Advent’s Beginning Again

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ . . .”

In my beginning . . . I wanted to be a cowboy.

Enthralled by Roy Rogers’ heroics, I longed to ride horses and lasso the bad guys.

The Roy Rogers I wanted to emulate lived in a black & white televised world between his ranch house and the “wild” outdoors where dangerous events (like bad guys doing nasty things) happened. But all was resolved in a tidy half-hour. Yup, pardner, I sat transfixed on many Saturday mornings in the 1950s, figuratively galloping across the west with Roy. He, astride Trigger. Me, at the edge of the sofa.

Giddy-up! Continue reading →

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The Dude With the Official Card

Several years ago, I earned my official card.

But, then and now, I hope the time to use the learnings from my earnings never arrives.

The card? It’s similar to a regular business card or like one of those coupons a pizza joint provides for a free family-sized pie after ten purchases. It has a white background with tiny black lettering. There’s a distinctive red symbol on the left side. Underneath Larry Patten (yes, my name) and next to the Red Cross’ red cross are the fancy words, “has completed the requirements for CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer and the Healthcare Provider.”

After an 8-hour Red Cross training session, I can perform CPR. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. And I know how to use the AED device. Automated External Defibrillator. The AED—modest in size, mighty in purpose—sends an electrical shock into the body. Used properly, an AED can be the literal heartfelt difference between life and death.

At least, that’s what the card with smallish print claims is now part of my skill-set. But I beg you, please don’t collapse onto the recently mopped floor of the local mall, unconscious and unresponsive while doing your holiday gift buying. Yikes! Other shoppers might gawk or scurry away. But I’m the dude with the official card.

Or would that be dud?

I did pass that test! I do know the drill! Continue reading →

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Picture Perfect: on Giving Thanks for a Moment

On the day after 2013’s Thanksgiving, I took the picture* included with these thoughts. With our ubiquitous smart phones, we can create images anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. The stills and videos we take and take and take appear online, potentially viewed by millions—though more likely by a handful of family, friends, and accidental gawkers.

Most photos come and go. Most, even the so-called “viral” ones, have a shelf life that can be counted in days or weeks. Most don’t matter.

This picture mattered.


It’s my mother. My wife. Our dog.

Hannah, our beloved first golden retriever, would die a year later, at the advanced age (for her breed) of fourteen years. Mom, happily focused on a puzzle, had about nine months to live. She died the following August.

In this picture, Mom is grieving. Except that she’s not. Her husband of six-plus decades had died the year before. Dad’s insidious spiral into dementia spanned years. Like many spouses caring for a loved one with a progressive neurological illness, Mom’s deepest grief occurred while Dad continued to live. His death was a delayed, prayed-for blessing.

Still, in the photo, she’s a widow. Continue reading →

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