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Monday, October 16, 2017

Walk The Walk

I’m pretty sure that most of us have experienced a bad neighbor at some time in our life. We’ve certainly had our share and unfortunately, we currently have a bad neighbor where we live now. For the past five years she has consistently caused us problems, so we refer to her as the “crazy lady” next door. By the way, that’s the same description the sheriff uses every time he has to deal with her.

And when I say crazy, I’m not exaggerating. She has an extremely loud voice and loves to drink and party all night on the beach. But mostly she loves to be the center of attention. My wife and I try our best to ignore her, so maybe that’s why she doesn’t like us and keeps trying to make us want to move. Whatever the reason, here is just a short list of some of the “crazy lady” things we have had to deal with.

·         She tore down our mailbox and our neighbor’s mailbox in a drunken rage one evening.
·         She knocked over a temporary fence we had installed, but managed somehow not to spill her drink.
·         She likes to party late into the evening and sing along with loud Hispanic music, which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t singing so off key.
·         She doesn’t like me to park in front of my own house because it makes it slightly harder for her to turn into her driveway, so earlier this year she took her electric golf cart and creased the whole side of my truck with it.
·         Two months ago, we brought home some giant pink balloons from our daughter’s wedding shower and tied them out on our beach area. They were gently swaying in the breeze when we went inside to eat lunch. When we came back out, they had both been mysteriously popped.
·         And most recently, she broke off all the branches on the single beautiful Jade Tree we have in our front yard. I’m not sure what the Jade Tree did wrong, but maybe it simply forgot to applaud as she walked by.

So… If you’re wondering why we don’t just move away, there are several reasons. For example, we love living at the beach, we love our landlord, and we love all of our other awesome neighbors who help offset the single bad one. But you may also be wondering why we don’t retaliate. Well, the truth is we have thought about it and come up with a lot of clever ideas, but we can’t act on any of them because we’re trying to be good Christians. So, what can we do? We can be thankful! I know, now you think I’m the crazy one! But think about it. This “crazy lady” is giving us a chance every month to show God that we can pass His test, that we can actually walk the walk (just so long as we don’t walk into her yard), and that we understand what it means to turn the other cheek. We won’t stoop to her level (although I did stand on a ladder yesterday to install security cameras) and we won’t complain about it anymore (mainly because it doesn’t change anything anyway), but we will do something from now on every time we see her. We will walk the walk… and we might even applaud!

Prayer is when you talk to God. 
Faith is when you walk with God.
~ Anonymous

Monday, October 2, 2017

Give and Take

My wife and I are currently vacationing in Kauai and enjoying all that the island has to offer. The house we rented is perched out on a bluff with a gorgeous 280-degree view of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. As I sit here at the kitchen table typing this new Monday Message, I can see giant sea turtles swimming down below in the cove, gecko’s crawling outside on the deck, white tailed Tropicbirds flying overhead and lizards and frogs jumping around out by the rocks surrounding the pool. This place must be close to the center of Mother Nature’s universe because besides all the wonderful wildlife, we are also surrounded by lush green trees, beautifully colored plants and brilliant rainbows.

Having grown up on a ranch in Fallbrook, I’ve always had a love for nature, especially animals. But when I heard my wife scream as she stepped into the pool, I knew there must be some kind of deadly critter in the water. She screamed again and I said, “What is it?” She didn’t answer at first, she just pointed at the tiniest, cutest little frog I have ever seen and then shouted, “I think it’s dead!” I had to laugh because a miniature frog is not exactly a deadly creature, but apparently my wife doesn’t like frogs, especially dead ones floating in the pool.

The funny thing is, the frog wasn’t dead. Granted, he was floating upside down on the surface of the water, so he looked like he had drowned. But when I went to scoop him up he popped himself right side up on my hand and started moving around. He looked straight up at me and crawled out to the end of my finger. The little guy was smaller than my fingernail, but big on personality. I think he liked hanging out with me because he appeared to be smiling as I took him in the house with me to get my phone. And when I took him back outside to take his picture, he never once tried to jump away.

That tiny little toad and I had a good time hanging out together for at least 10 minutes. But then I wanted to return him to the wild, so I took him to the back side of the pool and set him on a lava rock. In less time than it took for me to stand back up, a large alligator lizard leaped onto the rock and chomped straight down on my new best friend. Now I was the one that felt like screaming. It was horrible to watch as that lousy lizard slowly munched my little buddy down his big fat throat. I swear that stupid lizard was smiling at me and I could just imagine what he was thinking, “Dude, thanks for lunch!”

I know that God designed our world in His infinite wisdom, and that this earth is designed “to give” and “to take”, and I appreciate the beauty and the wonder of it all. But sometimes… the “take” part is just kind of hard to take! 

Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I’ll miss you.
Until we meet again!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Best Friends

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, was one of the happiest days of my life. I got to walk my 27-year-old daughter, Brooke, down the aisle and give her away to a man I have come to truly love and trust. I never thought any man would be good enough for either one of my daughters, but Zac treats my daughter Brooke like gold, has tons of friends (which says a lot about his character), works hard every day, and is humble in all aspects of his life. It’s obvious they are “best friends” and madly in love. What more could a father want!

The wedding was at a small vineyard Arroyo Grande, and was attended by over 100 friends and family members. The ceremony was short and sweet and absolutely beautiful. They even gave me the honor of reading from the Bible to get the ceremony started and somehow I managed not to mess it up, (trust me I practiced a lot beforehand), and the reception afterwards was every bit as fun and beautiful as the wedding.

Receptions always include a toast by the “Best Man” and the “Maid of Honor”. At this wedding, the best man was Zac’s brother, Ben, and his speech was hilarious and at times extremely heartwarming as well. He spoke about how close he and Zac were growing up, how much he looked up to Zac, and how Zac always had his back. Ben’s love for his brother flowed effortlessly with every word of his toast. The bride’s maid of honor was a sibling as well, her sister. Nikki’s speech was very different as she spoke about how her and Brooke were not able to bond as children because of a seven-year age difference. But she went on to tell how she and her sister have totally bonded now as adults, living close to each other, spending countless evenings together, sharing problems and solving problems, as only “besties” can. Nikki fought back tears as she expressed her love for Brooke and how much they mean to each other.

Ben’s toast made us laugh, and Nikki’s toast made us cry, both speeches showering us with love. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house and yes, I shed a few tears myself. But I also couldn’t stop thinking how wonderful it must be to have a loving brother or sister that you can always count on. I have a sister but we haven’t spoken in years and it’s been a source of pain all my life. But Saturday, the day of my daughter’s wedding, was also the day of my sister’s birthday. So, I decided to send her a brief note wishing her a happy birthday. I haven’t heard back from her and probably won’t, but at least I feel good about reaching out to her. Who knows, maybe if she realizes that I took time to think about her, even though I was totally immersed in my daughter’s wedding day, it will spark some small flame inside of her. If not, then I will simply appreciate all the great people in my life and be accepting of the rest.

And that got me thinking… If you have a loving sister or brother or close relative of any kind, you are blessed beyond measure. So don’t wait for their birthday to reach out to them. Tell them today that you love them. Who knows, in some small way, it just might make today the happiest day of their life!
Mr. and Mrs. Baysinger - September 23rd, 2017
Yesterday brought the beginning, tomorrow brings the end, 
and somewhere in the middle we became the best of friends.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lift Your Head (by Debby Thrailkill)

Sometimes I feel as if I am riding on top of Jesus’s shoulders as he carries me along the trail of life. Sure, that is a bold statement (and I’m tempted to knock on wood), but I know He is with me and my life is good. However, it’s not as if I don’t have struggles, we all do. I suffer with ongoing migraines and back pain, many of my loved ones have health concerns, and too many have passed away recently. Plus, the stress of surviving in the chaos that is OC is ever present. Yet I strive to be as positive and happy as I can be because blessings abound everywhere I go.

Many times, I will rush through my day, deep in my own thoughts while out in public. I hurriedly keep my head down, anxious to get everything done and head back home while avoiding interaction with others. And it occurred to me that in those moments, I can have a profound effect on others. In fact, our daily interactions with people can make a difference and sometimes we can be a blessing to others without even realizing it. Being aware of that is the first step!

For example, when our kids were growing up, we attended church quite often. But I was always busy with our four kids, getting them situated and finding a seat next to my husband. I hoped to blend in, listen to the sermon, and get on with our day. But then one day a lovely lady, dressed very elegantly and with a soft voice, pulled me aside and welcomed me. She inquired if we were new and introduced herself warmly. On further visits, she always smiled and took time to visit with me. Even though we never knew each other outside of church, she made me feel welcome… and that truly made a lasting impact on me! I started making it a point that when I was out in a similar situation, I would be welcoming to someone else. I’ve always remembered her grace, and I was saddened to learn recently that she is suffering with ALS. I have her in my prayers now, just as she always included me in hers.

I have a friend who recounts a similarly impactful story. She recently volunteered to lead Vacation Bible School for Foothills Church in RSM and she shared with me how she would be nervous when she was up on the stage, acting and telling a story to the children who were intently watching and listening below. She would smile as she found herself becoming larger than life (out of her comfort zone) in order to entertain and inspire the kids. Afterwards, at a women’s retreat, ladies were encouraged to write anonymous notes to one another. When my friend opened a note left for her it read, “You are the reason I am here.”. It went on to say, “You’ve been a blessing to my family and our son was so touched by you at the VBS he attended, that he encouraged our family to start attending church together.”

As the summer turns to fall and the busy holiday season comes upon us, I encourage you to reach out of your comfort zone. All you have to do is lift your head to realize that your interactions with strangers are just as important to Jesus as your interactions with your loved ones. You can change the lives of others with a simple act of kindness, a friendly smile, or even a simple word of encouragement. Our lives are larger than we think. Just as we are carried when we need it, our thoughtful interactions might just help us carry someone else on our shoulders when they need it.

Even the most routine part of your day can be a 
spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to Me.
~ Romans 12:1-2

Monday, September 4, 2017

Appetizer Moments

We have a huge family that’s very close, so we get together a lot to celebrate. It might be a birthday, a wedding, or a holiday, but whatever the occasion there’s always good food to be had. That’s because there are a lot of “foodies” in our family, but unfortunately, I am not one of them. The only thing I can cook is scrambled eggs and it took me several years to learn how not to burn them into oblivion. So I’m often selected to help with the appetizers, instead of the entrĂ©e, and I kind of like that role.

Last week we celebrated my oldest son’s 34th birthday at our Beach House and the whole family turned out. To make it extra fun (and because my son is a huge fan of the show) we set up 3 tents on the beach with a super long table and decorated everywhere with “Game of Thrones” paraphernalia. A lot of people came in costume true to the show and of course we needed food that would be true to the show as well. My job was to barbecue a combination of mini-meats as appetizers, so I cooked up some of those awesome little smoky sausages and miniature veal wieners and used wooden skewers so you could easily munch “meat on a stick” and not even need a plate. I think they were a big hit, but to be honest, they were just a small sampling of the awesome food to come. The main course included Kibbeh, which is a classic Middle Eastern dish made of bulgur wheat, pine nuts, minced onions, and Levantine spices mixed into finely ground lamb (or you can use camel meat if you really want to go uber classic). Kibbeh is something we only make for special occasions (because it’s so labor intensive) but it is absolutely delicious beyond description.

Creating appetizers as a taste of something awesome to come… got me thinking. We experience a lot of “appetizers” during our lifetime. Small moments of joy when time stops and heaven blooms right in front of us. I’m not sure I’ve noticed all of the appetizer moments in my life, but looking back I can see them now.
·         I remember the smile on my Dad’s face when I was 6 years old and I peddled my bicycle in front of our tiny little house in Memphis for the very first time.
·         I remember the pounding of my heart as my dog and I slid together on a big piece of cardboard down a very steep dew-covered grassy hill in the avocado groves of Southern California when I was 10.
·         I don’t remember the first time I ever kissed a girl, but I do remember being about 14 when a girl kissed me for the very first time… and I thought I was going to pass out.
·         And I remember how stunningly beautiful my wife looked as she came down the aisle at our wedding, truly a foretaste of what angels must look like.

Appetizer moments happen all the time and they don’t always come from the kitchen. Sometimes they come from heaven!

I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. 
There was such a glory over everything. 
The sun came up like gold through the trees, 
and I felt like I was in heaven.
~ Harriet Tubman

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pure Joy

I would like to start this Monday Message by asking a question and then end it with a question as well. Here’s my first question, “Can you say that you are truly alive?”
Last week two of my grandkids came to visit me at the beach. Jack is 10 and Andie Rose is only 9, so they have more energy than a squadron of storm troopers. In fact, that’s kind of what they do, storm through their daily lives, full speed ahead.

Jack likes to build things but he also enjoys tearing things down. So, we spent a fun hour together demolishing the old shed behind my house so that we can build a new one in its place next week. What young boy wouldn’t love swinging a five-pound sledge hammer at a wooden structure!

Andie Rose on the other hand, loves gymnastics and is on a Championship Cheerleading Team. Because of those two loves, she is always moving. When we went down by the water she immediately started doing cartwheels and back handsprings in the sand like they were nothing. It was pretty amazing. She can bend like a noodle and then explode with surprising strength. When I told her she was awesome, she said, “Why don’t you try it, Grandpa?” I reminded her that I’m 62 years old and she fired right back, “Well, so what, you’re not dead yet!?” How could I refuse that logic! My first cartwheel resembled a drunken sailor falling down a flight of stairs and my second one was even worse. So Andie Rose suggested I start out by learning to do hand stands. That didn’t seem like it would be so hard, but my first attempt was an epic fail. But with Andie’s encouragement and her beautiful smiling face beaming away at me, I kept trying and by about the tenth try, I did it. You know what, it was fun and it made me feel young… and alive!

And that got me thinking. We only get one shot at life but the good news is that we actually get to make the choice as to how we are going to live it. If we choose to wake up each day glad to be alive and willing to show it, we just might have a little fun. More importantly (and what I think I forget a lot of times) is that how I live my life has an effect on others. Andie Rose had a profound effect on my life that day. She taught me I can go around with my head in the sand or I can go around doing cartwheels in the sand. It’s my choice!

So here’s my second question… When was the last time you expressed pure joy at being alive?
Today was good.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow will be another one!
~ Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Great Expectations

Ever since I’ve known my wife, she’s been in love with Mexican food. She says it came over her when she was pregnant with our youngest daughter and ever since then she’s had to have Mexican food at least 5 or 6 times a week. She makes great tacos at home but when we’re on the road, I try to take her to the nicer Mexican restaurants. However, she absolutely loves Del Taco almost any time, so since I absolutely love my wife, you know what they say, “Happy Wife, Happy Life” and off we go for more Del Taco!

Yesterday, we were running chores all over town and when I started getting hungry for lunch, I asked her where she wanted to eat.  Actually, I asked, “Which Mexican Restaurant do you want to go to for lunch?” She laughed and said, “Is there a Del Taco nearby?”. (I don’t even know why I ask.) I remembered that there are a couple of fast food places, off Marguerite and Avery in Mission Viejo, so we headed that way. We were deep into a conversation when we pulled into the drive through, but I stopped talking to ask her, “The usual?”. She said yes, so I leaned out the window and started my order by saying, “Hi, can I get two Del Tacos and a Quesadilla?”. The lady in the restaurant said, “You’re in the wrong place.” I looked again at the menu board and there was a speaker with a sign right next to it that said, “Order Here”. So I’m thinking, what does she mean, this has to be the right spot to place an order? Then she clarified things for me. “Sir, this is not Del Taco. This is Jack in the Box.” Whoops! First time I’ve even done that and boy did I feel stupid! Fortunately, there was nobody behind me so I crawled slowly out of the drive thru with my head hanging low, and headed for the real Del Taco next door, my wife laughing equally at the both of us. Our expectations were definitely not going to be met by going to the wrong place.

And that got me thinking… Having expectations is a big factor when it comes to being happy in life. We often expect a lot out of others, but are our expectations realistic? If we expect a child to get A’s when they’re really a C student, it’s going to crush them. If we expect our neighbor to cut their grass when our yard is full of weeds, then the neighborhood is always going to look bad. Or if we expect our boss to understand that our workload is too heavy, but we don’t explain it to him, then frustration and depression are definitely going to set in. So I think it’s really important to have expectations in life, especially of ourselves and what we want to achieve. But when it comes to our expectations of others, the important thing is to keep them real. If we expect a lot from ourselves and only a little from others, we will rarely be disappointed. 
The very first Del Taco in 1964
The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.
Eli Khamarov