We are in the grip of winter in most of the USA.  So let’s think about summer activities and maybe it will warm us up.  This year there will be new hydroplane races coming to a large lake nearby, Lake Guntersville.  I think they have been held there before, but not in recent history.

The talk about the races reminds me of my childhood in Washington.  While I was young, living in Spokane, our afternoon cartoons were sometimes interrupted by time trials for the Gold Cup race in Seattle.  It was a constant irritation to have Popeye broken into by boats driving around in circles.  I did not appreciate it at all.

But as time went on, I became more and more interested in the process.  I began to recognize familiar boats like Miss Budweiser or Miss Madison.  (The boats were all named Miss Something.)  And eventually I became a fan and got more and more involved with races.  By the time we moved to the Seattle-Tacoma area, I would watch avidly as the boats raced around the watery track.

Then we moved to Minnesota, and no one paid any attention to unlimited hydroplane races, and I gradually lost interest as well.  So it has been over five decades since I saw a hydroplane race.  And I am sort of interested in seeing what happens this summer a half hour from here.

Now what, you may ask, is the spiritual significance of this story?  There may be many, but one that strikes me is this.  We become involved with things that we are exposed to, whether we want to or not.  The initial irritation I felt by having my cartoons interrupted, was replaced with a genuine affection and interest in the event.

I have had friends who were very into stock car racing (NASCAR) and their children became involved as well.  I have also had friends who were into horse shows and their children were as well.  Football families tend to have football watching children.  Baseball families tend to have baseball watching children.  And you could insert many other things into the same scenario.

And families that value faith tend to have children that do as well.  They may go through the stage of irritation, “Do we have to go to church this Sunday?”  But eventually, it becomes a part of their life.  Sometimes this does not happen.  Sometimes Alabama loving families get a child who loves Auburn.

But generally speaking, if your faith is important to you, it will be to your children.  They may go through times when they lose interest, but the seeds planted in their souls at a young age tend to stay there, maybe dormant for a while, but at a later time may blossom into a return to the faith of their childhood.

I have known of adults who were never exposed to faith that come to a realization that they want a spiritual life.  And I have known adults that were raised in church who walk out as teenagers and never return.  It is not a hard and fast rule.  But as Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (22:6) KJV.  This is more of a principle than a hard and fast rule.  People have free will and will do what they want to do, sometimes to shock and dismay of their parents.  But the chances are much greater that someone raised in a spiritual environment will be spiritual, than someone who is the child of people whose highest priority is material.

I don’t pay much attention to hockey since I was not exposed to it at a younger age.  I find it confusing.  But I will happily sit through hours of slow innings of a baseball game, since I grew up playing and watching it and collecting baseball cards.

So if your new year’s resolutions include more spiritual activities, even if the kids complain sometimes, it may make all the difference in what becomes important to them in later life.  It is not guaranteed, but it is more likely than the other way around.

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A New Year: 2018

So how did you do?  Did you accomplish what you hoped for last year at this time?  By the time my next souletosoul blog will post, we will already be into the new year of 2018, so now is the time to reflect on the past year and plan for the coming one.

I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions for many years.  Then I started to make them in my mind, but not tell anyone.  That avoided having to face my failure.  There are a few I kept over the years.  One year, I resolved to get back into working out at a wellness center.  I did that and have been an active participant for every year since.  It hasn’t made me a great physical specimen, but it has probably kept me from getting any more out of shape.

Then I resolved to run the Memorial Day Cotton Row 5K.  I actually ran a 5K the weekend before the Cotton Row and have run every Cotton Row since 2012.  I now do around 15 a year.

But last year my resolution was to de-clutter my office.  I succeeded in clearing one wall (the least cluttered part of the room).  But did not complete the task.  Since I did not tell anyone, I only had God and myself to answer to.  So this year I hope to complete the job.  Check with me next year at this time and see if I am any more successful.

I have another one that I made for several years and never got going on.  I still hope to get that one going this year.  But I won’t tell anyone, so I won’t be embarrassed by the (lack of) results.  See, there I go again, setting myself up for failure and I haven’t even started the year.

Well, 2017 was a pretty good year,  with one notable exception.  And we really have no way of knowing what the future holds for any of us.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, accidents and other tragedies may come into our lives.  Thankfully, we cannot see the sorrow that may come.  We just go on what our best guesses tell us.  I am pretty sure that I will have a milestone birthday this April.  I am hoping/planning on taking two road trips by myself.  I expect my youngest grandchild to graduate from college in May.  Other than that, my year is a blank slate.  What will be written on it remains to be seen.

The epistle of James in the Bible warns about planning our lives without realizing that God has a say in what happens.  In James 4:14-15, it says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'”  In past years, many writers would put a notation on their texts:  d. v., for the Latin phrase deo volente, “God willing”.  Even today, many Muslims regularly say, “Inshallah“, which is the Arabic equivalent.

So, God willing, we will live in the year 2018.  Then the question becomes, what difference will we make in the world in the year ahead?  Most of us will not affect the world in general, but we can change the world for a few people.  Maybe we would be better at keeping our resolutions if we moved the focus from us to others.  Not what do I want to do in the year ahead, but what can I do for someone else in the year ahead?  How can I use the gift of a new year to make a difference for someone else?  It may be someone we have known all our life or it may be someone we meet for the first time in the year ahead.

Maybe next year at this time, I won’t have to ask, “What did I do for myself in the past year?”  Maybe next year I will be able to answer the question, “What did I do for someone else in the past year?”  It’s a subtle difference, but it may make all the difference in the world.

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The Manger is Empty

For several years, at Christmas, I have posted one my blogs called “The Unopened Gift”.  This year, I am doing a new meditation, but encourage you to look it up in the previous blogs also.

The priest in a large urban Catholic church was heading out early one Christmas morning for the first Mass of the day.  As he approached the outside nativity with beautiful life-sized figures, something caught his attention.  Something was not quite right.  At first he could not put his finger on it.  Then he realized what was wrong.  The manger was empty!  The baby doll that usually lay in the hay was gone.

Even though the parish was not in one of the better neighborhoods, they had never had any problems with vandalism before.  Who would take the baby representing Jesus and not touch anything else?  As he was wondering what to do, little Miguel came walking up, pulling a new red wagon.  And in the wagon was the baby doll.

The priest was both relieved and angry.  “What are you doing, Miguel?” the priest demanded.

Miguel responded in childlike innocence, “I wanted a new red wagon for Christmas, so I prayed to Jesus for it.  I promised him that if he answered my prayer, I would give him the first ride.”

The priest’s anger melted away and he had a great laugh.  Out of the mouths of babes.  If only others would take their prayers as seriously as young Miguel.

On my morning walks with Churchill, I see all kinds of Christmas decorations in our neighborhood.  Several homes have nativity scenes of various sizes.  One morning I noticed one as we passed by.  There were all the normal characters in place around a simple wooden manger.  But the problem was the manger was all there was.  There was no hay and no representation of Jesus.  The manger was bare.

I don’t know the cause of this situation.  Perhaps they had not finished setting up the scene.  Perhaps they were waiting until they could get some fresh hay before placing the baby in the wooden structure.  Perhaps someone in the neighborhood had taken Jesus for a ride, even before Christmas day.

But, symbolically, many mangers will be empty this year.  Oh, they may have a cute baby doll there in the manger in their display.  But their hearts are empty.  The manger Jesus most desires to fill this Christmas is not a cattle trough.  It is the manger in each of our hearts.  It is the place of welcome we give to the Creator of the Universe.

Sometimes the inn in our lives is flashing an invisible “No vacancy” message.  We have filled our Christmases with lots of other things:  parties, gifts, family dinners, trips.  We have not even offered a manger in a cattle stall to the Child of Bethlehem.

So, sometime during this busy holiday season, take a few moments in the quiet of your life.  Thank God for the first Christmas gift, given so long ago.  The gift God offered us is a relationship through Jesus.  There is nothing wrong with decorating your home and yard.  There is nothing wrong with giving gifts and sending cards.  There is nothing wrong with family gatherings.  But if that is as far as it goes, we have missed the point of Christmas entirely.

Remember, it is not the manger that is important.  It is the child in the manger that makes all the difference.  Each of us has a manger in our own hearts.  What is in your manger?  Don’t have an empty manger this Christmas.

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The Man and the Birds, 2017

For over five years, I have published an original blog every Thursday, although I have repeated a few special ones.  But this year, for only the second time, I am printing a story by someone else.  I printed it once before a few years ago.  It is a classic story that became a Christmas tradition for many.

For decades, commentator Paul Harvey was famous for his unique perspective on the news.  But as his memory dims, so too one of his best known stories, “The Man and the Birds”, also recedes from memory.  So this year I am sharing it with you again.  It reminds me of a time and a place and a person, many years ago in northern Minnesota.

“You know, The Christmas story, ‘God born a man in a manger’, and all that, escapes some moderns.  Mostly I think because they seek complex answers to their questions, and this one is so utterly simple.  So for the cynics and the skeptics and the unconvinced, I submit a modern parable.

“Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a Scrooge.  He was a kind, decent, mostly good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men.  But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff the churches proclaim at Christmas time.  It just didn’t make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise.  He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story about God coming to earth as a man.

“’I’m truly sorry to distress you’, he told his wife, ‘but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve’.  He said he’d feel like a hypocrite, that he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them.  So he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

“Shortly after the family drove away, snow began to fall.  He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.  Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound.  Then another.  And then another; sort of thump or thud.  At first, he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window.  But when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow.  They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

“Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony.  That would provide a warm shelter if he could direct the birds to it.  Quickly, he put on a coat and goloshes, and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn.

“He opened the doors wide and turned on a light.  But the birds did not come in.  He figured food would entice them in.  So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow lighted, wide open door to the stable.  But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow.  He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn.

“Then he realized that they were afraid of him.  To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature.  If only I could let them know that they can trust me.  That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them.  But how?  Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them.  They just would not follow.  They would not be led, or shooed because they feared him.

“’If only I could be a bird’, he thought to himself ‘and mingle with them and speak their language.   Then I could tell them not to be afraid.  Then I could show them the way to the safe warm barn, but I would have to be one of them so they could see and hear, and understand.’

“At that moment the church bells began to ring.  The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind.  He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis.  Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.  And he sank to his knees in the snow.”

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The Memory Box, 2017

After several years of not having a Christmas tree at all and before that 25 years with an artificial tree, I went “all in” and got a live tree this year.  Then I had to find the decorations.   I finally found them in my attic–a box of memories.  It is not marked that way on the outside, but that is what it is nevertheless.  The box says, “Christmas decorations”.

When the grandchildren were younger, I would bring down the artificial tree that each year I vowed to replace with a new one next year, and the box of memories.  As we decorated the tree I would narrate.  ‘That ornament is one I made before your grandmother and I were married”.  “That one is not really a Christmas ornament, but your mom thought it looked like it should be, and we have used it ever since”.  And, of course, there are the handmade ones from the grandchildren in school.  (Do they still allow kids to make Christmas ornaments in school these days?)

Over the years some wear out, some break, and some just don’t fit any more.  But each one has a story.  There are some given by co-workers, some by churches, and others that mark special events along the way.  Some are beautiful and some are plain.  Some are intricate and others are very simple. But all are meaningful in some way.

Now that the youngest grandchild is a senior in college, we didn’t put up a tree any more.  In fact, I finally threw out the old artificial tree from 1991.  Deborah used to get very Jewish during the Christmas season.  And we have menorahs and a nativity scene she gave me one year that stay up all year-long.  Also, there is a nativity scene that Deborah had before we were married, made of olive wood from Israel.  That one has entered our year round collection as well.

But even when those memories were never taken out of storage, I knew they were there.  They were tangible reminders of people who have come and sometimes gone in our lives.  (There are two snowman ornaments with the name of the people who gave them to us on the back.  I have no idea who they were or what church they were part of.)

So whether you go all out, like my brother and sister-in-law (16 trees?), or keep it simple, like we have recently, remember the words of the Grinch, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe it means….something more.”  All the memories of Christmases past come back each year to remind us of how blessed we are.

And of course, the greatest Christmas memory is not an ornament, or a decoration of any kind.  The best Christmas memory of all is the story of the first Christmas gift ever.  “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son.” (John 3:16)  So take some time during this very busy time of year to just sit back and remember to decorate your heart with God’s love.  As the hymn says, “Love came down at Christmas.”

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Tracks in the Snow 2017

At this time of year many old favorite programs from years past return to the airwaves.  So souletosoul joins that tradition.  Many years ago I wrote this basic story and submitted it to the Huntsville Times newspaper.  It was printed and that paved the way for several later columns in the same newspaper.  I then used it as one of my very first souletosoul blogs in 2012.  And now I share it again:

This is a strange year for snow.  As November comes to an end, much of the country is snow-free.  If you do not live in the mountains of the West or the northern part of New England, you may not have any snow at all.  Normally, in the great white north, snow comes in November and stays to early March. One vivid memory of that time happened during Thanksgiving weekend in the early 1970’s. My roommate from the first two years of college got married in St. Paul on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and after the festivities we headed north to Park Rapids, Minnesota, 200 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, where my father-in-law was in the hospital after a heart attack.

Snow had fallen all day and was beginning to mount up. The wind was light, so there was no problem with visibility until we reached Wadena, and headed north on U.S. 71 for the last 35 miles. It was a major north-south highway, but, as we left that com­munity, ours was the only car on the road. The road went through a sheltered area where the snow had piled up in the ditches and it was impossible to see the road edges. The only clue was a rapidly filling set of tire tracks that had been left by another vehicle trav­eling the same direction some time before. We followed those faint tracks for several miles until we came to an area where the road became more visible. I said later that if that vehicle had driven into the ditch, we would have followed it in. Fortunately, the driver had stayed on the highway.

That started me thinking about the tracks we follow in life. Most of us follow someone’s tracks. If the tracks lead us to our goal, we will arrive safely. If they vary from the track, we may get lost, or worse, may be hurt or die.

And someone else may be following the tracks we leave as well. We need to real­ize that we could be the only ones leaving a safe trail for some of our neighbors and family members.

Each of us has many sets of eyes watch­ing what we do and whether it is consistent with what we say. Do we practice what we preach?

There was a commercial a few years ago in which a green track guides people who work with a cer­tain financial institution. The agent warns the client, “Stay on the track.” That is excel­lent advice, but in life the track is not as obvious. How do we know we are on the right track?

As a Christian, I have one guide. I try to follow where God, through the Bible, leads. Sometimes it is not as obvious as I would like. There are no neon signs in the sky proclaiming, “This way.” Unlike the Magi, there is no star to guide us. But we have God’s Spirit available to us to help us understand our guide-book. Sometimes it is as difficult to see as the faint tracks in the snow I followed so many years ago. But if we look carefully, we can see the path.

And remember there are others who are following us as we make our way along the path. Let us leave tracks that get others to a safe destination as well.

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To Santa Claus or Not to Santa Claus

When I went to kindergarten in Winnebago, Minnesota, there were two other boys on the same block who were in my class, David Pettit and Steve Bonebrake.  Interestingly enough they are still in my life through Facebook.  The three mothers decided to carpool with each mother driving every third day.

One day I was the last one picked up and Dave and Steve had gotten into an argument and they looked to me as the tiebreaker.  It must have been just after Christmas.  Steve was arguing that there was a Santa Claus, while Dave was arguing that there wasn’t.  So they both asked me whether there was a Santa Claus or not.  I looked at them in utter confusion.  “Who’s Santa Claus?” I asked.

That shows how low-key our Santa focus was in the Soule household.  When I reported it to my mother she was surprised.  She asked, “Don’t you remember the man in the red suit who was on the poster on the door?  Don’t you remember how you cried and would not sit on his lap for a picture?”

Oh, that Santa Claus.  I had forgotten all about him.  In our house, the focus was primarily on the religious meaning of Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  We had some passing involvement with some of the other aspects of the season.  Of course we did get presents and had a Christmas tree.  But Santa was not central to our Christmas.

If you remember the Fox series “Bones”, Temperance Brennan, one of the primary characters, was a very literal person.  Her husband, Seeley Booth, was more into the spiritual side.  He was Catholic while she was an atheist.  He wanted their child to have all the Christmas traditions he had grown up with, while Temperance thought it was important to raise the child with strict reality.

They clashed over whether to talk about Santa Claus or not.  I don’t remember how or why “Bones” was convinced to change her position.  But I remember how she explained it, “Apparently it is okay to lie to child at Christmas.”

I’m not sure this is the lesson we might want to take from Christmas.

I don’t think it is wrong or dangerous or deceitful to enter into some playful traditions.  But the danger comes when the tradition replaces the reality.  And when Santa turns out to be less than historical, what does this say about the story of the birth of Christ?  How can we say this is true but the rest of the tradition is not?

We will soon begin the season of Advent.  This is a time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ.  Fun traditions can add joy to a child’s Christmas celebration and memories, but let’s not let it overshadow the real reason for the season.  Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, not just as a political statement, but because that is what Christmas is really about.

We can watch movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and they can add enjoyment to the season.  But unless the birth of Christ remains central to our celebration, we miss the real message of Christmas.  God bless Charles Schultz for doing that in the classic “Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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Thanksliving 2017

We are entering the time when we watch a lot of reruns of favorite holiday programs.  So, since I am putting this up a week from Thanksgiving Day, I would like to share a column I posted before concerning being thankful. This post marks five years of weekly posts.

Thanksgiving is coming and it is one of the more enjoyable holidays, since it doesn’t require a lot of money and preparation. It is still one of the purer holidays, although sales that begin on Thanksgiving Day are rapidly eating into the family time. And you hear more and more “Happy Turkey Day” and “Macy’s Day Parade”, leaving out the reason for the holiday to begin with.  But it is still good that we have a day set aside (in theory anyway) to simply be thankful, although there are many who don’t know who to be thankful to.

Several years ago, there was a film called “Avalon”.  It was about a three European Jewish brothers who came to America and establish their families here.  In one scene, the extended family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving.  One of the grandchildren asks what Thanksgiving is all about and one of the elders answers.  “I don’t know.  It is an American holiday and we are all Americans now, so we celebrate it.”  Unfortunately, more and more families tend to fall into that category.

My wife didn’t like Mothers Day, because she thought every day should be Mothers Day.  She said, “If you can’t be nice to me every other day, I don’t want you to just because it says so on the calendar.”  We could say the same thing about Thanksgiving. If you can’t be thankful every day, don’t just do it on one day.  So I think we need to move from ThanksGIVING to ThanksLIVING; living every day in an “attitude of gratitude.” (That was the title of a sermon I heard many years ago and have never forgotten.)

One thing that will make this time special is to be part of one of the many Thanksgiving services around the community. There are neighborhood interdenominational services, interracial services, even interfaith services. It is good to get together with friends across lines of separation. God made us all and it is wonderful to be able to acknowledge that. There is really more that unites us with our neighbors than what separates us. As we gather together, we can be thankful for a nation that does not hinder the free expression of our faith. We can be thankful for the peace and tranquility that most of us accept without thinking. We can be thankful for our material blessings, also. No matter how little we may have compared to others in our community, we have more than many in our world.

But most of all, we can be grateful for a relationship to the God of the Universe. When we think about the vastness of space and how small we are in comparison, it is amazing to realize that God loves us. We matter to God. God came after us to seek us when we had lost our way. And that is something to be very thankful for.

So enjoy the day. Enjoy being with family and friends. Enjoy overeating. Enjoy watching the parades and football games. Enjoy everything that goes with the day—even getting out at midnight to hunt down bargains. There is a lot of good to celebrate. But don’t just be thankful one day out of 365. Be thankful every day. Make every day a day of thanksliving.

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If you attend worship services from time to time, you are probably familiar with “preacher stories”.  These are stories that may or may not be true, but the meaning is true and they teach a lesson.  One of the elements of a good “preacher story” is that it is memorable and stays with you long after you have forgotten the sermon.

One “preacher story” that has stayed with me for many years is one about stones or rocks.  A man is driving down a country road and passes three farms.  The country is very rocky and that is evident in three farms.  The first farm he passes has been abandoned.  The stones cover the fields with a few stalks of corn growing between the rocks.  The farmhouse is deserted and falling down.  It is obvious that the farmer was unable to make a living in this difficult terrain, and has given up.  A sign indicates a bankruptcy auction will be held soon.

The next farm is more prosperous.  The stones have been moved into piles around the fields and the crops are doing fairly well in the cleared ground.  The wooden house is sturdy, but not ostentatious.

Then the driver comes to the third farm and the crops are thriving in cleared fields.  No sign of the rocks are visible, but there is obvious good fortune.  Then the farmhouse comes into view.  It is a large home in beautiful condition.  And it is made of rock.  The stones were taken from the fields and used to make a beautiful home.

This story is reminiscent of Jesus’ parable of the soils.  What it says to me is that we all have obstacles (rocks) in our lives.  How we deal with those obstacles determines how successful we are in life.  Like the first farm, we can let the obstacles defeat us.  We can beat against the stones and end up being beaten.

Or we can do our best to maneuver around the obstacles.  The obstacles remain, but we have learned go around them.  They have not beaten us, but we still are forced to live with them.

But the last option is the best.  Instead of letting the obstacles remain, we turn them around.  We use the obstacles to make our lives better.  We take what we have been given and transform it into something beautiful.  We make lemonade of the lemons life deals us.

What is going on in your life?  Are you struggling with difficulties?  Are you letting the difficulties get the best of you?  Are you ignoring them and hoping they will go away?  Or are you using them to make your life better?

Deborah’s favorite verse was Philippians 4:13,  “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”   Whenever she encountered an obstacle in her personal or professional life, she would not let it stop her.  With the spirit of Christ strengthening her, she would find a new way to approach the situation in which she could not only get around the obstacle, but use it as a means to achieve her goal.

That may be her greatest legacy to all of us.

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Fitbit Fakeout

I wear a Fitbit tracker almost constantly.  The only time I take it off is to recharge it and when I shower.  It measures the steps I take all day and my sleep at night.  But one morning I woke up and my Fitbit was not on my wrist.  A quick search, through sleepy eyes, discovered that it was sitting on the night stand next to the bed.  However, it had come apart because of a broken band.  I was able to repair it with electrical tape until I bought a new band.

But I was mystified by how it got on the night stand.  I had not awakened during the night, as far as I could tell.  Deborah had gotten up during the night, though.  I thought she must have noticed the band had come loose from my wrist and, like a thoughtful wife, had placed it where it would not get lost.  When I questioned her, she had not done it.  Besides, when she got up, she did not turn on the light nor go on my side of the bed.

So I was left with the only answer possible, the dog did it.  But seriously, I must have picked it up in my sleep and placed it where I found it in the morning.  All this, while remaining blissfully asleep.

It reminded me of my freshman year in college.  I had a clock radio that I placed on my desk by the head of the bed.  But for some reason, it seemed to be broken because the alarm never went off and the radio never came on.  This caused me to have to rush to my first period class that met at 7:45.  I dutifully set the alarm each night, but many times it did not go off the next morning.  When I tested it, it worked perfectly though.

Then one morning, my roommate, Dave Pettit, was awake when the alarm was supposed to come on.  At the set time, he heard the click that would be followed by the sound of the station it was set on.  Then he noticed something amazing.  Without waking up, my hand reached up and turned the alarm off so that the radio never came on.  Mystery solved.

I moved the radio out of arm’s reach so I had to get out of bed to turn it off.  From then on, I had no excuse for being late to class.

These things we can do without being consciously aware of them include many other things, some more dangerous than others.  For four years, I drove back and forth to Ft. Payne, AL, where I was the pastor of a church.  Several times on my hour-long commute back home, I would be very sleepy.  Sometimes I would look at the surroundings and wonder how I got there without remembering passing other landmarks.  I was not asleep, but I was not fully conscious, either.

The question I ask today is:  what kinds of actions are we doing, unconsciously, or only half-consciously, that are destructive to us or others?  Do we treat others in ways that hurt them without knowing it?  Do we turn people off (like my clock radio) without listening to their comments, ideas, or thoughts?  Do we get so used to hearing some people’s voices that we don’t really listen the words they say?

I believe it was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Let me add, “The unconscious life is not living.”  It is existing, as rocks exist.  But rocks do not comprehend the beauty of life and relationships.  It is existence, but it is not living.

God made us creatures that comprehend and appreciate life, let’s not let go of that ability, no matter how tempting.

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