I Like Cows

Cattle grazing on a remote farm in northwestern Illinois, August 2015.

I drove past a farm the other day and standing in the field, in the midst of the trees, grass and stream, there stood a herd of cows. They were slowly making their ways along the pasture, pulling at the grass, chewing their cud, and doing things cows do.

I was immediately taken back to my youth and the many hours we spent in the barn, milking our one cow, shoveling the sloppy manure, feeding the sweet hay. Despite the labor and filth involved, I like cows. There is a warmth about a cow that is hard to explain. They aren’t like dogs that like a good scratch or a good game of fetch. They rarely respond to their names when called. But they are gentle creatures, interested in nothing more than a good pile of alfalfa or a scoop of corn.

They are surprisingly agile, given their girth, and can place a hoof on your boot with painful accuracy. They produce mass quantities of milk which turns into butter, ice cream, or cheese and for that, and the tender steaks that come from their less fortunate cousins, I am extremely grateful.

Cows are some of my favorite farmyard animals. I am thankful for the many hours I spent leaning into one while pulling on the teats on cold winter mornings. They taught me so much about life and death, about hard work and the benefits of effort.

Indeed, God made a good animal when he made the cow.

Good Friends Are Hard To Find

Delora, Dave, myself and Anita posing for a quick picture at the reception of their oldest daughter’s wedding in May 2016: Two thorns between two roses.

Dave and I have been friends since 1987 and over the years we’ve developed a holiday tradition. We’ve had a long-standing commitment to get our families together during the New Year’s Holiday. But this year it didn’t happen. I went to bed on New Year’s eve feeling sick and woke up feeling even worse. So we didn’t go to their house as planned.

We didn’t get to work on our traditional puzzle or watch our traditional football together. We didn’t gorge ourselves on cookies and ham. We didn’t laugh until we cried or play guitar hero until our fingers were sore.

This year, my good friend and his wife had to celebrate without us. And it just wasn’t the same. We’ll see one another very soon…I’m committed to that, but the separation has gone on too long.

Good friends are a rare thing in my life. I have lots of friendships but I can count on one hand those who have stood with me through thick and thin, over the years, despite space and time. Dave is one of those. We’ve known one another for nearly 30 years and in that time we have become closer than brothers. He gets me, and I get him.  And yet, we still like one another!

Today, I’m grateful for my good, dear friend. I cannot wait to see his face again.

Christmas Lights

Beautifully decorated trees line a property west of Pendlelton, Indiana.

Christmas is over; the magic has started to fade for another year. We took down our lights and decorations last Saturday and I always hated to see them go. You see, we are Grinches ready to end the holiday, but the reality is that we return to work soon and putting everything back in it’s place becomes more of a challenge after working all day.

Thankfully, there are still a few diehard fans who are filled with the holiday spirit and are not about to give in. For those people and their ever-glowing lights, those magical Christmas reminders, I quite grateful.

Lights of color serve as a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is Light. There is Hope. There is Peace. There is a greater message than well-lit trees. There is always a light in the darkness.

Today I am so very grateful for those lights that remain on and all they represent.

The Philippians 4:6 Life: An Introduction

Sunrise over Catania, Sicily. October 2016.

You are probably nothing like me. You probably do not worry about the little things. You do not fret about the relationships in your life, the work you do, or the purpose of your presence here on earth. You do not concern yourself with everyday struggles and minor matters like paying the bills, repairing the car, or home maintenance. But I do. I really do.

Where I would rather be looking at the sunrise with joy for a new day, I often find myself fixated on my busy calendar, my disappointments in life, and the mounting issues I know about and those I can only guess are coming my way.

It’s a constant struggle for me and I suspect for many others.

In the New Testament, in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6, Paul writes to the church in Philippi that they should worry about nothing. Instead, they should rejoice, ask God for what they want, and give thanks for his faithfulness (past, present, and future).

Over the past several months, this passage has been central to my own mental health and faith journey. At times, it has brought me to tears because of my lack of faith. But more often it has bolstered my soul. It has strengthened my faith. It has renewed my spirit.

This blog is a manifestation of this passage in my life and is intended to serve as a reminder to live a life of gratitude, each and every day. It will focus on the little things of life for which I am grateful like lemons, sunshine, coffee cups, and green grass. Occasionally, the reflections will be about those big items of life like family, friends, and loving relationships.

Giving thanks. Rejoicing. Living a life of Gratitude and confidence might help each one of us to take our focus off those little things that receive our worry and instead, move us to a Philippians 4:6 life.