[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.

Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂



[ThisDay] Life Suddenly Changed

You never know what a day is going to bring. We don’t even know if we’ll see the next day! Life unfolds before us—good and bad, joy and sorrow—without our permission, and usually without much influence from us at all. January twenty-eight of two thousand eleven was one of those days for us. Some new, good friends—our kids had almost instantly taken to them as adopted grandparents—had their world dramatically altered in a moment by a sudden, unexpected death. The ripples from this sudden absence of one changed our life that day, too. Remember to cherish those you love today, and hopefully also know and enjoy that you are cherished by someone(s), too. We never know what the next moment will bring.

Life Suddenly Changed

January 28th, 2011

pacific-sunsetA friend of ours passed away this morning. It was very unexpected, apparently very sudden (though I do not fully know the details) and… it just feels very final.

I have not known this friend very long. We met his daughter and her family a little more than a year ago when they moved to our town. They home school their children and had met some mutual home schooling friends who introduced us and we pretty quickly became good friends. Her parents moved to town shortly after her dad had a massive heart attack (about one year ago) to live in the apartment attached to their house. It was all very God-arranged.

We met Wayne & his wife shortly after they moved to town and, likely due to our good friendship with their daughter and family, they quickly became our good friends too. They were equally quickly “adopted” by our kids as their third set of grandparents. (Really! There was even a signed certificate created by our kids!) 🙂 They graciously offered an open invitation to us to watch our kids any time Jen and I needed to get out for some no-kids time. (And we have taken them up on that invite several times!)

The first time I met Wayne, I realized we had a shared love of words. Both reading and writing. Wayne has been far more prolific than I in both departments, to be sure. I am currently reading a book he recommended, and I had been talking with him about helping him publish some of his books. I hope to still do that for him.

It’s been a strange day. Death has not touched me much in life. Presently, I can only think of two people who were really close to me who have died. My Mom’s dad died when I was 12 or 13. I remember that, and remember thinking, “Wow… that’s weird.” But I didn’t realize till later that reaction was due (at least in part) to my Mom’s relationship with him—I had only been with him a handful of times. The other person is my wife’s brother, Jeff. My brother-in-law for only about a year. He died just before our first son Ian was born. (I remember it was really hard. Really shocking. Very sad.) That’s the reason that Ian bears his name. (Ian Jeffrey Campbell).

Otherwise, death has always seemed to be a couple relationships away from me.

But I know Wayne. He is my friend. I already miss him.

I was processing all of this with another friend in an online conversation when I said, “Life just changed suddenly.” I didn’t mean it to be profound, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. Life—my life—is now different, and quite suddenly so.

Now, I’m sure I don’t hurt nearly as much as our friends who lost a dad, a husband, a grandpa … and we will be asking God to fill the large void they now (suddenly) have in their lives. He can and I know he will…

But there is a hole. There is an absence. Life… is different.

Each of us is so much more impactful than we admit. (Or perhaps we really don’t realize, or understand it.) Every person we know, every place we go, everything we do … is part of the “fabric” of the lives of all those around us. So, the closer we are, the more time we spend with people, the more the void is felt. But all of us feel the absence. All of us.

So I will (and already do) miss him.

Although I am not as naive as to think that death would never touch me, it still nearly always comes as a shock. We are such hardy, fragile creatures. One moment it’s incredible what we can come through, and the next moment we can be gone within that moment. We just never know.

What that means—since we know that—is that each moment we have is precious. We can very easily get to thinking otherwise. Life’s daily details overtake (perhaps overwhelm) our conscious thoughts. But we just never know when we won’t have the people we love with us anymore. All we know is that we have them—we are with them—now.

Please take a moment today, after you read this, and remind the people around you how much they mean to you. Take a second to encourage some of the greatness you see in them. Maybe take more than a second. We can’t live everyday worried that we are going to lose those we love, but, we can certainly remember to let them know what they mean to us as often as possible.

I’m glad to have known Wayne Leavitt. I hope to see him again one day.

Until then, while I am still here, I am now reminded to enjoy the moments I have with the people whose lives God has intertwined with mine, and to let them know how glad I am that he has.

I hope you will do the same.


[ThisDay] Chapters

Life is change. Everything around us—and even we ourselves—are constantly growing, changing, gaining, losing. This post from January 29th, 2008 was my reflection on how life often changes, even when you don’t want it to. (Sometimes it feels like especially when you don’t want it to!) I hope you’ll enjoy this post as you consider the chapters of your own life.


January 29th, 2008

book-chaptersOur closest friends are moving away.

There. I said it. Sometimes I try not to. Other times I say it more than I probably need to. Both are ways to deal with an unexpected (and truthfully, unwanted) change in my life. Our family’s life.

We have known for a while, but I think it’s safe to publicly say now as the decision has been public for a couple weeks. But for quite a bit longer than that we have been thinking and talking together with our friends through the various elements of their big decision. They are quite excited. It’s a great new opportunity for them, and seems to them to be exactly what God has prepared them for. They were expecting a new chapter in their life and it looks like this is it!

For us there are much more mixed emotions.

On the one hand, we are of course excited for our friends. We love them and you can’t help but be excited along with people you love. You are excited when they are excited. You hurt when they hurt. And so on. But on the other hand, it will be very different with them gone.

Of course I know that life is change. “The only thing certain in life is that life is not certain,” or something like that. Life is all about changes. Chapters, if you will. And we have actually had a good two or three chapters with these friends. Going way back to college days (chapter one) and then moving together to work at the same church in upstate NY (chapter two). Then bring Jen back into the equation after her one-year internship in Indiana (chapter three) and then we both started having children (chapter four) and maybe even add one more chapter for when we both had finished our time at the church that brought us to this town in the first place (chapter five).

That’s a lot of chapters.

And there will be more. Perhaps only one more. (The “rest of life” chapter.) But how can you ever know? If change is the only certain thing in life, who knows if we might meet up again somewhere down the road?

But for now… I’ve mostly just been sad.

When someone dies, people are affected in different ways. The people who spend the most time with the lost loved one are of course affected the most. We saw this when Jen’s brother died. Her parents were devastated for a long time. They had poured their lives into him. He lived with them again, and so they were spending every day with him. We were all hurt by the loss, but I believe they were affected the most.

In a way, it’s similar with our friends. No… they aren’t dying. 🙂 I’m grateful for Skype and e-mail and phone calls (and the occasional visit!). The similarity for me is just in the closeness both emotionally and in time spent together. These friends are the ones we share the most life with. Often at least a couple visits in a week, and of course every birthday and other special day. (We have lots of those….) 🙂 Our kids call them “aunt” and “uncle” as well, which is intended to reveal a closer relationship. We have a few other friends whom our kids call “aunt” and “uncle” but none fit quite as appropriately. We have joked since our first children were born (we had a boy and they had a girl) that our kids might one day be married. And I guess we just assumed they would at least grow up together.

It will definitely be hard when they leave. It’s nice that the end of this chapter – this section – is not abrupt. They will have a few more months of tying up things here. For now, we’re enjoying the last part of this chapter.

And I know there will be more. And I’m grateful for the five (or more) that we have had. And life will be full of many more chapters.

It’s still not always fun to move on.


[ThisDay] The Presidential Election of 2012

Some posts here at GregsHead.net are visited many times every day. One of those posts was originally published on January 30th, 2005—nine years ago this day! But it’s not the one I chose to highlight today. (It certainly gets enough views on its own; if you’d like to read that short post about the word “Hiccough”, click the link at the end of this post.) In 2012, I wrote out some thoughts about the election process for the office of President of the United States (and our government in general). If you live in this country, it’s important to think about, and know what you think. So, it’s not a presidential election year (2014), but read on, and add your thoughts in the comments, if you wish. (Thanks!)

The Presidential Election of 2012

January 30th, 2012

“I’ve grown weary of the Republican primary campaigns.”

I think I may have spoken those words even an entire year ago.

Aren’t you? Or are you not even following along?

A friend asked a couple times recently what I thought of the presidential election race and I hesitated to offer my thoughts both because they are honestly not that well-formed, and equally because I am just a bit tired of thinking about it already!

But, as we are a republic, and we are electing one third of our governmental structure in about ten months, I suppose we all must pay attention at some point.

(But over a year before the election?!?)

Wearied by all the banter I see in articles (and subsequent reader comments) as well as things I hear on radio, and see in the multiple email forwards I receive from my politically-astute Dad, I decided to look up that website I had discovered a year or two ago.

VoteSmart.org has their VoteEasy tool up and running again (I’d guess it never comes down) and it’s a great way to start out gathering information and narrowing down who might be a candidate that would best represent you in Washington.

Please note that I said start out. It is critical that we investigate all claims made by reporters, political ads (especially these), and even friends. Whenever possible, go to the source.

I can’t emphasize that enough. (I did the best I could with the <strong> and <em> tags…)

I answered all the questions that VoteEasy uses to help you figure out which candidate might be the “best match” for you. I believe it’s clear that the site creators know they are just a good starting point because they don’t just tell you who to vote for. You can click on the picture of your Best Match and read their voting record, bills they authored, read/hear speeches, and see tons of information in their public record. Plus, you can of course click on all the other candidates, too, and do the same.

But, as I intend to do, verify the claims of any resource. And it’s best to verify by going to the original source as much as possible. The closer the information is to original (not filtered through several reports) the more reliable. (The reliability of the source should be gauged as well.)

It’s a lot of work, but I think we have a pretty messed up situation at all levels of government because for too long nearly all of us have neglected to actually verify the information we are fed; especially the crap that you hear from almost every political ad. Yuck.

(Ads in general greatly annoy me, but…. that’s a subject for a future post. It’s in my Draft folder…)

I’d love to know what your resources are for information on the candidates for President. Please add your thoughts and—most helpfully—links to the comments below.

The condition of our government is really always a reflection of the condition of us: We The People. After all, our elected officials—corrupt, greedy, power-hungry, disconnected, slimy politicians though they may be—are indeed pulled from the pool of us.

I believe that for so long we’ve been trained that our votes don’t matter. Conditioned to think we should leave government and “politics” up to the professionals. Sure we can vote, but since it’s not “our thing” we vote for the party our parents or our friends like (sometimes simply to avoid scorn) and we are quite easily swayed by the propaganda-like ads that bombard us for nearly a whole year before a “big” election. And so, we go on barely paying attention while money and power determine who “represents” us and the big-picture direction our country will take in the near and long-term future.

And it will only continue to get worse as long as we think that the government dictates to us, rather than represents us. We are the vehicle for change in a republican government (note the small ‘r’) and that goes beyond a vote cast every four years.

Get involved. Know what’s being done with your tax money. Both in your town and state, locally, and on the federal level as your state is represented in Washington. Information and knowledge go a long way; wield a lot of power.

But most of all, be a person of integrity. Character matters. You probably know that. You probably live that. But one reason we so disapprove of our representatives in government is that for so long in this country, character and integrity have not mattered. And, since our elected leaders are us… well… it’s a rather bleak picture.

The only way to reverse the trend is to know what you believe and live it. Honor life, freedom, liberty. Consider others before yourself. Live at peace with everyone.

It is indeed we who abide in Jesus who could (if we would) most affect the political landscape of our country.

I’m not talking about elections. I’m talking about living lives of integrity, loving justice, and treating everyone with the grace and mercy we’ve known so deeply we taste it.

That’s the only way we will truly change our country. No politician, no elected official, no representative can do anything as monumental as a concerned neighbor. You will most likely live your entire life not residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as will I. But if each one of us treated the other like we’d want to be treated, then our country—even in Washington—would be the light on a hill our founders dreamt it could be.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. Watch this video. I posted it a while back. It’s a really neat way to see the current condition of our republic. Just depends on your perspective.


[ThisDay] Sex Sells (Apparently)

One of the posts that has received the most interaction was admittedly expected to attract some attention. I wasn’t just searching for website hits… rather, I was making a point. A fun night out with Emma at the mall turned into conversations about large images of ladies in their underwear—everywhere! That night I posted some thoughts on our much we use sexual imagery in marketing and advertising, and the possible consequences of that. That was certainly a memorable post from January 31st in GregsHead.net history. A close runner up was the story called “My Computer Had a Heart Attack” (a good, lengthy read!). For today though, and the last day in this series: Sex Sells (Apparently). (Thoughts/comments welcomed!)

Sex Sells (Apparently)

January 31st, 2013

Aerie Ad - Girl in lingerieI wouldn’t usually post such photos here. But I guess I’m trying to make a point.

Have we really gotten so used to seeing women in their underwear (or less) that it doesn’t even slightly surprise us?

(My hope is that when you saw the photo for this post on my website, you were surprised, or shocked. It hopefully seemed quite out of place. And it should.)

Last night my four-year-old daughter, Emma, and I walked through nearly the entirety of our local mall, and the volume of near-nudity prominently displayed in store fronts truly overwhelmed me. It was not hidden in the lingerie section near the back of a department store. Rather, right out in front, for every passer by.

I did some research when we got home and found out that there are an inordinate amount of lingerie stores in our mall. It could be that this is the reason that there are so many super-over-sized revealing photos, but still, you can’t walk down nearly any corridor of the mall without being bombarded by boobs.

Aerie storefront display - Girls in lingerie

I know I sound old saying this, but… I don’t remember this when I was a kid!

(Yep. Old.)

Now you can be shopping at the Apple Store for an iPad mini and get an eyeful of what amounts to “soft porn” at the same time. (There’s another “intimate apparel” store across the hall from our Apple Store.)

Am I overreacting here? I’m not sure. I am a guy, of course, and scantily clad, beautiful women do have a certain appeal, but what is that appeal? Certainly it is to my flesh—the part of me that is supposed to be dead. We are all well aware, however, that it still fights for life.

Jesus said that adultery is wrong, but that a man looking at a woman lustfully is just the same (since sin is a heart issue, before it’s a behavior issue) … but, I’m not sure that’s why I feel uncomfortable strolling the halls of the mall. (There wasn’t any lustful looking going on.)

I am more uncomfortable when my boys are with me. Aged 14 and 11 1/2, the internal chemicals are beginning to and have already worked their magic and the appeal of women dressed in little, even posed suggestively many times, well… that’s not something I want to test my boys’ will power on. And all to just find a new favorite well-used video game?

Last night it was Emma, who was certainly taking it all in. Once she said, “More bras! Ha!” (Yes, she’s awesome.) So I’m not really sure what she thinks about it, but she at least finds it somewhat humorous.


But I think in the end, I just find it sad. Near the end of our mall tour we passed Spencer’s. This particular window display was the most overt of all the stores in their attempt (in my opinion) to use sex to sell. (They might even more be selling sex, not simply lingerie, but…) I actually shook my head at their forwardness, and quickly moved along. Later when I was looking for store displays online to share with you here, I discovered that when you click the above banner—taken from their website, but this was also the current store front display—you have to consent to viewing adult material before going further into their site. So, perhaps they aren’t even trying to hide the soft porn part?

(Note: I actually do remember that my mom would direct us past and cast doubt upon the goodness of Spencer’s stores in our various malls. Though I do think we darkened their door a time or two along the way. I think my sister liked some of the stuff in there? I do not remember such displays in their front windows… but I do have this inner, red warning light regarding their establishment. Perhaps this is not a new development.)

What I think all of this reveals about us (yes, pun intended) is a culture that is certainly progressing more and more towards debauchery. Again, I know that I sound old suggesting that “my generation” wasn’t as perverse as “this generation”, and to an extent, I’m sure I’m wrong. People are people. We’re all dead in sin, none of us can escape that; one generation’s societal moral superiority notwithstanding.

But I really do think this is a symptom of a deeper sickness.

Families are now horribly rent asunder: rampant divorce, children outside marriage, multiple parents (but really no parents), gay marriage, abortion… they are all signs of our inner moral corruption and decay.

So it makes sense that we’d continue to feed our flesh—the part of us that drives this decay—and even progressively think less and less of it, allowing it to have more of a hold on us.

We’re naked under our clothes. (Did you know that?) Nakedness is not the sin. The way it’s used to appeal to our selfish, fleshly, worldly desires can be, and those desires can be. Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Perhaps that applies here.

I don’t think I’m talking about the over-sized posters, though.

It seemed so blatantly obvious last night on our walk through the mall that these are symptoms of a culture-wide decline; gradually slipping more and more toward full worldliness, and farther away from godliness. It makes sense, of course, as culturally we have been removing God from everyday life for several generations now. It’s certainly bound to happen this way.

I know I sound old. (And, I kind of am!) This generation is worse off morally than mine, but maybe not than my parents’ generation? (The sixties, hippies, etc? Could be we improved from that?) And we will continue the downward trend until, as individuals, and families, and then as a society we allow God to resume his rightful position as Father and leader and provider and all that he is and wants to be to us.

Until then, it shouldn’t surprise me what is displayed in the large windows of our public marketplaces. If we continue this way, it wouldn’t be shocking to see actual nudity soon, as well as much more sexual images.

This really is the visible symptoms of a deeper issue.

I want to say, “And I hope for our society’s sake that we turn to Jesus and live full lives as he intended us to!” … but I wonder if that’s my wrong thinking about “life to the full”. Life to the full is messy. We are messy, broken, sinners. We are in a broken world, and though we can experience a taste of true, unbroken life, we are still here, in this mess. And that will never change, until we’re not. So, no matter how much we, as a society, might turn to Jesus … the deeper issue here (not the symptoms) is part of the bigger picture of “full life” that God intended. I think.

That doesn’t mean I have to traverse the mall corridors, though. 🙂

I’ll finish by saying that I hope wherever you are right now, you know the Father, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3) and that you know his abundant grace and life and are living that fully and free from guilt and condemnation and judgement (John 3:17) … because that is how we’re meant to be.

(Clothed, or not.)

Note: The photos in this post are mostly taken from the retailers’ websites. My iPhone camera was not doing a good job capturing the images I wanted to use for this post. All of these images here were on display in three-times-real-life size in the store windows, as well as dozens more.