Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent And Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is generally the kickoff to the Christmas and the Holiday season.  Ever since I was little, it always seemed to be so.

We prepare the meal.  We eat the meal.  We clean up after the meal.  We catch a football game or two. 

I think Thanksgiving needs to be bigger than that.  Thanksgiving needs to be bigger than a drumstick and some pumpkin pie and pigskin. 

And then after the meal, there is the late Thursday night shopping, followed by Black Friday shopping and weekend shopping, followed by Cyber Monday shopping.  This year, I noticed that as soon as Halloween was over, stores ripped down their displays and raised up the Christmas and Holiday displays.  It seemed as if Thanksgiving was hastily ushered off and thrown into the closet until it is pulled out for a quick salute for a day or two the next year.

Hardly seems fair that Thanksgiving was treated with such little respect.

Still, I do love the season of Advent.  And I do love what the Christmas season represents.  I just wish Thanksgiving was given its true and rightful place in our lives and in our hearts.

At times I think that Advent should be before Thanksgiving.  I mean, shouldn’t we prepare, make ready and make room, and then give thanks?  For example, doesn’t food taste better when one is hungry, when one is less full, and when one is prepared for it?

I think we’ve somehow lost the meaning of Advent.

Yes, we decorate the house.  We make the holiday breads and cookies.  We chop down a tree, throw lights on it, and place a meaningful ornament or two or twenty on it.  We draw names for gift giving.  We make lists and shop and wrap and tie everything up with a nice shiny bow.

Yet, like Thanksgiving, Advent is bigger than that.

But I’ve always been drawn to Advent as being bigger than that.  It is about preparing our hearts.  It’s about taking stock of our lives.  It’s about the preparation for what needs to be done, what needs to be repaired, and what needs to be rethought. 

Advent is about looking at our relationships- the relationship we have with ourselves as well as the relationship we have with others.  

And like Thanksgiving, we’ve treated, and treat, Advent with very little respect.

Advent has to be more important, more significant than twinkling lights and tinsel.  Advent has to be more important than the pile of boxes and bows.  At some point, we need to rediscover the meaning behind Thanksgiving and about Advent.  We need to give those two holidays, and ourselves, more respect than we show them, us. 

We rush about frantically trying to ‘get it all done’ before we collapse in a heap.  We worry about what we need to do, what needs to get done, when truly, really, what we’re worrying about and what we think is so important, really isn’t all that much to worry about, and it is really fairly unimportant and trivial.

There are relationships.  There are memories to build and nurture and grow.  There are smiles and laughter to behold and express.  There is time that needs to be spent with and on those whom we love.  And, we need to do this way before it is too late, before there is no time, and before time passes and is no longer.  So much more important.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Loss Of A Smile

One of my favorite Billy Crystal movies is City Slickers.  He played a character, Mitch Robbins, and he wasn’t a very happy person.  It seemed that he tried to find meaning in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different places, and never found it. 

His two best buddies planned yet another adventure and it involved going on a cattle drive.  I’ve actually been on a cattle drive when I lived in Wyoming, and it wasn’t all that romantic and it is not my idea of a vacation.  I do, however, look back on it fondly and it does cause me to smile.  Actually laugh, because being a “City Slicker” myself, I actually started a stampede.  Not with a coffee maker like Billy Crystal’s character did, but I caused a stampede nonetheless. 

As Billy Crystal's character contemplated whether or not to go on this adventure, he had a conversation with his wife and it went like this:

His wife said, “Go and... find your smile!”

“What if I can't?”

“We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it.”

Sad thing when one can’t find a smile.

On Facebook several days ago, there was a video clip of a girl who took a picture or video of herself every day for one year.  The young girl lived in Syria.  At the very beginning, she was bright and bubbly and full of smiles and giggles.  And then war and conflict happened.  The video began to show her fear, and then her sadness.  The final shot of her celebrating her birthday showed a much different little girl.  She was in a hospital bed.  Her hair wasn’t as neatly kept.  There were dark circles under her eyes.  And as the cake and lit candles were held in front of her, there wasn’t a sign of the bright, bubbly little girl seen just one year previous.  There were no giggles.  There was no smile.

Sad, very sad, when a child loses a smile.  Sad when a child can’t find a laugh.

Loss Of A Smile.

You and I know people who go through life, a month, a week, a day, without a smile.  Sadness oozes out of their pores until there is nothing left but an empty . . . and lonely . . . shell.  And if a smile is managed, it never seems to touch one’s eyes.

Ever since my son, Wil, was killed, there have been staff members and friends checking in on me.  Just a “How are you doing today?”  or “How’s it going?” or “Everything going okay?”  Sometimes, someone sticks his or her head in my doorway and gives me a wave.  And the thing is, it will “hit” me every so often at odd times and without warning. 

But I have to admit that at times, I lose my smile. It might not be long before it comes back.  Usually there is something to smile about, to laugh about.  But for that brief moment . . . perhaps a long moment, the smile vanishes.

I’m not advocating that, like Billy Crystal’s character, one needs to go on a cattle drive to find a smile.  I don’t know that it takes something that drastic or grand to find a smile.

But I want you to know that as I write this, I am smiling, because there is much to smile about.  Great memories.  Great friends.  Knowing that people genuinely care and extend themselves, and reach out because, after all, we’re all in this together.  It’s life.  And we find life everywhere and in this life, there are things to smile about, to laugh about.  There are always things to be thankful for.  No need to ever lose a smile for very long.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
I can be found on Twitter at @JRLewisAuthor and my author page on Facebook can be found at

My two books are doing very well.

For only 99cents (free on Kindle Unlimited), you can purchase Taking Lives at It has received 27 reviews: 21Five Star and 4 Four Star. Taking Lives is the prequel to my trilogy.

For only $3.99 (free on Kindle Unlimited), you can purchase Stolen Lives at It is fairly new so it only has 4 Reviews, but all of them have been Five Star.  Stolen Lives is the first book of the trilogy.


Friday, November 14, 2014

If I Knew . . .

I remember as a psychology teacher way back when, I had my kids write their own epitaph.  The idea was for them to consider their life, how they’ve lived up to then, and write how they would want to be remembered.

I’m not sure why, but this week . . . all this week . . . I was thinking about Helen Keller, and the article that appeared in Atlantic Magazine that was titled, Three Days To See.  In it, she talked about what she would do if she was granted the gift of sight for three days. 

Sight is something we take for granted, don’t we?  Perhaps like a lot of things.

Randy Pausch was a professor who died of complications from pancreatic cancer.  He is best known for his “Last Lecture” that NBC News featured.  He lived his life to the very end- every last minute. This link will take you to a wonderful talk he gave about achieving your childhood.

In one of my earlier writings, I wrote about Steve Gleason, a former football player who is suffering from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Gleason and a team of volunteers and family members climbed a mountain even though he is pretty much confined to a wheelchair, but what I like most is that Gleason is recording thoughts and memories for his son to remember him by.  Again, another example of living life to the full, regardless of the cards dealt to him.

Which leads me to today’s thought and something I want you to consider, perhaps on a deeper level than one you normally go to when you read my writing . . .? 

If you knew you were going to die at a specific time on a specific day . . . let’s say, three days from now, what would you do?  How would you spend your remaining time?  With whom would you spend it?  And, knowing that two days from now you would die, what things would you say and to whom would you say them?  What thoughts, feelings, what emotions would you share and with whom? And, what would you keep to yourself, if anything?

My first thought upon reading the above paragraph is family- Kim, Hannah, Emily.  Then I broadened that to my remaining brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews.  I’d throw in some very close friends, JT who is like a son to me.  Others.  Those are the people I would want to spend my remaining time with.

As for what I’d say or what I’d share, well, I think you know me well enough by now that I’d urge them to live, really live.  Not waste a moment on regret or worry.  Not spend one second thinking about what should have been done, what could have been done.  I’d remind them that what is in the past should be left there and that everyone needs to move on, move along and keep going. 

I don’t know that I’d waste my time on a final great meal, unless it was with those I mentioned above.  I don’t know that I’d spend the money to go to this place or that place to see this or that, again, unless it was with those I mentioned above.  Because for me, the last two or three days wouldn’t be about seeing this or that- it would be about spending some meaningful time with those who give me great joy, with those who I’ve loved the most.

And lastly, I’d probably tell them that if they shed even one tear, I’d come back and haunt the hell out of them, because I’d want to be remembered with smiles and laughter – because, I’ve said and done some really stupid stuff!

Okay, now that you’ve thought about that, I have to ask you this very important question: what are you waiting for?

Why should you wait until the very end to do what needs to be done?  Why are you waiting to spend time with those whom you love, long for?  Why are you waiting to say what needs to be said?  Why are you waiting to do what needs to be done? 

In whatever time you and I have on this earth, don’t you think we’ve wasted enough time? Don’t you think we’ve withheld too much of our thoughts and our feelings already?  This month, I turn 61 and I figure I’m already on the backside of the mountain.  I can’t waste any more time than I have already.  Haven’t you, too?  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers . . .
I want to thank you for taking a chance on a rookie writer by purchasing and reading my two books, Taking Lives, which is a prequel to my trilogy- the Lives Trilogy, and Stolen Lives, the first book in the trilogy.  Taking Lives debuted on August 4, 2014 and has not left the top 50 on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers list.  Stolen Lives debuted last evening and I woke up to find that, as of this writing, it is #19, #64, and #89 on three different Amazon’s 100 Best Seller lists.

Thank you!

For those of you who haven’t yet, if interested, they can be found at:
Taking Lives:

Stolen Lives:


Friday, November 7, 2014

Full Circle

When Kim and I were married back in ’92, the celebrant gave his message about the symbolism of the wedding ring.  He talked about how it is a circle and as such, has no beginning and no end.  It is continuous, nonstop, and everlasting.  A ring has no rough edges, but is smooth and shiny.  The ring is meant to be worn as a reminder that marriage, like love, is meant to last forever.

I’m not sure how I remember little things like that.  Kim would answer that my mind is full of useless trivia and I think my kids would agree.  But at the same time, I don’t think this counts as useless trivia or for that matter, a little thing.

Once upon a time, I grew up in a family of ten.  All of us under one roof.  One by one, we married and had children and raise or raised our children under our own different roof.  And further on down the road, I watched as some of my nieces and nephews had children of their own, and in time, my own will too.  Full Circle.

There was a picture on Facebook showing a toddler pushing a one of those tyke walkers as he was learning to walk.  Walking along side of him was a picture of an elderly woman, perhaps his grandmother, using a walker.  Full Circle.

As a child and as a kid, even as a young man, there were many things I could do.  I could run and was pretty quick.  I could climb, jump, you name it.  Now?  Well, some of those same things I might be able to do, though not nearly as effectively as I once could.  I’m a little stiffer, not as flexible or nearly as coordinated as I once was.  Full Circle.

Fall is probably my favorite of the seasons.  Sweatshirt and jeans kind of weather.  The color of the leaves on the trees, and the piles of leaves on lawns.  The cool crispness of the air.  Contrast this to Spring when there are buds on trees and bushes, and birds chirping, and we slowly peel off the layers of clothes we wear in Fall and Winter.  Full Circle.

In my Lives Trilogy that I wrote, one of the boys who had much happen to him- tragically so- asks one of my other characters why there is so much pain and suffering.  He wanted to know why it happened to him, and to his friends who were caught up in the same tragic circumstance.  The older character smiles tells him that he has no real answer to the boy’s question, but reminds him that there is still much to be grateful for, much to be thankful for, much to love, much to enjoy, and that while he and they suffered, ultimately, they survived, they lived, and need to go on living.  Full Circle.

While there are mountains, there are valleys.  While there are crests of waves, there are also troughs within that same sea.  While there is light, it will turn to dusk and then dark, and then the purple of early morning before the light gives way to pale blue of daylight.  Full Circle.

Love does not end.  I believe this with all my heart.  My faith has led me to this belief.  It goes on.  It lives on.  The form love takes might change, but it goes on.  There might be anger, sadness, and harsh words.  But in the next moment, there is happiness, joy, and kindness.  Once again, Full Circle.

No matter where we look in life, no matter what example we give, there is always another side that is really a continuation of the same side, much like the ring we wear.  There is no end, but a continuous band, smooth without edges, shiny and beautiful.  Be patient for it will come to pass.  Watch for it.  Allow it.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!