The greatest love poem ever written, or How to say “I love you” so they won’t forget

the girlsElizabeth Barrett Browning wrote one of the most beautiful, transcendent, enduring love poems in all of human history:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
 

But when I think of the best, most effective, most endearing love poem I ever heard, I think of Donya holding one of our girls (any one, take your pick) in her arms, back when the girl was carrying size. I think of her hand hovering over the little cutie, fingers flexing in and out like spider legs. I think of the wide eyes of our little girl, watching the fingers. I think of breath held in anticipation. I think of Donya’s quoting a rather shortened version of love’s sentiments, not as eloquent perhaps as Barrett’s, but unforgettable nonetheless.

“I love you little
I love you big
I love you like a little pig”

donya and hollyThen, quick as a flash, as she said the last line in a more shrill tone, her hand would dart to the child’s tummy or under the chin and tickle, tickle, tickle and torment. It was met by gleeful squeals and laughter…and you can bet that child would never live a day that she had to doubt whether she was loved.

As I write this, Donya is away with Holly, Lacey, Donya’s sister Felicia and her two girls, and Donya’s mom. They are in Austin, where Holly is trying on her wedding dress. I just got word that it was a perfect fit and there was much thanksgiving and joy.

Perhaps that dress fitting thing would mean more to you if you had been there through the long, hard nights in her teen and young adult life when she doubted she would find her soul’s mate. Perhaps you had to see her mom fight back her own tears while she brushed away her daughter’s. Perhaps it would mean more if you were a shade over 4′ tall yourself and had a birth defect that made finding things that fit and flattered a difficult task at the least.

Holly has found the man she loves. He found her. And he loves her entirely. I am convinced.

But she was always loved. Every second of her life.

Lacey knows that love full well, too. Through some dark struggles transitioning from youth to adulthood, times that ended with what could have been a fatal car accident, she was loved. She will tell you in no uncertain terms that her best friend, her hero, her Mom loved her through it, would not let her go, would not yield her to the forces that tried so hard to steal her away.

Ashley, my oldest, found herself replaced by another. Her husband decided he wanted her friend and didn’t want her anymore. I won’t dwell on what I think that makes him. I will tell you that she endured and emerged stronger, brighter, better than ever.

my girls2I will tell you she found that her mother’s love would not let her hit the unforgiving pavement where broken dreams become irreparably shattered lives. Instead, she found comfort, consolation, shelter, hope…love. She found it right where she first discovered it.

That’s why Donya’s quirky recitations of “I love You Little” is the greatest citation of a love poem I ever heard.

It was meant by the one who said it. And through all the intervening years, that has mattered most to the ones who heard it.

Posted in Family, Hardship, Life Experience, Love, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virtual Reality: the stimulation of simulation

virtual tombstoneWhy am I just now realizing that “stimulate” and “simulate” are only separated by one lousy “t”?

While I am basking in the wonder of my discovery, let me ask another nagging question: Why do we find simulating to be so stimulating? (Think Fantasy Football, xBox/PlayStation games, SIMS and other virtual reality “games” or worlds, etc.) Is it because we have so many conveniences and live in such a technological cocoon that the only way we can experience life is virtually?

Wait a minute. Before we haul off and accept a phrase into our vocabulary and then make it a staple in modern communication, should we not vet the thing? Isn’t “virtual reality” oxymoronic? Reality means something is REAL. Virtual means “very close to being something without actually being it.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

So, if a thing is virtual, it lacks substance. It is not real. Or, it is not really what it purports to be.

I like xBox as much as the next guy. I especially like the sports games. I can be an NFL owner, general manager, coach, or player. I can do the same with hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer…

Pretty cool.

I have virtually pulled off 360 slam dunks, thrown 95-yard touchdowns, and smashed grand slams in the World Series. I virtually scored the winning goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs just the other day, in fact.

Virtually.

Ever climb into one of those jet simulators? Feels pretty doggone real.

Nothing wrong with being stimulated by a little simulation. That is why they invented theme parks. You can feel the rush of flying around hairpin curves or being dropped from 200 feet in the air without (too much) risk. Virtual reality is why we love television, movies, and books.

A little virtual reality is stimulating.

Just don’t let yourself get swallowed by it to the point that you fail to actually live. Don’t forget to get those real experiences in real time with real people. Don’t be afraid to take real risks that may bring failure as well as fortune.

You may have virtually seen and done it all.

But, really. What have you done?

OK. I am virtually done ranting.

No, really. I am.

Posted in (Gene)ric Ramblings, (Gene)tic Rantings, Blog, Greybeard Chronicles, Internet, Life Experience, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

After the Storm

04_rider_on_the_storm

Mumford and Sons is one of my favorite bands. Tonight, I was listening to”After the Storm” for the umpteenth time and for the first time, I really listened. I was struck by these lyrics in particular:

And I won’t die alone and be left there
Well, I guess I’ll just go home, oh God knows where
Because death is just so full and man so small
Well, I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before

Life is so full of storms and it is lived under the shadow of The Storm we most dread. Death. Its ugly shadow hangs over our fragile lives from the day we are born.

The fear of death is the fear of the unknown. The fear of death is the acknowledgement of our frailty.

You may ask, “What is this Jesus thing all about? What does He offer me that I don’t already have? What can he give me that I need?”

It could take several books to scratch the surface of the answer to that question. I want to offer a three-fold answer: Faith, Hope, and Love.

Faith is believing in a design, and in the Designer. Faith is believing in life and the Giver of life. Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith is the reason reason matters. Faith is reasonable; faith is greater than reason; and each of us ultimately finds some place to place our faith.

There is no safe haven for faith but Jesus Christ.

Hope. What can I say about hope? Tomorrow will mark the twenty-third Father’s Day since my Dad passed. I have not seen his face or heard his voice in 23 years. I still know his voice as well as I ever did and can see his face as clearly as ever. But to me, for now, he is gone.

He is gone. He is not dead. The day he died was a graduation to a higher plane, a nobler life, a fuller existence. I will see him again.

Love. What is life without it? And where has love been more perfectly demonstrated than in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where did we ever see love more perfectly demonstrated than in His words, His deeds, His life.

Death loses its horrid grip on the soul because of Jesus Christ and His perfect love for us.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. 1 John 4:18

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10

Man is small, yes. But death is not so full.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55

After the storm, there is peace for those who know the Prince of Peace.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers was in your hair


Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Happy Father’s Day!

Peace to you and yours.

Posted in Blog, Faith, Family, Gospel, Hardship, Jesus Christ, Love | Leave a comment

Some godly men I have known and you should meet

vic

Yesterday, wonderful people from parts of our past stopped by on Facebook to congratulate Donya and me on 34 years of marriage. Just seeing some of the names afforded an opportunity to revisit those places where we left large chunks of our lives and pieces of our hearts.

One of the notes was from Cathy Grinolds, the widow of one of the funniest men and finest friends I have ever known.

Vic Grinolds was a veteran. He served in Desert Storm. He served his country with pride and selflessness and brought back a couple of battlefield souvenirs for his preacher (me).

Vic had his demons. He battled the bottle and did so valiantly. He also had his God, his family, his church, and his friends and loved them all fiercely, without reservation. He would fight for them. He would die for them.

If you ever asked Vic how he was, he always answered, “Finer than frog’s hair.”

He loved to laugh and he could make you laugh without really trying.

I loved that man. He was my fine, faithful friend.

Another note was from Renee Perry Vieira, whose dad Nate Perry was a real character.

Nate was a late convert to Christ. He had worked in construction his whole life and could cuss with the best of them. He had laced his conversations with colorful language for so long, it took some time for him to work the expletives out of his vocabulary. He was saved instantly. Sanctification took a bit.

More than once, Nate was embarrassed to have dropped a cuss bomb in the church foyer. More than once, I put my arm around that man’s broad shoulders and told him Jesus loved him and so did I and no four letter word was going to change that.

We had a Friend Day one year. Nate brought so many people to church that day, he had to make three trips to pick up all the ones who couldn’t drive themselves. He filled three or four pews with guests.

I began calling him Great Nate after that.

He was great. He was genuine. He was my friend.

I have not been a pastor for something like 17 years now, and I do not pretend to speak for any who are pastors today. But I can tell you I much preferred these real men with feet of clay and hearts of gold to the Pharisaical blowhards with their folded arms and permanent scowls.

Those Pharisees gloat, “I’m glad I’m not like those guys.”

I beg to differ. You should PRAY to be like those guys. For one moment, to be real, to be honest, to be flawed, to be redeemed, to be loved in spite of yourself.

Give me a man who is too busy trying to clean up his own act to sit in constant judgment over others. You can have the one who thinks he has his act together and has appointed himself judge and jury over the lesser beings.

Any day!

Give me a Vic. Give me a Nate. I will give you a church that is worth attending.

God bless those men, their memories, and what they meant to a young preacher and his congregation.

And don’t even get me started on John Tabor, the man who gave his beloved motorcycle to a missionary so the man could better navigate the crowded streets of Manila. A man who moved 100 miles from Porterville to Turlock, California, so he could help his young preacher friend (Yours Truly) build a church.

I am talking about men here.

Not perfect men. Not necessarily polished men.

But godly men and the kind of men I am proud to call my friends.

Posted in Christian Living, Greybeard Chronicles, Life Experience, nostalgia, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment