Monikers and Meanings

baby-name-surprisedMost people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan, and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

Had Mom continued her practice of using an S in the naming of her sons, Brad would have been Stuart; and, his name would carry the idea of one who is a guardian or steward.

Here, in America, we seem to be more ambiguous than rigorous when we consider the meaning of the name written on the birth certificate that labels our children for life.

This has not always been the case. In the biblical eras, names were pregnant with meaning and often prophetic in nature. The best example is the name that is above all names and the Old Testament descriptor assigned to Him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Little did Mary know the angelic proclamation and the meaning of her son’s name would be as full of pain as it was promise:  You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

When that babe lying in Bethlehem’s manger was named Jesus, it was not just a slip of the tongue or a casual moniker, it was a bold declaration: The Savior has been born.

May we all remember the reason for this season.

The Weary and Wonderful

wonderfulThe older I get the more truth I find in an old cliché—Whatever gets your attention gets you. Some mornings, it’s my aches and pains that get my attention.

I’ve found that when my mind is full of misery, I’m mighty miserly in my praise for God.  Instead of focusing on a sore muscle or a stiff joint, I make it a point to learn from David who contemplated the splendid and wonderful things of God: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139).

When was the last time you considered how “wonderfully” you are made? Here are three facts to get you started.

  • You are unique: When you were still in your mother’s womb, you developed your fingerprints when you were three months old.
  • You are a person of rhythm: At 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times an hour or 115,200 times a year pumping blood through the 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You are no dimwit. When you are awake, your brain is producing enough electricity to light a lightbulb.

Each of us is unique and have a special purpose in the grand scheme of life as designed by God.

This may be what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10); or, as The Voice says, we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.

Indoor-fins: The Science of Laughter

fish-bowl-small-sizeThe health benefits of laughter were known centuries before recent studies discovered the connection between laughter and endorphins (indoor-fins).

Somewhere around 900 BC, King Solomon assembled his collection of wise and pithy principles for life. Proverbs 17:22 is a good example: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

An article in Forbes does more than just confirm the words of Solomon, it lists six benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter is a potent endorphin releaser.
  • Laughter contagiously forms social bonds.
  • Laughter fosters brain connectivity.
  • Laughter is central to relationships.
  • Laughter has an effect similar to antidepressants.
  • Laughter protects your heart.

If you’ve been sick, down-in-the-dumps, needled by pain or coping with stress, laugh a little and let your brain release the endorphins that will kick-start your immune system, enhance your mood, soothe your pain, and tame your stress.

I hope the words of John McLeod will nudge you in the right direction and put a smile on your face:

Can I give you a handful of laughter

A smidgen of giggles to boot,

A cupful of tease and a comical sneeze

Followed by a hilarious hoot.

A Tribute to Mom

IMG_0539Four years ago today, I walked into my mother’s room and said: “Mom, today is your birthday.  Do you know how old you are?”  She thought for a moment and said: “No Stan, I don’t think I do.” “You’re 101,” I said.  My statement revived her spunky and independent spirit, and she informed me that, “I might not know how old I am, but I know I’m not 101!”

Mom died about a month later form the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Since today is her birthday, I’m re-posting this blog as a tribute to her. . .

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

Times were tough in 1930. The stock market crash in 1929 had knocked the economic wind out of the United States and left it gasping for survival. Some 1,350 banks would fail and close their doors. The newspaper headlines reported on financial failures as well as world leaders like Mussolini, Stalin, and Herbert Hoover.

At this time in our nation’s history bread was 9 cents a loaf, gas was 10 cents a gallon, and a movie ticket was 35 cents.

On Friday, June 20th, about halfway through 1930, Buzz Aldrin was born. At the time of his birth, the idea of space flight was just science fiction; however, Aldrin would join Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; and, they would be the first two people to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t the only person born on June 20, 1930. A baby girl, who would never experience his fame and notoriety, was also born. Her family had little money but a lot of love. Her fragile world was shattered a few years later when her mother died. She quit school in the 8th grade because her dad needed her to help work the fields—the fields of a farm he would later be forced to sell.

As a young lady, she married, but heartache found her again. At the age of 35, she became a widow when her husband was killed on the job, and she was left with three young sons. A short time later she married again. Five children came with her new husband. His 5 and her 3 made for a memorable life that could be as harried as it was happy.

When her second husband died, the truth was exposed: She was weaker than any of her family knew. Her cognitive skills were becoming cobwebs; Her sense of direction failed her; and, she was often lost.

 

On Monday of last week, my siblings and I had to stand toe-to-toe with the toughest woman we’ve ever known to break the news: “Mom, you can’t live by yourself any longer—we’re moving you into assisted living.”

 

Mom’s independent spirit has served her well for most of her life. She kept going and remained positive when she had every right to be negative and quit. It’s that same spirit that keeps saying: “I’m not staying here. I’m going home.” But with the next sentence, it’s evident that Alzheimer’s has a befuddling grip on her once vibrant mind and spirit.

 

Buzz Aldrin may have walked on the moon, but he stands in the shadow of my mother, Evelyn Lou Lacy–the girl who was also born June 20, 1930. She’s been a loving and loyal daughter, a faithful wife to two fortunate men, and a sometimes-fearsome force who molded the life of her children.

Thanks for reading this annual tribute that I share to honor the memory of my mother.

Attitude’s Cradle of Forgiveness

ForgivenessWinston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”  For better or worse, your attitude has life-changing potential.

Some people have never looked at life through rose-colored glasses; instead, they seem to be prone to a negative bias. On the other hand, there are some who find the silver-lining in every cloud.  The difference between the two is Churchill’s little thing.

This is even true with the way people read the Bible.  Some people are more apt to see a negative theme when a verse is every bit as ripe with a positive principle.

A case in point is the New Testament principle of sowing and reaping. Stated in a few words it says that you will reap what you sow. Far too many people try to put just a negative emphasis on this passage when it is positively pregnant with potential.

Newton’s cradle is a good demonstration of the principle of sowing and reaping.  Newton posited that “action and reaction are equal and opposite.”  When one ball is released (action), a ball from the opposite side swings out in equal distance (reaction).

Jesus used this principle in a discussion of forgiveness:  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

How much different would your world be if you retrained your attitude to focus instead of the negative?

I encourage you to begin this week by sowing the positive seeds of kindness and giving the gift of forgiveness to those who have wounded you.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

What is it that lies within you?  It’s your attitude and the potential to love others as Christ loves you.  I encourage you to give some thought to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Rome:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (The Message).

Fillings and Feelings

positive-thinkingWhen I was a kid, the most important meal of the day was supper.  Mom was an excellent cook, and she worked hard to prepare the evening meal for our large family. Mom and Pop worked even harder at trying to steer their eight children in the right direction.

Each evening the family gathered around the dinner table to eat and to discuss the days events.  One evening,  Mom and Pop spoke about an incident at school in which I had hurt the feelings of a classmate. As we discussed the situation, my youngest brother said:  I have feelings too, see!  Then, he opened his mouth and pointed to the fillings in his teeth.

The truth is, fillings and feelings go hand in hand. How you feel about life is determined in a large part by how you fill your life. If you don’t fill your mind with what is right, what is left?

Your life is like your car, if you fill the tank with the cheapest fuel available, your engine may not perform at an optimal level; likewise, if you fill your mind with two-bit thinking, you’ll never live a grand life.

To fill your tank with some high octane thoughts, heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and think on whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

Happy Holidays?

Christmas-giftsWhile walking the aisles of a home improvement store, I was miffed by the sight of a wreath emblazoned with two words:  Happy Holidays. This frustrates me because it’s an impotent message that castrates Christmas of it’s substantial significance.

Christmas is not in need of some slick marketing campaign; it’s message might be centuries old, but it’s hardly antiquated.

The secularization of Christmas reminds me of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!

The message of Christmas is filled with love and full of hope. God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of His son and as Phillips Brooks said in O Little Town of Bethlehem: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

The hope of Christmas is not some neatly wrapped gift that is placed under a tree. It is the gift of Jesus—the baby of Bethlehem.

As the day of Christ’s birth draws closer, I encourage you to give some thought to these words of Peter: Prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed (I Peter 1:13).

Merry Christmas!

A Yellow Rose For Dad

roseHi Dad. I think about you every day, but it’s been quite some time since I last wrote.  I’ve never been much of a fan of greeting cards—Hallmark would go broke if they depended on me.

Anyway, since today is July 7th, and your 88th birthday, I thought it was time for a little talk.  A lot has happened since May 25, 1965—our last goodbye. You walked out the door and headed to Cities Service for another eight hours of work in the oil patch, and you never came home.

You were about two months shy of your 36th birthday, and I was 12 and in 6th grade.  I thought you were old, but now that I’m 64, I know how young you really were—perspective is a strange thing.

I’m thankful for the memories that I have of you.  They were formed through the things you taught me, and I’ve passed those lessons on to my kids.

Speaking of my kids, there’s a little bit of you in both of them.  I coached Wade throughout little league, and he learned to hit, catch and throw the same way you taught me; and he’s now coaching his daughter and son.

I remember how much you loved to whistle and sing.  Jennifer has your appreciation for a good song, and a beautiful voice. You would enjoy listening to her sing.

I never told you, but when you showered, I would sit outside on the patio and listen to you sing: Mocking Bird Hill, Red River Valley, and Get Along Home Cindy were your favorites.

Whenever I drive East towards Eureka, my thoughts still turn towards Sallyards, and your mom’s chicken and noodles, cherry pie, and singing while she played the piano; and, I can’t forget Grandpa standing on the piano bench.  He would have Uncle Jim and Harold Dale standing back to back to see who was the tallest.

By the way, Jim called Monday.  He’s the last of the 6 Seymour siblings, but I guess you know that because the rest are with you.

I hope Uncle Kenneth and Aunt Catherine kept their promises to me.  I spent quite a bit of time with both of them while they were dying, and asked them to tell you “hi,” and to let you know that I still love you.

Well dad, I better wrap this up.  I’ll stop by the cemetery a little later today with a yellow rose; they were your favorite—I still remember.

Happy Birthday and I Love you!

Stan

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. ~John 11:25

 

Uniquely Kind

Unique means “one of a kind.” Today is your opportunity to be the one of a kind person someone will meet. Will you be unique with your kindness?

hand-619733_660-shadow

Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:32

Remember to, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. ~Colossians 3:12

mother t

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
~Mother Teresa

His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!  ~Psalm 117:2

Pretty Please

img_1253When my children were toddlers and they wanted something, they were taught to say: “Please.” When they really wanted something, they would look at me with their smiling eyes, and say: “Pretty please.”

I was reminded of my kid’s pretty please this morning while I was reading in I John 3:22-23: “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him.  Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment.”

After reading this verse, I was left with two questions:

  • What is it that is pleasing to God?
  • Do I do carefully and consistently do what is pleasing to God?

Micah 6:8 is the answer to the first question, but it leads to a series of other questions: What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

  1. Do I act justly and live a life of sincerity?
  • John admonished his readers to “not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth (NKJV).”
  • Another translation of this verse says: “We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words (GWT).”
  1. Do I love mercy?
  • Jesus said to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).”
  • Mercy is equated with God’s loyal love for His people, and it is one of several attributes that define God.
  • Psalm 89:14: “Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. Loyal love and faithfulness characterize your rule.”
  1. Do I walk humbly?
  • What is the attitude of my heart towards God and my fellow man? Is it arrogance or humility?
  • James says that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (4:6, 10).”
  • Paul said in Ephesians 4 that we should, “Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love (The Voice).”

After thinking about all of this, I’m still left with one question: Do I act justly, or do I just act?  How about you?