Monday, February 21, 2011

"I went to the woods..."

by Mark Baker

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Henry David Thoreau

For those of you who've yet to read it, Thoreau's 'Walden' is time very well spent. Funny how certain things in life -even those that are exceedingly brief in nature- can cause our minds to take us places we love or deeply appreciate. The other day when our Michigan teased us with a brief glimpse of Miss. Spring dancing around the bend, I got excited in the same way I have since I was a little kid itching to get my bike out for that first Spring ride. Now, staring-down the barrel of half a century on this big blue marble, I get the same exciting anticipation in my belly -although I'm wiser now and know that Old Lady Michigan's gonna kick us a time or two again in the seat of the pants with another winter blast as she is this morning as I write this blog entry.

There's nothing like a cold, gray winter blast outside to make ya appreciate artificially-sustained in-door environs, warm hugs AND cause you to reflect on what's important. Although I'm NOT especially a fan of winter, however I DO appreciate the affect that four distinct seasons play within each of us -a long, cold, gray, generally miserable winter makes one more deeply appreciate the simple rewards of Spring- and enrich our lives. In short, the 'hard times' make us appreciate so much more, the good times in our lives.

In retrospect, my life's tragedies have always been eclipsed by it's triumphs, but the balance is close, not wide in margin. I watched my Mom die a slow, lingering death from a multitude of ailments that stemmed from a horrendous car accident a decade before; this weighed against the joy of each of my three sons and watching them grow into young men and all the memories in between. I later took care of my Dad for six years as I watched him descend into the dark void of Alzheimer's disease; this weighed against the honor of being able to give him something back as a son, for all he'd given my Mom, Brother and I growing up. The pain and emptiness of divorce after several years of marriage with a person I never really knew, weighed against the elation of finding 'the right one' and for the first time in life feeling a kindred-heart bond and relational harmony I've never known before.

Given the loud, 'neon' nature and nano-second speed by which our lives play out before us, coupled with the shallow nature of far too many of our relationships; we sometimes can feel very alone in a crowd. In those times, be they rare or frequent, pause if you will for a moment and consider all the amazing works of Our Father's Hands. Then (that very DAY), go to a quiet place be it a forest, a quiet river-trial, or a secluded beach and marvel at all He's created and done for us to give our lives peace and harmony. Then, while drinking it all in, realize that we, His children are NEVER alone.

I've taken these quiet walks many times in my life and hope to enjoy many more before my clock is done, and on my last allotted day in this temporal life before eternity, I will know that I have indeed lived. Press On...

Note: If you enjoy or get anything out of my prose or rants, I would welcome your comments and any thoughts below from your experiences in life that tie-in. Further, if you do happen to enjoy my blog, I encourage you to sing-up and become a 'Follower.' All the Best, -Mark

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finding 'The One' right around the corner...

by, Mark Baker

There are a multitude of reasons that marriages can fade and fail over time. Far too many of us have experienced failed marriages, myself included, and while one of the two parties to a broken marriage may have contributed more to its demise than the other, the truth is that we are all sinners and there are no saints when it comes to failure. BOTH parties failed in some degree because a solid marriage isn't simply a 50/50 proposition, but rather an 100/100% one in nature; neither party has stainless hands.

Contrary to popular belief, successful marriages do not just happen in storybook fashion, but rather require common values of respect, commitment, communication, adoration, kindness, honesty, humility, selfless and total faithfulness, along with good measures of passion, patience and lots of laughter by two people who long to share their lives together. And most importantly, both parties need to realize that they may not always 'Like' their mate, but they should always 'LOVE' them.

Love in my personal opinion is perhaps one of the most misunderstood words in language and certainly the most misapplied and one taken for granted. When we're young for example, it's common to confuse Infatuation with Love. Infatuation is 'emotion' based, whereas Love is 'devotion' based; the difference is HUGE. Infatuation is a temporal feeling predicated on 'outward' attraction whereas Love is an ever-growing feeling predicated on 'inward' attraction of traits, behaviors and common values. Where Infatuation is selfish in nature, Love is selfless in nature.

Reading thus far, you may be thinking that while it appears easy to destroy a marriage, building a strong one requires a lot of hard work? Well, you'd only be half correct. It is indeed very easy to destroy a marriage -just act on your Id as any common narcissist (more common in number then we'd like to think) which hopefully you're not (but another VERY common problem is that far too many nice people marry narcissists and suffer accordingly until the light-bulb goes off one day and we realize, we can't change them). Actually solid, lasting relationships are easy to build if your willing to be patient enough to take the time to allow yourself to discover a mate who shares the same values and commitment that you do. In an environment of mutual values, the sky is the limit, whereas dissimilar values will always lead to divorce or lingering despair.

I'm by no means a genius, but I've always tried to model the example my Dad displayed regarding his love for my Mom. I'm all but certain that Dad may not have always 'liked' Mom, but he ALWAYS Loved her.

Anyway, imagine my surprise, when years after divorce and single-fatherhood of my three sons and taking care of my Dad as he faded into the darkness of Alzheimer's, when I'd all but given-up on ever finding 'Her,' 'She' found me and I discovered that this one was nothing like anyone I'd ever met. So if you find yourself in a place like the one I was in, all I can suggest is that perhaps you should stop looking and start relaying on faith that your one-in-a-million 'The One' comes your way. Try not to dwell on what you want to find, but rather focus on who you are, or more specifically, who you want to be. To find true Love, we all should really understand what it is because we can't truly love anybody unless we know what Love is. Let's look at what our 'Owner's Manual' says about it:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13: 4-13

I Love You Netti and I'm Blessed to share my life with you...