Brad Clawson Photography: Blog https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Brad Clawson Photography bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:26:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:26:00 GMT https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u339653936-o111543093-50.jpg Brad Clawson Photography: Blog https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog 120 96 Still, The Stress Comes Back https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/still-the-stress-comes-back

 

          Tonight, there was one thing on my heart.  Although it’s Spring Break for many of us, there is still plenty of stress happening in our lives, whether at work or at home.  Stress can destroy us emotionally and physically.  It’s one of the toughest things to deal with.

          I try to channel my stress in ways that are constructive like focus at work, walking with the Mrs., enjoying a sunset (not many of those lately), or just spending time relaxing while sharing a good movie with the Mrs.  Still, the stress comes back. 

          For those who know me, I’m really am not a worrier.  I don’t sit and mull over things again and again.  Over the years, I’ve learned to take challenges for what they are and not make them bigger in my mind than they are in real life.  Still, the stress comes back.

          Sure, I have allowed myself the occasional non-productive ways to deal with stress like staying up too late binge-watching a good show on Netflix, eating too many of those York mints, or just acting like a total goof annoying the Mrs. to no end.  Still, the stress comes back. 

          The reality is that we’ll always have stress.  Jesus didn’t promise us a life without it.  He said to us a long time ago, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble (stresses). But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  He didn’t promise us a rose garden, but He did promise us His peace. 

His peace is all we need.  Sure, some of the natural ways of dealing with stress help, but in the end, the only real way of dealing with it is through His peace that overcomes all the stress that keeps come back again and again and again.  Tonight, if you’re needing His peace in your life, take a moment to ask Him to fill and touch your heart with it.  He will give you His peace beyond anything we can do to deal with the stresses we face.  He will not only give you peace, but He will lift any of the burdens you’re carrying too.  We just need to ask…

 

Love always,
 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/still-the-stress-comes-back Fri, 15 Mar 2019 01:45:25 GMT
Who?... Me? https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/who-me

 

          Earlier today, while enjoying my $1.50 hotdog lunch special at Costco, I noticed a guy who I could have swore was Ryan Gosling.  It’s not that I pay much attention to famous people in public or look for them, but this guy could have been his twin.  I decided to make a game out of it for the next five minutes and see how many other people reminded me of someone famous.  I quickly gave up that dumb game when I realized that most of them looked like character actors whom I couldn’t remember their names anyway. 

          A few years back, the Mrs. and I were finished shopping for some groceries at Sam’s Club and just chatting when we came up to the check-out register.  The clerk, a young woman in her twenties, looked up at me and said, ‘Oh my God!... Oh my God!..”  I thought, ‘Does she know me?’   I asked her what the matter was after she calmed down a bit and she told me she thought I was the actor Dean McDermott for a second.  I didn’t know who that was but, after looking him up on Google, I learned he’s apparently married to Corey Spelling who was in the tv show 90210.   I guess there’s some resemblance, but yeah…

          The whole thought of mistaken identity, or having a look-alike out there, went deeper in my mind after leaving Costco.  It stirred something inside of me.  I’m still having a difficult time putting it to words, but if I had to put a word to what I’m feeling, it would be grief. 

Now, why would that make me feel grief?  I believe it boils down to the insecurity we all feel about who we may be in life or how we may look compared to others; especially those who are famous.   It was as though God was grieved by my need to find someone famous in others and was saying to me, ‘You are uniquely special and so are they.  I’ve made you all beautiful in my eyes’. 

We’re all created unique in God’s eyes.  Each one of us is special in our own right.  Scientists may speculate that there’s another Bradley in an alternate universe (Heaven forbid), but I am the only one here at this time and you are also the only you both now and forever.

So, whether we look like someone famous or know someone who is famous (or are famous), all that really matters is that we realize just how uniquely special we are in His eyes.  We don’t need to compare ourselves to anyone else.  We can be the best that we are and that’s enough.  No one can ever take that from us.  The gifts we have are no better or worse than the gifts of others.  As far as I’m concerned, I may look like Dean McDermott, but I’m Brad Clawson.  I thank God for what He’s made me to be (crossed eyes and dorky humor to boot) and that’s all I will ever want to be…

 

Love always,
 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/who-me Thu, 14 Mar 2019 02:23:11 GMT
It's Never Too Late to Change https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/its-never-too-late-to-change

 

          Have you ever had the thought that you may be living the best, or worst, times of your life and everything is either uphill or downhill from here?  I’ve had moments when I wished time would just stand still so I could stay in that moment forever.  On the other hand, I’ve had moments when it felt like I was stuck in time during some of the worst moments of my life; it felt like they would never end.  The future is coming.  Like it or not.  We can try to avoid it and hide in a room full of memorabilia, but at the end of our days, we’ll still look in the mirror and see the tolls that the years have taken on us. 

          The Mrs and I were talking about class reunions tonight on our walk to downtown and back.  We were sharing just how much we, and those we went to school with, had changed over the years.  It only takes a brief look at photos of those of us who graduated back then compared to ones of today to see how the years, and our choices, have changed all of us.

          For the young people in my life, my wish is for them to take ahold of the time they have now while they’re still young and make the very best of it.  If there is one thing the years have taught me, it’s that the decisions we make when we’re young affect us for the rest of our lives; and there’s no turning back the clock.  Oh, there have been many times that I wish I could have a 'Do over', but even dreaming of such a thing is only futility.

          So many people I know became drawn into a path when they were young and didn’t wake up from it until it was too late.  Life offers young people many pleasures and temptations that will distract them from looking ahead and being prudent.  If they could start with even the smallest of things like putting a little money away out of every check into an account for their kid’s college, investing in a long-term retirement plan at an early age, and creating positive life-long habits of exercising themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, they will literally change their future for the better.

          Tonight here’s to taking charge of our future and letting go of the regrets of the past.  Even at my age, it’s not too late to start healthy habits that will improve my future and benefit all those around me for the better down the road.  There’s no better time than today.  I know it’s tough to make changes after so many years, but if we keep our eyes on what can be instead of on what isn’t, those small changes will become easier every day.  Most of all, with God's help, we can do all things and He is always willing to give us the strength we need to make those changes for the better…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/its-never-too-late-to-change Wed, 13 Mar 2019 01:25:47 GMT
Finding Time to Hear God https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/finding-time-to-hear-god

 

          Sitting on a bench somewhere in the middle of an unknown park listening to the birds sing, the wind blowing through the trees, and enjoying the warmth of the sun as it brushes over your face in-between trees that sway; now THAT is my idea of relaxation.  Finding the time, or rather making the time, to sit on that illusive bench is something many of us have difficulty doing.  It is often there when I hear God's voice speak.

          For me, the most important thing in my life isn’t my career, my family, or even the Mrs.  No, it’s being able to hear, recognize, and understand the voice of the Lord.  Admittedly, I often miss it, especially when life is so hectic and all I can focus on is what’s next on the agenda.  But the times when I do hear Him, and recognize His voice speaking to me, are by far the times that not only change my life but also the lives of those around me.

          God is speaking to us all the time.  We, on the other hand, are not listening for Him all the time.  Often when we do hear His voice or know He is trying to get a message across to us is when we’re in the middle of a crisis.  It’s then when we turn our hearts to Him in need of help.  Thankfully, God is not like His created ones who tend to hold grudges, feel inconvenienced, or just don’t care when others come to them with needs.  No, He is always there willing and excited to hear from us.

          So, the common denominator in us hearing His voice and knowing His will for us, is to have that time alone with Him.  It seems so simple on the surface, but when faced with the opportunity to turn everything off (including our phones and the impulse to take a selfie before we do anything) more times than not, we find ourselves stuck looking through the next post on Facebook.

          I’ll admit, it’s hard to break away from.  I struggle with it like everyone else.  If it weren’t for my time in the morning before starting my day that I spend with Him, I may not have much time with Him throughout the day at all. 

My goal this year, is to start making more time that is dedicated to speaking with, and hearing Him.  Whether it is sitting on a random park bench, walking by the lake nearby, or just sitting on the back porch in one of our rocking chairs, I know it is crucial for me to do so at this juncture in my life.

I want to encourage you too, if you are feeling a need to hear His voice more clearly, to get his guidance on a few crucial decisions in your life, or just to soak in His presence and peace for a while, find a place where you can put everything (and I mean everything including the phone) away.  Even if it’s just fifteen or twenty minutes a day, He will meet you there. 

As you make a habit of talking with Him daily like that, I know He will bless you beyond what you can imagine and begin to speak with you in ways you have been needing to hear.  He will make His plans clearer to you and He will give you the peace you have been looking for.   Because, He loves you that much…


Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/finding-time-to-hear-god Tue, 12 Mar 2019 02:58:54 GMT
Looking Over the Edge of Freedom's Cliff https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/looking-over-the-edge-of-freedoms-cliff

 

          Earlier in my software sales career, while working with a large IT organization on a contract, the person who was my main contact had the job of corralling multiple silos of their business together in order to determine how many licenses of software each was consuming and whether they actually needed what they were allocated from corporate.  It was not a job he enjoyed as he would regularly refer to them sarcastically as ‘Fiefdoms’.  Not having used that word in my everyday life, I needed to go back and look up the official definition.

          The word Fiefdom came from medieval times in France referring to a local community with a separate authority of their own who had vowed their allegiance to an overlord power in exchange for military protection.  Otherwise known as Feudalism.  In the corporate world, a large company may have multiple business units which operate separately, but still are subject to the headquarters authority and their profits roll up to the overall company bottom line which is where my friend so rightly labeled the business units in his company. 

          When one of these Fiefdoms decided not to pay tribute or agree with the demands of the overlord, they would pay a heavy price for breaking with authority.  Today, we would view that feudalistic form of governance as tyrannical. 

Our country was formed as a result of our founders rebelling against a very similar thing; not wanting to be controlled by a distant authority without representation.  The result was the formation of the republic we have today governed by, what was intended to be, a limited federal government not only protecting the republic militarily, but also protecting their God-given human rights and freedoms.

Ironically, our country is slowing moving back to a system of centralized power which is gaining more and more control over the individual and giving it back to the state.  No matter what political party we may hold allegiance to, we are all becoming increasingly subject to this all-powerful government of our own making to the point where our country is at a crossroad in our history.

My hope and prayer is that, as a nation, we would awaken at the wheel of this out of control vehicle that seems to be hopelessly driving us ever closer to the edge of the cliff of freedom threatening to drive us right into the abyss of tyranny once again.  Most of all, my prayer is for our country to awaken to our need for a higher power than any government can provide.  Only then will we truly be free; both in our natural lives and in our hearts…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/looking-over-the-edge-of-freedoms-cliff Mon, 11 Mar 2019 02:05:10 GMT
Men's Feet https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/mens-feet

 

          Over the years, the Mrs and I have had a continuing difference of opinion about sandals.  The bottom line is that she likes them on men, and I hate them.  The reason for me is clear; the majority of men’s feet are hairy, most men don't care for their toe nails, their toes are odd shaped, their feet are usually neanderthal looking, and just plain ugly. 

          I’ll be careful not to ‘over generalize’ because I know some men actually do have ‘nice’ feet.  Me being one of them (according the Mrs).  By nice, I mean high arches, toes all aligned symmetrically at even, descending lengths, and very little hair.  That would be mine.  So, she thinks I need to wear sandals because it will show off my feet, keep them ‘aired out’, and even make me look more masculine. 

          Masculine is where I draw the line.  Being raised in a cooler climate and during a time when only ‘Hippies’ wore sandals, I find it hard to view them as manly.  Very much the opposite in fact.  To me, manly men wear shoes, boots, hiking shoes, cowboy boots, or fashionable tennis shoes.  If they wear flip flops, well, I won’t even go there… I will admit that I did break down and began to wear ankle socks with my tennis shoes a few years back (that took some time for me to do). 

          It’s just that most of the men I see who wear sandals, wear the open-toe kind and they often have big, hairy toes that usually are out of whack and just nasty.  I find them more in line with men from the dark ages than with modern day fashion. 

          Summer will be here soon and the battle will be on again with the Mrs over what footwear to don while outside.  This year, I decided to pull a one-up on her and purchase a pair of sandals that hide the toes and look, well, manlier than most; they're more like hiking sandals.  These, I think I’ll be able to wear without too much self-consciousness happening.  Maybe I'll even wear them with socks (just kidding).  Needless to say, she was pleasantly surprised and even slightly shocked.  We’ll see how many times I actually put them on (probably only when we go out on a date or for a walk around our town square). 

          I know I’m not alone out there, I’m sure there are women and men alike who would agree with me who wish some guys would just put some socks on already...please.  I understand that there’s probably a few people who will read this and think I’m just an old-fashioned guy who needs to get with the times.  That’s ok.  They can wear their sandals whenever they want.  I’ll just avoid them on airplanes.  Just saying…

 

Happy Saturday My Friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/mens-feet Sun, 10 Mar 2019 00:01:51 GMT
Persistence - Turning What's Abandoned Into a Beautiful Home https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/persistence---turning-whats-abandoned-into-a-beautiful-home

 

          This week has raced by while the Microsoft whirlwind continues to build into Q2.  For guys like me, that means high stress every day, millions on the line for our customers, and Microsoft pushing what they may not need right now.  You can imagine that Fridays look better all the time.

          While working at my desk this week, I was able to watch the neighbor’s home across the street getting a major landscape upgrade.  It’s the final piece of the puzzle being added after nearly three years which has seen the house go from being a mediocre rental property, an abandoned construction project with no roof, to a fully refurbished home mostly done by a couple of local handymen.

Witnessing the transformation has been a way to take the focus off work for a few minutes at a time.  Somehow, seeing the framers, the roofers, the painters complete their projects, and now the landscapers have helped to keep things in perspective for me both at home and at work.  I know, it probably seems like I’m a nosy neighbor (well, maybe a little bit), but knowing the work someone else is doing across the street is making that abandoned project better along with helping our home’s value increase, sort of worms my heart a bit.

As crazy as life can be for a lot of us, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  To see other people’s lives, grow and change for the better after being abandoned for the worse, is something worth watching.   It’s inspiring to see the result of hard work, dedication, and persistence through the tough times result in something others will admire.

Tonight here’s to persisting even when it's tough.  Here’s to not giving up when the pressure is on and realizing that, as hard as we have it, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than we do.  Here’s to keeping our focus when everything seems to be going in different directions.  Most of all here’s to taking joy in other people’s success after they've been thrown to the side of the road.   They deserve our appreciation, encouragement, and admiration because when they make their lives better, ours improves too…

 

Wishing you all a blessed weekend my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/persistence---turning-whats-abandoned-into-a-beautiful-home Sat, 09 Mar 2019 03:15:47 GMT
The Barber Shop https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/the-barber-shop

 

          If there’s one thing in life I like to avoid and yet am glad I still have the need to do so, is getting a haircut.  For those of you who may be slightly OCD like me, just the thought of sitting in the chair where countless other men, women, and children have sat while their hair fell to the ground and on that chair, sort of grosses me out a bit.  Granted, the entire experience usually depends more on the hairstylist than the actual chair.  Their personality, styling ability, and overall kindness, will make or break it for me. 

          Being blessed with straight blond hair and a cowlick on the side of my head, there are few choices for my styles.   In college, while in Navy training, I thought I would get the aviator flat-top cut that later became famous with Top Gun.  The barber on base was a funny man from the Philippines who said, ‘I cut yo hair like aircraft carrier…. Flat so birds can land.  Haaa…!’.  I’ll never forget that.  Needless to say, the 80’s girls back in college weren’t too thrilled about the style when I got back. 

          Today, it seems that the hairstylist can even be more of a counselor.  I will admit, it can be humorous, and slightly uncomfortable, sitting in the waiting area having to hear some of the things people tell them while they're getting their haircut.  I mean, it’s everything from their pet dogs to what town they grew up in to their work and so on…  They do have a captive audience there, but I’m not one to divulge my whole life story to a room full of strangers no matter how many times they try to ask about it.

          How we keep our hair says a lot about who we are.  In today’s society hair has become a status symbol, a fashion symbol, and even a social/political statement depending on the person.  For me, now that my grey hair is coming in (beyond just my beard), I tend to go for the brushed back look with a few waves.  The Mrs doesn’t like my hair getting too long, but she does approve of the ‘Most Interesting Man Look’…

          Whether our hair is brown, blonde, red, black, or grey, we’re all in the same boat.  We all need to get them cut sooner or later.  Most of all, under that hair, we’re all human.  So, if you want short hair, long hair, bleached hair, or curly hair, it doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters most is who we are underneath.  The rest is just the icing on the cake... 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/the-barber-shop Fri, 08 Mar 2019 02:51:37 GMT
Out to Pasture https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/out-to-pasture

 

          Well, today brought on the addition of yet another flu bug.  Even after overcoming two bouts of it along with having the flu shot, there seems to be yet another version floating around out there that found its way into my body.  Thankfully, this version is a weaker one and, so far anyway, has been manageable with a few over-the-counter meds.  But, suffice to say, tonight’s blog is going to be short.

          I was thinking earlier this week about what the appropriate age might be to get out of sales.  Right now, I feel like I’m more effective than I’ve ever been.   I guess there’s just something about the grey beard, and a lot more experience, that gives some credibility (along with, most importantly, God’s help). 

There’s still that thought in my head that says, ‘At what age will I either not be able to do this any longer or that I’ll be so old that I won’t even have the ability to walk into a customer’s office?’   It inspires me to evaluate my health regularly that’s for certain.  The fact remains, in order to afford a lesser paying role, or even retirement, I’ll need to have a much bigger nest egg built up than we do now.

Please don’t take me wrong, I trust God to always provide for our needs both now and in the far distant future.  Who knows what that may include when we’re in our seventies?   All I know is that those days are approaching quicker than ever and I want to be ready for them. 

So tonight here’s to not being obsessed with the day that we too will be, ‘Put out to pasture’ and focusing on the here and now.  Here’s to trusting God with our finances and our provision no matter what our age we may be. And, here’s to walking in the assurance that He will always be there with us no matter what lies ahead…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/out-to-pasture Thu, 07 Mar 2019 02:34:18 GMT
There's No Place Like Home https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/theres-no-place-like-home  

 

          One of our favorite movies to watch growing up was, ‘The Wizard of Oz’.   Back then there were no pay-per-view services, Blockbuster video stores, or DVDs.  Nope, our favorite movies came on national TV once a year (Poseidon Adventure, The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes, etc.) and, if we missed it, we would have to wait a full year to watch it again.  No VCRs then either. 

          In many ways, I miss those days when the whole family came together to watch our favorite movie.  It brought us all together.  When watching the ‘Wizard of Oz’, Grandma would usually use Dorothy’s journey to the land of Oz as an opportunity to teach us a few life lessons (something I learned from her and drove our kids crazy with) about how the family is most important. 

We learned many other lessons from the movie of course.  Lessons like the importance of friends, overcoming evil with good, that having a heart is more than physical, fear isn’t a sign of a lack of courage, and that the glitter of the city can’t replace the love of a home in the middle of Kansas.

          With today’s commercial video world, kids can watch the yellow brick road scene until their parents break the disk and grab a bottle of wine just to calm down.  There’s a constant need for more visual sensation and many of the life lessons are buried under a pile of DVDs.

          With our families so divided by distance it becomes very difficult to enjoy those times when we can all come together just to watch a classic movie or simply play games.  Our family is no different with relatives in South Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Alaska, Washington, and California, the time that we are able to have together is limited to an annual plane trip (if we can afford it) instead of the annual movie on the television.

          Some families seem miles apart even though they live down the road from each other.  It’s not the distance in miles that keeps them apart, but the walls built up by bitterness, misunderstandings, anger, selfishness, and pride.  Dorothy learned that, more than anything else, her family was what she cherished the most.  Sure, it’s just a movie and maybe a little bit cheesy, but it makes a good point; that, at the end of the day, there truly is no place like home.

          There may not be a way for us to click our heels together and take us back to a time when we were all together (whether physically or emotionally), but we do have the ability to pick up the phone and make a call, post a note on Facebook, or send a ‘Just because’ card to let our loved ones know we’re thinking of them.  Whatever we do to help keep the family bond together, after everything is said-and-done and we look back on our life, it will be those things we remember.  So tonight here’s to the family because there truly is no place like home...

 

 

Love always,
 

 

Brad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/theres-no-place-like-home Wed, 06 Mar 2019 02:57:17 GMT
Up in Flames https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/up-in-flames

 

          I sometimes think about driving home one day and finding out that our home had burned down.  All our life’s savings, memories, clothes, and furniture had gone up in flames.  It’s not a pleasant thought that’s for sure.   But, it’s one that many men may have as they comb through their minds trying to think of all the possible ways a fire could start in their home.  Even after all of the forethought and taking care, nature may still win out.

          Several years ago, some friends of ours had a bolt of lightning hit their home and send electricity through the house shorting out all the wall units and starting a fire.  The fire quickly took hold.  They were fortunate enough to get of the burning house, along with their pet dog, only to watch their life's work go up in flames.  Because the fire department arrived quickly, they were at least able to preserve the structure of their home, but the water and smoke still had done tremendous damage.  Since then, they have rebuilt their home into something even better than it was before.  The journey has been a long one and the cost has been very high.  Not everyone can say the same, however.  Many will lose their home and not have anything left but ashes and smoke.

          Sometimes, relationships can end a lot like those homes burned down by ‘natural’ disasters.  We may be in what we think is a solid relationship only to see it go up in flames from an unexpected random event that brings destruction when we least expect it.  We may not lose the entire relationship, but what’s left, we may not feel is worth saving.

          On the other hand, we may have very little left when a relationship falls apart but with hard work, lots of effort, sacrifice, and persistence, over time we may be able to rebuild it into something even better than it was before.  It may look the same on the outside to those who didn’t know what we had to do to repair it, but inside, we will know.

          I know I’m speaking in what some may consider hyperbole, but the truth is that every relationship will come under fire.  That fire may wreak havoc on us.  It may even seem like there’s no way to repair it and that it’s better to just walk away.  Yet, with enough love, care, and time, nearly any broken relationship can be rebuilt.  

          Tonight, I’m praying for one specific relationship in my own life that had burned up in flames long ago by a random flaming arrow that was shot into my life.  What’s left is but a shell of what it could have been.  I’m still holding out for it to be rebuilt into something better than ever.  I have the vision and desire for it to be rebuilt.  I also know that, with God’s help, it can be done.  It won’t be easy and there will be lots of painful moments in the process, but in the end, it will be worth it.

          If you’re facing the loss of a relationship that went up in flames, be encouraged.  What seems to be lost can be rebuilt.  You may not even want it to be rebuilt, but over time as wounds heal and forgiveness is granted, you may find that openness to try again.  This time, it could work out into something even better than it was before.  With God’s help, all things are possible…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/up-in-flames Tue, 05 Mar 2019 02:57:08 GMT
Mixed Blessings Tonight https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/mixed-blessings-tonight

 

          Tonight has been a fun time with family celebrating our grandson’s 2nd birthday.  They grow up so fast don’t they?  Before long he’ll be driving and then off to start a life of his own.

          Still, my heart has mixed emotions after checking the news only to find that at least 22 people have been killed by a deadly tornado today and they’re expecting to find more.  Having seen the damage a large tornado can do up close, it’s not something I ever want to live through. 

          Our hearts and prayers are for those families who are suffering loss whether loss of a loved one or loss of their homes.  We’ll be making a contribution to several ministries tomorrow who will be on the ground soon to help them and want to encourage you to do the same if you can.   I’ll post a link to each below for you if you’re interested. 

          Looking ahead, I want to encourage you to keep the faith.  As a friend of mine used to say, ‘Keep on keepin’ on…’.   Hold onto what you know is true. Fight for what you know is right.  Live above reproach and when you fall, get back up and keep moving forward.   Most of all, remember that you’re loved by God more than you can even imagine.  

 

Mercy Chefs

Operation Blessing

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/mixed-blessings-tonight Mon, 04 Mar 2019 04:21:08 GMT
The Old Fan Reminding Me of The Simple Things https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/the-old-fan-reminding-me-of-the-simple-things

 

          By the desk in my office I have an old red fan with one of those metal ‘covers’ made specifically to be a hazard to anyone who accidentally (or not so accidentally) sticks their finger in there while it’s running.  And, I will admit, I have done that before, and it did not feel good.

          What’s cool about those old fans is that they have an art deco style and bring to mind memories of the old private detective movies I used to enjoy watching as a kid.  You won’t find them around stores these days, however; there are too many injury lawyers out there ready to sue after the first scratch of the blade. 

          I occasionally use my fan in the summer when the heat is too much even for the air conditioner, but most of the time, it sits on the shelf along with other memorabilia from times past.  I like it because it reminds of the ‘Good ‘ole days’ and helps to give my office that ‘Look’.

          As I sit at my desk tonight looking over at that old red fan and listening to Glenn Miller playing in the background, the Mrs is in the kitchen baking cupcakes for our grandson’s birthday party tomorrow and I’m reminded of God’s blessings over the years that have led me to where I am today.   Even though the road has been full of potholes, sharp curves, roadblocks, and frightening moments when it seemed as though there was no way forward, the road today seems much different; It's more like a wide-open West Texas road with plenty of sunshine ahead. To look back at the challenges past only brings thankfulness as the pain that came with them grows further and further away.

So, tonight here’s to the simple things in life that remind us how blessed we truly are.  It may not be an old red fan sitting on the shelf next to your desk, but if it takes you back to a simpler time and helps you appreciate what you have today, then it’s a good thing and something to hold onto.  Because, we won’t be around forever and the longer we live, the more we’ll learn to appreciate the simpler things of life as it's they which help us to hold onto the good memories and to let go of the past pains until they’re just a distant memory in the rearview mirror…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/the-old-fan-reminding-me-of-the-simple-things Sun, 03 Mar 2019 02:45:46 GMT
Born to Be Wild https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/born-to-be-wild

 

          The movie that changed the landscape of cycling in America was truly Easy Rider and Born to be Wild was the iconic song they used in the movie.  I would dare say that everyone my age can remember the song and most will remember the movie (although I didn’t see it until I was older since it was rated R and, back then, you weren’t allowed to watch movies with that rating until you were eighteen with no exceptions (well, at least until HBO came along in the mid-70s). 

          The movie was about a group of guys who set out to find America on their bikes and wound up running into a ‘backward’ world full of people who didn’t see America the way they did.  It was a counter-culture movie deliberately making a statement to the older generation from a younger generation at rebellion against societies rules at the time.

          Whether we’re born wild, or to be wild, is another question altogether.  But the song's lyric does raise a good question.   What if we were born to be wild by nature?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that those who choose a life of recklessness and random choices that buck the system are naturally born to be that way?  I doubt it.

          ‘Wildness’ is something I’ve never been accused of personally (I’ve been accused of many other things…).  In high school, my idea of being wild was driving with the windows of my Mustang down while playing (AC/DC) louder than my ears could handle (a time before I met the Lord).  I was really a rebel...  Although, I did have a motorcycle in college for a while that rode around with my Navy fighter pilot's jacket on (not a chopper, but who’s counting). 

          It’s been my experience that those who choose a wild lifestyle are doing so because they’re trying to either compensate for something they feel is missing in their life or rebelling against an authority of some kind.  Both are paths that will only lead to choices which bring with them pain and hardship. Unfortunately, when we’re in pain or angry, we’re often at a point in our life when we have the least visibility to the consequences of our choices until it’s too late.

          SO, tonight, for all those out there who enjoy getting ‘wild’ like me by getting that extra side of fries once in a while or having one more cookie when you know you shouldn’t, here’s to you.  For those who are truly running from pain and rebelling from an authority in your life, you will always be welcome home no matter where your choices may lead you because you are loved…

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/3/born-to-be-wild Sat, 02 Mar 2019 02:02:46 GMT
'Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer' https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer

 

          There used to be a saying long ago to describe someone who may not be the most intelligent or perceptive.  People would say ‘They’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer are they?’.  Being the blonde that I am, I’ve been perceived to be one of those dull knives more than once in my life.  Probably, it was because I wasn’t paying attention, was preoccupied with something and not listening, or just not interested.   Still, the label stuck with me. 

          Labels are that way, aren’t they?  Once that label is glued onto you it’s hard to get off.  I’ve tried to remove labels from cans before and, trust me, it’s a lot of work.  Once that glue hardens, it stays there even if you rip the paper off.  It’s like super glue!

          Name calling can be the same way.  Every day we hear labels being thrown around in the toxic political environment we live in. So much so, it’s like we’re all living as adult children back in the 2nd grade playground. 

          Now, it’s true, there are those who may not necessarily be as quick to perceive, understand, or ‘Get it’.  They may not even be aware of it either.  I often run into them while waiting at stop lights for them to realize the light turned green; 30 seconds ago.  Moments like that do make it difficult not to label that person in front of us (among other things). 

          We all label ourselves in many ways too.  We go by the label of our job description, family role, marriage status, sexuality, income level, skin color, hair color, musical preference, and so on.  It’s as though everything in life has a label! 

          The Mrs recently purchased labels to stick to our airtight plastic containers in the cabinet so I won’t get the sugar and the flour confused.   Granted, those labels are a good thing.  Not to mention the labels that direct us where to go, what to eat and not to eat, warn us of danger, and even encourage us with positive feedback.  So, all labels are not inherently bad.

          The key is knowing when we are using labels to either limit, look down upon, degrade, demean, negatively influence, falsely accuse, and even destroy another person.  Those labels need to go.  Imagine taking a label we may want to put onto our political opponent like ‘…Blank…tard’ and replacing it with something we can find about them that’s positive?   It may just change our perspective about a lot of things.

          Tonight, here’s to re-labeling those people in our lives who we’ve kept under a negative label by finding something good about them and focusing on that.   Here’s also to re-labeling ourselves by stopping the negative internal talk (i.e. ‘I’m such a dummy, etc.’) and replacing it with positive talk; maybe even reinforcing ourselves with words of what God says about us.  If we can begin to re-label others, and ourselves, with something positive, I guarantee that it will change our lives forever and for the better…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer Fri, 01 Mar 2019 02:41:15 GMT
Getting Over Status Symbols https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/getting-over-status-symbols

 

          Back before most young people were even born, the white-wall tire was a sign of class stating to everyone passing by that you were driving in style.  The broad brush of white paint on the rubber tires often accompanied shiny spoked wheels glistening in the sunlight.  There was no doubt, if you had those tires, you were in the upper crust.

          One day along the way as society changed, those white-wall tires that once were a status symbol became a sign of extravagance and gaudiness being replaced by the black-walled tires we have today.  It didn’t happen overnight but was a gradual change as the white-walls became thinner and thinner until they were eventually gone.  Today, the only place you may find them is on a restored car of old reminding us of what life was like when those cars were on the road.

          Anything can be a status symbol today.  It’s often the first thing I look for when watching old movies; what was the ‘thing’ everyone had to have, wear, or do to be in style?  80’s movies are always fun to watch with the polo shirts, Ray-Bans, and pastel colors.  Oh, I remember those very well.  If you didn’t have your collar flipped up, then you were just a ‘nerd’.

          Why do we need status symbols anyway?  I mean, why is it so important to tell others who we are by following the latest fads?  I was in the Sprint store the other day and made a comment to the young salesman how I thought the AirPods looked goofy and were more of a status symbol.  I’m a Sony in-the-ear-high-fi guy myself.  He laughed and gave me a look like I was from his grandfather’s generation.  Yeah, he was probably right.   

          The bottom line is, it’s ok to enjoy the popular fashions, gadgets, and car tires for that matter.  It’s when we begin to identify ourselves by them, that we start to fall into a pit of emptiness.  So many times I’ve seen people feel down about themselves because their clothes, car, hairstyle, or phone wasn’t the latest,  The superficial need had created a sense of inferiority that they struggled with every time they stepped outside. 

          God wants us to build our identity on Him.  He give us these things in the world to enjoy, but one day, they will all pass away. It’s who we are inside that will last.  Some of the most beautiful people I have ever met or been around, are those who have no need to ‘Compete with the Joneses’.   They are content in themselves and in their faith.  Quite often, just being around them makes a person become aware of just how much they may have fallen into the status trap themself.

          I’ve never really been too tempted by having the latest & greatest; maybe to a fault.  Yet, I do feel that pressure of competitiveness when it comes to my electronics to be honest.  Not to brag, but to enjoy the latest technology of course.

          Tonight, here’s to finding the balance between having the biggest and best verses being content with what we have.  I’m still working on that character trait and want to encourage you along that path too. It’s possible to have nice things and not be driven by them.  When everything in this life is said and done, we’ll leave them all behind and the only thing that will matter then is Heaven.   Who knows, maybe I'll be surprised when I get there and be picked up in a heavenly chariot with white-walled wheels… Yeah, that would be just like Jesus…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/getting-over-status-symbols Thu, 28 Feb 2019 02:46:37 GMT
Seeing Beyond The Natural https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/seeing-beyond-the-natural

 

          Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like everything is fine but, for some reason, something is going on somewhere that you know isn’t right?  I have this happen often (today in fact).  Everything will seem fine, but inside my ‘Gut’ I have a sense that I need to pray.   I know, that may sound a bit far-fetched to some people if they’ve never experienced that kind of thing, but it can be a real, tangible feeling.

          Earlier tonight I was watching a video interview with a man who was part of a secret team funded and directed by the CIA to do remote viewing.  If you’re not familiar with what that means, it’s basically using people who have a heightened ability to see beyond the natural; what they used to call ‘ESP’ or ‘Extrasensory Perception’.  

          The show was quite interesting as it gave multiple examples of people who had worked for the government and helped to discover Soviet bases, ships, and spies.  They were able to find people who had been held hostage and had premonitions of the future.  Whether one believes in that sort of thing or not, the evidence was convincing, and the government kept the program going for over twenty years.

          I find it interesting because of the many times I’ve either dreamed something that has happened, been wakened in the middle of the night with a sense to pray for someone, or had a sense to make a turn in the car where we found our first home around the corner.   Only with me, I know it’s not just a natural ability. It’s more than that; it’s a God-given ability that we all have.

          Because God is a Spirit and we are made in His image, He has given us more than just a body and mind.  He has given us a soul and the ability to sense His Spirit (if we want to).   He wants to speak to us and guide us but how does He do that?  It only makes sense that, if God is a Spirit, He would need to speak to our spirit too.  Not to say He can’t speak through an animal if He wants to (which He did in the Bible), but I would think His preference is for us to hear Him in our soul. 

          Whether one calls it ESP or a fine-tuned soul enabled to hear God’s voice, it’s something we have been given to help us through this life.  I’m thankful for His leading and His still, small voice in my heart as it’s saved me from death on numerous occasions.  It’s led me to find the Mrs who is my best friend, and it’s opened doors I never imagined would be opened.  It’s also comforted in times of pain and even made me laugh many times (God has a great sense of humor). 

          If you’ve never experienced that sense, I want to encourage you that it’s possible.  It may take time and practice, but the first step is asking God to speak to you and the next is just to listen.  You may just have a strong feeling or a single word may pop into your head.  You may have an image of someone and a feeling of burden for them, or you may even have an image of a place where you need to be or to go.  It could be anything. 

The key is being open to His voice and then trusting Him to lead you when you hear Him.  It may feel like you’re being led around with a blindfold covering your eyes, but over time, you will get used to His nudges and recognize them when they come.  He wants to have that type of relationship with you because He loves you.  It’s exciting and can even be a bit frightening too, but it’s worth it.  Trust me, it will change your life forever…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/seeing-beyond-the-natural Wed, 27 Feb 2019 02:33:46 GMT
An Unexpected Blessing Over the Walls of My Heart https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/an-unexpected-blessing-over-the-walls-of-my-heart

 

          Have you ever had someone surprise you with a blessing you weren’t expecting?  You know, those times when you were totally surprised by a gift in the mail, a friend calling you just to tell you how much you’re loved, or even that time when the anonymous person paid your bill at the restaurant (I’ve had that happen several times). 

          It was more than just the surprise that made us happy, it was the thought that we did nothing to earn it or ask for it.  It was completely unexpected and came for no apparent reason over the walls of our daily life to bless us.  Sure, that doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it makes us feel special.

          This weekend, I had one of those experiences.  I can’t say how exactly it came to me, but I can say it was as though God was speaking right to me to tell me that He loved me, was proud of me, and has taken joy in my faith.  Needless to say, I cried (yes, I had to go looking to find my Man Card afterward too).

          Over the past year or so, I’ve been dealing with feelings of spiritual failure; as though I haven’t done what I felt long ago I was supposed to do and now it’s getting to be too late in life.  In some ways, I’ve felt like those dreams and hopes were maybe even just a fantasy in the mind of my youth.  On top of that, other family changes and health issues with loved ones have been heavy on my heart in ways that have made me feel inadequate.   Yet, despite it all, I know God is good, He’s able, and will fulfill His promises in my life.  

He definitely has a way of reaching us when He knows we’re feeling the way I have been.  He’s never late and He’s never early; His timing is impeccable.  Those blessings that come flooding over the walls of our life are nothing less than heaven sent.  They are His way of reminding us just how very much He loves us.  His grace is so deep that it flows over even the tallest walls we can build.  His love flows and washes away the feelings of failure to give us a fresh new sense of purpose. 

Tonight, I just wanted to share about the small blessing I had this weekend in my life to say that He wants to do the same for you.  He’s looking out for just the right time to send the flood of His blessing over the walls of your heart to wash away the fears, doubts, pains, and emptiness you may be feeling too.  He’s just looking for that perfect moment to spring it on you.  I know it’s coming, and it will happen when you least expect it because that’s just the way God does things…

 

You’re loved tonight my friend,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/an-unexpected-blessing-over-the-walls-of-my-heart Tue, 26 Feb 2019 03:23:39 GMT
Reinforcing The Heart https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/reinforcing-the-heart

 

          So often we concern ourselves with strengthening our home security, our job security, and our financial security.  All of which are great endeavors.  Less often, we spend time reinforcing the security of our hearts.  It’s something we all struggle with.  Ironically, what happens in our heart will affect everything else in our life.  If we keep that safe and strong, the rest will come together on it's own. 

          The heart I’m referring to is our spirit, or soul if you will.  It’s an easy thing to neglect, frankly.  The heart is something we sense and know is there, but all too often, our minds and bodies rule the day.  Our mind is consumed with the cares of the world, the tasks of the day, and the ever-growing stresses of life.   Our bodies, for most of us, just go along for the ride and provide the escape from the mind’s pressures when consuming that beloved coffee or chocolate on the sly. 

          It’s the soul that is so difficult to define.  I see it as the knowing of truth vs lies.  It’s the love that comes from within us for our fellow man.  It’s the questioning of our existence and why we’re here.   It’s the belief system that tells us there is a higher power and that He loves us.  It's the part of us that lives beyond this life for eternity; our spiritual body.  So, how do we protect it?  How do we make it strong?

          Unlike the safety zones around our military bases surrounded by walls, our hearts are the opposite. If we build walls around them, we will shut out others and, possibly, even God.  The healthier our heart is to be, the more open it needs to be. 

          Like our physical bodies which become strong through exercise, weight training, and a healthy diet, our soul becomes strong through feeding it God’s word, exercising our faith, and carrying the burdens of others.  It’s when we put aside the mind and body’s demands and allow our hearts to take center stage that the soul becomes stronger. 

          Tonight, I want to encourage you that, if you feel weak at heart (‘soul’), you can get stronger.  God says that it’s in our weakness (our soul’s weakness), that we become strong through Him.  He will give you the strength of heart when you feel like giving up.  He will guide through His word and make it alive in you.  He will fill you with His power to stand up against the weight of this world.  In Him, you can do all things.  And, in Him, your heart can be reinforced and you will become strong…

 

Love always my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/reinforcing-the-heart Mon, 25 Feb 2019 03:46:42 GMT
My How Times Have Changed https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/my-how-times-have-changed

 

          The Mrs worked downtown at the antique store today which gave me time to get a few things done around the house like taking a nap, eating lunch, shopping for that next cell phone, and so on.  Despite all those physically exhausting activities, I ended the day feeling tired and, before I knew it, 5:00 came around and it was time to pick her up from her work.

          I usually take the side roads downtown on the weekends because McKinney has become quite the getaway location for the weekend shopping trips and people, sadly, forget how to drive when they’re looking for parking places.  McKinney has also become a haven for photographers to take outdoor senior pictures, wedding shots, or just portrait shots using the alleys, which are all lined with old bricks and stone, so one needs to watch where they’re going.   

          As I was driving down a well-traveled alley around the corner from the Mrs store, I was forced to wait for a group of students to finish taking their iPhone photos of themselves against one of those popular brick walls.  These were no ordinarily dressed students either.  They were dressed like they were heading to a high-class dinner party or prom.

          At first, I was surprised that the students were already having Prom (something I later found wasn’t the case) but then was taken totally back by the way the girls were dressed, or to be more precise, not dressed.  The father nature in me reared its head and my mind was flooded with thoughts of giving their dad’s a good talking too for letting their girls go out on a date dressed like that. 

          Over dinner, the Mrs and I discussed the students and how they were dressed remembering how our prom dresses looked in the… well, a long time ago.  The first thought that came to both of us was how people would have reacted if a girl had dressed that way back then; they would have been quickly covered up and escorted home.  Of course, if a girl dressed the way they used to now, with the poofy shoulders and gowns, they would probably be laughed out of the prom today.

          Time changes things; that’s a certainty.  The realization that it’s changing so quickly around us is sometimes difficult to deal with.  I understand more than ever how my grandparents must have felt and how easy it could have been to stay stuck in a time that has passed long ago.

          We must fight the urge to give up and disengage from the world around us.  Or, to become critical of the world around us always comparing it to the past.  We must continue to look forward no matter how old we are.  But, looking forward doesn’t mean that we lose our moral values or hide from them because they seem old-fashioned.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Every generation will be challenged to keep moral standards and will need to know where ‘the line’ is to be drawn. 

          In what seems to be an age of ‘anything goes’, now more than ever, young people need the wisdom gained from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and our guidance to help them from making the same mistakes again.  Looking forward, while having a clear view of what’s behind, will help us all stay the course.  It's ok to be a little old-fashioned too.  Someday, those young people will be right where we are and will probably be thinking the same thing I thought today when they run across a group of young people all dressed up for a date…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/my-how-times-have-changed Sun, 24 Feb 2019 02:16:31 GMT
Getting Out of The Weeds https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/get-out-of-the-weeds

 

          This week has proven to be a great week, and a busy one.  The first half was spent in Tampa, FL for business training where I was able to connect with my teammates from around the country.  The training was mostly technical and around the future of what we’ll be selling. 

          During our training, a common phrase used was, ‘Not to get too far down in the weeds’.   Meaning, not to get too detailed and specific about a technical point that would take away from the larger picture we were discussing. 

          For whatever reason, it rang out in my head every time the expression was used by one of the presenters who was chasing a rabbit after one of our team asked them too many questions about a small point.  It was as though there was a lesson there for me.  Often in my line of work, the importance of paying attention to detail could make a million-dollar difference either in favor of or against the company.  So, you can imagine that I tend to pay more attention to detail these days.

          Although paying attention to detail is crucial in my job, in life it can cause one to be myopic (single-minded and focused) and miss out on the bigger picture by being distracted with the insignificant details instead of seeing the broader picture.

          I know, we’re all created (‘Wired’) differently and that certainly plays a role in what we do in life.  Some people will never be a visionary automaker because they’ll get caught up in how a stereo knob turns.  Others will never become engineers because they’re too concerned about what color the product is supposed to be.  But, even though we’re all different, it doesn’t mean that we can't learn from each other.

          The visionary would do well to listen to the engineers who tell them the product needs to be corrected before selling to the general public (i.e. Tesla).   The engineer would do well to listen to the visionary who can guide them in the correct route to take through the development stages helping to create a product that beats out the competition. 

          For me, not getting too caught in the weeds helps me to see beyond myself.  It helps me to look past the problems I may think are big to see that I’m not alone in this world; others have problems even bigger than mine.   In fact, getting past the monocular focus helps me to find peace, hope, and a little less stress by not focusing on the negative.  It helps me to see the positive in a situation too. 

          If you’re struggling to get out of the weeds in your life at times, I want to encourage you to step back and take a look beyond the small issues that tend to consume us all.  Sure, those weeds are important and could be hiding something dangerous, but if we miss the larger picture, we may be missing out on a lot.  The key is finding a balance.  Finding that balance, with God's help, will make you more aware of the details in the weeds and allow you to enjoy the view more than you could ever have imagined.  I’ll leave you tonight with a great motivational video below that inspired me.  Maybe it will inspire you too…

 

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/get-out-of-the-weeds Sat, 23 Feb 2019 02:23:43 GMT
Guys Who Wear Too Much Cologne https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/guys-who-wear-too-much-cologne

 

          Have you even gotten into an elevator with a guy who didn’t know when to stop spraying on the cologne in the morning?  I mean, do they think we all have a sinus infection or have plugged up noses?  Were they hoping that special someone who they are attracted to would notice them from 20 feet away?  I mean, really?

          It’s not that I have an issue with cologne, or as we called it growing up, 'After-shave'.  I grew up with the ‘Old Spice Man’ commercials.  Yeah, wearing Old Spice was the mark of a real man.  Somehow, when women smelled it on you, they would just come running (so they tried to make you think but, in reality, they thought you were too cheap to buy a good cologne).   Not today.  No, today I couldn’t even begin to describe what they try to market in the cologne commercials.

          It’s true, a nice smelling man (or, to be politically correct, person) is considered more attractive.  The Mrs even enjoys the cologne I wear (not Old Spice), but I’m sure she wouldn’t want me taking a shower in it.  On occasion, while traveling, I’ll pick up a rental car after the previous renter put on WAY too much cologne.  It then took at least two days to scrub the smell from my skin.  Somehow, I just felt violated.  Just saying.

          My recommendation tonight for all you guys; less is best.  If the lady you love can smell you from a foot or two away, that’s great.  But if every man, woman, child, and animal can smell you from a mile away, maybe it’s time to tone it down a few notches.  Trust me, your manliness will still be there in the morning.

          So, I’ll leave all of you tonight with a classic Old Spice commercial full of wisdom to ponder for the future…

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/guys-who-wear-too-much-cologne Fri, 22 Feb 2019 03:21:51 GMT
It's Ok to Cry ... https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/its-ok-to-cry

 

          Whether traveling or taking a trip to the local grocery store, one is bound to run into a child who feels life wasn’t being fair to them when their mom or dad decided not to let them have what they wanted.  Their immediate reaction, without hesitation or regret, to scream at the top of their lungs followed up by a river of tears, sobbing, and whining. 

          Our human nature kicks in at an early age and never leaves.  We may not throw fits or cry the tears when not getting our way today, but we do have to fight tears in other ways.  Thankfully, when we’re young, the pains of life haven’t yet hit us.  As we age, they come without prejudice to every one of us. 

          My generation was one where men weren’t supposed to cry.  It made them appear less masculine (‘girly’ if you will).  As I’ve grown older, that old stereotype has changed to the point today where it sometimes seems that men, younger men, in particular, cry more than most women.  Go figure.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with crying.  In fact, it can refresh the soul and release the bottled-up emotions we’ve been holding onto.  I’ve always been more sentimental than most men and, especially after a lack of sleep, find myself crying at movies or when I witness an act of love. 

          Tears aren’t always about the pain of course.  Sometimes they’re tears of joy.  Such as when we see a loved one who we haven’t seen for a long time or when we make a commitment of love to one another.  I even cry when I see others acting out of selflessness at the store or on the street. 

          The Mrs will tell you she’s glad I can cry (and, believe me, she has seen me in some moments when the picket was wide open over the loss of my girls).  That said, I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate me carrying a hanky around and waving it in the air every time I see something ‘special’.  Just saying…

          If you’re wrestling with letting out the tears holding them back because of shame or from being told all your life that it’s not appropriate, I want to encourage you to find a private place and let them go.  It’s Ok.  God sees the tears and hears your heart.  He wants to heal those wounds of the past and wash away the shame.  He loves you unconditionally and will never reject you. 

His love is forever and without exception.   I guarantee, when you get those tears out, you will feel better and He will have a chance to come in and heal those wounds that you’ve kept hidden for so long…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/its-ok-to-cry Thu, 21 Feb 2019 02:38:52 GMT
Number 11 - Thank You to Those Who Risk It All https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/number-11---thank-you-to-those-who-risk-it-all

 

          For many, the thought of needing help or needing to be rescued only happens on the frightful day they hope never comes.  The comfort of knowing that, if something ever did happen, there would be someone there to pull them out of a burning home, pick them out of flooding waters, resuscitate them back to life after a heart attack, or even save their family pet from death after it falls down a drain, is all they need.

          Like those who give their lives to serve our country overseas, there are thousands who give their lives right down the street from us.  They live normal lives like everyone else.  We pass them at the grocery store, we drive by their homes, and our kids may even be their kid’s friends at school.   They are often the unsung heroes; the ones who save lives but are never called out by name. 

          Greatness in today’s world is often what we ascribe to the those who can make the most baskets, most touchdowns, or knock out the most people.  Or, it may be the one who is the most talented, most beautiful, or most funny.  They may even be a politician (well, maybe that’s a stretch).  No matter how you look at it, in America at least, the one who stands above the rest is called the greatest.

          God’s view of greatness is much different.  In His eyes, those who are the least shall be the greatest.  That’s not to say those who are the weakest or most poor will be the greatest, necessarily (although He loves the humble and poor).  No, it’s those who will lay down their lives for others.  The Bible says that there is no greater love than to give our life for another.  To me, that perfectly describes our fireman. 

          The courage to run into harm’s way and not from it, when you know you have a family at home depending on you, to save another, is a true mark of greatness.  The willingness to risk one’s life by hanging off a burning building ten stories tall by a rope to save a child, or family, from flames is bravery that words can’t begin to describe. 

          So, tomorrow, as you’re driving to work and happen to pass by your local fire station, a paramedic vehicle, or maybe even run into a fireman at the grocery store, stop and take a moment to thank them.  If you can’t stop, say a prayer for them that God would protect them as they risk their lives for the most vulnerable around us.  I hope I will never have to see them at my car door with the Jaws of Life or at my home putting out a fire that destroys everything I have.  But, just knowing they are there, is something I will always be thankful for…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/number-11---thank-you-to-those-who-risk-it-all Wed, 20 Feb 2019 03:57:26 GMT
Life Can Be a Ferris Wheel https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/life-can-be-a-ferris-wheel

 

As a child, one of the things we would look forward at the end of every summer was the county fair.  Having the second largest fair in the state of Michigan brought many great rides, games, entertainment, and food.

There was one ride that stood out among the rest; the double Ferris wheel.  It stood far and above all the other rides and, when both wheels were turning at the same time, it was a site to behold.  I didn’t find the courage to take a ride on it until I was nearly ten or twelve years-old.  When I did, I saw the whole fair from high above and it was spectacular!  It could also be a bit frightening when the wheel would stop turning at the top and you were left two hundred feet in the air being held down to a slippery seat by only a metal bar.  Those were the days…

Today, most of those double Ferris wheels are gone for safety reasons.  They’ve been replaced by more modern ones with glass enclosed seats.  The principle is still the same as it was then; getting high above everything and enjoying the view.  Coming down, there was always a sense of sadness that we couldn’t stay up there longer (well, for those who were afraid of heights, they were glad to be back on the ground).

In some ways, life can be like a Ferris wheel at times.  We long for the high moments while waiting for what seems to be years for them to happen again.  Then, when they do, the momentary euphoria ends quickly bringing us back down to earth only to start the process all over again.

For some, every day can be like that Ferris Wheel ride going from lows to highs back down to lows again in just a matter of a few hours.  The emotional ups and downs seem more like a roller coaster than a Ferris wheel.

The reality is that we can’t be at the top all the time.  Life is full of challenges, hardships, and monotony.  But, when those high moments do come, it’s worth taking the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.  It’s one of the reasons I love photography.  Because it can capture those high moments and allow us to relive them again.   

You may still be waiting in line after what seems to be an eternity for the ride back to the top.  It may seem like Disneyland; every time you feel closer in line, you get turned around and go back the way you came.  

Be encouraged tonight.  Even if you’re not riding at the top of life's Ferris wheel, remember that those times may come again when we least expect them.  It may be a random acquaintance that turns into a lifelong friendship.  It may be a stranger who helps us through a difficulty that lifts our spirits and hopes back to where they need to be.  And, not to mention that our time at the bottom will only make us stronger and help us to appreciate the high moments even more.

I’ll sign-off tonight with something one of my family members recently stated so well, ‘The bad news is nothing in life lasts forever.  The good news is, nothing in life lasts forever’… 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/life-can-be-a-ferris-wheel Tue, 19 Feb 2019 03:44:21 GMT
The Peace You're Looking For https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-peace-youre-looking-for

 

          Tonight, I don’t have a lot to say about things (well, I could type all night but will spare you).  However, there has been one word that has been resounding in my mind all day.  Peace. 

I don’t know why, but I feel like there may be someone reading this tonight who is in the midst of a storm and needs to find the peace that passes all human understanding.  Not the peach the world offers through pleasures, diversions, and denials.  You’re needing the peace that comes from within that no man can take from you.

If that’s you tonight, be encouraged that God is with you.  He hears your cries and knows your tears. He will look over you and shadow you from the heat of the day and bring light to the darkness.  He knows the plans He has for you and those plans are for your good.  He wants you to find peace and to be whole.

Rest in that assurance.  It’s the only place I know where true peace can be found.  Just open your arms and heart to Him and He will bring His grace to your situation; no matter what it is.  He will bring rest to your soul and calm to your storm.  Trust in Him with all your heart, and He will make your paths straight…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-peace-youre-looking-for Mon, 18 Feb 2019 03:07:16 GMT
Clarity https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/clarity

 

Clarity.  Or, as Webster defines it, ‘The quality of being coherent and intelligible’ as in clarity of thought and communication; i.e. speaking clearly and thinking clearly.   Or, it could be used to describe how easy it is to see through something, ‘The quality of transparency or purity’.

In photography, many of us use a tool called Lightroom to touch-up our photos before releasing the final copy.  One of the toolbars commonly misused by newcomers is the Clarity Bar.  As you adjust it back, it makes the picture more hazy, or foggy.  As you adjust it ahead, the picture becomes more ‘clear’, or sharper, by causing some objects to look unnatural if moved ahead too much.

Many young photographers, including myself, fall into the trap of adjusting the clarity to far ahead and ruin their photos by making them look fake, or ‘overly enhanced’.   It’s an easy habit to fall into thinking you’re making that bland photo look ‘cool’ or something you think you see with your eyes, but in reality, it’s not.

Certainly, in life, clarity is a two-edged sword.  On one hand, we all wish we could see more clearly our future or how to handle a specific situation.  On the other hand, too much clarity can cause pain; such as knowing something someone close to us may have said behind our backs or learning through a DNA service that we have a sister or brother we never knew about from infidelity in the family. 

To say ignorance is bliss, may be an overstatement.  Yet, turning off the TV, shutting down the phone, and leaving everything behind to simply sit by the water as in the photo today (which, by the way, has too much clarity adjustment), may be just what we need. 

We’re so saturated with information that we lose sight of what’s right in front of us.  Many people are so blinded by their anger, hate, and ideology that they fail to see the truth right in front of them.  Stepping outside of the static we live in may be the best thing for us.

For me, nothing helps me more than a good night’s sleep.  It seems to be the time when my mind is able to take all that I’m wrestling with in life and put the pieces together through dreams.  I’ll often wake up and have a much clearer sense of what I must do, where I need to go, or what the answer to a problem is that I couldn’t figure out at work. 

Seeking clarity may be too eye-opening for some and, for some, it may be just what they need.  This weekend, if you’re on the side of needing more clarity in your life, I want to encourage you to ‘step outside’ of your daily life.  Focus on something totally outside of the box.  Perhaps that’s going for a walk, going to the lake, visiting with a friend, or just sitting in a chair outside with a cup of coffee to talk with God.  However you find clarity, most of the time, even if it seems like a painful thing at first, in the long run, the truth will set you free. 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/clarity Sun, 17 Feb 2019 01:49:51 GMT
The Real Paris - Recognizing Temptation https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-real-paris---recognizing-temptation

 

          Sometimes, I get a kick out of the town names in Texas.  Ones like Ding Dong, Nameless, Gun Barrel City, Paradise, Loco, Cut and Shoot, Jot ‘Em Down, Woman Hollering Creek, Whitehouse, and Telephone, Texas.   There is one name I particularly like, and that’s Paris, Texas.

          Located not too far from where we live, I asked the Mrs one time if she would like me to take her to Paris.  She said ‘YES!’.  So, I did.  It was about a 40-minute drive.  She wasn’t too terribly disappointed about not going to the real Paris (we may one day) because we did do some antique shopping.

          For anyone who hears the town name of Paris, they immediately think of romance; the French cuisine, the Eifel Tower, floating down the Seine River on a gondola smelling flowers and tasting wine, and enjoying beautiful architecture.  Yes, and even one of the Mrs’s favorite movies, ‘French Kiss’.  The allure is hypnotizing to the point that one can begin to see French design even in those old Texas buildings. 

          The truth is, however, it’s not France.  It’s a small Texas town outside of the mainstream cities with a few good stores and a great name.  But, for fun, it’s a great trip to take (even if it’s just so you can say you’ve been to ‘Paris’). 

          On a more serious note, the analogy reminds me of temptation.  When we’re tempted, we’re promised something we think will bring us pleasure.  The allure, the smell, the fantasy, and that potential pleasure leads us to a place we thought we would never go, only to find an empty shell of what we thought it would be.  In the same way, we could call those temptations Paris.  Only, we know they won’t be what they promise. 

          We all face temptation.  Even Jesus did.  What will help us from falling into it is the awareness that what we’re being promised isn’t a romantic boat ride down the river with the smell of flowers and the taste of fresh wine.  No, it’s a long drive down a rocky, country road that will lead us to an abandoned, empty place alone and far away from others.

          Just knowing how to recognize that enticement is most of the battle in defeating temptation.  If we can gain the wisdom to know that something is too good to be true, along with the dangers it’s hiding, we will keep ourselves, and many of those around us, from much pain. 

          So, the next time the enemy of your soul comes knocking offering you the world (or a trip to Paris, France), tell him to take a hike because you know what's found at the end of that journey is nothing but pain and emptiness… 

 

Wishing you all a blessed weekend ahead my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-real-paris---recognizing-temptation Sat, 16 Feb 2019 02:25:47 GMT
Love Is... https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/love-is

 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love…

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/love-is Fri, 15 Feb 2019 01:46:04 GMT
Valentine's Day Tip For Me - Shut My Mouth https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/valentines-day-tip-for-me---shut-my-mouth

 

          Since Valentine’s day is tomorrow, I thought I would share a tip for the guys (and maybe a few girls) out there to help with communication in your relationships.  It’s one of the techniques I sometimes find myself reverting to when I realize that I keep saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Otherwise known as having what my mother used to call, ‘Hoof in Mouth Disease’.

The technique I’m referring to is to simply bite our tongue.  Instead of saying the first thing out of our mouth, holding on for a few seconds to check in our mind, and in our heart, if it’s going to be positive and uplifting.  If not, best not to say anything.  The Mrs will tell you when I do that, things are much better around the house.  It’s when I just ramble on chasing my thoughts down a rabbit hole that, well, things go sideways…

Men are notorious for speaking before thinking; especially after being married for a while.  It’s easy to get to that point in a relationship, frankly.  The subtle niceties gradually fade away under the blinding light of familiarity leaving only the blunt force of raw honesty. 

Some people like that type of communication (especially those from New York), and so do I (at times).  The good thing about blunt, open honesty with our thoughts & feelings is that it leaves nothing to the imagination.   People will know where we stand (that’s for sure).  They may not like us too much, but at least they know how we feel. 

That said, the Bible suggests that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen.  It’s an old adage that will go a long way in building trust, openness, and good communication.  Unfortunately, when we are angry, or just irritated, those helpful scriptures tend to find themselves being left somewhere in the back of our brain only showing up when we’re in the middle of giving ourselves that, ‘Why did I say that?  I’m such an idiot’, talk.

So, tomorrow on that special holiday celebrating your love together with that significant other, I want to challenge you to try the technique.  Pause before speaking and test what you were going to say in your mind.  If it has a hint of negativity, think of something positive to say (as long as it’s true of course) or, just smile instead.  I guarantee it will make for a much better day.  I know that’s what I’m going to do…

 

Much love,

 

Brad 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/valentines-day-tip-for-me---shut-my-mouth Thu, 14 Feb 2019 03:10:51 GMT
Emptiness - Life's Not Just About Being a Hunk of Burnin' Love... https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/emptiness---lifes-not-just-about-being-a-hunk-of-burnin-love

 

          All of us have felt it.  That gnawing, cold sense of emptiness inside.  Often, it’s accompanied by events we think would make us happy; winning the contest we’ve been working so hard for, accomplishing those goals we’d been chasing, wearing that new suit that will give us the prestige we’d like from others who notice, or finally landing that ‘perfect job’.  Odd isn’t it?  Culture defines a full life as having those things that set us apart yet, once we attain them, we’re still empty.  One doesn’t have to look far to see how fame, fortune, and accomplishments fail to fulfill people.  Many of those who seem to have everything, also seem to be some of the unhappiest. 

          Earlier in my life while planning a youth event, I was able to have lunch with the step-brother of Elvis.  Ironically, the one table the waitress took us to in the restaurant was the one with a large poster of Elvis hanging above it.  His response was, ‘That’s what I have to live with; Elvis constantly overshadowing me’.   I felt sad for him because he’s had to struggle with his identity his whole life. 

          During the course of our meal he told me several things that struck me.  One was how Elvis and his entourage were walking past a statue of Jesus and Elvis looked at Him saying, ‘Jesus was God, but who am I…?’  The other was how he was there the day Elvis died.  He told me the story of how he’d discovered him on the bathroom floor bloated and purple having died from a drug overdose.  In fact, he said Elvis had asked him for more drugs than usual that day (he was the one who helped him keep track of the drugs) because he was especially depressed. 

          Sadly, Elvis had everything the world said we should have to be fulfilled; wealth, fame, beauty, talent, friends, family, and power.  Even with all that, he was empty inside and turned to drugs (among other things) to fill the void in his heart.  Don’t take me wrong, I love Elvis’s music, I grew up watching his concerts on television and his music on the radio.   His life impacted millions and still does today.  But, inside of his heart, he needed more.

          The truth is, Elvis was no different that Joe Dirt.  His life was no more important than any one of us.  He struggled with the same emotions we all deal with in life (rejection, insecurity, fear, anger, love, passion, jealousy, etc.).   Sadly, our society puts people on pedestals and then loves to pull them back off of them once they do something they don’t like.

          Perhaps I’m just getting old, but I’ve lived long enough now to see the dangers of fame, wealth, and the trappings of life.  There’s nothing wrong with those things if we don’t allow them to define who we are.   Like Elvis the day he walked by the statue of Jesus, that’s the question we all need to ask; ‘How do I define myself?’ 

          Defeating emptiness comes down to how we manage the expectations we have of life.  If it’s all about me, then there’s nothing that will ever fill the void.  But, if it’s all about less of me, more of God, and sacrificing for others, then we will live life with a full heart and never lack for anything. 

          Books could be written, but keeping a check on our expectations of life, being content with what we have, giving ourselves to God, and putting others first whenever possible, will keep us grounded and full.  And that is where I want to be because, being a ‘Hunka Burning Love’ ain’t gonna do it… (not that I have to worry about that mind you...)

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/emptiness---lifes-not-just-about-being-a-hunk-of-burnin-love Tue, 12 Feb 2019 23:45:14 GMT
Bridging The Gap - The First Step Toward Good Communication https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/bridging-the-gap

 

          Of all the challenges people face in marriage relationships, communication is at the top of the list.  Not that physical affection, money, and respect aren’t important, but without the ability to listen and express ourselves clearly, misunderstandings are inevitable which only lead to arguments, resentment, and walls.

          Many of us have heard the example, ‘Men are from Mars and woman are from Venus’ and, certainly, God did make us different.  Those stereotypes don’t always work, however.  The Mrs and I are a mixture of Mars and Venus; sometimes, I’m more Venus and she’s more Mars.  In the end, we balance each other out and have learned to understand and appreciate our differences.

          That’s really the key, isn’t it; understanding our differences?  So many people try to make the other person into their own image of who, or what, they should be rather than appreciating their differences and respecting them.  One thing is for certain, trying to change a person we are in a relationship with is nothing less than the kiss of death because we were never made to change each other.  That’s God’s job.

          I’ve seen many relationships fall apart from one person trying to control the other.  I’ve been in one myself.  One person always trying to please the other but not being able to.  The other putting unreal expectations on them trying to force them to be something they aren’t. 

          The first step in bridging the gap between two people is respect for how God made them and the humility to accept that we, ourselves, are not perfect either.   That openness of allowing the other person to be themselves, flaws and all, along with our own humble attitude of who we are, will eventually build a bridge of mutual respect.

          So tonight here’s to taking the first step in allowing those who we are in a relationship with to simply be themselves.  Secondly, here’s to keeping a humble heart being the first to forgive and the last to point the finger.   If we can do that, we’ll see changes happen in all our relationships for the positive.

          Just for laughs, I’ll leave you with a funny clip below by Tim Hawkins about the differences between boys & girls because, even at an early age, the Mars and Venus differences are apparent...

 

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/bridging-the-gap Tue, 12 Feb 2019 03:03:41 GMT
Bridge Over Troubled Water https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/bridge-over-troubled-water

 

          Anyone from my generation, and even today’s generation, if asked whether they’ve heard of the song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, would say ‘YES…’  It is an iconic song released in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel.  It came out at a time when our country was going through tremendous turmoil over the Vietnam War, race relations, the cold war, and a dramatic rebellious cultural shift away from ‘The Great Generation’s’ traditional values.  I remember those days well.

          Many times, over my life, this song has spoken to me when going through challenges, heartaches, and loss.  It has also motivated me to befriend others who were going through the same.  One thing that occasionally happens to me at times when hearing classic songs such as this one, is for God to speak in His still, small voice to my heart and say, ‘I’m your friend and will help you get through your troubled water too’. 

          He's good about speaking to our hearts at just the right time.  It’s just like Him to take a song written to address the culture around us at the time, even if it's 49 years old, and apply it directly to our own situations in a personal, loving way. 

          Tonight, if you’re going through a challenge and feel all alone, I wanted to remind you too that there is a friend ‘Who sticks closer than a brother’ and who wants to help you through the challenges you may be facing.  I want to encourage you to listen to this song below, read the lyrics, and imagine it’s God speaking to you; because He says this to us every day (classic song or not).   And remember, you are loved, and you will get over the troubled water to find peace again.  Whatever It may be…

 

 

Lyrics:

 

When you're weary

Feeling small

When tears are in your eyes

I will dry them all

 

I'm on your side

When times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

 

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

 

I'll take your part

When darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

 

Sail on Silver Girl,

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

If you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

 

Love always,

 

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/bridge-over-troubled-water Mon, 11 Feb 2019 03:14:10 GMT
The Miracle https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-miracle

 

          It’s been a good, but long day today, so tonight, I’ll leave you with a shot above as a teaser for my next short story project called, ‘The Miracle’; a journey to find hope and forgiveness.

          Wishing you all a blessed day tomorrow and lots of love & hugs from the Clawson family…!

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-miracle Sun, 10 Feb 2019 03:28:19 GMT
Just Stopping By https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/just-stopping-by

 

          The Mrs will tell you that I’ve never been one of those people who spontaneously stop by someone’s home just to say ‘Hi’.  She, on the other hand, is the opposite.  If she thinks a neighbor or friend needs something, she won’t hesitate to stop by and bring them a meal or just talk. 

          Just this evening, on the way back from dinner, we passed by a friend’s home.  I jokingly blurted out, ‘Hey, let's go knock on their door and say we were just stopping by!’ thinking we really wouldn’t stay, but that we could all get a good laugh just by the surprise visit.  After all, no one would expect uninvited company on a Friday evening! 

The Mrs, thinking I was serious, and would love to hang out at their house, said, ‘Yeah.  That would be fun’.  Like a dummy, I had to tell her I was just joking because my mind was so fried from a long week of work, I could barely keep my eyes open, and we had dogs that needed to be let outside.  

          Fortunately, we balance each other out when it comes to our social life.  If I were more like her, we wouldn’t spend much time alone.   If she were more like me, we would stay home most of the time.  So, in the end, we both make compromises to keep the other happy. 

          When I was younger, it was much more common to stop by uninvited just to drop off some homemade cookies or to say ‘Hi’ to family and friends.  It also made a good excuse for my mother to use in order to get us to do our chores; because of the ‘Just in case someone stops by’ factor.  

Today, we need to plan at least a week in advance and put it on our phone, or Facebook invite, to remind us.  Socially, it’s even considered rude by some people today to stop by uninvited.  For us, if someone came by our house just to say ‘Hi’, we would be more than happy to let them in and share a cup of coffee.  We may be embarrassed because the house wasn’t picked up as well as we would prefer it to be if having company over, but most people won’t care about that.  

So, tonight, as we're huddled up at home by ourselves getting ready to watch a sci-fi show together, here’s to breaking all the rules this weekend and finding a random friend's house we can stop by just to say ‘Hi’!  Don't worry, we probably won't do it, but just in case...

I’ll leave you with a very funny video below that relates to the random visit.  I promise it will give you a laugh if you’re near my age and can relate...

 

 

Much love,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/just-stopping-by Sat, 09 Feb 2019 02:14:43 GMT
Kick the Can https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/kick-the-can

 

          One of the games we used to play while walking to school or while walking downtown to grab a candy bar at The News Stand, was ‘Kick the Can’.   It was a simple game really.  We played keep away while kicking the can down the road.  It was more soccer than anything else, but with a can.

          In an odd way, I used to feel a bit sorry for that can.  By the time we reached our destination, it was dented up, beaten down, and sometimes smashed completely flat by one of us.  For the cost of just a throwaway can, much joy was gained, and a few kids were kept out of trouble.   

          A lot can be said about that old can I would feel sorry for.  I guess I sort of saw it as myself at the time; the one who was picked on and bullied.  I played the game more defensively trying to protect the can from other players who liked to smash it just out of meanness. 

          I knew I wasn’t the can, but even today, I feel that way about the helpless and vulnerable; those who feel like life has constantly played with their lives kicking them down the street or just discarding them in the trash.  In some ways, I’ve felt that way myself on several occasions and, believe me, I know how that feels.

          You may be feeling like that tonight; as though life has looked you over and tossed you out.  Maybe you feel like you’ve been used by others to help their career advance only to leave you behind.  You may even feel like your life is spiraling down a steep hill having been kicked aside just waiting for the final foot to fall smashing you to the ground.  That once shiny can, new and bright with colors, you once felt like, is now sitting in the mud rusting away.  It seems like only a matter of time before you’re gone, and you no longer have any purpose.  Hope has turned to despair and the fullness inside is now empty.

          If that is you tonight, I want to encourage you that there is still hope.  You may feel left behind, stepped on, and like you’re wasting away, but underneath that rusty finish is the strong metal you were made of.  Sure, it may have some bruises and dents, but it’s still there.  With enough fire from heaven and handy work of the Master, it can be reshaped into something beautiful, useful, and strong again.  The rust and dirt will be washed away leaving only a shining finish reflecting His creative touch. 

All you need to do is offer Him your life as a vessel for Him to shape.  He’s looking for broken vessels to put back together again; reshaping them into something new and beautiful.  You may be just what He’s looking for.  I know I am…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/kick-the-can Fri, 08 Feb 2019 02:11:10 GMT
Surface Issues https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/surface-issues

 

          Have you ever been around someone you knew was focused completely on themselves but were acting as though they weren’t?  It may be the person who nodes when you tell them about a bad day, but forgets what you said just a few seconds prior and quickly changes the subject to themselves.  Or, maybe the person who wants to be near you because of something you could do to make them look good.

          I would suggest that we’ve all experienced someone who was self-absorbed, self-centered, or vain.  Typically, those attributes show themselves more in younger people than those who are over 50.  By the time you hit that age, you’ve had most of that knocked out of you; just by living life.

          While working at a church in Southern California, my boss (the Sr. Pastor), mentioned to me in his office that he thought one of the singers was ‘Plastic’.  Being young and naïve, I was confused.  In fact, I thought to myself, ‘Is he saying they are cheap?’  I couldn’t figure it out until another associate pastor explained to me that it means, ‘Pretty on the surface but not much going on inside’. 

          I will admit that I was taken back by the pastor’s comment once I learned what it meant (just a little judgmental if I don’t say so myself).  Even though it wasn’t becoming of a pastor and a poor role model, later in my life I understood more of what he was saying.

          There are those in this life, and even in the church, who aspire more than anything else to be famous, beautiful, or rich, that they neglect their own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  The sad truth is that, in America, it’s becoming an epidemic. 

I recently took a break from Instagram for that very reason; most of those who are posting photos (not my family & friends) are trying to be the next ‘Instagram Star’.  Some fly all over the world accumulating loads of debt just to get that selfie photo in front of a famous beach, rock, or over a cliff.   Nearly every day we hear of one of these people being killed because of the risk they’re taking just to get 'The shot’ that will go viral. 

Our culture is driving us to focus so much on fame and appearances that it’s leading to an explosion of people with eating disorders, augmenting their body parts, and suffering from depression caused by a sense that they will never live up to this false image.  My question is where will it all end?  We must battle this ‘Plastic’ surface-focused culture with truth, humility, and by seeking out opportunities to serve others. 

During my time in the Bay Area, one of the things I would do was serve in a local homeless shelter downtown in San Francisco.  A local high school had a community service program that required each student to have at least 100 hours of service before they could graduate.  Often, to help them get their hours in, the school would bus kids to the shelter where they would spend their Saturday serving meals to people who just came off the street.  I saw many of them transformed in a short amount of time by the experience, believe me.

The first step to change is realizing we need to change.  It may take a dramatic event for some to realize they are self-absorbed.  Some may never realize it and live their entire life expecting others to serve them or to raise them up because they are somehow more ‘Gifted’ or beautiful.  

For me, God has a way of keeping me humble.  He knows, and reminds me often, when I may give myself one too many looks in the mirror, feel a little too good about myself when complimented, or just obsess about my life’s dreams.   Over the years life has also humbled me (many times). 

Yet, at my lowest, most humbling moments, I felt that was where I found God the most.  It wasn’t my gift He wanted; it was my heart.  It wasn’t money or even my 'Not so great' looks either (joking). God simply wanted me and, even more importantly, He wanted me to serve others. 

When we’re at that place where we give everything to Him is when He will take it and give it back to us in a way we could never have expected, because that’s just what He does.  When we lose our lives, for Him, we will gain life; life eternal…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/surface-issues Thu, 07 Feb 2019 01:52:29 GMT
The Old Barn Out Back https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-old-barn-out-back

 

          When I was young, during my teens, our family moved to a home just on the opposite side of the river from downtown.  The area was full of homes built in the 1800s for merchants who would ride their horses into where they worked. 

          Our home, although modernized, had an old barn in the back where they used to keep their horses.  It was a two-story barn and the exterior wood was faded gray from years of weathering.  Inside, there was a small work area and a rickety wooden stairway leading to the upstairs loft where I feared going.  Full of old tools and piles of wood, the loft was dusty and dangerous.  One never knew what critters might be living up there; possums, racoons, squirrels, and who knows what else.

          Behind the barn, we built a fenced area for the dogs and a dog house inside of a smaller enclosed area to help protect them from the weather.  It was my job to clean the dog pen and keep them fed, so I was in and out of that old barn every day (not to mention the trash cans we would keep inside where I would take the trash to or the shovel, snowblower, and riding lawnmower for my other chores). 

          Over time, I became accustomed to that old barn.  The nostalgia of it, and some of the old tools that had been stored in it for so many years, were unique in a world that was so quickly changing.  Even at a young age, I learned that something can last a long time if you take care of it.  It may have been old, but as we repaired parts that needed it, I could see why it lasted so long. 

Thinking about it now, the barn reminds me a little of life.  We all have a ‘Barn out back’ in some ways, where we keep those old memories of experiences, some good and some bad, that are no longer in the front of our minds, but ones we still hold onto.  It’s where we store all our past hopes and dreams that we just can’t find any room for in our lives anymore.  It may even have critters (bad memories) crawling around that we try to avoid, but that make their way out when we least expect them to.

Somewhere in that barn, are the tools we turn to in times of trouble.  Even though those tools help us through the difficult times, we put them back in the barn until we need them again.  Some tools may be old and dangerous (habits and self-sufficiency).  Others may be very helpful and productive in our lives (prayer and faith).

Every so often, we need to clean that old barn. We need to rid it of those old tools that have become dangerous, empty the trash that has built up over time, organize the clutter, and shore up the weak supports so the weight of the world won’t come crashing down on us when it storms. 

I’ll always cherish what I learned from that barn.  Looking back, I can see that even an old, rotted building can teach lessons to anyone willing to learn.  For me, I’m still working on my ‘Old barn’.  It’s a work in progress but, thankfully, I have the help of the Master Carpenter. 

His strength helps to lift and remove the garbage and old hurts.  His light helps to shine on the places of darkness where critters may be living.   And, the wind & water of His Spirit help to blow out all the dirt and refresh what’s stale. 

The barn out back in my mind & soul doesn’t scare me anymore.  It’s only when I leave the door open that darkness and the storms of life can hurt me now.   Over the years, it’s become a place of refuge; a place where I know I can go to meet Jesus.  He is the master of the barn now and will always be there with me.  He fills it with joy, peace, light, and, most of all, He fills it with His love that nothing outside of that barn can bring…

 

Love always,

 

Brad  

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-old-barn-out-back Wed, 06 Feb 2019 02:18:25 GMT
Throw The First Stone https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/throw-the-first-stone

 

          Tonight’s blog is a bit more personal to me than some.  Throughout most of my life, I’ve tried to do the right thing.  I’ve sought after God, I’ve served my community, I’ve loved my family, and I’ve tried to be good to everyone I meet.  Yet, like all of us, there have been times when I’ve fallen flat on my face from poor decisions; sometimes hurting those I love the most.

          During those times of personal failure, whether public or not, I’ve experienced the wonderful grace of a loving God.  People, on the other hand, have been another story.  What is so freely given by our heavenly father, is difficult to come by from some of those whom we share this beautiful world with.

          Surely, there are those to whom forgiving others is as natural as eating and sleeping.  Why is it so much easier for some than others to forgive?  From my own experience, it’s because they too have been in a place where they were in need of forgiveness themselves and found it.

          For the past several days I’ve had the Bible story of the woman caught in adultery in my heart.  In Jesus’s time, if caught in the act of adultery as she was, it was punishable by stoning; to death.  This woman, who had been caught in the act, was dragged before Jesus who was sitting and writing on the ground. 

As the woman pleaded for mercy, her accusers quoted the law to Jesus and asked His opinion as to what they should do all the while trying to trap Him.   At that moment, I’m sure His mind was far less concerned with their judgmental testing of His faith than it was of her brokenness; both for being caught and knowing her brokenness before being caught. 

His response to them sums up the entire gospel for me and it is one of my favorite quotes in the Bible.  He looked at them and said, ‘He who is guilty of no sin, throw the first stone…’   One by one they dropped their stones on the ground knowing they too were adulterers, liars, and broken vessels.  Left alone with the woman, Jesus asked her where her accusers were, and she said they were gone.  He looked at her and said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and sin no more’. 

          All of us have been on one side of that story in our lives.  I know I have.  I have had to fight the sense of self-righteousness when it swelled within while seeing the fallen sit on trial; whether in court or in the court of public opinion.  I’ve also been on the receiving end of those with stones accusing me of both true and untrue offenses, gleefully ready to stone me to death out of ‘righteous’ anger. 

          Jesus settled the issue for us in one pivotal moment in time by asking us all to judge ourselves before judging others and then extending undeserved grace & mercy.  His simple, yet powerful example of love goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend leaving us with the same choice; if any of us are without sin, then we can throw the first stone.  The reality is, none of us are without fault.

          This is a hard thing for some who have felt betrayed or hurt. The need for the offender to pay a price takes over, and if allowed to flourish, brings bitterness; the end thereof turning into hate itself.   Self-righteousness blinds us from hate and can even keep us from receiving the forgiveness we seek as God has promised to not forgive us if we can’t forgive others.

          Whether you’ve been on either side of that story, know tonight that the same grace Jesus gave to the woman that day, he extends to us today.  When we put our stones down, He will forgive us our sins.  And, when others have judged us to death, because of His rich mercy and grace, the same forgiveness is extended by His hand to us too.   That’s the miracle of God’s love; Jesus.

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/throw-the-first-stone Tue, 05 Feb 2019 02:40:27 GMT
Super Bowl...? https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/superbowl

 

          Someone said there was a football game on tonight called the Super Bowl.  I guess I had to check it out.  For all those who really don’t care (I’m mostly one of them), here’s a picture of some cute birds who live around our home to distract you from the endless commercials. 

          There’s something special about a sparrow, you know.  They aren’t glamorous, they aren’t big and strong, and they certainly aren’t one of the rarest of birds.  Yet, they have a sweetness and grace about them.  They protect their family from far bigger birds and are always looking to provide for them.  They always seem happy and they love to sing. 

          Yes, on a night when seemingly everyone is celebrating a game where grown men chase each other around with a leather ball, I thought I would point out something totally non-related.  So, as an alternative to the famed half-time show, here’s a video of a sparrow singing below.  I think I prefer the sparrow.  Have a blessed night all!

 

 


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/superbowl Mon, 04 Feb 2019 02:35:42 GMT
He Will Meet You by the Water https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/by-the-water

 

          By the shores of Lake Michigan, one could look out and see nothing but water.  It was like the ocean, just without the salt.  We loved walking along the beach with Mom picking up stones to skip, looking for lost treasure, and wading into the crashing waves. Mom has always loved the big lake.  Growing up only a short car ride away, we would go there every summer.

          There’s always been something special about large bodies of water that captivate me.  They have not only been places of rest for my soul, but I’ve felt a sense of connection with them; something inherent inside of me is drawn to them.  Perhaps some of my distant past relatives were sailors, fishermen, or just lived by the sea (something I know is probably the case based on the recent DNA test we took). 

          l'm sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Certainly, there are many others who are drawn to the water just like me.  It’s as though part of us innately longs to be near it.  It could be as simple as our survival nature calling us, or it could be something more.  

Even Jesus spent much his life and ministry near the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and John, both fisherman by trade, were two of His closest followers.  Water's association with our faith is seen in the act of being baptized (the submersion under water after repentance) to symbolize our souls being cleansed; our old life being cast away and new life being born.

More than anything, we all need water to live.  It’s the basic building block of life as and the very first thing scientists look for when searching for other planets like our own.

If the longing within to be near water is indeed a spiritual one as well as a physical one, what is it saying to us when we feel it?  For me, it’s saying there’s a part of my soul that feels empty.  There may be a hurt or wound that needs healing.  My inner man may be longing for a lost relationship to be restored.  Or, God may be calling me to a place where He can wash me from within of the uncleanness that has built up by living in this fallen world.

 It’s in this way that God speaks to us.  Many people think that God will never speak to them, but He does. He made us to hear His voice and to be drawn to certain things for a reason.  The instincts we feel, at times, could very well be our Heavenly Father looking to speak to us. 

You may have been feeling empty, hurt, or just carrying a burden that you need to let go of lately and, for some unknown reason, you have been longing to get away to a place by the water.  It may be a small stretch to think that it’s God calling to your heart, but it’s possible.

The truth is, He cares and wants to fill us with ‘joy overflowing’.  He wants to give us ‘rivers of living water’ flowing from within our hearts.  His plan is for us to have ‘life, and life more abundantly’. 

For what it’s worth, He’s waiting for you by the water (whether real water or imagined).  Jesus walked on water to get to his disciples who were tossed by the sea and He’s walking to you too.  He’s reaching out His hand to you tonight.  If you take it, He will speak to the storm in your life and bring His calm.  You don’t need to go to a distant ocean somewhere, you just need to open your heart to Him, and He will come in, wash away the mess, and fill you again.  I promise…

 

Love always, my friend,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/by-the-water Sun, 03 Feb 2019 00:53:20 GMT
The Simple Things https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-simple-things

 

          There’s something to be said about ‘the simple things’ in life.  So often we become overwhelmed with the complications that come along with family issues, work stresses, and just being human, that we lose sight of the simple things around us.

          Though we may call them simple, they are truly more complex and beautiful than we can imagine.  The adage, ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ is precisely about this one thing; learning to notice the simpler things we’re surrounded with and taking time to observe their beauty.

          In a practical way, simple things could mean the unexpected smile or courtesy from a stranger.  It may be a ray of light shining through the window onto a picture of a loved one we miss.  Perhaps, it’s just the beauty of an average flower in the grass being used by a friendly bee (like the photo today) as we walk by .   There could be millions of possibilities.

          The problem is that life acts like the blinders horses wear when they race to keep them from being distracted by the others around them.  We become monocular in our vision with little to no depth perception.  In all our busyness, we begin to see life in two dimensions instead of three, or even four. 

          The Mrs and I watched one of our favorite television shows, Last Man Standing, over a wonderful bowl of chili she made tonight.  The theme of tonight’s episode was getting away from our devices.  The older children (Millennials) were challenged to go with their parents to the cabin for the weekend without looking at their phones.  You can imagine the comedy, and pointed truth, that ensued. 

The show made a good point that talking face-to-face, while getting away from our technology, helped them to realize how much they needed each other.   It was the simple thing in life like just putting everything down just to talk that was so needed. 

          I’m just as guilty as anyone.  Having to struggle emotionally not to check the phone for ‘likes’, friend’s posts, news updates, weather updates, email, movie times, stock quotes, or a THOUSAND OTHER THINGS that are simply a diversion from daily life, is not easy. 

I can’t even begin to imagine how many of the simple, yet beautiful things I’ve missed because of that device.  I guess that’s why I love photography (not just to post on Instagram for likes).  It takes away the cell phone, the stresses, and helps me focus on ONE thing.  It helps me to see beyond the monocular vision I’m used to seeing and it opens a whole new, simple world around me that's been there all along. 

This weekend, though busy with the Super Bowl, friends, and family, I’m going to dust off my camera and find some simple, yet beautiful things to shoot photos of around me.  I’ll be sure to share with you as well.   I guess that’s my point tonight; getting back to the simple things in life and enjoying them all over again.  Maybe, in some way, my sharing them will help someone else appreciate them too…

 

Much love this weekend my friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/2/the-simple-things Sat, 02 Feb 2019 02:20:53 GMT
Cabin Fever https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/cabin-fever

 

          Several years ago, our family all met together in Estes Park, Colorado to spend a week together.  Even though it was Spring, Mother Nature decided to provide us with a nice blanket of snow.  It turned the mountains around us into a winter wonderland; one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. 

          For me, the time was a gift to my photography side.  I was able to step outside onto the balcony, as in the picture today, and grab a shot of the sunset over the mountains.  Pure heaven.  Others, though they enjoyed the beauty, were searching for things to do.

          Because of the weather, we were unable to do some of the activities we’d planned for the week leaving the kids cabin-bound. With over nine kids, the boredom set in quickly.  Parents, Grandparents, and Aunt & Uncles all tried their best to keep them busy, but after a few days, the signs of ‘cabin fever’ were setting in. 

          Much to the older adult’s relief, the kids were eventually able to get out and enjoy the snow, do some shopping in the quaint small town, and see some of the scenery.  Still, it was an interesting study of human nature when trapped in a small space with little to do and nowhere to go; even though we were in the midst of heavenly beauty.

          I asked Google to give me a definition of cabin fever and her response came from Wikipedia which seemed pretty accurate:

 

“…Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these limiting situations.  Cabin fever is also associated with boredom from being indoors for a lengthy amount of time.   A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being isolated within a vacation cottage out in the country, or away from civilization.”

 

          Many of us can experience this same feeling in our daily lives.  Perhaps we feel trapped in a relationship, in our career (or lack thereof), or even by memories of our past.  It happens to all of us to be honest.  Any one of us may go through a season when we feel trapped.  Our reaction can be to lash out in irritation with others, find things to fill the void that may include taking unnecessary risks, or even walk away from everything to chase a dream.

          Cabin fever, or a sense of isolation, is a natural reaction.  Ironically, there are some simple, yet helpful ways we can cope with it.  If we’re feeling trapped in our job, we don’t have to quit, but we can begin searching for a better one.  If we feel trapped in a relationship, it may not be easy, but we can ask God to show us what we need to do to change it or make it better.  If we feel trapped in life altogether, instead of running, we can seek God’s help to show us what His plan is for our lives.

          I can’t say it’s going to be easy to get out of that cabin of life.  We may be snowed in with no way out.  We may be able to step outside, however, and find hope by looking at the sunset over the distant mountains. 

          If that’s you tonight, I want to encourage you that these seasons never last forever.  If we can find something to change the routine we feel trapped in, we may just find what we have isn’t so bad after all.  Most of all, if we can look past the feelings of isolation to ask God’s help, who is always with us, He can provide hope, joy, and a path out of our cabin into His perfect plan. 

For some of us, being in that cabin may be His plan for us and we just can’t see it yet.  He may want us to slow down, take an account of our life, and learn to be content, or learn how to live with those around us (even if we are driving each other crazy).  In that cabin, He may speak to us things we would have never heard if we hadn’t been there. 

I don’t have all the answers my friends, but I know He does.  Trust in that tonight.  Know that He will provide a way no matter how bad life may seem or how much cabin fever you may be feeling in the cabin of life; because, He loves you…  

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/cabin-fever Fri, 01 Feb 2019 02:05:26 GMT
Polar Vortexorama https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/polar-vortexorama

 

          This has been the week of the ‘Polar Vortexorama’ for many in our country.  I’m eerily reminded of the blizzard of ’78 when we were buried under six feet of snow and only the V-Plow could get through to our home while growing up in West Michigan.  

          Not having cell phones, we weren’t tempted to follow the crowd by videoing ourselves boiling water and throwing it up in the air to see it turn into ice crystals like so many are doing on social media today.   Back then, we just did dumb things like jumping off the roof of the garage into the huge snow drifts or making snow forts that could collapse on us.  Of course, we didn’t have the frigid temperatures like they are having today.  I probably wouldn’t have made it very long outdoors with cold like that.

          Most notable to me while watching how everything has been shut down (‘Closed’) today, was the number of bored people trolling Facebook.  It brings a new meaning to the term, ‘Cabin Fever’.  Here in Texas, fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with the cold like our northern friends have had to, but we did have to wear a jacket outside (no sympathy for that I'm sure). 

          While walking to get our coffee this morning in the warm 32-degree temperatures, I made a random shivering sound.  The Mrs., knowing I’m from Michigan and her being from the North as well, said, ‘You should be used to this kind of weather’.   My immediate thought was, ‘NO, just because I grew up around it doesn’t mean I liked it.’  We had a good laugh because we’re both now ‘Texafied’ and wouldn’t move back to where we’d have to live through those winter snow storms for anything.

          So, today here’s to all of my friends, and family, who are having to survive the ‘Polar Vortexorama’ this week.  You’re in our thoughts and prayers.  Please stay warm, and safe.  I thought I would post the below video for you just in case you’re busy trolling Facebook while stuck at home. 

 

 

Love always, my cold friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/polar-vortexorama Thu, 31 Jan 2019 02:10:08 GMT
God is with You https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/god-is-with-you

 

          One of the things I cherish most about God is the sense that He is with me.  Always.  It’s hard to put words to.  The simplest way I can describe it is a knowing, tangible sense of His presence when I’m awake, and when I’m asleep.  More than the hope that He’ll be there when I need Him; it’s feeling Him in my heart and hearing Him speak to me wherever I go.

          I know, many people will say, ‘Umm, that’s crazy if you think God talks to you’.   I can understand why they may say that, but once you experience that still, small voice speak to your heart, his loving presence (warmth, power, electric floods of joy wash over you), you will never be able to deny His reality. 

          Sure, there have been times when I went astray doing what I know He wouldn’t be pleased with. all the while knowing He’s there with me the whole time.  It’s a strange dichotomy that our human nature presents us with; this willful pride that tells the maker of our soul to ‘bud out’ when we want to do what we want.

          For some reason, though, tonight I’m sensing there may be someone who is reading this who needs to know that God is with you.  You need that loving presence to comfort you and to guide you.  You may be feeling lonely and even empty inside.  Hurts, rejections, failures, and loss have caused you to feel as though God doesn’t care. 

          Many people feel that way.  Life never gets easier, and when we feel like God is far away, it’s even harder.  Be encouraged my friend. He wants you to know that He is always with you.  He sees the heartache, the pain, the rejection, and the loss.  He wants you to know that you are more than just ‘loved’; you are everything to Him. 

          He wants you to know that He’ll never leave you.  The world may reject you, but He never will; no matter what you’ve done. That’s what His grace is all about; the unearned love and acceptance of a loving God.  With His acceptance, through grace, comes his presence too.

          If that’s you, take a few minutes to hide yourself away where you can be alone and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  Ask Him to speak to your heart and to your mind.  Raise your hands up to Him and ask Him to fill your heart with His presence now, and every day.  Give Him your hurts and lay them at His feet.  He already knows what they are anyway.  He’s just waiting for you to hand them to Him so He can help you carry them.  And, most of all, remember how very very much you are loved my friend…

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/god-is-with-you Wed, 30 Jan 2019 02:01:27 GMT
Morning Joe https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/morning-joe

 

          Have you ever wondered why they call it ‘Morning Joe’?  I mean, who’s Joe?  Did he invent coffee?  Was Joe someone I need to thank for this wonderful combination of flavor and caffeine?  If so, here’s to you Joe!  You keep me up at night, wake me up in the morning, and give me anxiety during the day.  Really appreciate it pal. 

          Oh, the days when Grandma would break out the big red can of Folgers to make us a cup of hot tar for breakfast.  Thankfully, I didn’t become a diabetic from all the sugar I used to keep from swallowing my tongue after the first sip.  She meant well, but if she really knew how the caffeine increased my obnoxious levels past the, ‘Everyone in the room is going to kill you if don’t stop it Brad…!’ levels, I’m certain she would not have allowed me near it. 

          Yes, coffee has become part of who I am today.  Scientists even say it’s good for me (at least the ones who work for the coffee companies do).   It may even help me live longer (much to those who hate me's chagrin).  The Mrs. and I enjoy a cup at our local coffee shop nearly every morning.  It has even drawn us closer together and given us a reason to exercise. 

          For all its faults, that morning cup of Joe has real benefits after all.  I just need to get past the realization that I am nothing but a shell without it in the morning.  I tried quitting once.  I really did.  That lasted about two months until the day I decided the daily thoughts of doom & gloom just weren’t worth it anymore.

          SO, tonight, here’s to all of you fellow cup of Joe drinkers out there.  Remember, we’re in this together (whether we like it or not). Maybe one day they’ll come up with something better, but for now I’m happy with drinking that whole pot of coffee in the morning.  Who knows, maybe I’ll live past 100.  My teeth will be brown from the coffee stains, but at that age, who cares!...

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/morning-joe Tue, 29 Jan 2019 02:15:23 GMT
The Battle of Ideas https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-battle-of-ideas

 

          Most people today, me included, have never fought in a war with real weapons against real people.  Thank goodness.  Those who have are usually very reluctant to speak of what they faced.  They would rather not talk about the ravages of war, and for a good reason; because war is hell.

          There are wars fought with weapons that kill people and there are wars fought with weapons that disable the enemy’s ability to function allowing them to be overtaken without even lifting a finger to take a life.  Those weapons, the ones which effectively take over a society, people, or person, are the subtle, yet powerful ones that win their victory in the shadows.  Some are even hidden in plain sight.

          Even though we may not have fought in a physical war, many of us have been in other types of wars that brought devastation into our life.  The wars between people who either disagree with us, dislike us for any host of reasons, or who are seeking vengeance for some wrong they felt by our hand.  We may even have been the ones seeking retribution for a wrong done to us.

          The real battle in life, in our world today, isn’t between opposing armies; it’s between opposing ideas. These battles are fought in the marketplace of social media, political arenas, and in our education institutions.  The weapons of this warfare are cell phones for tweeting, tablets for blogging, and, heaven forbid, the dreaded ‘Meme’. 

          I never knew what a meme even was until I heard it mentioned on Facebook.  Even today, I’m challenged to define what it is, so I asked Google and here’s what ‘she’ had to say. 

 

Meme: ‘An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation – a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.’

 

Wow.   Now that sounds dangerous.  Yet, it was one of the most widely used methods by foreign governments attempting to affect our elections and our country.  The MEME!...

The battle continues today with no stop in site.  It seems that nearly 80% of all the posts I see on Facebook today are, in fact, some sort of meme, to the point it makes me feel like dropping my phone down the toilet (only that would just plug up the line and cost a lot of money to fix).   

The better way, in my opinion, is to have open and honest dialogue between two people who can agree to disagree.  The sharing of ideas by not just pointing at the other person, but by listening and understanding first.  To get there, it will take a lot of love, patience, and a deliberate effort to put down our weapons (phones & tablets) to engage in real, live conversation. 

I may be old fashioned and, yes, I enjoy the ‘Most Interesting Man’, or cat, memes as much as anyone, but we need to return to the time when we actually picked up the phone and called someone.  When we answered the phone and didn’t know who was on the other end.  When we visited someone at their home to share a coffee.  When we didn’t use our thumbs to talk and used or mouths instead. 

Today, here’s to using real, live communication to share our ideas. The battle may be on to conquer our country through ideas, but we can win that battle.  The only way to win it will be by choosing to keep civil, love one another despite our differences, and, most of all, share our ideas through thoughtful communications.  

Jesus won millions, not by viral videos, but with His voice, His love, and His example.   We too can follow His example.  I, for one, want to join that battle.   I’ll leave you tonight with the meme below that has nothing to do with the topic today, but I thought it may share a 'common system of behavior' for some of us, and even give you a laugh.

 

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-battle-of-ideas Mon, 28 Jan 2019 01:53:59 GMT
Fresh Water - Full Version https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---full-version

 

Part 1 – Looking Back

 

Tom lived in a quaint, small town just outside of a large city, much like the one he was raised in.  It had been a while since he’d had time alone with God, so he thought he would take a walk by himself along a nearby lake to thank Him for all He had done for him throughout his life and to sit by the water again like he used to long ago.

One of the things Tom loved to do growing up was to sit by a small, spring fed lake called Little John, sipping a bottle of his favorite beverage, listening to the birds sing, the wind blowing over the water up into the grass, and smelling the fresh, clean air.  It had been a long time since he’d had the chance to visit that favorite spot in West Michigan.  Today seemed just like one of those days, and as he sat by the water, the memories of his life began to flood through his mind. 

Tom grew up in a small town near Lake Michigan.  Everyone there lived life like they were in the 1950s.  People knew your name when you walked down the street (not to mention other details of your life they probably shouldn’t know).  The local downtown was where everyone shopped, fellowshipped, and celebrated holidays together.

          His family had lived there for more than three generations and had established a good, honest reputation in town.  It was Tom’s upbringing he credited for his down-to-earth approach to sales making him one of the leading salesmen at every company he worked with (not to mention the work ethic he’d learned as a child to be persistent, apply himself, and never give up).

          At sixteen, Tom was active in music and the community, but there was something missing.  He found his faith one weekend while attending a youth event.  Though he didn’t understand it at the time, he wanted more.  So, over the course of several years, he poured himself into the Bible, church, and anything he could read.

          By the time he was ready to graduate, he was certain he was meant to leave that small town in pursuit of an education at one of the top Christian colleges in the nation.  After applying and getting his acceptance letter, Tom saved money by working at the local grocery store and found a way to pay for his first year with the help of financial aid.  It was hard on his mother as she never imagined her son would leave the town her family had lived in for so long.  Making it even more difficult for her was the fact that he was her only son. 

Finally, the day came for him to leave.  Tom had packed his Chevy Vega station wagon full of what clothes he had, his instrument, all the music he could listen to on the road, and $300 in his pocket.  After giving her a long hug, he said goodbye to his mother who stood in the driveway, tears flowing down her face, and he jumped into his car speeding off on his way to find the answers he was looking for.

 

Part 2 – Summer Wisdom

 

          The following five years seemed to fly by as Tom pursued his degree in Bible Theology.  It seemed every hour was filled with study, activities with friends, and work.  Through it all, he never stopped thinking about those he left behind and the many lessons he’d learned growing up in the small West Michigan town.

          When school let out for the summer, on several occasions, Tom spent his time working as a part-time youth minister and youth counselor.  His work was rewarding, and he learned just how little he knew about handling teen and family related issues. 

While working at a youth summer camp in Indiana after his first year of college, Tom was leading the kids in an evening service when, afterward during the prayer time, he felt a heavy burden for someone who was there.  He couldn’t get it off his heart and decided to ask if there was anyone who had recently just gone through something tragic. 

After waiting for what seemed like minutes, two young children came forward to the front, tears flowing down their faces.  Their counselor reached over and told Tom they had witnessed their parents commit suicide only a week before coming to the camp.  Their grandparents needed to get them away from the situation so they sent them there hoping it would help them cope with the loss.

Tom reached down and held them in his arms crying while he prayed for them to be protected, loved, and comforted.  The entire camp then circled around to hug and encourage them for the rest of the evening.

Walking back to his cabin that night, Tom was shaken by the needs he’d sensed with the kids.    His dream of pursuing the path of ministry just became real and he knew it.  So much of his time had been focused on his own dreams, ideas, and plans.   His protected life growing up wasn’t perfect by far, but he never knew the kind of pain those young kids were facing. 

That night, Tom couldn’t sleep and for the rest of that summer, he wasn’t able to get the two hurting kids off his mind.  The encounter not only shaped his view of ministry, it shaped his view of himself.   Sadly, he knew he had much more to learn about life than he did the Bible.  Somehow, deep inside, he knew those painful lessons he would have to learn were coming.  He just didn’t know when.

 

Part 3 – Lost Love

 

          Never at the top of his class, Tom struggled through some of the more difficult courses toward the end of his time in college.  It wasn’t until he met, and began dating Sue, a nursing major with a fanatical dedication to studying, that he decided to pour more time into the library study hours where she was most of the time in order to spend time with her.  In the end, it paid off for him and he improved to an 'A' student in most of his courses.  Unfortunately for Tom, however, he didn’t score as high in his relationship with Sue.

Having never dated in high school because of his insecurities about his eyes being crossed from the time he was a child, Tom avoided girls thinking they wouldn't want to date him.  After his first year, he learned he could have them fixed with his insurance covering the cost, so he quickly had it done.  Shortly after, he realized girls liked him after all and lost himself in the attention, until Sue came along. 

Their relationship rapidly grew closer and before she graduated, Tom decided she may be ‘the one’ for him.  Sadly, Sue didn’t feel the same way as he did as she had her career in mind, lived in California, and had a father who felt she needed to find someone more suitable. 

She graduated a year ahead of Tom, who was pursuing a five- year double major, and left for home.  Within a month of leaving, she decided it was time to cut the ties with her long-distance college relationship.  Over the course of a quick phone call while he was at Naval training in San Diego, Sue let him go.  Tom had joined the Navy Reserves during his Junior year to help pay for college and was pursuing a career as a Naval chaplain.

Heartbroken and disillusioned, Tom went back to college after his summer training determined to keep pursuing his Naval career.  Having struggled with rejection most of his life, it was particularly difficult for him, so he turned to dating a different girl every other week and quickly built a reputation as a ‘flirt’. 

It wasn’t until one spring night while sitting outside the dormitory with his new girlfriend, that Tom was confronted by his wing RA, Joe.  Joe had caught them kissing and knew Tom was struggling with a need for acceptance.  That night, he sat him down and warned him of the dangers he was facing and how those temptations could cause him to fall one day.  Tom listened and broke off the relationship, but he still hadn’t dealt with the insecurities of his past that would, eventually, come to haunt him.

 

Part 4 – Generation Gap

 

          Graduation came and went.  As Tom began his graduate studies, he found a job at a local church working as a Youth Pastor.  The Methodist church, across town from school, was a great place to put into practice some of what he’d been learning over the past few years and provided a steady income while he pursued his master’s on the path to becoming a Naval Chaplain.

          Although rewarding, the church wasn’t without any challenges.  The senior members often challenged the ideas of the younger ones whose kids were in the youth.  They wanted to keep things just as they were.  The parents wanted more lively music, fun activities for the kids, and to reach out more to the community.  

          In the middle of it all was Tom’s pastor, Jim.  Jim was six feet four inches tall, wore glasses with a shaggy mustache, and had a down-to-earth sense of humor.  Jim’s ability to ride the line between the younger generation and old was what kept him there, and it allowed him to reach out to the youth in ways he wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. 

          Jim wasn’t just Tom's boss, Jim became a father-figure to him.  Many times, when Tom felt frustrated and like giving up, Jim would sit down with him and walk him through the situation often ending with them both having a great laugh together.  Jim’s sense of the practical was something Tom admired.  His love for his family was also something he looked up to, often seeing Jim needing to defend them from those who opposed him at the church.

          Through that first year of work there, Tom learned a great deal, not only from his pastor and friend, Jim, but from the parents and the youth.  Some of the kids didn’t have parents who were supportive of them.  Some came from broken homes, some had parents who were alcoholic, and some had abusive parents. The church became their home.  Others had parents who loved volunteering and financially sacrificing to support the youth.  Somehow, they all blended together to make for a magical year for Tom and one he would always cherish. 

It was later in that first year of seminary that Tom received his commission into the Naval Reserves as a Chaplain Candidate.  He was now on his way to fulfilling his dream.  Despite the loss of his first love and the small challenges with the senior church members, life was going as he’d hoped.  He now had everything planned out and God, it seemed, agreed.

 

Part 5 – “I’m Calling You to California”

 

Summer couldn’t come fast enough for Tom after his first year of seminary.  With his work at the church along with his studies, he had a full schedule.  Now that school was nearly out, he could completely focus on the youth.  So, he thought. 

Just as school was ending, before heading across the driveway to the church from his parsonage, Tom had a knock on the door.  It was Sue.  She had been in town and wanted to see how he was doing.  Tom was shocked and yet glad to see her.  He hadn’t totally let go of Sue over the past year, and to see her at his door left him nearly speechless. 

She had been following his work at the church through some mutual friends and was wrestling with her emotions about breaking things off with him.  Deciding to visit Tom was more a test of those emotions than anything; she wanted to prove to herself that she’d made the right decision.  Tom, preoccupied with his work, wasn’t ready for her to appear at his door.  After a few minutes of awkward conversion, however, he and Sue fell right into each other’s arms.  Both knowing it was wrong, they put their feelings aside and lit the flame once again. 

Later that day, Sue had to leave back for California and told Tom she would call. He wasn’t sure what to think about what had just happened, so he decided to put the brief reunion with her back on the shelf of life to lay in wait for what the future may hold.  Not surprisingly, it was only a matter of a weeks before Sue called him saying she still wasn’t ready for a committed relationship.  Tom was hurt, but this time around, he was ready for the rejection and let her go.

He kept himself busy with the youth over the next month.  When he wasn’t working with them, Tom was spending his time playing his guitar out in the open field behind the church likely driving all the neighbor’s crazy with his ‘Bob Seger’ style of playing.

One of those nights while he was outside playing, in early July, Tom heard a voice he’d learned from experience, may have been God, saying, ‘I’m calling you to California’.  Even though that was all he heard, in his heart, he knew what he must do.  Strangely, it had nothing to do with Sue, which he knew everyone would assume.  This was different.  It was a knowing and a sense, without any doubt, that he needed to look for a job there right away. 

Within a few short weeks, through the leading in his heart, Tom found an open position in California and made the decision to walk away from all that he had worked so hard for.  He resigned his position as Youth Pastor at the small Methodist church, quit seminary, and packed his car with everything he could fit.  After a tearful goodbye with the youth, Tom headed for California.  Tom would soon learn that he had just made a decision that would change, not only his own life, but the lives of many others.

 

Part 6 – On the Rebound

 

          Little did he know it but growing up in a small west Michigan town hadn't nearly prepared Tom for what lay ahead of him.  His new position provided him with an apartment in the upper level of the church and a nice base salary to keep him going.  The church, located in the Central Valley, was known by many in the area because it sat right on one of the major freeways connecting northern and southern California.  It was a new church building with a faithful, medium-sized congregation.  The pastor, passionate for the community, began the church some fifteen years prior.

          Excited to dive right into his work getting to know the youth and learning all about his new home state, Tom was the star attraction when he was introduced during the family picnic on his first Sunday.  It didn’t take long for some of the single girls to take notice of him that first day, but He was too busy to notice back.  Tom was asked to preach the next week and if he would like to have a special song for the service.  He chose, ‘The Old Rugged Cross’, one of his favorites, to be sung just before his message.

          As he sat back in the speaker’s seat the following Sunday morning, the pastor introduced the special song and that a girl he'd seen at the picnic, Sandy, was going to sing for them.  When Tom looked up, Sandy was standing directly in front of him when she took the mic.  He tried to act as though he hadn’t noticed, but her beauty took Tom by surprise.  Embarrassed that others would notice his surprise, he tried to look away.  After the service, impressed with her singing, and looks, even though he knew he was still on the rebound from Sue, Tom decided he may need to get to know her better.

          Within a few weeks, Tom and Sandy began dating sparking what would immediately turn into a whirlwind relationship with half the church pushing him to date her, and the other half saying he needed to be careful.

          Sandy, who aspired to compete in national beauty pageants, had competed in many local pageants throughout the state, winning several of the larger ones.  Dating Tom seriously, meant she would have to give up her dreams in order to be a preacher's wife; something that would grow into an issue between them.  Tom also learned her family had differences with the pastor, his boss, which was becoming a problem.  Determined that no one was going to make the decision for him on whom he should, or shouldn't date, even though he was so new to the church, Tom blindly pressed ahead. 

          Over the next six months, he and Sandy decided to marry quickly before others could talk them out of it.  Tom, feeling pushed into commitment, felt entrapped as their relationship became more and more rocky due to the stresses of the church, Sandy's quick temper, frustration with those who would try to control them, and her family's differences with the pastor.  He knew he was putting his position in jeopardy.   Nevertheless, Tom and Sandy pressed on determined to prove everyone wrong and they were married that December.  

 

Part 7 – A Dark Figure

 

If the six months leading up to the wedding were rocky, the honeymoon, and what came after, made them seem like a walk in the park.  Tom and Sandy planned to take a cruise to Mexico which, with the culmination of a closet spaced room, sickness, terrible weather, and bad food, made them long for home after the first day.

Returning to California feeling exhausted, they came to their church apartment and realized it had been vandalized by well-meaning friends playing a joke on them.  Although funny, some of what they did was hurtful to Tom and mocking of them both.  On top of this, he realized his mother-in-law, whom they’d given a key to their apartment to help clean while they were gone, had come in and found the mess.  Running into the pastor, she then argued with him over the whole marriage and whether they were really in love. 

Tom learned of the discussion and that it hadn’t gone well.  Feeling pressured by his new in-laws, he decided he needed to quit his job immediately.  He now found himself without a home, a job, and newly married.   Tom’s family, all in Michigan, were too far away to help them, so they moved into a small one-bedroom shed behind Sandy’s parent’s home. 

Racked with school loans, new debt from the wedding, little money in the bank, and living with his in-laws, Tom felt defeated.  It was all he could do to trust his faith, and himself, to get out of the hole he had found himself in.  The past six months had turned his life completely upside down. 

After looking for a few weeks, the thought came to him to call a church in Southern California he’d heard of while in college.  The church, he later learned, was at one time, one of the largest in the country, but over the years had lost members due to multiple controversies surrounding finances. 

Unaware of the history, Tom called the church and was able to quickly arrange a short interview with the pastor who happened to be in their area.  The pastor and his wife asked them to join them that weekend at the church for a conference to see what they thought.  

Tom and Sandy drove to Southern California the following Saturday morning with a new sense of joy and hope.  The pastor paid their expenses and provided them a nice room in the hotel directly across from the church.  The church was also next to Disneyland, something Tom and Sandy were excited about when thinking of the possibilities for their future kids.  Everything seemed perfect to them; until that night. 

After an evening full of meetings, being introduced to new people, the prospect of a new position at a famous large church, and the great location where they would be living, Tom could barely sleep.  Finally nodding off after 2:00 a.m., he was awakened by a frightening dream.

In his dream, Tom saw a dark figure standing in front of the church they were visiting.  He knew it was the senior pastor but couldn't see his face; just his form.  He had a sudden sense of emptiness, and danger.  A voice spoke to him in his dream saying, ‘I’ll open the door for you here, but it will not be an easy path.  If you chose it, I will be with you, but you will have great pain.’

Shocked by the vividness of the dream, Tom awoke in a cold sweat.  Trembling, he told Sandy what he’d just dreamed.  His instincts were to leave and not come back, but she was too blinded by the opportunity, the possibility of working in a large church, and the fact they had nothing to go back to.  After talking it over with her and her encouraging him to keep pursuing the job, he decided the most prudent thing to do would be to stay on the path and take on any challenges that may come later.  Sadly, they would quickly learn that Tom’s dream was more than just a random dream.

 

Part 8 – Baby Grace

 

Within only a few weeks, Tom and Sandy packed what little belongings they had and moved to Southern California to begin, what they thought, would be a fresh new journey together.  All the while, Tom couldn’t shake the menacing memory of his dream. 

For the first few months, things were great.  Their new upscale apartment, the church people, and even Disneyland next door, made it seem as though everything was falling into place. 

It was at that time when Tom was sitting in the front row of the church before the main service and saw a little girl with blond, curly hair run down the aisle.  A still, small voice spoke to him saying, ‘I’m going to give you a little girl just like that one’.  Excited, he told Sandy who immediately started making plans.  One of the first things she did was to have a doctor in the church check to be sure they could conceive.

Tom was working in his upstairs office that following week when he got the call from Sandy tearfully saying the doctor told her they wouldn’t be able to have children.  Her voice was trembling as she explained how the doctor told her she had an underdeveloped uterus.  It was as though a load of bricks fell on their dreams.  From that moment on, with the same attitude that drove them to marry quickly, they were determined to prove the doctor wrong by trying to have a child just a few months into their marriage and new job. 

Tom recruited the entire church to pray for them and within just a month of trying, Sandy became pregnant. Miraculously, she carried the baby full-term without any complications.  To both of their surprise, the baby was a girl with blonde hair.  They named her Grace in thankfulness to God.

Despite the miracle child and all the joy around her being born, Tom and Sandy weren’t doing well.  Disappointments in their pay, Tom’s having to work long hours at the church, and Sandy’s own regrets about walking away from her dreams, all added up to countless arguments.  Tom was beginning to feel more and more isolated.  By the time she arrived, Grace was a welcome relief from the marriage that seemed to be already on the way down. 

The church wasn’t much better.  What seemed perfect at first, soon became a major disillusionment for Tom.  He was beginning to have serious reservations about the pastor whose constant travel, lavish meals for himself and guests, and the lack of funds for even the smallest of needs for the youth, made Tom wonder if something was very wrong. 

With just over a year into a job which he realized was becoming what he’d feared, a new baby at home, little money after the bills were paid, and a wife who heaped more expectations on him every day all the while depriving him of affection, Tom felt like a failure.  It seemed as if every effort he made to fix things, only made them worse.  This wasn’t what he’d dreamed of those many nights playing his guitar under the stars, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

 

Part 9 – Disillusionment

 

Grace was a light in the darkness for Tom.  She was a miracle baby and became the star attraction at the church.  His heart was full of love for her and humbled that God brought her into his life.

The next six months passed by quickly and things at work weren’t getting any better.  The longer he stayed, the more Tom learned of the pastor’s choices to serve his own legacy over the needs of the people.  Even though he was mingling with a host of ‘Christian celebrities’, he was becoming more disillusioned by the day. 

On one occasion, a nationally known celebrity was visiting, and Tom’s job was to pick up their family at the airport.  Pastor sent his limousine with Tom so they could pick them up 'in style'.  Money was flowing like a waterfall during their meetings that weekend and it seemed to only go into paying for private jets, expensive suits, and lavish lifestyles.

By the middle of the next summer, Tom couldn’t take the double-standards any longer.  He was finding himself caught up in the deceptive life of the pastor and knew he wanted out.  His roots from the small town in West Michigan were telling him it wasn’t right and that he needed to go.  Ironically, the pastor had become paranoid that Tom, along with a more senior pastor on his staff Tom had become close with, may leave to start another church of their own taking his congregation along; something that had happened to him several times before.  

On Friday before the first weekend of August, the pastor had his limo pick Tom up and bring him to the nearby train station where he would travel from his lush cliffside home along the ocean.  Tom knew in his heart it was time to part ways, and pastor was ready to make the change too.  Coldly, the pastor agreed to a quick exit with only the remainder of his pay and said goodbye.  It was the last time Tom would ever speak to him.

His heart was broken even more.  Tom had served the church faithfully and saw God do wonderful things with the youth.  But, because the youth weren’t a priority to the pastor, it was only a matter of time before he would feel threatened by him.  Sadly, his dream the first night they had visited, became a reality and now he had nowhere to go, only two-week’s pay in the bank, and a new baby to feed. 

Tom quickly called some of the people within the church he could trust to see if they knew of a place his family could temporarily stay until he found work.  By what he could only see as a miracle, one of the elders offered a home on his business property for them to live in rent-free until Tom could get off his feet again.  Unfortunately, what looked like a miracle meant for only a short time, turned into a long journey into the desert for Tom; literally.

 

Part 10 – The Desert

 

          With help of family and friends, Tom and Sandy moved into the small house that had been offered to them.  The family business owners were saddened by what they had gone through at the church and vowed to let them stay as long as they needed.  The only thing they asked was for Tom to keep an eye on things after the business closed at night.  The home was located forty miles east of Los Angeles in the hill country known for dry, desert-like conditions.  The area was heavily populated with industry and Tom wasn’t sure about staying on the business property with a new baby, but felt they had no choice.  Truly, they had moved to the desert.

Distraught and financially strapped, Tom and Sandy fought often.  His decision to leave the church, though morally right, left her with nothing to call home as well as a baby to care for.  She blamed Tom for their circumstances and resented her life choices, often making Tom feel he could do nothing right.  To make matters worse, soon after moving, their car was repossessed and, within a year, they were bankrupt.  Yet, through all the loss, they always seemed to have their needs met. Family, friends, and strangers offered help when it was needed; even blessing them with a used car.

Tom worked several sales jobs to help make ends meet, but still desired to find work in the ministry despite all he’d been through.  Slowly, he was losing what little fire remained in him to serve.  The longer he worked his sales jobs, the less he felt the desire to go back.   The disillusionment, rejection, greed, and emotional manipulation he’d experienced had taken more of a toll on him, and his marriage, than he had realized.

Days turned into months and months turned into several years while they stayed in the little home in the desert hill country.  It was nearly two years after moving in, when Tom had an offer to help start a small church.  His fire was slowly returning, and he was excited again.  

While helping the church without pay, he found a job working in real estate financing thanks to a friend he’d met through canvassing area businesses.  Within only a few months, their finances began to turn around.  Still, Tom had a gaping wound in his heart that hadn’t been healed. 

During that time, Sandy became pregnant and gave birth to another beautiful girl they named, Gabbie.  Tom, now a father of two little girls, had even more motivation to get them out of the home they were living in and into something more suitable.  Things seemed to be turning around until that fateful day when the enemy of Tom’s soul came calling. 

While he was out doing more canvassing of the area businesses inviting them to the new church, Tom stopped into a local copy center.  He began to tell them about the church when they interrupted him saying they knew who he was.  Their response shocked Tom and threw him back when they then said they were Satanists and would be praying against the church.  Dazed, Tom left and tried to shrug it off as if they must have been kidding.  Still, something seemed real about their words. 

Several nights later, Tom had a vivid dream of a giant dragon coming after him.  The dragon was coming over the hills where he had been canvassing towards where they lived saying, ‘I will bring you down and destroy your work here!’  Tom awoke in a cold sweat praying out loud against the evil he felt envelope him.  His body was trembling from coldness and he couldn’t shake the sense that something terrible was on its way to try to destroy him.

 

Part 11 – Broken

 

          Over the next six months, Tom and Sandy made their way out of the financial hole they had found themselves in.  Tom was doing better with his real estate financial sales and Sandy was busy taking care of Grace & her new sister, Gabbie.  Still, he wasn’t being paid by the church he was working to help build and he couldn’t get past thinking about the dream he'd had of the dragon coming after him.

They had just moved into a new rental home and out of their ‘temporary’ home in the desert when Tom was out canvassing the area businesses again.  While going door-to-door, he came across an establishment he knew wasn’t going to be interested in the church and, for a reason he later could not explain, decided to go inside.  

Within minutes, Tom found himself trapped by his own curiosity, weaknesses, and lust.  All the pain, rejection, feelings of inadequacy, past failures, spiritual disillusionment, and lack of affection at home, came out all at once.  He lost himself in a place he knew was wrong, but he couldn’t find the will to walk out, until it was too late.

Later that night, as he was crying and praying for God’s forgiveness, Tom heard an audible voice say to him, ‘I’ve got you now.  You are mine.’  He recognized that voice as the voice from his dream; the voice of the evil one.  He prayed against it, and it left him.  Tom knew what he had to do.   Within a few days, Tom reached out to a close friend to confess what he’d done, but that wasn’t enough.

While driving back from church the following Sunday, Sandy felt something had changed in Tom.  She wasn’t one to let go of her suspicions, either.  After forcefully pressing him, Tom told her what happened.  It was as though her whole world came down upon her at that moment.  After being raised with heartbreak in her own family, she had vowed to never let that happen to her.  So much so, she had built walls around her heart that kept Tom out emotionally, and physically.

Within a few weeks, she decided to leave Tom and move back home with her parents.  Convincing her to keep trying, Tom went with her and did everything he could to help put the marriage back together.  Counseling, although helpful for Tom, didn’t seem to help Sandy get past her bitterness despite his willingness to do whatever it would take. 

After a long year of trying, she decided to leave him for good taking the girls with her.  Making it through the past five years of whirlwind drama, even though he tried his best, he failed.  Tom was crushed. 

Even though separated, he kept hoping to restore their marriage, until he received a call that would change his life forever.  What he thought was hell on earth to that point, was just preparation for what he was about to face.

 

Part 12 – Letting Go

 

Living with her friends who were giving her poor advice, Sandy’s anger boiled over into hysteria.  She began to believe Tom was doing things he wasn’t.  Unable to convince her, he focused on his girls and having time with them.  Still, because of her suspicions and control, Sandy kept Tom from seeing them for only a few hours a week.

Still getting himself established with a new real estate financing company, Tom was working long hours and making new friends in the process.  After just moving in, while walking up to his small studio apartment he had rented near the girls, a stray cat befriended herself to Tom.  Over the course of a week, Tom adopted her as his own and they quickly became close.  She was all he had now.

It was only a few months into the separation when Tom had Grace and Gabbie over for a Saturday afternoon.  Money was tight and Sanded needed her child support to pay her rent.  After arguing with Tom through the door when she came to pick up the girls, he wrote her a check for the last few hundred dollars he had.   

That next week, Tom received a call from Sandy saying, ‘she was going to get to the bottom of this’ and that he wasn’t going to see the girls until she did.   Not sure what she was referring to, he finally pressed it out of her that she was accusing him of hurting Grace.  Shocked and taken back knowing he would never hurt Grace, he vehemently denied it to her, but she would not listen.

From that night forward, Tom’s life was changed forever.  Sandy pursed her accusations convincing others that Tom was a danger to Grace.  Over the next year, Tom fought to have even the minimal visitation with the girls.  

Crushed and dismayed, many night’s Tom’s faith, his friends, and his cat, were the only things keeping him sane.  The heartbreak of losing his girls, the loss of all he had in the church, and the loss of his marriage, left him in the middle of a spiritual desert in need of fresh water.

Within a year of their separation, Sandy remarried and moved to Texas, taking Grace and Gabbie with her, to start a new life there.  Tom tried to stop her but couldn’t.  All he had gained in his rights as a father had to be re-challenged once again.  Over the next year, the pain and loss were too much for him to take, both emotionally and physically, so finally he decided he would have to settle with Sandy and let go.   

After Sandy left for Texas, Tom had moved to the Bay Area to be near family who had moved there around the same time.  Now able to afford a better place, Tom rented an apartment overlooking the bay where he would take daily walks and bike rides talking with God.   The sea and the air were a healing to his soul.  His walks, and times sitting by the ocean, were like pouring ointment on open wounds that were gradually healing over.

It had now been over eight years since moving to California and it seemed like a daze to Tom.  He never imagined that he would have gone through so many challenges and failures. If he had known what he would have faced, he may never have obeyed that voice telling him to look for a position there except for one thing; his girls.  Knowing his love for Grace and Gabbie made it all worth it to him and he knew he would do it all over again just so they could be born.

 

Part 13 – Move!

 

Now that the battle with Sandy was over, Tom began to focus on his real estate finance business and, with his family nearby, he was finally starting to feel like life was turning around for him.  Because he owned his own business, Tom could enjoy the freedom of working from home which included the peaceful view of the bay during the day.   Occasionally, he even slipped in a small nap between calls just because he could.  Life seemed settled for the first time in a long time for Tom.

During one of those helpful naps, he was awakened by what sounded like an audible voice saying, ‘It’s Time!’.    Though it was all he heard, in his heart, he knew what that probably meant; to move closer to his kids in Texas.  Yet, somehow, he knew it wasn’t to go back to the battle.  This was different. 

Tom spent the next few weeks praying about what he heard in his dream.  Nearly two weeks had passed, while he was sitting on a park bench enjoying the sound of the crashing waves from the bay, when he had an answer to his prayers come to him.  In that still, small voice he knew from many times before, he heard the words, ‘I’m going to restore your family in a way you do not expect.  I want you to move to Texas, but not to fight.  Trust me...’   

That was it.  He knew what he had to do.  Within a few days, Tom had let his family know about his move and was ready to turn in his notice at the apartment when he asked God one more time for a sign that this decision was right. 

It was a terrifying thought to be moving away from what he now had re-built considering all he’d been through.  Still, part of him was excited about the opportunity to say goodbye to California.  The thought of leaving it all behind was appealing, no doubt.  Family being close made the decision more difficult for Tom as they had grown close with him spending many evenings at their home playing board games, laughing, and just being together. 

The day came when he was going to turn in the two-week notice of his leaving.  On his way down, Tom felt a strong nudge to check his mail.  He decided to look in the box before going to the office.  Inside was a brochure with the picture of a man walking quickly.  Written on top were the words in bold print above saying, ‘MOVE!’.   It leaped off the page at Tom and his heart raced with a sense that this was the final sign he needed to make the move. 

With a smile, and a snicker at God’s sense of timing and humor, Tom confidently walked into the office and gave notice.  He was now, officially, on the way to the next step in his journey.  He didn’t know what lay ahead, but he knew God was behind it.  He knew he wasn’t going to battle again.  He knew he was stepping into something far better.  In just a few short months, he would find the restoration he was promised, and it certainly wasn’t what he had expected.

 

Part 14 – Fulfilled Promise

 

The move to Texas went smoothly for Tom.  At every step he knew where he should live, work, and what he should do.  While settling into his apartment, he decided one of the first things he would do was find a church.  One stood out to him immediately that was just a few blocks up the street.  Ironically, it was called Grace. 

On his first Sunday, he decided to visit.  While on the way into the lobby, he noticed a bulletin board with a flier inviting anyone interested to attend their Divorce Care class.   Tom thought to himself, ‘I’ve been there and done that.  I’m fine…’  Within seconds, that still, small voice spoke to his heart saying, ‘GO!’.   He knew he couldn’t argue with that voice, so he did.

He certainly wasn’t looking to find companionship in the class, but Tom couldn’t help but notice one of the women who was attending; Mary.  She had been to the class before, but for some reason, felt she needed to attend again.  Her marriage ended over a year prior, so she thought perhaps she could be of help to others. 

After the first month of class, on a whim, Tom decided to ask Mary out for a cup of coffee.  Mary agreed to go and what was meant to be a brief, casual time together, turned into something much more. 

After getting a spontaneous dinner that turned out to be unintentionally fun and romantic, they headed to grab a coffee. While the conversation progressed, Tom knew he was falling fast.  Suddenly, out of the blue, Mary told him that, while she was on the way into the coffee shop, God had spoken to her saying, ‘He’s innocent’. 

She asked Tom what that meant.  Surprised by her question, Tom knew it was God speaking to her.  Beginning to cry, he told Mary everything he’d been through in California. With a confident smile, Mary looked at him and felt nothing but compassion and grace.  Their conversation lasted until closing and then for another three hours after that.  It was a night neither of them would forget and Tom knew then that his life would never be the same. 

Mary was remarkable.  Her heart, her personality, her family, and, of course, her looks, floored him.  The only catch; she had two children and Tom wasn’t sure if they would accept him into their lives too.  Over the next several months, Tom and Mary saw and talked with each other nearly every day.  The fears Tom had about her kids accepting him nearly all washed away the more they spent time together. 

That June, Mary was attending her annual family reunion in Canada.  Her grandfather, known for having a word from the Lord for each of his children, and grandchildren, as he prayed God's blessing over them, had a word for Mary this time around. 

He hadn’t heard about Tom before speaking to Mary, but he felt strongly to say to her, ‘Go home.  Get married.  It's OK’.  Floored by her grandfather's word for her who hadn't been told about Tom, Mary came back from the reunion feeling at peace and thankful for God’s confirmation that it was alright to pursue the relationship further.  Unknown to her, while she was gone, Tom settled in his heart that Mary was the one for him and had made plans to ask her hand in marriage soon.  

Within a few days of her getting back from the reunion, Tom took her to dinner and, afterward, for a romantic walk around a nearby lake.  They stopped and sat on a bench enjoying the warm summer's evening listening to the wind blow across the water.  Tom knew that it was the time to ask.  He took her hands in his, looked her in the eyes, and proposed her hand in marriage.  She smiled knowing what he was up to and jumped into his arms saying, ‘YES!’…

That night was over eighteen years ago now.  Sitting by the lake, nearby where he and Mary now lived, to catch a breath of fresh air and enjoy the view of the water, Tom’s mind came back to the present.

The memories of college, the ten years in California, followed by so many blessed years with Mary and her kids who had become like Tom's own, seemed to all flow together into that single moment.  It was as though he could see God's hand at work throughout his life and now understood His purposes in ways he never would have when he was younger.

It was just then, after recalling all the memories, failures, heartbreaks, and blessings in his life, that Tom heard that still, small voice speak to his heart once again saying, ‘I restored your family in a way you never expected…’  Tom smiled and knew that the promise God made to him over eighteen years earlier on the shores of the bay in California, had more than come true through Mary and her children. 

But, the voice in his heart had one more thing to say to him.  Within a few seconds, he heard the voice say, ‘I will complete my work and bring your children home…’  All grown now with children of their own, Tom’s heart raced and knew what that meant; one day, he didn’t know when, his girls, Grace and Gabbie, who had been separated from him for so many years, would one day be back in right relationship with him. 

He knew, without any doubt, that God would complete his work in their lives as well; all in His time and His way.  Tom knew that all he needed to do was wait and obey.  No matter what the challenge, he knew all things would work together for the good just as they had with Mary and her children.  He knew that the old, stale water of the past pain and heartbreak with his own girls, would be replaced by fresh water from above washing away the brokenness and completing the promises of God in his life…

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---full-version Sun, 27 Jan 2019 01:14:34 GMT
Fresh Water Part 14 - Fulfilled Promise https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---conclusion

 

The move to Texas went smoothly for Tom.  At every step he knew where he should live, work, and what he should do.  While settling into his apartment, he decided one of the first things he would do was find a church.  One stood out to him immediately that was just a few blocks up the street.  Ironically, it was called Grace. 

On his first Sunday, he decided to visit.  While on the way into the lobby, he noticed a bulletin board with a flier inviting anyone interested to attend their Divorce Care class.   Tom thought to himself, ‘I’ve been there and done that.  I’m fine…’  Within seconds, that still, small voice spoke to his heart saying, ‘GO!’.   He knew he couldn’t argue with that voice, so he did.

He certainly wasn’t looking to find companionship in the class, but Tom couldn’t help but notice one of the women who was attending; Mary.  She had been to the class before, but for some reason, felt she needed to attend again.  Her marriage ended over a year prior, so she thought perhaps she could be of help to others. 

After the first month of class, on a whim, Tom decided to ask Mary out for a cup of coffee.  Mary agreed to go and what was meant to be a brief, casual time together, turned into something much more. 

After getting a spontaneous dinner that turned out to be unintentionally fun and romantic, they headed to grab a coffee. While the conversation progressed, Tom knew he was falling fast.  Suddenly, out of the blue, Mary told him that, while she was on the way into the coffee shop, God had spoken to her saying, ‘He’s innocent’. 

She asked Tom what that meant.  Surprised by her question, Tom knew it was God speaking to her.  Beginning to cry, he told Mary everything he’d been through in California. With a confident smile, Mary looked at him and felt nothing but compassion and grace.  Their conversation lasted until closing and then for another three hours after that.  It was a night neither of them would forget and Tom knew then that his life would never be the same. 

Mary was remarkable.  Her heart, her personality, her family, and, of course, her looks, floored him.  The only catch; she had two children and Tom wasn’t sure if they would accept him into their lives too.  Over the next several months, Tom and Mary saw and talked with each other nearly every day.  The fears Tom had about her kids accepting him nearly all washed away the more they spent time together. 

That June, Mary was attending her annual family reunion in Canada.  Her grandfather, known for having a word from the Lord for each of his children, and grandchildren, as he prayed God's blessing over them, had a word for Mary this time around. 

He hadn’t heard about Tom before speaking to Mary, but he felt strongly to say to her, ‘He’s OK.  He’s innocent.  You have God's blessing’.  Floored by her grandfather's word for her who hadn't been told about Tom, Mary came back from the reunion feeling at peace and thankful for God’s confirmation that it was alright to pursue the relationship with Tom further.  Unknown to her, while she was gone, Tom settled in his heart that Mary was the one for him and had made plans to ask her hand in marriage soon.  

Within a few days of her getting back from the reunion, Tom took her to dinner and, afterward, for a romantic walk around a nearby lake.  They stopped and sat on a bench enjoying the warm summer's evening listening to the wind blow across the water.  Tom knew that it was the time to ask.  He took her hands in his, looked her in the eyes, and proposed her hand in marriage.  She smiled knowing what he was up to and jumped into his arms saying, ‘YES!’…

That night was over eighteen years ago now.  Sitting by the lake, nearby where he and Mary now lived, to catch a breath of fresh air and enjoy the view of the water, Tom’s mind came back to the present.

The memories of college, the ten years in California, followed by so many blessed years with Mary and her kids who had become like Tom's own, seemed to all flow together into that single moment.  It was as though he could see God's hand at work throughout his life and now understood His purposes in ways he never would have when he was younger.

It was just then, after recalling all the memories, failures, heartbreaks, and blessings in his life, that Tom heard that still, small voice speak to his heart once again saying, ‘I restored your family in a way you never expected…’  Tom smiled and knew that the promise God made to him over eighteen years earlier on the shores of the bay in California, had more than come true through Mary and her children. 

But, the voice in his heart had one more thing to say to him.  Within a few seconds, he heard the voice say, ‘I will complete my work and bring your children home…’  All grown now with children of their own, Tom’s heart raced and knew what that meant; one day, he didn’t know when, his girls, Grace and Gabbie, who had been separated from him for so many years, would one day be back in right relationship with him. 

He knew, without any doubt, that God would complete his work in their lives as well; all in His time and His way.  Tom knew that all he needed to do was wait and obey.  No matter what the challenge, he knew all things would work together for the good just as they had with Mary and her children.  He knew that the old, stale water of the past pain and heartbreak with his own girls, would be replaced by fresh water from above washing away the brokenness and completing the promises of God in his life…

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---conclusion Sat, 26 Jan 2019 01:28:18 GMT
Fresh Water Part 13 - Move! https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-13

 

Now that the battle with Sandy was over, Tom began to focus on his real estate finance business and, with his family nearby, he was finally starting to feel like life was turning around for him.  Because he owned his own business, Tom could enjoy the freedom of working from home which included the peaceful view of the bay during the day.   Occasionally, he even slipped in a small nap between calls just because he could.  Life seemed settled for the first time in a long time for Tom.

During one of those helpful naps, he was awakened by what sounded like an audible voice saying, ‘It’s Time!’.    Though it was all he heard, in his heart, he knew what that probably meant; to move closer to his kids in Texas.  Yet, somehow, he knew it wasn’t to go back to the battle.  This was different. 

Tom spent the next few weeks praying about what he heard in his dream.  Nearly two weeks had passed, while he was sitting on a park bench enjoying the sound of the crashing waves from the bay, when he had an answer to his prayers come to him.  In that still, small voice he knew from many times before, he heard the words, ‘I’m going to restore your family in a way you do not expect.  I want you to move to Texas, but not to fight.  Trust me...’   

That was it.  He knew what he had to do.  Within a few days, Tom had let his family know about his move and was ready to turn in his notice at the apartment when he asked God one more time for a sign that this decision was right. 

It was a terrifying thought to be moving away from what he now had re-built considering all he’d been through.  Still, part of him was excited about the opportunity to say goodbye to California.  The thought of leaving it all behind was appealing, no doubt.  Family being close made the decision more difficult for Tom as they had grown close with him spending many evenings at their home playing board games, laughing, and just being together. 

The day came when he was going to turn in the two-week notice of his leaving.  On his way down, Tom felt a strong nudge to check his mail.  He decided to look in the box before going to the office.  Inside was a brochure with the picture of a man walking quickly.  Written on top were the words in bold print above saying, ‘MOVE!’.   It leaped off the page at Tom and his heart raced with a sense that this was the final sign he needed to make the move. 

With a smile, and a snicker at God’s sense of timing and humor, Tom confidently walked into the office and gave notice.  He was now, officially, on the way to the next step in his journey.  He didn’t know what lay ahead, but he knew God was behind it.  He knew he wasn’t going to battle again.  He knew he was stepping into something far better.  In just a few short months, he would find the restoration he was promised, and it certainly wasn’t what he had expected.

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-13 Fri, 25 Jan 2019 01:45:30 GMT
Fresh Water Part 12 - Letting Go https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-12

 

Living with her friends who were giving her poor advice, Sandy’s anger boiled over into hysteria.  She began to believe Tom was doing things he wasn’t.  Unable to convince her, he focused on his girls and having time with them.  Still, because of her suspicions and control, Sandy kept Tom from seeing them for only a few hours a week.

Still getting himself established with a new real estate financing company, Tom was working long hours and making new friends in the process.  After just moving in, while walking up to his small studio apartment he had rented near the girls, a stray cat befriended herself to Tom.  Over the course of a week, Tom adopted her as his own and they quickly became close.  She was all he had now.

It was only a few months into the separation when Tom had Grace and Gabbie over for a Saturday afternoon.  Money was tight and Sanded needed her child support to pay her rent.  After arguing with Tom through the door when she came to pick up the girls, he wrote her a check for the last few hundred dollars he had.   

That next week, Tom received a call from Sandy saying, ‘she was going to get to the bottom of this’ and that he wasn’t going to see the girls until she did.   Not sure what she was referring to, he finally pressed it out of her that she was accusing him of hurting Grace.  Shocked and taken back knowing he would never hurt Grace, he vehemently denied it to her, but she would not listen.

From that night forward, Tom’s life was changed forever.  Sandy pursed her accusations convincing others that Tom was a danger to Grace.  Over the next year, Tom fought to have even the minimal visitation with the girls.  

Crushed and dismayed, many night’s Tom’s faith, his friends, and his cat, were the only things keeping him sane.  The heartbreak of losing his girls, the loss of all he had in the church, and the loss of his marriage, left him in the middle of a spiritual desert in need of fresh water.

Within a year of their separation, Sandy remarried and moved to Texas, taking Grace and Gabbie with her, to start a new life there.  Tom tried to stop her but couldn’t.  All he had gained in his rights as a father had to be re-challenged once again.  Over the next year, the pain and loss were too much for him to take, both emotionally and physically, so finally he decided he would have to settle with Sandy and let go.     

After Sandy left for Texas, Tom had moved to the Bay Area to be near family who had moved there around the same time.  Now able to afford a better place, Tom rented an apartment overlooking the bay where he would take daily walks and bike rides talking with God.   The sea and the air were a healing to his soul.  His walks, and times sitting by the ocean, were like pouring ointment on open wounds that were gradually healing over.

It had now been over eight years since moving to California and it seemed like a daze to Tom.  He never imagined that he would have gone through so many challenges and failures. If he had known what he would have faced, he may never have obeyed that voice telling him to look for a position there except for one thing; his girls.  Knowing his love for Grace and Gabbie made it all worth it to him and he knew he would do it all over again just so they could be born.

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-12 Thu, 24 Jan 2019 02:51:35 GMT
Breaking Point https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/breaking-point

 

          All of us have our breaking point in life (at least it feels that way).  What does it really mean to have a breaking point?  It probably means something a little different to everyone you ask.  For me, it’s that point when I just can’t take it any more and I'll do anything to change.  Living with the current circumstances just won’t cut it anymore.   I've ‘had it’.

          Outside of those who live for the drama in life (we all know a few of those people), most of us try to avoid breaking points and, instead, choose to live with some things we may not particularly like, but considering the alternatives, they become something we rationalize away as acceptable.  

          The reality is that life is never perfect. What we may find unacceptable, may be just what we need.  One person’s minimum expectations may be a dream come true for another person.  Our happiness, if based on whether our expectations in life are met, will never be fulfilled.  We will constantly be looking for more. 

          It’s when we let go of those things we hold onto so dearly that we begin to find true joy.  The simple things, the ones we can’t possibly create on our own, are the ones that bring the most satisfaction.  Granted, there are those situations when we must draw the line (abuse, controlling relationships, living in unhealthy conditions, etc.), but, for the majority of people in this country, life is much better here than most of the world enjoys.  Yet,   we are some of the least fulfilled people in the world. 

          I remember a time when I was being bullied by one of the more popular students in school.  He just wouldn’t stop taunting me.  It seemed like daily he would push me, say something cruel, or just laugh at me.  One day, I reached my breaking point.  We were nearly to our class when he reached over and pushed me again.  This time, I had enough.  I turned toward him, raised my fist and was about to pop him a good one.  When he saw my hand go up, he ran into his class like a coward.  From that day forward, he left me alone. 

          So, there are times when we do need a breaking point; that time when we decide something just isn’t acceptable that is causing us pain, or hardship.  For many, they come on their own.  The key is knowing when, and what, that is.  As we get older, wisdom has a way of teaching us but, for me, the one thing that has helped me more than anything, is giving it all over to God. 

          Seeking His wisdom, His guidance, and setting my expectations in line with His for my life, have not only kept my expectations realistic, but kept me from going over the edge past my breaking point during several difficult times.  At other times, it has pushed me to make a decision for change when I didn’t feel ready, or when I was too comfortable, but He had something different in mind. 

Some of you may feel like you’re at a breaking point in your life.  I want to encourage you to give the circumstance, whatever it is, over to God and wait on Him.  The wisdom you need, the strength you need, and the guidance you need, are all with Him.  He wants to be a part of your life, and is waiting for you to come to Him with what you're facing.  He can, and will, help you through your breaking point, and lead you into the peace you are seeking.  Because, He loves you…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/breaking-point Wed, 23 Jan 2019 02:03:21 GMT
Fresh Water Part 11 - Broken https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-11

 

          Over the next six months, Tom and Sandy made their way out of the financial hole they had found themselves in.  Tom was doing better with his real estate financial sales and Sandy was busy taking care of Grace & her new sister, Gabbie.  Still, he wasn’t being paid by the church he was working to help build and he couldn’t get past thinking about the dream he'd had of the dragon coming after him.

They had just moved into a new rental home and out of their ‘temporary’ home in the desert when Tom was out canvassing the area businesses again.  While going door-to-door, he came across an establishment he knew wasn’t going to be interested in the church and, for a reason he later could not explain, decided to go inside.  

Within minutes, Tom found himself trapped by his own curiosity, weaknesses, and lust.  All the pain, rejection, feelings of inadequacy, past failures, spiritual disillusionment, and lack of affection at home, came out all at once.  He lost himself in a place he knew was wrong, but he couldn’t find the will to walk out, until it was too late.

Later that night, as he was crying and praying for God’s forgiveness, Tom heard an audible voice say to him, ‘I’ve got you now.  You are mine.’  He recognized that voice as the voice from his dream; the voice of the evil one.  He prayed against it, and it left him.  Tom knew what he had to do.   Within a few days, Tom reached out to a close friend to confess what he’d done, but that wasn’t enough.

While driving back from church the following Sunday, Sandy felt something had changed in Tom.  She wasn’t one to let go of her suspicions, either.  After forcefully pressing him, Tom told her what happened.  It was as though her whole world came down upon her at that moment.  After being raised with heartbreak in her own family, she had vowed to never let that happen to her.  So much so, she had built walls around her heart that kept Tom out emotionally, and physically.

Within a few weeks, she decided to leave Tom and move back home with her parents.  Convincing her to keep trying, Tom went with her and did everything he could to help put the marriage back together.  Counseling, although helpful for Tom, didn’t seem to help Sandy get past her bitterness despite his willingness to do whatever it would take. 

After a long year of trying, she decided to leave him for good taking the girls with her.  Making it through the past five years of whirlwind drama, even though he tried his best, he failed.  Tom was crushed. 

Even though separated, he kept hoping to restore their marriage, until he received a call that would change his life forever.  What he thought was hell on earth to that point, was just preparation for what he was about to face.

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-11 Tue, 22 Jan 2019 02:16:16 GMT
Falling Off https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/falling-off

 

          Tonight, I’m taking a day or two off from my short story and thought I would share one of the things I used to love doing growing up and how it relates to the challenge we all face as parents, whether we’re close to our children or not.

When we were young, my dad purchased a Honda Trail 70 mini-bike for us to ride around.  He surprised us with it one summer when we were at our family reunion out at the old ‘Clawson Pond’.   To get there, we had to drive down a half-mile long dirt road through the Clawson farm.  It was a bit of a drive down that dusty road with the weeds in the center always scraping against the underside of the car.  

          At the end was a clearing where we would all gather under a canopy for meals, the brick fireplace, and the cold pond.  We would spend the weekend swimming, roasting marshmellows & wieners, listening to Grandpa Clawson tell us his stories, and tearing around on our new mini-bike.

          Those were great memories that I’ll cherish for a lifetime.  Life seemed so simple then.  We didn’t have cell phones, video games, or even a television out there at the pond.  We just had our imagination and the great outdoors.  The mini-bike, however, was the highlight of the weekend for us.

          When Dad first bought the mini-bike, I was still quite young at five years old, and wasn’t quite ready to ride it by myself.  It took a few years, and lots of tries to get that bike to stay upright and not run off the road into the weeds, or worse. I’ll never forget my first try at riding it alone. 

Dad put me on the bike, told me to push down on the foot gear shifter, and gently turn the throttle back.  Unfortunately, when I reached for the throttle, I slipped and grabbed it, yanking it down to full power.  The bike lurched forward with me in-tow.  Within seconds, I rammed into a nearby wire fence.  The mini-bike bounced backward like a slingshot throwing me into the air.  Thankfully, I landed gracefully and I only had to deal with a bruised ego (and my sister's laughing).

I’m sure Dad was frightened when he saw that motorcycle take off throwing me into the air and also very relieved when I wasn’t injured.  But I’m glad he let me try to ride it by myself.  In many ways, it was a life lesson for me, and him.  As a parent, as much as he could tell me how to ride the mini-bike, he had to let go and trust me to ride it alone.  As a son, I had to learn life isn’t as easy as just jumping on and going for a ride.  There are things to be watchful of, things that, if not handled carefully, have the power to hurt and destroy lives, and things which take time for us to grow into.

In the same way, as a parent, it’s never easy to see our children hurting or making mistakes.  You want to jump in and save them from pain, hardship, and making the same wrong choices we may have made when we were their age.  But, when we put them on the road of life, they need to make those mistakes themselves in order to learn from them; sometimes the hard way. 

As much as we try to keep them from the unfairness and cruelty of life, it will come.  When it does, however, we will be there to pick them up, dust them off, and get them back on that dusty road again.  No matter how many wrong choices they make, we will always love them, because our heavenly Father loves us with all our imperfections too….

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/falling-off Mon, 21 Jan 2019 01:48:27 GMT
Fresh Water Part 10 - The Desert https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-10

 

          With help of family and friends, Tom and Sandy moved into the small house that had been offered to them.  The family business owners were saddened by what they had gone through at the church and vowed to let them stay as long as they needed.  The only thing they asked was for Tom to keep an eye on things after the business closed at night.  The home was located forty miles east of Los Angeles in the hill country known for dry, desert-like conditions.  The area was heavily populated with industry and Tom wasn’t sure about staying on the business property with a new baby, but felt they had no choice.  Truly, they had moved to the desert.

Distraught and financially strapped, Tom and Sandy fought often.  His decision to leave the church, though morally right, left her with nothing to call home as well as a baby to care for.  She blamed Tom for their circumstances and resented her life choices, often making Tom feel he could do nothing right.  To make matters worse, soon after moving, their car was repossessed and, within a year, they were bankrupt.  Yet, through all the loss, they always seemed to have their needs met. Family, friends, and strangers offered help when it was needed; even blessing them with a used car.

Tom worked several sales jobs to help make ends meet, but still desired to find work in the ministry despite all he’d been through.  Slowly, he was losing what little fire remained in him to serve.  The longer he worked his sales jobs, the less he felt the desire to go back.   The disillusionment, rejection, greed, and emotional manipulation he’d experienced had taken more of a toll on him, and his marriage, than he had realized.

Days turned into months and months turned into several years while they stayed in the little home in the desert hill country.  It was nearly two years after moving in, when Tom had an offer to help start a small church.  His fire was slowly returning, and he was excited again.  

While helping the church without pay, he found a job working in real estate financing thanks to a friend he’d met through canvassing area businesses.  Within only a few months, their finances began to turn around.  Still, Tom had a gaping wound in his heart that hadn’t been healed. 

During that time, Sandy became pregnant and gave birth to another beautiful girl they named, Gabbie.  Tom, now a father of two little girls, had even more motivation to get them out of the home they were living in and into something more suitable.  Things seemed to be turning around until that fateful day when the enemy of Tom’s soul came calling. 

While he was out doing more canvassing of the area businesses inviting them to the new church, Tom stopped into a local copy center.  He began to tell them about the church when they interrupted him saying they knew who he was.  Their response shocked Tom and threw him back when they then said they were Satanists and would be praying against the church.  Dazed, Tom left and tried to shrug it off as if they must have been kidding.  Still, something seemed real about their words. 

Several nights later, Tom had a vivid dream of a giant dragon coming after him.  The dragon was coming over the hills where he had been canvassing towards where they lived saying, ‘I will bring you down and destroy your work here!’  Tom awoke in a cold sweat praying out loud against the evil he felt envelope him.  His body was trembling from coldness and he couldn’t shake the sense that something terrible was on its way to try to destroy him.

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-10 Sun, 20 Jan 2019 02:14:11 GMT
Fresh Water Part 9 - Disillusionment https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-9

 

Grace was a light in the darkness for Tom.  She was a miracle baby and became the star attraction at the church.  His heart was full of love for her and humbled that God brought her into his life.

The next six months passed by quickly and things at work weren’t getting any better.  The longer he stayed, the more Tom learned of the pastor’s choices to serve his own legacy over the needs of the people.  Even though he was mingling with a host of ‘Christian celebrities’, he was becoming more disillusioned by the day. 

On one occasion, a nationally known celebrity was visiting, and Tom’s job was to pick up their family at the airport.  Pastor sent his limousine with Tom so they could pick them up 'in style'.  Money was flowing like a waterfall during their meetings that weekend and it seemed to only go into paying for private jets, expensive suits, and lavish lifestyles.

By the middle of the next summer, Tom couldn’t take the double-standards any longer.  He was finding himself caught up in the deceptive life of the pastor and knew he wanted out.  His roots from the small town in West Michigan were telling him it wasn’t right and that he needed to go.  Ironically, the pastor had become paranoid that Tom, along with a more senior pastor on his staff Tom had become close with, may leave to start another church of their own taking his congregation along; something that had happened to him several times before.  

On Friday before the first weekend of August, the pastor had his limo pick Tom up and bring him to the nearby train station where he would travel from his lush cliffside home along the ocean.  Tom knew in his heart it was time to part ways, and pastor was ready to make the change too.  Coldly, the pastor agreed to a quick exit with only the remainder of his pay and said goodbye.  It was the last time Tom would ever speak to him.

His heart was broken even more.  Tom had served the church faithfully and saw God do wonderful things with the youth.  But, because the youth weren’t a priority to the pastor, it was only a matter of time before he would feel threatened by him.  Sadly, his dream the first night they had visited, became a reality and now he had nowhere to go, only two-week’s pay in the bank, and a new baby to feed. 

Tom quickly called some of the people within the church he could trust to see if they knew of a place his family could temporarily stay until he found work.  By what he could only see as a miracle, one of the elders offered a home on his business property for them to live in rent-free until Tom could get off his feet again.  Unfortunately, what looked like a miracle meant for only a short time, turned into a long journey into the desert for Tom; literally.

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-9 Sat, 19 Jan 2019 02:12:25 GMT
Fresh Water Part 8 - Baby Grace https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-8

 

Within only a few weeks, Tom and Sandy packed what little belongings they had and moved to Southern California to begin, what they thought, would be a fresh new journey together.  All the while, Tom couldn’t shake the menacing memory of his dream. 

For the first few months, things were great.  Their new upscale apartment, the church people, and even Disneyland next door, made it seem as though everything was falling into place. 

It was at that time when Tom was sitting in the front row of the church before the main service and saw a little girl with blond, curly hair run down the aisle.  A still, small voice spoke to him saying, ‘I’m going to give you a little girl just like that one’.  Excited, he told Sandy who immediately started making plans.  One of the first things she did was to have a doctor in the church check to be sure they could conceive.

Tom was working in his upstairs office that following week when he got the call from Sandy tearfully saying the doctor told her they wouldn’t be able to have children.  Her voice was trembling as she explained how the doctor told her she had an underdeveloped uterus.  It was as though a load of bricks fell on their dreams.  From that moment on, with the same attitude that drove them to marry quickly, they were determined to prove the doctor wrong by trying to have a child just a few months into their marriage and new job. 

Tom recruited the entire church to pray for them and within just a month of trying, Sandy became pregnant. Miraculously, she carried the baby full-term without any complications.  To both of their surprise, the baby was a girl with blonde hair.  They named her Grace in thankfulness to God.

Despite the miracle child and all the joy around her being born, Tom and Sandy weren’t doing well.  Disappointments in their pay, Tom’s having to work long hours at the church, and Sandy’s own regrets about walking away from her dreams, all added up to countless arguments.  Tom was beginning to feel more and more isolated.  By the time she arrived, Grace was a welcome relief from the marriage that seemed to be already on the way down. 

The church wasn’t much better.  What seemed perfect at first, soon became a major disillusionment for Tom.  He was beginning to have serious reservations about the pastor whose constant travel, lavish meals for himself and guests, and the lack of funds for even the smallest of needs for the youth, made Tom wonder if something was very wrong. 

With just over a year into a job which he realized was becoming what he’d feared, a new baby at home, little money after the bills were paid, and a wife who heaped more expectations on him every day all the while depriving him of affection, Tom felt like a failure.  It seemed as if every effort he made to fix things, only made them worse.  This wasn’t what he’d dreamed of those many nights playing his guitar under the stars, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-8 Fri, 18 Jan 2019 01:33:15 GMT
Fresh Water Part 7 - A Dark Figure https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-7

 

If the six months leading up to the wedding were rocky, the honeymoon, and what came after, made them seem like a walk in the park.  Tom and Sandy planned to take a cruise to Mexico which, with the culmination of a closet spaced room, sickness, terrible weather, and bad food, made them long for home after the first day.

Returning to California feeling exhausted, they came to their church apartment and realized it had been vandalized by well-meaning friends playing a joke on them.  Although funny, some of what they did was hurtful to Tom and mocking of them both.  On top of this, he realized his mother-in-law, whom they’d given a key to their apartment to help clean while they were gone, had come in and found the mess.  Running into the pastor, she then argued with him over the whole marriage and whether they were really in love. 

Tom learned of the discussion and that it hadn’t gone well.  Feeling pressured by his new in-laws, he decided he needed to quit his job immediately.  He now found himself without a home, a job, and newly married.   Tom’s family, all in Michigan, were too far away to help them, so they moved into a small one-bedroom shed behind Sandy’s parent’s home. 

Racked with school loans, new debt from the wedding, little money in the bank, and living with his in-laws, Tom felt defeated.  It was all he could do to trust his faith, and himself, to get out of the hole he had found himself in.  The past six months had turned his life completely upside down. 

After looking for a few weeks, the thought came to him to call a church in Southern California he’d heard of while in college.  The church, he later learned, was at one time, one of the largest in the country, but over the years had lost members due to multiple controversies surrounding finances. 

Unaware of the history, Tom called the church and was able to quickly arrange a short interview with the pastor who happened to be in their area.  The pastor and his wife asked them to join them that weekend at the church for a conference to see what they thought.  

Tom and Sandy drove to Southern California the following Saturday morning with a new sense of joy and hope.  The pastor paid their expenses and provided them a nice room in the hotel directly across from the church.  The church was also next to Disneyland, something Tom and Sandy were excited about when thinking of the possibilities for their future kids.  Everything seemed perfect to them; until that night. 

After an evening full of meetings, being introduced to new people, the prospect of a new position at a famous large church, and the great location where they would be living, Tom could barely sleep.  Finally nodding off after 2:00 a.m., he was awakened by a frightening dream.

In his dream, Tom saw a dark figure standing in front of the church they were visiting.  He knew it was the senior pastor but couldn't see his face; just his form.  He had a sudden sense of emptiness, and danger.  A voice spoke to him in his dream saying, ‘I’ll open the door for you here, but it will not be an easy path.  If you chose it, I will be with you, but you will have great pain.’

Shocked by the vividness of the dream, Tom awoke in a cold sweat.  Trembling, he told Sandy what he’d just dreamed.  His instincts were to leave and not come back, but she was too blinded by the opportunity, the possibility of working in a large church, and the fact they had nothing to go back to.  After talking it over with her and her encouraging him to keep pursuing the job, he decided the most prudent thing to do would be to stay on the path and take on any challenges that may come later.  Sadly, they would quickly learn that Tom's dream was more than just a random dream.

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-7 Thu, 17 Jan 2019 00:34:38 GMT
Sick Day https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/sickday

 

          There are a lot of people out there tonight wrestling with the flu bug and I’m one of them.   This will be round two for me this year even after having the flu shot and overcoming a three-week stint with it in October.  This year’s nasty bug has morphed into another virus.  Hopefully, this one won’t be as bad as the first.

          Needless to say, I’m keeping my commitment to blog but holding off on the next chapter of the short story I’ve been working on.  If that’s you out there feeling sick tonight, I want to encourage you to grab a cup of tea, some hot soup, and find a comfortable couch where you can do nothing but rest.  It’s the best thing for you.

          May we all start feeling better soon and, if you haven’t yet come down with this year’s flu, keep your hands washed (I think I caught mine from the scanner at Sam’s) and out of your eyes.  Lastly, since laughter does good like a medicine, I’ve posted the below funny cat video just for fun…

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/sickday Tue, 15 Jan 2019 02:19:18 GMT
Fresh Water Part 6 - On the Rebound https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-6

 

          Little did he know it but growing up in a small west Michigan town hadn't nearly prepared Tom for what lay ahead of him.  His new position provided him with an apartment in the upper level of the church and a nice base salary to keep him going.  The church, located in the Central Valley, was known by many in the area because it sat right on one of the major freeways connecting northern and southern California.  It was a new church building with a faithful, medium-sized congregation.  The pastor, passionate for the community, began the church some fifteen years prior.

          Excited to dive right into his work getting to know the youth and learning all about his new home state, Tom was the star attraction when he was introduced during the family picnic on his first Sunday.  It didn’t take long for some of the single girls to take notice of him that first day, but He was too busy to notice back.  Tom was asked to preach the next week and if he would like to have a special song for the service.  He chose, ‘The Old Rugged Cross’, one of his favorites, to be sung just before his message.

          As he sat back in the speaker’s seat the following Sunday morning, the pastor introduced the special song and that a girl he'd seen at the picnic, Sandy, was going to sing for them.  When Tom looked up, Sandy was standing directly in front of him when she took the mic.  He tried to act as though he hadn’t noticed, but her beauty took Tom by surprise.  Embarrassed that others would notice his surprise, he tried to look away.  After the service, impressed with her singing, and looks, even though he knew he was still on the rebound from Sue, Tom decided he may need to get to know her better.

          Within a few weeks, Tom and Sandy began dating sparking what would immediately turn into a whirlwind relationship with half the church pushing him to date her, and the other half saying he needed to be careful.

          Sandy, who aspired to compete in national beauty pageants, had competed in many local pageants throughout the state, winning several of the larger ones.  Dating Tom seriously, meant she would have to give up her dreams in order to be a preacher's wife; something that would grow into an issue between them.  Tom also learned her family had differences with the pastor, his boss, which was becoming a problem.  Determined that no one was going to make the decision for him on whom he should, or shouldn't date, even though he was so new to the church, Tom blindly pressed ahead. 

          Over the next six months, he and Sandy decided to marry quickly before others could talk them out of it.  Tom, feeling pushed into commitment, felt entrapped as their relationship became more and more rocky due to the stresses of the church, Sandy's quick temper, frustration with those who would try to control them, and her family's differences with the pastor.  He knew he was putting his position in jeopardy.   Nevertheless, Tom and Sandy pressed on determined to prove everyone wrong and they were married that December.  

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-6 Mon, 14 Jan 2019 01:23:56 GMT
Fresh Water Part 5 - "I'm Calling You to California" https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-5

 

Summer couldn’t come fast enough for Tom after his first year of seminary.  With his work at the church along with his studies, he had a full schedule.  Now that school was nearly out, he could completely focus on the youth.  So, he thought. 

Just as school was ending, before heading across the driveway to the church from his parsonage, Tom had a knock on the door.  It was Sue.  She had been in town and wanted to see how he was doing.  Tom was shocked and yet glad to see her.  He hadn’t totally let go of Sue over the past year, and to see her at his door left him nearly speechless. 

She had been following his work at the church through some mutual friends and was wrestling with her emotions about breaking things off with him.  Deciding to visit Tom was more a test of those emotions than anything; she wanted to prove to herself that she’d made the right decision.  Tom, preoccupied with his work, wasn’t ready for her to appear at his door.  After a few minutes of awkward conversion, however, he and Sue fell right into each other’s arms.  Both knowing it was wrong, they put their feelings aside and lit the flame once again. 

Later that day, Sue had to leave back for California and told Tom she would call. He wasn’t sure what to think about what had just happened, so he decided to put the brief reunion with her back on the shelf of life to lay in wait for what the future may hold.  Not surprisingly, it was only a matter of a weeks before Sue called him saying she still wasn’t ready for a committed relationship.  Tom was hurt, but this time around, he was ready for the rejection and let her go.

He kept himself busy with the youth over the next month.  When he wasn’t working with them, Tom was spending his time playing his guitar out in the open field behind the church likely driving all the neighbor’s crazy with his ‘Bob Seger’ style of playing.

One of those nights while he was outside playing, in early July, Tom heard a voice he’d learned from experience, may have been God, saying, ‘I’m calling you to California’.  Even though that was all he heard, in his heart, he knew what he must do.  Strangely, it had nothing to do with Sue, which he knew everyone would assume.  This was different.  It was a knowing and a sense, without any doubt, that he needed to look for a job there right away. 

Within a few short weeks, through the leading in his heart, Tom found an open position in California and made the decision to walk away from all that he had worked so hard for.  He resigned his position as Youth Pastor at the small Methodist church, quit seminary, and packed his car with everything he could fit.  After a tearful goodbye with the youth, Tom headed for California.  Tom would soon learn that he had just made a decision that would change, not only his own life, but the lives of many others.

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-5 Sun, 13 Jan 2019 02:05:32 GMT
Intermission https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/intermission

 

          When I was in high school, I was fortunate to be a part of the community performances each year where local talent would perform a major Broadway-style show.  I wasn’t an actor or singer (although I would have liked to have been).  I was in the orchestra at the bottom of the stage and saw every show from the best seat in town while playing some of the greatest musical tunes written.

          It was a lot of fun for a student my age and kept me very busy for a few months of the year.  My very talented uncle was often the orchestra leader and piano player.  So, it was also a family thing for us to do as well. 

One of the things I remember about those performances, were the intermissions.  The shows would often last three hours or more, so there would be an intermission half-way through to allow the people in the audience to get up and stretch.  For us, it was time to cut-out to back-stage and grab something to eat (and goof around a little).

Wouldn’t it be nice to have intermissions in life too?  A time just to cut away from the drama, work, and daily pressures for a while.  Maybe even goof around a bit.  It reminds me of some friends I’ve seen on Facebook who are either independently wealthy, or retired with a nice nest egg, and spend a lot of their time sharing with the rest of us who are working to make ends meet, all the wonderful things they are doing any given day. 

It’s not that I begrudge those who can take the time to just go.  I would if I felt I could break away that often.  However, being the work-freak that I am, I may not last more than a few days without breaking down and checking emails.

Tonight, I’m still going to take an intermission of sort.  I’m going to put all those work and life worries on the table, walk in the other room, and not even think about them until… Well, as long as I can before they come back and hit me in the face.

I’ll be posting the other half of the short story I’m working on called “Fresh Water” over the next four days.  Tonight, I just wanted to take an ‘intermission’…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/intermission Sat, 12 Jan 2019 02:21:21 GMT
Fresh Water Part 4 - Generation Gap https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-4

 

          Graduation came and went.  As Tom began his graduate studies, he found a job at a local church working as a Youth Pastor.  The Methodist church, across town from school, was a great place to put into practice some of what he’d been learning over the past few years and provided a steady income while he pursued his master’s on the path to becoming a Naval Chaplain.

          Although rewarding, the church wasn’t without any challenges.  The senior members often challenged the ideas of the younger ones whose kids were in the youth.  They wanted to keep things just as they were.  The parents wanted more lively music, fun activities for the kids, and to reach out more to the community.  

          In the middle of it all was Tom’s pastor, Jim.  Jim was six feet four inches tall, wore glasses with a shaggy mustache, and had a down-to-earth sense of humor.  Jim’s ability to ride the line between the younger generation and old was what kept him there, and it allowed him to reach out to the youth in ways he wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. 

          Jim wasn’t just Tom's boss, Jim became a father-figure to him.  Many times, when Tom felt frustrated and like giving up, Jim would sit down with him and walk him through the situation often ending with them both having a great laugh together.  Jim’s sense of the practical was something Tom admired.  His love for his family was also something he looked up to, often seeing Jim needing to defend them from those who opposed him at the church.

          Through that first year of work there, Tom learned a great deal, not only from his pastor and friend, Jim, but from the parents and the youth.  Some of the kids didn’t have parents who were supportive of them.  Some came from broken homes, some had parents who were alcoholic, and some had abusive parents. The church became their home.  Others had parents who loved volunteering and financially sacrificing to support the youth.  Somehow, they all blended together to make for a magical year for Tom and one he would always cherish. 

It was later in that first year of seminary that Tom received his commission into the Naval Reserves as a Chaplain Candidate.  He was now on his way to fulfilling his dream.  Despite the loss of his first love and the small challenges with the senior church members, life was going as he’d hoped.  He now had everything planned out and God, it seemed, agreed.    

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-4 Fri, 11 Jan 2019 01:45:43 GMT
Fresh Water Part 3 - Lost Love https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-3

 

          Never at the top of his class, Tom struggled through some of the more difficult courses toward the end of his time in college.  It wasn’t until he met, and began dating Sue, a nursing major with a fanatical dedication to studying, that he decided to pour more time into the library study hours where she was most of the time in order to spend time with her.  In the end, it paid off for him and he improved to an 'A' student in most of his courses.  Unfortunately for Tom, however, he didn’t score as high in his relationship with Sue.

Having never dated in high school because of his insecurities about his eyes being crossed from the time he was a child, Tom avoided girls thinking they wouldn't want to date him.  After his first year, he learned he could have them fixed with his insurance covering the cost, so he quickly had it done.  Shortly after, he realized girls liked him after all and lost himself in the attention, until Sue came along. 

Their relationship rapidly grew closer and before she graduated, Tom decided she may be ‘the one’ for him.  Sadly, Sue didn’t feel the same way as he did as she had her career in mind, lived in California, and had a father who felt she needed to find someone more suitable. 

She graduated a year ahead of Tom, who was pursuing a five- year double major, and left for home.  Within a month of leaving, she decided it was time to cut the ties with her long-distance college relationship.  Over the course of a quick phone call while he was at Naval training in San Diego, Sue let him go.  Tom had joined the Navy Reserves during his Junior year to help pay for college and was pursuing a career as a Naval chaplain.

Heartbroken and disillusioned, Tom went back to college after his summer training determined to keep pursuing his Naval career.  Having struggled with rejection most of his life, it was particularly difficult for him, so he turned to dating a different girl every other week and quickly built a reputation as a ‘flirt’. 

It wasn’t until one spring night while sitting outside the dormitory with his new girlfriend, that Tom was confronted by his wing RA, Joe.  Joe had caught them kissing and knew Tom was struggling with a need for acceptance.  That night, he sat him down and warned him of the dangers he was facing and how those temptations could cause him to fall one day.  Tom listened and broke off the relationship, but he still hadn’t dealt with the insecurities of his past that would, eventually, come to haunt him.

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-3 Thu, 10 Jan 2019 02:48:47 GMT
Fresh Water Part 2 - Summer Wisdom https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-2

 

          The following five years seemed to fly by as Tom pursued his degree in Bible Theology.  It seemed every hour was filled with study, activities with friends, and work.  Through it all, he never stopped thinking about those he left behind and the many lessons he’d learned growing up in the small West Michigan town.

          When school let out for the summer, on several occasions, Tom spent his time working as a part-time youth minister and youth counselor.  His work was rewarding, and he learned just how little he knew about handling teen and family related issues. 

While working at a youth summer camp in Indiana after his first year of college, Tom was leading the kids in an evening service when, afterward during the prayer time, he felt a heavy burden for someone who was there.  He couldn’t get it off his heart and decided to ask if there was anyone who had recently just gone through something tragic. 

After waiting for what seemed like minutes, two young children came forward to the front, tears flowing down their faces.  Their counselor reached over and told Tom they had witnessed their parents commit suicide only a week before coming to the camp.  Their grandparents needed to get them away from the situation so they sent them there hoping it would help them cope with the loss.

Tom reached down and held them in his arms crying while he prayed for them to be protected, loved, and comforted.  The entire camp then circled around to hug and encourage them for the rest of the evening.

Walking back to his cabin that night, Tom was shaken by the needs he’d sensed with the kids.    His dream of pursuing the path of ministry just became real and he knew it.  So much of his time had been focused on his own dreams, ideas, and plans.   His protected life growing up wasn’t perfect by far, but he never knew the kind of pain those young kids were facing. 

That night, Tom couldn’t sleep and for the rest of that summer, he wasn’t able to get the two hurting kids off his mind.  The encounter not only shaped his view of ministry, it shaped his view of himself.   Sadly, he knew he had much more to learn about life than he did the Bible.  Somehow, deep inside, he knew those painful lessons he would have to learn were coming.  He just didn’t know when.

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-2 Wed, 09 Jan 2019 02:49:28 GMT
Fresh Water Part 1 - Looking Back https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-1

 

Tom lived in a quaint, small town just outside of a large city, much like the one he was raised in.  It had been a while since he’d had time alone with God, so he thought he would take a walk by himself along a nearby lake to thank Him for all He had done for him throughout his life and to sit by the water again like he used to long ago.

One of the things Tom loved to do growing up was to sit by a small, spring fed lake called Little John, sipping a bottle of his favorite beverage, listening to the birds sing, the wind blowing over the water up into the grass, and smelling the fresh, clean air.  It had been a long time since he’d had the chance to visit that favorite spot in West Michigan.  Today seemed just like one of those days, and as he sat by the water, the memories of his life began to flood through his mind. 

Tom grew up in a small town near Lake Michigan.  Everyone there lived life like they were in the 1950s.  People knew your name when you walked down the street (not to mention other details of your life they probably shouldn’t know).  The local downtown was where everyone shopped, fellowshipped, and celebrated holidays together.

          His family had lived there for more than three generations and had established a good, honest reputation in town.  It was Tom’s upbringing he credited for his down-to-earth approach to sales making him one of the leading salesmen at every company he worked with (not to mention the work ethic he’d learned as a child to be persistent, apply himself, and never give up).

          At sixteen, Tom was active in music and the community, but there was something missing.  He found his faith one weekend while attending a youth event.  Though he didn’t understand it at the time, he wanted more.  So, over the course of several years, he poured himself into the Bible, church, and anything he could read.

          By the time he was ready to graduate, he was certain he was meant to leave that small town in pursuit of an education at one of the top Christian colleges in the nation.  After applying and getting his acceptance letter, Tom saved money by working at the local grocery store and found a way to pay for his first year with the help of financial aid.  It was hard on his mother as she never imagined her son would leave the town her family had lived in for so long.  Making it even more difficult for her was the fact that he was her only son. 

Finally, the day came for him to leave.  Tom had packed his Chevy Vega station wagon full of what clothes he had, his instrument, all the music he could listen to on the road, and $300 in his pocket.  After giving her a long hug, he said goodbye to his mother who stood in the driveway, tears flowing down her face, and he jumped into his car speeding off on his way to find the answers he was looking for.

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/fresh-water---part-1 Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:17:55 GMT
Nearly One Year / New Short Story Coming - 'Fresh Water' https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/nearly-one-year-/-new-short-story-coming---fresh-water

 

          Over the past year, I’ve been writing my blog daily.  It’s been a labor of love intended to share life stories, anecdotal thoughts, and whatever was stirring in my heart that day.  Though it may have seemed like over-kill for some, it has proven to be more than just a daily chore for me.  It’s truly been a time of healing of my own heart in ways I never thought imaginable. 

Now that I’m close to the 365th blog post, I may not be posting every day moving forward after that (the Mrs. says I should), but I do want to keep going.  Perhaps, I’ll change the format and site.  We’ll see. 

          My hope is that, first and foremost, my children will have learned something about their dad they never knew (or may have thought differently about).  Secondly, that whoever takes the time to read on any given day, would be blessed, hear some word of encouragement, and even get to laugh a little.

          This week, I’m planning to write a short story titled, ‘Fresh Water’.  It’s only a concept tonight so we’ll see where it goes.  For now, I just want to thank you all for the time you’ve taken to read my blog when you can and pray it may have blessed you occasionally over the past year, and hopefully, for more to come. 

 

Much love my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/nearly-one-year-/-new-short-story-coming---fresh-water Mon, 07 Jan 2019 02:20:49 GMT
Passages - Growing in Time https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/passages---growing-in-time

 

          It’s never easy to look back in life.  Memories, whether good or bad, all hold a stake in who we are, and what we’ll become.  So many times, life has handed me something I thought was unfair, difficult, and even painful.  The choices made then were made from the culmination of memories & experiences up until that time in my life.  In the same way, the choices I make today, are influenced by those difficult choices made back then.

          If I had one thing to say to my kids tonight, it would be don't let life tell you that you’re finished; that you have no future.  That you are failure.  Because, it’s not really life that is telling you that, it’s the fallen world we live in that feeds on our broken humanity, insecurities, and weaknesses.

          Truly, the world can be a difficult place, full of heartaches, difficulties, and painful choices that ripple through everyone’s lives around us.  It feeds on both our failures, and successes, until there’s little left, leaving us behind while it seeks others to devour.  We may be doing the very best we can by serving others, loving others, working hard to provide, and the world still comes with the intent to steal everything from us. 

          Now, that would be the ‘Glass Half-Empty’ view of life.  Personally, I’m more of the, ‘Glass Half-Full’ type of person, and would say that the world is nothing but an opportunity to succeed.  The world may come to steal and destroy, but that’s just another challenge that makes us even stronger for an even bigger one in the future.  Life is beautiful, even with all it’s flaws, heartaches, and losses.  Life is full of challenges, yes, but we can overcome them, and we can find joy.  Even in the midst of our pain. 

 

The passage of time will teach us many things.  What we face today, won’t last forever.  If we let it make us stronger, we will be able to handle even more difficult challenges in the future. 

 

I see so many commercials and hear so many people talk about their dream of a life without challenges.  After living a half-century, I must admit that a life without challenges would seem empty.  Not that I look for them, but that the ones I’ve been through, allow me to be strong for others. 

Today, I was reminded that some of the challenges I have faced over the years, have shaped me into the man I am today, and played a role in helping me to be strong, and merciful, for others who are going through challenges of their own.  That still, small voice inside my heart, reminded me of all those times that I’d faced the pain of this fallen world around me, and how they gave me the ability to see clearly through challenges today in a way I may never have been able to otherwise.

So today, not just for my children, but for anyone who feels like a failure, or that this fallen world has been trying to destroy you, you can make it.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  There is one thing guaranteed in this world, and that is that nothing lasts forever until we die.  What is bad today, may be good tomorrow.  We may not see it yet, but even the worst of times can lead us to a victory down the road, and hopefully, give us the strength to help others one day who may find themselves in the same shoes we're in today…

 

Much love my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/passages---growing-in-time Sun, 06 Jan 2019 03:05:29 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Full Version https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---full-version

 

          It never really was my intention to write a short story, but last week, while putting together my nightly blog, I ran across the picture above taken when the Mrs. and I were in Savannah on vacation a few years ago. I loved the way the homes and trees all blended together over several hundred years and how the history was so rich there.  This photo is actually very close to the B&B where we stayed the night and has been visited by presidents all the way back to George Washington.

          The stairs spoke to me and I couldn't let it go. so I thought I'd try writing something about them.  The story evolved as I was writing each day and wasn’t something I’d thought about until that day.  It may not be something I’ll ever get a writing award for, but it tells a story of loss & redemption; just like life.  I may do more of these in the future.  Who knows, but I thought I would put some context to why I’ve been posting these.  Below is the full text in one place for you.  Remember, you're loved tonight...

 

Wishing you all a very blessed weekend ahead my friends!

 

"The Mossy Stairs"

 

          As I was climbing up the moss-covered stairs in front of what I now lovingly called home, rain sprinkling down from above, I was just one step from the top when, suddenly, the footing beneath my feet gave way.  My vision quickly turned from the golden door handle that was once so close to the grasp, to the cast iron railing at the top of the stairs.  My hand desperately hoping to grab onto anything before falling all the way back down to the bottom.

          The height at the top of the stairs was higher than the average man and the chance of doing great bodily harm, was nothing less than a certainty.  I had climbed those same stairs daily for many years past; ever since I could remember.  It was the memory of my first trip up the stairs that came flashing through my mind at that moment.  I was only three-years-old when my mother held my hand as we climbed every step, all the way up saying, ‘always remember to hold onto the rail when you climb these steps and never, ever, let go until you know you are safely at the top’.   

You see, I had been in a frantic hurry earlier and wanted nothing more than to get to my safe, and dry, home after a long day of walking throughout the wet city running errands and chasing down dreams.  My mind was preoccupied with several tasks yet remaining, along with the repeated rehearsing of some haphazardly completed tasks that could have been done much differently.  I was busy plotting and thinking of how I might avoid a great many of those problems if I had just made better choices.

        Unlike nearly every other time I had turned the corner to carefully make that familiar trek up those moss-covered stairs, this time, the rain, exhaustion, and preoccupation with other things, had made caution the least of my considerations.  I had forgotten what Mother had been so studious about warning me of; to hold the rail until I was safely at the top.

          Looking over my shoulder as I frantically reached for the iron rail, I could see a male, bearded figure below me near the bottom of the stairs.  His face was someone I couldn’t quite identify, but I could see there was a look of concern for me and a determination to help.  It was as though he knew what was about to happen to me and was ready if I indeed fell from the top of the stairs.

          My left foot slid forward with a fierce velocity and my body quickly began to reverse itself from the top of my head downward. I knew there was no way to stop the motion that had been started.  As I reached for the rail with my right hand, my rain-soaked fingers stretched as far as they could possibly reach, but sadly, in an instant I realized the railing was too far away and there was nothing left to grab ahold of but air.

          While my right hand frantically reached for the railing, my left hand instinctively grasped the brown, paper-wrapped package I had carefully tucked away under my left arm on my way up the stairs.  This was no ordinary package, either.  No, this package contained the most special of valuables I’d set aside in a safe place only to be taken out at the time of my life when I was ready to use them.  They were essential to my future, so I thought, and I didn’t want anything to happen to them.  I knew I must protect them at all costs.  

          Within seconds, the momentum built to an unstoppable force throwing my body backwards toward the mossy covered stairs I’d just climbed.   There was no stopping it now, and I knew it.  I was heading back down the stairs fast!

          As my body began to fall, my shoulders were the first thing to hit followed by my legs as they flew over my head in a reverse, somersault motion throwing me into a backwards rolling gymnastics-like tumble.  Somehow, I knew to tuck my head and pull my arms back into my body while still managing to keep a stranglehold on my special package.   Within seconds, I was at the bottom of the stairs lying flat on my back looking up as the rain continued to shower my face. 

Strangely, the tumble back down the stairs was nothing like my mind was telling me it would be.  In fact, it was as though I had floated the whole way down and hadn’t felt a bit of pain.  Even when hitting the sidewalk below before coming to a halt, it was as if something, or someone, had carefully held onto me until laying me down where I finally rested.

          Still in shock, it was as though my life passed before my eyes.  Memories of times past, some significant and some seemingly insignificant, all slowly played like a movie as though they were woven together in an intentional way showing me the paths I’d chosen throughout the years, and how they led me to where I was at that moment.

          Instinctively, after the memories finished passing through my mind, I tried to sit up.  Instead of a struggle to move, I was instantly standing.  Amazed at what just happened, I looked around where I was and then down at where I’d fallen, only to see my own rain-soaked body lying on the ground.  ‘How was this possible?’ I asked myself.  ‘Am I, dead?’

          As my eyes returned forward to look ahead, I saw the same bearded man I’d caught through the corner of my eye before falling, standing in front of me.  His demeanor was calm, and his face shone with a light like I had never seen before.  His long brown hair and beard reminded me of pictures I’d seen of a man from long ago and his eyes seemed like blue glass.  Oddly, he was smiling at me.  Reaching out his hand, he said, ‘You took a mighty fall there. Take my hand, I’d like to show you something.’  I was without words yet knew I must take his hand and go with him. 

          Instantly, we were standing in front of the paper-wrapped package I’d been holding onto so tightly before falling which was laying on the ground nearby.  The wrapping had all come apart and the top was nowhere to be seen.  I looked inside only to find that all the valuables I’d packed so safely within, were crushed and broken into small pieces.

          Symbols of everything I’d accomplished and saved for, were now shattered in front of me.  My college diploma torn apart and barely legible.  The bank account statement showing the money I’d diligently saved over years for that next step I was planning, torn and rain soaked.  Several of my most valued achievement awards and special recognitions, all shattered into pieces.  Lastly, without any explanation, the irreplaceable picture of my mother and I, one I valued more than nearly anything in the world, taken after one of the most difficult times in our lives, was laying on top of all the rest, in perfect condition and unharmed by the fall.

          With tears forming in my eyes, I looked up at the bearded man and asked, ‘What does this mean? I don’t understand.  Everything I’ve worked for in my life is broken into pieces, yet the photo of my mother and me is still intact.’  He looked at me with a gentle, but longing smile, and said, ‘Do you remember that day? She was so proud of you and, even though you’d been through many painful experiences as a child, she promised you something.  What was it she said to you?’

          My mind raced back to that day. We’d just come through the tragic loss of my father to alcoholism and dementia.  He had become abusive in his later years and Mother was forced to leave him resulting in the most difficult time in our lives.  I saw her as a hero for sacrificing everything for us.  Even so, we were left with nothing and lived a life full of daily challenges from that day on.  Despite it all, she was at peace with herself and full of a joy that came from within; something we could never understand. 

It was that day, when we were together laying him to rest, that I vowed to never become like him.  Mother knew my heart was filled great pain and anger.  She reached out to me, looking at me straight in the eyes with a depth of love only a mother knows, and said, ‘His life is over now, but yours is just beginning.  Let go of the past.  It will only destroy you.  Go, become your own man, but just remember one thing; always put God, and others, before yourself.  Always.  If you do, He will bless you in ways you can't even begin to imagine.  You may not be rich, but you will have peace and joy.  And that's something no one can take from you.   I love you so much, and I am so very proud of you…’ 

Only a few months later, Mother was tragically killed by a drunken driver as she was coming to visit me.  This picture was the last photo taken of us together.  That was three years ago, and ever since, I’d poured myself in my career forsaking everyone, including God whom I’d blamed for all that I had suffered, to build the life I felt I deserved.

Though difficult emotionally, I moved back into the childhood home where we were raised after Mother's death.  I made it my mission to restore it to something special in her honor.  I was determined to make it, and myself, into what I always dreamed we could be.  Including those mossy stairs.

Looking back into his clear blue eyes after remembering what she had said, I could barely speak.  Tears were flowing down my cheeks.  It was as if everything I’d built for myself since Mother's death suddenly meant nothing to me.  The only thing I could feel was regret, knowing Mother hadn’t wished for me to become what I was becoming; a man filled with pain, anger, and blind ambition, futilely trying to prove something to myself, and the world, while walking away from the one thing, or person, she had told me was the most important.

          I was speechless looking into his eyes as they pierced my soul.  I wanted to say something, anything, but couldn’t.  It was as though he knew what I was thinking, and feeling, without even saying it.  Part of me wanted to break down and cry, and the other part wanted to turn and run.  The turmoil I’d felt inside for these past years, all come out at once and I couldn’t hold it back any longer. 

          The pain was unbearable, and I buckled under its weight.  Slowly kneeling, I landed on my knees and looked up.  It was at that moment I realized just who it was standing in front of me.  It was Jesus. 

          With a cry, I shouted out, ‘Jesus, please forgive me!...’  The regret, pain, anger, and brokenness seemed to flow out of me like water gushing from an untapped faucet.  I couldn’t stop crying as the memories of my father’s violent temper and angry words came rushing through my mind.  Thoughts of Mother’s sacrifices and, eventually, her life taken by a stranger infected by the same poison that took my father, all played like a bad movie before my eyes.  

          The grief of reliving memories I’d carefully stowed away in my heart to never think of again, was crushing.  I cried out once again saying, ‘Jesus!  Please, take this pain from me.  I can’t carry it anymore.  I’m lost, and I feel so broken.  Please... Save me!!’ 

          Suddenly, a light shone above me brighter than any I’d ever seen before.  Unspeakable peace and love washed over me like waves in the ocean.  The weight lifted from my chest and the pain was gone.  I looked up expecting to see Jesus, but instead, saw Mother walking toward me.  A burst of joy rushed through my soul.  I jumped up and ran to her saying, 'Mom! Is that you...?!'  

She reached out her arms and embraced me like she would have long ago.  It was Mother alright, but she was younger, and full of life.  She was beautiful.  I didn’t want to let go, but had to ask her, ‘How is this possible?  Am I, dead?’ 

She put her hands on my cheeks, looked at me with those same loving eyes, and said, ‘You fell down those old mossy stairs, son.  I’ve been with you always, but now, you have been given a choice.  You can stay here with me, or you can return.  If you return, Jesus has great plans for you. But you must give your life completely to Him and let go of the past.  If you do, I will be here for you one day and we’ll be together again, forever…’

          Although it had been only seconds, it felt like minutes passed as I thought about what Mother said to me.   I didn’t know how it was possible, but I knew deep down inside, what she said was true; I would see her again one day and, for reasons I couldn’t imagine, God still had plans for my life.  My heart felt torn between the two choices. 

          I wanted nothing more than to stay right where I was with Mother, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that what she said wasn’t just important for me, but that my decision would somehow determine whether others I meet could experience this same peace and love; if I chose to stay, they would never know because I wouldn't be there to tell them.

          I knew what I must do.  I looked mother in the eyes and said, ‘I must go back.  I can’t stay here.  If I stay here, others won’t make it.  I know my life has purpose now Mother!  For the first time, I know I have a reason for living more than just to prove that I'm better than my father!’   She looked at me and, after giving me the biggest smile of approval I'd ever seen, disappeared. 

          In a flash, I felt myself back on the ground.  The sudden sensation of cold rain hitting my face and the smell of blood, were undeniable.  I was alive!   I could feel my heart pounding within me and all I wanted to do was get up from where I lay.

As I struggled to sit up, pain pierced through my side and my hands felt numb.  I wiped the water from my face and could see it had blood in it from what must be a wound on my head.  Looking around to get my bearings, I could see the mossy stairs in front of me.  Standing next to the stairs was the same bearded man I came to realize was Jesus.  He looked at me with a loving smile and said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  If you believe in me, even if you die, you will live…’  With that, he was gone. 

My heart was burning within me, and not just from the fall.  I felt alive for the first time in my life and wanted to share the joy I felt with everyone I knew.  Somehow, almost miraculously, I pulled myself up, walked over to the where the box I was holding had fallen on the ground to find it just as I had remembered when Jesus showed it to me.  Mother's picture was all that was left of value for me now.  I picked it up, brushed it off, and started back up those mossy stairs again. 

After every painful step, the climb became easier.  On the way up, I thanked God for allowing me to see my Mother, for showing me how lost I was in my pain and anger, for lifting the heavy burden of self-hate and pride from my shoulders, and for washing my heart and making it like new again. 

When I finally reached the top, this time holding onto the iron rail tightly.  I turned and looked back down.  With a heart full of joy, I spoke out loud, ‘I give you my life Jesus, to use as you please.  From this day forward, every time I climb these stairs, I will know you are with me, and that you love me more than I can ever imagine.  I will know that Mother is with you and that we’ll be together again too.  I will thank you for saving my life, and soul, with every step I take.  I love you Jesus… Thank you… Thank you…!’

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---full-version Sat, 05 Jan 2019 00:27:02 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 6 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-6

 

          Although it had been only seconds, it felt like minutes passed as I thought about what Mother said to me.   I didn’t know how it was possible, but I knew deep down inside, what she said was true; I would see her again one day and, for reasons I couldn’t imagine, God still had plans for my life.  My heart felt torn between the two choices. 

          I wanted nothing more than to stay right where I was with Mother, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that what she said wasn’t just important for me, but that my decision would somehow determine whether others I meet could experience this same peace and love; if I chose to stay, they would never know because I wouldn't be there to tell them.

          I knew what I must do.  I looked mother in the eyes and said, ‘I must go back.  I can’t stay here.  If I stay here, others won’t make it.  I know my life has purpose now Mother!  For the first time, I know I have a reason for living more than just to prove that I'm better than my father!’   She looked at me and, after giving me the biggest smile of approval I'd ever seen, disappeared. 

          In a flash, I felt myself back on the ground.  The sudden sensation of cold rain hitting my face and the smell of blood, were undeniable.  I was alive!   I could feel my heart pounding within me and all I wanted to do was get up from where I lay.

As I struggled to sit up, pain pierced through my side and my hands felt numb.  I wiped the water from my face and could see it had blood in it from what must be a wound on my head.  Looking around to get my bearings, I could see the mossy stairs in front of me.  Standing next to the stairs was the same bearded man I came to realize was Jesus.  He looked at me with a loving smile and said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  If you believe in me, even if you die, you will live…’  With that, he was gone. 

My heart was burning within me, and not just from the fall.  I felt alive for the first time in my life and wanted to share the joy I felt with everyone I knew.  Somehow, almost miraculously, I pulled myself up, walked over to the where the box I was holding had fallen on the ground to find it just as I had remembered when Jesus showed it to me.  Mother's picture was all that was left of value for me now.  I picked it up, brushed it off, and started back up those mossy stairs again. 

After every painful step, the climb became easier.  On the way up, I thanked God for allowing me to see my Mother, for showing me how lost I was in my pain and anger, for lifting the heavy burden of self-hate and pride from my shoulders, and for washing my heart and making it like new again. 

When I finally reached the top, this time holding onto the iron rail tightly.  I turned and looked back down.  With a heart full of joy, I spoke out loud, ‘I give you my life Jesus, to use as you please.  From this day forward, every time I climb these stairs, I will know you are with me, and that you love me more than I can ever imagine.  I will know that Mother is with you and that we’ll be together again too.  I will thank you for saving my life, and soul, with every step I take.  I love you Jesus… Thank you… Thank you…!’

 

]]>
bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-6 Fri, 04 Jan 2019 01:15:24 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 5 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-5

 

          I was speechless looking into his eyes as they pierced my soul.  I wanted to say something, anything, but couldn’t.  It was as though he knew what I was thinking, and feeling, without even saying it.  Part of me wanted to break down and cry, and the other part wanted to turn and run.  The turmoil I’d felt inside for these past years, all come out at once and I couldn’t hold it back any longer. 

          The pain was unbearable, and I buckled under its weight.  Slowly kneeling, I landed on my knees and looked up.  It was at that moment I realized just who it was standing in front of me.  It was Jesus. 

          With a cry, I shouted out, ‘Jesus, please forgive me!...’  The regret, pain, anger, and brokenness seemed to flow out of me like water gushing from an untapped faucet.  I couldn’t stop crying as the memories of my father’s violent temper and angry words came rushing through my mind.  Thoughts of Mother’s sacrifices and, eventually, her life taken by a stranger infected by the same poison that took my father, all played like a bad movie before my eyes.  

          The grief of reliving memories I’d carefully stowed away in my heart to never think of again, was crushing.  I cried out once again saying, ‘Jesus!  Please, take this pain from me.  I can’t carry it anymore.  I’m lost and I feel so broken.  Please... Save me!!’ 

          Suddenly, a light shone above me brighter than any I’d ever seen before.  Unspeakable peace and love washed over me like waves in the ocean.  The weight lifted from my chest and the pain was gone.  I looked up expecting to see Jesus, but instead, saw Mother walking toward me.  A burst of joy rushed through my soul.  I jumped up and ran to her saying, 'Mom! Is that you...?!'  

She reached out her arms and embraced me like she would have long ago.  It was Mother alright, but she was younger, and full of life.  She was beautiful.  I didn’t want to let go, but had to ask her, ‘How is this possible?  Am I, dead?’ 

 She put her hands on my cheeks, looked at me with those same loving eyes, and said, ‘You fell down those old mossy stairs, son.  I’ve been with you always, but now, you have been given a choice.  You can stay here with me, or you can return.  If you return, Jesus has great plans for you. But you must give your life completely to Him and let go of the past.  If you do, I will be here for you one day and we’ll be together again, forever…’

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-5 Thu, 03 Jan 2019 01:36:49 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 4 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-4

 

          With tears forming in my eyes, I looked up at the bearded man and asked, ‘What does this mean? I don’t understand.  Everything I’ve worked for in my life is broken into pieces, yet the photo of my mother and me is still intack.’  He looked at me with a gentle, but longing smile, and said, ‘Do you remember that day? She was so proud of you and, even though you’d been through many painful experiences as a child, she promised you something.  What was it she said to you?’

          My mind raced back to that day. We’d just come through the tragic loss of my father to alcoholism and dementia.  He had become abusive in his later years and Mother was forced to leave him resulting in the most difficult time in our lives.  I saw her as a hero for sacrificing everything for us.  Even so, we were left with nothing and lived a life full of daily challenges from that day on.  In spite of it all, she was at peace with herself and full of a joy that came from within; something we could never understand. 

It was that day, when we were together laying him to rest, that I vowed to never become like him.  Mother knew my heart was filled great pain and anger.  She reached out to me, looking at me straight in the eyes with a depth of love only a mother knows, and said, ‘His life is over now, but yours is just beginning.  Let go of the past.  It will only destroy you.  Go, become your own man, but just remember one thing; always put God, and others, before yourself.  Always.  If you do, He will bless you in ways you can't even begin to imagine.  You may not be rich, but you will have peace and joy.  And that's something no one can take from you.   I love you so much, and I am so very proud of you…’ 

Only a few months later, Mother was tragically killed by a drunken driver as she was coming to visit me.  This picture was the last photo taken of us together.  That was three years ago, and ever since, I’d poured myself in my career forsaking everyone, including God whom I’d blamed for all that I had suffered, to build the life I felt I deserved.

Though difficult emotionally, I moved back into the childhood home where we were raised after Mother's death.  I made it my mission to restore it to something special in her honor.  I was determined to make it, and myself, into what I always dreamed we could be.  Including those mossy stairs.

Looking back into his clear blue eyes after remembering what she had said, I could barely speak.  Tears were flowing down my cheeks.  It was as if everything I’d built for myself since Mother's death suddenly meant nothing to me.  The only thing I could feel was regret, knowing Mother hadn’t wished for me to become what I was becoming; a man filled with pain, anger, and blind ambition, futilely trying to prove something to myself, and the world, while walking away from the one thing, or person, she had told me was the most important…

]]>
bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2019/1/the-mossy-stairs---part-4 Wed, 02 Jan 2019 01:16:48 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 3 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-3

 

          Still in shock, it was as though my life passed before my eyes.  Memories of times past, some significant and some seemingly insignificant, all slowly played like a movie as though they were woven together in an intentional way showing me the paths I’d chosen throughout the years, and how they led me to where I was at that moment.

          Instinctively, after the memories finished passing through my mind, I tried to sit up.  Instead of a struggle to move, I was instantly standing.  Amazed at what just happened, I looked around where I was and then down at where I’d fallen, only to see my own rain-soaked body laying on the ground.  ‘How was this possible?’ I asked myself.  ‘Am I, dead?’

          As my eyes returned forward to look ahead, I saw the same bearded man I’d caught through the corner of my eye before falling, standing in front of me.  His demeanor was calm, and his face shone with a light like I had never seen before.  His long brown hair and beard reminded me of pictures I’d seen of a man from long ago and his eyes seemed like blue glass.  Oddly, he was smiling at me.  Reaching out his hand, he said, ‘You took a mighty fall there. Take my hand, I’d like to show you something.’  I was without words yet knew I must take his hand and go with him. 

          Instantly, we were standing in front of the paper-wrapped package I’d been holding onto so tightly before falling which was laying on the ground nearby.  The wrapping had all come apart and the top was nowhere to be seen.  I looked inside only to find that all the valuables I’d packed so safely within, were crushed and broken into small pieces.

          Symbols of everything I’d accomplished and saved for, were now shattered in front of me.  My college diploma torn apart and barely legible.  The bank account statement showing the money I’d diligently saved over years for that next step I was planning, torn and rain soaked.  Several of my most valued achievement awards and special recognitions, all shattered into pieces.  Lastly, without any explanation, the irreplaceable picture of my mother and I, one I valued more than nearly anything in the world, taken after one of the most difficult times in our lives, was laying on top of all the rest, in perfect condition and unharmed by the fall…

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-3 Mon, 31 Dec 2018 21:45:17 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 2 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-2

 

          Looking over my shoulder as I frantically reached for the iron rail, I could see a male, bearded figure below me near the bottom of the stairs.  His face was someone I couldn’t quite identify, but I could see there was a look of concern for me and a determination to help.  It was as though he knew what was about to happen to me and was ready if I indeed fell from the top of the stairs.

          My left foot slid forward with a fierce velocity and my body quickly began to reverse itself from the top of my head downward. I knew there was no way to stop the motion that had been started.  As I reached for the rail with my right hand, my rain-soaked fingers stretched as far as they could possibly reach, but sadly, in an instant I realized the railing was too far away and there was nothing left to grab ahold of but air.

          While my right hand frantically reached for the railing, my left hand instinctively grasped the brown, paper-wrapped package I had carefully tucked away under my left arm on my way up the stairs.  This was no ordinary package, either.  No, this package contained the most special of valuables I’d set aside in a safe place only to be taken out at the time of my life when I was ready to use them.  They were essential to my future, so I thought, and I didn’t want anything to happen to them.  I knew I must protect them at all costs.  

          Within seconds, the momentum built to an unstoppable force throwing my body backwards toward the mossy covered stairs I’d just climbed.   There was no stopping it now, and I knew it.  I was heading back down the stairs fast!

          As my body began to fall, my shoulders were the first thing to hit followed by my legs as they flew over my head in a reverse, somersault motion throwing me into a backwards rolling gymnastics-like tumble.  Somehow, I knew to tuck my head and pull my arms back into my body while still managing to keep a stranglehold on my special package.   Within seconds, I was at the bottom of the stairs laying flat on my back looking up as the rain continued to shower my face. 

Strangely, the tumble back down the stairs was nothing like my mind was telling me it would be.  In fact, it was as though I had floated the whole way down and hadn’t felt a bit of pain.  Even when hitting the sidewalk below before coming to a halt, it was as if something, or someone, had carefully held onto me until laying me down where I finally rested...

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-2 Mon, 31 Dec 2018 00:16:43 GMT
The Mossy Stairs - Part 1 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-1

 

          As I was climbing up the moss-covered stairs in front of what I now lovingly called home, rain sprinkling down from above, I was just one step from the top when, suddenly, the footing beneath my feet gave way.  My vision quickly turned from the golden door handle that was once so close to the grasp, to the cast iron railing at the top of the stairs.  My hand desperately hoping to grab onto anything before falling all the way back down to the bottom.

          The height at the top of the stairs was higher than the average man and the chance of doing great bodily harm, was nothing less than a certainty.  I had climbed those same stairs daily for many years past; ever since I could remember.  It was the memory of my first trip up the stairs that came flashing through my mind at that moment.  I was only three-years-old when my mother held my hand every step we took all the way up saying, ‘always remember to hold onto the rail when you climb these steps and never, ever, let go until you know you are safely at the top’.   

You see, I had been in a frantic hurry earlier and wanted nothing more than to get to my safe, and dry, home after a long day of walking throughout the wet city running errands and chasing down dreams.  My mind was preoccupied with several tasks yet remaining, along with the repeated rehearsing of some haphazardly completed tasks that could have been done much differently.  I was busy plotting and thinking of how I might avoid a great many of those problems if I had just made better choices.

          Unlike nearly every other time I had turned the corner to carefully make that familiar trek up those moss-covered stairs, this time, the rain, exhaustion, and preoccupation with other things, had made caution the least of my considerations.  I had forgotten what Mother had been so studious about warning me of; to hold the rail until I was safely at the top…

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-mossy-stairs---part-1 Sun, 30 Dec 2018 01:04:29 GMT
We're All Connected https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/connected  

 

 

          We hear a lot about being ‘connected’ today.  Mostly having to do with connecting to the internet, sadly.  But, have you ever wondered if we’re all connected in ways we can’t see?  I have.  It’s not that I believe movies like The Matrix are real, but there is something to say about our soul connections that we don’t, ore can’t, understand.

          For example, on numerous occasions throughout my life, I’ve had a sense of grief, pain, or just sadness while a loved one came to my mind.  It was a deep sense; beyond just my typical emotions.  Later that day, or soon after, I would learn that the same loved one was going through difficulty or something had happened in their life causing them brokenness. 

          Maybe it’s just the way God has wired us.  Or, maybe it’s hereditary.  My mother and grandmother both seemed to know when someone was calling before they picked up the phone.  I’ve had that same experience more often that I can count (and it wasn’t because I looked at my caller ID).

          One time, while in college, I barely had enough to pay my tuition, let alone gas for my car or school supplies.  Mom was cleaning the house around that time and had this urgent sense that I needed money. She couldn’t shake it off and decided to send me some funds in the mail.  When I received them, my bank account was nearly empty, and I was scraping by while waiting on my first paycheck to come in.  It was perfect timing. 

          Some call it psychic and others call it chance.  I like to think God works in, and through, us all to accomplish His will and purposes.  Sometimes that includes just a thought about calling someone we know to see how they are, to stop by someone’s home, or just to say a prayer for them.   

Many times, even with a stranger, I’ve sensed the need to pray or talk with them.  Other times, it was a family member who was in a dream or so heavy on my heart that I could barely think of anything else.   Nearly every time, I found out later it was something they were going through.

The truth is, we are all connected because we are all a part of His creation.  I don’t know how it works, but I know there is a spiritual world outside of what we can see with our physical eyes.  In that ‘dimension’, is where God resides.  The Bible is very clear about that.  If we believe there is only this physical world around us, then there must be some other explanation for our connectedness; electromagnetism, natural energy, or just chance.

Why would God connect us all?  Why would He give one person a sense that another is grieving?  The only answer I can come up with is because He loves us all the same.  We are His hands and feet in this physical world.  We are the expression of His love.  We are the vessels of His power and His compassion.  We may be broken vessels, nevertheless, we are vessels, and that means we have a purpose; to love as He loves.

It takes time to learn what’s simply just a thought originated from our own fears or from our own desires verses His leading.  As we grow in our relationship with Him, He will guide us and lead us into a deeper walk with Him that will allow us to see more clearly the difference between the two.   What a journey that is to embark on too!

So, the next time you may feel a burden for that child, grandchild, parent, friend, or stranger, it may be that He is asking you to reach out to them.  Or, He may simply be saying to pray for them.  Whatever the reason, it will become clear as you go, and that, is VERY cool.  It may surprise the ‘super spiritual’ that He talks to the least of us just the same, but He does; because He loves us and has connected us all through that loving power.  In that, I have peace and an assurance that He’s with me, and you, the rest of our days…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/connected Sat, 29 Dec 2018 02:23:40 GMT
Hindsight is Foresight https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/hindsight-is-foresight

 

          This weekend will mark the time of year when we look back and remember those who left us, the big events that shaped our lives, and the things we’ve learned.  I’m never really been one to spend a lot of time doing that, but find, as I get older, the value of the practice is something I can’t overlook. 

           A year today seems like a month was when I was just a kid at twenty.  Time certainly passes at a higher rate as we age (at least the perception of it does) bringing both the wisdom learned and the realization that the days left in this life are numbered.   Just watching those closest to me age and enter their later years, is enough to make me stop and take account of my life.

          Sure, there are many things I would like to change by turning back the hands of time.  That thought is the basis for many of my favorite sci-fi shows and a wish many other people have too.  The regretful, selfish choices I made when I was young that still have lasting effects in my life years later, the desire to spend more time with those who were lost unexpectedly, and the choices to follow career paths I can see were foolish, all add up to those melancholy feelings that invade my mind this time of year. 

Looking at the year ahead, I can shake off those feelings and begin anew to make life better.  The desire to make those new year’s resolutions helps me to refocus and try again every year.  This year will be no different.  Sadly, many of us, including me, rarely keep those resolutions (especially the ones to lose weight).  It was three or four years ago when I made the resolution to take off that additional fifteen pounds to get back to the same weight I was at years ago.  Somehow, that fifteen pounds has fought me every step of the way.

This year, I’m still looking forward to making a few resolutions, but more importantly, looking back to see what life lessons I’ve come to learn, because they are what will truly make the new year better.  What we learn through life will stay with us so much longer than those promises made to change;  promises are just too easy for us all to forget (especially when we’re staring at the open refrigerator at 10:00 p.m. looking for something to eat…).

So, tonight, here’s to looking back, not in regret or dismay, but to looking back and seeing the good.  Here’s to looking back and recognizing the lessons we’ve learned, whether good or bad, and applying those in our lives next year.   Here’s to taking one day at a time and not holding onto the past, or fear of the future.   Here’s to walking through this life together with God’s loving help and support.   Most of all, here’s to finding a new love for each other we never knew we could have before…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/hindsight-is-foresight Fri, 28 Dec 2018 01:20:09 GMT
Christmas - The Day After https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas---the-day-after

 

          Next to Christmas day, one of the Mrs’s favorite days is the day after Christmas. Why?  The 50% off sale at our local Red Hen boutique of course.  ‘Santa Clawson’ seems to keep in mind every year now (provided she hasn’t been naughty) the urgency of the day ahead, and gives her a nice stocking stuffer to help make the day go well.

          Today was no different for the Mrs, and she made the best of it.  Santa may have a few second thoughts next year after he gets the bill, but that’s a long time off with plenty of time for him to forget the shock he feels when he sees the credit card statement…

          It was back to work for me today trying to close out a few last-minute contracts before the end of the year.  The weather has been stormy this afternoon, and tonight, helping to end the year with a bang.  The highlight of the day, going for a morning walk to Snugs downtown to enjoy a cup of coffee before work and reflect on the past year, and the year ahead.

          There will be lots of reflecting this time of year by many of us.  Now that Christmas is over, we can look back at 2018 and either be thankful for the great year, have mixed emotions of how well it went, or just be thankful it’s finally over.   I’m more in the middle area regarding how the year went.  Overall, I would say I’m very thankful and know that 2019 will be a year of challenges, changes, and hopefully, successes.   

          Tonight, it’s off to the movies with one of our grandsons to see the new, ‘Mrs. Mary Poppins’.  It will be tough to match the original, but we’ll see how they do.  It looks like a great family film and we’re looking forward to the diversion.   I’ll leave you tonight with a clip of the movie trailer for you to see in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, and remember, there are now only 364 days until we do this all over again…

 

 

Love always my friends,


Brad  

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas---the-day-after Wed, 26 Dec 2018 23:48:15 GMT
Christmas Presents - That One I'll Not Forget https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-presents---that-one-ill-not-forget

 

          My how time flies… Today was a day of watching the kids, and grandkids, enjoy opening their presents, eating that special Christmas candy, and running off the sugar buzz that ensued.  It brought back memories of those days as a kid.

          One memory, that will forever be burned into my psyche, I’ll share with you tonight, is the Christmas of 1969.  My step-father decided it would be a great idea to get my sister and me boxing gloves for Christmas (something I wouldn’t recommend for ANY parent to do).  The idea, since we fought so much throughout the year, that we could just duke it out ‘safely’ with the gloves on.

          Well, that idea lasted until the first punch.  I will never forget the look on my older sister’s face when she reared her arm back, raised that boxing glove covered fist high in the air, and swung with all her might thrusting that glove right into my face.  I fell straight on the floor. It was a knock-out punch by the count of 10.  That was the end of that idea, as I cried my eyes out.   Later in life, I learned that was probably the time when my nose was broken causing me to have a deviated septum to this day.

          The gloves weren't only used to hit each other (which ended quickly).  We also got one of those blow-up punching clowns that you could hit, have it fall over, and then stand back up on it’s own.  Yeah, that lasted two or three days too.  Times sure were different then, but the principle was the same; rip those presents open and go have fun on Christmas morning.  Which brings me to today.  

          Now that most of the Christmas giving is over in the Clawson household, and the kids are off to their next haul, it’s time to settle in and watch a fun Christmas movie, while enjoying a peaceful evening, with Mom & Dad.  We’ll be thinking of you tonight and wishing you a very blessed remainder of this Christmas day.  And, just for fun, I thought I'd leave you with this funny video of cats and Christmas trees to help give you some humor relief from the day's stresses... 

 

 

Love always friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-presents---that-one-ill-not-forget Tue, 25 Dec 2018 23:55:45 GMT
Christmas - It's a Wonderful Life https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/its-a-wonderful-life

 

What can be said about Christmas movies that hasn’t already been said?  We all have our favorites that are a part of our family tradition whether watched on Christmas day or during the season.  One of my favorites, if not my very favorite, is the classic, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with Jimmy Stewart. 

It’s not that movies like, ‘Christmas Carol’, ‘A Christmas Story’, ‘Home Alone’, or ‘Elf’ are not right up there near the top, but they just don’t get me in the heart like ‘It’s a Wonder Life’ does.  The story of a man at the end of his will to live who had sacrificed everything for others, nearly losing it all, only to find, through the gift of an angel, that his life had much more value that he gave it credit for.

The truth of the story hits home for many of us.  We’ve suffered losses, challenges, felt that we had to give up our dreams so that others could pursue theirs, and as though no one appreciated what we have done for them.  Some of us have found ourselves on that bridge wondering the same thing.  Would it have been better if I had never been born? 

The good news at Christmas is that, no matter what we’ve suffered or lost in this life, our life has value.  We may not realize how much until the very end, but all the little things we do for others makes a difference.  The times we’ve sacrificed for our children and given even when it hurts, make a bigger difference in their lives, and the lives of those they touch, that we can possibly see today.

We must never give up on giving.  The hope that, even those things no one will see, may make a difference one day, helps us to keep giving.  Our lives truly do make a difference.  It doesn’t have to be something we’re famous for, it can just be a smile or a hug.  Maybe it’s stopping by the widow’s home on Christmas to say Merry Christmas.  Whatever it is, God sees it and He will remember.

This Christmas Eve, if you’re feeling like your life doesn’t matter, stop and take a moment to think of that one person you know who needs your attention in their life.  It may be a child, a friend, a co-worker, or a family member.  Think of what you could do to make a difference; even if it’s just a seemingly small thing.  Then, take a few minutes to do that.  The reward you feel inside will more than make up for the time and money you spent to bless them.   

Your life has meaning.  All our lives have meaning.  We’re all in this together.  The best way to find that meaning, is to share with others.  In the end, we may never see the results of our giving, but the lives we affected will never be the same… 

The Mrs and I want to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas this year!  You are loved and appreciated my friends.  Even if you feel like you have no purpose, God knows differently.  He has a plan for you and wants you to know you are loved today.  May the gift of His son, and the celebration of that gift at Christmas, bring you all true joy and peace today…

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/its-a-wonderful-life Mon, 24 Dec 2018 23:25:41 GMT
Christmas Angels https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-angels

 

          One of those minor, yet crucial, Christmas traditions our family has always observed is topping our tree each year with an angel.  Not just any angel either, we use the one that’s been in the family for years.  Putting the angel on the tree is like putting the bow on the package.   It just completes the package.

          Earlier today, we attended our church’s candlelight service.  It’s one of our favorite services of the year to attend because of the traditional, Christ-centered Christmas music and there’s just something special about singing together with the candles lit that brings us all closer.  One of my favorites we sang was, ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’; a classic for sure.

          The song made me think of the shepherds in the field watching their flocks when the angels appeared to them announcing the birth of Jesus.  What a sight that must have been.  They didn’t appear to the church leaders, the political leaders, or the wealthy and privileged of the day.  No, they appeared to shepherds; often considered a sub-lower class of society.  That’s just like God. 

          The angels announced the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to the average, common people because He came for all of us.  In the end, He gave His life for us all and His life was an example of humility and love for us all.  The joy and peace He brought to the world, didn't come to governments, it came to the heart of man; something the religious leaders did not understand.  So, it’s understandable why God chose the meek and simple hearted to be the first ones to tell of His son’s birth.

          Tonight, I’ll be outside working on a telescope/gift for the grandson.  I may not see angels, but I’m reminded tonight of the messengers who brought the Good News of my Lord and Savior’s birth.   Truly, that is a message we can all appreciate.  I’ll leave you tonight with a beautiful rendition of, ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ performed by The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and The Piano Guys.  

 

 

May God Bless You All Tonight!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-angels Mon, 24 Dec 2018 02:04:16 GMT
Christmas Bells https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-bells

 

          Today was one of the first days I’ve had to break-out the camera and not feel a nagging sense of guilt for taking some time for photography.  It was liberating to say the least.  I brought it along with me on my way to get a coffee this morning and enjoyed walking around our town square taking a few shots of some of the traditional Christmas decorations.

          On the way home, I was passing by the Methodist Church, which happens to be the longest standing congregation in McKinney, with it’s beautiful stained-glass windows and a church bell that rings on the hour during daylight hours.  They were just chiming as I was walking by.

          The chimes reminded me of my childhood Methodist church and the many wonderful Christmas services we would enjoy.  One of the main attractions that brought people together to celebrate Christmas at that small town Methodist church wasn’t just the beautiful windows, the historic chapel, the message, or even the candlelight service.  It was the Bell Choir. 

          For years, the church Bell Choir has performed for the whole community at Christmas time.  They have been a blessing to all who hear.  In my day, they were led by Mr. Pearson, one of the two band directors in town, who helped bring the music alive with his lively conducting and big smile.  There’s just something about a Bell Choir that makes Christmas seem like Christmas and our little Methodist church did a great job.

          So, tonight, In honor of ‘ringing in the season’, here’s a great video below of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing their Carol of the Bells.  It’s worth a listen and will help to get even the most Scrooged among us in the Christmas spirit…

 

 

Love always my friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-bells Sun, 23 Dec 2018 03:25:31 GMT
Christmas Vacation https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-vacation  

 

          It’s finally here, the four-day weekend we call Christmas vacation.  This is the time of year when I can turn the laptop monitor off and not concern myself with emails, last minute contracts, and those month-end, quarter-end, year-end dramas… Right, sure Brad, keep telling yourself that when you sit down on Christmas day to check your email before the 26th rolls around.

          To some, the Christmas season can be a time, not only of hectic holiday activities, but of hectic work activities too.  In the world I play in, the Microsoft world, it is a time when everyone (Microsoft reps that is) is looking to close those last minute deals so they can make their number and get that nice bonus.  Being on the process, customer-side of things, it makes for some interesting times trying to keep the customer happy, and the Microsoft teams happy too.  Whether it’s the Microsoft world, or the retail world, this is a busy time for most people’s work life. 

Earlier today while walking into Sam’s to get my $1.50 hotdog lunch, I was dreaming to myself about what it would be like to have two weeks of uninterrupted time, completely separate from work, without a hint of concern for anything while I was gone.  Ah, that trip to the Caribbean beach, or the scenic mountains, seemed so appealing at that moment.  Then, I woke up and realized I needed to be back at my desk in 30 minutes so I could be there in case that big order I was expecting came in… oh well.

To say we’re tied to our work in this country is an understatement.  Not even Christmas can keep us from taking a peak at our email on the cell phone.  Whether it’s fear, co-dependence, or just being a workaholic, so many of us are so tied to it, that it steals the joy of the occasion and keeps us from completely resting when we do have a vacation.

Once again, I will be working over the last week of the year.  I accept it as part of what I do, but will be making the effort to focus on spending more quality time with the family, even in the midst of the year-end stress. 

If that’s you tonight too, let me encourage you to take some time, even if it's just a few minutes, to walk away from your desk.  It may be to take a coffee break, a longer lunch, or just a walk around the block.   Use that time to focus on the things that are most important in life: friends, family, and faith.  If you do, I guarantee this hectic holiday work time will probably be a bit less stressful and you may even be more productive in the end.

I’ll leave you tonight with a recent fun commercial Google put together around the Christmas classic, 'Home Alone,' and what it would be like today.  Maybe I need a Google assistant too...   And, remember, no matter how hard the holidays may be for you, God loves you more than you could ever imagine and He is always with you…

 

 

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-vacation Sat, 22 Dec 2018 03:44:20 GMT
Christmas Labels https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-labels

 

          Have you ever accidently opened a gift that was meant for someone else because you misread the label?  Or, maybe the label was put on the wrong gift or the gift didn’t have a label at all?  I know I have, and it made me feel terrible (well, a few times it made me feel better because there may have been a bottle of perfume in the box…).

          Some people love to make their labels fancy with glitter, pictures, ribbons, and special designs.  They often look even better than the rest of the gift wrappings.  I know people who even save their labels just to add them to their Christmas label collection.

          In our home, the Mrs is the one who labels the gifts, and she is an artist.  Even those gifts that mysteriously appear under the tree from Santa.  It’s a good thing she’s in charge of that Christmas tradition since the family wouldn’t be able to read who the person’s name is if I created them.  The print would resemble that of a two-year-old’s handwriting; basically an ‘X’.

          We don’t only label our presents at Christmas, we label our trees, our cloths, our food, our lights, and even our designated role around the Christmas festivities.  What would it like if we didn’t have those blasted labels anyway?   Chaos.  Pure chaos. 

          Imagine Christmas morning with more than one child.  It would be first-come-first-serve.  A battle of the fittest like living in the jungle and only the strongest win.   Our children would turn into a pack of crazy monkeys (more than normal) and would devour each other just for that one present they wanted the most.  It would closely resemble Walmart on Black Friday…

          So, this year, if you open that present too soon and mistakenly get Grandma’s Christmas sweater with flashing lights all over it, quietly put it back in the box, grab some tape to wrap it up, and slip it under the tree way in the back. She may never know, and you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.  And guys, I highly recommend letting the Mrs do the labeling.  We wouldn’t want any monkey wars to break out…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-labels Fri, 21 Dec 2018 02:31:56 GMT
Christmas Mistletoe https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-mistletoe

 

          I’m not sure where it all started, or how it became a holiday tradition, but kissing under a mistletoe has been something that’s been around longer than me. 

Our family dinners at Grandma’s house were a time to run and hide.  My aunt, who loved to embarrass us, would try to catch us (my uncle and I) when we weren’t expecting and smack one on us; right on the lips if she could.  It was something I became acutely aware of and tried to avoid at all costs…

In high school and college, it was always a good excuse to try and get that girl you had a crush on, to let you give her a kiss (it never worked by the way).  The delusion of a green plant causing that pretty girl to think twice about giving a nerd a kiss was way out there in fairytale land.

Today, we don’t keep one in the house since the Mrs is always willing to give me a big kiss (usually when I’m not expecting it).  Besides, there’s something about seeing others kiss that sort of makes me a little nauseous (it must be my OCD or something). 

Every year, we get our large oak tree in the front trimmed.  One of the things we’ve learned that kills the tree, are parasites.  The biggest culprit of them all; mistletoe.   Yep, it’s a parasite.  When I first learned that it will take the life right out of a tree, every light in my head came on about Christmas mistletoe.  

NOW I understand.  It’s a fitting description for the awkward use of a plant to draw the life out of another person by making them give you a kiss.  There yah go.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you see someone coming at you with that gross piece of vegetation raised up over their head, RUN…  Yes, it’s a parasite, and you never know what it will take from you.  Besides, who wants to be kissed by a stranger (or aunt)?  Now, guys, if it’s your wife, unless you want to sleep on the couch Christmas eve, I would suggest going along with the ploy…

To all you love birds out there tonight, here’s wishing you all a happy, and love filled, Christmas free from parasites…

 

Love always my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-mistletoe Thu, 20 Dec 2018 00:49:12 GMT
Christmas Bipolar Syndrome https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-bipolar-syndrome

 

          Ah, the season of Christmas joy… Why is it, then, that Christmas seems like one of the least happy times for most people?  I'm no psychologist, but it should be called, ‘Christmas Bipolar Syndrome’ (and not for the reasons of Santa living in the North Pole vs the South Pole).   

          Take shopping during this time of year, for example.  Most people are so happy to be Christmas shopping, that they love to share the ‘joy’ with others; they shout at them for no reason, cut in front of them on the road only to stop at the same light, and pay no attention to the freezing cold Salvation Army bell person as they are going in and out of the store.  Yet, if asked how they like shopping during the season, they’ll readily say, ‘Oh, we love Christmas shopping…”

          Not to be cynical, mind you.  The awareness of Christmas Bipolar Syndrome is something that builds over years of watching people, myself included, repeating the same process over and over and over again.  We’re supposed to be happy this time of year, but the process of getting everything done, from shopping to cooking to cleaning to travel, makes us more like the Grinch than like Santa.

This is a time for family and a time to celebrate together.   While, for some, the thought of being in the same room for more than a few minutes with that awkward relative, is enough for them to spend most of their time at the spiced eggnog bowl. 

Financial stress is probably one of the biggest contributors to Christmas Bipolar Syndrome.  We swipe the card freely with a smile at the check-out stand only later to think of ourselves like the guy on that TV commercial driving around on his lawn mower saying, ‘We have everything, but we’re in debt up to our eyeballs.  Someone please help us…’

The truth is, we have been told we should be joyous at Christmas through years of slick marketing designed to motivate us to shop more.  It’s a sounding drum to drive people to buy those gifts they can’t afford and to think of nothing but the wrappings of Christmas, instead of the true gift.

All is not lost, however.  Christmas Bipolar Syndrome can be cured, and I don’t mean by giving all the presents under the tree to the nearest neighbor who is less fortunate (although, that wouldn’t be a bad idea to some extent).  It won’t be cured through self-medication, meditation, keeping as busy as possible, or with purchasing even more gifts.  

Some things in life just can’t be changed and are something we’ll have to face, no matter what we do.  Such as the relatives who are now past, missing at their place at the table, or the loss of a job two weeks before Christmas, or the loss of a close relationship.  Real life will always be there with us.  It’s unavoidable and is, what I believe, the main cause for Christmas Bipolar Syndrome.  We act happy putting on the Christmas cheer, but underneath, we are hurting and feel alone.

True Christmas joy won’t be found in a present, a bottle, or a tree.  It will be found in giving, not just of material things, but from the heart.  It will be found spending time with the lonely, giving a hug when it’s needed, caring for others who need love, and letting go of the worldly expectations laid before us replacing them with the knowing that, no matter what we do, nothing can compare to the greatest gift given; God’s Son.

As is commonly plastered on the local church signs during Christmas, ‘He is the reason for the season’.   I heard that years ago, and it still rings true today.  Keeping Him the focus, not just by putting a manger scene in our front yard, but by sharing His love with others.  That will cure any case of Christmas Bipolar Syndrome and replace it with true Christmas joy every time…

So, this Christmas, I’ll be working to keep my heart, and mind, from falling into Christmas Bipolar Syndrome (it has already been a struggle) by keeping my heart focused on the true meaning of Christmas; God’s love for all of us.   That, my friends, brings a smile, a true smile, to my face every time…

 

Love always my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-bipolar-syndrome Wed, 19 Dec 2018 02:30:39 GMT
Christmas Procrastination - It's a Guy Thing https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-procrastination---its-a-guy-thing

 

          Over the years, I’ve found myself on Christmas Eve running to the store to get that gift or food item that I just didn’t take the time to get until the very last minute.  Yes, it’s called procrastination.  The terrible word that comes back to hit you right in the face this time of year and us guys suffer from it the most. 

          Because the Mrs has Christmas on her mind 365 days a year, that’s never been a problem for her.  If anything, it’s frustration that December 25th is still a few days away.  Me, no, I’m not like that.  I do like to get some things in advance, but usually plan my shopping for one afternoon a few weeks before Christmas when I know I can focus on getting those very thoughtful gift cards purchased and emailed out...

          Just go to any Walmart on Christmas Eve, and you’ll probably run into a dad, boyfriend, or son running around picking through one of the remaining 'gift idea shelves' to find a few gifts they’d put off until only a few hours before midnight.   I have fond memories of watching with glee the other guys digging through those piles with panicked faces knowing I had just beat them to one of those great deals…

          Procrastination at Christmas isn’t something to feel too bad about or beat yourself up too much for guys, in my humble opinion.  Many of us have a very good reason to wait 364 days before buying our wife, or loved one, a gift for Christmas…  Not sure what that is yet, but I’m working on it.  This year, I did get the Mrs a gift two months early, however.  She’ll just need to wrap it because she’s been wearing it often since then.

          So, tonight, here’s to all those men out there who have, or may still be, wearing those procrastination shoes as I have in the past.  Look up, Christmas is right around the corner and you’ll get another 364 days to take a break from Christmas shopping again…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-procrastination---its-a-guy-thing Tue, 18 Dec 2018 01:37:40 GMT
Christmas Food https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-food

 

          Having spent the weekend nearly entirely around finishing up the Christmas decorations, Christmas shopping, and Christmas photos, it’s time to bring on the Christmas food!   Yes, it’s that time of year when food reigns king.  Unfortunately, for those of us whose metabolism has retired early, even the smallest of indulgences can stick around longer than we’d like. 

          The Mrs is great about cooking the natural recipes with Stevia and whole foods.  So much so, that it’s difficult to tell the difference.  The deception of it is that you may eat more because it’s ‘healthy’.  But, what the heck, it’s Christmas.

          This week, she’ll be working on the gingerbread house with the grandson and getting ready for family to visit.  I’ll be looking forward to the Watergate salad (one of my personal favorites), ham, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad, roles, stuffing, and chocolate anything.  I may just put the ‘healthy’ living on hold for a few days… Well, maybe not. 

          Whether it’s sitting around the table with family or sitting around the TV watching our favorite Christmas programs (Elf being one of them), we’ll be enjoying some great food over the next few weeks and I’ll be certain to carry a load of guilt along with it.  Tonight, I’ll leave you with a clip below of one of my favorite Christmas food scenes from the movie Elf for you to enjoy (it sort of reminds me of …   me...).

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-food Mon, 17 Dec 2018 04:14:14 GMT
Christmas Music Favorites https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-music-favorites

 

          Today was a full day helping the Mrs with finishing our Christmas lights & decorations (mostly),  along with a little barbeque chicken outside.  Everything was wonderful until the garage door remote decided to take a long vacation on us tonight.  So, the past hour and a half I’ve spent running to Home Depot, breaking into our own garage, and configuring a new remote.  All is well now, but I think I’ll post a brief blog tonight.

          On my mind today, has been Christmas music.  With all the drama this year around the lyrics of a few of songs which I love, I’ve decided to post five of my favorites below (there are many others) just for your holiday listening enjoyment.   Tomorrow, I’ll share more about a few other things on my heart, but for now, enjoy the Christmas songs below and have a great night my friend!..

 

#1 - Baby It's Cold Outside

 

 

#2 - White Christmas

 

 

#3 - Charlie Brown Christmas

 

 

#4 - Sleigh Ride

 

 

#5 - Gloria in Excelsis Deo

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-music-favorites Sun, 16 Dec 2018 03:32:00 GMT
Christmas Shopping https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-shopping

 

          What would Christmas be without presents?  I know, the true meaning doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with gifts except the great gift the world received of God’s son, but it’s still fun to give them.  I’m not one who likes to receive them, though (at lease not as much as when I was a kid). 

          One thing I will say about my father is that, if he’s anything, he’s dedicated to a plan.  When my sister and I were only about seven or eight years old, Dad began to send us our Christmas gift early so we could have some spending money.  Keeping in mind, that was around 1970 and money was worth a lot more then, he would send us both $100 each for Christmas.  Ever since then, there hasn’t been a Christmas go by when he didn’t send us each $100 (and $50 for our birthday).

          He probably knew it, but each year, at least until we got jobs, we would use the money to buy everyone their presents. Our gift was being able to give gifts, and that, was the greatest gift my dad could have given us. 

          I’ll never forget shopping in our small, historical downtown when it was snowing, and the Christmas lights were all lit.  Every year, I would get my grandfather the same gift: black socks and tobacco for his pipe.  For my uncle, it was a bottle of Brut cologne.  For my grandmother, it was something for her sewing or kitchen.  For my mother and sister, it was usually something they didn’t want, but always appreciated… (well, Mom did anyway).

          Throughout my life, I’ve never really been a good Christmas shopper, to tell you the truth.  It’s usually a gift card (or two) and a nice card with something thoughtful written inside.  I’ve just found it easier and people tend to like to spend money on something they want.  And, I avoid the embarrassment of getting them something they hated.

In our home today, it’s the Mrs who manages the Christmas shopping and she does a great job of it.  After dinner tonight at Scotty P’s where we grabbed a couple of burgers, we went through what we got everyone so I could not act as surprised when they open their gifts, as they are.   I still have a few presents to take care of this week, but that should be wrapped up soon. 

While we were talking, I had the thought that it sure would be nice if, for just one year, the adults could agree to give a gift to a favorite charity in place of a direct gift.  The Mrs reminded me that the kids wouldn’t care too much for that, so it would need to be just the adults.  If we could do that, I think the meaning of Christmas would be even more felt.  Who knows, maybe I’ll try it next year.

          If there’s anything to take from this whole Christmas shopping tradition, it’s that it’s better to give than receive.  I know that’s not usually something we think of as children, but as adults, we can see how much joy others receive and how, though it’s nice to be remembered, it feels so much better to bless others.

          This Christmas, it may be tight financially and gifts may not be what you’d hoped to give, but always remember that, it’s not what you give, it’s the love that comes with it that counts.  I know the pressure and guilt associated with the season can be tough too, but if we keep our eyes on just loving others, even with a simple gift, it will help us to look past all those traditional emotional complexes that come along the way.

          I wish I could give you all a gift for Christmas.  What I can give, is a wholehearted thank you and virtual hug for being a part of my life.  You are loved and appreciated.  Never forget that you are not alone; God is always with you.  He loves you more than anyone else could ever love you.  And, the gift He gave, far surpasses any gift I could give…

 

Wishing you all a blessed holiday weekend ahead my friends.

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-shopping Sat, 15 Dec 2018 02:19:08 GMT
Christmas Decorations https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-decorations

 

          The grandson is over tonight hoping to help Gammy with putting up the Christmas tree decorations. At this point, I think he’s more interested in playing a video game about Frosty on the Xbox, but we’ll see. 

Every year, he’s been a part of helping to decorate the tree.  Gammy (the Mrs) has always had a special ornament for him to hang and it’s usually one of the noise-making ones, or ones that have the snowball with a train inside kind of thing.  She loves seeing his face when he pushes the button and they start to do their thing.  I love turning them off after he’s gone… Regardless, it’s always a special time to see him have fun celebrating Christmas (and it helps with the empty-nester feelings the Mrs occasionally has too).

Back in the 60s & 70s, ice-cycles were the rage (and that gaudy garland).  Our tree looked a bit like a silver covered green monster by the time we finished throwing all of those fake ice cycles on there.  My favorite ornaments, by far, were the Santa ones that looked like they were made from pipe cleaners.  Mom collected them and there were ones of every kind on the tree.

Hanging the lights became my part of the Christmas duty.  We had them stretched from one side of the house to the other before winding them around and around the tree.  They weren’t the little ones back then either.  These lights were the big bulbs that shown brightly throughout the house.  Not like the freaky LED bulbs that make me feel dizzy on most of today’s trees (and homes).

Finally, the most important part was getting those stockings hung because they had the candy in them Christmas morning (and some Christmas nuts to much on).   We had the big, red Santa sock ones that we could fit a house into.  They were always the first to be opened and the last to be put away. 

I’ll keep tonight’s blog short so, whether you have your tree decorated yet this year or are still working on it like us, we want to wish you a blessed family time enjoying the decorating and creating memories together with your family.   And, remember, you’re loved tonight my friend…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-decorations Fri, 14 Dec 2018 02:06:56 GMT
Christmas Snow https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-snow

 

          Whether it’s because of Santa Claus or just the way Christmas has been marketed over the years, snow is something we all hope for.   There’s just something about the beauty, the fun of sliding and playing in it, and the contrast of keeping warm inside from the cold outside, that makes it special. 

          The town I was raised in, Allegan, Michigan, is on the western side of the state inside of an arc of land right next to the lake that invites moisture from every storm coming inland.  Because of that, while everyone else would see just a few inches of snow, we would normally get a foot or more.  When the blizzards came (1978 was one I remember very well), the snow would even top the door of our house making it so we would have to dig our way out. 

          As the only boy in the family, I was the lucky one whose job it was to shovel the driveway.  Our driveway back then was probably 75 feet long and, when the snow plows came, the entrance was always piled high.  Needless to say, I really enjoyed getting back inside and warming up to a bowl of Mom’s homemade chili or goulash.

          Because we lived on a dead-end street, the kids in the neighborhood had rule of the road.  One of my favorite memories of snow at Christmas was when we would get new sleds.  My sister and I would enjoy sharing them with our friends who lived a few houses down.  They had a small hill in their backyard where we played for hours sliding down and dragging those sleds back up again.  I’m not sure why we didn’t get frostbite, but I would guess we were just having too much fun.  Of course, sliding wasn’t the only fun we had.  We had to make Frosty every year, beat each other up with snowballs, and build that snow fort to hide out in. 

        As a teen, the snow wasn’t as much fun, however.  By that time, I had my Mustang with a large V-8 engine and no weight in the back, which didn’t make well for driving in the snow.  The solution, a set of super thick treaded tires and a bag, or two, of salt in the trunk.  That helped some but didn’t make up for the heater that took more than a while to heat the car up.   We didn’t let those things stop us, though, we just plowed right through it; especially on Christmas day to visit family. 

            Looking back at those days, now that I live in Texas, makes me appreciate the fun times we had in the snow during the Christmas season even more.  I wouldn’t like it much today (well, maybe for a few days), but as a kid, you couldn’t beat it.

          Thank you tonight for hanging around with me and hearing about a few special snow memories of mine.  I’m sure there are many of you who have similar memories about snow at Christmas and who can totally relate.  It always made the day, and the season, more special for us

          This year, whether we have snow, or just that Texas sunshine, Christmas is still about one thing for me; the birth of Jesus.  In that, I will rejoice and celebrate as He has been the savior of my life and the hope for my future.  Having a little snow might be nice too…

I'll leave you all with a clip below of the Christmas classic from Bing Crosby, 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' to maybe help stir some of your own snow filled memories of long ago too.

 

 

Wishing you a very blessed, and possibly snowy, Christmas season my friends.

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-snow Thu, 13 Dec 2018 02:51:01 GMT
Christmas Kindness https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-kindness

 

          The other night I was driving back from running a rush errand to our neighborhood Walmart in order to pick up a replacement propane tank after mine ran out half-way through grilling.  On the way back, I noticed the neighborhood church’s parking lot was full of cars.  I thought, ‘that’s unusual for tonight’ and then saw their sign advertising ‘Traditional Candle Lighting Service’.  'Well, that explains it' I thought. 

          Ironically, I was wrestling with a small sense of guilt in the car when I drove by the church.  You see, I was in such a hurry to get the tank refill, and knew exactly where to go to get it quick (through the side door of the Lawn & Garden department which was closest to the only checker), that I made a small, yet selfish, decision.  

Normally, and you can ask the Mrs and she will tell you, I am polite to a fault, always opening the door for others and letting others go ahead of me at the check-out stand if we arrive at the same time (even if they have a full cart and I have a single item).  This time, after turning the corner next to the checker, I noticed a woman hurrying to get there too.  She was definitely trying to get out of the store quickly. 

She was still nearly ten feet away and I was clearly there ahead of her.  She looked at me with that, ‘I hope he lets me go first’ look and, for whatever reason, being not in the best of moods having been dealing with some things throughout the day, that I decided to act like I hadn’t noticed her coming and walked up to the checker to pay for my gas.  I kept assuring myself that I just needed to pay for one tank and that she had a cart with about twenty items.  Sure enough, I got the, ‘Well, he sure is selfish’ look from her after looking back to act like I'd just seen her. I tried to ignore it, and the checker seemed to be giving me the same look.  Even so, he got me through quickly while she unloaded her cart.  I knew, though, she was offended and I looked like a jerk. 

I went outside and, while waiting for the greeting lady to come out with the key to exchange the tanks, that still, small voice got to me saying, ‘You could have let her go first’.   I wrestled with it a bit and thought, ‘But God, you know I ALWAYS put others first and I was in a hurry and she had more stuff…’  That didn’t work, of course. 

After getting in the car, it kept gnawing at me.  ‘My mother didn’t teach me to be that way’ I thought.  ‘I was just like one of those guys I get mad at for being selfish’ and then that still, small voice chimed in again, ‘What would it matter if you had to wait five more minutes if it meant being kind?’  That one got to me.  So, when I drove by the church and saw all the people celebrating the birth of the one speaking to my heart, I felt about two feet tall.

After getting home, I spent the next thirty minutes, while finishing the chicken in the cold, asking God to help me become more like Him and to forgive my selfishness.  He did of course.  But, the experience, though a minor thing, helped me to see that, even when I’m having a bad day, kindness still matters to others.

This Christmas, with all the crazy, hectic Christmas shoppers out there, I will be making more of an effort to put a smile on my face, be patient, and to put others first, even if I’m in a hurry.  I know God cares about them and I should too.  If I lose touch with simple kindheartedness at Christmas, I really do need to do some introspection...  

Thank you for putting up with my transparency tonight.  I hope it might inspire someone to take the step I failed to make the other night, and put someone else first, even if they're in a hurry.  Who knows, it may just make someone’s holiday seem a little less crazy and put a smile on their face too…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/christmas-kindness Wed, 12 Dec 2018 01:19:49 GMT
The Tree https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-tree

 

          Now that the flu is finally departing our home, our Christmas tree has found its place in the living room (although not yet decorated).  The Mrs will be working on the decorations this week as I have done my part; putting together the four sections of the 12-foot beast.  Although a tall tree like that may seem difficult to manage, this one comes together in a few minutes.  The worst part is carrying the bag out from under my table in the office.

          It was just a few years ago when, unbeknownst to us, a critter had found its way into our garage and made, not only our tree, but several large Santa dolls, its home for the winter.   Needless to say, we had to put the tree, and everything around it, in the trash. 

Thankfully, the Mrs is a great shopper.  She was able to find a person selling pre-lit trees he’d purchased in bulk from The Home Depot after the prior year's Christmas for less than half of their retail price.  We were able to pick up a 1000 light, 12-foot tree that all plugs together without effort for a great price making my job, a lot easier…

It’s not that I don’t want to help with decorating the tree, it’s just that the Mrs does such a great job and, truth be told, I don’t.  I especially appreciate how she ties memories of the kids, family, and life together using ornaments.  She has a real knack for decorating in general, and when it comes to Christmas, she excels (well, I’m not sure about the idea that's been floating around about some kind of gnome creature thing, but that’s another story).

This week, I’ll share some of those memories around the tree with you.  I’ll be looking forward to getting it all put together because, at our house, the decorations usually stay up until Valentine’s Day… Maybe not that long, but… You know.  

So, tonight as I’m writing this blog listening to my favorite Christmas oldies on Pandora, here’s to getting that tree up and kicking off the season.  The Mrs and I wish you a safe, and blessed, Christmas season this year.   Remember, you’re not alone and you’re loved…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-tree Tue, 11 Dec 2018 02:02:23 GMT
Santa https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/santa

 

          What can you say about Santa Claus anyway?  He’s right up there with all the top religious, political, and entertainment icons.  When we were kids, he’s was almost a god-like figure in our life (until we learned he wasn’t real of course, then we just were bitter at our parents for a few days). 

          When I was little, Christmas eve was almost magical.  Mom would have the cardboard fireplace setup and the stockings hung on it ready for Santa.  Every year, she would make homemade chocolate chip cookies (hers were still the best ever) and put them on a plate with a glass of milk for him to eat when he dropped off our presents.

          We would go to bed and try to sleep, but it seemed almost impossible.  Somehow, she would find a place to hide those presents from Santa in that small house on 229 Knapp street.  Back then, she would have us put together a Christmas list for Santa with presents carefully picked out from the JCPenney catalog.  I would spend hours, if not days, looking through it circling just the right present; not too much money (didn’t want to ask too much of Santa) and not something I could just get at the Ben Franklin’s store downtown.

          Every year, whether we had money or not, Mom would find a way to make Christmas special and keep the Santa dream alive (at least until we were about 7 or 8 years old).   I found out years later that she kept a ‘Christmas Savings Account’ at the local bank and would deposit a little bit every few weeks so she would have enough when it was time to buy presents.

          Michigan helped to keep the Santa theme alive with all the snow (especially West Michigan where we got a lot of lake-effect snow).   Our downtown was always lit up with those old-fashioned Christmas lights and a huge tree right in the center of town.  Back then, downtown was still a great place to shop from the local businesses (before the big box stores moved into area towns).  And, it was a great place to enjoy the Christmas parade.

          As the marching band Drum Major, I remember leading them through the cold, winter weather through downtown each year playing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’.  Candy canes were flying, and the kids were all excited.  The instruments about stuck to everyone’s lips because it was so cold, but no one cared.

          Today, most kids realize Santa is just a story at a younger age.  Some parents even feel it’s a bit cruel to tell kids he’s real.  For me, I’m glad to have had those times just being a kid waiting for Santa to come and eat those cookies (which Mom thoroughly enjoyed).  I'll never forget the excitement of Christmas morning seeing the tree surrounded with presents and tearing them all open in a matter of a few minutes thinking Santa had left them for us.  It was something I’ll always cherish.    

          So, tonight, here’s to Santa.  Whether some think he’s from the devil or just a stupid story, I will always cherish having enjoyed those years growing up.   I’ll leave you with a clip below of the song, ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ by Gene Autry (something I was listening to just tonight while I was cooking up some chicken on the grill).  It’s a classic…

 

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/santa Mon, 10 Dec 2018 02:24:10 GMT
It's Christmas Time - I Guess https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/its-christmas-time---i-guess

 

          Well, today was supposed to be the day we put the tree up.  It still may be, but the Mrs is still recovering from the flu and I haven’t been in the holiday spirit as of yet.  So, to help kick things off, I thought I would share a quick documentary below about the making of one of my favorite Christmas shows, Charlie Brown Christmas, to help stir up the festive spirit.

          Growing up, I thought of myself as a Charlie Brown.  It seemed like nearly everything I did, turned into a mess.  I was the neighborhood comic and felt lonely often.  My older sister was somewhat like Lucy at the time, my uncle was the piano player, and I even had a beagle named Snoopy at one point (two beagles in fact). 

          The message of God’s peace, family, and the meaning of Christmas resonated every year the special would come on.  Back in those days, it was an event to watch the show because it kicked off the season and we knew the presents were right around the corner.   The show having snow also reminded me of growing up in Michigan where we always had snow and Christmas just seemed more like, Christmas.  

          So, tonight, here’s to you Charlie Brown, and Charles Shultz, for being a special part of our lives, and for still being a part.  I'm looking forward to sharing this year's Christmas season with you and sharing more great Christmas memories together ..

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/its-christmas-time---i-guess Sun, 09 Dec 2018 00:33:15 GMT
Brokenhearted https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/brokenhearted

 

          Many of us can look back on our lives, even if we’re young, and remember a time when we felt heartbroken.  For some, it may even be today.  Whenever it was, it was a time when it seemed like the walls of our life were falling in and there was nothing we could do to stop it.  Usually, it’s because of the loss of a relationship like the end of a romance or the loss of a loved one.  Sometimes, it’s because we felt betrayed, or our expectations were let down by someone we love.  For whatever the reason, we remember those times like none other.

          Having been there myself many times, I can say, without any hesitation, that it’s never easy.   In those times the pain can consume our hearts and our thoughts.  The grief is fresh, and the loss is real.   The heartache seems so deep that we can’t even talk at times.  The only thing we can do is cry.  We may be surrounded by loved ones and still feel very alone.  We may have been totally taken by surprise and still in shock, only later realizing the depth of our pain. 

For many, the first response to heartbrokenness is the question, ‘Why?!’  We can’t understand why, or how, something this heartbreaking could happen.  We want, and need, an answer to something we may never truly understand until we get to heaven. 

The urge to blame others, and even God, is something the enemy of our soul will put in our minds immediately.  The thoughts of, ‘How could they do this to me?’ or ‘God, why did you allow this?’ are some of the first things we hear and, if left unaddressed, could be the root of bitterness in our life.

How do we get past the loss and pain we feel inside during those times?  How can we see past what seems to be insurmountable pain from the loss we feel?   The question isn’t an easy one for anyone to answer. 

Because it’s our heart, like our body, eventually, the wounds can, and will, heal through the continued save of forgiveness and ointment of grace.  But, if not tended to, they may become infected only causing us to be worse off than when the heartbreak first happened.

No matter the circumstance, we must know and believe that God cares.  We must be assured that, even if we don’t understand why, He does understand, and will care for us.  Like any loving parent, He knows and feels our pains.  His care and loving arms are there for us when we most need them.  He will never let us go and will hold onto us all the way to the end.

If you’re feeling heartbroken tonight, know that you are so loved by God.   Your pain may not be anything I can understand, but know that, in the midst of it, you can have comfort.  Through one of the most painful heartbreaks any parent could have to face, outside of true friends and family, He was the only way I survived the intense pain, loss, and heartbreak.  He was always there when I needed love, encouragement, and comfort.  He gave me the strength to continue and the hope that, one day, all that pain would be past.

My heart and thoughts are with you tonight if that’s you too.  Know that you’re loved and that, even if there isn’t an answer to why, you can make it.  Even though you may feel weak, you are strong in Him.  In that, find rest and comfort.  Let His loving arms surround you and hold you.  He will never let go… Never…

 

Much love tonight my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/brokenhearted Sat, 08 Dec 2018 00:50:27 GMT
Avoiding Life's Detours https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/avoiding-lifes-detours

 

          One of the more annoying things that happens when traveling on the road is having to take a detour.  Especially when you’re in a hurry and become locked into the flow of traffic with no other way to go but with the herd ahead.  

Coming home from our Thanksgiving travels, our Google GPS artificial intelligence terminator-to-be voice told us we should get off the highway before the traffic backed-up ahead due to an accident and take a countryside road to get around the mess.   So, we did.

I’ll admit, it never seems to get easier trusting that Google navigator voice coming out of my phone (well, sometimes it seems like she’s yelling at me, but that’s probably just me), but once again, she was right.   Looking back at the highway we avoided proved that those who didn’t get off at that exit, were left stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at a crawl.

It would be nice to have that voice in our head when it comes to life so we could make that turn before everything becomes messed up, or our life takes an unforeseen detour wouldn't it?  Inevitably, we all will run into those roadblocks, accidents, potholes, and, possibly, sinkholes that keep us from going the direction we were on.

I know, everything in life is a learning experience, and that’s true.   Maybe we shouldn’t try to avoid those detours because we may come out better off on the other side.  Possibly so, and those seemingly random challenges that come our way may have a purpose we don’t yet understand.  Or, maybe we could avoid them if we have our heart GPS tuned in. 

As much as I appreciate learning from life’s pot holes, I would rather avoid them if I can and I believe my faith can help with that.  I guess my view of God is one of a loving Father who cares for us so much that He would rather us not have to suffer needlessly.  He wants to help keep our life on track and to avoid those things which could deter, or hurt us. 

Certainly, there are times when life appears to be getting off track when it is actually His loving hand helping us to go in the direction He intends.  No doubt about that.  Knowing the difference is the key. 

How do we tune into that Godly GPS then?   How do we know when it’s His providence and not just some bad driver ahead of us causing us to be deterred?   The answer is something I’ve been contemplating most of my adult life and have missed the boat on more than once.

The easiest, and yet most difficult way, is to pray, listen, and trust.  It will take practice to hear that still, small voice in our heart and even more faith to trust it.  There’s no doubt He wants to lead us in our lives, but hearing and knowing without a doubt it’s Him, is another story.  Sometimes, He speaks through others or even through our dreams.  How He speaks to you may be different than how He speaks to me.  

The key is to talk with Him and ask Him to show you what it is He’s trying to say, which way He’s wanting to lead, and to give you the ability hear it, and the faith to trust it.  Over time, you’ll begin to hear, sense, and know when it is His voice saying to take a detour, take a safer route, warning you of possible danger, or just confirming you’re on the right track.   The comfort of knowing we’re in His plan is irreplaceable; especially when His plan happens to be a difficult one.

So, tonight, here’s to tuning into that heavenly GPS and trusting the voice of our loving Father to guide us, direct us, and keep us from harm along life’s highway.   Here’s to being in His perfect will, and knowing the difference when we’re not, because when we’re in that place, nothing in the world can knock us off the road...   

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/avoiding-lifes-detours Fri, 07 Dec 2018 02:34:44 GMT
Never Alone https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/never-alone

 

          Today was a historical day to remember a great man and celebrate his life that demonstrated to us all what it means to be an American.  The unity and love were long overdue.  As a country, we needed it.  Yet, I couldn’t help but to think of all those who fear death and the thought of being alone when they also get to the end of their lives. 

For all the well-deserved honor bestowed today, there are many who, by the time they reach the age of passing on, feel very alone and wonder if anyone will visit their funeral.  Most of their families are gone, they are no longer in the workforce, their kids all have lives of their own, and they are left staring at a television all day, or just sitting alone while looking out a window.  I’m sure for them, even though inspirational, watching the services could have also brought out a sense of loneliness and, possibly, feelings of failure. 

I know for me, in a small way, it made me think of my humanity and whether anyone will care when that day comes.  I thought about my own life’s significance and whether I’m making an impact.  I thought of how quickly life passes when they shared memories of events that still seemed like yesterday.  I also thought about how the service was such a great example of giving honor, not only to a man, but to friends, to family, and to God.

Throughout the rest of the day, my heart has been churning about a number of important things, but the one that stands out, was the sense that, while we are all accountable for our own decisions, we’re never alone; not because we’re surrounded by others, but because we have an ever-present, all-knowing, all-loving Father and Savior.

When I lived my life without Jesus, those feelings of loneliness would overwhelm me.  Today, after living with His presence in my heart, and even when I’ve walked away from Him, He was, and is, always there.  That, in my opinion, is one of the most important things of having Jesus in our lives.  The world can take everything from us, or we could go into the world and give it all away, but in the end, He'll still be with us loving, holding us up, listening, caring, covering us, and guiding us.  Truly, we are never alone. 

In the middle of those thoughts today, it was as if that still, small voice spoke to my heart saying, ‘Brad, I love you.  You’re never alone.  Even though others may not see, I see.  I’m all you need and will be with you always.  When you pass on, you will be with me.  Trust in me and I will keep you through to the end.’  It was as though all the fears, pain, doubts, and loneliness evaporated in my heart and mind. 

If you’re feeling alone today, or perhaps the services brought some of your own feelings of mortality to the surface like me, take those words the Lord spoke to my heart for yourself.  We’re all in this boat together and He loves us all the same.  When we believe, He will be there.  Even in the darkest moments when our faith is gone, He will be there.  

We are never alone; not in this life, or the life to come.  In that, take heart and know you are loved.  Even if everything around you is falling apart, He will be with you.  It may not seem like it now, but one day, you’ll look back and see His loving hand there lifting you up, holding you in His arms, and guiding you every step of the way…

 

Love always my friend,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/never-alone Thu, 06 Dec 2018 00:50:02 GMT
One of 'Those Days' https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/one-of-those-days  

 

          You know ‘those days’ when it feels like everything you do to fix an issue just makes the issue morph into another issue?  Me too.  Today was one of ‘those days.’  It reminded me of when I was in shop class and how it seemed that every time I tried fixing my project, another piece needed to be fixed too; sometimes as a result of trying to fix the first piece. 

          I was never much of a mechanic even though my father was.  It wasn’t something I felt a passion for (until I needed something fixed and had to do it myself because I didn’t have any money).  Today, I enjoy working on a project, taking my time, and seeing it come together for a great final product.   I guess age has a way of changing how we feel about things doesn’t it?

          I wish now that I’d had more of a mechanical passion at a younger age, even though I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I had.   The reason is because it’s something I know my father and I could have connected with.  Last night I was chatting with the Mrs. and realized it’s taken me 54 years to find a connection with my dad and now we don’t have the time we used to have to enjoy it. 

          Regardless of having a mechanical passion or not, if one were ever looking for a reason to keep humble, it’s working in a service industry.  The service industry I work with is helping my customers with their enterprise Microsoft contracts.  If you’ve ever worked with Microsoft from the business side, then you know how I feel when I say that fixing one issue only causes another…

          After nearly 19 years of doing this (give or take a few years off to do meaningful things), I don’t know if I will find anther career this late in life.  But what it has taught me, is to appreciate that I do have a recession-proof job which, if I’m good at, no one else will want to take away because it’s ‘Microsoft’.   I guess there’s some comfort in that on days like today. 

          Don’t get me wrong, though, today was a good day in many ways.  I learned of another agreement that we’ve won and that I’m over 380% of my quarterly quota.  In retrospect, I really can’t complain (it just feels good complaining sometimes…).  It’s all about perspective.  We may look at the small issue and feel like our whole career is horrible when, in reality, it’s really going well.   We just seem to focus on the parts that are difficult.  I guess that’s the perfectionistic nature I have (or OCD).

          So, today, I want to encourage all of you who may have had one of ‘those days’ when one thing broke another.  It may be that the issue wasn’t so big in light of the overall good you do.  Try not to let it get you down.  Keep your head up and a smile on your face.  Be persistent and work hard because, ‘those days’, are usually followed by a few good days too…

 

Wishing you a great week ahead my friend,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/one-of-those-days Wed, 05 Dec 2018 02:18:25 GMT
The Power of Love https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-power-of-love

 

          Have you ever had one of those songs stick in your head at just the right time when you need it?  It makes me wonder if God has a button that He pushes to play a song from our memory with the words He needs us to hear.  It may not be a button, but I wouldn’t doubt that He has every intention of speaking to us, in any way He can, to get through to us when we’re having a hard time hearing His voice.  If music works, why not?

          One of those songs going through my head today has been, ‘The Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis & The News.  Yes, it’s an 80s song that we, all those from my generation at least, loved and danced to.  But the words speak to me tonight concerning several of my life stories.  The song is simple, but the message that love conquers all, is tougher than diamonds, is better than fame and money, and can change our heart, says it all.  Most of all, it might just save our life one day...  

          So tonight, I thought I would share that song and lyrics with you.  Who knows, if it's speaking to me, it may speak to you as well.  I’ve listened to it about 3 or 4 times this evening and plan to another 3 or 4 times.  I hope you enjoy.  Remember, Love always my friend...

 

 

The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep, make another man sing

Change a heart to a little white dove

More than a feeling, that's the power of love

Tougher than diamonds, whips like cream

Stronger and harder than a bad girls dream

Make a bad one good, mmm make a wrong right

Power of love will keep you home at night

Don't need money, don't take fame

Don't need no credit card to ride this train

It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes

But it might just save your life

That's the power of love

That's the power of love

First time you feed it might make you sad

Next time you feed it might make you mad

But you'll be glad baby when you've found

That's the power that makes the world go round

Don't need money, don't take fame

Don't need no credit card to ride this train

It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes

But it might just save your life

They say that all in love is fair

Yeah but you don't care

But you know what to do

When it gets hold of you

And with a little help from above

You feel the power of love

You feel the power of love

Can you feel it?

Don't take money, don't take fame

Don't need no credit card to ride this train

Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel

You won't feel it until you feel

You feel the power, feel the power of love

That's the power, that's the power of love

You feel the power of love

You feel the power of love

You feel the power of love

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/the-power-of-love Tue, 04 Dec 2018 02:06:53 GMT
Be Blessed My Friend https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/be-blessed-my-friend

 

          This weekend has been a restful one.  The Mrs. has been down with the flu and I was exhausted from all the travel.  Even though the weather was great outside, we mostly stayed at home resting only getting out for an occasional errand.  If there’s one thing the Mrs. doesn’t like, it’s being stuck inside for days on end.  Even if she just sat in the car, it was enough to break the monotony.

          So, this evening, it’s one of those times where the inspiration isn’t flowing like usual having spent the weekend watching television, playing video games, doing some cleaning, and running errands.  I will say, it has been somewhat of an emotional time for reasons left unsaid, however.  There are so many things I wish I could do to help someone I love but can’t because of long-standing walls that still haven’t come down.

          Looking ahead, this may be a trying week for those same unspoken reasons.  I know God is ultimately in control and these walls will come down one day.  I know He is faithful and knows all our pains.   I know He cares, and I know He has good plans for our future.  In those things, I will trust and let go.  Perhaps, one day I’ll be able to share more with you about it.  I’m praying so.  In the meantime, I’ll be putting all things in His hands which is the best anyone can do.  

          Still, I’m looking forward to the week ahead and will be praying God’s blessing in your life.  That He will open the doors you’re needing opened and give you the grace needed to face whatever challenges lay ahead.  That you’ll find peace, joy, and love in the midst of the world we live in.   And, that you’ll be blessed abundantly with His favor and protection in all things…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/be-blessed-my-friend Mon, 03 Dec 2018 02:12:54 GMT
Relational Color Blindness - Seeing Past the Past https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/relational-color-blindness  

 

          Throughout my life, I’ve had eye issues, but the one I’m thankful I haven’t had is color blindness.  Studies show that at least 8% of the population is affected by it.  Personally, I’ve known people who are and who haven’t been able to drive because of it.  Not knowing if a light is green or red would be an issue.

          Tonight, the Mrs. and I went to grab our weekend Pei Wei meal.  On the way into the restaurant, there was a new Honda CRV the same style as ours, but this one had a unique color; it looked almost flesh tone (light skinned).  We both looked and commented on it because the color wasn’t one that we’d seen before.  The thought hit me how the same car could look so different, and less appealing, with another color.

          I didn’t really think much about it after we went inside, but after leaving and seeing the car again, I began to think about it more.  Much like how the color of a car changes how we perceive the car (even though it's the same car), how we see people through what I'll call relational color blindness, based on our own prejudice, historical context, or personal memories, changes how we feel about them.  Often, we base our opinion of someone’s trustworthiness, on how we see them through those color filters.

          One may think I’m talking about racism because of the skin colored car, but I’m not.  Yes, unfortunately, some do view others differently because the color of their skin, but that’s the obvious connection.  What I'm thinking about is more personal, and on a deeper level.

          When we’re children, we don’t have relational color blindness.  We see everyone the same.  It’s not until we’re exposed to the humanness around us, that the relational color blindness is developed.  What relational color blindness am I thinking of?  The one built from perceptions of another person through years of experiences living with them in our lives.   Even more, the perceptions built from other’s opinions, stories, and memories of another person who hasn’t lived with us all our lives. 

          We all have relatives we feel we know because of the stories we’ve heard about them.  Some of those relatives may be held in great honor because of a story of heroism or sacrifice.  Others may be villainized because of a parent, relative, or friend who has only told their view of history that has been tainted by their personal bitterness.  The result is relational color blindness keeping us from seeing who that person really was, or is, resulting in walls that may never come down only preventing a true relationship with them. 

          Children are the most victimized by these portrayed perceptions.  Children whose parents divorced early and never really knew the estranged parent, and who instinctively trust their full-time parent, willingly accept it when they hear their mommy say, ‘Your biological father was an XYZ, and hurt us.  You must never trust him’.   Or, when they hear their daddy say, ‘Your mother never really loved you.  She was just looking out for herself’.   These types of statements can do irreparable harm creating relational color blindness of the other parent for life.  The estranged parent may never be able to overcome it because that relational color blindness will always be there in the back of their child's mind.

          We all have some sort of relational color blindness built by shared perceptions when we were young.  I know I have, and it’s taken years for me to see past it in some cases.  Now that I’m able to, relationships have been built where they weren’t before.  I regret not knowing those blinders were there.  The good news is that, as one of my areas of relational color blindness comes off, I become more aware of others still there making it easier to see past those as well.

          So, tonight, if that’s you.  If you have perceptions of an estranged loved one built upon years of hearing the negative, I want to encourage you to try and look beyond them.  You might just find what you thought was real, was only what you could see, based on what you’ve been told.  You may just find a new relationship where there wasn’t one.   You may just find healing where there was hurt and love where there was loss…

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/12/relational-color-blindness Sun, 02 Dec 2018 01:30:51 GMT
1964 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/1964

 

          Today is one of those days when you carry so many mixed feelings around inside your heart.  On one hand, you’re thinking about how fast life goes by and how old you are.  On the other, you’re grateful for the love expressed by family & friends who thought of you.  So, tonight, I wanted to share a little about what life was like the year I was born, the year 1964, to show just how much things have changed.   One way is to compare the cost of living:

 

Yearly Inflation Rate USA 1.28%

Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 874

Average Cost of new house $13,050.00

Average Income per year $6,000.00

Gas per Gallon 30 cents

Average Cost of a new car $3,500.00

Loaf of bread 21 cents

United States Postage Stamp 5 cents

Average Monthly Rent $115.00

Ticket to the movies $1.25

 

          Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d share a sample of what fashions were in vogue then as well as a video of what the top songs were in 1964. 

 

 

 

Life certainly was different then.  Ironically, Anchorage Alaska, like today, had a major earthquake that year as well.  I’m glad to be alive in 2018 and am looking forward to at least another 46 years of life, God permitting.   Who knows, maybe I’ll live to see the 100-year mark and life today will seem like it did in 1964. 

          I’ll leave you today with a HUGE THANK YOU for taking some time out of your day to spend it reading my silly blog.  You are loved and appreciated… May God richly bless you this weekend my friend.

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/1964 Sat, 01 Dec 2018 01:48:15 GMT
Music City - Pt 3 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city---pt-3

 

     It's the end of a few days in Music City and I’m ready to be back home. Our final presentation went well, and we all went away feeling like we've improved (well, at least most of us did).  

     One of my takeaways from the training has been that there will be those we team with who may not have the same passion as we do.  For those who have a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about a project, it's hard to understand those who don't.   

     Our team's initial presentation was creative using visual asides, humor, and laid out our subject matter clearly. Yet, one member felt it was too much and didn't want to engage in the training like the rest of us did spending half their time smoking outside.   It was disappointing to say the least.   Needless to say, our final presentation was less than we wanted to help keep the team together.   The old saying is true that we're only as strong as our weakest link.  

     On a more positive note, I did get a few good jokes in and had some good compliments about my presentation delivery.   I will admit, it was difficult to keep from feeling angry with our teammate.  God kept me in line by showing me he was really more of an angry person himself.   He was wrestling with other things in his life and I needed to pray for him.  So, I did.

     It can be like that in our daily life when we run across people who act ‘ugly’ towards us, or towards others.  They are usually the ones who need love the most.  If I had one life lesson to take away from Music City, it would be that I need to look deeper than the outside attitude to the person inside.  

      On another note, tomorrow is that one day of the year I tend to dread and the Mrs. loves.  My birthday.   Enough said.  

      So, tonight, as I sit on the tarmac waiting for the plane engine to be repaired, I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you a blessed weekend ahead.  As always, you are loved my friend…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city---pt-3 Fri, 30 Nov 2018 02:31:10 GMT
Music City - Pt 2 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city---pt-2

 

         Today has been a very busy day full of presentation training, team group activities, dinner, and lots of coffee!   Overall, it was a good and productive time to refresh the ole’ public speaking skills.  For those introverts out there (me included), coming out of the shell wasn’t as painful as it sounds. 

         Over dinner, I had a chance to catch up with several team members and the training director.  We touched on subjects ranging from our children’s work, challenges parenting, health issues of our own, and our parents, past work experiences, and what makes life tick today. 

         What I took away from the evening, and day, was just how much we can learn from each other by simply asking and listening.  What we find is that we’re all more alike than we probably want to admit; especially when it comes to raising children and our family experiences.

         So often, we tend to feel that our life’s challenges are more than people can understand.  We get caught in the trap of thinking that no one cares or can relate.  We feel lonely and isolated not wanting to share any of our challenges out of fear others may reject us or judge us.  All the while, they are going through something possibly even more difficult than our own problems.

         Age has a way of leveling the field in life.  I learned tonight of the death of prior manager of mine.  He wasn’t much older than me and had a heart attack just days after he retired early.  The pressures of recent work challenges had taken their toll on him.  Unfortunately, he was never able to enjoy what he’d work for so long to have.  Hearing the news made me think of how short life really is.

         If I could take one thing back from today, it probably wouldn’t be the training, although very good.  No, it would be the reminder of our humanity, the need for one another in this world, and the realization that, even though we work together toward a common company goal, we’re all humans with similar struggles in this life.

         Tonight, if I haven’t said it lately, you are loved.  No matter what you may be going through, there’s someone out there struggling with something similar.  We’re not alone in this life.  Be encouraged and know you will make it through this.  You will find a way and you will overcome.  It may not happen the way you think, but it will eventually happen, if you don’t give up.  Trust in God and believe He is with you.  When you do that, nothing can stop you and you’ll always make it through no matter what life throws your way.

Tomorrow, it’s another full day of training and then back home to the love of my life who I’m missing greatly tonight.  She makes going home something to look forward to every time….

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city---pt-2 Thu, 29 Nov 2018 04:25:03 GMT
Music City - Day 1 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city-day-1

 

          Tonight, I find myself in Music City, Nashville, TN.  The trip was uneventful and typical for a Southwest flight.  Our regional software team is in town to take part in presentation training.  Admittedly, I don’t present very often in the role I’m currently in, but can always use a refresher and a little practice for the time when I finally get up the nerve to try my hand at the local comedy club’s open mic night.

          Nashville is one of those places I’ve not had a chance to visit, but have always wanted to.  You can’t miss the fact you’re in music city.  From the moment you step off the plane, there is live music playing.  All through the airport one can enjoy jazz, blues, country, and probably some classical somewhere. 

I feel right at home.  Music has always been a part of my life; from the times sitting and helping my uncle turn the pages while he played Beethoven, to performing in the college Wind Ensemble & Pep Band.  Just being here stirs the old flames inside.  I guess it’s probably good that I don’t have my guitar with me or the people next to me in the hotel would have to suffer through some bad Bob Seger style songs…

In some ways, Nashville reminds me of Hollywood, but for musicians.  It’s one of those places they go to possibly get a break into the industry.  Like Hollywood, the streets are lined with people who came here to ‘make it big’, only to find their dreams dashed.  Only a few make it to fame and even those rarely last.  

What is it about the allure of fame that draws so many people anyway?  Is it the money?  Maybe.  Is it the recognition that they are among the best?  Maybe.  Perhaps the chance to travel the world and share their gift with others?  Probably.   Or, maybe it’s the thought of being the one on stage holding the mic who just nailed a song causing the crowd to scream.  Unfortunately, that power of being the ‘one’ is what draws many. 

I’m certainly not one to point a finger at those who are in the middle of self-promotion, however.  It’s something many younger people fall into and I was one of them.   Having come through it and looking back from the other side, it’s refreshing to know that life isn’t about fame, it’s about giving everything for others, and that, is a lifelong journey.   Fame may come on that journey, but it will be more of a distraction for the humble at heart.

Regardless of the fame factor, Nashville has many great things to offer and I’m looking forward to experiencing just a little.  Like tonight, when we had the famous Edley’s BBQ.  And who knows, maybe I’ll run into someone famous.  If I do, I’ll probably ask them if they want my autograph… (just joking… well, sort of).  

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/music-city-day-1 Wed, 28 Nov 2018 03:26:59 GMT
Midnight Express https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/midnight-express

 

          Earlier tonight, I came across an old movie while thinking about tonight's blog.  The movie was about an American man who was caught trying to smuggle drugs out of Turkey.  Instead of the usual sentence, he received a 30-year sentence to set an example for all those would try to do the same.  The story tells of his brutal time in prison and subsequent escape. 

          Without going into details of the movie, it portrayed the perils, and tyranny, of being held prisoner in another country without the same legal system we’re blessed with here in the US.  The poor choice was regrettable and the consequences were far more than they would have had to suffer here.   

          The story reminded me of the parallels in life for those who have found themselves imprisoned for their poor choices.  Most of us at one time or another, will make a choice we regret. Understandably, it probably won’t be to make a living as a drug smuggler in Turkey, but it will be something we know wasn’t what God, or possibly society, sees as acceptable. 

          That choice may cause us to be bound emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.  The chains of guilt, fear, and self-hate are some of the worst we may ever have to endure; even worse than physical chains.  The process to be free from that decision which haunts us for days, weeks, or even years, may be a long road to travel. 

          Those who have come out of the bondage of drug addictions, alcohol abuse, or even having been the victim of physical abuse, will all say that they have spent hours upon hours working through the consequences they wrought.  Some continue to work through them even though they feel free. 

          If there’s one thing in life that I’ve found and wish I could pass onto my kids, is the reality that those seemingly harmless decisions to dabble with those things the world says will give us pleasure without pain, is one of the most dangerous decisions they could make.  Whether it’s a drug, alcohol, sex, money, or just a self-serving lifestyle, they all come with a catch.  It’s like the person who goes to a mob boss for a loan.  Sure, the money is there, but they have to give up their life to get it. 

          Many in the world believe we can escape these entrapments ourselves, the reality is that we can’t.  We need help; not only the help of loved ones, friends, or support groups, but the help of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God.  Whether we find ourselves at the bottom of a barrel, laying on skid row with nothing left but the cloths on our backs, or with a bank full of money and a heart as empty as a bottomless pit, we will need help to get out.  

          The good news is that there is help and there’s nothing we must pay to have it; it’s free.   What is it?  It’s simple, yet one of the most difficult things we can do if we’re bound by our past.  It’s letting go and letting and letting God.  That simple, yet profound act, is something so many who are bound have difficulty with. The reason?  Because if they look at their choices and see how they got to where they are, they have to admit the choices were harmful.  That admission, the first step, is the toughest for most to get over.  But, once they can do that, the rest of what God can do to redeem, restore, heal, and set free come quickly into their life. 

          I don’t know if anyone reading this is in that place of having to make that choice in their life but, if you are, or if you know someone who is, it will be the best decision you can ever make.  No drug, drink, physical pleasure, or amount of money can give you what Jesus can.  Believe me, I know because there have been times in my life when I had to bow my knee and make that choice.  If I hadn’t, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today and thank God every day for setting me free from the bonds of those past choices.

          The good news is that we don’t have to stay there in that prison.  We have a way out.  We can have freedom if we just ask.  We can find joy again.  We can find peace again.  We can find rest for our souls without having to use chemicals.  It’s just waiting for us in the loving hands of our Savior, Jesus.  All we need to do is ask and let go…

 

Wishing you a blessed week ahead my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/midnight-express Tue, 27 Nov 2018 01:32:42 GMT
A Shelter in the Midst of the Storm https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/a-shelter-in-the-midst-of-the-storm

 

          Earlier today, we left Kansas in the middle of a blizzard to make our way back home to Texas.  It had just begun a little over an hour from when we left, so the snow was just starting to accumulate.  The winds were blowing from 30-40 mph and the visibility was getting bad.

          Since we were heading south, I felt confident we could outrun the worst of it.  Growing up in Michigan, I’d driven through countless storms as bad, or worse, with a car nowhere near as capable as the Honda CRV we were driving today.  Based on the timing, the car, the fact we were heading south away from the worst of the storm, I decided we needed to hit the road and make the journey.

          Initially, the trip was rough, and we found a red pickup truck to stay behind who helped keep the road clear.  Visibility wasn’t good, but drivable.   The initial estimate of 20-30 miles of blowing snow to drive in turned into 60-70 miles before all was said and done.  Thankfully, the car handled like a charm, we got ahead of the worst of the storm, and people were driving cautiously and not running themselves off the road.

          The experience was a good reminder that, no matter how well we plan, we may run into more difficulties than we thought.  Even with the best equipment, the forecast, the route all mapped out, and the best intentions, life may become more challenging than we expected.

          We did pass by some who had driven off the road facing the wrong direction on the other side of the median.  I’m not sure how they found themselves there, but they were there. Thankfully, there were no major accidents.  But, what kept coming across my mind was the question, ‘What if we get run off the road into the ditch? Who would be able to come and get us in this weather?’   The thought was a real one and I had little answers for it.  We didn’t need a refuge, but what if we had?

          The thought stuck with me for some time.  In hindsight, it reminds me of what the church needs to be for those who get stuck in the midst of a storm.  We all will be stranded on the road of life, eventually, with nowhere to turn at some point.  Will the church be there to help us when we do? 

          Sometime in the future, I’ll share how the church did just that for me when I was left with very little and nowhere to go during a very challenging storm of my life.  It was the church who became my rock and refuge from that storm.  They protected and provided when the world only wanted to take away.   I’ll never forget their love, sacrifices, and know the love they shared during the worst of times said more about the love of God than any sermon I could have heard. 

          It’s what the church does when no one knows that counts.  It’s not serving in the feeding lines on Thanksgiving that makes the difference (although that’s good).  No, it’s serving on that rainy, or snowy day, when everyone else is bundled up at home, to serve those who are less fortunate.  That’s when love shines.  

          So, tonight, here’s to those who were there for me during a major storm in my life.  Your love, kindness, and generosity showed the love of Christ more than any other thing.  May I live up to, and be, that example in my own life to others.   And, may God richly bless you for the love you shared when no one knew...

 

Wishing you all a blessed week ahead my friends…


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/a-shelter-in-the-midst-of-the-storm Mon, 26 Nov 2018 01:40:24 GMT
100 Years from Now https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/100-years-from-now

 

          After a fun day with family in Kansas City, we made the drive back to central Kansas tonight.  On the way back, many things were stirring in my heart about family; past, present, and future. The thought of what life will be like 100 years from now kept coming back to me.

          Nearly all those we know and love today will be but a faint memory.  The culture, as we know it, will have changed.  The technology will be obsolete, and the world will be a different place.  It brought home the thought that, what we do today, will affect the future, but we won’t be here to see it.  Our lives are short and what we have today is just a brief passing in time.  So, I thought I would put this short poem together to express my thoughts below. 

 

100 years from now, life will be different

100 years from now, we will all be gone

100 years from now, what is true will be known

100 years from now, what we thought was important, will only be a memory

100 years from now, we’ll still be together, but in a better place

100 years from now, we’ll live on in this world, but through our children

    100 years from now, is today...

 

          I'm looking forward to getting back to Texas and for the week ahead.  Remember, you are all loved and appreciated tonight!!
 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/100-years-from-now Sun, 25 Nov 2018 04:41:02 GMT
On the Road Again https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/on-the-road-again

 

          We’re off to Kansas & Missouri today and just arrived.  After a peaceful drive north with Pandora oldies mixed in-between our Daily Audio Bible podcast, we found our way to Salina, KS to settle in with family.  The dogs were especially excited to get out of their crates after that long drive…

          On the long road here, I couldn’t help but to think about how short life is.  It seemed like yesterday when we were taking the kids to Kansas with us, fifteen years ago, in the minivan packed full of gifts, clothes, games, and everything we could jam in there.  When we are young, fifteen years seems forever.  When we pass fifty, fifteen years seems like only a few years.

          Watching the different people pass, or be passed, on the road also made me think of how so many of us live separated from each other.  I saw families, single people, elderly, and people from every social class.  It always seems to amaze me to see how the highway has a way of making us all equal (well except for those who think they own the road in the large SUVs…).

          Driving the long distance today also provided a lot of time to think about life and talk with God in my heart.  Mostly on my mind were my kids (both those who are close to us and those who are far away).  Some thoughts were of good memories, others were of lost memories, and still others were prayers for the future memories yet to be created. 

          They say distance draws the heart fonder.  For the most part, I would agree with that, yet when you are so far apart, unless each person tries to maintain the bonds, we eventually grow apart.  The distance can be a barrier or it can be a bond.  It’s all up to each of us which it will be in our own lives.

          Tomorrow, it’s off to Kansas City where we’ll visit with the Mrs.’s brother’s beautiful family.  Though I won’t see all my loved ones who live in KC, the time we will have there, will be cherished.  We may not talk about anything ‘serious’ or about anything deep, but the time spent is what’s important; even if it’s just playing cards or enjoying a meal. It will be a blessing to catch up with them.   Afterwards, it will be time to hit the road again back to Dallas and then off to Nashville next week (more about that later). 

          So, tonight, we’re wishing you all safe travels, cherished time together with your families, and maybe some time to spend just talking with God on the road or at home.  He always has an open ear, and would love to talk anytime we’re up for it…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/on-the-road-again Sat, 24 Nov 2018 02:24:19 GMT
Be Ye Glad https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/be-ye-glad

 

          Earlier this week while thinking about the Thanksgiving holiday, and thankfulness in general, I was reminded of one of those music groups I used to enjoy during my early years.  The group was called Glad and one of the best songs they sang was called, ‘Be Ye Glad’.  I remember listening to it over and over again.  It still stirs my soul today.

          The song highlights for me the most important thing in my life that I’m glad about.  Surely, I’m glad for family, friends, health, our country, my work, and many other things.  But, most of all, I’m glad that I’ve found grace in my life.  I’m glad God chooses to love me when I don't deserve it.  I’m glad for the overwhelming love He has for all of us.  In that, above all other things in my life, I’m most glad for tonight. 

          I thought I would share that great song with you below, along with it's lyrics.  It speaks for itself and is worth taking a few minutes to hear.  If there’s anything we need today, it’s the gladness that comes from His unconditional love in our lives.  In that, we’ll find thankfulness easy to come by and the joy that comes with it.  This weekend, I’m going to stay glad for that, and glad He is with us always.  I’m praying you too will find that gladness that comes from His grace in your life if you haven’t.    You’ll be glad you did….

 

 

Be Ye Glad

In these days of confused situations
In this night of a restless remorse
When the heart and the soul of a nation
Lay wounded and cold as a corpse

From the grave of the innocent Adam
Comes a song bringing joy to the sad
Oh, your cry has been heard and the ransom
Has been paid up in full, be ye glad

Oh, be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad
Every debt that you've ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad

So be like lights on the rim of the water
Giving hope in a storm sea of night
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter
Of these fugitives in their flight

For you are timeless and part of a puzzle
You are winsome and young as a lad
And there is no disease or no struggle
That can pull you from God, be ye glad

Oh, be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad

Oh, be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad

Songwriters: Michael Kelly Blanchard

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/be-ye-glad Fri, 23 Nov 2018 01:19:18 GMT
Thanksgiving - Not What it Used to Be https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/thanksgiving---not-what-it-used-to-be

 

          Thanksgiving.  I heard this week from several news outlets that this shouldn’t be a holiday we celebrate because it’s somehow racist because it celebrates white supremacy, sexist because traditionally the women do the cooking while the men watch football, and anti-American because of the way the Europeans conquered North America by killing all the Native American Indians.  

I guess I must have missed all that stuff growing up.  All I can remember are the stories of how the native Indians taught us to plant corn and how we shared our first harvest with them.  It’s astonishing to see just how history has been changed to fit political agendas these days.  It makes me thankful for being raised before all this toxic environment was built up. 

Regardless of how people feel about the origins of Thanksgiving, it’s always been, as long as I’ve been alive, a time to gather with family, thank God for the blessings He has given us as a nation and as a family, and to enjoy a big meal with lots of turkey & dressings.  As far as I’m concerned, it still means that so, if anyone wants to hate on me for supporting the death of that turkey I’m eating, I’ll just need to thank that turkey for giving up it’s life that we might feed a whole family and enjoy the day…

Ironically, the Mrs. and I won’t be doing much traditionally tomorrow since our celebration will be Saturday, but we’ll still enjoy a meal together, be thankful for what we have, and relax while putting up the Christmas tree (well, she will do most of that because I usually mess it up so bad that it looks more like a Charlie Brown tree…). 

So, tomorrow, we want to wish you all a thankful day and a blessed time with your family.  If you’re not with family, we want you to know that we’re thankful for you and are praying God richly bless you with His company…

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and Happy Turkey day!!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/thanksgiving---not-what-it-used-to-be Thu, 22 Nov 2018 01:10:57 GMT
Thankfulness - Showing Appreciation https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/thankfulness---showing-appreciation

 

          In a world that seems so full of anxiety, anger, and people who are self-serving, it’s becoming more and more rare to find people who show appreciation.  What you usually see are people acting as if they are owed something and impatient if they don’t get it exactly when, and how, they expect it.

          Sadly, the traditional graciousness we were raised with to show appreciation for what we have, or for what others do for us, and to be thankful, are hard to find.  In this digital world where we can order anything we need at the tips of our fingers, track and expect it to be at our doorsteps overnight, we have become accustomed to the process of having what we want instantly. 

          Early in my childhood, after my mother found herself single, we had very little money.  We lived very humbly for several years.  Mom would patch our jeans, scrape up food for us to eat, and we would enjoy the free things of life.  When I look back at those times, I have gained an appreciation for them because it wasn’t what some today may think of as valuable that we had; it was being able to appreciate the simple things in life.  We learned to live without and find joy in things that weren’t material.

One of the strong memories I had from that day was when my father, who lived separate from us, took us to a toy store and said, ‘You can have anything you want in here’.   We were in such shock that we couldn’t decide what to get.  We walked out with a few small things, but not that electric race track or expensive bike I so wanted.  We were so afraid of taking too much that we didn’t take much at all.  Yet, we were still grateful. 

Later in high school, we had more of the material things, but were always appreciative to have what we did.   The reason: we learned to live without and appreciate the simple things early on.  I’m still that way today.  We have a nice home and vehicles, but don’t need, or want, the best of the best.  We try to be content with what we have and appreciate it by taking care of it so it will last. 

I would say if there’s any trait that has been a cornerstone of my sales career, it’s been to show appreciation to our customers and to never take them for granted.  It’s when we expect others to serve us more than wanting to serve them that we lose site of humility.

This Thanksgiving holiday, I want to encourage all of us to take a few minutes to tell someone we love that we appreciate them.  To make an extra effort to show appreciation to the store clerk who is having a rough day.  To give when we would expect to be given to.  Most of all, to show God our appreciation for all He has given us by sharing with others who may not have as much.

Tonight, I’m grateful for, and appreciate, all my friends and family. I appreciate you each individually, and uniquely.  My prayer is for you all to be blessed in your life in a new, and fresh, way you haven’t ever expected.   That God would shower His grace on you and show you His lovingkindness.   That you would find joy where there’s sadness and light where there’s darkness.   And, that you would have a blessed week this week as we join together to show our thankfulness for our country and for each other…

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/thankfulness---showing-appreciation Wed, 21 Nov 2018 00:30:58 GMT
Road Trip https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/road-trip

 

          Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and like many others, we’ll be taking a road trip to visit family.  Luckily, the drive for us will only be about six or seven hours (provided we don’t run into too much traffic that is).  After all these years, it’s still the most economical way to get somewhere and holds the promise of spending time together as a family.

          We’ll be taking our canine kids with us this time (all three of them).   It makes the trip interesting, to say the least, stopping at the truck stop to walk our little Yorkies and Watson, our pure white Schnauzer, with their Michigan sweaters on.  We get lots of onlookers who want to pet them as they have a way of making people smile.

          I was thinking tonight about those road trips over the years we’ve taken with the kids.  Even though the trips were long, they were a fun time for me to drive the kids crazy with my sound effects, crazy driving, stupid jokes, and lectures about life.  Yeah, I’m not sure they may have as good of memories of those trips as me…    

Unlike days long ago, the family on my side is now spread out between South Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, California, and Washington state.   The Mrs. family is in Alaska, Canada, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri.   Every year, we must pick where, and when, to go see whom.   Thankfully, we now have video call capability on our phones, so it will be easier to talk with each other at least. 

          So, this weekend, we're looking forward to spending some quality time together with family who we haven’t seen for some time because they live in Missouri, enjoying Michigan win their big game, and eating great food (even those burgers along the way).  Most of all, it will be a time of reflecting about what’s important in life, and being thankful for what we have.

          Over the next few days, I want to focus on thankfulness.  What does it mean to live a thankful life? How we can grow an attitude of gratitude?  And, how do we find the good in life wherever we may be?  It will be a good time to reflect on that together along with sharing some anecdotal stories along the way too.

          The Mrs. and I are wishing you all a safe, happy, and thankful week ahead as you too spend time traveling and visiting with your family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  And remember, you’re loved and appreciated… Always.

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/road-trip Tue, 20 Nov 2018 02:09:33 GMT
Gutter Rails https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/gutter-rails

 

          Earlier today, the family all celebrated our grandson’s 7th birthday.  It was a lot of fun for him and his friends who all enjoyed bowling, laser tag, cake, and video games.  

While at the party, I immediately noticed that Bowling today isn’t what it was when we were kids.  The place we had the party is called ‘Pinstack’ and comes complete with full-wall TV feeds, a full course menu, and a wet bar for the adults who wanted to have a beverage or two.  Not like the days when we may have had a candy & soda machine to go along with the bowling.

Growing up, one of our favorite things to do on Saturday mornings was to go bowling at the local bowling alley. We learned to bowl from a very young age.  Later as teens, we would watch Mom and my stepfather bowl in a local league as well.  In college while at ORU, we were required to take a physical fitness course each semester which, for me in my final year, bowling 1 & II were both perfect for that requirement!

  There was one thing different about the kid’s bowling today that stood out right away; they had gutter rails.   Yes, they have automatic bumpers these days that keep the ball from going into the gutter nearly assuring them of knocking down at least 1 pin.   I’ve known about them before, but watching the kids today reminded me of how much things have changed.

It was like watching a game of pinball.  Balls bouncing from one side of the lane to the other until they landed on several pins.  The kids even had a ball shoot they could place the ball on, let go, and then have it roll down the lane.  They didn’t even have to throw it!  Wow! I mean, the next best thing would be for them to go down there and kick them over themselves. 

I know, it’s just a fun time at a birthday party and no parent (today at least) wants to watch heir kid throw a bunch of gutter balls.  How discouraging that would be right?  So, in this instance, I can understand.  But, my old-fashioned, conservative mind kept ringing a bell in my head saying, ‘How will they ever learn to play the game if they never have to see the ball go in the gutter?’   In the age of everyone getting a prize (both winners and losers), it’s something we see a lot. 

Bowling really is a game of skill that takes years to develop properly, but if we let our kids never experience failure, they’ll never get better.  I’ve heard both sides of the argument about the gutter rail and understand why some feel kids may get discouraged early if they can’t even get the ball down the alley.  I have seen 2 and 3-year-old kids learn and do pretty good.  The key was their parent’s coaching them every step of the way; not just letting them throw the ball down the alley like it’s a cannonball or baseball.

Was today a time for that kind of involvement and coaching?   Probably not.  Outside of the party factor, it was a good analogy of how we can be involved with our kids teaching them by helping them learn from their mistakes to be better at something, however.  If we make life so protected that our kids never have to suffer failure, when they get older, they’ll expect life to treat them that way and we all know that isn’t reality.  Life will come at them hard and fast.  If they haven’t learned how to overcome as a child, they’ll struggle as an adult, possibly for years, to learn the toughness it may take be successful.  Having gutter rails in life will only keep them from growing.

I, for one, remember those gutter balls.  I remember the embarrassment, the need to try harder, and the joy of finally learning to get the ball down the alley and landing my first strike.  From then on, it was game on.  That gutter wasn’t going to keep me down.  I can’t imagine not having to worry about it, or of having correct posture and throwing technique, until I got older. 

The same is true of life.  It was the rejections, the failures, and the challenges that made me stronger in the end.  The successes were great, but they were only great because I had failed before and knew just how special they were having earned them.  That, my friend, is what it’s all about; falling in the gutter, getting back out, and learning how not to wind up there again.   It’s a great lesson for our kids, and for all of us. No gutter rails for me… No way. 

 

Wishing you a blessed week my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/gutter-rails Mon, 19 Nov 2018 01:13:02 GMT
Summer of 1989 https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/summer-of-1989

 

          It was the summer of 1989, a year that would be a whirlwind of change for me, when I was sitting outside at the top of a field behind the church parsonage where I lived that year while working fulltime as a Youth Pastor.  The church was a local Methodist church in West Tulsa and I had just finished my first year of seminary at ORU heading toward a career as a Navy chaplain.

          Everything seemed to be going in the right direction (except the breakup with my girlfriend who moved to California and didn't want a long distance relationship).  The youth were wonderful, school was getting old, but still rewarding, I had my commission as an officer, and I was finally settling into life.  I decided to take my guitar outside that warm night and sing some worship songs while spending some time with God. 

          After about twenty minutes of playing (and annoying the neighbors I’m sure), I heard what was almost an audible voice in my heart say, ‘I’m calling you to California’…  ‘Ok’ I thought to myself.  ‘That was weird’.   I ignored it at first, but that same voice came back and repeated, ‘I’m calling you to California’.   I had a sudden understanding of what that meant.  I knew I was to go and look at the career office for Youth Pastor openings in California. 

          Within a few weeks of checking, and doubting myself, I was about to give up.  Then, once again, while sitting outdoors in the evening, I heard that same voice say, ‘Go check again’.  I had checked just a few days prior, but decided to obey.  SO, the next day I went and looked through the openings, and a new one popped off the pages.  ‘That’s it!’ I thought.

          After calling the pastor and having a great conversation, they invited me to come out to Turlock, CA and preach for a Sunday.  Everything came together that weekend.  The message couldn’t have gone better, the people were great, and I knew it was where I was supposed to be.  Within a few days of coming back to Tulsa, I received a call and an offer.  Everything in me said to take it, so I did.

          After putting my notice in at the Methodist church, I was off to California.  It wasn’t an easy decision for me.  I loved the youth and had the wheels in motion toward the Navy.  I had put everything into that career path.  But, God had something else in mind.

          Looking back on that summer, I sometimes wonder what I was thinking.  Yet, I know my kids, and grandkids, wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t obeyed that voice in my heart that night.  So much of my life was set in motion by that one moment in time.  Still, California wasn’t a paradise for me and life soon hit me in the face.  Hard. 

          By the end of that year, I was married to a girl I had just met, chose to leave the church I had just moved to over a misunderstanding, and pressure from past family, leaving me with no job.  Thankfully, within a month, a door opened in Southern California for a Youth Pastor position at a large church which would become yet another whole episode in my life. 

          They always say that hindsight is 20/20, and it is so true.  I was just a kid with little money, no local family, and nothing to turn to back then.  Yet, I had faith, hope, and trust that He would take care of me if He called me.   Along the way, I made mistakes, some poor choices, and found out that God is much bigger than my plan ever will be. 

          I’ll always be thankful for that summer of 1989 for the motion it set my life in.  After all these years (nearly 30 years), It will remain a moment I will look back on and be thankful.  Today, God has given me a beautiful wife, family, and a career that provides.  I still have family and friends in California today, and who knows, maybe we’ll end up there again.  If not, the time there served as a great lesson in life and, even though painful, a time which eventually brought me here. 

          We may not know what lay ahead when we feel God guiding us.  It probably won’t be what we expect.  What it will be, He only knows.  In the end, whatever it is, He will use it to shape us and make us more like Him.  And THAT, is what is most important. 

 

Many blessings my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/summer-of-1989 Sun, 18 Nov 2018 01:39:48 GMT
What's Under Your Hood? - Inner Healing https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/whats-under-your-hood---inner-healing

 

          One of the pastimes the Mrs. and I enjoy is going to the occasional car show.  We aren’t big car buffs but enjoy seeing some of the classics that have been cared for and upgraded with today’s modern engines.  They may look old on the outside, but underneath that hood, they are brand new with more power than most cars have on the road today.

          The Mrs. is particularly interested in seeing how something that was old and battered can be made new again; not just with cars, but with nearly anything.  Keeping the history alive by not altering the look but fixing the inside so something works like new is a great thing to see.  In some ways, our hearts are like an engine is to a car.  It’s where the power resides to take the outside where it needs to go.  If it’s broken, the outside isn’t going very far.

Our heart is also where our self-image resides.  It’s where the ‘real me’ is.  The outside surface is what we want people to see and adore, but under the hood, are all our emotions, feelings, and past hurts just waiting to slow us down.

One of the most significant events in my college days was when Vineyard Ministries came to visit our campus and help us learn how to pray for one another.  What we expected was a seminar about praying for the outward sicknesses people have.  But what we quickly learned, was that it was intended to teach us how to pray for each other’s inner healing. 

I had no idea, at that point in my life, that we could be walking around with wounded hearts keeping us bound up with fear, anger, and insecurity preventing us from becoming all that God intended us to be.  It never occurred to me that God may be interested in helping to fix what was under the hood as well as what was on the outside.   I’m not just talking about grace for forgiveness of our past, but about Him healing emotional wounds, painful memories, and the deep things we hide out of self-hate.

Sure enough, we learned about inner healing and, through the process of several days, lots of tears, and people having God show them things about me I didn’t even know myself, I found freedom from many insecurities I had buried deep inside as a result of past rejections growing up.  It was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever been through.  Many people will spend thousands of dollars and hours upon hours talking with a therapist when, in a few short hours, God can come in an heal those wounds permanently.

The great thing is that it’s never too late to find inner healing.  It may just give us that new engine inside of an old, age-worn body!  Like the restoration of those old cars, though, it’s a process.  There may be rust that needs to be removed, old parts that need to go, and adaptations to the new parts being installed.  We may even find parts that are unrepairable.  We may find it painful to let go of some those parts because they’ve been with us so long. 

When the process is complete, we can open the hood and see the fruits of God’s labor in our hearts.  Our engine will shine with newness, run smoother than it has ever run before, and we’ll have the positive energy to get this old body out of the garage and on the road again. 

I know I’m speaking in metaphors tonight and the subject can be a painful one to go through, but it’s important to consider that God may want to work on those past pains we’ve suffered to heal them.  He may want to replace those hurtful thoughts with happy ones.  He may want to fill us with a tank full of love and replace that old, burnt out oil that ties up our hearts. 

The first step is to simply ask Him, ‘God, if there’s anything in my heart that you know needs to be healed, please show me.  I welcome your healing hand in my heart to replace what needs to be replaced and fill what needs to be filled.  Most of all, I trust you God to show me your love in every area of my life, even those parts I keep hidden from you.’

It’s that simple.  I know if you can find a private place and dedicate some time, He will meet you there and will be more than happy to help you work through any of those past hurts that need healing.  Because, He cares.   Pretty soon, you’ll have a brand-new engine under the hood ready to take on life like never before…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/whats-under-your-hood---inner-healing Sat, 17 Nov 2018 01:03:31 GMT
Saturday Night Blue Light Special https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/saturday-night-blue-light-special

 

          Saturdays were something to look forward to growing up between the ages of 5 and 12.  It was the day we would probably be staying overnight at our grandparents home, and when we would make the trek to Kalamazoo for dinner at Ponderosa, followed by a stop at the local K-Mart store for some shopping.

          Walmart hadn’t moved into West Michigan in the early 70s, so it was K-Mart or the local Meijer’s for us.  Usually, it was K-Mart.  For many people who grew up then, the Blue Light Special was something we’ll never forget.  Store employees would cart around a stand with the flashing blue light on top highlighting 1-hour special sales at different places around the store. 

For some reason, the employee who would announce them always sounded like they were trying to audition for a local radio DJ position.  They would yell right into the mic, “Hey K-Mart shoppers!  Don’t miss the outstanding savings on aisle 13 for only 1-hour.  Yes, it’s our Blue Light Special!  Better hurry before they’re all gone!” followed by people ramming their carts trying to be the first ones to get the sale on toilet paper…

Ah, the memories.  There were no digital displays then.  No Super Wal-Marts. No online shopping.  And, no mobile phone check-outs.  Then, it was simpler, and everyone knew where to go to get the best deals; K-Mart.  Sadly, today they're nearly all gone.  Sears, who purchased them a while back, recently announced even more closings due to bankruptcy.   Gone are the Blue Light Specials leaving only the fun memories of shopping with the family and racing across the store for a chance to get that temporary deal.

I guess what makes the memory special to me, is the time we would spend together as family.  Sure, we weren’t out shopping at Macy’s, but I’m glad we weren’t.  What was important was our time together getting out of our small town of Allegan for a drive to the ‘city’.  We would laugh and enjoy each other’s company for the 45-minute ride each way.  Also, I would have to watch out for Grandpa’s matches he would toss out the front window after lighting his pipe as they would fly into my backseat through my window and land right on me (no air conditioning back then).   

After enjoying that steak dinner at Ponderosa and chasing those Blue Light Specials, we would all stay up late together watching MASH, The Carol Burnett Show, and Saturday Night Live.  It was the perfect end of a day filled with laughter and great memories, only to be topped by Grandma’s excellent Sunday morning bacon and eggs.

Looking back, I’ve learned to cherish our simple life and the times we had together.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but when we did do something together, it was special and something we all looked forward to.

I only wish my children could have known their great grandparents and had the chance to share some memories with them as I had.  They’re in heaven now and I know we’ll all be together again one day.  Who knows, maybe Jesus will pull a fast one on all of us when we all get there and announce a Blue Light Special!... Now, that would be just like Him…

 

Love always friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/saturday-night-blue-light-special Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:33:36 GMT
Coping With Failure https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/coping-with-failure

 

          If there’s one thing life has taught me, it is that persistence pays.  All of us go through times in our lives when we feel defeated, let down, forsaken, or like we’ll never amount to what we’d hoped to be.  Even though we feel as though no one can understand how we feel in those times, the reality is that we’re not alone in what we’re facing because a great many others have gone through something similar.

          When I was in bootcamp, one of the things Master Chief Ford said to us was, ‘Remember, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone out there has it worse’.   When I first heard him say that, I cringed a little thinking it wasn’t very compassionate.  But, over time and life, I’ve come to realize it was a wise word spoken by someone who has made it through many hard times. 

          In my 50+ years of life, I’ve not met a single person who has said to me, ‘You know, life is easy.  I just decided what I wanted to do, and it all came to pass.’  Quite the opposite in fact.   Nearly everyone I’ve come to know who is over the age of 45 has a similar story.  They all will say what they thought they wanted earlier in their lives hasn’t happened the way they planned, and the failures they’ve experienced, have only served to make them better today.

          In a world where we want to protect our children from failure, we are doing them a great disservice.  If we can’t learn to cope with failure at a young age, whether that’s not winning the spelling bee, losing the championship game, or just not being picked for a play, then we’ll have a hard time later in life coping with failure when it comes.   We’ll blame others for our failures, be unable to take responsibility for our own actions, and expect others to give us what we want just because we want it instead of earning it.

          Is failure easy?  No, of course not.  Should we avoid taking risks because of it?  No.  Should we change our whole life’s journey just because what we thought we wanted to do didn’t work out?  Not necessarily. 

          Back when American Idol was popular, we used to enjoy watching the show, not because we wanted to see who would win, but because it was fun to see how people dealt with failure.  Of course, the show played to them and made fun of some, but most of them did a pretty good job of making themselves look bad all by themselves.   The reason they acted so terribly when they weren’t picked was that they hadn’t learned to deal with failure and expected to be handed victory just because they were somehow more special than the next person.

          I’ve had many failures in my past that I’ve allowed to change the course of my life and the lives of others.  It was never easy to admit, but I did take ownership of each one.  Looking back today, I can say that I’ve learned many valuable lessons from them such as persistence, forgiveness of others and myself, humility, self-denial, sacrifice, and not to take myself so seriously.

          We all fail and make mistakes.  Anyone who starts their life out after high school or college thinking the world will be nice to them is living a fantasy.  The world can be cruel, hateful, and unforgiving.  It may even take everything you have for something you didn’t do. 

          If I had one thing to say tonight to my kids it would be to not allow your failures to define you.  Learn from them.  Grow with them and become stronger because of them.  Allow them to show you parts of yourself that you need to change and have the humility to do so.  Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.  Most of all, lean on God with all your heart, mind, and soul during those times.  He will help you through them and give you the strength to overcome any challenge you may face because He loves you and is proud of you.  Even when you fail…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/coping-with-failure Thu, 15 Nov 2018 01:58:31 GMT
Rivers of Living Water https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/rivers-of-living-water

 

          So many people today feel less than worthy of God’s love.  They may not admit it, but when asked how they’re doing or if they’d like prayer, the not-so-subtle apprehension and feeling of shame, shine like a bright spotlight.  Outwardly, they’d rather someone else who lives a more ‘holy’ life do the praying or communicate with God because, inwardly, they believe God doesn’t like them very much for the choices they’ve made throughout their life.

          They live with an unseen wall between them and God; a wall of fear founded on a view of God being angry with them all the time.  Where did that come from in their lives?  Everyone is different, but I would guarantee their view of God was greatly affected by their parental relationships as well as their upbringing in church. 

          Many religions put the burden squarely on us as though, somehow through living a ‘perfect’ life, God would love us more and allow us into heaven.  In my opinion, combined with a domineering parental relationship, this works-based faith has done more to keep people from experiencing the true grace of God than anything else.  

God is not the loving, grace-filled Father who welcomes home the prodigal with open arms.  Instead, He’s the angry, vengeful God who is just waiting for us to do something wrong, so He can punish us in this life, and in the life to come. 

Yet, Jesus taught us differently.  His example of love, grace, and acceptance was a slap in the face to the religious leaders of His day who burdened their followers with so many rules that they could never live up to them.  In fact, nearly every time Jesus was recorded as being angry, it was at their religious hypocrisy and control of the people.

I’ve met many throughout my life who put undo expectations on others to live a holy life.  Their condemnation and judgement are evident to many around them; accept those who have bought into their self-righteousness.  They subtly control others with manipulative comments, judgmental backbiting, and guilt.  They carry an air of spiritual haughtiness looking down at others who may have fallen away or made poor choices all the while excusing their own poor choices as someone else’s fault.   Sadly, those around them live in fear that they’ll do, or say, something that is ‘unacceptable’ thereby suffering the wrath of guilt and shame. 

Jesus didn’t die for us to live that way.  Quite the opposite!  He died that we my have life and that life more abundantly!   He sent us His Spirit to give us love, joy, peace, and all the fruits of living a life of grace.  He never said, ‘if you fail after accepting Me, you’re toast’.  Instead, the Bible clearly says that, if we confess our sins, that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

Jesus loves the unlovable.  He loves the lost.  He even loves those who think they’ve arrived.  He loves us all the same.  All He asks, is that we love each other unconditionally too.  That doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want, but it does mean that, if we fail, we have a loving Father who will forgive us if we ask (and not bop us on the head). 

Tonight, the words of Jesus when He said, ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water,’’ has been on my mind.  It’s the freedom from within that counts.  There’s no more fear, shame, darkness, or emptiness; just the free-flowing river of living water that comes through having His grace in our hearts.

Tonight, if you’re one of those who fear God and see Him as always angry with you, He’s not.  You many not believe it, but He’s in love with you!  He loves every hair, every cell, and everything about you because, not only did He make you, He died that you might have life with Him eternally.  You don’t have to earn His love or worry about losing it.  It’s yours forever.  You just need to open your heart and ask Him to show Himself to you.  Then, out of your heart will flow rivers of His living water to refresh, restore, and revive you in a way you’ve never known.  I guarantee it…

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/rivers-of-living-water Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:30:42 GMT
Family Time https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/family-time

 

          Earlier tonight, the Mrs. and I were enjoying an episode of Everyone Loves Raymond together.  This one was about the family going through withdrawals when their cable was knocked out.  They were forced to play a board game together instead of sitting in front of the TV.  The game they chose, ironically, was ‘Scruples’; a game where each player asks the other a moral question and how they would respond.  Needless to say, the comedy ensued when everyone tried to take the high road while exposing their own lack of moral fortitude.

The show reminded me of some of my most cherished memories growing up; the times we would sit around the kitchen table at Grandmas & Grandpa’s house during the 9:00-10:30 hour.  It was then, at the end of the day, that they would retire to the kitchen to enjoy a cup of coffee, enjoy some graham crackers, watch the evening news or a Tiger game together, or play a game with us when we were there. 

          It was a simple life for them.  The kitchen was very small, but they made it work.  As kids, we would have a glass of chocolate milk with our crackers instead of coffee, until we got a little older.  Coffee in those days wasn’t what it is today, either.  No Starbucks or freshly ground brew. Nope, it was Hills Brothers or Folgers with lots of sugar. 

          What made it special wasn’t the taste of the coffee, or even those graham crackers.  It was the time we had together without distraction just enjoying each other’s company.  Whether it was Yahtzee, a game of Tripoli, or just Crazy Eight’s, what was important was that time gathered together as a family.

          My grandparents were married well over fifty years and I would dare say that the times they would spend with each other, and together with family, in the evenings over coffee, played a role in their bond with each other all those years.  They could decompress the day’s stresses and bond while spending time together; something they both knew they could look forward to at the end of every day.

          Today, in a similar way, you can see how Starbucks has mastered the concept of selling the ‘experience’ of having a coffee, beyond just selling coffee beans.  What they learned was most important is what people feel when they have that coffee; not just the taste.  The atmosphere of sitting in a comfortable chair, listening to soothing music, talking with a friend or just surfing the web, while enjoying that coffee, is what it’s all about.  The same can be said for what we do together as a family.

          In our time together, the Mrs. and I would both wholeheartedly agree that it hasn’t been the great movies we saw that bonded us together.  Nope, it’s been those times when we’ve enjoyed a board game, a cup of coffee, or even just sat out on the porch together.   Thankfully, the Mrs. and I are both nostalgic and enjoy creating memories even though it’s become more difficult to do these days.

          For tonight, I wanted to keep a great memory alive by sharing about my grandparents family time with you.  They were proof positive that you don’t have to have a lot of money, the latest gadgets, go to the latest movie, or even have the finest coffee, to make memories that last a lifetime.  What they had was more important than all the rest combined.  They had love and enjoyed just being together.   And THAT, is all any of us really need…

 

May you have a blessed week my friend!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/family-time Tue, 13 Nov 2018 02:08:46 GMT
Never Forget https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/never-forget

 

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/never-forget Mon, 12 Nov 2018 00:22:42 GMT
Veterans Day https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/veterans-day

 

          If there’s any holiday that should cause us as a nation to pause all the political mudslinging towards one another, it’s Veterans Day.  A day dedicated to honoring those who put their lives in harm's way for the safety and security of us all.

          Even though I’m a retired commissioned Naval officer, I never had the chance to serve fulltime in the military, even though it was my dream to do so at one point in my life.  It’s left me with both a small sense of guilt and a greater appreciation for those who have. 

          So many have served our country, whether voluntarily or having been drafted, all over the world.  Their sacrifice and valor must be remembered and they are at the top of my list of people who should be respected and taken care of.   Whether people agree with the current president’s tone or policies, there is one thing we should all agree with; his unwavering support of our veterans and their families.

          Tomorrow, November 11th, is a time when we can put down our verbal (or social media) weapons and come together to thank those who have given so much.  Not just those who served, but also those who have supported them along the way; their spouses and children.

          Even though I’m still having to take it easy from my knee surgery, tomorrow I will be doing some things, more than posting a MEME on Facebook, to show my appreciation to those who have served.  One of which will be to donate to a non-profit which helps veterans in tangible ways.  It’s also important to remember that these veterans not only need our help on Veterans Day, but year-round, which is why I’ll be making a financial commitment to support beyond just tomorrow.    

Another will be to fly our American flag high on the front porch.  I’m proud of that flag.  I also know that it's because of that flag, and the willingness to protect it, and all it stands for, that everyone who has served in the military is motivated to something higher than themselves.    

Lastly, when we get out to the store this week, I plan to thank anyone who I come across who is wearing vet gear for their service.  So many have come home from life threatening circumstances only to be rudely treated by those who really can’t comprehend what they’ve been through.  They’re not asking for recognition, but they deserve respect and our gratitude. 

So, for all my veteran friends out there, carry on my friends.  You are appreciated and remembered.  Thank you for the sacrifices you made which most of us will never know.  In the end, you will be remembered.  Most of all, may God bless you and may God bless the United States of America...

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/veterans-day Sun, 11 Nov 2018 00:44:26 GMT
King of Flatulence https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/king-of-flatulence

 

          Well, it’s Friday night and I’m sure everyone is ready for the weekend.  For some, it’s been a difficult week with health challenges, the loss of friends, and the elections.  For others, it’s just been one of those weeks…  Me included.  Between the lingering flu and knee surgery, it’s time to cut wind and blow away for the weekend.

          Tonight, I thought I’d share a little something about myself that family members know all too well.  Growing up, one of the primary things I used to do, outside of Steve Martin imitations, to annoy teachers, friends, and family in a attempt to get attention (unhealthy at best), was to be the very best at making flatulence sounds.  And, boy, could I make them loud and realistic.  My OCD nature compelled me to practice and get them just right!

          Timing was often the issue, however.  It all started in 1st grade.  While the class had their heads down for a nap, I accidentally breathed over my arm causing a very loud noise that sounded perfectly biological.  The class erupted in laughter and I was sent to the principal’s office.  From that moment on, I became the King of Flatulence!

          Off and on, I would regularly get sent to have a sit down with authorities after exasperating my teachers.  There were periods of calm with some teachers who recognized the need for extra attention and gave it lovingly.  But the authoritarian teachers, well, unfortunately, they paid the price.  

          It peaked at 6th grade camp when they asked that I do an entire skit about it.  I will say, it was funny.  I guess the teachers decided if they couldn’t hold it back any longer that they should give it a place to let it go…

          Thankfully, I grew out of the need to be the King of Flatulence (well, sort of…).  It may just be my generation, but ‘potty humor’ has always made me laugh.  If one were to ask my kids, they’d probably say that the king never left the throne.

          So, tonight, here’s to having a good laugh and letting go of some steam before enjoying the weekend.  I’ll leave you with a clip from Blazing Saddles below. I probably laughed until I cried when I first saw it as a kid and still laugh today.  Trust me, it's a gas... I'm just saying...  

 

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/king-of-flatulence Sat, 10 Nov 2018 02:14:51 GMT
Ice Packs - Just What Our Country Needs https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/ice-packs-just-what-our-country-needs

 

          Four years ago, my right knee was catching when I would bend over or turn it the wrong way.  I later found out that it was because of a tear in the meniscus (the lining cushioning the knee under the cap) that was flipped up and causing my leg to lock with excruciating pain. 

What pushed me over the edge to get surgery was when we were at a burger place with our grandson drawing on the chalkboard.  My knee turned, locked, and had me on the floor with a sensation as though someone was literally stabbing me in the leg.  After hopping out with the Mrs.'s help, I knew it was time.

Surgery was quick, but recovery took a bit longer.  It was ice packs and drugs for the first week.  After a month of exercise and rest, the knee was much better (and still better today).  However, about six weeks ago, my left knee decided it was going to start having a similar pain.

After nursing the pain with NSAID painkillers, supports, walking without bending my knee, and just living with it, I decided it was time.   The doctor confirmed the worse with an MRI that I indeed had a complex tear in my left knee meniscus.  He also said there was no natural way for it to heal, and, that it would keep getting worse.   After a heartfelt reluctance, I made the choice to get it fixed. 

Today, was the day for the surgery so the Mrs. pampered me taking me there and back, getting me coffee, dinner, and a place to rest.  I’m also a tad stubborn, so she’s also had to fight me from trying to do things myself.  This time around, the pain is nowhere near what it was before (THANKFULLY), but the need to keep the area from swelling is still there which is where the ice packs help.

The surgery center gave us a massive bag filled with reusable packs that could cool the sun.  As I sat on the couch after kicking the dogs off, it was a joy to behold lowering the swelling to a point where there was no pain without even needing painkillers.

After sitting there and looking at those packs, I couldn’t help but think of the heated rhetoric in our country which is grown to the point of permanent damage.  The crowds are swelling under the heated words on both sides; from the top to the bottom.   What this country needs is a giant ice pack!

Like any argument, it can easily be diffused when both sides take a break, go to their corners, and cool off.  Easier said than done, unfortunately.   What will it take for the country to take a deep breath and cool off?  Will it take a tragedy before people on either side realize they must become more civil?   I pray not, but it appears we’re heading in that direction.

What we are seeing is a society wrought with anger, hate, and denial.  The blinders are on and people are putting politics above humanity.  All that matters is proving their point no matter what the cost.  The innocent bystanders are the kids who really can’t understand what is happening, but do feel the pain of the division, not just on television, but in their own families.  Truly, it’s not worth breaking relationships, especially family ties, because we disagree about healthcare, marriage, or capitalism is it?

Jesus said to turn the other cheek when we’re slapped on one side.  He said to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies as ourselves.  He said to be humble in heart and slow to anger.   He said to guard our tongues and minds.  All these wonderful truths seem to be getting drowned out by the noise in the media.

Tonight, my prayer for this country is that we can all put an ice pack on it and cool off.  Only then can we speak clearly with rational thoughts to have a civil discussion without threat of violence, name calling, and hateful words.   Hopefully, we will see a change soon, but it will take the church standing up amongst the darkness to be a light and an example.  And, for all of us to pray.  A LOT.  

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers tonight for my knee.  It's greatly appreciated (and those cool ice packs...).  Things should be back to normal in a couple weeks and then it will be off to the gym to get in shape…

 

Many blessings tonight!

 

Brad 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/ice-packs-just-what-our-country-needs Fri, 09 Nov 2018 02:29:02 GMT
Reflections https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/reflections

 

          One of the things I enjoy about landscape photography is the reflection of light and background over water.  It could be a tree, a mountain, or just a cloud.  No matter what it is, there’s something relaxing about it and it speaks to my heart in a deeper way.  

Photographers search for just the right mix of light, shadow, and reflection hoping to catch that one shot that will make them famous.  People around the world then try to imitate that same shot.

Artists do the same thing often including reflections over water or portraits with the subject looking into a mirror.  Interior designers and architects include light reflections in their designs to enhance their appeal.  People universally feel a sense of peace and introspection when viewing a photo, or painting, where reflection is on display. 

So, what is it about a reflection that speaks to us so much?  For one, they draw us into the scene as though we’re there and can feel the wind blowing through the grass and hear the birds signing.  Another reason, especially in a landscape scene, is that the reflection enhances the beauty by tying the foreground with the background; it unifies them by bringing dark and light together.  

Reflections can be powerful in art when depicting the subject viewing themselves in the mirror or in water potentially showing their inner or alternate self.  It may reveal feeling and emotion normally thought to be hidden from others, yet seen clearly in one’s own reflection.

For me, reflections have always led me to a deeper introspection; a look within normally not taken.  During a very challenging time in my life, one of the things I would do to help find perspective was to sit along the water in the Bay Area of California where I lived.  I would spend countless hours viewing the beautiful reflections over the water and breathing the sea air while reflecting on my life.  It was a place of healing and peace that I’ve rarely found anywhere.

The key then, and now, is making the effort to put everything else aside in order to be in a place where we can allow our hearts to reflect on life.  It doesn’t need to be a reflection about something challenging.  It could be a time to reflect on what is good; a time of thankfulness and gratitude as we look back at what we have and where we’re going.

One thing is for certain, as we view the reflection of light and shadows in the world around us, it will help us to look within and view our own selves.  There’s something about being in nature that connects us with the Creator.  Not everyone knows that’s what’s happening, but it is.  We are viewing His grandeur, His greatness, and enjoying the peacefulness He has created.  All for us to enjoy.  Something we tend to lose sight of in the concrete covered crazy world we live in today.

I want to encourage you, before the weather gets too cold, to take some time to walk around a local lake, have a picnic by the water, or go somewhere you can view His greatness (especially with the Fall colors out now).  Allow your heart to be open to hearing His voice and to soak in the peacefulness of His creation.  It may not be the ocean or the mountains, but His beauty is reflecting all around us no matter where we are. It's just waiting for you to enjoy it too…

 

Many blessings tonight my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/reflections Thu, 08 Nov 2018 01:25:49 GMT
Positivity https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/positivity

 

          After listening to only a few hours of tonight’s election coverage, I decided to turn it off and move to a live map to see the results instead.  I don’t know how much these folks get paid to sit in those seats and give projections that wind up being wrong most of the time, but I’d like to apply for that job!

          There is one thought on my mind tonight and that is positivity vs. negativity.  When I was younger, and in the ministry, I would hear some preachers teach that anything negative we say will have some ripple effect in our lives and in the lives of others.  Consequently, people who followed that teaching were petrified to say anything unless it was ‘positive’.   Not that there’s anything wrong with keeping positive, but those who lived that way seemed to fall into denial. 

They also seemed to become very disingenuous to the point that I would be afraid to tell them anything I was hurting about out of fear they would judge me for being negative.  Ironically, rather than making people around them happier, they seemed to make them feel bad.

The truth is that what we say comes from what we think.  The Bible even talks about it saying, ‘Out of the abundance of the heart our mouth speaks’.  That is why those people seemed disingenuous because, inside their hearts they were dealing with something painful and really needed to talk about it, but instead, were acting happy in order to cover it up. 

What I’m getting at is that it’s OK sometimes to sound negative.  Most of the time, it’s due to a hurt or issue we’re dealing with internally.  That’s not to say we should go around being negative about everything we see and hear.  Or, to be judgmental to others by nit-picking their faults and putting them down.  No, that would be a double-negative.

What it does mean is that for those who sometimes appear to be negative, instead of avoiding them, the opposite may be just what they need.  Not a fake overly happy attitude, but a positive, loving, and understanding one.  There’s nothing more genuine than someone who is truly happy, loving, and sees the good in us.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to turn the ship of our heart from a negative trend. The only thing I’ve found is to let go of our burdens and give them to God.  It’s to find forgiveness for our self and the ability to forgive others.  When we let go of the anger, the hurt, and the burdens holding us down, we find joy, peace, and a new positive attitude.  To deny those feelings and act happy just because we’re supposed to, will only make them worse in the long run.  

Along with our personal faith, finding a trustworthy friend, pastor, or counselor, to confide in can be a great help in the process of turning our hearts to the positive side.  Although one of the most difficult, taking that leap of faith to share with another what we feel, even if negative, can help us hear ourselves and come to a resolution we knew was there already.  We just needed someone to listen.

So, tonight, if you’re feeling stuck in a negative rut, know that there’s a way out.  Know that it’s OK because we all deal with those emotions.  I encourage you, rather than putting the fake smile on, find someone you trust to talk with who will help lift you up out of love.   Most of all, take some time to give those negative thoughts over to God.  I know He will listen and always love you no matter what you say.  If you do, you may find that smile on your face without even having to try…

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/positivity Wed, 07 Nov 2018 01:52:12 GMT
Turning the Corner of Change https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/turning-the-corner-of-change

 

          I was talking with a loved one earlier today and the topic of working with young people came up in the conversation.  He has been working with a children’s ministry volunteering to help with their audio-visual needs.  It’s been a big blessing for him to see children make that step of faith because they are so pliable and open to hearing about God. 

          The conversation then went into how, as we get older, the pliability and openness we once had as children, becomes solidified based on those earlier, formative years.  By the time we’re 25, our moral compass, values, and beliefs are mostly in place.  Sure, I’ve known people who are older, even older than I am today, who have turned that corner of faith and opened their hearts and minds to different beliefs, but it’s not common.

          Whether it’s our religious beliefs, our political beliefs, or our social beliefs, who we are is greatly determined in that first 25 years.  For some, the thought of turning the corner of change becomes terrifying.  Their beliefs are who they are.  To say they changed their political or religious beliefs, means they have changed who they are as a person and that’s something not everyone is willing to do.

          It’s the reason there is a such a drive to influence the philosophy of those in colleges today.  It isn’t by coincidence.  The push by some to take God out our schools by teaching secularism, the effort to demonize patriotism by removing the pledge of allegiance, and the concerted drive to change our history books, are all examples of a progressive movement to change our country by changing its future leaders.

          What then, is it impossible to change as we age?  Certainly not, but it does become more challenging.  The first step is to open our minds to hearing other opinions, no matter what they may be.  That’s a tough one today.  So many people want to be heard that they shout down those who disagree with them even resorting to name calling like little children.  Once that happens, the ability to hear the opposing opinion is gone.

The second, is being willing to question our own beliefs; will they stand the test of truth based on facts or are they based on opinions formed over many years of influence from every area of our lives.  This is even more challenging as there are things we believe because we were taught from a very young age that they’re true, but the facts may not support them.  We’ve based many decisions on them for our lives and to go back and question their validity may throw some of those decisions we’ve made into question.

Finally, the third is to see others, not as our enemy, but as fellow, equal God-created human beings sharing this small planet together for a very brief time.  If we lose sight of our humanity and our need for God, we’ll lose sight of fairness, equality, and love for our fellow man and fall into tyranny on all sides.  It will then become a struggle to see who can overcome the other.  Whether it’s a political, religious, or even a family issue, if we lose our ability to see the other as equal regardless of the past differences, we’ve lost a bit of our humanity.

So, tonight, as we enter an historical election tomorrow, the thought of change is heavy on my heart and one that I know our country is struggling with. Not only that, but the church wrestles with having a voice in an ever-changing world.  Lastly, so many families, including a few family members very close to me, are separated because of that unwillingness to change their views of another.  They’ve shut the door to even listening because of hardness that has developed over years of beliefs formed by hearing only one side of history.

I’ll be praying for God’s grace and will to be done tomorrow in our land, in our churches, and in our families, including my own.  No matter the results, we must remember that we are all, still, one human race who need each other.  And that, will never change…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/turning-the-corner-of-change Tue, 06 Nov 2018 01:55:22 GMT
I'm Not in the Mood https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/im-not-in-the-mood

 

          For all of us, there are times that we really don’t feel like it.  For me, it may be when the Mrs. is happy and wants to go shopping and I feel like taking a nap.  Or when I’m emotionally drained from work and don’t feel like hearing about anything emotional. Or, it may simply be not feeling like watching a movie on the Hallmark channel (that would be nearly all the time) versus anything else…

          When I was a kid, there was a fad (this would be the early 70s) that everyone became enthralled with for a brief time when the mood ring made its debut.   It was a ring that would change colors based on a person’s ‘mood’; blue for angry or disinterested and red for love or passion.  The ring was filled with liquid crystal (and lead) that would react to our body’s temperature.  That was its biggest flaw.  What if it we just came in from the cold or ran around the block?  What if we’re just a little thinner than others and have a lower body temperature?

          Anyway, it was quite a hit back then and drove people to the stores to buy one just out of pure curiosity.  Could it work?  Possibly.  But it would be more than slightly embarrassing if it showed someone was attracted to a person other than their significant other or angry with their spouse when they weren’t. I’m sure many of them found their way into the trash quickly just based on the amount of false-positive arguments they created.

          One thing we’re all rarely, if ever, in the mood for is to hear truth about our lives that we weren’t expecting or aware of; especially if it cuts to the heart of the matter of something we’re avoiding or in denial about.  I’ve known some people in my past who felt it was their duty to speak truth to people. Often, it was at a very inopportune time when people definitely weren’t in the mood to hear it.  Needless to say, they were either loved or hated by others.  Unfortunately, what they thought was ‘truth’ wasn’t always true and destroyed some lives in the process.

          So, should we base our willingness on hearing truth, or having that conversation which may make us feel uncomfortable, on whether we’re in the mood at the time?  I can say with 100% certainty that if we wait until we are in the mood, we will never hear truth or be confronted with things that we may need to change.

          One of the things I love about God, is that He has a way of speaking to us at times when we are more open to hearing Him.  It’s rarely while we sit in church.  Quite the opposite.  It’s usually when we’re going about our daily life.  It’s when we are not preoccupied with our agenda.  And, it’s always in a loving way.

          For me, He will usually confront me with a thought based on a question.  Something like, ‘How do think they were feeling when you acted that way?’ or ‘Do you love Me?’  He is perfect in His ability to cut through our hard hearts to the root of the matter; even when we may not be in the mood.

          No matter if it’s God speaking with our heart directly or through another person, it’s never easy to hear because we are never in the mood for change; especially if that means major changes.  It’s disruptive.   But, if we trust that the truth we’re hearing is for our good, and the good of others, it will be a lot easier to receive.  That is where trust and relationship come into play.  Rarely, if ever, will someone who we have no relationship with, or don’t trust, be able to speak truth into our lives.  We’ll never be in the mood for that.

          So, before we go and buy that mood ring (yes, they’re still available today), let’s build on trust and relationship with others.  Then, when that’s built, the opportunity to share truth in their lives will happen, even if they’re not in the mood.  Then, they, and we, can receive truth in a way that helps us all…

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/im-not-in-the-mood Mon, 05 Nov 2018 01:10:33 GMT
Vulnerabilty https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/vulnerabilty

 

          Vulnerability.  It’s one of the most difficult things for a man.  Woman, for the most part, gladly open their hearts to one another.  Wives, and girlfriends, long for their significant other to ‘open up' and share what they are really feeling.  Men, however, typically resist being vulnerable and would rather get a colonoscopy. 

          Why is that?  Why do men, and some women, protect our feelings to the point of superficiality?   Why don’t we allow others to know about what we’re really feeling inside?  I mean, it could be helpful if others knew we’re dealing with issues.  They may want to help support us.

          The other day, I looked up the generation ages and learned I was born in the last year of the Baby Boomers.  That’s the generation raised directly after WWII by The Greatest Generation.   You know, the one where men were strong if they didn’t show their feelings, women were expected to keep a clean house, raise the kids, and not ask questions.  Although one of history’s greatest generations, they had a lot to learn when it came to being open with one another. 

          Their children carried that example on in their lives.  As a Baby Boomer, I can relate.  My father, as much as I love him, has a difficult time talking about anything emotional.  Having been raised by my mother, I learned to be more open with my feelings (to a fault sometimes).  In that way, I’m somewhat opposite of the usual Baby Boomer male.  Yet, I can relate to having difficulty in sharing my feelings and here’s why.

          First off, for a man, the need to be a leader is instinctive.  The need to be the strong one, to be the provider, to be the one who is the protector, and to be the one who is always in control of his emotions, is something we all come by naturally.  Whether today’s politically correct culture views that as ‘regressive’ or ‘backwards’, isn’t important.  God made us that way.  So, yes, it’s not always easy to show our emotions because we don’t want to appear weak.  Bottom line.

          This carries over to our prayer life as well.  We even struggle with admitting to God our faults. We build walls between ourselves and Him because we are afraid to humble ourselves before Him.  Deep inside, we think we ‘have it all under control’ and don’t need His help unless it’s our last option. 

          Even worse, some men fall into the pride trap that says, ‘Look at all you’ve done.  You are amazing.  You are better than everyone around you.  God must really love you and He should be glad to have you on His team’.   Yes, I’ve met some folks with that issue and it’s not pretty.  

          In relationships, vulnerability is essential.  Unless we can be open with our feelings, fears, and emotional needs with one another, true intimacy will be impossible.  We may think we have intimacy, but if we’re hiding deep feelings of insecurity, fears of failure, rejection, or a host of others, they will come out in other ways eventually destroying what we once thought healthy. 

          What’s the solution then?  Should men go around with a box of Kleenex bearing their soul at every turn?   Of course not.  It does mean that, as men, we need to be willing to open up with our spouse, or significant loved one, about those things we wrestle with.  The key is trust.  We may be afraid that they will reject us or think of us as weak, but more likely than not, they will love us even more if we take that step of vulnerability with them than if we walk around with a fake persona of strength. 

          Tonight, here’s to all you men out there who struggle with being vulnerable.  You who would rather eat nails than cry in front of your spouse.  It’s never too late to be open.  It’s never too late to share your feelings, not just with your spouse, but with God.  I guarantee, He won’t reject you.  He already knows what you’re feeling anyway, so why not share it with Him?  It will take a load off your shoulders that you can’t imagine. 

          It won’t be easy.  You may feel terrified.  But, if you make a point of sharing even a small emotion you otherwise wouldn’t, perhaps some of those walls will come down that have built up over time.  Perhaps, you may find intimacy in a whole new way.  And, perhaps, you’ll find strength through trust that you never had before…

 

Love always my friend…


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/vulnerabilty Sun, 04 Nov 2018 01:38:03 GMT
Sick Day - Stuck in the Mud https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/sick-day---stuck-in-the-mud

 

          Tonight’s picture is a great analogy of how I feel at the end of this week.  After losing my voice yesterday, and still today, the branches of pain are stabbing me all over.  It seems my flu shot was a few weeks too late and the call of the wild has taken over this once healthy body of mine.  Not that it’s the end of the world.  No, I’m not one of those guys who milks their cold for all it’s worth (even though the Mrs. is glad to pamper me).  I’m the guy who, even though stuck in the mud, will keep working on the peddle until I get out.  If I have to put a board under the tire, sand in the hole I dug trying to rev the tires, or a rope tied to a pulley, I’ll find a way out of that mud pit. 

          Being sick isn’t something that happens often to me, mind you.  I try to eat healthy, walk nearly every day, and get at least the minimal amount of sleep needed.  It’s those factors that come into play from outside of myself that I can’t predict.  The touch of a creamer handle at Starbucks that was just held by someone who was sick.  Or, walking into a room, or plane, right after the airborne flu bug was just released by the child whose parents haven’t yet grilled into them that they need to cover their mouth when they sneeze.

          Some believe we’re sick because of some kind of sin in our life, or that we’ve somehow made God angry and He's punishing us.  To those folks, I would say there’s a much simpler reason we get sick than to blame a loving God.  The truth is that we live in a world full of choices, diseases, and imperfections.  Eventually, we’re going to be one of the ones who are affected by them. 

          In contrast, I am one of those who does believe in a God who can heal us.  He made us after all.  He is all powerful and all knowing.  He has made provision for our healing through Jesus and wants us to have health and well-being.  That said, after becoming a Christian, I prayed many times for God to straighten my crossed eyes.  I went to every ‘healing evangelist’ you could name at the time, but eventually, found healing through medical surgeries (four in total).  Did that mean God didn’t want to heal my eyes or that I didn't have faith?  I don’t think so. I do know that He probably wasn’t as concerned about them as I was because He loved me just the way I was. 

          For some, I’ve seen their illness healed immediately, without even asking God.  I’ve seen miracles of healing in my own family, and in the lives of others I've known, which doctors could not explain.  Why doesn’t that happen all the time?  One day I’ll ask Him about that. Until then, I’ll trust Him to know what’s best for us. 

          Ironically, I’ve seen God use illnesses, disabilities, and injuries to draw others to Him.  The challenges of raising a down syndrome child for instance.  Or, those who have given their all at war coming back missing limbs or paralyzed, being used to share God’s goodness despite their physical challenges.   

          As I sit and write tonight’s blog, I’m beginning to feel strength returning to my body which can only mean the white blood cell defenders are winning the battle against the viral invaders.   The sick day today was spent mostly resting which, for me, was rare; I felt a little spoiled too. 

I don’t blame God for my flu or for being sick.  I just thank Him that He loves me enough to keep me from even worse and for creating me in such a way that I can fight it off.  His goodness will always take the forefront in my life; even when sickness, disease, or loss try to steal from me, or my family.  Because, like Oral Roberts used to say, ‘God is a good God, and the devil is a bad devil’.  

 

Wishing you all a blessed, healthy weekend ahead my friends…

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/sick-day---stuck-in-the-mud Sat, 03 Nov 2018 00:33:36 GMT
Silenced - A Small Case of Laryngitis https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/silenced---a-small-case-of-laryngitis

 

          Earlier this week, I made a trip to San Antonio for a customer visit.  On the way back, I noticed some allergy symptoms that occur this time of year, but didn’t think much about them.  Being the OCD person that I try not to be, I was careful to wash my hands numerous times and use my portable hand sanitizer often.

          By the time I reached home, the symptoms seemed a little different than usual.  Then, yesterday, it became evident that they were only getting worse.  I thought to myself, ‘They’ll go away after the cold front moves in’.  The cold front came and went, but the symptoms didn’t change.

          The next day, Halloween, I ran to my favorite Costco for a quick hotdog and to pick up a prescription.  They offered to give me the flu and pneumonia shots while waiting, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not…?’   After getting stabbed in each arm, I headed home still fighting off the unusually strong ‘allergy’ symptoms.

          Overnight, they went into hyper-mode and kept me up all night leaving me sleeping on the couch to keep the Mrs. from losing sleep too.  This morning, my voice was an octave lower and I sounded like a chain-smoker.  I guess I was a little late to the game for the flu shot.

By this afternoon, my vocal chords decided they were done with it all too and took some time off right before two conference calls.  I was able to handle the first one fine, but for the second, I texted with the customer while they talked.  Thankfully, they were compassionate, and, to my surprise, the communication was more clear than usual and a bit funny.  Suffice to say, I now have a case of Laryngitis which, all things considered, may be a mixed blessing for the Mrs...

Just going half the day today with barely any vocal communication, has been a blessing in disguise forcing me to communicate in other ways, such as waving my hands, texting, and facial expressions (something I’m well equipped for…).  On a more serious note, it’s forced me to listen to my inner thoughts more and to take time to think before responding.  Even better, I’ve been thinking about those who can’t hear or speak.  To us, those are disabilities we can’t imagine living with, but for them, they’ve grown accustomed to not having what we take for granted.  They’ve coped and learned to communicate in other ways.

All too often, as a society, we view those with disabilities as less than; or ‘special’.  Yet, for them, we’re the ones who are different.  Their world is what it is, and they’ve had to adjust to survive.  For many, they haven’t just adjusted, they’ve thrived.  Inside, they are no different than anyone else.  They have the same emotions, intelligence, and spirit.  They’ve just learned to share it differently.

So, tonight, with this small case of Laryngitis, I’m taking some time to appreciate those who have learned to interact with life without their voice or hearing.  And, I’m taking some time to think through what I communicate more thoroughly without blurting out the first thing that comes to my mind; something that can only be a good thing.

I’ll leave you with the funny and inspiring clip below of a man who lost his voice 37 years ago and performed a great stand-up bit on Britain’s Got Talent.  He’s someone who hasn’t let his ‘disability’ stop him from pursuing his dream and being unique...  

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/11/silenced---a-small-case-of-laryngitis Fri, 02 Nov 2018 01:38:04 GMT
Just Stopping By https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/just-stopping-by

 

 

          Recently, we installed the Ring doorbell on the back porch since that is where we have most of the activity coming in and out of the house (not to mention where any would be thieves would try to enter).  We loved it so much, we decided to get another one for the front door too.  I finished installing that one tonight just in time for the Halloween trick or treat hours.

          After installing, I began thinking about those old television sitcoms where the neighbors, or relatives, would ‘stop by’; most of the time by just simply walking in without knocking.  Today, we have motion detectors and cell phone apps notifying us of anyone, or anything, at the door.  Quite a change from where we were at that time.

          Growing up, we would leave the doors unlocked nearly all the time.  We were never robbed, nor did we worry about anyone just walking in.  We lived toward the end of a dead-end road where everyone knew us and where everyone was mostly retired.  It was a safe, peaceful place to live.  But if they did stop by, we would welcome them in and offer them something to drink.

          One could probably list a hundred reasons why the culture today is different than it was then, but I would say one of the primary reasons is that we’ve become isolated with our technology.  We see so many horrible things that happen through social media taken by the video camera on a random cell phone, that it seems as though it could happen to us too, at any time.   In short, we’ve become more fearful than ever as a society.

          I’m speaking as much of myself as anyone.  I’m not comfortable with the ‘stop by’ anymore either (probably more because of my OCD tendencies than anything).  What we’re all missing, is the feeling of community; that sense that we all share this neighborhood together.  By living behind fences and nighttime motion detectors, we are isolated from those who live right next to us.

          Whether they have a ‘BETO’ or a ‘CRUZ’ sign in the front yard shouldn’t matter either.  We’re all Americans and we’re all part of one big community.  For my part, I don’t care if my neighbor is black, white, red, or green (well, maybe not green).  I don’t care if they’re Republican or Democrat.  I don’t care if they’re rich or poor.  All I care about is whether I can be a good neighbor to them. 

          So, on this night where we have the kids out picking up candy from the neighbors, it’s a good time to think about what we might be able to do to bless our neighbor sometime.  We have some new neighbors moving in soon and we’re going to make every effort to reach out to them and help them feel welcome.  I may not walk in the front door like Kramer on Sienfeld, that would probably cause them to get a giant dog to protect themselves from me.  But, we will be sharing our home with them if they like.

          I’ll leave you tonight with a funny comedy bit about how things have changed from twenty years ago when someone stops by and rings the doorbell.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I think you’ll get a good laugh by watching it.  Wishing you all a blessed week ahead my friends!

 

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/just-stopping-by Thu, 01 Nov 2018 01:47:12 GMT
Are We There Yet? https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/are-we-there-yet

 

          Today was a last-minute travel day back down to San Antonio for a meeting with a potential new customer.  The meeting wasn’t until 2:00, but my flight arrived at 8:15, so I had some time to sit and work while chugging coffee at Starbucks and grabbing a bite of BBQ at the local dive.

          The meeting went better than expected and I have a feeling we’ll have a new customer soon.  The business is located roughly 30-minutes north in a historical area, but has locations around the country. Overall, combined with the drive to/from the airport, the drive time today added up to about 3 ½ hours of road time on top of 5 hours of airport/flight time. 

Was it worth it?  Yes.  That is what we need to do sometimes to win business.  This customer, in particular, is one who likes the personal touch and making the last-minute trip showed them we’re committed. 

While on the way back to the airport and while waiting for the flight home, the age-old question, ‘Are we there yet?’ kept ringing through my head.  Memories of a trip to Florida from Michigan, trips to Northern Michigan, trips to visit distant family, and trips with our kids to Kansas, all played out in my mind for a time.  I’m sure many of you can relate to that question and how it made you feel when you knew you had a long way still to go.

It wasn’t that we were trying to annoy our parents or rush them. It was just that we were in our own world in the back seat.  We may have been anxious to get there because we were bored and tired of looking out the window.  Or, we may have been excited to get there because it was a fun place to go. 

We were consumed with our own agenda and not paying attention the road ahead, the dangers being avoided, the process of driving and what went into maintaining the vehicle for such a long distance, or the concept of speed versus distance.  We left all that up to Dad to take care of.  No matter what happened, we knew he would handle it.  All we had to worry about was the end of the trip and what we had to look forward to because we had faith that Dad would get us there.

So often, our walk with the Lord is the same.  Our lives are full of thoughts of where we want to be one day, what we’ll do when we get there, how great it will be, and how we’ll no longer be where we are today.  All too often, especially when I was younger, I didn’t think as much about how to get there as much as how I couldn’t wait to get there. 

Sure, I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t have a clue where or when at first.  After college, I had an idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, but that all changed.  I thought I had an idea of how to get there, but I really didn’t.  It wasn’t that I didn’t try, it was that God had a different idea of what He wanted for me.  The truth is, we will never know all the details of how to get there, how long it will take, the dangers we’ll need to avoid, and the work of maintaining the process to make our future happen.  

How will we get there?  Through faith.  The Bible says that our faith is the evidence of things hoped for and describes many people who walked out that faith not knowing where they were going, when they would get there, or how they would fulfill God’s promises.  And yes, they also became impatient with Him at times, like the people of Israel in the desert. They wanted to know, ‘Are we there yet?’…

Trusting God with our future is tough.  Often, we want to get there now and not wait or work through the process of getting there that He knows we need to work through.  That process can take a lot of time.  Some people prepare their whole life for just a short period of time that will impact others. 

So, the question for us isn’t, ‘God, am I there yet?’  Instead, He wants us to put our trust and faith in Him that He will work all things together for the good.  He wants us to know that he has the process all under control and that, even though it may be difficult at times, everything will serve a purpose to get us to where He wants us to go.  When that day does arrives, we will know it.  We’ll look back and understand why that long road was needed to take us to where we are and how, had we not taken it, we may never have gotten there. 

It’s the child-like faith of trusting our Father to get us there that will make the trip a whole lot more fun for all of us.   I, for one, am looking forward to that trip today and am putting my trust in Him to get me where He has promised.  Tomorrow will come and go, but today, I’ll trust Him and won’t be asking any longer, ‘Are we there yet…?’

 

Love always,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/are-we-there-yet Wed, 31 Oct 2018 02:16:34 GMT
Jesus Take the Wheel https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/jesus-take-the-wheel

 

          Life has a way of bringing itself to our doorsteps. Often at times we least expect it.  It may be the loss of a friend, a family member, or someone we love.  Regardless of the relationship, loss is one of the most difficult emotions to cope with and one we can’t allow ourselves to do alone.

          I’m reminded tonight of the famous song, “Jesus Take the Wheel”.  I believe the reason Carrie Underwood’s song resonated with so many people, Christians and no-Christians alike, was because, often in life, we come to a point when we realize we just can’t do it all alone; we need help.  It’s at that breaking point when we realize the only one who can truly help us is someone higher that we are.  Someone who is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving; Jesus

          Those times of awakening to our need for His help are often accompanied by the realization of what life has produced without Him, and that can be a hard reality to face for some.  Even though difficult, it’s necessary to see and understand, because if we don’t, we won’t ever truly let go of the wheel.

          I’ve run across many, myself included at times, who have felt that need to cry out and ask Jesus to take the wheel when things were going sideways and off the road, only to grab the wheel back after returning to a safe route.  The great thing about Jesus is that, when we do ask Him to take the wheel of our lives, even after we take it back, He’s always willing take it again because He loves us the same no matter whether we give Him control or not.

          It’s the unknown we often wrestle with; the fear of having to give up some of the independence we feel when we are calling all the shots.  The vulnerability of having someone else control and guide our daily decisions can be an insurmountable hurdle for some. 

For others, after living with Jesus at the wheel of their life, the thought of taking the wheel back can be equally frightening because they’ve come to trust Him and know whatever they face, he’ll get them through it.  They’ve learned what they give up for Him to take the wheel is nothing compared to what they gain.  What they knew as their plans seemed to fail time after time.   But, when they gave the wheel over to Him, their plans became His plans taking them to new and exciting places they never dreamed of.  When they faced tragedy, He was there with them helping them through the loss every step of the way.

If you’re struggling tonight with letting go of the wheel, let me encourage you to give it a try.  It's like the old saying, “What do you have to lose?”; especially, if your plans seem to never work out or if you are suffering through loss alone.  He will take the wheel if you ask and only if you ask.  When He does, you won’t regret it.  He will take what didn’t turn out the way you’d planned and make it something special in a way only He can.  He will take the wheel and get you on the right path again.  Because He loves you and wants what’s best for you. 

I’ll leave you with a clip of the song, “Jesus Take the Wheel” tonight.  It doesn’t take a huge prayer, reciting scriptures, etc.  It just takes a humble heart willing to let go and let God.  It just takes a simple prayer of faith and trust to let go of control to Him.  Remember, you’re loved the same tonight my friend no matter if you've clung to that wheel or let go a long time ago.  No matter what stage you may be in, He will make all things new if you take that leap of faith and give Jesus the wheel...

 

 

Wishing you a blessed week ahead,

 

Brad

         

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/jesus-take-the-wheel Tue, 30 Oct 2018 03:04:51 GMT
Dancing the Night Away https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/dancing-the-night-away

 

          Tonight’s blog will be brief because the Mrs. and I just returned home from spending the evening attending a friend’s daughter's wedding.  Our friends are close to our age and their daughter is close to the same age as our daughter.  Many of our friends from our small group also attended with us allowing us a chance to catch up with some we hadn’t seen for a while.  It was a smaller, more cozy wedding, but still had the DJ who brought with him a wide assortment of music mostly from our generation.

          Being in my 50s, most of the music played tonight was from a time when I was either a child in the 70s or in high school and college during the 80s.  Although familiar, it still reminded me of how old I’m getting.

          The highlight (or lowlight depending on how you look at it) of the evening was when the Mrs. decided it was time to get her husband off his behind and out on the dance floor.  It started with ‘The Twist” and worked its way into "The Power of Love".  I must say, the Mrs. is a great dancer (not too sure about her husband however). 

          It was the first time I’d danced in years and, you know, it was fun.  I was very reluctant at first, but the Mrs. can be very persuasive.  After a jig and a few moves, it was time to take a break for this guy, though.   Thankfully, I didn’t end up in the emergency room with a twisted back or broken leg.  The only thing I had to contend with was my bruised ego.  

          So, as I look forward to the week ahead, I may have a bit of kick in my step and bit of a pang in my back just to remind me that we’re never too old to have a little fun together with friends.  I may just have to try the dancing thing a little more often with the Mrs. (at home of course…). 

 

Love always friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/dancing-the-night-away Mon, 29 Oct 2018 03:59:24 GMT
Foundations - My First Teacher https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/foundations---my-first-teacher

 

          Having a day today to reflect on things and spend time with great friends was a blessing (along with a stop for lunch at In & Out Burger...).   The weather was perfect outside and the dogs took full advantage of it.  Tonight, it’s time to watch the youngest grandboy while mommy & daddy have some baby-free time together.

          Topping off the great weather and burger for lunch, was a call with my first teacher, Mrs. Hanse who was my kindergarten teacher.  She and her husband were passing through Dallas.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet up in person because of prior commitments, but we did talk over the phone for a bit.  After 48 years, it was wonderful to hear her voice again. 

          Mrs. Hanse was one of those teachers who emanated love for all her students.  She remembers details about us from back then even to this day.  One special memory she shared with me was that I had led the kindergarten band and how it blessed her later in my life to see me lead the marching band.  I didn’t remember doing that in her class but was blessed to hear it.

          She helped us all learn our alphabet, numbers, and art.  She would read us all stories and helped us build the mighty forts made of those cardboard bricks we used to love so much.  We would sing songs and march around the classroom together.  She was the one who taught me the pledge of allegiance to the flag; something I cherish today. 

          In the town I grew up in, the kids I started kindergarten with were the ones who we went through school with.  We all share the same memories of that West Ward Elementary; and Mrs. Hanse was one of the great ones.  Unfortunately, I became a bit of a class clown in the years to follow, so I don’t think some of my teachers after her would like to give me a call as she did today…

          The foundation she laid of a loving, caring, and yet strong teacher has stuck with me all these years.  I can say that having a teacher who would care enough to reach out to me after 48 years tells you everything you need to know about her.  Though she’s lost her sight today, she has the same positive and lovely attitude she did then.  

          So, tonight, I want to call out to Mrs. Hanse and say thank you!  Thank you for your patience with this little cross-eyed, blonde headed kid who was a bit of a handful at times.  Thank you for caring even to this day.  And, thank you for just being you.   May every young person be blessed to have a teacher just like you in their life…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

         

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/foundations---my-first-teacher Sun, 28 Oct 2018 00:40:53 GMT
Bite Your Lip https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/bite-your-lip

 

          Have you ever bitten your lip and then bitten it again, and again, after it swelled up?  Well, that’s what’s been happening to me this week.  Tonight, at dinner with the Mrs., I was enjoying our date night with a bowl of beef Thai Dynamite when, for the third time this week, my front teeth sank right into my right-lower lip…  OUCH!  Yes, it drew blood.  The people next to us must have thought I got a knuckle sandwich for dinner instead of a rice bowl.

          To say biting my lip was painful is an understatement.  I’ll be chewing on the other side of my mouth for a while and maybe switching over to straws.  Regardless, that moment reminded of a very important lesson I was taught in my early years that I sometimes forget; to bite my lip when I feel like saying something and I know I shouldn’t. 

          After dinner, we went over to our other favorite hang-out, Trader Joe’s, to get a few things.  The Mrs. decided to get a cart because the last time we were there, I had made a comment about carrying one of the heavier items around the store.  For some reason, it annoyed me a tad, so I said, ‘says the one who just read the book, ‘How to Annoy Your Husband’.  She was quick witted and replied, ‘And you wrote the book, ‘What Not to Say to your Wife’…  LOL…  Nice one honey. 

          It’s not always easy to know when to ‘bite your lip’.  Today, the phrase should be updated to ‘bite your fingers’ because social media and texting are where people feel freer to say what they think.   I can say, without hesitation, the times I’ve had those conversations I regretted the most was when I didn’t follow that principle.  I know, it’s tough sometimes, especially with kids, but allowing our tongues to rule us will only cause more harm that we can imagine.

          In the era when everyone is crying out about ‘free speech’ and ‘resistance’, not to mention all of the political rancor on both sides, it’s easy to lose site of the age-old principle of being ‘slow to speak and quick to listen.’   Even in our relationships today, the drive to keep others from being ‘triggered’ and politically correct, has caused many to go to either extreme; to not care at all or to not talk at all (at least about anything other than the weather). 

          What we need today, and in our lives in general, is a dose of common sense and wisdom.  I’ll be the first to say that takes time and practice.  It also takes humility and the ability to look beyond the words we hear to the person saying them.  The only way I can do that is through the grace of God, to be honest.  In our own selves, the need to defend our point of view, to be right, to prove to others that we’re something, and to give our opinion when uninvited, is all too easy.   To wait, listen, or not even respond, is something that takes strength from within.

          For me, Jesus was a perfect example of one who 'bit His lip' often.  Only when He had a direct word to the religious hypocrites, did He get after them.  He asked a lot of questions, listened, and replied with wisdom instead of anger.  When falsely accused, He didn’t answer at all (something that takes supernatural strength).  He was the epitome of grace with people from all walks of life.  He went beyond the outside, surface needs to the heart of the matter encouraging, teaching, and uplifting people.  That, is what I want to be more like.

          So, between my biting my lip until it bled and having the Mrs. wisely put me in my place tonight, I’m more motivated to give God my tongue more than ever.  It was a great reminder that our words can lift up or tear down.  I, for one, want to be the one lifting up and not tearing down.  I want my words to bless others, not curse them.  I want my words to encourage, not discourage.  Most of all, I want my words to be known for love, and not hate.  If biting my lip every so often helps me along that path, then I guess I’d better get to it…

 

Love always and happy weekend my friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/bite-your-lip Sat, 27 Oct 2018 01:11:25 GMT
They Know My Voice https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/they-know-my-voice

 

          Tonight, was a fun night.  We had a chance to take the grandboy to our local Halloween event at the community center.  He was dressed as Master Chief from the video game Halo and had a great time collecting candy, playing games, and taking the air-filled obstacle course multiple times. 

          Afterward, while walking back to the car which was parked far away due to the popularity of the event, we met up with some of his friends from their homeschool co-op.  Being with his friends, he became a little preoccupied.  Because the sun was setting and getting dark, we wanted him to stay close, which he mostly did, except one time. 

It was that one time when he got too far away with his friends, who were all playing loudly, when Gammy called out his name, ‘Noah!’  He quickly turned around and came back to walk with us.  It was a blessing to know that he not only recognized Gammy’s voice, but that he turned around and obeyed, even though he was having fun with his friends.

Not only was my heart warmed, but the scripture in John where Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ rang loudly within me just then.  The Lord was reminding me of a valuable life lesson.  Noah knew Gammy’s voice after years of spending time with her.  He knew Gammy loved him.  He knew Gammy calling him wasn’t because she was angry, but because she was concerned for his safety.  He wanted to please Gammy even though he was having fun with his friends.  And, he knew Gammy would keep him safe (and Grandpa would too of course…). 

In the same way, God wants to have that kind of relationship with us.  He wants to be so close to us that we hear His voice even in a deafeningly loud world full of other voices.  He wants us to be assured and confident in His love for us not thinking He’s always angry with us.  He wants us to know that, if He calls us to do something (or not to do something), it’s only because He wants what is best for us.  Most of all, He wants us to desire to please Him above all others in this world. 

Sometimes, God amazes me how He can take a moment like tonight to let me know how much He loves me.  He wants the same for all of us.  He is a loving father who gives us freedom and also calls us to safety when we get too far away from Him.  He sees the dangers we don’t.  He knows the path ahead and can guide us through it when the light around us is dim.  He will be there at the beginning and at the end.  He would rather give His own life (and He did) than to see our lives lost along this life's path because He loves us that much. 

No matter what you may think about the whole Halloween candy and costume thing, God used a little boy and his Gammy to speak to my heart tonight, and hopefully yours, to say He’s calling, He cares, and He will always be there…

 

Love always friends,

 

Brad 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/they-know-my-voice Fri, 26 Oct 2018 01:46:05 GMT
Paying the Price https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/paying-the-price

 

          Like every travel day, today was no different.  The need to get to where I was going in just the right time was utmost on the mind.  The need to find a parking spot, to find the lobby, to find the restaurant for the client lunch, and the need to get back to the airport, were all part of it.

          Our customer meeting was from 10:00-11:00 and then we all went to lunch afterward.  Because of the number of people going, I went separately.  After fifteen minutes of trying to find the restaurant on Google maps because I misspelled the name, I broke down and asked Google to tell me where it was.  Within seconds, I had the right name spelled out and the quickest route to get there.  I was a little late, but made it there thanks to Google.  I must say it left me feeling a bit of a dummy, even though it was something to laugh about with the customer. 

          After nearly three hours, the sales rep who I work with and I were able to establish a stronger relationship with a very large oil & gas company's software team and will probably be getting business from them soon.  But, it wasn’t just those few hours that went into the successful meeting.

          What the customer won’t see were the many efforts that went into making the trip, the cost of the tickets, the years of working with similar customers, and the hours preparing in advance.  Those few hours were successful because we not only paid the price to be in front of them, but we (both us as salespeople and our company) paid the price to have the experience enabling us to serve them in the way they need to be.

          It left me thinking of how some of the most important events in our life seemingly happen in a relatively short amount of time.  Yet, most of them, if not all, were brought about by an accumulation of decisions made over years, both by us, and by others.

          So many young people today expect to go out into the world and have the 100,000 a year job given to them, but quickly find out that life just doesn’t work that way; most of the time.   The reality is that the six-figure job may never come.  And, if it does, it will be after years of hard work, education, and even failures.  I know I’m a tad ‘old school’, but what I’ve learned about life is that we must pay the price to be a success.  If it’s given to us, we will never appreciate it.

          In 2000, I had recently moved to Texas and decided to change careers to software sales.  After living in the Bay Area in California seeing all of the young people just out of college getting rich with .com stocks, I said to myself, ‘I can do that…’.   Unfortunately for me (well, probably fortunately), the stock market busted and those .com’s went away.  So, I took an entry level job for a Dallas-based software reseller and decided to start from scratch.

          After a year, I was named 'Employee of the Year' and moved into an outside sales role.  From there, I worked my way up to be one of the top reps in the company.  It’s been eighteen years since then, and I can say without any hesitation, that any success I’ve experienced was because I paid the price. 

          Watching the lottery frenzy this week made me think of the many who have won millions only to go bankrupt a few years later.  Because they didn’t pay the price (well, maybe a few bucks for a ticket), they didn’t appreciate and respect what they were given.  Over a short time, it was gone.

          My advice to my kids tonight is don't give up.  Don’t allow the world to beat you down.  You take the world by the horns, with God’s help, and pay the price.  In time, you will see yourself in a place you would never have been if you had just sat back and waited for it to come to you. 

You can do it.  It may be tough.  Your time with the family may be less than you want, and the pay may not be what you’re hoping for, but things will get better.  With God on your side, and only with Him on your side, you can’t lose.  He will guide you and keep you through the most challenging of times.  And, never forget, we love you, are proud of you, and we’re here to cheer you on too… 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/paying-the-price Thu, 25 Oct 2018 01:41:02 GMT
Herding the Cattle https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/herding-the-cattle

 

 

          Today and tomorrow are travel days for me.  Today was San Antonio and tomorrow will be Houston.  They’re day trips these days so that means getting up at 4:00ish and getting back around 7:00ish.  In between, there are plenty of opportunities to view humanity in all of its glory.

          For the people watchers of the world, there’s simply no better place than the airport to view every segment of our society in one big melting pot.  Sure, the occasional homeless person isn’t in there or the violent criminal, but nearly everyone else is.

          Today was no exception.  Between the crying kids who didn’t get their way, the traveling business people, the parents of infants with all their stuff, the family travelers, the veterans in wheelchairs, and the elderly who are confused how to use the terminal and walking with a cane, you begin to think about what Jesus must have felt when the crowds followed Him.

          Now, the airport isn’t a church, but neither were the dusty roads around Galilee and Jerusalem back then.  In fact, Jesus only preached in the temple a small proportion of the time that He spent teaching.  I’m not Jesus either. But, I can feel His heart when around that many people.

          Looking around the crowds, I couldn’t help but to feel a mixture of emotions.  On one hand, I had to fight the temptation to judge a few people who were clearly not caring about anyone but themselves.  On the other, I was able to witness several married couples who seemed to know what the other was thinking because they’d been together so long.

          The group of Grandmas traveling together laughing their way along brought a smile to my face and the man who was sleeping while sitting up and his wife staring at me with a blank look on her face that would make you think she’s at a loss for words, caused me to laugh.  The looks on people’s faces when they observed a child screaming because she didn't get her way, get up and run down the airport walkway, was also priceless. 

          The one thing that stood out in my mind more than anything, as has nearly every time I travel, was just how much we’re all so vulnerable and alike.  It doesn’t matter who you look at, we all have the same emotions and physical needs.  We all age, we all have challenges, and we all have joyful moments.  All of us need one thing; we all need love. 

          That’s the bottom line isn’t it?  Love.  There was no way Jesus could have spent so many hours with the crowds traveling in the hot sun while they continually complained about things, pulled at him to be healed of their sicknesses, and demanded that He perform miracles.   It wasn’t out of a desire to be famous that He spent His time with them.  It was because He loved them.  He longed to be with them whether sick, poor, rich, sinner, or saint.  He loved them all.

          In the same way, He loves us all today.  He draws no distinction between the beautiful and the homely.  He doesn’t show favoritism to the rich over the poor; quite the opposite in fact.  He doesn’t judge us by how we’re dressed, whether we have perfect speech, or if we’re educated.  He loves us all the same.  He just loves.  It’s that simple.

          When thinking about His unconditional love today, I felt disarmed and humbled.  I felt somehow relieved from the pressure to be something I’m not.  I felt more willing to talk with that stranger or smile when I could tell someone needed a smile.  I felt more love and that’s all He wants of us.  To just love. 

          Tomorrow, I’m sure these words will haunt me from time-to-time at the airport, on the road, or on the plane.  I’m glad they will because I need to be reminded that it’s not about me.  It’s about us.  It’s about what I can do for others and not what they can do for me; even if they are self-consumed themselves.  We’ll see how tomorrow goes.  I’m looking forward to sharing when I get home.  Until then, have a blessed day my friends!

 

Brad

 

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/herding-the-cattle Wed, 24 Oct 2018 01:16:00 GMT
Power On High https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/power-on-high

 

          When I was sixteen and had recently become a new Christian, I fought to keep my heart and mind focused on God; it seemed as though everything was a battle.  Even reading the Bible was like reading a science book.  Nothing seemed to come easy.

          Close to a year after, when I was shopping with a friend at the local Christian bookstore, I came across a book about the Holy Spirit.  The book had a dove on the cover and seemed to stand out amongst all the rest.  My friend said, ‘Stay away from that. That stuff is crazy’.  Ironically, his parents would later help me understand the work and person of the Holy Spirit.

          As we were about to leave, something in me just wouldn’t let go.  I turned around, walked back in and purchased the book.  Within a few days of reading it, I wanted more.  I wanted to know more about the Holy Spirit.  I remember asking our church organist about it and she recommended that I read a book called, ‘The Helper’ by Catherine Marshall.

          I must have read that book two or three times. It talked about the Holy Spirit, not as a mystical invisible power that makes people do crazy things, but as one called alongside of us to help us in our walk with the Lord.  I knew then, I wanted that power in my life.

          One Sunday morning just a little while later, after praying every day for God to give me more of the Holy Spirit's power, I was watching a television preacher who was praying for a woman when, all of a sudden, I felt energy come all over me.  In my mind’s eye, I saw what looked like a bucket above me being poured out.  Waves of God’s love washed over me continually.  All I could do was cry because of the great sense of joy and love surrounding me that I’d never experienced before.

          I grabbed my things and quickly drove to our local Methodist church where I was a member.  Because I was a few minutes late, I had to park down the street.  As I ran to church, I’ll never forget how beautiful the flowers looked that day.  It was as though someone had taken off the vail covering my eyes and everything seemed, and felt, like new.  Still crying, I sat in the back of the congregation.  The pastor asked if anyone had something to share.  Without hesitation, I jumped up, still crying, and said, ‘God filled me His Holy Spirit this morning’ (not something you would normally hear in our Methodist church).  To my surprise, everyone clapped and rejoiced with me.  It was a moment I’ll never forget.

          From that day on in my life, though I’ve strayed at times, my life has never been the same.  When I read the bible, it comes alive.  When I pray, it’s as though He’s there with me.  When I talk with people, He shows me what to pray with them about.  In every area of my life, His presence is constantly working to help me.  He isn’t some strange presence only crazy Christians believe in.  No, He’s God in us and called alongside of us.  He, the Holy Spirit, is truly our Helper.

          If you’re looking for that power in your walk with the Lord, I want you to know that it’s for everyone.  We’re all equal in His eyes and He promised the Holy Spirit to all who would believe.  If you want to know more, a great place to start is by reading the same book I started with, The Helper, by Catherine Marshall.  She has a great way of demystifying the person of the Holy Spirit and will help you make sense of the power that is available to us all.

          That power from above is available today in our hearts and lives.  He wants us to walk in joy and peace.  That joy and peace comes from the Holy Spirit within us.  He will make all things new.  He will fill our hearts with the strength to overcome any challenge we may face.  He will be with us throughout our entire life.  He’s just waiting for us to ask.  When we do, He will fill us with a power and presence only He can bring and, that, is something I need every day…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/power-on-high Tue, 23 Oct 2018 01:50:10 GMT
I Am Not Ashamed https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/i-am-not-ashamed

 

          A few years back, the Mrs. and I had a chance to visit South Carolina and Georgia while on vacation.  We saw many great historical sites, but one that stood out to me was the Old Sheldon Church Ruins located between Savannah and Charleston. 

          The historical site is the location of one of the oldest cathedral styled churches in America dating back before the revolutionary war.  Just to see the remains and artifacts from over two-hundred years ago was priceless, and solemn.

          As we walked the grounds we learned the church had been burnt down numerous times over the years, including during the Civil War by General Sherman when he made his March to the Sea.  Today, just the brick pillars and outline of the church remain. 

          Seemingly buried in the woods, one realizes the lifestyle people had in those days.  It sits off one of the main trade routes traveled by horse & buggy for many years that is now one of the main roads between South Carolina & Georgia.  The wealthy plantation owners and businessmen who lived in the area making their fortunes on rice and tobacco, helped to build the church (along with many slaves I’m sure).

          The main thing I’m reminded of when looking through the photos and reminiscing about the day we visited, is how far we’ve come as a country; from establishing our independence, civil war, the industrial revolution, world wars, all the way to where we are today.  Through all of that, the church has played a central role.

          Sadly, the church’s influence is waning more and more.  Secularism and socialism are trying to take a hold, pushing to denigrate our religious heritage down to nothing more than an out-of-touch, old-fashioned, even racist, institution.  Yet, it’s the church that has helped to keep this country from pulling itself apart on more than one occasion. 

          The church isn’t a building.  It’s not an ‘institution’ or one denomination.  It’s not even a ‘religion’.  It’s much, much more.  It’s a people of faith.  A light for hope and grace in a world pulling itself apart from within.  It’s a cornerstone to build a strong society on and a guide that helped establish the very laws we live by today.

          As a church, if we allow ourselves to be pulled behind a blanket and muzzled from speaking by those who would portray us as the opposite of what we are, then we will have lost our effectiveness completely.  Being willing to stand up for what we believe in unashamedly, is critical because there are people who need the message of the gospel all around us.  It's them who we must keep in mind when we are challenged to be silent.

          A few days ago, I felt a fear of using the name of Jesus in my blog because I knew there will be those who read it who aren’t believers.  They may even think Christianity is nothing but a crutch and that Jesus was just some historical person.  In short, I was worried more about offending them than what I knew was the word I had in my heart that could help them.

While on a walk the morning after, the words Jesus gave to His disciples, ‘If you are ashamed of me before men, I will be ashamed of you before my father’, began to ring in my mind.  I knew exactly what was happening; God was telling me to let go of my fear of man and to not be afraid to share His love with others; no matter what they may think. 

I’m sure the church felt fear and persecution all the way through our country's history.  Those who have been able to overcome those fears and boldly share their faith are the ones who have made huge impacts on who we are today.  God never promised being a Christian would be easy.  He just promised that He would be with us no matter how hard it becomes.

I may not always share my faith in this blog, but I do pray that what I share helps someone. It may seem ‘out there’ for some; and that’s ok.  I’m not trying to convert anyone.  I only want to share what I know to be true in my own life; that Jesus is real, that He loves us, and that He is here with us in our hearts, if we only believe.  And that, my friends, I’m not ashamed to say, is everything to me and I pray that, if it's not already, may be everything to you too…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/i-am-not-ashamed Mon, 22 Oct 2018 02:25:03 GMT
Multiverse - Beware of the Dangers https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/multiverse

 

          One of the most common themes among sci-fi, super-hero, and primetime television programs is the theme of the ‘alternate universe’ or, as depicted in modern physics; the multiverse.  The shows often portray other universes as existing along-side of ours with the same timeline, but in another dimension with the same people as our dimension living out different choices and lives.

          I know, theologically that’s not possible.  Certainly, Heaven is in another dimension than ours, but to think that there are an unlimited number of ‘me’ out there is truly a scary thought indeed!  Still, it’s fun to imagine if science is correct and what that might mean to us all.

          This morning, the Mrs. and I were at our favorite coffee shop getting a brew.  While standing in line, we noticed the shop had put a semi-transparent sticker with an image of a man from old on the glass door of the refrigerator.  It appeared as though there was a ghost peering at us through the glass.  A great effect for sure, but it made me think about those who’ve gone on before us.

          Being the time of year that it is, everywhere we look there’s a movie ad, a television show, or some kind of book about ghosts and evil spirits.  This year it seems there’s even more fixation on the dark ‘multiverses’ out there.  Ironically, it’s easier for people to believe there are evil spirits, or even good ghosts, in this world than it is for them to believe there are angels, heaven, or forbid, an all knowing, all powerful, all present God in charge of it all.

          Perhaps the reason we have so many people today obsessed with the ‘dark side’ is because there really IS a dark side.  And, that dark side wants people to obsess about it to keep them away from the light of a loving God.  Maybe, the dark side knows we are more than just flesh and blood and wants to keep us from an eternity with its arch enemy; God.  I believe that is the case.

          I’ve personally experienced some of these dark forces over the course of my life and can say, with 100% certainty, they do exist.  And, the only thing I’ve ever come across that has power over them is my faith in Jesus and the authority of His name.  Nothing else.  

Many unwitting young people get themselves into a dangerous place when they toy with these dark forces through witchcraft, Ouija boards, tarot cards, spells, and seances.  It is far greater than they understand.  My own family, years ago, purchased a Ouija board and tried it.  After it began to spell curse words and evil things, they took it out and burned it.

          The Mrs. and I visited a well-known historical hotel in East Texas one time.  While taking an un-official tour upstairs with the cleaning lady, we heard children crying at the end of the hallway.  The problem was that there were no children in the hotel.  The sound was coming from a room that had been host of a school that burned over a hundred years ago killing all the children.   The cleaning person said it’s common for people to hear that.  In fact, many people have been chased out of that hotel (including a few famous Hollywood people) at night because of things moving, pounding on the walls, and faces appearing in the mirrors. 

          These dark forces want nothing more than to destroy our lives.  They long to control us by gaining access through seemingly innocent things as well as through the pleasures of this world.  Even Jesus himself was tested by the devil in the desert, and many other times I’m sure. 

          What do we say to our young people during this time of year who may think we’re just crazy or just trying to scare them to keep them from doing something fun?  The last thing we want is for them to experience these dark forces or to lose their life to them.  

          The first place I would start addressing these things with young people, and I have in the past, is with the good news that God is greater than any evil in the world.   We need to warn them of the dangers of toying with them in no uncertain terms and that, if they do find themselves in a place of compromise with them, that we have a power much greater in the person of Jesus.   We need to teach them that HE is the ultimate authority and has all power over those dark forces. 

          Thank God we have a savior who not only loves us but gave us power to live this life in victory over the dark forces that exist around us.   Thank God that, in the ‘next life’, in the heavenly dimension, we’ll have eternity with Him if we only believe.  No need for any of the spiritual toys to speak with Him today.  He is with us all the time and is always willing to speak to our hearts.  Most of all, He will keep us from all evil and will give us His great light of life if we only ask…

 

Wishing you all a great weekend my friends,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/multiverse Sun, 21 Oct 2018 00:06:21 GMT
You Are Loved https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/you-are-loved

 

          It’s not something we generally think about during the day when challenged with traffic, work, family, and life in general, but it’s a constant that is always there.  It’s the foundation of millions of people’s faith around the world and the cornerstone of what I try to base my life’s choices on.   It’s something we know when we feel it and see it played out in other people’s lives.  What is it?  God’s love.

          Tonight, I have the strong impression that there is someone out there who is feeling like giving up.  You’re feeling like no one, especially God, could love you.  You’ve felt separated from Him for some time.  The glimpses of His grace have come & gone, and today, you’re left with an overwhelming sense of guilt and self-condemnation.

          This blog is for you.  He wants you to know that He loves you no matter what you’ve done.  During those times when you allowed the darkness of life in, He was there with you.  He never walked away even though you chose a path away from what you knew He wanted.  He walked right by your side the entire time protecting you and calling you home.

          It may not seem like His presence is there anymore, but He is. He’s as close to you now as those times of glory and rejoicing.  His heart is reaching out to you right now saying, ‘come home son, daughter.  I’m here waiting for you with open arms and an open heart’.  

          Life is too short to allow ourselves to live in the shadows of our past mistakes.  He has made a way for us to find forgiveness, and it’s free.  We no longer need to live in guilt, shame, and fear.  His love overcomes all evil, darkness, and pain.  His love will carry you through it all and give you rest.  He will come in and wash away those stains making you white as snow, because He loves you without condition or hesitation.  Nothing can separate you from that.  Nothing.

          So, tonight, if that’s you, I’m praying you reach out and take His hand extended to you offering grace and peace.  I pray you can forgive yourself if need be, and forgive those who’ve hurt you, to find freedom in His loving grace.   You are loved my friend.  Never, ever forget that.  May His peace and grace be on you tonight.  May His loving hand lift you up to a new place of freedom and redemption.  Most of all, may you find His love in your heart for the rest of your days…

 

Love always my friends,

 

Brad

 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/you-are-loved Sat, 20 Oct 2018 00:34:44 GMT
The Switch Witch https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/the-switch-witch

 

          Earlier today, I had the opportunity to help with our grandson by taking him to his Muay Thai class after work.  It brought back memories of the many hours we’d spend with my step-kids watching them practice basketball, football, baseball, soccer, softball, music, and gymnastics.  The best part was the hard, wooden chairs the parents got to sit on while watching them all kick the rubber dummy in the head.  It was interesting to say the least.

          Afterward, we jumped over to the other side of the street and grabbed a small ice cream cone together.  His taste of choice was the blue birthday cake.  For me, I stuck with the old favorite Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate.  It was the first ice cream I’d had in a while so my mind reacted like I’d just sniffed something illegal.  Just saying. 

          On the way back to Gammy’s house, we discussed what he might want to dress as on Halloween.  To my surprise, he wanted to be Master Chief from Halo 4.  At six years old, I wasn’t aware he’d been playing the game, but there yah go.  At least he wanted to play a hero. 

          As we talked about Halo and the subsequent ask for a new video game from the soft-hearted Grandpa, he mentioned that he may be able to purchase one with his own money he’s been saving, or, leave some of his candy out on Halloween for the ‘Switch Witch’.  ‘Who’s that?’ I asked him.  He said, ‘It’s a witch that comes overnight on Halloween and exchange some of your candy for a gift’…

          That one was news to me.  I guess long gone are the days when we would eat nearly all our candy when got home from trick-or-treating.  So, I decided to check out this new phenomenon on Google and, sure enough, it is apparently a thing parents are doing to help keep their kids from eating so much candy without them feeling bad about it.

          Now, before anyone gets upset with me, I understand the need to regulate sugar with our kids; especially with diabetes.  But, the first thought that I had when I read about this was, ‘Who’s the parent anyway?’  Call me old fashioned you may, but if a parent doesn’t want their child to eat all their candy, they can set something called boundaries by only allowing them to eat a little at a time.  That way, they get to enjoy it over a longer period and not do harm to their teeth and blood sugar levels.

          On one hand we’re telling them they can knock on all those doors to collect as much candy as they can (and that’s OK) and, on the other, we’re afraid to tell them they can’t eat it all at once.  So, what do we do?  We invent a way to exchange the candy for a gift (which costs us additional dollars to purchase) so as not to upset them.  Win-win for them!

          Oh, how times have changed.  We won’t be purchasing any Switch Witch dolls or telling their story at Gammy’s house.  If the boys want something, they can ask for it at Christmas.  Until then, we’ll keep the candy in a nice, big, clear jar they can enjoy for months on end…

 

Wishing you all a blessed weekend my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/the-switch-witch Fri, 19 Oct 2018 01:43:33 GMT
Traveling Salesman https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/traveling-salesman

 

          Travel for work isn’t what some might think it is.  In fact, it has become one of those things I almost consider a necessary evil.  If it weren’t for the customers who are great to work with, it would be something that I would seriously consider working as a Sam’s Club greeter instead.

          Of all the cities I’ve visited over the past ten years, Houston is the one, outside of Dallas, I’ve traveled to the most.  Would I prefer it to be some place in Florida or California?  Yeah.  But, for being one of the largest cities in the country, it’s culture is quite similar to a small town in ways; just MUCH bigger. 

          Only a short 45-minute flight from Dallas, it gives me just enough time to grab a nap on the plane before rushing off to get a rental car and drive another 45 minutes to my customer’s location.  Today was no exception to that standard.  Up a little after 4:00 and home by 8:30, it’s one of those travel days when you earn your stripes as a sales rep.

          Our meeting with the CIO of a large software company and the overall customer meeting went great.  They were very pleased with the service we’re providing and were glad to see that we’d made the effort to all be there in person.  We still have work to do, but this customer at least, is going to be with us for some time.

          Throughout the day, between driving on multiple highways, nearly being run over by crazy drivers, and thinking I’d lost my driver’s license, I’m ready for the trip home.   Yet, to see the customer’s feeling that they were served, that they mattered, and that they could trust us to be there, was a worth it all.

          Sales to some is more about the how much money can be made on every deal.  It’s about reputation and getting ahead.  For me, it’s never been about those things.  It’s always been about the customer and what I can do to help make their life better.  Putting them first has always been my number one priority.  Sure, I’ve lost deals in the past because of it, but overall, having a servant mentality has brought me success at every role I’ve been in. 

          The ironic thing about sales is that true sales is biblically based.  Putting others first, humility, love for others, compassion, empathy, generosity, resisting greed, patience, keeping a positive attitude, turning the other cheek, and the principle of sowing & reaping all come to mind as qualities of what makes a great sales person.

          Not that every sale happens.  Quite the opposite in fact.  In my first year in software sales, it took me over 8 months to close my first deal.  The next year, however, I made President’s Club.  Going with the soft-sale takes more time, but you keep your customers longer.

          Most importantly, my faith in God plays a role every day.  Nearly every time I read an email, make a phone call, plan a meeting, or do a presentation, I ask God to help me and to guide me; and He does.  Those prompts to call a customer, the ‘out-of-the-box’ thought that comes to mind out of the blue, or the nudge to talk with a customer about something they care about all happen regularly because it’s not about me, it’s about them.

          So, today, here’s to all my fellow sales people who are making the trek every day and serving others.  May this year end in a success and may you the Lord bless your hands as you put Him first in all you do…

 

Love always friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/traveling-salesman Wed, 17 Oct 2018 22:27:31 GMT
Down by the Creek https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/down-by-the-creek  

 

 

          Not many people today can relate to the type of childhood my older sister and I were blessed with.  A little over a week ago, I was able to take my mother for a drive around the town we grew up in to some familiar places reminiscing about times past.

          One of the stark memories we shared was about my childhood and how both our home, and our grandparents' home, were close to creeks.  Or, as some might call them, ravines.  Because my hometown was built around the Kalamazoo river, there are creeks leading into it all over town.  Typically, they are about 40-50 feet down in small valleys filled with trees.  We carved many long paths winding around most of them.

          They provided a perfect place to build forts, fish for frogs, explore, and even practice target shooting with the handy pellet gun.  A large amount of our time growing up was spent down in those creeks, summer and winter, pretending to be Indians, explorers, and to be like the kids from the television show Little House on the Prairie. 

          On one occasion, I remember the creek water was slightly covered with ice and our childhood neighbor friends were with us as we were looking for whatever could find by the water's edge, when my foot slipped and broke through the thin ice causing me to fall head first into the deep, cold water. 

I still remember being under that frigid water and struggling to get my bearings thinking I was going to drown.  Then, out of nowhere, I looked up at the water above and saw a hand reach down, grab me, and pull me straight out of the water to safety. 

We all had a good laugh about it then, but, thinking about it now, I could have easily drowned.   It was my neighbor friend who was a few years older, and bigger, than me who saved my life that day.  They may not remember that moment, but it’s one of those times I can look back and be thankful for my friends.

          Life was more simple back then.  We found our entertainment by being creative and, sorry to say, by being risk takers.  Many times, I would come home with dirty clothes, scratches, bruises, and a grand story to tell Mom who was always there to listen, clean me up, and feed me a home cooked hot meal.

          It’s something I wouldn’t recommend for kids today, but I feel fortunate to have those memories.  During our drive, Mom enjoyed hearing and sharing some of those stories.  Today, there are homes where there were fields, and everything looks smaller.  Time has changed things for sure.  Just to let their kids play outside in the front yard by themselves is a risk most parents won’t even take.

          Those creeks gave us hours of fun, memories with friends, and a chance to just be kids. I’ll always be thankful for those days and will cherish them (even if I almost bit the dust a few times). 

So, tonight, here’s to letting kids be kids (with boundaries of course).  Here’s to old friends who saved my life that day.  And, here’s to Mom who was always there to clean us up and take care of us no matter what kind of mess we brought home.  Thank you, Mom…  We love you!

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/down-by-the-creek Wed, 17 Oct 2018 01:25:39 GMT
Cold Feet Warm Heart https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/cold-feet-warm-heart

 

          Today was another day of unseasonably cold weather in Texas with highs in the 40’s.  Although cold, it was welcome to some of us who have grown weary of the hot summer days. 

          Celebrating the cool weather, the Mrs. and I broke out the fleeces, sweaters, and my favorite, the wool moccasin slippers.  Life doesn’t get much better when we have the Dearborn gas fireplace heaters going, a hot cup of coffee, and those warm slippers on to keep our feet warm from the drafty historic wooden floors in our home. 

          Those slippers may be getting warn out and overly warn in, but they fit like a glove and still provide warmth and traction, all at the same time.  If I could, I would wear them in the summertime too, but that would be a bit strange and too hot for that matter.  Who knows, maybe I could start a new fashion trend wearing them with shorts…

          After putting these on today, I was reminded by the importance of keeping the extremities warm during cold weather, of an analogy the Apostle Paul used when talking about the church.  He explained that we all can’t be the hands.  Some of us need to be the feet too.  One part can't feel they’re more, or less, important than the other because we're all joined together to form one body.

          Of late, it seems as though my knees have been the target of ongoing accidents.  This summer, I fell on the concrete in California scrapping up my left knee.   Then, a month ago, I slipped in the rain and scraped up the same knee in a different spot.  Now, I’m dealing with a possible tear in my left ACL that I’m nursing trying to prevent another knee surgery like the one I had on my right knee meniscus.  No matter what I do, that pain in my knee is with me.  It’s as though my entire body fights to protect it and it calls to me whenever I walk on it. 

          In the same way, when one of us hurt, we all feel the pain.  We may not even know it’s happening at first until the pain gets great enough to really start impacting the rest of us; His body.  Over time, it can impact everyone around us.  In a small way, the same is true about cold feet.  If I have cold feet around the house, it becomes my highest priority to get those warm socks on and to put on those slippers to protect and cover one of the most vulnerable parts of my body.

          Today, we’re surrounded by vulnerable members of His body who are susceptible to the extremes of life.  Those who can’t protect themselves and yet serve a vital part of our society.  Whether it’s the elderly, the young, or those with illnesses, they all have a purpose just as important as those who are in the public eye.  

If we can connect with our weaker members when they are in need, we too will feel their need and hopefully be moved to provide for them those warm slippers of life to protect them from the cold.  Whether we know it or not, if they go unprotected and suffer, it will affect all of us in the long run, because none of us is an island in this world.

So, tonight, here’s to putting on our warm slippers on cold days, enjoying a warm cup of coffee by the fire, and remembering those who are more vulnerable than ourselves.  Earlier this week, I gave to a favorite charity to help feed the hurricane victims.  Tonight, I’m planning to do that again thanks to those old slippers reminding me of those less fortunate.  If you can, I would encourage you to give to help them as well.  You’ll enjoy those warm slippers even more knowing you did…

 

Love always friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/cold-feet-warm-heart Tue, 16 Oct 2018 00:31:28 GMT
Jealousy https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/jealousy

 

          Some people call it the ‘Green Eyed Monster’.  Others refer to it as possessiveness; that destructive, fearful, envy-filled emotion we call Jealousy.  We’ve all felt it at one time or another in our life whether it was for that person we liked who was being noticed by someone else or that person at work who seemed to have all the success.

          Earlier in my life, I wrestled with jealousy.  If someone would tell me that I was acting jealous, I would have denied it.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those emotions that seems to blind us to reality.

          Having grown up with a host of insecurities around my crossed eyes, my hair, my voice, my personality, etc. etc., I never dated.  I wanted to and even tried a couple times, but it never happened.  It wasn’t until college when I had my eyes straightened and spent some time in the Navy, that my self-confidence kicked in. 

          At ORU, there was one girl who I fell head over heals for.  I thought the moon rose by night and sun by day with her.  I was obsessed with her from day one.  It was my first, ‘True Love’ (or, at least that’s what I thought).   We dated on and off for about a year.  We spent time together every day and hours on the phone.

          Increasingly, my feelings of insecurity set in.  My inability to handle the fear of rejection caused me to worry about her having feelings for other guys every time she would even look their way until I was sure she was interested in someone else.   As you can imagine, the relationship didn’t last because she felt I was to ‘serious’.  The truth was that I held on too tight.

          I’ve since learned to let go of those fears and can say that over the past 18 years of marriage, I have rarely, if ever felt jealousy over the Mrs. (not that I haven’t noticed other guys recognize how pretty she is).  It hasn’t just been the ability to mature and understand her for who she is as a person, it’s also been the way she makes me feel loved and accepted; secure. 

          The reality is that we’re all weak.  We all feel less than good enough from time to time.  As we age, the things we feel jealous over change.  We can have the most secure marriage and feel jealous of someone at work, or even that family member who was always the ‘favorite’ of the family. 

          Unfortunately, most of those fears we battle when feeling jealous aren’t real and are caused by our own lack of security.  I’ll be the first to say that they are some of the strongest, passionate feelings to cope with.  When the person, or thing, we love the most is threatened to be taken away from us, it can be frightening.  And, for some, that’s almost impossible to handle.

          Ironically, the Bible tells us that God Himself is jealous.  He wants us to worship Him and no other god.  We are His possession and His children, and He doesn’t want us to give ourselves to other gods.  In the context of a loving heavenly father, jealousy makes complete sense.  His jealousy isn’t caused by fear of losing us, but of His love for us not wanting to see us harmed or lost from His presence in our lives.

          If you’re wresting with jealousy over a loved one, a job, or a family member, I would encourage you to seek His help.  Pray for those who you feel threatened by.  Ask God for His help to overcome your own feelings of inadequacy and to bless them in spite of it.  Know that, even if that person, or thing, we love the most is gone, He will always be there.  In that, you will find security and hope.  

Ironically, as you feel more secure in yourself, the one you love the most will feel more secure with you too.  As you become more secure in your relationship with Him, they will become more secure in Him too.  Pretty soon, that ‘Green Eyed Monster’ will pack his bags and not come back.  You’ll have peace in your life and the confidence you need to overcome him when he does try to come back…

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/jealousy Mon, 15 Oct 2018 02:25:49 GMT
Serenity - Where to Find it https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---where-to-find-it

 

          The plan today was to write more about serenity.  Specifically, how to find it, where to find it, and how to keep it.  Serenity is something we could use more of these days, myself included, which is why I planned to share more about it.

          Ironically, it was one of those days when the weather outside was cool and rainy, we had no major commitments, and everything in me just wanted to sleep most of the day away because I’m still catching up from a loss of sleep during our trip to Michigan where, though the B&B was great, the bed wasn’t so much.  Needless to say, I spent several hours with my feet kicked up sawing z’s in my office chair and it felt great!!  But, it wasn’t serenity.  Relaxing?  Yes.  Restful?  Yes.  But those feelings quickly changed when my mind went back to some of the stresses I’m working through in my life at this time.

          The question tonight really isn’t where, when, or how to find serenity, because serenity is just a bi-product of our mental and spiritual attitude within.  It’s not something we can say, ‘Hey! I found it.  It’s right here.’  Instead, it’s the experience of an outward calm when we have inner peace.  No matter what is happening around us, serenity will follow if we can find that.

          So, the real question is how do we find inner peace?  How do we find that state of heart and mind where, no matter what is happening around us, we remain as calm as the eye of the hurricane?

          Some try yoga, hypnosis, meditation, music, or a combination of all the above to find peace of mind and heart.  And, to some extent, those do bring peace to us for a time.  The Bible even encourages us to meditate on His word and to think on things that are good, peaceful, and of good report.  It discourages us from dwelling on negative things, from unforgiveness, bitterness, and hateful thoughts; all of which will keep us from ever having serenity in our lives.

          Others seek peace of mind and heart by being one with nature, or through daily exercise and healthy eating.  All of which contribute to a positive attitude, less stress, and a positive self-image.  But, hugging a tree isn’t going to bring any of us peace with the tree’s maker.

          The bottom line is that we can do all these things to give us moments of peace in our hearts & minds, but they won’t change our hearts and minds because they’re external.  The only way to change our hearts and minds from the inside is through connecting with the One who made us and knows us better than ourselves.

          The good news is that He is available to us no matter the time of day, if we’re in a crowded mall, or sitting alone on the porch.  He is always listening and always willing to take as much time as we need.  His love for us is greater than anything we can imagine.  When we cast our burdens on Him, He will help carry them.  He will give us a peace from within that no man, mountain, devil, or circumstance can take from us.  He will give us a peace that, ‘passes all understanding’.   In that peace, serenity will follow.

          I’ve found that peace while in the midst of the storm many times in my walk with Him.  It was only the times when I didn’t turn to Him trying to solve things my own way that I didn’t have that peace.  The times when, even though I knew all I needed to do was talk with Him and let go of doing it my way, are the times when chaos ruled the day.

          If you’re looking for that peace within that passes all understanding and the serenity that follows it, I want to encourage you to try Jesus first before spending hours, days, or even years, seeking after it in external places and ways.  He will come in and bring peace to your heart, stillness to the raging emotions, thoughts, and feelings.  He will wrap His arms around you and hold you through whatever storm you’re going through.  He will stay with you through it all.  Because He loves you.  Only then will you, and I, find true peace and the serenity we long for…

 

Love always my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---where-to-find-it Sun, 14 Oct 2018 00:02:19 GMT
Serenity - What it's Not https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---what-its-not

 

It seems that everywhere you look today, people are searching for and longing for Serenity.  Advertisers use the allure of finding it by using their product, traveling to a tropical location, or finding that perfect home.  Yet, we find ourselves in a world full of anxiety, political ranker, and in some cases, outright war.

What do I mean by serenity?  Webster defines it as, ‘the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.’  I look at having serenity as being mentally, and sometimes physically, unbothered by the chaotic world around us; to have peace of mind & heart.        

This week, we saw a devastating hurricane bring widespread destruction and chaos to an otherwise peaceful and serine area of our country.  Ironically, that area of the Florida panhandle is one where people go to find serenity and to escape the cold of winter.

I couldn’t help but think of the 15-mile wide eye of the hurricane and how, inside of the circulating tornado-strength winds, was perfect calm; a serenity.  The deception of peace for those caught in the storm was deadly as no sooner than the winds left, they came again.  This time, from the opposite direction.

Sadly, many people fall for the lie of the world that promises serenity in all the wrong places.  They long for that vacation to the tropical island on some distant shore and they spend countless hours wishing their life wasn’t what it is.  If they could only have unlimited funds, that house on the hill, or that person in their life, then they would have serenity.   Others fall for the lie that serenity can be artificially found at the bottom of a bottle, tip of a needle, or by breathing cannabis smoke filled air.

These lies trap us in the destructive hold of envy, greed, selfishness, jealousy, and depression; life is never good enough.  We look for peace but can never find it.  We’re promised escape from all the trials around us but when we try to get away from them, they just follow us to the next place.

The truth is, there is no escape from life.  Even those who are the most affluent and who live by those peaceful beaches have trials.  Those unexpected storms are certain to come no matter our financial status, nationality, gender, or color.  The myth that more money, pleasure, or that sandy beach will give us the serenity we seek keeps us from finding true serenity in our lives. 

I’m no different than anyone when it comes to believing those lies of the world promising serenity only to find destruction.  We all fall prey to it sooner or later.  The question we must ask ourselves is whether what we were seeking was truly for the benefit of others or was it really an escape from the life we are living in.  90% of the time, it will be the later.

How do we find serenity?  How do we live in it? Tomorrow, I’ll dive more into those questions but, suffice to say, recognizing where serenity isn’t will keep us from falling into the repeating circle of disappointment and destruction from seeking after it.  The acceptance that serenity isn't found in a place, a person, or a bottle, will lead us to where it can truly be found.

I’ll leave you tonight with a somewhat creepy video of Alexa helping a person to have serenity.  I don’t own one and, after watching that, I may never… 

 

 

Love always,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---what-its-not Fri, 12 Oct 2018 23:40:06 GMT
Serenity - NOW! https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---now

 

          Tonight, has been one of those nights where time has gotten away from me completely.  There’s just one thought on my mind and that’s serenity; how to find it, where to find it, and how to stay in it.  I plan to write more about serenity in the next few nights.  Because it's late, I’ll leave you with a video compilation of one of my favorite bits from Seinfeld below, ‘Serenity NOW!...”. to enjoy and,   tomorrow, I'll share more with you on my thoughts about that something we could all use a little more of these days; serenity...   

 

 

Love always my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/serenity---now Fri, 12 Oct 2018 02:57:03 GMT
Processing Grief https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/processing-grief

 

          Process: ‘A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end ‘ (Webster).  I’ve often said, when needing to deal with emotions or events in my life, that I’m still ‘processing’ things.  I’ve never really thought about it much until lately while working through some changes happening in our lives.

          The truth is, we never get to the end of anything without going through a process.  It may be the process of getting our education that allows us to get that dream job, learning to be a better partner, or parent, through the process of trial & error, or the process of overcoming addictions. 

Whatever it is, the process behind getting to where we want to be is rarely what we expect it to be.  When it comes to processing through our emotions, it is almost always a series of stages we go through before becoming whole.

For me, the emotion I’m having to process of late is grief.  It has begun on several new fronts and continues on another front.  None of them may be complete for years due to the circumstances tied to the cause of them.

          My first step in helping to manage the emotional process I go through when feeling grief is acceptance; to recognize it for what it is.  I must be willing to accept the fact that what is causing it has happened.  I must be willing to accept there is nothing I could have done to change it. 

          Once I find acceptance, I can move onto the next step in the process; coping with the pain.  The best way to cope with pain is to let others help me walk through it.  Keeping it to myself will only lead to depression and self-medication.  I tend to be reserved with my pain not wanting to burden others, but that has nearly always led to me feeling worse over time.

          While coping with grief, other emotions like anger, shock, fear, and loneliness will try to derail the process of overcoming the pain and becoming whole.  Recognizing the accompanying emotions and where they’re coming from, will go a long way in helping me to work through them and heal from the grief.

          Over the years, I’ve had to deal with the loss of loved ones both to this life and in this life.  I can say without any hesitation, the loss of loved ones in this life is far more painful than the loss to this life; i.e. death.  

The former stays with me every day.  The loved ones I have lost are still here with me, but I can’t be with them.  It’s a perpetual grief; a process which begins again every time I see them on social media or hear about something they are doing with their life.  The instinct to avoid the pain by completely removing any memory of them battles against the love I have for them and need to be a part of their lives. 

Truthfully, the only way I have ever made it through the process of grief thus far has been through laying it all at the feet of Jesus.  His loving hand that strengthens me and His love that washes over those painful emotions are the only reason I’m still here today.  I can’t imagine where I would be without Him.

If you’re dealing with grief tonight as well, know that He is with you.  Know that it’s a process and it will take time.  Recognize it for what it is.  When you feel like burying your feelings, fight the urge knowing that doing so will only bring you more pain.  Find a friend you can trust and ask them to help.  Most of all, ask the Lord for His help.  I know He will be there for you; always…

 

Much love tonight my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/processing-grief Thu, 11 Oct 2018 02:00:04 GMT
Watch Your Step https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/watch-your-step

 

          While spending time with Mom this weekend, one of the things we did was stop at the local state park along Lake Michigan.  From where we parked, the only way to the beach was by a set of wooden stairs several stories tall. 

          Because it had been raining, the wet wood had become slippery and hazardous.  Thankfully, there was a walkway ramp for wheelchairs that made a long winding trek down, so we went that way instead just to be safe.

          The thought occurred to me of what might happen if one of us, especially my mother who’s in her seventies, fell down those stairs and were injured.  Our lives would be immediately changed and, hopefully, no one would be permanently injured.  The fastest route may have been the worst route.

          Too often, young people fail to take into consideration the dangers around them.  It’s one of the great things about being young; that fearlessness that allows us to make bold decisions with our lives.  But, as we get older, we learn from the times we’ve fallen in the past thinking we could handle those stairs of life in front of us even though they were slippery and wet.

          It’s the moments of failure when we can’t, those teaching times, that keep us safe in the future.  They may leave permanent scars, but those will remain there as a reminder to us.  It doesn’t mean we should avoid any dangers and never take risks.  It does mean that we can face those dangers with a new perspective; perhaps taking a different route that gets us to where we want to go in a safer, all be it longer, way.

          I’ve made those impulsive decisions in the past to take the easier, more dangerous route, and have paid a price for them.  Had I have had the experience and scars to know better, I would have made a better choice.  I thank God for His patience with me.  He’s always teaching, always protecting (even though I haven’t thought things through in times past), always leading, and always providing.

          The fastest way to our goal may not always be the best way.  As we trust in His wisdom to guide us and His timing, He will show us the right path so that we may avoid having to learn the hard way; so that we may avoid the potential dangers ahead.

          Tonight, if you’re feeling pressured to make a quick decision and an easy answer may be what you think you need, stop and take a moment to ask God what He thinks.  The path ahead may be wrought with dangers you can not see.  He may have a better route that will get you to where your heart desires.  It may take longer, but you will get there safely and in His perfect timing. 

 

Wishing you a blessed week my friend,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/watch-your-step Wed, 10 Oct 2018 02:49:05 GMT
Seasons of Change https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/seasons-of-change

 

          Today we enjoyed our 3rd and final day with Mom.  It was a picture-perfect day for us too.  The weather was perfect, the lunch at the famous old café downtown was perfect, and the drive around town to visit memorable places together was perfect. 

          It’s hard to put into words how I felt leaving home for the airport this afternoon.  I knew, and had settled with the reality, that we’re in a season of change; change that has come to us and not change we’d sought out.  It’s as though we’re in a boat on a fast moving river trying to paddle to the side where we might be able to grab a branch or a log just to keep from going downstream, but cant because the current is too strong.

          Today, while visiting our favorite lake for swimming long ago, I couldn’t help but notice the leaves that had fallen.  Every year, the trees release the leaves they’ve grown and begin to hibernate for the winter so that, in the Spring, they can bud fresh new ones only to start the cycle over again.  Once released, the old leaves gradually begin to make their way to the ground full of color and beauty they never had when they were green and alive on the branch above.

          Their end state is something to be cherished and awed.  It is as though God has made those days of their life beautiful, though broken.  As they come to the ground, they float on the wind free from all their former constraints.  Once landed, they reflect the beauty of their former life above.

          Life’s full circle has become more and more evident to me these days.  At first, it saddens the heart.  The days of the past are quickly fading away, and most of our lives have moved on.  Yet, new life is constantly springing up around us. 

          The transition between the new and the old is both a time of challenge and a time to relish the life we’ve been given.  It’s a time to share our hearts with one another before the time to do so is over.  It’s a time to show the respect for those who’ve come before us and the excitement for those coming ahead. 

          I’ll be sharing more down the road of what is on my heart as I write this, but tonight, I’d just like to express my thankfulness to God for allowing me the time to show, and share, with loved ones who are in that time of transition.  My prayer is that He make them more beautiful than ever before and that their trip forward be carried by the winds of His love in peacefulness during this season of change...

 

Wishing you a very blessed week my friends,

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/seasons-of-change Tue, 09 Oct 2018 01:00:04 GMT
Uniqueness https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/uniqueness

 

          Today was a fun day spent with the family by Lake Michigan nearby in Saugatuck.  Mom enjoys taking pictures by the water, so we loaded up the car and made the 30-minute trek to the lake.  Even though it was overcast and misty outside, it was still fun to go with Mom to one of her favorite places to go.

          Because of all the rains this year, the water level is much higher than normal causing the sand closer to the banks to be washed by the waves.  In spit of the high waters causing some beach erosion, a side benefit has been the uncovering of stones previously buried there for many years,

          As we walked along the water’s edge, the wet stones were laying in plain sight to pick up and examine.  Many were flat from the waves and sand shaping them over time.  Others had multi-colors.  Still others had metal ore or mineral content that caused our hands to turn red. 

          We must have spent nearly an hour picking up the individual rocks and collecting some to take home.  My bag will now be a tad heavier with those in there along with some Starbucks mugs we seem to acquire everywhere we travel.

          One of the last stones I picked up was shaped like a heart.  I jokingly posted the photo above saying, ‘I found love…’ with the Mrs. in the background.  Yet, it spoke to me at a much deeper level.

          What struck me about the stones was how they’re such a reflection of us.  Each of us is uniquely made.  Over time, we are tossed about by the waves of life molding and shaping us into what we are today.  Often, the true beauty we’ve been created to be is hidden from others until that moment when we are faced with a higher tide.

          The irony is that, even though every one of us is different, we are all the same.  We are all a part of God’s handiwork created in His own image.  We all have a unique purpose divinely planned before the creation of time.  Most of all, we are all loved more than we can possibly image by our creator. 

          By the time we walked back to the car, the stones had dried off leaving them looking somewhat bland. That shinny luster the water had given them was gone.  They suddenly looked common.   In the same way, many of us have the dust from life’s battles covering up our true beauty inside leaving us feeling unimportant and without purpose.

          An amazing thing happens when we give ourselves to Him.  It’s as though he washes away all that old dust and purifies our hearts.  His hand polishes off the grime left from poor choices and hurts and His love makes us shine once again.

          If you’re feeling like you don’t have purpose or like your life is being tossed by the waves,  as though you’re being beaten down and left covered with the dust of life, know that God sees you for who He made you to be.  He sees you as unique; beautifully and wonderfully made with a purpose like none other. 

          You may not know what that purpose is, but that’s OK.  He will reveal it over time.  For us, it’s just to trust Him and know that He loves all of us just the way He made us. Learning to accept ourselves and not try to be anyone else will free us to be what He has purposed us to be.  In discovering our own created uniqueness, we will find the joy and fulfillment we’ve been looking for.  And, we will be able to help others find their uniqueness too…

 

Wishing you all a blessed week ahead my friends,


Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/uniqueness Mon, 08 Oct 2018 02:09:24 GMT
Times Past https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/times-past

 

          It’s a little late tonight after a good day spent with family back home in Allegan, Michigan.  The Mrs. and I enjoyed our breakfast part of our bed & breakfast stay at the Baret Baron Bed & Breakfast.  The food was wonderful, and the company was great. 

          After breakfast we traveled to visit Mom who came outside to greet us in the driveway of their home.  The day was spent enjoying a fantastic burger at a nearby well-known restaurant in Fennville, walking around downtown, and enjoying time down at the pond watching the deer eat the food they lay out for them every evening.

          It’s difficult to put an emotion on how I’m feeling tonight.  It was a blessed day and one of sharing memories.  But, sometimes sharing memories exposes the reality that times have changed.  This became especially evident while walking around downtown.

          Nearly all the stores that thrived in Allegan while I grew up are all closed now.  There are a few still in business that one would recognize, but most are gone and their store fronts are empty.  The city has resisted change over the years keeping out the larger retail stores in fear they’d steel the local business.  Unfortunately, the opposite happened forcing people out of town who wanted the modern businesses.  There are some lights of hope with several new investors trying to turn the downtown into a family-friendly, shopping & living area.  Hopefully, they will be successful.

          Walking through town, memory after memory flooded my mind of times past only to see the baroness in front of me.  After stepping outside of a store specializing in salvaged home parts where I grabbed the shot above, I was faced with having to accept that those days, many of the people from then, and those times, are truly past. 

          It was a difficult thought because it felt like part of me, those times past, were gone.  Sure, I can reminisce and appreciate them, but the life that was then is no longer.  Many of those times are now nothing more than an ever-fleeting memory in the minds of those who can still remember.  Eventually, they will be nothing more than a page in a history book. 

          Strangely, the sense I had earlier helps me.  Yes, the sense of loss was there. But, I also had an appreciation for the community the town once had.  Those good memories of times past will always hold a special place in my heart.  It will always be important to remember the good times no matter how far distant in the past they are.

          So, tonight, I’m looking forward to enjoying another day tomorrow with family creating new memories with the time we have left together. That is what’s important.  Times past have come and gone.  Tomorrow is another day…

 

Wishing you all a blessed day tomorrow my friends,

 

Brad 

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/times-past Sun, 07 Oct 2018 02:47:40 GMT
Pumpkin Patch https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/pumpkin-patch

 

          It’s that time of year when families enjoy taking the kids to the pumpkin patch (or local Walmart) to pick out the perfect Pumpkin to carve, light with a candle, and set outside of the house for Halloween.  We were no different growing up.  One of the best parts of the process was the tray full of baked pumpkin seeds Mom would cook up from the pumpkins we carved.

          It’s hard to believe pumpkins are actually a fruit, but they are.  The theme of putting a candle, or light, in a pumpkin was meant to keep the evil spirits away on Halloween, or otherwise known as ‘The Night of the Dead’; a pagan holiday welcoming the spirits of deceased relatives and warning off the evil spirits.

          Today, Halloween is more about candy and cool costumes.  I’ll guarantee that I never thought of the true history of the holiday growing up.  Some won’t celebrate the holiday because of it’s past.  We, on the other hand, don’t take it that serious and usually encouraged the kids to dress up in a fun outfit. 

          Tonight the Mrs. and I are staying the weekend at a Bed & Breakfast in Zeeland, Michigan.  It happens to be their annual Pumpkin Festival as well.  While walking to a restaurant downtown, the kids were all out having fun chasing each other around on bounce houses, feeding the goats in the petting zoo, and enjoying BBQ served up on a cooker.   We were blessed to see the families creating memories together, and even though it was slightly raining and cold (for us Texans anyway), the kids didn’t care if they got wet.  They were having fun!

          So, pumpkins, even though they were used in times past for superstitious purposes, today, they’re just a symbol of family fun, great food, and even better coffee.  Tomorrow, we’ll probably bring my mother up here to show her our B&B and enjoy some time together at the Pumpkin Festival.  Believe me, we won’t be worried about having to scare away the evil spirits.  The only thing we’ll be worried about, will be eating too much junk food…

          Tonight, I’ll leave you with a clip from one of my favorite Halloween cartoons, ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’.   I was that kid, Charlie Brown, growing up.  Good memories…

 

 

Wishing you a blessed weekend my friends!

 

Brad

 

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bradclaw@gmail.com (Brad Clawson Photography) https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/pumpkin-patch Sat, 06 Oct 2018 00:59:53 GMT
We'll Leave the Light on for Yah https://www.bradclawsonphotography.com/blog/2018/10/well-keep-the-light-on-for-yah

 

          Several years ago, while working with a previous company, one of my customers was Motel 6.  Their corporate office is here in the Dallas area right across the street from where my wife used to work at a local Christian preschool. 

          One thing that was clear to me about the way they did business was that they didn’t spend money on unnecessary products.  Almost to a fault, they used technology as long as they