Death, Disease, and Trials – Endure Them Well

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. ~ Woody Allen

WinterSpring_Copyright Pete Ferguson 2010

by Pete Ferguson

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly – so why such a seemingly dark subject within a dozen days of the Celebration of Light and of Christ?

Yesterday afternoon my wife and her friends went to lunch at the local Del Taco where  our children play together and the moms get to unwind and revel in friendship. They were not prepared for what they encountered, however. A young family – just returned from the hospital – were now deprived of their mother after what was supposed to be a routine surgery.

Four young children never to see the face of their mother in physical form within mortality again. A grieving father. Distraught grandparents who felt to approach my wife and give her a heads up that the children within the play area would be talking of the death of their mother amongst our children.

As I contemplate, I internalize the situation. I put on the shoes of the husband. I apply the consequences of this news to my children. I feel the pain and loss of my hero, my strength, my confidant. My Stephanie.

The act of dying is one of the acts of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

But birth and death are the only 100% guarantee in life (and taxes of course).

Fame, fortune, success, peace – all are conditional and seemingly spread out to strange people. We may experience any of these fleeting emotional states. The media seems to unjustly don these appellations upon the unworthy.

But death we will share with trillions of the earths inhabitants. And we will all equally be emotionally and physically connected with a physical body in one moment – only to be disconnected with it the next.

So why is there so much sting and pain associated with the concept? Perhaps it is the seeming theft of opportunity in this case. A mother robbed of seeing her children grow, experience new things, get married and have children of their own. We infer that she has been taken in her prime and robbed of its potential?

Or is it the seemingly hopelessness of a father which I can attach to and thankfully only imagine the grief, loneliness, and abandonment he must feel?

I have really only lost two grandfathers as a reference.

Others I’ve known have died, but they did not have an ongoing involvement in my life. I grieved for their families. I miss seeing them at certain times.

But my grandfathers were both influential in my life and an example to me of how to live life and both taken before my 20th birthday. And I did feel robbed – yet I’ve been paid back in spades as I look to their examples in difficult moments of my life and have felt strengthened by the legacy they left behind.

Three years ago my wife lost her father. He was not in a good mental or physical state. It was odd because there was a sense of relief, while at the same time a mourning that he never really lived up to what we supposed was his potential. That winter felt as though it would never end. Yet Spring came and then Summer.

And once the “firsts” (first Christmas, first birthday parties, first Father’s Day) turned into seconds, the sadness and loss faded away and what remained were the lessons to be learned of his life.

The submissive soul will be led aright, enduring some things well while being anxiously engaged in setting other things right—all the time discerning the difference. ~ Neal A. Maxwell

When examining life and death, I can only lean on my beliefs. The big lie of life is that we are all supposed to be in bliss, living the “American Dream.” Equal in all things. And never oppressed.

And what a lie this is! It robs us of all growth and ability to learn to endure it well as we subjugate our desires to a greater good and power. To become more than just self-centered and focused on immediate gratification.

Enduring well is not to brush over trials and tribulations as though they are just words. Quite the contrary – it is to lean into them, accept them. Play them out and realize we have the power to get through the darkest night, especially when we reach out and above to Him whose birth should be celebrated and relished more than a new television, x-box, or other fleeting and soon to be obsolete items on a gift list.

Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow. ~ Lily Pincus

This Christmas will be a very lonely and sad time for many families. Unfortunately this is the second death of parent taken before their time in our little community. Last week, however, quite the juxtaposition, a father and police officer took his own life within his home, leaving behind a family now with more questions than answers.

And so I am even more grateful for the blessings in my life. Five healthy and talented, well-adjusted children with a sixth on her way (or his). A good job and a home we love to be in. And a desire to help others also achieve happiness.

I have my own trials and tribulations to own up to and to lean in to. And in so doing, the pain is not welcomed, but when reflecting back, I am grateful for the pain because it stimulates growth, wisdom, and experience. It provides me with a greater abundance of empathy towards others and allows me to focus on the success of others rather than be discontent with a perceived lack of success of my own. And I see all of this as a great investment which will pay dividends when I will need it the most as I experience heartache of my own or am called to be in support of those close to me seeking comfort.

Perhaps the realization of being in God’s hands comes fully only as we ponder the significance of the prints in the hands of our submissive Savior. ~ Maxwell

As we ponder the meaning of this time of year, we must accept that He who is greatest of all suffered greatest of all, and in so doing, is able to understand any pain or affliction through which we must endure. And in so doing, He is able to lift the seemingly impossible burdens which we may feel trapped beneath and help us see the sunset after living through the darkest night.

As we endure our trials and tribulations well, we receive the ultimate gift. The gift of additional strength, wisdom and knowledge. And with that I wish you an early very, Merry Christmas.

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CHRISTmas – Guest Post by My Son

CHRISTmas
By Mark Ferguson (age 14)

Where is Christ’s credit in his own holiday?
For it is really about his life, death, and birthday!

Instead, it was stolen by Santa Claus, and snowmen, and elves,
Yetis, and trees, and presents on shelves.

But, what is Christmas really about?
“It’s about Christ!” I want to shout!

But I’ll instead tell you calmly,
So your ears can stay warmly!

There was a young girl named Mary,
She had to do something scary.

She had to give birth to our god’s son,
And find a man, to be a good Hun.

Joseph had to keep her from getting stoned,
And from Jesus’ life getting postponed.

When King Hared called a census,
They had to go home, and pay their expenses.

Mary went with Joseph, to his ancestors’ birthplace
And when she went into labor, they had to make haste.

They got there, and there was only a place of animals and their mangers,
She gave birth, and then came gifts from strangers.

Jesus grew up to be a wonderful man,
He heals the sick and does all he can.

And then came a time to start the atonement,
And hoping that Heavenly Father would have no disappointment.

He went to a forest and nearly bled to death,
And for all of our sins, he had payeth.

They nailed him on a board with railroad ties,
And treated him like a bunch of pesky flies.

He had been born, he had lived, and now he had died,
All just for us, and we try to hide

The real reason why we get two weeks of school and work off,
For Heaven’s sake he was born in a trough!

All of that, and he gets no credit, for the holiday that’s his,
Now I’ll give you a quiz…

What is Christmas really about?

The Real St. Nicholas – The People’s Champion

He challenges us at this time of year to give not only to those we know and love, but also to those we do not know and especially to those who find themselves in need.

~ Adam C. English

Nicholas providing a dowry for one of three daughters of a destitute man

by Pete Ferguson

Saturday as my wife and I dropped in at Wal-Mart for last minute stocking stuffers, I witnessed many different scenes.

1. The last minute look of desperation in many men with carts trying to find a gift for their wife. I wanted to approach them, tell them that their wife probably did not need another basket full of bubble bath and soap.

2. Excitement, enthusiasm, and glee on the faces of small children who were lining up to Shop with a Soldier.

3. The weariness and exhaustion of some of the staff who have been working long hours and were discussing how their children are now off from school yet they are still at work.

4. Unfortunately rare, but thankfully still present – the happy and peaceful shoppers excited by the magic of Christmas completing a few last minute errands.

This morning as I was catching up on reading, I came across an editorial on CNN.com about the real St. Nicholas.

Instead of fixating on the commercialization and greed that plague the modern Santa Claus, I chose to see in it the lasting power of a simple act of kindness. ~ Adam C. English

I have always held some content towards St. Nick for hijacking the true focus of a day meant to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

But the real Nicholas of Mayra understood what it meant to be a Christian. He thought of others needs and gave what he had to improve their lives. What has happened to commercialize Christmas and stories of a stranger dressed in a red and white suit were not Nicholas’ doing.

But the example he set is a worthy one worth learning about and understanding.

Nicholas had been aware of a certain citizen of Patara  in Lycia, modern-day Turkey who had once been an important and wealthy man of the city but who had fallen on hard times and into extreme poverty. The man grew so desperate that he lacked the very essentials of life.

The poor man reasoned that it was impossible to marry off his three beautiful daughters because they lacked dowries for proper marriages to respectable noblemen. He feared they would each in turn be forced into prostitution to support themselves.

Nicholas heard this heartbreaking news and resolved to do something about it. He bagged a sum of gold and in the dead of night, tossed it through the man’s window. The money was used as a dowry for the first daughter.

The kind deed was repeated for the second daughter.

Sometime later, Nicholas made a second nighttime visit so that the second daughter might marry. Later tradition reported that, finding the windows closed, he dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, where it landed into one of the girl’s stockings that was hanging to dry.

The grateful father wanted to solve the mystery of the secret benefactor and was ready when the third daughter was to be wed.

When he heard a bag hit the floor, the father leapt to his feet and raced outside, where he caught the mysterious benefactor. Nicholas revealed his identity to the father but made him swear never to tell anyone what he’d done. He did not want praise or recognition for his generosity.

Later raised to the title of a Saint after his death and thanks to millions of dollars in media promotion, unfortunately the original tale – just as the original purpose of celebrating Christmas – of Nicholas has been absconded, morphed and distorted.

The meaning of Christmas is not about iPads, video games or baskets of body cleanser. The true meaning of Christmas is about meaningful giving.

What Nicholas did was noteworthy, certainly. And before and since his time I would have to imagine that millions more have carried out acts of charity also of worth to the receiver and the reader.

Nicholas gave a gift that saved and transformed three lives and the lives of their posterity. It afforded a greater opportunity to live life to its fullest.

But only once has a life been given to save all mankind. And while other stories are worthy of repeating, it is this occurrence which transcends over 2,000 years and has impacted all who will but believe.

The life, teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord is much greater than anything wrapped in a box or recounted. It has the power to lift us to a higher plane and reminds us that regardless of our past, we always have the ability to craft our future and to be forgiven.

Take time in the hustle and bustle to ensure you and your family reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Source: The Christmas message of the real St. Nicholas, Adam C. English, CNN.com

The Power to Forgive

“Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free.” ~ Stormie Omartian

by Pete Ferguson

Several years back we had a bad business deal go down with one of our neighbors. It caused a lot of poison to be spilled verbally and mentally.

Looking back the dollar amount was not great – but at the time we were deeply in debt and needed the money badly. But it did not come.

For many months, I carried the weight of the issue around with me. I wanted revenge. I wanted things to be fair and to be set right.

“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.” ~ Confucius

But eventually things did not turn out well for my neighbor and he went through a very dark period before finally coming through on the other side and restitution and rebuilding began.

Eventually my wife and I decided it wasn’t worth it to carry the weight any longer, and so we began the process of forgiveness – of letting go. It was hard at first, but we served them. I removed the snow from their sidewalks and driveway. Steph helped clean up their yard. All done in secret. A seemingly kind act of service, but it took longer for our hearts to mean it.

And eventually we felt the release and the peace. And we had forgiven.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I learned a very important lesson in the process. If I fail to forgive, the burden is mine.

I self-administer poison each time I recount – and recant – the “evils” done to me. All the while often the person who offended me may be completely unaware of the damage done, while I waste hours, weeks, and years carrying a burden that I need not carry.

Tonight our neighbor’s son delivered a Christmas treat, with the words “love” and then their last name neatly printed on a tag atop the container.

Love can be used in a contrite manner – but in this case the feeling is mutual. And it struck me how well time and love heals wounds, and turns poison into fertilizer for much better things.

And I am grateful for the experience, and now know that I must not carry future burdens for so long before seeking to forgive and seeking forgiveness of others.

Great evils are committed in the world. They can wound us deeply. But when we refuse to forgive, we continue to self-adminster the hurt and the hate. We choose to allow the poison to set in deeper.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

It may take time, but I hope for your sake it takes no longer than it ought to.

‘Tis the Season to Forgive.

All quotes from GoodReads.com

A Man’s Guide to Christmas Survival

The Thinking Man’s Guide to a Stress-Free Christmas, hinges on three key rules: 1) Do what you’re told; 2) Don’t ask why; and 3) Execute the task fully. ~ GRAHAM OSTEEN

by Pete Ferguson

As men, we simply do not naturally get a lot of things. Regardless of any advice I could give you, I would say that you need to know your woman better than I or anyone else and your key to survival this Christmas is directly tied to your ability to think about your wife first.

In looking around the Internet, I found some very awful tips about what to do for your wife or girlfriend for Christmas – awful because Steph wouldn’t appreciate them. Perhaps for someone else, the idea of planting a flower or putting together a basket of soap is considered romantic – but doing these as a Christmas gift wouldn’t be welcomed in my house.

In any event, you need to make it custom.

Here are some tips I can attest are quality stuff, however, that I found on Winifred’s website. She is 66 years old, so you can probably trust the information:

1. It’s About Her, Not You! This has to be the cardinal rule: Do not, under any circumstances, buy her something that’s on your own wish list. This goes for electronics, guns, sports equipment, etc.

2. No Household Appliances. Christmas is a time for gifts she wants, not stuff she needs. Surprise her with a new toaster on a different day.

3. Look and Listen. If you want to survive, just do it. Ask around. If she has girlfriends, sister etc check with them. They usually know what’s suitable.

4. Apply the Mother Test  If you think your Mother would like it, forget it. Move on and quickly.

5. Big Pants or Black Lace? I think underwear and appliances follow the same rule. Good to have, but not appreciated as a Christmas present.

6. Don’t Attempt to “Do” Fashion. Unless she has shown you the exact belt or handbag of her desires and you are 100% you won’t screw it up, wait for another time to surprise her. 

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. Don’t think you can just call it in for the whole vacation and then deliver a few well-chosen gifts.
If you want to rock her Christmas, do the dishes, laundry and clean bathrooms and the kitchen regularly. Cook and do whatever else you normally do not have time to do because you are too busy working while you have down time.
Good luck! Let me know what tips have helped you out over the years. I can use all of the help I can get!

Have a Very Manly Christmas

Lumberjacks of old wouldn’t find themselves tying ribbons and bows – here are five ways to have a Very Manly Christmas.

by Pete Ferguson

What the world needs more of is manly men. Caveman rugged adventurers who are willing to take on any task to please their woman and protect their family.

Here are five tips to a manly Christmas:

  1. walletMake something as a gift. Buying things is wussified. You need to make something. Roast a pig, make your father or son a leather wallet that will last a life time, or handcraft something out of wood. It will connect you with your inner manliness and give you a sense of pride.
  2. -Cutting-down-the-National-Community-Christmas-tree-Presque-Isle-1959-748625Cut down a tree. While pulling out a pre-lit tree and plugging it in makes your lady happy, going to the mountains and cutting down a fresh pine tree and dragging it home will make her downright impressed. The fresh sent will be a daily reminder that you are her man and that you can swing an axe to protect her.
  3. CottonBall3-246x300Light a fire. Pressing “ignite” on a remote or light switch doesn’t count here. I’m talking about gathering wood, swinging an axe, and using flint the way original Mountain Men did. Bring some marshmallows, a warm blanket and camp chairs along and then boil a pot of hot water for chocolate milk. Put your lady in a chair with the blanket and have her watch you do the rest. Not sure what to tell you City Slickers here, you will have to get creative.
  4. wifecarryingLift stuff. Pick up a chair. Pick up your lady. Move around all the boxes that come with decorations and presents. Bring out the inner cavewoman in your wife by showing her she is married to a rugged beast who is going to protect and watch over her.
  5. relaxingbath-300x240Give your lady the night off. This is the more tender side of the rugged man. Half beast, half protector. Clean the bedroom and bathroom. Fill up the tub and light some candles. Get her a book or set up an iPad with soft music or a good movie and then go grab her and take her to her sanctuary. Close the door and you watch the kids and clean the rest of the house.

Give the best gifts for free this Season. Give the gifts of time and your presence.

Why You Should Play With Fire

We gain an extensive sense of self as we experiment with dangerous objects. We connect with the basic rules of survival. ~ Gever Tulley – author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)

by Pete Ferguson

Several years ago I was struck by a TED presentation by Gever Tulley – who discussed the harm of not allowing children to explore and play in “dangerous” subjects. The quote above is what started him down a journey which has led him to co-founding a school based on allowing children to learn through experimentation.

Gever has a very simple premises: Kids need to break out and do all of the “can’t” adults have limited themselves with.

I personally grew up with a collection of pocket knives, we shot each other with bb guns, we played tackle football during recess without any safety gear, we rode bikes without helmets, and jumping off the garage roof was a rite of passage into adolescence.

I remember well in fourth grade when the principal called us into his office and outlawed tackle football on school grounds. I recall him apologetically saying something about new insurance regulations.

He might as well have cancelled Christmas.

This was the beginning of “growing up” for me – learning the limitations of socially acceptable behavior.

Some time that same year our cousin from California came to visit. My brother Matt and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to shoot bb guns with us.

For Matt and I, when using the word “dangerous” in association to guns, the description was associated with a deer-hunting rifle, shot gun, or hand gun.

BB guns were for getting shot in a low-risk environment, understanding the fear and pain of mishandled guns. Matt and I used to shoot items off each other’s heads and outstretched arms.

It sounds criminal as I type it out so many years later when everything comes with a warning label.

Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to do all five of Gever’s suggestions in his TED talk and many of the expanded 50 in his book. While we didn’t have CDs to rip, just about every cassette player came with two decks and a “high-speed dubbing” feature, encouraging people to copy tapes and later CDs.

I remember my first time at the wheel, my grandpa was bringing us back from a fishing expedition and he told me to sit on his lap and drive.

No one died. No one was harmed. I went probably a maximum of 15 MPH on a deserted road along the back of the pond.

It was exhilarating. It gave me a huge ego boost that took a long time to wear off. I couldn’t believe an adult trusted me enough to allow me to drive.

Children have little understanding of consequence and a maximum desire to explore the world through action. Limiting a child to only theoretical experimentation of his or her environment is like discussing how good chocolate tastes through pictures and videos only.

Go build a fire, lick a 9-volt battery, or break out a box of Lego bricks or Play-Dough this week and see what creative juices start flowing. Then do something a little dangerous to top it all off!