The Vicissitudes of Life

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In celebration of the ending of two score and ten years of life, that being the equivalent of five decades or one half century of life, and welcoming the dawning of a brand new decade, this journey through life continues to amaze me. To God is all the glory given, great things He has done.

Scripture Reference: Psalm 90:10, 12
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. . . .So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

My dear family and friends,

I send love and greetings to each of you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. I pray that this communication finds all things well with each of you.

I would like to take just a little time today to address a subject that has been weighing heavy on my mind in recent days. Though it may seem peculiar to some, I believe that in light of the day and times in which we now live, the subject that I am about to address is not only appropriate but also relevant. And so, if you would indulge me for just a little while, I would like to address the subject, the vicissitudes of life.

As I sit here writing this my mind begins to reflect upon the days of yesteryear. I find it almost hard to believe that in just a few short days, on 17 October, should the Lord be gracious and allow me to see the day; I will celebrate one half century of life.

Mom and Dad Two score and ten years ago I was born to two goodly parents – John Wallace Brown (the son of Vernon Brown and Mary Virginia Dashields) and Frances Mae Harmon Brown (the daughter of Lawrence Elwood Harmon and Margie Isabel Corbin). They have both passed on but the sweet memories that I cherish of them, as well as, the life lessons that they taught me, will forever remain a part of me.

In the fall of 1958 I was born at approximately 10:17 p.m. on 17 October, a Friday, in what was known at that time as the Salisbury Hospital. Today it is known as the Peninsula Regional Medical Center or PRMC.

Salisbury State UniversityAt that time Salisbury Maryland, where I was born, could not even be found on a map. In fact, Salisbury Maryland was known as the town of Salisbury. It was one of those little towns where if you blinked you would drive straight through it and never realize it. Today my hometown of Salisbury Maryland is a growing city. Even its institution of higher learning, once known as Salisbury State College, is now known as Salisbury State University.

Yes, things have certainly changed over the years. In the first half century of life I have had many experiences that have helped me grow and mature into becoming the person that I am today. Some of these experiences have been wonderful, and there were some that were not so wonderful. In the first half century of life I have literally been blessed to stand on some lofty mountaintops, but I have also spent nights in some very low valleys. I have been blessed with many calm and peaceful days and I have also experienced the blowing of the chilling winds of adversity and have at times watched the storm clouds roll by with their thundering voices. But thanks be unto God because through it all I have learned to trust and obey the voice of my Lord and Savior and to give Him all of the praise and glory for leading me and guiding me thus far on my journey through life. It is because of Him that I am able to see the bright day dawning on the horizon, even in the midst of a raging storm. Yes, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual, “Without Him I could do nothing. Without Him I would fail. Without Him I would be drifting, like a ship without a sail.”

Keith in Elementary SchoolLooking back I think about the days gone by when as a young boy I did not have a care in the world. My days were filled with running, jumping, playing, and just having fun. I did not have to be concerned with waking up and going to work each day to make a living so that I could keep a roof over my head, keep food on the table, pay the bills, or even put gasoline in the tank of the family vehicle. Those types of things were transparent to me. My father and my mother took care of all of those things. I was no doubt young and naive and definitely did not realize at that time that all the comforts of life that I so richly enjoyed would one day no longer be my parents’ responsibility, but indeed my own responsibility. Nonetheless, even as I transitioned from being a young boy into becoming a young man learning to take care of myself, one thing that I always knew for certain is that whenever I was in trouble or just needed someone to talk to, my father and my mother were always there for me. Even when I finally left home and joined the military for 20 years of my life, their love, and more importantly, their daily prayers for my safety and protection gave me great comfort and the courage to press on even at times when I did not feel like doing so. I will always love them both and miss them dearly. Sometimes I truly wish I had just one more day to sit and talk with each of them if for nothing more than to be able to ask them, “Now, what was that you said again?”

Dad - Short-order CookLooking back, those were the days when men seemed to have a clearer understanding of what it means to be a husband and a father. Those were the days when men could be described by such words as “honesty” and integrity. Those were the days when more often than not, men would be found away from the home, not because they wanted to be, but because of the necessity to earn a meager living to support their families. There were many men, including men like my own father, who worked two or three jobs just to try and make ends meet. Yes, those were the days when men understood what it meant to work by the sweat of their brow and earn an honest day’s wages regardless of how small the wages might have been.

May I briefly pause at this juncture and put a very strong emphasis on the word “honest”. It seems that in those days, only fifty short years ago, you would not have heard about all of the schemes and scams that you hear about today. Thank God there are still men of honor and integrity today, but still the sad commentary remains that there are so many men who find it easier to “make a living” by cheating hard working people out of what they have through the diabolical schemes and scams. Today, there are even those that appear to be much bolder. They don’t use schemes and scams to get what they want; instead they just break in and take what they want. These men have neither concept nor clue of what such words as honesty and integrity mean, and the word “work” has become nothing more than another four letter swear word. Sadder yet is the fact that these men do not necessarily work alone, but they have recruited a younger generation of vagabonds and thieves to join their numbers. The message that they are sending out loud and clear to future generations is “They that have shall lose, and they that have not shall get!” Again, thank God that not all men are like that.

Looking back, two score and ten years ago, we did not have to worry about locking our doors in the day time, night time or anytime. If someone were to knock on our door, regardless of the hour, we would say, “Come on in! It’s open.” I don’t advise you to try that today. You may just find yourselves with some unexpected and unwanted guests. In those days we could go to sleep at night with our windows and doors wide open and never give it a second thought. You could park your car in your yard, along the side of the street, or down the lane, and even leave the keys in the ignition and upon your return you would find the car exactly where you left it and still in the same condition that you left it. In those days we did not have gas lock caps but yet we did not worry about someone stealing gas out of our gas tanks.

Yes, those were the days. Those were the days when “family” truly meant something special. We did not have all of the modern conveniences and electronic gadgetry that we have in the home today, but we had something even more important, we had each other. And even though fathers worked hard to support their families, they still found the time to spend true “quality” time with their families. Families worked together, ate together, played together, prayed together, and worshiped together. Even though my own father was a hard workingman, he still had the time to take us to fun places and do things with each of us. In those days it was understood that the word “family” was more than just a byword. Fathers and mothers, and yes, even the children, understood the meaning of the concept: “Together we stand, but divided we fall!” Families understood that “no man is an island unto himself” and they understood that the strength of the family rests in the unity of the family. Families understood that they needed each other to survive and often went to great lengths to protect one another.

Mom and MeThose were the days when women seemed to have a clearer understanding of what it means to be a wife and a mother. Those were the days when mothers felt that it was more important to stay at home and raise their own children during the formative years rather than run off to an office, to the next meeting, or some social function and leave the children with a baby sitter or a daycare service. During those formative years mothers took the time to nurture their children in the admonition of the Lord and trained those children to walk in the way that they should go so that one day when they grew up and went out on their own, they could look back and remember the things that they were taught, and not depart from the path upon which their feet had been planted. I thank God that my own dear mother was one of those mothers. She was indeed my first and my best schoolteacher in the school of life.

Now, allow me to pause for just a moment to make it perfectly clear that I am not so insensitive that I do not realize that there were mothers even back then who had to leave their children and go to work out of the necessity of being able to sustain a living. I understand that. I also understand that there are many mothers today who find themselves in similar situations through no intent of their own. Circumstances in life often dictate the decisions that must be made. To those mothers I humbly applaud their efforts and willingness to support their families. God bless them. But, the flip side of that coin is that there are many women today who have willingly chosen to have a career and live a life of their own over rising up a generation of respectable young men and women. These women feel that it is the job of the baby sitter, the nanny, society, the school, and yes, even the church to raise their children. It is to these women that I would say that perhaps it is time for you to re-prioritize your lives.

Two score and ten years ago, mothers taught their children to have respect for themselves, their siblings, other family members, and for others that they would meet along the way. Those were the days when some of the first words that a child was taught and learned to speak were: yes sir and no sir, yes ma’am and no ma’am, please and thank you. Children addressed their fathers as father, dad, or daddy and mothers were known as mother, mom, or mommy. Children did not dare address their parents or any other adult by their first names. To do so was considered a sign of blatant disrespect. Even at the age of 50 years young, if my parents were still living today, I would address them as Dad and Mom, not John and Frances. And I would do so out of my love and respect for them.

Now, after all of this has been said, there may be some who will say, “Keith, you just don’t understand. You don’t get it. Times have changed.” No, I can’t really say that I agree with that completely. I don’t think that it is so much that the times have changed, but that people have changed the times. Somewhere along the way we missed the mark. I believe that we need to get back to the “Old Landmarks”.

Keith High School GraduationI thank God for the days of yesteryear. It was those days that laid the very foundation upon which I have striven to build my life upon these past 50 years. I thank God for those whom He has allowed to be a part of my life to show me and to teach me the way that I should go. Some of them have gone on, but to all of them, I will forever be eternally grateful and my life richly blessed for having known them.

I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I do know the One who holds all tomorrows. If I am faithful and obedient and trust in His perfect will, I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me. He alone knows the plan that He has prepared for my life. I only pray that I will always be willing to say “Here am I, send me”.

I began this journey two score and ten years ago. I pray that the Lord will grant me many more years ahead, but whatever the number of days that remain, it is my humble prayer that He will “teach [me] to number [my] days, that [I] may apply [my] heart unto wisdom.”

God our eternal Heavenly Father lives and Jesus is the Christ. Of this I bear solemn witness and do so testify in His Matchless, Marvelous, Wonderful name. Amen.

Sincerely,

Keith Lionel Brown
16 August 2008
Annapolis Maryland