Friday, July 9, 2010

The Lord is MY Shepherd

The 23rd Psalm was my Granny B's favorite passage from the Bible even having it hanging prominently in her home on a plaque. Little did I know as I spent time with her in my youth that she was preparing the way for my life's journey with her favorite passage. You see I have been walking in the valley of the shadow of death for nearly 17 years since my diagnosis with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Yet in all this time I have had no fear because as Granny B would say MY Jesus has been and will be with me. My shepherd has guided me along a path that has not been easy, strewn with many obstacles and at times I was totally blind to the path I was taking but His hand has always been there gently pushing me in the right direction. My faith has wavered and even failed but the Lord like a good shepherd never abandoned me and would come to find me when I was lost and tangled and struggling to overcome some obstacle in my way. Even when people have said your journey is too difficult and what you're attempting is impossible He has whispered in my ear, "I love you. I believe in YOU. I will give you a hand if you need it or send you help to get you through." I have and will continue to overcome anything because of the tenacity and strength that my shepherd has given me as well as the knowledge that He is always beside me to protect and assist me if needed. He has also kept His promise to send me angels in the form of people to give me comfort, a hand and most especially love.

This brings me to the other thing my shepherd keeps whispering in my ear, "Remember Jeff I have asked my followers to do one thing, to love one another. Remind them of this!" I try to live in love and be a beacon of His message but I am failing in my mission. In the land that is supposed to be that shining beacon on the hill, we are not following that one command to love one another which the Lord is not happy about. We are too busy allowing politics guide our mood and beliefs causing a canyon to form between us and be filled with hatred and disdain. We have become "too busy" texting, seeking material gain or moments of fleeting triumph that we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we don't notice our brothers and sisters writhing in anguish and pain as we step over them. Regardless of your position on health care, we can no longer let it be acceptable for anyone to suffer and lose everything they have including their lives just because they become sick whether it's from incompetence, greed or just plain laziness we are all God's children. If you're against their government program, then you must demand an immediate viable alternative or better yet contribute your time, money and energy to an organization to assure this never happens. Remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! When someone is hungry or suffering in poverty or trapped in a world of addiction remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! If tragedy strikes from earthquakes to oil spills, these are not punishments from God as some Christian leaders have suggested but rather tests of our faith to see if we have the conviction to help our fellow man until they're whole again because remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! Some seem to believe capitalism and free enterprise can cure all of our ills even confusing it with Christian beliefs. For reviving the economy it can help with one caveat which is that it is purely profit driven so it will not solve everything and unless we start realizing to support our neighborhood businesses it will only send profits elsewhere so remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! It seems today everyone lives in fear from terrorists to the liberals/conservatives to the economy to each other but why are you living in fear the Lord is with you and remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! No matter if someone disagrees with you or even wrongs you, it is time to unite and retake our Christianity from anyone who uses it or uses it against us because what is most important is to remember: LOVE ONE ANOTHER! The Lord is MY shepherd, He is steadfast and He is the reason I have overcome the most incredible odds, the reason I am. Be well and happy!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Memories

As I sit here daydreaming this lazy summer day watching the cotton ball clouds float across the pale blue sky my mind drifts to summers past when my body was young and things were simpler. A warm breeze blowing across my face and tousling a thick head of hair which is now increasing bare. The smells and feel of a lake, river or ocean as I float, fish, swim or frolic with friends or family. The sense of sweat running down my face and back as I worked in the melon fields, played ball, climbed mountains, swung a club, rode from motorcycles to horses and mowing the yard in the sticky southeast Missouri summer sun. The smell of chlorine and Coppertone at the pool and the coming of age at the realization of the blessing of bikinis and girls tanning themselves with baby oil and iodine while hoping a well placed splash might compel a more bountiful view. The sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jim Croce, James Taylor, Chicago, Aerosmith, Cool & the Gang, Bon Jovi, Footloose Soundtrack and so many others coming from a radio, car stereo, boom boxes or sound system creating the soundtrack of a summer’s good times. The smells and tastes of grilling steaks or burgers, catfish fry, fried okra and squash and of course iced sweet tea or a ice cold Bud depending on the occasion. Trips to Daytona Beach, Colorado, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and Houston.

Among my fondest memories are sitting by the Mississippi River waiting for the ferry while American Pie played while seeing Dad and Mom hold hands and dance with my sister asleep in the backseat of the car and my brother fell in the water trying to catch a piece of driftwood. Some other word associations that only some of you who were around may understand: Benton dances, Current River, The Plantation, The Sports Complex, summer loves, FBLA conventions, Country Club, Jaycee Pool, Sonic/Cardinal Drive-ins, two-a-days, La Jolla, Columbia/Tan-tar-a, Kimos, Kramer, mini-farms and the rodeos. These are the flood of memories as I sit daydreaming on this beautiful day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's All about LOVE

As I have gone through my life's journey with all the triumphs, some material wealth and achievements as well as the difficulties, loss and pain there has been one lesson in this my human journey that has remained consistent throughout which is the most important thing in life is love. It's the love given and received from family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and yes even enemies that raise us up above the muck and filth that sometimes encompasses our lives and is ultimately what make our lives worth living. Someone much greater than myself declared that the greatest commandment we should have guide our lives is to love your neighbor. Why then do we continuously find ourselves surrounded by a world of tension, strife, hate and the worst kinds of evil where it seems that love was cast away eons ago? I believe it is because even the most loyal followers of greatest man to trod earth have become deaf to his primary teaching. We have all become cold, self-righteous arbitrators of the world as we see it and are blind to other views of it. We sit in judgment of each other preferring to right instead of embracing each others differences and find strength in them. We quibble and fight over the most insignificant and immaterial items and go to war for even less. We apparently prefer the loneliness of division to the warmth found in the unity of love.

As I continue my journey of life, I dedicate myself to one proposition to love and receive love. I reject the loneliness of self-righteousness and embrace the differences of others. I will find the strength and unity that results when we allow ourselves to find common ground, a common purpose for the common good. I will live my life in love and through that love make this world a better place to live.

I do not want to be lonely anymore and want to come out from the cold. This is my pledge, this is my oath and this is my prayer. I love you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thoughts on my 43rd Birthday

The biggest gift I have received from my diagnosis and subsequent physical disability of A.L.S. is to not mourn or regret what I lose or don't have but rather to focus on the things you do. I view each day as both an opportunity to do something good and to find the happiness it will bring even though you sometimes have to look hard for it.

It has now been 16 years since that fateful day when I was told that I had possibly 3 more birthdays to celebrate or maybe 5 more at the outside if I were lucky so the advice I was given was to go plan my funeral "you know make it a party to celebrate the life you had." It was at that moment I heard a faint NO in the midst of the shock and dismay overwhelming me on this horrible point of reckoning in one's life that is dreaded and feared. It took me several months and that NO growing louder in my head to realize what the NO meant. NO I wasn't going to plan my funeral, NO I wasn't going to worry about my death and NO I wasn't going to stop fighting and striving to make a difference. It was in that moment of NO or rejection of conventional thinking when I not only retook my life but I began truly LIVING! Too many people in this world go about their lives complaining, worrying about what they don't have or someone else has and they live in regret of what they have lost or the life they could have had. What they fail to realize is that what they're doing is essentially "planning they're funeral"! This isn't living.

Living is waking each day like it's your last. It's finding the good instead of the bad. It's making a difference in the lives of others that you touch even in a small way even with just a smile to brighten their day. It has nothing to do with fear or judgment or hate. The one thing that has troubled me recently is the rise in these things between people just because they have different points of view since it's robbing us of living together in a better life. It has been and will be through our differences that our greatest strength and accomplishments come which can only be achieved through civility and respect. Living is helping others even when they don't know and cannot help themselves. It's appreciation for each day and those whose paths you cross during it. It leads to happiness, fulfillment, achievement and understanding but most of all living is about love. This is why I hope my life serves as a reminder to quit planning your funeral and start living your life again.

The things that you have that truly make you rich are not money and possessions since they are temporary and fleeting but rather it is love that endures, the love of family and the love of friends both old and new. This is why I am truly a rich and blessed man.

Here's the quote for today: "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." -Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life is GOOD!

Today once again proved to me how fortunate and blessed my life is. Even though today we were dealing with a minor issue that seemed bad it's only temporary but life made clear to me how insignificant the problem was. First, a neighbor asked Lisa if she could get his step-son from the school bus because he and his wife were splitting up and she had left to get a new stripping job since she was fired from another one and he had to go to school. They have two little girls of their own as well. Then Jordan, my youngest, comes home from preschool talking about her friend who will be coming to school tomorrow with no hair because of her chemo-therapy. Why does this have to happen to this little girl?

My life dealt me a tough break 16 years ago when I was diagnosed 16 years ago next week with A.L.S. but then again October 8th also marks my 15th year of marriage to Lisa, the most incredible and beautiful woman and who has given me three incredible and beautiful daughters. I have a truly blessed and wonderful life! Sometimes we need a reminder from life that if we're happy, healthy and have the love of family and friends then life is great regardless of little issues we're dealing with at the time. Life is good for me and has been for everyday I have had after that fateful day nearly 16 years ago. Be well and happy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

What is a LIFE worth living

I find the attached article from CNN rather disturbing.

Australian quadriplegic granted right to starve to death

As someone in similar circumstances, I have two issues with this and neither has to do with a person's right to die. First, as someone with trach why is this man choosing starvation when just disconnecting from the ventilator is a more humane and immediate choice for achieving one's death. My bigger problem especially in this internet and technology driven world, why are we still emphasizing one aspect of a person's life, the physical, as so important that when that ability is compromised that death is preferred. Life is SO MUCH MORE than our physical abilities because there's the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of a person's life. Even though in this country we sometimes overemphasize the athletic endeavors of some, that's not what we remember in general. It's the impact of a person's mental or spiritual contributions which make a lasting impact on society and if you think about the family and friends that you have lost it is the love, emotional connections that you shared that mean the most not how physical they were. Physical limitations can be increasingly overcome even with the possibility of using robotic arms through the use of brain waves for quadriplegics on the cusp of being an everyday reality. It is time for everyone regardless of a disability or not to re-evaluate what the true value of their life contributions and what makes a life worth living.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deciding Your Life's Path

The following is my advice for someone struggling with their diagnosis of ALS but I believe it can be helpful if applied to anyone's life.

The progression phase of ALS particularly a rapid one is difficult to cope with because everything is in flux and it always seems like a new challenge confronts you daily which is overwhelming. Hopefully you can get your footing again so to speak and find a new life's purpose given your limitations. I can assure you that the rapid changes do slow down and stabilize because frankly there becomes less for ALS to take away. My next advice will be hard to read but it's the best thing for you to regain control and happiness. I would advise you to take like a week and really confront what you want to do with your life. Do you want to go on a ventilator or not and make a decision for what you truly believe is best for YOU alone. If it is to let the ALS run it's course then you should quit worrying about dying and start going about LIVING the best remainder of your life that you can have. If it's to vent start working on building a new life with goals and aspirations despite the obstacles of ALS. Either decision is absolutely liberating because it removes you from the hell of living in the unknown where you simply waste the opportunity to have a terrific remainder to your life's journey regardless if that is short or longer. The family and friends must respect whatever you decide and if they can't either they or you have to say goodbye and move on separately. This is my best advice for your situation. Be well and happy!

Jeff Lester

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