Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Relaxing Day

It was a beautiful spring weekend here in Kentucky. It has been a truly relaxing time. It seems like quite a while since I've had such a weekend. Saturday, after a good night's sleep, I got out of bed about 8:00 AM. When I got downstairs I brewed some coffee and cooked some eggs for an English muffin egg sandwich. Afterwards I went outside for the morning newspaper. It was a beautiful and cool morning. I lingered outside a bit to enjoy the fresh air. During some of my time I read and listened to music. Occasionally I dozed on my sofa. I had no personal goals and no one had any expectations of me. I was left alone to do anything and nothing. Admittedly, I did miss my little granddaughter although it was also nice to not have to keep up with her. She is a joy but sometimes an exhausting one! When the day was nearly over, the sun hovered over the horizon and the warmth of midday gave way to evening coolness. In the distance a neighbor mowed his lawn and the smell of freshly mowed grass wafted in through the open window buoyed by a cool evening breeze. In the background the washing machine hummed in the laundry room. Jimmy Buffett played on my stereo and my mind wandered to Margaritaville.

Sunday was much like Saturday. I had lots of time to do whatever I wanted. I am a person who often trumpets the joys of solitude. I like solitude, especially in the mornings. Sometimes, however, especially in the afternoons, I get bored or lonely. The bright light of the noonday sun or the piecing heat of a sun reluctant to give up control of the day can take a toll on you. I get a little restless and agitated. Little holds my attention and some otherwise enjoyable activities fail to satisfy me. In times like this I am eager for the evening when the day has cooled. Evening, like early morning, always feels peaceful to me. It reminds me of the Bible stories I heard as a child when God walked in the garden with Adam in the cool of the evening.

I have finally finished a book that I feel like I have been reading forever. It is called A Pirate Looks at Fifty. I think I began reading it when I turned fifty and I am now fifty six. It was written by Jimmy Buffett of “Cheeseburger in Paradise” fame. The book is not really about music. It’s more like a travelogue of his adventures in the Caribbean. It’s one of those books you can read, put down for a year, and then pick it up again and never miss a beat. In a recent chapter he talked about the joy of flying his plane over the islands and listening to Beethoven’s Symphony #6, often called the Pastoral. I don’t have a plane and I am not in the Caribbean but I decided to spend some time Sunday afternoon listening to this piece of music. How can you go wrong with movements entitled “Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the country” and “Happy, thankful feelings after the storm”?

Here are some interesting thoughts on writing by Henri Nouwen

Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write. Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be "redeemed" by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too. Writing is not just jotting down ideas. Often we say: "I don't know what to write. I have no thoughts worth writing down." But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself. As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there. One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see. One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: "I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to." This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others. We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Most Tuesdays and Thursdays Chloe's parents work late so I pick up Chloe at the daycare. This past Tuesday was no exception. My wife and I picked her up, took her out for dinner, and then she hung out at our house until her Dad picked her up. When she left I felt unusually tired so I lay on my sofa for a short nap. When I woke up I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks and my throat hurt. When sick feelings hit me that quickly it is never a good thing. I struggled through the rest of the evening and couldn't get to bed fast enough. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I felt like a sword was stuck down my throat so I stayed home from work. As the day went by my throat felt better but I began to notice the symptoms of a cold. I seem to get colds with more frequency these days although I am not sure why. Chloe is a likely suspect, plus every time I go into the day care I am surrounded by kids with runny noses. Most of Wednesday and Thursday I sat in my chair at home, covered with a blanket, watching movies. When I was sleepy, I dozed off. When I was hungry, I ate. When I was thirsty, I drank. Now it is Friday morning and I am still under the influence of the diabolical germs which now inhabit my head and respiratory system. I am still blowing my nose and doing shots of Nyquil. When I am completely well my family and friends will do an intervention and force me into Nyquil rehab. I have been there before. If you drink enough Nyquil you will see visions of your ancestors. At least it is already Friday. When I get through this day I will have to weekend to further recover. Being sick is a drag. Even going to work is better than being sick. Why do we get sick besides the obvious medical reasons? I think it's our bodies sending our mind a message. The message is this. Slow down. Take a break. Stop what you are doing. Rest. Since you have been ignoring my more subtle hints, I am going to give you a illness that will force you to do these things. It won't be enough to really hurt you. It will be just enough to get your attention. Do you hear me now?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What If You Had Never Been Born?

I suppose most of you have seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life". It is basically the story of a man contemplating suicide but he is stopped at the last minute by an angel who shows him what life would have been like if he had never been born. Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had never been born? Do you ever wonder if you have made a difference in the lives of others? Has anyone made a difference in your life? Is there a family member, a teacher, a friend, or a co-worker that has made a difference in your life? If so, have you told them? We all live our lives and go through our days not always aware of how we touch and affect others. Most of the time we never become aware of it. Once I tried to imagine my own funeral. Now, I am not obsessed with death. I want to live as long as I can live well. However, in this imaginary scenario, I wondered who would attend my funeral. Most of us would expect our families but even that is not a guaranteed audience. In today's world, many family members are estranged from one another. I wonder who would take the time to attend? What would they be talking about at the funeral home? Who would be most upset? What would they miss the most about me? What stories would they tell? How would I be remembered? Would there be a lot of laughter? Would the funeral directors have to move the walls to make the room bigger for the overflow crowd? How many people would attend because somewhere, sometime I touched their life in a positive way? This may seem like an extreme way to contemplate how one has lived but it makes a powerful point. We should all try to live so that every encounter that another person has with us is a positive experience. We should be kind, compassionate, encouraging, consoling, and, when necessary, honest. I often think of all the people who have been these things to me. Most of us will not change history in big ways but we all change the history of others in many, many small ways. None of our lives are insignificant.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Why do we sometimes feel lonely? I am married with children and a granddaughter. I have many friends. Most people who know me seem to like and even admire me. Yet, I often feel lonely. I am not sure why. I believe myself to be a loving person yet I often feel unloved. I think these feelings began in my childhood. I grew up in a large family, the oldest of six children. My parents were basically good but uneducated people. They provided for every physical need. I always had a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and food on the table. I was never abused. What I now realize was lacking is all the emotional stuff. I do not recall ever being hugged or told I was loved. Now, as a middle aged adult, I still feel that pain. Yes, I know there are people in this world that love me but it is not the love I need. To be honest, I can't explain what I need because even I am not totally sure. I am very introverted and that may contribute to my problem. Perhaps I do not try enough to get the love I need. Why am I so introverted? Again, I go back to my childhood. There was at least a two year time period when I must have had all my parents attention. Then my sister was born, following by a brother, then another sister, followed by two more brothers. As each was born I was pushed further from the center. This was, I believe, complicated by living in a very small house. Psychologically and physically, life became crowded so I retreated within myself. Of course, all of this makes me who I am today and that is not a bad thing. Much of my goodness is because of who and what I am. Still, I cannot explain my loneliness or feelings of being unloved. I will acknowledge that many people seem to love the public me, the "Daily Thoughts" guy but I have no one on one relationships that are truly satisfying with the exception of my young and loving granddaughter. At least with her, I am the center of the universe.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

48 Hours Of Nothingness...Well, Not Quite

It is a warm Sunday evening as I write this. It is still 80 degrees as the sun slowly gives up control of the day. I did not have 48 hours of nothingness this weekend as I hoped for on Friday. Chloe’s parents were two of the estimated 800,000 people who attended the popular Thunder over Louisville on Saturday. At my house we had Chloe the Thunder Princess for most of the weekend. She was very good and enjoyable as always although we had a few moments of our own fireworks. Most of my Sunday afternoon was spent napping. Whenever Chloe sleeps in my bed, I spend most of the night awake, trying not to fall out of bed. She has the whole middle part of a king size bed but she wants to spend most of the night as close to me as possible. Admittedly she can be exhausting but when she is around, the word “boredom” cannot be found in the dictionary. One thing she does, and finds very funny, is to run away from me and force me chase her. She laughs hysterically the whole time but sometimes I think I might not catch her. To make it even worse, when I run it is similar to Elaine dancing at the office party on Seinfeld. For those of you who have seen this episode, it’s not a pretty sight. O well, it does give me a good cardiovascular workout. In quieter moments, we also have wonderful conversations.

Last Friday I had lunch with one of my friends. It was a beautiful day and we walked to the restaurant. Most workdays I brown bag it and eat quickly, usually alone. On Fridays, however, I allow myself the pleasure of a friend’s company as well as actually getting out of the office. The company may vary because I am blessed with many friends in the workplace. Over the weekend I was daydreaming about what retirement might really be like. It lost some of its attractiveness when I realized all the friends I would leave behind in the workplace. The truth is that I am older than many of my friends and they have more years of work ahead of them than I have for myself. I value these friends and the conversations and sharing that we have during our lunches. I send out these thoughts nearly everyday and many seem to like and benefit from them. Sometimes, however, I need to hear and benefit from the thoughts of others. My friends feed this need in me.

News from the You Can’t Do It All Department

Try as I might, I could not get tickets to the Alison Krause and Union Station concert on Sunday night. She keeps playing the same small venue and because of her increasing popularity, she sells out quickly. She has an angelic voice and a top notch band. For now I will have to settle for the live CD that she recorded here in Louisville a few years ago. I would like to get the DVD of that performance but alas, you can’t buy it all either!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Everything And Nothing/Random Thoughts

I was driving to work this morning when the song "Hotel California" came on the radio. Many of you probably recognize this song by the Eagles. It ends with one of rock and roll's great guitar jams. I would have cranked it up pretty loud except that you know who was in the car with me. She can't handle blazing guitar solos at 7:30 AM. Listening to the song took me back to the year 1976 when I saw three concerts in three days. I saw Elvis Presley, Elton John, and the Eagles. I think these three shows cost me about $60....for two people!

Winter returned yesterday. I went outside expecting some warmth and sun and I found neither. It was overcast and cold. I wonder what season we will have today. At this time of year in Kentucky you never know what you will get. There have been Kentucky Derbies with sleet and snow. The horse ran around the track just to keep warm. Two weeks ago on Easter Sunday it was colder than last Christmas!

Getting home last night was a nightmare. The city closed the 2nd Street Bridge to prepare for the big Thunder over Louisville fireworks that will take place Saturday night. In their infinite wisdom they closed it right before rush hour. Could it not have waited until most of the city workers had left their offices and gone home to the suburbs? Every downtown street was gridlocked and everyone had to find alternate routes to go home. Maybe this was just a dress rehearsal for Saturday night when the 1,000,000 people or however many show up come downtown for the fireworks. I will be at home in my Lazy Boy recliner.

I am glad the work week is over and the weekend is here. I have no idea what the weekend will bring. What I would like is 48 hours of nothingness. These days it seems that every day of my life is busy with some activity or chore. I would like to just wake up tomorrow morning and have nothing to do and all day to get it done. A week or so ago I wrote about some people's obsession with work. Another factor that has diminished our quality of life is our 24 hour, non stop culture. Our society never rests. Many stores and restaurants never close or take a day off. There is always traffic. People are coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Our lifestyles are in conflict with our bodily needs. We cannot turn ourselves off sometimes and most of us are sleep deprived. Those of us who work a five day work week cram our weekends full of activities that cannot be completed in our already overwhelmed weekdays. So what is the solution? Just say no to excessive demands and stop doing things. Take back control of your lives. Listen to your bodies and stressed out minds. Relax and live!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


One of my favorite musical groups is Jethro Tull. I have managed to see them three or four times over the years. I have always liked one of their more obscure songs entitled “Inside”, especially the following lyrics. The song is on an early album entitled “Benefit”.

I'm sitting on the corner feeling glad.
Got no money coming in but I can't be sad.
That was the best cup of coffee I ever had.
And I won't worry about a thing
because we've got it made,
here on the inside, outside so far away.

At various times in my life I have found myself singing these words and then last night as I was hauling some tree limbs and other yard waste to the curb, a storm seemed to be blowing up as the darkness began to cover the land. It reminded me of other lyrics from the same song.

Take a walk in the park,
does the wind in the dark
sound like music to you?
Well I'm thinking it does to me.

People like me live much of their intellectual and emotional life on the “Inside”. On the outside we can appear to be unemotional or even in a daze. However, I can assure you that there’s much more going on than appears. All of our senses are going strong and are observing and taking in everything around us. There is little that we do not notice and we are always processing all we take in. No, we are not aliens. We are introverts.

People have occasionally asked me how they can be like me. Well, we are all unique so you can’t be exactly like me. To be honest I am not entirely sure how I became like me! You can learn to be more observant and aware. Pay attention to the moment. Drink the coffee, taste the coffee, enjoy the coffee! Notice the wind. Feel the wind. Hear the wind singing! Experience the poetry of life! Zen is life lived in awareness.

Here’s a Zen poem.

Outwardly go along
With the flow,
while inwardly keeping
your true nature.
Then your eyes and ears
will not be dazzled,
your thoughts will not
be confused,
while the spirit within you
will expand greatly to roam
in the realm of absolute purity.
- Huai-nan-tzu

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Laundry And Self Awareness

I have to admit that I like doing the laundry. It is a simple task but it does require some skill. My laundry room is right around the corner from my music room so I am quite content to sort the laundry all over the kitchen floor, throw a load in the washing machine, and then retreat to my room until it is finished. Sometimes I will lay on my couch and the swishing sound of the washing machine lulls me to sleep. I can never sleep too long because sooner or later the buzzer from the dryer will awaken me. It is usually a work night when I do the laundry. After a day of dealing with people, looking at graphs, studying reports, and doing the impossible, folding towels seems like a simple and joyful experience. I also enjoy the solitude associated with doing the laundry. To answer the question that some of you are thinking, no, I won’t do your laundry. Doing the laundry is therapeutic but I don’t need that much therapy!

Do you ever drive yourself crazy? I know there are aspects of my personality that make other people like me but I also get on my own nerves sometimes. It’s mostly small stuff and nothing serious. Over the years I have studied a lot of psychology and read many books on personality types. I think I know myself too well. On the one hand I know myself well enough to understand why some people like me. On the other hand I also know myself well enough to see my more dysfunctional self coming from a mile away. The usual point of such self awareness is to keep that dysfunctional self from ever actually arriving. Sometimes I am successful and other times I am not. Of course, this dysfunctional self is like my twin brother. Others don’t always recognize him. The good news is that he’s not a bad fellow; he’s just not my best self. He’s the fellow that makes me say things I should not say or do things I should not do. He holds me back when I should be more proactive and he jumps ahead when I should be more patient. He’s not a bad person. He’s just annoying, at least to me and perhaps to others as well. Of course, for all I know there may be people who prefer him to my “better” self. Who knows? Life is a mystery.

Self Absorption

I was sitting in my car yesterday at the end of the workday. Usually when I am sitting and waiting anywhere, I love to watch people. As people walked up and down the sidewalk along 4th Street Live, the newest entertainment district in Louisville, I couldn't help but notice how many of them were totally engrossed in their Ipods. Each of them was in their own little world with their tiny headphones plugged in their ears, totally oblivious to the sounds of the street or the people around them. All they needed was personalized virtual reality goggles and self chosen smells and scents and they could have completed their self absorption. What is ironic is that on the opposite end of the street where I was parked, Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk and spiritual writer, had a now famous spiritual epiphany. This is how he described it.

"In Louisville, on the corner of 4th and Walnut (now Muhammad Ali Blvd) , in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. I have the immense joy of being human, a member of the race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. If only everyone could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun".

This was a very important moment and realization for Merton because up until then he had been trying to escape the world by being in a monastery. None of us can escape the world. We are all part of it. This awareness that we are part of the world and cannot escape it is part of the reality check that young people go through when they leave home, finish college, get a job and leave the nest of Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, they do not always feel like they are "walking around shining like the sun". Many times they feel like they are walking around in the cold. I guess this might be the point I am making. We cannot walk up and down the sidewalks of our lives totally absorbed in the sounds of our Ipods all the time. Sooner or later we must be part of the world with all its joys and sorrows. As messy as people can sometimes be, they add warmth to what might feel like a cold world. I experienced this literally a week or so ago in Columbus when total strangers huddled together outside after the Eric Clapton concert to help one another stay warm while my friends and I waited for the shuttle buses in the windy and very cold night. Even now, the memory of that group experience, and the joy of being with friends, fills me with warmth and good feelings. Let's all walk around today shining like the sun!

Here is a Zen koan for you...

After you hear the music, where does it go?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monastery Visit

When I looked at my clock at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning I wasn't too happy. I had not slept well but I needed to get up and drive to the monastery. I was tired and it was cold and dark outside. Why didn't I sleep well? I had a little visitor that stayed all night and who shared my pillow. How could I be upset? One of the last things she did before falling asleep the night before was take my face in her hands and say, "I will always love you, Pa Paw"! Trust me. I do not make this stuff up. Of course, one day last week when I wasn't moving fast enough for her, she also said, "Move your ass, Pa Paw"! I quietly got out of the bed and headed for the shower. I did not want to wake up Chloe. I thought I was successful but I found out later that as soon as I shut the front door behind me, she woke up and asked where I was going. After an expensive stop at the gas station to fill up and get some hot coffee, I headed for the monastery. It was a cold and rainy. Even though the weather was dreary, the land had an element of beauty to it. Traffic was light and I was happy and content with my solitary drive. Soon enough I arrived at the monastery. I was a little early for my meeting so I sat in the dining room, finishing my coffee and looking out the window at the hills across the highway. On the tables in the dining room are small signs that say "Silence is Spoken Here". In the early morning darkness, silence was my language. The meeting went well. The topic was "What is community"? There was good discussion, following by mass with the monks, and a pot luck lunch with those who attended the discussion. By afternoon the sun had appeared and the sky was blue and full of white, fluffy clouds. The drive home was enjoyable. I had my radio on so I was able to sing my off key harmonies with total abandon. When I got home Chloe was still at my house and her parents were there as well. My wife had my son pretty busy with small chores. It was the price that he had to pay for us to keep Chloe overnight. After dinner, when they left, Chloe kissed me goodbye and we also rubbed noses. I am so lucky to have Chloe for a granddaughter. She has added so much to my life. I am blessed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Love and Road Warriors

This was a fast week for me. It really moves things along when you only work three days. Sunday I will be heading to the monastery for a meeting, prayer with the monks, and a pot luck lunch. It seems like I haven't been there in a while. Going to the monastery helps to balance my life. Life is full of many elements. Sometimes I am busy and occasionally I am bored. Sometimes I feel full and other times I feel empty. There are days when my life seems meaningful and other days where I wonder what I am doing and why. Some days I feel surrounded by love and other days I wonder what love is. I know it is something we all want but many do not get the love they need. Love is wonderful but sometimes scary. When people love us we sometimes wonder why or what they want. We want love but are afraid of its demands. We are skeptical of unconditional love. Sometimes we don't trust love. We rarely can accept it at face value and just enjoy its warmth. Life is complicated but why must love be that way, too? When I think about it I realize that I love a lot of people for a lot of different reasons and on a lot of different levels. I think about these kinds of things as I drive through the countryside on my way to and from the monastery or while I sit in the silent abbey church. I enjoy pondering on the mysteries of life and the complexities of human emotions.

As someone who is always willing to drive hundreds of miles for a good night of music, I have sometimes been called a "Road Warrior". For the enjoyment of my fellow road warriors and others, I have written a description of what a road warrior is. I hope you enjoy it.

Road Warrior i.e. noun

An aging and nearly extinct creature who spends all available time and resources searching for the lost chord. These strange and exotic creatures have been known to spend their last dime in pursuit of the chills and emotional satisfaction generated by extended guitar solos, meaningful lyrics, and being with others of their kind. Often misunderstood, they are kind and gentle creatures who enjoy simple pleasures like sitting in their lawn chairs on a summer night while good vibrations fill the space around them. They have even been known to take off their shoes and share a blanket. In the summer months they are often seen in sandals, short pants, and faded rock and roll tee shirts. They have been known to drink the occasional beer. These creatures are free spirits and should not be disturbed when dancing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Work And Leisure

Yesterday I had a quiet day. It rained most of the day so I really didn't mind being at work. By the end of the day I was able to get through the emails that accumulated in my absence. I am a person who likes quiet and uneventful days at work. I really don't mind working if I can approach my daily tasks calmly and in an unhurried way. It is the Zen approach to work. I am much more productive in this atmosphere than when the day is hectic and packed with meetings or unforeseen activities. I prefer to control my day rather than have it control me. Yesterday, after I sent out my daily thoughts, I received a flurry of out of the office messages. Apparently many were away from work for spring break. It is good for the soul, the mind, and the body to be away from work or, as the Europeans say, "Go on holiday". Americans work more than any other major industrialized country. In general, we have less time off than people in these same countries. I even recently read in a business article that many people do not take vacation time because they are afraid of being out of the loop with what's going on in the office. It seems like people must be in constant contact with work. They can't seem to unplug or detach themselves from work. When they do take time off they are constantly calling in or logging on to make sure they are not missing anything. How sad! Work is important for all kinds of reasons and on all kinds of levels, and most of us have to work, but its importance is greatly blown out of proportion in the great drama of our lives. No one on their death bed ever said, "I wish I had spent more time at the office". If you are a person who is obsessed with working, get over it and get a life. I can promise you that Human Resources will never call me and tell me that I need to use some of my vacation time! Work is important but so is a balanced life. Its fine to be successful in life but don't measure your success only by your title or salary. Do things and participate in activities outside of work. Create memories for yourself. They are the cushion that you will sit upon in your old age. Someday when I am an older man than I am now, I will be having lunch with my friends and saying, "Remember that awesome Eric Clapton concert we saw back in 2007"? I will never say, "Remember those awesome staff meetings we had back at Humana. I really miss those charts and graphs"! My mantra is "When I am at work, I'm at work. When I am at home, I am at home".

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Morning At The Hospital

While I was on my way to Columbus a few days ago, my wife called and informed me that my youngest son, Nick, needed some minor outpatient surgery. It was scheduled for this morning. We had to be at the hospital at 8:00 AM. Everything went fine. The surgeon was someone that I went to high school with many years ago. I have not seen him in quite a while. He was looking very old. I suppose I should look in the mirror. He seemed like a grown up. I am still going to rock concerts. I don't really want to be a doctor but I wonder if he would have liked to have seen Eric Clapton?

It is another beautiful spring day. At this moment it is 52 degrees. Soon my son and I will head to the day care to pick up Chloe. Afterwards we will head for my wife's office and then all of us will have some dinner somewhere.

Tomorrow it is back to work for me. I have been off five days. It has been very nice. Whenever I am away from work more than a weekend I imagine that I am retired. Is this what it will feel like? To be honest I would be bored with too much time on my hands and nothing to do. The idea of retirement sounds great but I would eventually need something in my life to replace the work that I currently do. I would need some structure and activity.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Day All About Me

I took today off from work. Why? Because I can! After a busy weekend I decided I needed a solitary day with myself. I got up early and took my wife to work so I could have the car. After doing that I stopped for coffee and a breakfast burrito at Dooley's Bagel Shop. I sat in a booth alone with my thoughts and savored my breakfast. Outside the window it was a beautiful morning. It was clear and sunny with a hint of coolness in the air. After getting a refill on my coffee I headed home. Once there I read the morning paper while listening to some blues music from a soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's wonderful documentary on the history of the blues. After a while I packaged some dishes and other items that needed to be dropped off at the Goodwill. I love giving stuff away. It is very liberating. After that errand I went to the car wash. Perhaps its the little child within me but I am always fascinated watching the car go through the car wash. Perhaps I am fascinated because I am not actually washing the car. When it was done I cruised home with that clean car smell all around me. I love a clean car! I spent much of the afternoon, when I wasn't dozing, watching musical DVD's. I started off with the "Concert for George". It was a tribute to George Harrison coordinated by his best friend, Eric Clapton. Many of George's friends and musical collaborators participated. It was very emotional and heartfelt. I found myself misty eyed at times. As I get older I believe my feelings and emotions are tending to show themselves more often. I am a very emotional person and many things move me deeply. When I was younger I was not so easily moved or open about feelings. In the last day or so I have also had moments of sadness that my trip to Columbus was over after so many weeks of anticipation. It was an wonderful 24 hour escape from my normal life. Although not quite as much fun, I enjoyed my day of solitude today.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Eric Clapton

I returned a few hours ago from a trip to Columbus, Ohio where I attended an Eric Clapton concert. It was incredible! The show could not have been better. It was as though Eric had asked me in advance what songs I would like to hear. Of course when you have a catalogue of songs as large as Eric Clapton you cannot expect to hear everything in one show. However, what we heard was perfect and there was not a clinker in the bunch. A big portion of the songs were from his classic album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. The complete set is listed at the bottom of this post. My friends and I left Louisville Friday morning for the 200 mile drive. A little north of Cincinnati the snow began. At times there was virtually no visibility with whiteout conditions. We arrived at our hotel where there was some delay getting into our rooms. Eventually we got in and settled before heading to the show. The venue wasn't far from the hotel and they had a very convenient shuttle service that took your from the parking lot directly to the main entrance. We had gotten our tickets late in the game so our seats weren't perfect but they were still very good. Seeing Eric play classic songs that have been such a big part of my life was moving at times and reminded me of the strong emotions I felt a couple of years ago when I saw Paul McCartney in Indianapolis. Although this was a big event in terms of the venue and number of people attending, it was the most orderly and calm rock concert I have ever attended. People sat through most of the show and were downright reverent towards Eric. He is a musician who deserves great respect and the audience gave it to him. The whole experience was wonderful and more than worth any effort we put into making it happen. I am still bathing in the afterglow. If music is a kind of religion, then Eric Clapton is one of its saints.

Tell The Truth
Key To The Highway
Got to Get Better in A Little While
Little Wing
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?

Sit Down Set
Driftin' (EC Solo)
Outside Woman Blues
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Running On Faith

Motherless Children
Little Queen of Spades
Further On Up The Road
Wonderful Tonight

Crossroads (with Robert Cray)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spiritual Hunger

I have long believed that many people are spiritually hungry. These daily thoughts are a small attempt to feed that hunger. I am not the fountain of all wisdom but I have drank from many spiritual fountains in my life. I hope that sharing my own journey as well as the wisdom of the ages is helpful to those of you who are self aware enough to know you are hungry. I am sometimes spiritually hungry myself. In many of the conversations I have had with people over the years, most of those who are hungry do not know how to feed themselves. I have been blessed with wonderful spiritual friendships, mentors, education, and experience. In the spiritual life, what you are given should likewise be given to others. If you have been fed, feed others. We live in a world and culture of spiritual starvation. There is food for the body and there is food for the soul. How do you know if you're spiritually hungry? Do you ever wonder, "Is there something more to life?" If you ever ask yourself this question, you are spiritually hungry. I can help you a little right now. There is a deeper spiritual element to daily living. There's more to life than what meets the eye. It can only be seen with the eye of the heart.

Spirituality is how you put the Spirit into your reality. The word itself can be broken down to spirit-into-reality.....spirituality. It is many things to many people. If you have a contemplative nature, you will likely value silence and quiet meditation. More active types may volunteer at a soup kitchen or work in a homeless shelter. Some people I know are political activists. Others are teachers, counselors, or artists. Most people, however, do nothing special. They live the spirituality of their daily lives. For some, being a parent or spouse is their spirituality. They may practice love and holiness providing for the needs of their families. Others provide emotional comfort and guidance to co-workers and others. Some put their spiritual beliefs into practice by the way they lead other people. Spirituality must be lived where you are. You can feed the starving in a foreign land or you can acquire holiness washing and folding the family laundry or cooking an evening meal. In the end, it is all about how we love.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What Is Our Purpose In Life?

Yesterday morning was hectic and a bit crazy. Before I realized it, the lunch hour was here. Eating my sandwich in the break room was the first peaceful moment I had. I tried to eat slowly and enjoy every bite but unseen forces seemed to rush me. Earlier in the morning I was late for a meeting that I wanted to reschedule. I went to the meeting a little late and, after I introduced myself, asked if we could reschedule. The first response I received was "Are you that daily thoughts guy"? I admitted that I was and soon was having an enjoyable conversation with one of my "fans". This type of experience is always a little strange for me. My guess is that I am probably less impressive in person than I may be on paper.

People often take me into their confidence. As the "daily thoughts guy" I even get personal emails from people I don't really know. Occasionally people will ask me to pray for them. I am humbled by these requests and I take them all very seriously. For whatever reason people trust me and they feel comfortable confiding in me. Usually there is not much I can do but listen or say a simple prayer. Sometimes all of us wonder what our purpose is in life. I am not a man of great accomplishments and there have been times when I wondered about the meaning of my own life. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather as well as a friend to many. At times I have wondered if I am where I need to be and if I am doing what I need to do. Although I sometimes daydream about being somewhere else and doing other things, in my heart I believe I am where I need to be and I am mostly doing the things I need to do. My daily thoughts started out as a very simple thing. Without any real effort on my part they have grown and become a part of many people's morning. Somehow whatever I write seems to be what someone needs to hear. God has used my daily thoughts to inspire some and give hope to others. What more meaning can I ask from such a simple thing? Not everyone writes daily thoughts like me but we all have the power to touch other people's lives in positive ways. A kind word and a smile might carry another person throughout their day. Never underestimate the power you have to make another person's day.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week, New Carpet, and the Doodlebops

This is an important week for all Christians. It is Holy Week. It began yesterday with Palm Sunday and will end this Sunday with Easter. During this week Christians will remember and celebrate the events that are at the heart of the Christian message and beliefs. It is good to look back and remember as part of going forward with renewed faith and hope. We all need seasons of hope in our lives to sustain us on our journeys. May all of you who are Christians find renewed hope and faith in the celebrations that you will attend this week in your individual communities of faith.

While I was outside this weekend I was thinking about how much God is like the sun. On a day to day basis, we don't always think of God or the sun, especially if we are busy. Yet both provide for our needs. We just assume that both are there and always will be. Both sustain our lives. The great mystics often talked about the direct experience of God. I think the kind of experience the mystics are talking about is like looking at the sun. You can only stand it for a second. If you do not turn away, you will go blind. We can all be contemplative in the sense that we can maintain an attitude of awareness that allows us to feel the warmth of God much like we do the sun. Occasionally in our prayer and contemplation we might catch a glimpse of God much like we occasionally look at the sun. When this happens we must, like Moses on Mount Sinai, turn our backs while God passes by.

There was pandemonium at my house on Saturday. Early in the morning workers arrived to install carpet in much of my house. Much of the day I was isolated with the rest of my family while the old carpet was pulled up and the new carpet installed. I did learn one thing from a test of strength that I failed. At age fifty six I am not as strong as I used to be. I learned this when I tried to lift a piano. Seeing my pathetic display of strength, the young guys who were installing the carpet picked up the piano and moved it as though it were no big deal. It was another humbling experience for me that reminded me that I am not getting any younger. The good news is that I feel like I am in a new house. My wife took a bold step and went from white walls to yellow and red walls. The fresh paint, along with the new carpet and furniture, has transformed our living space. I must commend my wife, and Chloe's parents, for all of this.

Speaking of Chloe, if she were a little more aware, she would be mad at me. Yesterday I went downtown to help my wife move into her new office. When we were finished we walked a couple a blocks to a restaurant across from a theater. I was wondering why there were so many children downtown. Then I saw the marquee. The "Doodlebops" were in town and performing in Louisville. If you are a grandparent or parent with young children, you know who the "Doodlebops" are. They are a kind of rock band for small children and have a show on the Disney channel. Chloe loves them and we actually have one of their DVD's. However, I am not quite ready to take Chloe to a rock concert.