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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Manger, The Cross, and the Price of Commitment

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
We are entering that time of year that we most often associate with joy.  Thanksgiving is upon us, and in a month, Christmas and then New Years.  This is a time in which friends and co-workers have parties, we begin that mad rush of cleaning, shopping, cooking, baking, and decorating, all in preparation for that much-anticipated gathering of family.  It is a happy, if frenetic period.  It is mainly the reason why January is so hard to endure. 

At the core of this whole event is, of course, the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The giving of presents honors the supreme gift given by God of his only begotten son.  The bright, colorful lights that brighten the lengthening nights remind us that the coming of Jesus was a light unto the world.  Even the gathering of families and the sharing of that love helps us to remember the depth of the love God has for us. 

And yet, the story of the manger is only the first step of the journey Christ took that led to that cross on the hill, and eventually the miracle of the resurrection.  It is important for us to remember that it was those awful hours on that cross that gave meaning to the celebration of his birth.  Jesus was sent here to take upon himself the sins of man, therefore the only reason for his birth was so that he would journey to the cross. 

Yeah, I know.  Buzz kill.  This is not a season in which we want to dwell on dark thoughts, on negative events.  We don’t want anything to disturb this holiday euphoria of ours.  The bad stuff can wait until April, when we can share time for the crucifixion story with Tax Day on April 15th. 

There is a building tension in the recounting of the time between the manger and the cross.  We don’t know a lot of details about Jesus as a child, although there are a few highlights, like his teaching in the temple.  We really don’t begin to know him until that day he shows up with John the Baptist.  From that point, we know about how he gathered his disciples, and how he taught the masses, challenged his enemies, and performed miracles.  We follow along as he came to cross-purposes with the Sanhedrin, and how they plotted to take his life.  We see his torment in the Garden of Gethsemane as he accepted his fate, and his isolation as he saw that even his devoted disciples couldn’t stay awake to share the vigil of those final hours. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Glow of Thanksgiving*

Unattributed graphic from Google Images

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat November 22, 2007
*Clinton (IA) Herald, November 21, 2007
*Glasgow, KY Daily Times, November 21/2007
as "The glow that comes with Thanksgiving"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

"I do not think of all the misery,
but of the glory that remains.
Go outside into the fields, nature, and the sun;
Go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God.
Think of the beauty that again and again,
discharges itself within and without you;
And be happy.
--Anne Frank

The setting aside of a national Day of Thanksgiving is one of those events whose origins become shrouded in mystery over time, truth and myth interwoven into a fanciful tapestry unquestioningly enjoyed by all. Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday, the trappings, traditions, and tapestries drawn from the past, both the collective and the personal.

Most societies whose survival depended on the bounty of the land have held a harvest celebration of some kind, and for good reason. As anyone who’s ever done it can tell you, farming is hard work. It was even harder before industrialization produced the tools and machinery we so often take for granted today. The risks were huge. Planting had to be accomplished late enough to escape the frost, yet early enough to ensure that the food would be ready to harvest before the cold moved in and killed the plants. In between were dangers such as hail, high winds, locusts and other insects, drought, flood, disease, the health of the farmer, and then the race to harvest and store the bounty before it rotted in the fields. So, when the harvest was successfully brought in, it wasn’t just a business accomplishment; it meant survival.

The Pilgrims who arrived in 1620 were intimately familiar with the hazards of life on the frontier. Had it not been for the largesse and generosity of the Wampanoag tribes, it’s not likely the colony would have survived. As writer H. U. Westermayer observed, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

Monday, November 04, 2013

Losing October

Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
Image and written content.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her;
When from every hill of flame,
She calls and calls each vagabond by name
--William Bliss Carmen
The road lies before me, dappled in sunlight.  The black asphalt curving beneath the trees serves to highlight the bright colors of the leaves scattered across the surface.  A cloudy morning has given way to bright sunlight and a sky of the purest blue.  The air is cool, but not yet cold, and the sunlight slants through the trees illuminating the leaves, leaving them almost incandescent.  To the left, the Blue Ridge rises from the valley, its flanks alive with bright colors.  Besotted by this unmatched beauty, my heart is full; my spirit joyful.  It is October, and I am at the center of my world.
Autumn has always been, and will always be my favorite season, within that three months, October is the crown jewel. 
There's to much to love.  Summer's oppressive heat and humidity is a fading memory.  Winter, with snow and cold, is still weeks away.  In this short span of time, my days are full of beauty.  That they are noticeably shorter only serves to heighten the pricelessness of each daylight hour.
For sports fans, it's the best time of year.  Baseball is in it's final climactic act of the season.  Football has hit its stride.  Basketball and hockey have begun to stir from their off-season slumbers.  There is a snap in the air that heightens the senses sparks the spirit.  Unlike the other seasons, each day is different as the leaves slowly change, from spotty color on the first, to a brilliant palette on the thirty-first.