A Guy’s List of the Best Love Songs of All-time

Love songs. The world is full of them. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one, although why you’d want to do such a thing, I don’t know.

I like cats and think they get a bum rap. Cats don’t need anyone. That way, they can’t get hurt.

But back to love songs. I was eating lunch the other day at a restaurant that had some saccharine love songs on the Musak. Think Barry Manilow. It was hideous. It was dripping with more sap than a March sugar maple.

Rock and Country are full of bad love songs, although country is at least more original. Roy Clark, one of the finest guitarists ever, sang one of my all-time favorites, Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone. And who can forget Rusty Ford’s, I Can’t Get Over You (Until You Get Out From Under Him)? If you’re going to sing about a broken heart in country music, you might as well laugh about it. Everyone else is.

I enjoy both Rock and Country, although I lean to older versions thereof. Very few modern artists interest me that much. For Rock, I lean alternative for the current stuff. Switchfoot and Florence and the Machine. For today’s country, meh. I like Kenny Chesney (great voice and a very underrated songwriter) and Dierks Bentley. Dierks Bentley is hot. For a guy. He’s one of those guys that even mostly straight dudes like me go, “yeah. I would.”

I keep getting sidetracked. Back to love songs. Men and women approach such songs differently. Guys don’t seek to imbue their love songs with existential angst over a lost lover. We’re like, “new sex!”

So here in no particular order is my Guys’ Top Ten All-Time List of Love Songs.

10. Lola, The Kinks

Any band that calls themselves The Kinks is all right with me, but aside from that, Lola earns a spot on this list because it describes a guy’s first sexual experience. With a tranny. What could be more heartfelt that the line, “I’m not the world’s most masculine man, but I know what I am and In bed I’m a man, and so is Lola.”?

9. Tube Snake Boogie, ZZ Top

If only for the lyric, “I’ve got a gal who lives on the hill. She won’t do it but her sister will”, ZZ Top, just a little ol band from Texas, gets the nod at #9.

8. Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen

Apparently Freddy Mercury was “left alone with big fat Franny”, who was “such a naughty nanny”. If true, the fact that this song describes abuse, doesn’t make him wrong.

7. You Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC

Because of this song, every teenage boy in America knew the importance of a “clean motor”.

6. American Woman, The Guess Who

This is actually a Vietnam War protest song. (Really). The “American woman” spoken of is the Statue of Liberty. Still, when they sing “American woman, stay away from me, American woman, mama let me be” it kinda hits you right in the gut, ya know?

5. All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix

This isn’t a love song. In fact, I really have no idea what the hell this song’s about. No one does. Hendrix is so stoned while he’s recording the track that at one point, he badly flubs a line and just lets it go. Bob Dylan actually wrote it, so who knows what it means? Still, it’s one of my favorite songs ever and this is my list, so it’s here. Don’t like it? Make your own fucking list.

4. Can’t You See? The Marshall Tucker Band

If you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re really quite stupid. This list is tongue-in-cheek. But this song is really quite good and a true story of heartbreak.

“Can’t you see?

Can’t you see?

What that women, Lord, been doing to me?”

And,

“gonna find me

a hole in the wall.

Gonna crawl inside and die.”

Who hasn’t felt that? For me, this feeling is like voting in Chicago. Early and often.

3. Collide, Kid Rock w/ Sheryl Crow

This song is probably obscure to most of you, but Kid Rock actually writes some excellent lyrics and this song is no exception. In fact, I think it’s one of his best.

“I’m no angel, you’re no saint. If we were we wouldn’t be in this place tonight.

“Lost and lonely, scared and confused, we both have a past and nothing to lose.”

2. Have a Cigar, Pink Floyd

It’s not on my list but it is on Bill Clinton’s.

But I think the best love song of all-time is one written by Jimmy Buffet (why isn’t it, “Jimmy Buff-aaay”? As in, “tonight’s $8.99 night at the Old Country Buffet”).

1. Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)?

“I really do appreciate the fact you’re sittin’ here.

Your voice sounds so wonderful,

But your face don’t look too clear.

So bar maid bring a pitcher,

Another round of brew.

Why don’t we get drunk and screw?”

Look. We’ve all been there. We’ve made pour decisions. And if you haven’t been there, you either have no pulse or you will.

Or you’re lying.

And, ladies, you’ve been there, too. Trust me. I know. We all have skeletons rattling for life. We may feel like Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, empty and just hoping we went out with a bang.

So there you have it. My own list of the best “love” songs of all-time. As my father, Lee Bledsoe (A Fine American), once said “Love is a long and slender thing.”

Ok, seriously now. Jesus, whom I consider kind of a Big Deal, said “greater love has no man, than that he lays down his life for his friends.” He said this shortly before doing just that. You don’t hear much about that in love songs. Love is sacrifice. It’s caring enough to give your all.

Love is not merely searching for your next orgasm. I’m not against orgasms. I’m rather fond of them myself. But after the bliss wears off, all that’s left is the sometimes hard work of love. I’m not an expert. I’m shallow and because my ancestors came from Northern Europe, I am, quite literally, a Neanderthal (although I am not very hairy; Neanderthals would have considered me something of a twink). But I do know this much. Jesus was right. What a wonderful world this would be if we each loved others enough to lay down our lives for them.

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Puppy breath

“I’m not sentimental,

This skin and bones is a rental,

And no one makes it out alive.”

— Switchfoot, “Where I Belong”

Life in all forms is to be celebrated. Don’t think so, then do what I did tonight. Play with an 8 week old pit bull puppy. You’ll be reminded what simple joy is.

Luna is a bundle of energy sufficient to power a warp engine. She’s the new younger sister to Loki, a powerful good natured pittie with a tongue that will give you a tonsillectomy if it gets a chance. Both dogs belong to my dear friend “Seattle” Sandy. I call her Seattle Sandy because, well, she’s from Seattle and to distinguish her from Sandy Bledsoe.

She has puppy breath! (Luna, not either Sandy, so far as I know). Puppy breath is God’s way of reminding us that life is a miracle. So is the smell of a baby’s hair. There is nothing like either and both smell like life to me, before it’s had a chance to get stale or cynical.

Babies and puppies aren’t cynical. They are full of wonder at the each new thing. They remind us that while we may not make it out alive, we are alive while we are here and we are wired to approach it with awe and amazement.

When we realize that our lives aren’t ours, that our “skin and bones is a rental” we become free to live in the moment. Life is free to become wondrous again and even the smell of a puppy’s breath elicits happiness. We can release the cynicism in which we are mired. We are free to love and give our lives for others. It is true, we may get hurt in the process, but giving that which I cannot hope to hold is no loss. The rental period ends eventually and my body will return from whence it came, I hope completely rusted and beat up with no gas in the tank. That will have been a full life.

In the meantime, the journey continues, now entering its 57th year. Where it will go, I have no idea. I just hope to live it in the moment and well. I hope to laugh, and make others at least smile. I will undoubtedly cry, but crying is like running a dishwasher for your emotions. They are cleaned and rinsed, even if it does leave spots on your glasses. Amidst the laughter and tears, I hope I can find a few puppies and find odd baby to smell. Come to think of it, maybe I should just stick to smelling my grandson, Elliot.

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Death and Cats

I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Not about how I am going to cause mine, but how I want mine handled. It seems I’ve been surrounded by death more lately. My friend James committed suicide. My aunt’s husband, Don, succumbing to lung cancer, and there are news stories of veterans who pass with no living relatives but who receive a send off from strangers worthy of a head of state.

One evening not long ago, I wrote down a list of songs I wanted played at my wake. It started with Skynyrd’s timeless Freebird.

“If I leave here tomorrow

Will you still remember me?

I must be traveling on now

There’s so many places I have to see.”

I always wonder why I’ve never heard that at any funerals. It’s always something cheesy and often religious, even if the deceased wasn’t. For many people, they should just play “Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone”.

James had a memorial service attended by at least 200. Don did not want a service of any kind, a decision also made by my late sister-in-law, Vicki.

I’ve finally decided I don’t want a service. Just let me be forgotten and don’t prolong the process by having a service. Don’t have me dressed up in a suit in an expensive casket. And for God’s sake do not have a viewing so people can come and stare mournfully at my earthy remains. Don’t have a viewing at all, but especially don’t have an open casket. If you in insist on doing so, at least have the undertaker extend my middle fingers as my hands lay across my chest and have them give me an erection.

The Egyptians buried their dead with things they’d need for the afterlife, like food and spears and cats. Not sure why the cats, but they had a thing for them. Maybe they ate them after they died. Anyway, don’t send me off with anything fancy. I just want to enter the next world with a hard on.

Burn my body and spread my ashes up along the Mogollon Rim. I don’t want a gravesite that no one visits or feels guilty about not doing so.

The ancient Judeans reused tombs. Once the body was decomposed the bones would be retrieved, the skeleton broken and placed in an Ossuary, literally a bone box. This was done so future archeologists would find them then become fabulously famous, if not wealthy, by selling them to the Museum and the university where the most famous archeologist of all, Indiana Jones, teaches.

I think this is a great custom and we should revive it, but put shit in there that will totally fuck with 39th century archeologists. Like cut off the top of my skull and leave a spoon in my ossuary to make them think that you ate ice cream out of my head in some bazaar Ben and Jerry’s ritual. Or maybe leave a prop from Men In Black so I end up on a future episode of Ancient Aliens.

What really matters most is I am ready. I’m tired. Some days I am just done. I rely completely upon God’s Grace. I can only humbly say, “Lord be gracious unto me, for I am a sinner.” No, “I tried.” No bargaining. No, weighing my life on a scale like God is Lady Liberty or something. God showed us His character in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible does not contain the phrase “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And it most certainly never says to “invite Jesus into your heart.” Those sound good over a hymn and an offering. Jesus simply bids us to “take up [our] cross daily and follow [him].”

What happens to us after we die, I do not know. I just know I am ready. And I don’t want a big stink made over me. Just know I endeavored to live a life that mattered. To live justly. Be merciful. And to walk humbly with God.

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Mental Heart Attack

Mental Heart Attack

I stared at my phone in utter disbelief, the words jumping off the screen and piercing my heart. “David: I’m sorry to have to write this. James killed himself today.”

This never gets any easier.

Katie

Laura

Andie

James

My own personal memorial, each the name of a person who fell as a casualty of the war with their own demons. I look at the semi colon inside my left wrist and wonder if I will ever fall in the same asymmetrical warfare that is depression.

Today was James’s memorial service. It’s also Andie’s birthday. I flew from Phoenix to Toronto to share the grief of my friends whom I have known for 15 years and to mourn the loss of a handsome and gifted young man who loved others so much more than he did himself. I came here to be with his parents and grandparents whom I have come to know and love; my brother-from-another mother who battles the demons with me and my brilliant German friend who doesn’t always get my British-influenced sense of humor, but who is as kind and supportive as any purely platonic friend I have ever had.

Before Rudy Giuliani lost his marbles and sold his soul to Donald Trump, he was a pretty good mayor of New York on 9-11. He wrote a book on leadership where he said “weddings are optional, funerals are mandatory”. That’s why I came. I was one of a couple hundred. But his family knew I was one of many who cared. Only one of many and I stood in the back of the room, but I was there, because I had to be. For me. To bear witness to a life that mattered for people that I love.

Amusing and touching anecdotes were shared by those who knew him best. I could have added my own. Like the time James went down the water slide into my 55 degree pool on New Year’s Day and swam its length to prove he could and to dare my daughter Livia, one month his senior, to do the same. She did. And then both quickly got into the hot tub.

People talked about how much James wanted to live and someone quoted another anonymous friend who said James had a “mental heart attack”. That’s the best definition of suicide I’ve ever heard. Heart attacks sometimes happen without warning, but not without risk factors; often ignored. But they also happen even in spite of treatment.

James’s mental heart attack happened suddenly, but not without a known history. Even so, I can personally attest to the fact that James kept it to himself. I know I do.

In the battle with my own demons I don’t generally tell others how I am doing. I have fondled the gun and held the pills. Each time, I decided I wasn’t going to let the bastards win. I decided that if I went through with it then I would be admitting they were right. That doesn’t make me more courageous than anyone else. My demons are pussies compared to some others.

Coming to James’s memorial was important to me and I admit I wondered how many would show up to mine. Doesn’t really matter. It’s not about crowd size. (Donald, if you’re listening….) What matters is not how I die or how many morn. What matters is how I live and if there’s one thing James and I have in common, it’s we care. We care maybe too much sometimes, but we care and we both try to make a difference. That makes my failures (and they are legion) all the more magnified.

I have no idea what precipitated James’s final decision. He was 22. I do know he leaves behind people who love him and are committed to loving one another the way he did. May we all have such a legacy.

On my way back to Toronto from Jackson’s Point, Ontario and the Memorial Service, I listened to Freebird.

If I leave here tomorrow

Will you still remember me?

I also listened to Switchfoot and was reminded that Love is our Native Tongue.

Katie, my crazy smart friend who didn’t mind “telling people where the bear shit in the buckwheat”.

Laura, the red head firebrand.

Andie, the Deadhead free spirit.

And, James, my young friend who was an amalgam of silly, goofy, boneheaded, and brilliant all bound by a heart for others.

I remember all of you. You left too soon. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not going to join you for a bit. I have a new grandson I need to teach to fish and there’s much more fuckery to spread, yet.

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Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?

My phone started playing “Where the Streets Have No Name” at 4:15 this morning, my signal it was time to get up as I was supposed to be at the surgery center at 5:30. I’d put the surgery off a month so I could go to Hawaii with my lady bugs and their long suffering mom (still the finest woman I know).  I also needed to go to Kansas City on business last week, so I was able to move my surgery to this one. 

A couple months ago I noted my genitals seemed to be growing. I wished my dad were still around so I could brag. I didn’t even have a brother I could call. I mean I could have called my step brothers John and Steve, but we didn’t grow up together so it would have been weird. I would have texted my dad a picture and told him his wish came true. I’d finally grown a pair. 

At first I wasn’t terribly concerned. It wasn’t painful. Seemed regular in shape, and there was no pain on urination. But it didn’t go away and  the scrotal swelling got larger and became more clearly unilateral. I finally decided I needed to do something. So I decided I would ignore it. I was like the Republican Party: I *knew* something was wrong. I just wasn’t going to admit it publicly. 

I went along my merry way for a month or so. Out of sight out of mind. I wear shorts all summer so it wasn’t like wearing jeans was an issue. But finally the summer heat coupled with two space occupying masses led to rashes in places you can’t easily scratch, unless you play Major League Baseball. That’s one thing you don’t see football players doing. Scratching their balls. They may kneel for the Anthem, but they don’t scratch their balls. 

My primary care clinic is usually staffed by a nurse practitioner and, frankly, she’s not very good. In fairness, most physicians these days are lousy at physical exams. It’s like they’re afraid they’ll catch cooties. The last good physical I had was 20 years ago in New Hampshire. That sonofabitch checked your ass out from head to toe, including, ahem, your ass. These days they will take your TPR, ask you what hurts then prescribe an appropriate drug. 

Now the NP who staffs my primary care clinic is nice enough and I am sure she’s a Fine American, but I wasn’t going to see her for my jewels. 

Luckily, the same clinic has an office in Anthem, AZ that is generally staffed by two physicians. Male physicians. I generally have no trouble disrobing in front of women and since my youngest is pre med in college it would be hypocritical of me to prefer to see a male provider. 

I’m a hypocrite. 

I got to Anthem to be the first patient in the door when they opened only to find that the male MD was not seeing walk ins.  Only the decidedly female NP. Diana – I’m not making this up – Bone. 

Shit. Serves me right. 

I saw Diana who was and IS delightful and professional. She listened to my history, my heart, and lungs. And promptly referred Waylon and Willie for an ultrasound. Stat. I never even disrobed, but at least she was taking it seriously. Luckily, there was a SimonMed radiology right next door so I walked over with my orders. My luck ran out quickly, however, as they couldn’t see them until 2:30 that afternoon. I now had the day to contemplate cold lube being slathered all over The Boys. I envisioned them keeping it in the fridge next to the gynecological equipment. 

As it happened SimonMed was very civilized. They kept the jelly in a warmer. I could have kissed her. Meaning the ultrasound tech. I’m going to send her fudge at Christmas. 

The tech was not only a great humanitarian, she also was kind enough to tell me it just looked like fluid. No mass. I already had self diagnosed a hydrocele and I was right. 

Diana Bone (I just have to keep saying her name. I’m twelve) referred me to a urologist who saw me the following week. He confirmed the hydrocele and told me I would need surgery to remove the fluid and the tissue from whence it originated. Thankfully this would not involve removing Waylon. He would remain to sing “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?”  We scheduled the surgery for this morning, four weeks from that date. 

Which brings us up to “Where the Streets Have No Name”, which in my opinion is U2’s best work. Sandy picked me up at 5 and had me down to the surgery center at 5:30. I checked in and after an appropriately long wait- this was a hospital after all- I was taken back to prep. Now came the time to put on those gowns that tie in the back. The ones where you might as well be naked. I mean for once I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hallo lahdy nuhrses. I ahm going to break through thiss wahll… but first I am going to show you mhy really lahrge testicles and flex my nipples…” 

Lisa was my prep nurse and got my IV in on one stick. My BP was elevated, befitting considering what I was having done. The anesthesiologist came in and discussed all the good party drugs I was going to have. She asked me a shitload of questions about drugs and alcohol and such. Some of which I even answered truthfully. 

It was time. 

I had been worried whether they were going to shave me in the prep room. I have a friend who had a vasectomy and he had a 23 year old nursing assistant shave his junk before surgery. Oh, hell no. I have a daughter that age. I may be many things. Creepy isn’t one of them.  

As it happened, I needn’t have worried. We wheeled back to OR #4. A few puffs of sevoflurane later and I was out.  I suppose that’s when they gave me the porn star manscaping. Not for all the good it’ll do. I have a penrose drain sticking out of me. Not sexy, not to mention uncomfortable. 

In any event, next thing I know I’m in recovery wearing a jock strap stuffed with gauze. I have my naked robe on and I’m in bed drinking water. How I went from general surgical anesthesia to wide awake drinking and what happened in between I’ll never know. Or really care. I’ve always dreamed of being naked in a room full of women, my genitalia the center of attention. This was *not* what I had in mind. Shows God has a sense of humor. 

Thanks to Livia, I’m home now. Sitting on my balcony enjoying some liquid and inhaled analgesic. The doctor prescribed some Narco, but I poorly tolerate opiates (I puke like a college freshman on dollar beer night) so I am using my doctorly training and have initiated my own patient controlled analgesic plan. I hope to be back on my feet in a couple days. Right now, so long as I sit like John Wayne on a horse, I’m not too painful. If I move at all, however, I feel like my nuts were hit by a baseball. 

So there’s my story, all of it twue. For a while I was “gifted”, like Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles. Now I’m back to being your average middle aged white guy. It’s ok. I gotta be me. 

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Easter

On a Mesa overlooking the town of Sedona stands a cross erected some years ago by the Knights of Columbus. It’s where my family and I, along with my mother in law, would gather every Easter morning at sunrise; one year standing in 4” of snow, for the ecumenical service.

Religious rituals, especially in places of natural beauty, connect us to another place, traveling there at least in our minds. Easter in Sedona was always a deeply spiritual experience, as the natural beauty pointed to an intelligent and creative designer and the holiday pointed to that Being’s desire to be in fellowship with us.

A lifetime of education and experience haven’t dimmed my faith in the truth of Easter although it perhaps has changed my interpretation thereof. If anything, knowing the Earth is billions of years old and the universe is even older and expanding increases the wonder of it all.

The idea that God touched humanity in the person of Jesus resonates with me. Not because I worry God will send me to hell without a swamp cooler, but because I think Jesus is what God looks like, only maybe a little dustier. Jesus spent his time with the lonely, the sick, the poor and depressed. Common people. People like me.

I don’t think God attends too many rich churches, unless maybe there’s a really good band. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. I finally think I have figured out what that means. It’s not that God doesn’t like rich people. In fact wealth can be used for great good. But when it comes to knowing God too many rich don’t think they need Him. They are self-sufficient, at best paying lip service to religion.

Easter tells us the way of Love is to empty ourselves freely and to store up treasures in heaven. In giving we receive the greater gift. Easter teaches us that in the midst of despair there is hope, out of death comes life. Out of law comes grace. It’s a good thing too, because I need lots of grace. We all do, but I am richer for knowing it.

Easter is the bookend to Christmas. It is what gives Christmas its meaning. Without Easter, Christmas is just trees and presents. With Easter, Christmas becomes a celebration of one kingdom touching another.

Jesus shows us how to live. He never taught a magic incantation to protect us from hell. He never taught eternal torment or that God says, “love me or else”. He did say, “follow me”.

This Easter I contemplate what it means to follow Jesus in a world that’s broken and clearly needs his example. I see how I fall short again and again but also, I can see the grace extended to me and how I can extend it to others. This is the message of Easter: grace extended to us that we are to extend to others.

I won’t be in Sedona this Easter morning. I’ll be in a church with my kids renewing a faith that’s tried and tested and evolving. I’ll be renewed and strengthened by the familiar refrains and a story I know by heart. I’ll hold onto my faith amidst my doubts and recall that even Jesus was weary and weak and required restoration at times. In that truth I will be restored once again.

Wishing you a happy Easter.

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Lessons from a hummingbird

The male Anna’s hummingbird flitted about the delicate branches of the creosote bush outside my office window, eating all-but-invisible insects as it went. The iridescent purple of its chin and cap gave my eyes a target to follow as it darted this way and that, its movement reminding me of how eyewitnesses describe UFOs; hovering then taking off at an amazing rate of speed then stopping and starting at will in all three dimensions. The diminutive bird would occasionally light on a branch, sometimes grooming itself. At rest it’s possible to appreciate their beauty. In motion you appreciate their athleticism. It’s hard to believe that a bird whose weight is measured in grams is phylogenetically related to dinosaurs.

Contemplating the hummingbird reminded me that life is so much darting about, punctuated with periods of rest. Yet only at rest can we appreciate the beauty, even in ourselves, much less the world around us. We flit from one thing to another, often moving in three dimensions at concussive speeds. We live our lives on the interstate, occasionally stopping at a rest area to pee or at a fast food joint, because to relax and savor good food would take too much time.

In contrast, the ancients named the constellations and stars and developed elaborate myths surrounding them because, let’s face it, there wasn’t anything else to do. They had no place else to be. They couldn’t be in a hurry, there was no place to go and the only reason to rush was if something was chasing you. Like a sabretooth tiger, for instance. This gave them time to develop philosophy, religion, and mathematics, to name a few. When the ancients decided it was time to go someplace, odds were that someone was already there, which led them to develop weapons and war. The ancients weren’t perfect. We’ve only perfected what our ancestors began.

Modern life is best lived on the back roads, where rut, curve, and cliff require slow speed and attention to detail. It’s best lived holding the hand of the one riding shotgun. It’s best lived in the slow lane and enjoyed away from the freeway. Even in the city, walking is often the best mode of travel and, yet again, walking hand in hand with one’s love is the preferred method. At least for me.

Sometimes speed is a necessary evil. That’s a fact of modern life and I am not ready to trade Southwest Airlines for a Wells Fargo Stage. But life cannot be lived at speed. It cannot be savored, it can only be tolerated and then for only so long. If we don’t rest, we burn out. We die. That is true emotionally and physically. And also, I believe, spiritually.

The gospels tell us that Jesus regularly went away alone to “pray”. Sometimes all night. I’m not certain, but I doubt our Western mentality captures ancient Eastern “prayer” very well. It was likely a time of spiritual rest and meditation for Jesus and I think we should follow his example and make prayer a time of rest and restoration, not of making requests and trying to figure out how to manipulate God into changing His mind. I no longer believe that prayer changes God, but I fervently believe it changes us.

Living life to its fullest means taking the time to slow down. It means being able to rest on our own branch to appreciate and savor the time we are given, none of which is promised to us.  It means making time to stop and watch the hummingbird and listen to it speak.

 

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