Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Everything Give Thanks

Throughout the month of November I will be updating this post with daily thoughts on things for which I am thankful. Often I don't feel that I am as thankful as I should be. Some of my friends are doing this on Facebook and I thought it would be a very good topic to blog about. These items aren't necessarily in any particular order.

Day One: Relationship with God
I am thankful for God’s grace and mercy that came to me through the death, burial, and resurrection of His son, Jesus. This has provided me with a very real relationship with Christ that has totally revolutionized my life. He has carried me through trials, too numerous to mention, and has always been by my side, closer than a brother. No matter what happens to me during the day, I can always count on God to give me peace and comfort.

Day Two: Mom and Dad
I am thankful for my mom and dad. I really miss them but I am very thankful that I had them so long. They were awesome parents who did so much for me. It would literally take a book to write down all of the big and little things they did for me. They worked hard, provided well, spent quality time with me, promoted and participated in my activities, promoted spiritual development, and educated me, to name just a few things. When times were hard they were always there for me. Thank you, God, for them. Help me follow in their examples.

My dear Mom and Dad in 2008.

Day Three: Sons
I am so very thankful, Lord, that you blessed me three precious boys, David, Joe, and Matt. Words cannot express the love I have for these boys. I never dreamed I would be a single dad and limited in the time I have been given to raise them. But I made the decision many, many years ago that they would have my 100 percent commitment. Before David, my 19 year old was born, I told my wife that I would be the world’s worst at suffering from the empty nest syndrome. I didn’t think that would really happen until they each turned 18 or 19 and moved out on their own. Instead I found that it happened gradually, beginning when I was separated 12 years ago. Then it later gradually occurred more as they started moving through their teen years. But to this day, despite any problems or struggles, there is no one in my life that I truly love more than David Michael, Joseph Patrick, and Matthew Ryan. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege, honor, and blessing of letting me try to raise them, because ultimately they are Yours.

One of thousands of photos of my boys through the years.

Day Four: Country
I am thankful for my country, the United States of America. I had the privilege of being born a citizen of the United States of America. In many quarters these days it is fashionable to find fault with the United States. There are, indeed, many things in our past and present as a nation that are negative. But I believe the United States is the greatest nation in the history of the world. Our nation was founded by people who understood that the new nation must have God and His principles as a foundation in order for it to survive. The U.S. has been a source of freedom, prosperity, liberation, and inspiration for countless millions all over the world in its relatively short history. This nation has provided me the opportunity to grow up and be surrounded by mentors, teachers, friends, and a supportive community. I have been given the opportunity to get an education, pursue my dreams, and enjoy the freedom to worship and serve God.

Day Five: Music
Today I am thankful for music. Music is one of the greatest gifts we have been given. Through it we worship God, evoke emotions, describe relationships, and our feelings. When I am down or discouraged, I can immerse myself in music and be lifted up and encouraged. Music is transformational in that way. Just a few notes of a song can take me back to childhood memories I have from 42 years ago. Music, like a time machine, evokes the sights and sounds of special moments in my past. Music is my favorite form of entertainment. I have purchased more DVDs that were music-oriented than movies. Music enhances everything from Christmas to sitting on the beach, grocery shopping, driving, working in an office, funerals, football games, and almost everything. It’s magical. Just this morning, as I was getting ready for work I was listening to the song, “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green. The words of that song, combined with my preexisting thoughts, literally brought me to tears of joy. It caused me to reflect in a way that would never happen without music.

Huntsville News, 1979.  Lee High Band prepares for Cincinnati Bengals game.

Day Six: Friends
Today I want to express my thankfulness for my friends. I have been blessed with some amazing friends, on many levels. I have core group of close friends that know me very well, love me, and would do anything they could do to help me. I probably also have more friends than ever before with whom I share some common bond with or a common interest. When I was married and had young children I really didn’t have the opportunity to reach out to as many people as I have more recently. As a single guy, it is great to have so many friends. Just this year my friends have done many things for me…
  • Getting invited to eat dinner and visit their home
  • Driving an hour out of their way to help me when I was stranded due to automobile issues
  • Letting me borrow a vehicle for almost two weeks until I was able to get new transportation
  • On a day I was feeling down, talking and praying with me on the phone until a late hour
  • Inviting me to events such as church, ball games, and dinner
  • Walking with me for exercise and talking about our days
  • Inviting me to their home to watch the ball game
  • Calling or texting to check on me when I was sick and offering to go to the store
  • Making me a meal
  • Driving me around to look at fall foliage and storm chasing
  • Random friendly messages, texts, or calls
  • Kind and thoughtful responses
  • Allowing me to stay in their home
  • Offering me opportunities to work on projects that help me pursue my dreams
  • Giving me honest feedback and advice
The list could go on. And if I was more thankful (and had a better memory), I could really add to this list.

Two of my all time oldest and best friends, Johnny and Rob.

Day Seven: Sister
I have a wonderful sister.  She embodies so many of the qualities I mentioned about my friends.  She is a very kind and caring lady.  I can talk to her about just about anything.  She is one of those people that is easy for others to confide in because they know she will understand and show compassion rather than being judgemental.  True confession:  I picked on my sister almost mercilessly when we were kids.  One time I even cut her hair.  Of course it was her fault, because she let me do it.  Having said that she knew I always had her back, too.  She has been an awesome aunt to my sons.  We spent many days enjoying our trips to Chicago to visit her.  She always made us feel at home and made Chicago feel like a second home for the boys and I.  She loved our parents and nowadays we often talk about them.  If I am having a tough day missing mom and dad, I can always count on Cara to be there.  I love my little sister!

My sister and I, circa 1970.

Day Eight:  Health
Good health is something that I, unfortunately, have taken for granted most of my life.  But as I get older, I see more and more people near my age who are struggling with health issues.  I have been blessed with excellent health in most ways, most of my life.  For many years I barely gave it a second thought.  I have usually taken pretty good care of myself.  However, once I hit the 30's and especially the 40's I have noticed some typical age-related health issues cropping up.  One of the greatest and most important blessings in life is to have good health, and I am thankful that I do. 

Day Nine: Sports
I am thankful for sports.  I grew up loving to play and watch sports.  I played football, baseball, and basketball every year growing up, both on organized teams and pick-up games.  I helped organize a bunch of friends to get together almost daily after school to play whichever sport was in season.  In the 1970's I became a huge fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Atlanta Braves.  I fell in love with the Tide when they suffered a heart-breaking loss to Notre Dame in the 1973 Sugar Bowl.  That was one of the best Alabama teams in history and they went into the game number one in both polls.  Their comeback fell just short.  It was as if the game wasn't long enough.  I literally cried at the outcome.  Sports, besides being good for physical health, teaches life lessons that cannot be learned as well in any other endeavor. 

Home run ball, Summer 1975.

Day Ten: Needs Met
I am thankful that the Lord meets all of my needs, but not all of my wants.  It is easy (and I am guilty) of getting caught up in being concerned about what I don’t have rather than appreciating what I do have.  I can honestly say the Lord has always met my needs.  But He hasn’t always given me all of my wants.  I am thankful, because there have been situations in life when I later learned that what I wanted so badly at one time would have been a disaster.  Yet, I still struggle with this concept at times.  I can certainly relate to the lyrics in the late Rich Mullins’ song, “Hold Me Jesus”, when he sings, “I'd rather fight you for something I don't really want than to take what you give that I need.”  It doesn’t take much looking around to notice that even though others have certain things in their lives that we think we would like, it is also true that we can look around and see even more people who don’t have the things we take for granted.   

Day Eleven: Job
This has been a tough morning at work. I have been mischaracterized and misrepresented. Having said that, I am very thankful. I remember my first day on the job over 19 years ago. As I walked into the building I was so thankful to the Lord for giving me this opportunity to provide for my family and to serve people in need. I was determined that no matter what happened, I would always maintain a thankful attitude. God’s Word teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just some. That is one of the most difficult commands. I have been working on that for many years and I am not sure how close I am to getting all the way there. It is something I think about a lot. I start many days with the prayer that no matter how good or bad I perceive today’s circumstances to be, help me have the awareness that You are in control, above it all, and that You will always be with me. Thank you, Lord, for enabling us to be thankful in all things.

Day Twelve: Grace
I am thankful for God's grace.  I think grace is a concept that even many Christians do not get.  In short, it is unmerited favor shown to sinful man through God giving his son to die on a cross.  One of the key words here is "unmerited".  We all have a tendency to think we deserve things, and perhaps in an earthly sense we do.  Someone who works hard deserves to be paid.  But in the big picture, our sin puts us in a position where we do not deserve anything good or positive.  Grace is a gift.  All good gifts come to us via God's grace.  Sometimes we think that we worked real hard, saved our money, and thus we deserve that vacation.  While in an earthly sense that is true, we must remember the ultimate source, which is God.  It is He who gave us talents, abilities, health, and our very breath of life.  If not for his grace, we would not even be here.  I am thankful to serve a God who loves me so much that he would rescue me from my predicament by sending His Son to take my place on the cross.  I am thankful for grace.  

Day Thirteen: The Bible
I am thankful for the Word of God.  When considering what we are thankful for, it is instructive to consider what we would miss the most if we didn't have it.  I can't imagine life without the Word of God, both as an individual, and universally.  Besides the obvious fact that we wouldn't probably know much of the information (other than oral tradition), imagine the negative effect that would have on the world.  It is really difficult to imagine, but it would definitely not be good.  Fortunately we know that the Word of God will last forever.  It's a good thing, because, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Day Fourteen: Food
I am thankful for food. Besides the obvious (without it we would surely die), I really enjoy it! There are not too many kinds of food that I don’t like. But, I am hard-pressed to choose a favorite. If backed into a corner, I would probably choose Italian food. But as soon as I said that I started thinking about steak, barbecue, seafood, and Mexican.

Day 15: Being Single
I am thankful for being single. Really. Let me preface this by acknowledging that there can definitely be advantages to being in a healthy relationship. I will also acknowledge the disadvantages of being single. The main disadvantage for me has been that I don’t have my children with me all of the time. We all have moments when we are sick or lonely and it would be nice to have someone there for us. And, in a relationship, there is the opportunity to love and serve someone in special ways. Having said all of that, I am very thankful for all of the advantages of being single. I don’t have to consult with anyone as to how I use my time and money. I can spend more time with friends. I can pursue my dreams as I see fit. There is no drama brought into my life. I don’t have to worry about being told what to do when I get home from work. The list goes on and on. I may be single the rest of my life or for only one more day, only God knows. But I have learned that happiness is not dependant on relationship status. I would much rather be happy and single than unhappy and married. If the right lady (God-given) wants to be in a relationship with me that will be great. If she doesn’t, life’s already great!

Day 16: Fellowship
I am thankful for fellowship. “Fellowship” is one of those terms we Christians throw around that is not always understood very well. Some of my friends and I used to joke that you could just substitute “food” for “fellowship” based on how it is often used in church. “Fellowship” comes from the Greek “koinonia” which refers to how Christians bond with one another in community. This plays itself out most frequently in the local church setting. I am thankful for all of the fellowships I have been involved in, but there is one that is particularly dear to my heart. When I was a student at the University of Alabama, I was involved in a campus ministry. The college environment allowed our group to be a real Christian community, more like the early church than any other church or community of Christians I have been involved with since. I thank God for giving me that experience. I am now referred to as one of the “founding fathers” of the fellowship because I was one of the two students who were there in the beginning. While we saw amazing growth in numbers through evangelism, worship experiences were amazing, and a lot of true discipleship was going on, I think I valued the fellowship aspect the most. One of the central aspects of that fellowship was the “guys’ house”. I lived in the guys’ house for a few years. We learned a lot about how to get along with others, we divided up cleaning, cooking and shopping duties, and we had times of confrontation. We prayed together. And we played together. The house was directly across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium, at the 50 yard line on the west side. In fact, the upper deck was added to BDS while I was living in the house. The construction workers made sure that we woke up early, whether we wanted to or not. Time and space don’t allow me to tell all of the great stories from that house. Sadly, the house was razed a few years ago. I thank God for fellowship and for that special group of brothers.

Standing in front of the former Guys' House not long before it was razed.

Day Seventeen: Answered Prayer
Today I am thankful for answered prayer.  So often we pray and more often than we realize it, God answers prayer.  But then we go on our merry way without even remembering to thank Him for it.  I believe God usually answers prayers with either a “yes”, “no”, or “wait”.  Other times we just need His guidance and direction in decisions that we face.  Just today I had something weighing on my mind.  I decided to take my lunch break and walk.  While I walked, I prayed and asked God for guidance and I felt a strong peace about going in a certain direction.  Shortly thereafter a friend provided me some feedback that exactly matched what I felt led by the Lord to do.  I think it’s cool that God understands where we are.  He knows that my faith isn’t always strong enough so he sends other people my way and speaks through them.  I know I need to be more and more thankful to God for answering my prayers.  

Day Eighteen: Hard-Working Sons
Yes, I already expressed my thankfulness for my boys.  But I am thankful my boys have a strong work ethic. My parents and grandparents were all hard workers.  I remember when one of the dads in my neighborhood told me as a kid that he was jealous that his son did not work like me.  I hope and pray I transmitted the value of a work ethic to my sons.  Today I was so proud of my 13 year old son, Matt.  He volunteered to clean the gutters.  He made me nervous, hanging two stories over the driveway, but we survived.  Proud dad moment.

Matthew Ryan Wilhelm cleaning out gutters 11/17/12.

Day Nineteen: Life
Today I am thankful for waking up to another day of being alive! Most mornings when I pray one of the main things I express thankfulness for is the opportunity to live another day. My son Matthew and I were talking this weekend about the subject of thankfulness. I asked him to name some things for which he is thankful and he mentioned this one first. We are blessed with a limited number of days on this Earth. We never know if the day we are in will be our last. Even if we live many more years, life is indeed a vapor and life as we know it on this Earth will soon be over. We need to continually remind ourselves of this so that we spend our time wisely and not put off until tomorrow things that we should be doing today. Below is a poem often cited by former Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant about the value of time.

"This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I'm exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever leaving in its place something that I've traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it".

"So then you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" Ephesians 5:15-16

Day Twenty: Weather and Dreams Coming True
I am thankful for having the opportunity to pursue my interest in weather.  My interest in weather began by age five, if not earlier.  Growing up in Huntsville, I was a big fan of WHNT’s legendary H.D. Bagley back in the 1970’s. The Superoutbreak of tornadoes on April 3, 1974 really spurred on my already developing interest in weather. My career goal was to work with the National Weather Service. By the time I attended college, I took another career path, but weather continued to be a big hobby of mine. As I look back, the Lord has allowed my dream of working in weather to come true, even though it was temporarily derailed.  I have been a trained storm spotter with the National Weather Service since the 1980’s and have been chasing storms since the 1980’s as well. I have maintained a weather page on the web since the mid 1990’s, which turned into a blog, www.bamawx.com in 2006. I am interested in all things weather: weather history, severe weather, winter weather, tropical weather, and even ordinary, everyday weather! I have maintained a YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/Bamawxcom where you can see my chase videos, historic weather coverage, and other weather stuff I have collected.  April 27, 2011 was the worst weather day in Alabama in a generation. As a Skywatcher for James Spann and Jason Simpson at ABC 33/40, my chase partner John Brown and I witnessed and captured the terrible Tuscaloosa tornado on video. That video was used on numerous television networks, even ESPN.  I am a member of the National Weather Association and was the volunteer coordinator for the 2011 NWA National Conference in Birmingham. I am also a contributor to the WeatherBrains Podcast, which features James Spann, Bill Murray, Brian Peters, Kevin Selle, and J.B. Elliott.  Most recently I have worked with meteorologists Jason Simpson, Ben Smith, Jennifer Watson, and Brandon Chambers as a storm chaser for WHNT Channel 19 in Huntsville and a blogger on www.valleywx.com where I post stories, photos, and videos from my time out in the field watching Tennessee Valley weather as well as weather history and other fun weather-related things.  It is really cool to me how the Lord has allowed my dream of working in weather to come true even though it didn’t look like that would happen at one time. 

One of many hand-drawn weather maps I made as a kid.

Day Twenty-One: Transportation
Today I am thankful for transportation.  Most of what I do and the people I enjoy being with require me to drive long distances.  For whatever reason it has almost always been that way.  I have logged literally millions of miles driving in my life so that I could be with the ones that I love, to take special trips with them, and to work to make it all possible.  I am thankful today to be able do that.  

Day Twenty-Two: Alabama Football Games
Today I am thankful for the opportunity to attend Alabama football games.  My dad took me to my first Alabama game in 1975.  Alabama played TCU in Legion Field in Birmingham and won 45-0.  I specifically remember walking through the portal and seeing the brilliant colors of the field and crimson and white like I had never seen before.  Alabama had a special presentation for Kent Waldrep, the TCU player that was paralyzed in the previous year’s game.  My next game my dad took me to was the Alabama versus Georgia Tech game in Legion Field in 1980. I remember that it was a scorching hot day to open the 1980 season for the returning national champions.  We were listening to the radio and during the SEC preview show they were talking about a freshman phenom at Georgia named Hershel Walker.  Since that time I have been to several memorable games including the 1982 Liberty Bowl (Bear Bryant’s last game), the 1985 Iron Bowl, the 1986 Notre Dame game, the BCS Championship in 2011 and many, many others.  These have been entertaining but have also provided me wonderful memories with family and friends.  I am thankful to have had these experiences.
My son David and I at Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl, 11/24/12

Day Twenty-Three: Outdoors
Today I am thankful for the outdoors. God’s creation is beyond awesome and amazing and I am thankful for the opportunity to get outside and marvel at it. As thankful as I am for my job, one of the unfortunate aspects of it is that I am stuck inside so many hours every week. I enjoy hiking, lakes, rivers, beaches, woods, mountains, stars, clouds, foliage, sunshine, trees, flowers, rain, snow, lightning, fog and even gray “dreary” days.

Thunderstorm over Huntsville, AL at sunset, 5/28/12

Day Twenty-Four: Photography
I am thankful for photography. Photography has always been a hobby of mine but my ability to enjoy it has expanded so much with the development of digital cameras. I always liked taking pictures in the pre-digital camera era, but the cost of film and developing the film was too much to take as many photographs as I would like. I couldn’t begin to estimate how many tens of thousands of photographs of my kids I have taken through the years. I enjoy nature and weather photography as well. In the past few years I have really enjoyed learning how to take lightning photos. I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy photography.

Lightning photo I took over NE Huntsville in 2011

Day Twenty-Five: Walking
I am thankful for the ability to walk. I really enjoy walking and if I didn’t have the ability to walk it would be very inconvenient and frustrating. As I get older, walking has become my main source of exercise. I enjoy getting out and walking or hiking in the woods. During much of my career I have taken breaks at work to walk. I figured that while other people were sitting down eating junk food or smoking I would actually get out and do something that would benefit me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have lost weight, or at least maintained a relatively healthy weight mainly by walking. If I am stressed walking helps me clear my mind and lifts my spirits. Many times while I walk I have great times of prayer. Sometimes I listen to music. The only drawback to walking as a form of exercise is the amount of time it takes to walk enough to make a big difference. Nevertheless, even consistent short walks are better than nothing. I am very thankful that I am healthy enough and physically able to walk.

One of my walks in the neighborhood, mapped by my pedometer app

Day Twenty-Six: Memories
Today I am thankful for memories. Memories give us a frame of reference from which we are able to live in the present and dream for the future. I have good memories and bad memories. Thankfully, I have forgotten most of the bad things that have happened in my life. But I am also thankful that I have so many good memories. It is amazing how the human mind works. There are certain things I remember from 42 years ago better than things that happened yesterday. Memories seem to be triggered so randomly sometimes. It may be a sight, a smell, a sound, or a song. Whatever it is, I am thankful for so many great memories of people, places, and things that were important in my life.  The video below contains some of those special memories for me. 

More to come...........MW