Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tis the Season to Be, Uh, Fat

You know how it is. Many won't even try this time of year. They give up, throw in the towel, tap out. Not me. Not this time.

Oh, I have done it a lot. Lately even. But finally I really did hit bottom when I hit the top of the weight scale Monday a week ago. I lost two pounds over that week. Look what I face this week:

Monday - over 60 meeting at Itta Bena Baptist, catered my Larry's Fish House.
Wednesday = a trip to Jackson with John which means at least one fast food meal.
Thursday - Thanksgiving which means way too much food times two. We eat at my in-law's for lunch, and my siblings and I meet at Mom's for supper and the Egg Bowl.
Friday - a trip to Jackson with my wife which mean at least once restaurant meal.
Saturday - Thanksgiving number three with Forrest Hodge and Paul Brown.
Sunday - we always eat lunch out.

Every time I eat out, the scale says I weight three pounds more the next morning. Really, that is not an exaggeration. That means I will gain 18 pounds this week.

I'll shoot myself first.

It is not just a matter of vanity. No, I don't want my stomach poking out. I think it looks ridiculous, and I don't want to be 'that guy.'

It's not just a matter of athletic performance. Yes, the extra weight is good for nothing except cold water swimming which I am no good at anyway.

It's not just a matter of me outgrowing all my clothes. Yes, I had to purchase new pants within the last month.

It's not just a matter of I can't stand the way this feels. Yes, I am miserable with my weight, and find it difficult to breathe and restrictive to certain movements.

It is very much a matter of health. Yes, I've heard of "healthy fat," but I'm pretty sure that with my genetics that can't be me. I just watched my mother die of a dreadful condition that was brought on by a very preventable one. She never abused her health. She never did anything to invite illness. She lived an exemplary life of love and service and sacrifice. She was only a little overweight for a few years. She paid dearly for that. If I don't change my weight and change it permanently, I fear I face the same fate, and it is not a pretty one.

Last week, an old friend phoned my and while we chatted, he revealed his recent diagnosis of the same thing that killed my mother. He has another terminal illness (lucky guy), and though I didn't tell him, in my mind I thought, I hope the first one gets him because he has no idea what he's in for with the second one.

No matter how much we may think about it, I am convinced we all take our health for granted. God forgive me for this omission and help me to be more thankful for and a better steward of the health you have gifted me with.

Hey, I had a victory, or at least a tie, this week. In preparation for Monday night, I walked 4.35 miles and did some squats. This morning? The same, my weight was the same. At least I didn't gain. Now I have another five days and six dangerous meals to deal with. My goal for the week is to lose .2 of a pound. That is almost nothing, but with the lineup I face, that will be a real victory. What do you think, will I make it?

"Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/13 - 11/19

It was a better week. I really don't like to do the kind of whining I did in that last weekly roundup. You know, the dated post that I do every Monday. When I posted a link on Facebook, I even wrote, "Don't read this." I meant that. The reason I put it out there was to make it available to the two or three people who really want to know, who read to keep up. The reason I wrote it was to vent, to get it out so to speak. It helped a little. I am not fully out of that rut. I am still mourning my mother, and certain body parts still aren't working correctly. I still cry everyday, and I still can't do the things that have defined my life for the last decade and a half. But I am better. Thanks be to God, I am better.

My weight was down two pounds this morning. The way I track my weight is to compare Monday morning with Monday morning. Over the years I have noticed certain patterns in my weekly weight. One pattern is that I am always heaviest on Mondays. Last week, my weight went down five pounds in three days. But I knew the real number would be what I weighed the next Monday. The real number was -2. That's not a lot, but finally something is going in the right direction.

One reason this is going in the right direction is I got out and started doing what I could. Monday, I walked a total of 2.57 miles and did some light lifting. Tuesday I did more lifting and walked 2.34 miles. Wednesday I walked 2.6.

Thursday I walked 3.3 and did some leg lifting. Friday, my exercise was confined to working in the yard where I managed to get in 1.53 miles. And Saturday I walked 4.15 and did some air squats before and during the walk. I did not swim because I was too lazy to make the drive to DSU and too wimpy to climb into the cool water at Twin Rivers. But overall, I count the week as a victory. I did 16.49 miles of walking and lifted weights three times.

I am, however, having serious doubts about Chicot next year. I plan to get the MRI and go from there, but either my shoulder is too messed up or my faith is too week, but after 21 weeks, I still can swim only a little and the shoulder is worse. This is just one of the things that has been pressing me down.

Thanks be to God anyway.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving Vacation Day Two and Three

Danny Collins and I met at the Aluvian for breakfast at 8:45 Saturday morning. We do that every three or four months. This was how I began day two of the vacation. We had a nice meal, some good conversation, and managed some real catching up. It was my pleasure to be able to give him some photographs of his late brother, Howard. I worked with Howard for twenty-nine years, and we did stuff together. These pictures were from some old race albums my mom used to shoot, develop, and put together of the races Dad, Quinton, Howard, I, and others did. When I went through these albums, dating back to 1981 and found Howard, I knew right away I had to get them to Danny.

After breakfast, I did some studying for Sunday, watched college football, and hung out with the cats. It was a nice, relaxing day. About mid-afternoon, I went out for a walk and did 4.1 miles after first doing a set of air squats. I did another set at the turn around on Wade Road. The rain hit when I got home preventing me from doing some more weightlifting. No problem, there were still more games on. It was a nice day. The cats liked it, Mississippi State won, and Ole Miss lost. What's not to like?

Sunday, I preached a thanksgiving message at Centerville, and we had an eating after service. Trevor won the eating contest and Penny came in second. It was a nice time. We got home around 1:15, and I spent the rest of the afternoon taking naps and sweet talking cats. Life is good. Thank you Jesus.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thanksgiving Vacation Day One

I've had a better week. But I'll talk about that later in my weekly roundup that I usually post on Monday. Wanting to keep the good week going, I determined ahead of time to be productive every day of my time off from work. Last year and over the summer, I let whole days slip by, days that I couldn't seem to put my car in gear, so to speak. So Friday morning I got up only a few minutes after my wife did. I should have made myself a list because I forgot something pretty important that I really wanted to do. But below is what I did get done.

After some blogging and coffee drinking with the cats, I climbed out of bed and hit the yard for some needed work. I have been wanting to clean the front up and "lay it by" as the old mule farmers used to say after the seasons last plowing. So I mowed the front, trimmed around the flower beds, and edged the driveway. It's amazing how much difference the trimming and edging make. There are still a few things I need to do in the front before I shift to the back. As far as the front yard grass goes, it is laid by for the year.

I then went to Mom's to pick up newspapers, take in the mail, and crank her truck. The truck didn't start. That battery-- several batteries in a row-- have refused to hold a charge over a few days if it is not started. So in the process of looking for my jumper cables-- which I later realized I didn't have because I burnt them up the last time I tried to jump the same vehicle off-- I locked myself out of the house with my keys inside. So I was pretty much stranded, up the paddle without a creek. Yeah, it was that bad.

About the time I was sending my sister a text, she drove up and saved the day. That allowed me to snatch my keys and head home for lunch which was milk and bread. After my meal, I took a long nap with CC and watched to Finebaum show between other cat naps. A guest host was sitting in for Paul and he must have used the phrase, "going forward" a half dozen or more times. Doofus. I'm sure he is a pretty bright guy, but he hasn't figured that one out yet. I did send a text to Finebaum's Twitter account. Finebaum is the thick skinned one not Laura Rutledge because he has not blocked me yet for expressing my displeasure at this redundancy. But then again, he may not read his tweets. I think he said as much on the show one day. But if memory serves me correctly, someone reads them. Bully bully to Paul Finebaum. If he has said, "going forward" in the last three weeks, I missed it.

Maybe I am accomplishing something.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Book of Grief

There is no playbook, no instructional guide, no Cliff's Notes. Neither is there a three point plan, a support group, or an awareness day that I know of. Yet it comes for us all. We never seek it, but it finds us, overwhelms us, batters us and when the fight is over (if it does ends), we find that we know little more than before our struggle.


I'm speaking of grief.

We all lose in life: loved ones, possessions, friends, our youth, maybe our health even. And we grieve. We all grieve and try to figure out how to get through it, how to come out happy and whole and well again.

I have now lost friends, cats, grandparents, aunts, dogs, uncles, cousins, and Dad and Mom. I have learned a little, only a little along the way. In an effort to put to paper my hard-cried lessons, I sat before keyboard and began to peck not with an outline in hand but with a heavy heart and tear-blurred eyes. What can I say about this intruder, this mysterious monster, this murderer of joy? I have a few lessons, not the kind that I think are normative, but they are personal. They may or may not have application for you, not that I think truth is in any way relative, but I think grief is, relative and personal. I invite you to consider these, chew on these, let your mind try them. Like a mule eating briers, spit out the bad and keep the good. You don't need my permission to do that, but you have it anyway.

The first lesson I've learned is that grief is not only particular to the person grieving, but also to the person, place or thing being grieved over. I have lost people that I never really grieved for. I am not sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the manner of their life, their death, and our relationship. I think of Charlie Turner, Sr. We were good friends for a long time. It no longer seems odd to say that, but once it did. He was the dad of my best friend, Charlie Turner, Jr. For a long time he was that: my friends's dad. Then he got saved, led me to the Lord, and he became my spiritual mentor. I visited him often and we talked about the Bible and he taught me doctrinal topics. 

Slowly, over the years our relationship continued to change. I became a pastor and went to seminary. The student transformed into the teacher as he began to ask me more and more questions. That was really odd for me at first as our relationship shifted to a new phase. And eventually, he was not the dad of my friend, not my mentor, not my student, he became my friend, much older than me but my friend nonetheless. His passing did strike me a hard blow and made me sad for many day. But I never grieved at least not the way I have grieved at other times. I was happy for him because I had extreme confidence in his relationship with Jesus and our relationship with each other was without conflict. I was sad to see him go, but I never seemed to grieve his passing. There were other people who fell into this category, but I will hold those cards close to my chest. 

Another lesson I have learned is that grief is normal, biblical. Even though the the Bible doesn't discuss the subject, it does give us plenty of examples to read and think about. For instance, when Jacob died, the Bible tells us of Joseph and his family:

     And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and             there they mourned with a very great and sore lamentation: and he made             a mourning for his father seven days. (Genesis 50:10)

On Moses' death, we read:

     And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.             (Deuteronomy 34:8)

Of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, the Bible succinctly says,

     Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

There are many other references to grieving in the Bible, but little to no discussion of it. A couple of things, however, are easily deducible. One deduction is grief is natural, normal, un-rebuked by the Bible.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is one that I think should be normative, that is it should be practiced by all: You don't have to be strong. I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say, "I have to be strong for so and so." That dictum, by the way, is not in the Bible, not in the Works of Shakespeare, it's not even in Little Richard's Almanac. I have written in the past (see "Roses: A Tribute to Mom" in this blog, 12/27/2017) about my mother's crying over a dangerous cat we once had. That is my favorite memory of her. The sight of her being broken over the death of what few people could ever love is precious to me, and I am convinced was/is formative for my character in a positive way. You don't harm your children by showing them your heart, your pain, or your tears. In fact, it is my opinion that you help them, make them more sensitive and give them a more realistic view of what life has in store for them.

Another lesson I learned is: it's the pets and the parents that hurt the most. I am skipping over one category that I am sure is worse: losing a child. I have not, thanks be to God, experienced that so I will not address it. What I will address is what I have experience with. Maybe it's because they love us the most and they love us unconditionally that we find their deaths so devastating. They are there, always there and when they leave us, part of our comfort, our security, our joy is ripped away leaving us alone, raw, and vulnerable. Some even criticize our crying at times like this. I've heard it with my own ears. They can kiss my hinder parts. I will not stuff my humanity for the sake of people who do not understand theirs.

A fifth lesson in my view is, God wants to be involved. Sometimes I feel like I am worrying the Lord. Maybe that sounds silly to you, and I suppose it is somewhat senseless. But for some reason, I still feel that way. Consequently, I find certain passages from the Bible edifying. Things like:

       3) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of             mercies, and the God of all comfort, 4) Who comforteth us in all our,                     tribulation, so that we may be able to comfort them which are in                           trouble, by the comfort wherewith which we ourselves are
                                                                                        2 Cor 1:3 -4
God does care about our struggles with sorrow just like we care about our children's hurts. Well, not just like, because we cannot love like Him. Psalm 23, of course, is often used by preachers of funerals. The Word gives us the promise of going "through the valley of the shadow of death" with God. Another verse that helps in a time of sorrow is Psalm 147:3 which reads:

       He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Grief is episodic. This is one I learned the hard way. I remember people asking me after the death of my dad if I was OK. I told them yes, and I truly believed I was only to learn later that I was not. I'll give you one example. Several months after Dad left us, my truck broke down. Instinctively, I reached for my phone and started dialing up Dad. It's what I always did when I needed a hand. Then it hit me and it hit me hard that the one who was always there when I needed a hand was gone and gone for good. It was a tough day, a tough few days. Still it pops up from time to time. I think the tears are gone that they are a thing of the past. Then they come return rushing in like a flood. A thought, a memory, a place brings it all around again. That's just the way it is.

The same thing has happened several times since Mom's passing. I go in her house almost every day. I cry almost every day. Then I had two trips in a row where I did not break down. I thought, I have rounded the corner, things are getting better. But I knew that might not be the case, and it wasn't. At least this time I wasn't caught off guard.

The last lesson I think I have is, pain is the price we pay for love. This is one more reason I take umbrage with criticisms of crying over someone's death. It hurts to lose those we care deeply about. "But you are crying for yourself," some will and have said. I say, so what? If you cut your finger off, would you not cry? How would you respond if someone even hinted that it is selfish of you to shed tears during your pain. The nonsense there is plain as it should be in grieving. I have said it before in other posts, and I say it again here: It is not our humanity that God has a problem with; it is our sin. God does not despise our weaknesses, our perplexities, or our pain. Instead, the Bible says 'He saves our tears in a bottle' (Psalm 56:8). To me, that is pretty plain. Don't ever let anyone make you ashamed of your humanity. If we truly love, we truly hurt when we lose the loved one. It's part of being human.

Is there an overarching lesson in all of these words? When I try to condense it all to the essence, when I try to put a handle on the truth, so to speak, what I come away with is let the process work itself out. Don't stuff your emotions or your memories and don't expect to be well in a week or two, a month or two, or even a year or two. Some people say you never get over it. Maybe that is true; I haven't lived long enough to know. One thing I do know is that it does get easier with time and if we allow ourselves to grieve, we do grow softer, better, more sensitive to the scars and pains of those around us.

In his memoir, All Over But The Shoutin', Rick Bragg talks about a family tradition in which a newborn child is carried around the house by a family member. He writes:

     "It was said that the babies would absorb all the good qualities of the                    person who walked them that first time around the house in which they                were born, that the tiny weak thing would borrow from their strength,                  their character" (26).

Neither Bragg nor I know the origin of this ceremony, and I am dubious as to its efficacy. I do believe, however, that we can accomplish the same thing in reverse. We can walk with our memories and relive the good times in our minds and thus absorb the best qualities of the lost loved one we cared so deeply for. That is a noble pursuit, and one I think we all can and should make.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DFM Oxford Walk

Team Centerville made the trip. Trevor, Kelsey and Cory McLain, Gerald and Debbie Johnson, Sheila Mitchell, Gerry  Johnson, and Penny and I all met up at Dollar General in Carrollton Sunday morning, November the 5th. This was our third year in a row to make the trip to Oxford, Mississippi, to attend and do the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's annual walk at the university up north. As a Mississippi State fan, I feel like I am in enemy territory when I am up there, but I do it for the cause.

On our way, we stopped at Cracker Barrel in Batesville for lunch, and except for the temperature being extremely unpleasant inside the restaurant, we had a lovely meal. After spending a few minutes in the store portion of the business, I purchases a fleece pullover for some needed warmth. I simple was not going to be able to stay inside the building. Yeah, it was that cold. After we got seated, Kelsey went back to the store and bought one also. Mine was a beautiful Mississippi State adorned garment while hers was a most unattractive Ole Miss rag. It would have looked nice in a different color and with another logo. 
Team Centerville getting geared up.


But back to the cold, can someone explain this to me? Every chain restaurant I go to, as well as a lot of others, is like that. Why do they punish their customers? Everyone who walked in instantly either complained about the cold or their body language revealed their discomfort. It must be terribly expensive to punish people in that way. I don't understand, and I truly wish someone would give me some insight on the subject. In this day and age of the bottom line, I can't understand the need to spend more.

We made it to the Lyceum about 1:40. The walk was to start at 2:00. We registered and Irena McLean of the DFM got the festivities and the walk kicked off. This year, we had a different course, staying on campus instead of looping the square downtown like we always did in the past. The route was shortened with two options: a one miler and a two miler. It turns out that the two miler was only a 1.5 miler. Rats, I needed the work. It was still a nice walk and some real exercise. Along the way, I developed a strong urge to water the roses, but of naturally I did not dare. This is one shortcoming of the walk: no easy access to a bathroom. But there was a lot of construction on campus so I managed to find a porta potty behind and construction fence. I ducked off course and almost blew lunch when the potty started to sway violently after I shut the door. I grabbed the vent stack and held on tight until things got still. Then I very slowly and carefully took care of necessary business.

The day was gorgeous with the temps in the mid 70s, some light wind that made it feel even more temperate, and splattering of cloud cover that wasn't threatening looking but rather gave the feel of fall. Of course I have written in the past about the beauty of the Ole Miss campus. This is coming from a die-hard Mississippi State fan so you know it's true. The wind, the architecture, and the amazing trees created an atmosphere of peace, of relaxation. After the walk, we availed ourselves to the refreshments and sat around, chatted, and talked about trees while enjoying each other's company.

Our team turned in $425. We plan to come back. Next year, by the grace of God, we will do better both walking and raising. 
Best-looking team in the walk.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Good Haiku

Samuel Lott, the great haikuist and poetry expert said this is a good one. Yes, he really said that. If he denies it, I have photographic evidence from a text message. Consequently, I thought I should include it here all alone so that it can be admired without the distraction of two other kaiku, as I normally post them as a trinity. So here it is for your viewing and reading pleasure.

Drizzling rain -
standing in the leaves,
darkness falls

A note on its construction for the future scholars who will no doubt write research papers on this and teach it to their upper level English classes: I wrote this one Sunday night past while standing in the rain on the wet leaf-strewn lawn of Centerville Baptist Church. Rain drops peppered my forehead as I gazed into the dark woods surrounding the church as listened intently for the sounds God's night creation makes. Above, a beautiful sky revealed the handiwork of God. Across the road, lights in the cemetery showed humanity's hope. The need to write bubbled up in my soul. Sam can't touch this.