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Everybody Needs A Place

Life can hurt you! I’m not talking about literal wounds and pains as much as I am addressing the problems of busyness, responsibilities, all the things you need to do, have to do, just to survive.

Experts talk about stress. Stress creates tension, pressure, a sort of slow crush that causes you to be anxious, worried, or even to despair. Yes, some evidently thrive on stress. Most of us can take it for a while, but eventually, we just need to get away.

That’s where the “place” comes in. Everybody needs a place. The “place” is where we can retreat, recharge, rest, relax, and just unwind. I want to talk about the place.

I have several of these places. Most of them I stumbled across accidently. I didn’t know they were there. Some, I found while doing other things. Some, I found with the help of other people, who didn’t know I was looking for, or in need of, a place, but they helped me discover one anyway. A few I found by turning the right corner at the right time. I have always known it immediately upon finding one of these places. If you only have one, or maybe two, it’s still good. Having several just gives you options to choose from. I find that even better.

So, how does one recognize one of these places I’m talking about, what do you do there, and why are they so important?

I know a place almost immediately. It’s almost always a place I consider beautiful. Understand, that is a personal judgment. You might not think the same as I do. Still, these places are, for me, invitingly pretty. Beyond that, it’s a place where I feel comfortable. Most of mine are outside the hustle and bustle of city life, or they are tucked away in a corner somewhere, peaceful, quiet, and easy to be there. I find natural, wooded areas, or a beautiful lake, or another scenic setting to be my choices for a place.

As for what to do there, I would say it depends. For me, I can enjoy doing absolutely nothing. That’s probably not entirely true. Rest is something. Letting go of everything that is creating stress is something more. Allowing yourself to drink in the setting, the sounds, the smells, and to allow your senses to tune in to the world that often gets ignored, is also something. Often, I take a good book and get deep into the story. Living in an alternative universe through the medium of literature is really something.

I’m a serious amateur photographer, so my camera is a frequent companion. It allows me to record a slice of time, to return to the place I enjoyed, to relive it days, even years, later the wonder of the place where I made the photo.

Why is this so important? I think we were created to connect with the world. It’s amazing how estranged we are from it. Someone once encouraged us to purposely “stop and smell the roses”. This is the idea I’m talking about. There is something about having a place that allows us to release the venom of life’s stings, shedding our woes and troubles, and discovering once again that living is more than worthwhile.

My grandfather had a room. I think that was his place, at least one of them. It was just a small room, big enough for a desk and a chair. There was a small table over in one corner, and all four walls were covered with shelves, and the shelves were filled with books. I imagine he found it a great place. Yours might be similar, just a room that you call you own. Or it might be a lake surrounded by tall pines, shaded and cool even on a hot summer day. You might even be on the other side of one of my lakes! It’s really not hard to find such a place. You just need to pay attention. I think  you’ll recognize your place when you get there.

I wish for you a sense of wonder. I hope for you an appreciation for this world you live in. It’s too easy to be disappointed in it and to hate it. Instead, I want for you a place that makes you feel alive. I’d give you one of mine if you needed it. I’m confident that I would find another one.

Everyone needs a place, at least one. Please, if you don’t have one, promise yourself that you’ll find one this week. Don’t put it off. It’s that important. I won’t bother trying to convince you that I know what I’m talking about. I will only say, that if you find the kind of place I’m thinking about, you won’t need to tell me I was right. All you need to do is go there. I’ll be satisfied to know that you will be blessed, and you’ll be a better person because you have a place.

Can I Just Vent A Bit Here?

[Note: This article was originally a post to my Facebook page. I thought I’d give it a little wider circulation.]

I have tried to stop posting [to social media] in response to events that tend to polarize people. Seems when I do, I manage to offend all sorts of people, and I end up being accused of all sorts of interesting offenses. So, I quietly read the highly flammable, knee-jerk, and woefully uninformed opinions of others who seem to think it’s perfectly fine to say things that offend the daylights out of me.

Recently I’ve read posts from folks who seem to think that Christians are the cause of all the problems in the world. I’ve never known any Christian who thought they were perfect, or that they didn’t create their own share of trouble.

That said, I’d like to kindly suggest that if tomorrow, all the Christians just quit doing the tremendous amount of good that they do daily, the world you think is bad now would suddenly become horrible. People who harp on Christians, accuse them, blame them, etc., seldom speak from a rational, factual base. Now where something is true, and worth pointing a finger at, I’m on your side, but unless you know what you’re talking about, how about just cooling your angst and getting a grip on yourself.

The baseline teaching of Jesus is that one should love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength and that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Everything else flows from that. Do we get that one right all the time? Nope. Neither does anyone else. Yet no other religion has the heart of Jesus at its core.

It’s become a trend to dump on the Christians. Fine. History has shown that this happens quite frequently, and when it happens, Christians may get upset, angry, frustrated, or worse. But the core beliefs of Jesus followers don’t change, and we love our enemies as we love our friends.

More care for the hurting, the poor, the disenfranchised, the sick, the displaced, the hopeless and helpless, comes from Christians than most people can imagine. That doesn’t mean there are no other equally caring people in the world. It simply means that before you decide that Christians are the cause of all the trouble in the world, you might want to look around first. Your view might be skewed by unexplainable mistakes on your part.

It’s true that Christians frequently irritate people because they consider some things right and other things wrong. Nobody wants to be told they’re wrong. But we do it, not because we want to sit on our “high horse” and condemn others, but because we understand this is God’s view of human life.

We speak from the “we” problem of sin, not the “you” problem of sin. In other words, I have the same problem of sin as anybody else. I also believe there’s an answer for those sins, and it’s not by becoming better than others, it’s by putting one’s faith in a Savior who paid the price for our sins.

A lot of folks might benefit from giving Christians the same break they insist that Christians give to people. Truth is, we’ve been giving those breaks for a long time. You ready to step up too?

Thank you for reading this far. If you’ve read this as some “holier-than-thou” spiel, you’ve missed the point. It’s simply to suggest that it’s time for folks on all sides to just stop the crazy, insensitive, unreasonable, rock-throwing.

Thank you for considering my point of view.

Just Stop The Excuses

I have a lot of excuses. Believe me. If I don’t have a real one, I can whip up something off the top of my head if necessary. I bet you have excuses too. Most of us are better than we need to be explaining why we don’t do something that we want, or should, do.

Excuses begin early in life and stay with us until we die. Age only enables us to perfect the practice. We all just need to stop it.

High achievers amaze me. Yes, sometimes a person is just really smart, or very talented. I won’t deny that. I’ve known people who found most things easy, or at least easier than other people’s experience. Still, much of what human beings accomplish isn’t always the result of intelligence of talent. I know some pretty smart, talented people who haven’t done much at all. Instead, they have excuses.

I cannot explain how one person, with the same 24-hours in a day, manages to do so much more than the next guy. Except that Mr. Next Guy is full of excuses while the other one just gets on with things.

People say, “I don’t have time.” Long ago, I came to believe that we all have time to do whatever we want to do. Yes, we all bump into those legitimate excuses like illness or things truly out of our control. But for most of us, that’s not every day. I once heard a motivational speaker say that we make a huge mistake in our thinking about motivation. We look at one person, high-achiever, busy, always doing things, and we say, “Wow, that guy is really motivated.” Then we look at another person who just sits around, inactive, wasting time, and we say about that person, “Wow, that guy just isn’t motivated.” He said we’re wrong. The truth is that both people are motivated. It’s just that one is motivated to do something and the other one is motivated to sit around doing nothing.

So what’s your excuse? Every one of us has something we say we’d like to do, should do, need to do. We have things we’d like to accomplish or learn. Why aren’t you doing them? Don’t have time? Wrong. You know that’s not true. You have time do whatever you’re doing except what you say you’d like to do. The truth is you want to do something else more, even if it’s just to stare at the TV. The first step at eliminating excuses is to identify them.

For me, I’ve never found an easy way to overcome excuses. They are pretty powerful little critters. They attach themselves to our mind, emotions, energy, and will. There is no simple answer requiring no effort. Excuses are tough to overcome. I guess that could become the next excuse.

So I’ll just challenge you to join me in the battle. If you think I’ve got the excuse thing all worked out, you’d be wrong. It’s a daily battle. If you are an excuse maker, I can only say welcome to my world. But both you and I are better than our excuses. It’s a daily fight, but you won’t beat your excuses unless you get up, toss your excuses away, and get on with things.

Are you resisting what I’m saying. Stop it. That’s your excuse-making mind setting you up for more inaction. I wish you well in your personal war against excuses.

On a personal level, if you’re wondering why I’m writing about excuses, I’d suggest you look at the date this article was published, then look at the date of the last article in this blog. I don’t really have an excuse for the gap. Well…. I do, but none of them are legitimate.

Just An Average Day

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Life is made up mostly of average days. That must be true or it would mess up the whole definition of extraordinary or dull. Chances are you don’t even pay much attention to the average day. They’re not particularly memorable. After all, they are… well… just average.

Down here on the Mississippi coast, my average day is unique. Today, for  example, I spent the day getting some work done, doing some chores, running errands, making phone calls, and putting together a storage thing for shoes. Oh, I  also stopped by the harbor in Biloxi to take a few photos. That’s where “average” for me connects with “special” for lots of others.

I watched a lady with two young boys do a bit of fishing over the outer harbor wall. Those guys will long remember catching fish from the Gulf of Mexico. I saw a boat full of young folks headed out to do some parasailing. I bet that one goes down in someone’s digital scrapbook. Plenty of folks were in boats going out with fishing guides. Some of those people might come back with the catch of their life! Others were cruising along the coast getting a nature tour, learning about shrimping, and getting lessons on life along the coast. Then there were the shrimpers with coolers loaded down with gulf shrimp chilled with crushed ice. Somebody was going to have a rather tasty supper.

I got to see all that in about 30 minutes this afternoon. Every one of those people I saw was enjoying anything but an average day. They were vacationing, trying new things, making memories. Me? I was just observing it all, enjoying the view of other people enjoying the day. Pretty much an average day down here on the beach!

I write this, not to brag that my average day beats your, but to say that I love it that my average is made up of other people’s anything-but-average. If you start looking around at your “average” days, you might discover that it is also made up of special or unusual snippets of activities. I’ve wasted a lot of time ignoring how very special my average days are. They have taken on new meaning since I started to notice what my average days are like. Turns out, “average” isn’t a good word at all. There is a constant variety, things are always changing, and nothing is really the same every day.

I had a pretty special day today. But that’s average for me.

Spring Has Sprung!

For a guy with a blog title that includes the idea of “speaking out”, I sure have been quiet lately. I keep saying I’m going to post more frequently on the little “Speaking Out” forum, but stuff keeps getting in the way. Today, it’s raining. The weatherman says it’s going to rain pretty much all week, so I have a few extra moments to jot down a few thoughts.

Spring has definitely sprung down here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The dreary skies and water soaked ground isn’t allowing the beauty of spring to shine just yet, but it’s here. Of course, my yard is already knee-high in places with weeds. Or is that “wildflowers”? Yeah, wildflowers!

I did get out for a little bit this past Saturday afternoon to shoot some photos. One of my favorite places is the old POW Camp out in the woods of north Harrison County. Pretty little lake, some interesting revetments of some kind left over from the WWII era, and supposedly an alligator (though I’ve never seen one!). Airey Lake just over in Stone County is a great little spot too. It’s at one end of the Tuxachanie Trail, some 22 miles of hiking trail. I’ve walked some of it from both ends, but 22 miles is a bit much for me to walk! Boy Scouts like to camp there a lot, and some of my Mississippi Gulf Coast Photography Club friends love it for taking photos of stars.

So to give you a little idea of just how pretty these places are, here are a few photos I took this past Saturday. If you have a chance to visit, I think you’d like both these places a lot. They are both popular for picnickers and campers, and if you want a place to take photos with great water reflections, either lake will do quite nicely.

These first shots are from the old POW Camp:

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The next photos are from Airey Lake:

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Here’s hoping you will enjoy the spring weather, even if it’s raining at your house today. Despite being behind on mowing the yard, I have done some work around the place already. I planted three trees! I’ve got flowers in the ground (at least some – the front flower bed is due for a total remake!). I even planted some elephant ears! I sure hope they grow. For some reason, I just like those things.

Go do your part to make your little corner of the world a prettier place. Spring is the time to cooperate with nature and get things growing. It’s a fantastic world God has given us.

Get A Hobby!

Time flies, doesn’t it? It’s also easy to become negligent! I have personified “lazy” when it comes to this blog. Months have come and gone and I haven’t written a thing here. Not that I haven’t written anything, just not here. So, let me re-enter the fray with a little suggestion: get a hobby.

Back in the spring of 2014, I decided to buy myself a digital camera. Years ago, I used to take lots of photos with a Minolta SLR. Got pretty good at it. Then came marriage and children, and those who took photos back then will remember that film got expensive, as did getting it developed. So, I dropped photography. Other than a few snapshots with a point-and-shoot, I took few photos.

Last year, I invested in a Nikon (save it, you Canon freaks😉 ). Great little camera. It can do 10 times what my old camera could do. I also joined a local photography club. Well, “club” is questionable. We have no official meetings, no dues, no officers, etc. It’s a loosely organized club based around a Facebook page. Some of us locals do get together occasionally for “group shoots” where we all gather somewhere and take pictures together. Sometimes we have “models”, people who will stand still for a few minutes while the rest of us wrestle with our settings to get a shot! But we share knowledge and expertise, learn a lot, practice, and improve our ability to take decent photos. Great fun, and we’ve got some fantastically talented photographers, even some pros who are always ready to give guidance or helpful tips.

It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed anything quite so much. It’s something very different from my everyday world. I get to know and enjoy lots of people I probably would not have met otherwise. I’m learning new things, and producing some pretty nifty photos, even if I say so!

So, why should you get a hobby. Some of the reasons are in what I already wrote, but let me give you a short list of benefits;

  • It reduces stress and provides positive relaxation
  • It gets your brain working, exercising mentally, to keep you sharp
  • It provides a sense of fulfillment different from your daily life
  • It gives opportunity for making new friends and acquaintances
  • It’s an opportunity to become helpful to others
  • It’s fun, and there should be more fun in life
  • It causes you to get up, get out, and get involved
  • It can connect you with young and old, which always broadens your perspective
  • It makes your real work more enjoyable because you’re rested and fresh

You don’t have to be a photographer. Of course, if you’d like to be, I can suggest a nifty photo club. It doesn’t really matter. Be a woodworker, become an artist, whatever. Find others who enjoy the same activity and get involved with them. I’ll leave you with a recent photo I took just to say that here’s a tangible explanation why I enjoy what I do.

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The Beauty of the Mississippi Coast

It’s one of those well-kept secrets. Even people from Mississippi don’t know about it. I’m referring to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Yes, Hurricane Katrina did major damage, but the communities along the coast are well on their way back to recovery. Are there things to do and places to see still missing? Yes. But you would do yourself a favor to drop in on the coast to see for yourself.

Want just a few photos to whet your appetite? Here you go.

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