Author: Mark McCuen
Check out our latest blog on our new blog site!
7 Needs for Mountain Climbers
Check out our latest blog on our new Blog site …
When God Hands us Dominoes
Check out our latest blog on our new Blog site …
Bees, Bricks & Honey
Check out our blog “Bees, Bricks & Honey” on our new Blog site …
Pastor Brown Goes to Hell
Not that long ago, in a city near you, Pastor Jake Brown was in a car wreck. Before medics could save him, Jake died.
To his surprise, Jake woke up in a beautiful meadow covered in green grass, with fruit trees of every kind as far as the eye could see. The ripe, juicy fruit covered the ground. There were apples, oranges, pears, and figs. Any fruit Jake could imagine was there.
Walking around the charming forest, Jake discovered that the meadow was full of people from around the world. Every size, race and religion were well represented. Seeing all the people, Jake thought “This must be Heaven. After all, it truly is a land of beauty and abundance.” Although, Jake noticed something very odd. Thinking to himself, “if this was Heaven why does everyone look so sad and grumpy?”
Then, Jake observed that all the people in the meadow had no elbows. “How peculiar” he thought. Then, he saw that no one could pick up the fruit to eat it. “No wonder they are so grumpy. I’d be grumpy too!”
Walking up to one of the men in the meadow, Jake asked, “Excuse me sir, is this Heaven?” “Hell!” the man grouched. “Well, there’s no reason to swear at me, it was just a question.” Jake said in bewilderment. “No! this is not Heaven, this is Hell!” the man snapped. “How awful,” Jake thought. “Hell is spending eternity wanting and craving something you cannot have.”
At that very moment, a blinding white light flashed. In the blink of an eye, Jake was swept away to another meadow. This meadow was lush and green with trees full of all kinds of fruit. Fruit covered the ground, just like the last meadow. Looking around Jake noticed that there was a big difference. Everyone in this meadow was exceedingly happy and joyful.
All were singing and worshipping as they walked through the tall green grass. “This must be Heaven!” Jake exclaimed. With that, another blinding light flashed, and Jake heard a woman’s voice… “Pastor Brown, Pastor Brown, are you with us?”
Suddenly, Jake was surrounded by noise and commotion and flashing lights above him. Blinded by the lights, Jake realized that he was on a gurney in a hospital rolling down the hallway. Nurses, Doctors and Paramedics were rushing him to emergency surgery.
Waking up in a hospital bed the next day, Jake wondered if the meadow was just a dream? A few weeks later, Jake was telling his best friend Barney about what had happened in the meadows.
Jake asked, “if one was Hell, the other must certainly be heaven, right?” Curiously, Barney answered, “So in this Heaven, all the people must have elbows, right?” to Barney’s dismay, Jake answered “The people were all the same, except for their overflowing joy. No one had elbows in Heaven either.” Barney blurted out, “How can that be? Everyone had to be hungry too?!” “That’s just it Barney.” Jake replied, “No one seemed hungry in Heaven at all. Everyone was picking up the fruit and feeding each other.”
The Moral of the Story….
TRUST – A Reason to Believe
When we are surrounded by people we trust, people who are looking out for our needs and not their own, we are blessed to flourish and grow without fear, doubt and want; bringing God’s Joy, Peace and Love to All.
© 2019 LOL-Ministries, LLC http://www.lol-ministries.com
Based on the Allegory of the Long Spoons, attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok, as well as other sources.
Happy 68th Mike!
Join Us at Our New Home!
Happy 45th Anniversary Kayleen!
The Love of My Life!
Here are my memories of that wonderful day 45 years ago today.
Throughout our marriage, music has been a big part of our lives. As you read the story and look at the pictures. Please “click” on the songs to hear some of the songs that were the “Soundtrack” of our blessed marriage.
Way back in the 70’s, working at one of my first jobs; I was scurrying to get some mission accomplished, when I collided head-on into this girl going the opposite direction. When I looked up to see if I had killed her, I saw the most beautiful greenish-brown eyes. Their beauty was only equaled by the most wonderfully warm and welcoming smile I’d ever seen. This was the first time that I ever truly looked at the love of my life, Kayleen. Sure, I’d seen her before, but I never really looked into those eyes, felt that smile. To this day, I have no clue what we said. Since that collision, I have never been able to get her out of my head, nor my heart. Not that I’ve tried. Those eyes, and that smile are as infectious and loving today as ever. On that day, God truly answered my prayers, blessing me with the love of my life.
After that “accidental” meeting. We have been, for the most part, inseparable. Sure, we have spent lots of time apart, physically. But for me, I carry her with me always. If I’m down, if I’m missing her, all I need do is think of those eyes, that smile. Then, all’s good.
After that impromptu meeting at work, it still took a while to get things moving in our relationship. I believe the hallway crash happened in June-July and we didn’t really start dating until September of the same year. We’ll always remember that first weekend together thanks to Jerry Lewis. It was Labor Day weekend and no matter what time we turned on the TV. There was the MDA Labor Day Telethon with Jerry and a host of celebrities.
We were destined to be together. God was not only ordering our steps. He also had placed so many people in our lives that literally were pushing the two of us together.
Starting with a wonderful friend at work named Donny. A gregarious Irishman in his early 50’s, late 40’s; Donny was just about the happiest guy I’ve ever met. No more than 5 ½ feet tall, with peppered black hair and bright shiny eyes. Donny was all smiles, all the time. Every time that I would see Donny when Kayleen wasn’t around, he would say something like … “That Kayleen sure is a Keeper”, or, “That Kayleen sure likes you!”. If by chance Kayleen and I were together, Donny would always comment. “What a Great looking Couple you two are!”. Truly, Donny was a fan. Kayleen has told me about a lady that she worked with named Noreen who was a huge fan as well. It seemed God had enlisted everyone in the place to ensure that Kayleen and I got together.
Still, with all the matchmaking it wasn’t quite enough. I as shy and so was Kayleen. Or so I thought.
Earlier that summer, I decided to buy a car. Keeping up with my lifelong quest to be different, I chose not to buy a “Guys” car. Muscle cars were all the rage back then, and we all worked on each other’s cars to make them as loud and fast as we could. So, if I wanted to tool around in a “muscle” car, all I had to do was call a friend.
Then, one day I saw it. The perfect car for me. A 4 door, 1965 Mercedes Benz 190E. Leather seats and that Huge Chrome Grill. Perfect! Even better. It was only $2,000 and I qualified for payments. This car taught me that you usually get what you pay for … While it was beautiful, it didn’t run well and struggled to make it up some minor hills. Who cared. It looked great. The car served its purpose getting me back and forth to work. Especially since going to work was mostly downhill. Little did I know it would be that car that ultimately brought Kayleen and me together.
The way I remember the story. Kayleen had a good friend that worked in the office, Shari. As Kayleen has told me, Shari would always bug Kayleen to ask me out. Being shy, like me, she didn’t.
Then, one day Shari bumped into me as I was heading home. She smiled and said … “You know Kayleen really likes your car, you should give her a ride in it sometime.” I said something like “sure”. The next thing I knew we had “scheduled” a ride. 😊
While I remember Kayleen riding with me a lot in that car, I really don’t remember that specific ride. Well, one thing led to another and we started going to lunch together nearly every day. Our favorite gourmet restaurant was the “Red Barn”. A hamburger place about ten minutes away from work. That was the fall we fell in love.
Over the next couple of years our love grew deeper and included a lot of great times. Those are stories for another time.
On this day, June 21st, in 1975, Kayleen and I were married. While we had been dating a while, I was 20 and she was 21. Babies by today’s standards.
If you recognize the day June 21st, it might be because it’s the “Summer Solstice”. The longest day of the year.
On this Balmy Saturday it was around 90˚ with 74% humidity. While it was supposed to be a sunny day, there was a slight chance for rain. The weather report was vital information for us as we were to be married in a Rose Garden in a park close to my house. Scheduled for 1:00 p.m. it was sure to be a hot one. During the summer in Iowa, the clocks are moved forward an hour for daylight savings time. That’s right, we were getting married outside, when the Sun was in it’s most direct position in the sky for the solstice, at 12:00 noon. What were we thinking?
Preparation for our wedding was a wonderful time, as I remember it. My Mom and Kayleen were deep in plans and arrangements for months. It was wonderful to see those two work so closely together. My Mom made Kayleen’s wedding dress as well as vests for my brother Mike and me. We were young, had no money, so plans were simple. Rose Garden, Shelter House reception in the park, with Cake and a Keg. The perfect wedding for 1975. It would have been a shame to miss it. I almost did…
Since we were planning to only do this once, I didn’t want to mess it up for Kayleen. With that in mind I decided to forgo the traditional Bachelor party the night before the wedding. Instead, I asked my Best Man; my brother Mike and my best friend, Tom, to plan to have the party on Wednesday night before the wedding. They went about setting it up.
A Wednesday night bachelor party probably wasn’t a great idea. We had a good time, but I think everyone was home in bed by Eleven that night. Then, on Friday night before the wedding, my two best friends, Tom and Bob, show up on my doorstep pleading… “Let’s go out for one last drink before you take the big step.” “Just one drink, we promise.”
Well after an extended discussion about how important Saturday was to me and Kayleen. I caved, agreeing to “One Drink”. So off to the Alpine Room for these three musketeers (or stooges).
Since meeting Kayleen I hadn’t really spent much time with Tom and Bob, so I thought this would be a great way to catch up. They were so excited to take me to this new place they had found, the Alpine Room. Nothing to spectacular. Just another Iowa bar to me.
I reiterated, “Just One Drink Guys”. They eagerly agreed ordering a round of “Alpine Coolers” for the three of us. “What’s that?” I asked. In unison, they exclaimed… “You’ll Love it!” Right then, right there I should have left. I knew something was up. I didn’t leave. We toasted the wedding with the Alpine Coolers. That’s the last thing I remember. Until…
The sun burning warm on the back of my head, wind blowing through my hair. Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” blaring in my ears, I forced my eyes to open.
Tom and Bob were in the front seat of Bob’s Jeep with me strapped in the back. Top off, both were singing at the top of their lungs while flying down the Interstate heading west towards Omaha. I yelled “WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?”
Almost in beat with the melody of the Deep Purple song they responded… “We’re Kidnapping You. No Wedding for you Today!!! Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!”
Obviously, we hadn’t stopped with just one “Alpine Cooler”. While I was instantly sober at the thought of missing my wedding. Tom and Bob were still in FULL party mode.
I’m not sure how I convinced them to turn around, but they did. If I remember right, we got back home around 10 that morning to get ready for the big day. While I don’t think I saw Kayleen until the wedding, I had heard she was concerned.
Thinking about it now brings back memories of one of my dad’s favorite scenes, from one of his favorite movies, My Fair Lady. He truly loved the part where Eliza Doolittle’s Dad sang the night before his wedding… “Get Me to the Church on Time”.
With very foggy memories of the night before all I could think about was how awful I felt. Not so much about being late; but my head was throbbing, and my gut was churning. Not the blissful day I was planning on. Off to the Rose Garden, none the less.
Did I mention that it was 90˚ with 74% humidity that day? Standing in the noon sun for about an hour I felt every drop of “Alpine Cooler” ooze out through my sweat glands.
Still, I wouldn’t trade that day for any other day of my life. Now, 45 years later, we’re the proud parents of four, with a new crop of grand kids.
Thank you Kayleen for putting up with me through all the years. I thank God everyday for blessing my life with you, those eyes and that smile!
All My Love, All Ways!
Trust, a Reason to Believe!
Family, Friends and Loved Ones,
We sincerely hope this letter finds you all joyful and living in peace. These months have certainly tested us all, challenging everything we thought to be reality. It is our sincere hope that you are all well, and that you see better things ahead. Always know that you are in our thoughts and prayers throughout each day.
No one knows what the future holds for us, we can only take stock in today. Thankfully, today looks better than yesterday did.
For me, the lessons learned throughout this time of worldwide pestilence, fear and torment are summarized in one word. Trust. Like most people, it is when my reality is shaken, trust weakens. In this case, trust in the systems, information and individuals that we have empowered to protect and serve us in times of trouble.
Going through this fearful time brings back memories of my experiences following brain surgery. Leaving Mayo hospital for rehab was just about the scariest thing of my life. Gone was the fear of dying. Having knocked on death’s door a couple of times in the previous year, the thought of moving forward was more of a comfort than a fear. Instead, the fear that gripped every part of my being was the fear of loss. The loss of my normal life.
Instead of walking out of the hospital, getting in a car and riding to the rehab center. This day saw me going by ambulance from one facility to the next. Not because of convenience, nor some bureaucratic benefit for the hospital and workers. They were transporting me by ambulance because of my inability to walk or use my hands. All throughout that short trip, my thoughts were stuck on my new life as an invalid. Fear had consumed every bit of my existence. Looking back, it is now easy to understand that my fear was rooted in a lack of trust.
Trust is one of those words that stands alone. Like describing a color or a beautiful sunrise, words alone cannot explain what trust is. Isn’t Trust something we just know or feel; our “gut” feeling? Is that gnawing in our gut simply about trust? Explaining words like trust is like trying to describe something green. While there is a myriad of variations, green is green, but we can’t explain it without a comparison to another color or something green. That’s where my angst was, the uncertainty, doubt and lack of trust gnawing in my gut.
My experience with doctors and medical providers has always been pretty good. Sure, there were a few that dropped the ball, but for the most part, it is my belief that we are blessed to be in a country, and living in a time, where our health and well-being are considered most important by those who take care of us. So, it was not a question of trust in the systems or personnel that drove my fear and lack of trust. Instead, it was my lack of trust in myself and my body that filled me with fear. It was only when faced with a vision of what my world could become, that my strength of faith took over and led me to rebuild my trust again.
My fears had given me a clear view of what my world could look like if my legs and arms continued to fail me. On the other hand, it was my strength of faith that showed me a future that included walking on my own, and even being able to type again with fingers that could barely pick up a penny from the table. Then, remembering the words of my dad ringing in my head brought a smile, “Billy, how do you eat an elephant?”, with laughing eyes he said, “One bite at a time. One small bite at a time!”
It was in thinking about what’s next, what does the world look like after a pandemic, that led me to hear my dad’s wise words again. This is the understanding that gives me peace and comfort in that every action we take for good, big or small, will only make things better. Likewise, all actions that speak of hatred, bitterness and doubt, will only serve to make things worse.
Going forward, it is my belief that it is not our job to rebuild the trust in the world. That is a very big job. Trust only comes from the small actions that each of us takes to make our world better. When combined with the trusting, good intentions of others, our world is a better place for all. Trust is part of who we are, and while we all hope that governments and organizations do the right thing, it is up to us as individuals to make the right decision. Sadly, we cannot control another’s actions, only our own.
When we band together in groups, seeking comfort in conformity, we often sacrifice our individual decisions in alignment with the group. This is the core of my disdain for “group thinking” throughout all sides of the political spectrum. Top down, collective rationalization, has led to the demise and destruction of so much life throughout history. You would think we would have learned our lesson by now.
After all, how often are we told the group is more important than the individual? If the group survives it can only be good for the individual. Right? It might surprise most to know of my emphatic agreement with that statement. Throughout my life, it has been my sincere desire to put the needs of others in front of my needs. To always lead with love. This is the second great commandment that Christ taught, to love one another.
My dilemma is who makes the choice? The group, or the individual? Are we to fall “lock-step” in line with what the majority tells us is best? How is that working for you?
Whenever these thoughts come to mind, it takes me back to the Star Trek movie where Spock died. Looking Captain Kirk in the eyes, while sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise, Spock whispers, “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” Truly a supreme sacrifice to protect the entire crew. Who made the sacrifice? Mr. Spock, the crew or Starfleet?
For me, that is the difference. Where the decision is made. If Starfleet headquarters had ordered Spock to do what he did, would it be a sacrifice? Ultimately, who paid the price? History is full of groups directing individuals to “take one for the team”. From the horrendous blood sacrifices of ancient times to the “for the good of all” directives of the holocaust. All, terrible decisions that were the result of “top-down” group thinking.
It is with this understanding that it is on my heart to caution all about forthcoming decisions and directives in reaction to our recovery from the pandemic. Humanity has an opportunity to reset the reality of how we live, how we treat and encourage one another. Hopefully, as individuals, we’ll each take the time to fully examine how we got here. Not to lay blame on one another, holding this group or person accountable for mistakes. Truth be known, mistakes on all sides are rampant, and ripe for criticism. Instead, it is my hope and prayer that we all investigate where our trust is, and how best to rebuild trust in our systems, governments and most importantly each other.
It was my lessons in rehab that taught me not to rely on others to rebuild my trust. It was completely up to me. Before any growth, it was up to me to trust first. No matter what the therapists did, if my heart wasn’t in it, trust would never come. However, it was the encouragement from the therapists, loved ones and friends that empowered me to take those first (frightful) small steps of trust. With each step, while realizing each small victory, my trust grew.
So, as we all come out of these horrific experiences of the last few months, hopefully, we can all start with small steps of trust. Not in governments, systems and organizations. But trust in each other while surrounded by trusting individuals that will encourage us all to do the right thing.
Love God, Love People!
Mark & Kayleen