat beginning with the Revolutionary War. That is a huge number of fellow citizens who deserve to be remembered for their payment on behalf of liberty and freedom’s cause. May God bless the memory of those who have served and in so doing have paid that ultimate price. And, may we always remember. I will leave this tribute and commend us all to the considered statements of prominent voices as they have paid homage to those who have died in the cause of their nation during war. (If you run into a few archaic words, look them up, they tell a great story!)

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation! ~Thomas William Parsons ........Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. ~Daniel Webster ......With the tears a Land hath shed Their graves should ever be green.~Thomas Bailey Aldrich ......Are they dead that yet speak louder than we can speak, and a more universal language? Are they dead that yet act? Are they dead that yet move upon society and inspire the people with nobler motives and more heroic patriotism? ~Henry Ward Beecher

Green sods are all their monuments; and yet it tells A nobler history than pillared piles, Or the eternal pyramids.~James Gates Percival ......Is't death to fall for Freedom's right? He's dead alone who lacks her light!~Thomas Campbell ......For love of country they accepted death... ~James A. Garfield ......They fell, but o'er their glorious grave Floats free the banner of the cause they died to save. ~Francis Marion Crawford ......Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland ......Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead! There's none of these so lonely and poor of old, But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold. ~Rupert Brooke ......The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men. ~Minot J. Savage ......The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. ~Benjamin Disraeli ......And I'm proud to be an American,where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died,who gave that right to me. ~Lee Greenwood

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot's breast, And their names are engraven on honor's bright crest. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ......Peace to each manly soul that sleepeth; Rest to each faithful eye that weepeth... ~Thomas Moore ......But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, Is their monument to-day, and for aye. ~Thomas Dunn English ......And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave. ~Joseph Drake ......Perform, then, this one act of remembrance before this Day passes - Remember there is an army of defense and advance that never dies and never surrenders, but is increasingly recruited from the eternal sources of the American spirit and from the generations of American youth. ~W.J. Cameron

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest, By all their country's wishes blest! When Spring, with dewy fingers cold, Returns to deck their hallow'd mould, She there shall dress a sweeter sod Than Fancy's feet have ever trod. By fairy hands their knell is rung, There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray, To bless the turf that wraps their clay; And Freedom shall awhile repair, To dwell, a weeping hermit, there. ~William Collins

The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree. ~Thomas Campbell ......Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our national holidays.... The grim cannon have turned into palm branches, and the shell and shrapnel into peach blossoms. ~Thomas Bailey Aldrich ......Better than honor and glory, and History's iron pen,Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men. ~Richard Watson Gilder ......We who are left how shall we look again Happily on the sun or feel the rain Without remembering how they who wentUngrudgingly and spent Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?~Wilfred Wilson Gibson .....A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~Joseph Campbell .....Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours. ~Wallace Bruce ......I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. ~Benjamin Harrison

Cover them over with beautiful flowers, Deck them with garlands, those brothers of ours, Lying so silent by night and by day Sleeping the years of their manhood away. Give them the meed they have won in the past; Give them the honors their future forcast; Give them the chaplets they won in the strife; Give them the laurels they lost with their life. ~Will Carleton ......Life hangs as nothing in the scale against dear Liberty! ~Lucy Larcom ......All we have of freedom, all we use or know -This our fathers bought for us long and long ago. ~Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue, 1899 ......Our battle-fields, safe in the keeping Of Nature's kind, fostering care, Are blooming, - our heroes are sleeping, -And peace broods perennial there. ~John H. Jewett ......These heroes are dead. They died for liberty - they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars - they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead. ~Robert G. Ingersoll

Their silent wounds have speech More eloquent than men; Their tones can deeper reachThan human voice or pen.~William Woodman .....Their own souls rose and cried Alarum when they heard the sudden wail Of stricken freedom and along the gale Saw her eternal banner quivering wide. ~John LeGay Brereton ......The dead soldier's silence sings our national anthem. ~Aaron Kilbourn ......Our cheer goes back to them, the valiant dead! Laurels and roses on their graves to-day, Lilies and laurels over them we lay, And violets o'er each unforgotten head. ~Richard Hovey ......But fame is theirs - and future days On pillar'd brass shall tell their praise; Shall tell - when cold neglect is dead -"These for their country fought and bled." ~Philip Freneau ......Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic. ~John A. Logan ......Your silent tents of green We deck with fragrant flowers; Yours has the suffering been, The memory shall be ours. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The story of America's quest for freedom is inscribed on her history in the blood of her patriots. ~Randy Vader .....Spirit, that made those heroes dareTo die, and leave their children free, Bid Time and Nature gently spare The shaft we raise to them and thee. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson .....Alas, how can we help but mourn When hero bosoms yield their breath! A century itself may bear But once the flower of such a death. ~S. Weir Mitchell ......They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation. ~Henry Ward Beecher ......These martyrs of patriotism gave their lives for an idea. ~Schuyler Colfax .....They saw their injured country's woe; The flaming town, the wasted field; Then rushed to meet the insulting foe; They took the spear, - but left the shield. ~Philip Freneau ......For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn ......Ah! never shall the land forgetHow gushed the life-blood of her brave - ~William Cullen Bryant ......"Dead upon the field of glory,"Hero fit for song and story. ~John Randolph Thompason ......Knights of the spirit; warriors in the cause Of justice absolute 'twixt man and man. ~Richard Watson Gilder .....Fold him in his country's stars. Roll the drum and fire the volley! What to him are all our wars, What but death bemocking folly? ~George Henry Boker .....The Flag still floats unblotted with defeat! But ah the blood that keeps its ripples red, The starry lives that keep its field alight. ~Rupert Hughes ......The hero dead cannot expire: The dead still play their part. ~Charles Sangster ......We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. ~Francis A. Walker ......How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! ~Maya Angelou

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Could It Be God?

Time to think some, it's Thursday! I use a daily calendar to help me remember not only where I am today but important events from the past. Last Thursday was my baby sister's birthday. She would have been 56 years old had she lived but she went on to her reward after a struggle with leukemia in 1979. She was a shining light while she was here and will always be in our hearts as we anticipate seeing her again soon. Happy Birthday Kayla! Yesterday our middle son, Jimmy and his wife Mindi celebrated their wedding anniversary. They have much to be thankful for and some of those blessings surround them every day. Their names are Jimmy Jr., Alesha, Amanda, and Alexander. Happy Anniversary Mindi and Jimmy!

I saw a note in my calendar book that reminded me that we will soon be just one year from when we had the transmission go belly up on our Taurus. We were basically stranded with our grandchildren out on an isolated highway near a huge lake in Louisiana and had to have the car towed to our kinfolk’s house nearby. We arranged to have someone come and bring us home and in looking at all the options available we decided to fetch the car with a rented tow dolly and bring it back to the metro area for repair. My eldest son and I left early one Saturday morning and when we got there it had been raining and the ground where the car was parked was kind of soft. In the process of rocking the car forth and back to get it into the tire receptacles on the dolly I must have strained my breastbone, or at least I thought I did. The technician told us the transmission failure was freaky because it had nothing to do with wear and tear, it was a sudden, total collapse, perhaps some type of original flaw.

We had the car repaired but I continued to experience discomfort in my chest bone structure. I kept thinking it would go away but it didn’t. I struggled with it for a couple of months and finally decided to go to the doctor to get an x-ray. While at the doctor, he asked how long it had been since I had undergone a complete physical and I reported it had been at least 10 years. He ordered up a full examination and discovered that I was a fully developed Type 2 Diabetic. The x-ray did not show any serious damage to the bone structure in my chest but the episode itself led to the discovery of this disease early and allowed us to respond quickly with an aggressive treatment strategy. Could it be God?

Some will immediately say that I was sure lucky but to tell the truth, I am persuaded that God was involved in the unfolding of the events I have just rehearsed. I was reminded of this the other day when I heard a preacher talking about the life of Joseph as recorded in the Bible. He was emphasizing Joseph’s testimony to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. Joseph told his brothers that they had meant what they did to harm him but God had meant it for good, not only for Joseph, but in the end, for the entire family, including the brothers who had treated him wrongly. Sometimes problems happen but they have a deeper meaning in terms of how God uses them for our good. Could it be God?

I recently talked again to to a young dad in our Church I've mentioned before who is a high profile sales person who has enjoyed tremendous success over the years. A couple of years ago he attempted to launch his own business and essentially lost his shirt. Since then he has bounced here and there and really hasn’t been able to return to the prosperous good old days. However, he said something that really impressed me. He said the last few years had been really bad financially, in fact, the worst, but from a spiritual standpoint they have been the very best. While it has been tough in making adjustments for him, his wife, and children, they are closer to God now and closer to each other as a result of this challenging time for their family. Could it be God?

I don’t know exactly why but I think often about how the Apostle Paul viewed his life after coming to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. In the Galatians letter he said this: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” You would have to admit that Paul’s ‘before’ went all the way back to his very birth but became defined by his ‘after’ which reflected God’s working out His plan for Paul’s life. He had many detours along the way. He had pursued many well-intentioned efforts that fought against the very work he would one day give himself to. That’s exactly how our lives count for time and eternity. It is when we view the good, the bad, the ugly, and the entirety of all experiences through the lens of God’s love, calling, and plan for us! Look for His working in your life today, because He is! Could it be God? Amen. …….More later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Do We Laugh?

Laugh a little because it's your Wednesday wake up call! I’ve written a number of blogs on the value of healthy, hearty laughter. But have you ever wondered why human beings laugh? If you have you are not alone because to be perfectly honest, science has not solved this uniquely human mystery we call laughing. Some of the funniest things to read are articles by the evolutionists giving their views on how and why it may have originated within the human species. How about it mimics the panting of the ape family as one idea?

Okay, for those of us who are believers in God’s account of creation, we know that God put together human beings in a way that reflected His own image. Part of that functioning as a human being is being able to process information that causes a response we call laughter. Here’s some interesting facts taken from a website and while it attributes laughter to some evolutionary factor, the information is still quite interesting. If you want to read the entire article it can be found here:

Natural laughter is a two-part, spontaneous, response to humor, that has physiological, psychological, and physical benefits. Most agree that we laugh when we find something to be humorous, yet different reasons exist for what we find to be humorous. Additionally, different things are humorous to us at different stages of life. Laughter, a physiological response to humor, can be broken down into two parts.

The first is a set of gestures, and the second is the production of sound. The brain forces to conduct both responses simultaneously. From a physiological standpoint, a "sensor" in the brain responds to laughter by triggering other neural circuits in the brain, which, in turn, generate more laughter. Oddly enough, laughter is an orderly response, and almost occurs "spontaneously" during pauses at the end of phrases, earning it the name the punctuation effect. Human beings are the only species capable of laughter, and the average adult does so approximately 17 times per day.

Good health is one of the many benefits of laughter. Laughter reduces our stress levels by reducing the level of stress hormones, and also helps us cope with serious illnesses. Physiologically, laughter promotes healing, by lowering the blood pressure, and by increasing the vascular blood flow and the oxygenation of the blood. Physical fitness stemming from laughter is a benefit known to few. Scientists estimate that laughing 100 times is equivalent to a 10-minute workout on a rowing machine, or to 15 minutes on a stationary exercise bike. The mere act of laughing exercises the diaphragm, as well as the abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles.

Another benefit of laughter is that it improves our over-all mental health. Pent up negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, can cause biochemical changes in our bodies that can produce a harmful effect. Laughter provides a harmless outlet for these negative emotions, and provides a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult or stressful situations.

Other studies I read commented on the comparison of children laughing versus adults. Children actually begin to laugh as early as 3 months and it appears the peak years for exuberant laughter is between 5 and 6 years old. One interesting thing is the admitted fact from the scientific community how little is known about the brain mechanisms that produce laughing. One thing is clear; we all would do well to laugh more, especially as we learn to see the ‘funny’ in the life we are living.

The Bible does mention the subject of laughing and laughter. There’s over forty references but with different meanings and applications. There’s also the biblical concept of joy and rejoicing that are important in this discussion. You cannot read some of the parables Jesus told and not see His wonderful sense of humor. In the end, we should be thankful for God’s design that includes the response of laughter. Read those comments again about how it can improve your health, lower your stress levels, and even give you a little bit of a workout. Do we serve a great God or what? To be honest I’ve begun to chuckle as I am finishing up this blog. Find something to laugh about and thank God that you can! Amen. ……More later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Talk About Challenging Your Testimony!

It's time for a tumultuous Tuesday story. I've had a number of situations lately that required me to deal with the wonderful world of automated systems. One seemed quite simple enough. My wife and I had breakfast the day of my surgery and I used my debit card to pay for our meal. We are able to track all our expenses online, therefore, in a couple of days the debit showed up but with only one problem. It was posted twice. I promptly called my bank and began a process of interacting with a dozen menus before finally being able to talk to a real person. This real person turned out not to be the right person but she gave me a 1-800 number of the right person. After working back through a number of different menus I finally got this person on the line. One of the interesting things to me is how these automated systems require you to put in your account information and it is verified before you talk to someone BUT what is the very first question they ask when you finally do get to talk to them? Could I verify your account information please! I just spent 15 minutes putting all of that into your system.

At any rate I finally did get to talk to a real 'right' person and explained to them what had happened. I told this fellow the entry was duplicated. He said it would be quicker to handle it through the merchant from whom we purchased the services. He said they did have a dispute process but it is quite involved and would require me to furnish proof that the entry had been charged twice. I grunted a couple of times and then signed off to see what I could do with the restaurant where we had eaten. I called and spoke to the manager there. This is a huge restaurant chain so I figured they could just back out one of the charges. How foolish of me. I got the manager on the phone and he said he was sorry this happened but it wasn't that unusual but he had learned from experience that it is better to have the bank deal with it than for him to try and get something done. I told him that since I had paid his place of business for the service rendered and they had charged me twice, shouldn't they be the ones to try and correct this error?

He said he wished it was that simple. They passed off my debit to a service bureau who then processed the transaction. He said he could call them but they typically would not do anything but note that he had called and he believed it best for me to go back to my bank and dispute the charge. I told him to give me the service bureau number and I would call them but he said I couldn't because I am not their customer, the restaurant chain is the customer. Okay. I felt some heat beginning to rise in and around my collar at this time. Now I go back to that 15 minute procedure and finally get the 'right' person at the bank and they tell me they will flag the charge and send me the information I need to dispute the second charge. I was not happy but at least at this point it appeared something was going to be done.

A few days later nothing had happened, therefore, I got back on the phone and went through the ordeal to finally get a real person on the phone and this time I was told it takes seven to nine business days to get this transaction dealt with. This time I was generally unhappy about how all of this had been handled, therefore, I found the website of the International House of Pancakes and fired off an email explaining the details of what had happened. I was mostly upset over how their local restaurant manager was unable to help in this matter. There is no doubt by this time I had invested way more than the charge in lost time and effort but it became the principle that was at stake. I got one of those so very sorry emails back from the IHOP folks and they said the local franchise owner would be contacting me soon. While that hasn't happened yet, they obviously were able to get something done. I received two letters from the bank on the same day. One was requesting a detailed account of what had happened to be submitted along with a copy of the receipt. The second letter was telling me the charge had been backed out. Now here's the kicker! When I looked at my account online, the charge had been removed, and the restaurant people had now backed out the charge, therefore, both charges had been removed. Now I never wanted anything free. And, while I still don't want anything free I am going to have to really think before I try to get one of those charges reinstated! No wonder people throw in the towel!

I will save my Social Security encounter for another day except to give a few short words of introduction. I will be 62 in August. I have been reviewing all the options I have concerning retirement. This includes earned pensions from previous employment as well as social security benefits. The Social Security website has dozens of utilities to help in forecasting, planning, and scheduling of benefits earned. I have used all of them extensively but I still had a few questions and that's what led me to making that phone call. I don't know if comedians know about these opportunities for sourcing materials, but dealing with government offices is a gold mine, and my call to the social security lady did not disappoint in that area. But, I will keep that for later and confess that I may have expressed some frustrations in a less than sterling manner to some of the many people I encountered in clearing the bank charge problem. Looking back, I know I could have handled this better and with a better attitude and testimony. I can certainly see how folks who are challenged in dealing with these automated monstrosities end up by just giving up. The cost of incidents like the one I described in lost time and effort as well as those who give up has to be beyond calculation. The good news is that when it was all said and done, God is still God, and we move on to the next opportunity to hopefully portray a better representation of His presence in our lives. Amen. ......More later.