Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My new blog, 'Living Like You Mean It' is at

Hope you'll check it out!


Saturday, January 5, 2013


Today's post is another tribute.

Today I share with you photo remembrances of 'Ramsey' our beloved Boxer who passed on to the 'Rainbow Bridge' on December 17th.

It was a very rough time for us as this happened in the midst of my father's passing the previous afternoon.  'Ramsey' would have been 12 this coming May.  Most Boxer's average a life span of 8-10 years tops so we feel so very blessed to have had his warmth and companionship for so long.  From a champion breed line, he was a great
dog; so full of silliness and fun.  He had 'puppy frolics' right up until a few days before he passed.

Rest in peace our canine family member, 'Sir Ramsey Jones Gryder'.

You were such a good pup!  
We miss you.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas...Even if it's Bittersweet

What a roller coaster ride it's been over the last 10 days or so for the Gryder family and friends.

Today's post is short and sweet.  I pray that you will keep your family close and enjoy every moment of time you have.  Say what you feel, share what you mean and do it all in the name of love.

Poppie with all his grandchildren Thanksgiving Day 2012

I share 2 pictures with you today.  For me and hopefully for you they reflect what the 'reason for the season' is all about: celebration of life with family!

Peace be with you and your family and remember, Merry Christmas...Even it it's Bittersweet.


PS- I want to express our family's grateful appreciation for all the many prayers, calls, cards and online postings of sympathy on the passing of my father, Ray Sr.  They have all meant so very much to us all.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Celebration of Life

On Sunday, December 16, 2012, my father, Ray G. 'Sonny' Gryder passed away.  So many of you have expressed sympathies and offered your concern, thoughts and ceaseless prayers, I and the family are very grateful for them all.  Today's post is the remembrance I delivered on this past Wednesday during the Celebration of Life service.  

-Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP) is the most common form of Guilluan-Barre Syndrome (GBS) an auto immune disorder affecting the nervous system arising from an infection.
-Kidney cancer resulting in removal of a kidney
-High Blood Pressure
-TIA or mini-stroke
-Degenerative kidney disease resulting in dialysis 
-Amputation of lower left leg as a result of Diabetes
-End stage heart disease as a result of Diabetes 

My father's health issues began in 1996.  For the last 16 yrs. he and my mother visited countless medical professionals and my mother, acting as care giver and organizational guru has without a doubt learned enough over that time to petition a university for a degree in pharmacology.  

Mom you were his Florence Nightingale, truly 'a lady of the lamp'.  Thank you for being his nurse and caregiver.  

Dad was out of work for close to a year with the GBS.  Strangely, it was in the midst for the search for that diagnosis that Kidney cancer was discovered.  The doctors remarked then that if that find had not occurred in '96 my father quite possibly may have died from the cancer some 3 to 5 years later. 

With the exception of most of 1996 and a few brief hospital stays here and there, my father continued to work until June 2010.  He retired just shy of 31 yrs of service.

On this past October 25th he entered the hospital and was eventually diagnosed by late November with end stage heart disease.  This was the culmination of all the medical problems exacerbated by the diabetes.  The calcification around his main aorta was extensive and was being ravaged by the demands of trying to keep up with 3 day a week dialysis.  

He was able to be at home from November 1-11 and then again from Dec 3 to Dec 13.  Dec 13 he went into respite care and eventually passed peacefully this past Sunday at 330 in the afternoon.

I was not as close to my father as I would have liked to have been when I was growing up.  I suppose that is because he was gone so much of the time working to support his family.  He was always very tired and lacking to spend time with me like I wanted.  After I became a teenager it only seemed to get worse and I know I contributed to that as well.  I disliked him and held a grudge for a long time.  After I was grown and finally began to settle down with my life, he and I had a confrontation at work one afternoon about an indiscretion that resulted in things being said between us that we both just recently acknowledged regret over and asked forgiveness for.  But at the time it caused me to not want to be around him, so for almost a year I stayed away from home, very rarely visiting.  All the while, mom continued as caregiver and bared the brunt of many medically induced mood swings, confusion, agitation, embarrassments, rudeness and discomfort that my father exhibited because of his anger over being afflicted with so much, that was so debilitating.  This for a man so used to using his hands for work with plumbing and the relaxation of being on the water fishing.  This for a man accustomed to easily hoisting large 200 lb cast iron pipe onto his shoulder at a work site.  The GBS virtually destroyed his dignity that he would not soon recover from.   

I apologize to you mom for not being there more to help you through that time.

Only when at the depths of despair prior to his partial leg amputation and its aftermath by around Thanksgiving 2009, through his retirement the following summer and up to about August of this year did he regain some of that dignity.  He was astoundingly proud of his prosthesis and would pull up his pants leg to bang on the metal one he had prior to the artificial looking leg he eventually got.  For almost 3 yrs he was again his old self.  Something that was a total surprise to us all.

Although words of forgiveness were left unspoken until very recently, my father and I let ourselves move on with our lives and I began visiting again and it all culminated with the opportunity to stay with him all night this past Friday and Saturday nights.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it was the most spiritually rewarding and uplifting experience I've ever had.  To be able to care for my father at the foot of 'his' cross; to console him as he shouted out to God for mercy and guidance; to give him access to ministerial care; to be witness to his rally from 130 to 245 AM on Sunday morning where he shared jokes, stories an anecdotes one final time; to see him enjoyably take his last drink of two cups of iced tea in the midst of the rally time talk...all this for me was truly a blessing for me.  This resurgence was there to let us know that he was going to be OK and that he was the same he'd always been...that the vessel holding his spirit the last 73 yrs was worn out and unable to continue to hold him earthbound; that his spirit was going to remain intact and carry on in a new dimension.  

What unexpected excitement, what solace and comfort felt as family gathered together just after his passing.  The room was filled with his spirit.  It was uncanny!  Even after we began departing from there my brother remarked how unique a feeling it was standing in the hospital parking lot; like we'd all just broke out to go our separate ways after an enjoyable family occasion; a feeling of comfort and utter fulfillment.  He passed at the conclusion of a sponge bath, change of hospital gown and last but not least his hair being combed before being carefully laid back into a fresh set of sheets where he took several more breaths and then departed into the glorious mystery.  This was truly reassuring to us all because he left on his terms with none of us in the room.  

I find it quite ironic that he died just after having his hair combed as this was always a pet peeve of his.  He always wanted to have his hair combed.  It was drilled into him by his father, Lester Gryder who would not allow you to dine at his table unless you came with shirt on and hair combed.  

I'm not sure when this story occurred but apparently during one hospital stay he was being moved by wheelchair from one floor to another by a male orderly.  Upon reaching the floor where he was to be wheeled out, the elevator doors opened to a nurse's station full with many female nurses standing attentively at an apparent floor meeting of some sort.  As my father was about to be wheeled over the threshold onto the floor he loudly protested for the orderly to stop, saying, "Wait, wait...I can't go out there, my hair's not combed!"  This was my father...storyteller, teller of jokes and old family anecdotes.  So many stories so little time.  Many of you here tonight most likely have one that comes to mind.  He was forever picking and kidding around.  During that rallying time early Sunday morning as he sipped some water through a straw he asked this question, "Know why straws were invented? So dummies would know when they reached the bottom!"  A happy soul indeed.  He and his father together again will be undoubtedly causing a commotion among the cloud of witnesses they now reside with. 

The last thing I will share with you about my father was his love of nature.  He was an avid, skilled bass fisherman.  I know it pained him to have a bass boat sitting in his driveway for the last few years and not be able to use it to get to his myriad of special fishing holes.  He learned to love it from his father who was the master fisherman that all interested parties residing or visiting the Charlotte Co., VA area wished to fish learn the tricks and skills.  I don't believe it was skill at all.  I believe that my grandfather and father shared a bond with one another when it came to the appreciation of what the Creator has given us.  My grandfather possessed a special gift of being able to call a turkey naturally with his voice and mouth cupped just so.  Dad says he possessed this gift but killed very few turkeys.  It was mostly for others who'd want his expertise.  Dad had that same gift for nature.  In what we've in the last few days referred to as an almost Dr. Doolittle fashion, dad was uniquely drawn to the many squirrels, chipmunks and array of birds populating his backyard.  Since his retirement he had spent most of his time sitting on the back porch at a small table under a gazebo with some sort of treats to hand out to his furry friends.  They ate from his hand all the time.  The connection he made with these animals was truly something to watch and I am so truly blessed to have caught some of it on video recently as he introduced my 2 yr old son Gabe to his friends.  

So...the pain is all gone.  The suffering at an end.  None of it changed who 'Sonny' Gryder was in his heart or in his mind.  He was just the same down to earth man from Keysville, VA that he ever was through it all.  I know that dad is now at peace.  He was a Jesus Follower.  A soul that was always concerned about the well being of his fellow man because of what he learned from his father about devotion to God and commitment to carrying out Christ's Beatitude teachings.  I have no doubt that my poppaw, Lester was standing there along with Jesus reaching out to him on Sunday afternoon, Lester with rod and reel in hand as Jesus smiled, saying, 'be at peace my son, now rest, you good and faithful servant' and God's voice echoing through the heaven's saying, "Alright!  That's what I'm talking about!"  God speed Pop.  I'm proud to know all I know because of you.  Thank you for guiding me into manhood and sharing your faith and your families faith with me.  I am so thankful to have the family I have.  I will continue to walk humbly with God on this earth because of what you have taught me.  Peace be with you.  I love you pop.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deep in the Root

I was out picking up some breakfast items Sunday and heard a story on how use of a mortar and pestle in the kitchen is a sign of an engaged cook.  There were several statements by the commenting cooks that I reflected upon after hearing them.  I'm always looking for positive things to share with you and these comments resonated with me as I thought about how we can apply them to our spiritual life as Jesus Followers. 

"This day and age — not to get on a soapbox — we're sort of disengaged in a lot of different ways." 

Duh...ya think? Wow...applying this statement to our spiritual lives; our daily lives really hits the mark doesn't it? 
      "...They believe in the result of it. They believe in the way, the process — something that is deep in the root." 

I believe that in order to get deep in the root of our spirituality; belief in the result of it, we must be committed like the cook in the kitchen using the mortar and pestle.  

In my work as a leader in men's ministry I've seen how believing in the results is important.  I encountered men from all across the country attending recent men's events who are active, committed Jesus-followers that are about getting deep in the root.  I've seen them exhibit this through their work and fellowship as brothers.  They believe in the way, the process.

     "It's really about being really engaged in the process as it's happening."

This was the statement that encouraged me to write today.  It 'engaged' me and made me think about my process and the importance of reflection on that process as it's happening.  Many times during our devotional time, prayer time, meditation, or quiet moments of contemplation it's easy for us to get distracted and get off track becoming 'disengaged'.

We have a mortar and pestle in our kitchen, but use it sparingly.  In the future I will work to really engage this tool in the process of my meal preparation. 

I feel confident that on that night when Jesus dined with his closet friends, speaking to them of the those things getting ready to transpire, that a mortar and pestle was part of the preparation for the meal; perhaps even near or on the table there.  Most likely used for the grinding of the grains for the bread.  

Do you think those present were engaged during those all important moments of instruction, explanation and reflection? 
I will recommit during the approaching Christmas season to getting deep in the root of my daily spiritual life process and disengage from all the 'noise' around me.  

So now it's your turn to offer up your thoughts.  Below are some questions I'd like for you to reflect upon.  Also, share your meal ideas or experiences with a mortar and pestle.  Come on folks don't be shy.

-In what ways do you find yourself disengaged?

-What daily process do you have that you are committed to that gets you deep in the root?

-When it comes to your spiritual life are you really engaged in the process as it's happening?


Here the link to the interesting story about getting back to the basics of food.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

God Speed Johnny!

Busy, busy, busy! Yep…that’s life for a father of an 8 month and 2 year old boys.  I love it!

I’ve been intending to write, but there’s been so much happening lately in addition to the growing boys. 

However, after last night I thought it was time to write and give thanks…it is Thanksgiving week after all.

On Saturday, a dear friend, Johnny Johnston (88) passed away.  Sadly, I only learned that he was in the hospital within a couple of days of his passing and that his condition was such that visitation was not possible.  So…last night was his final viewing.  I knew that I had to go and pay my respects to the kind soul of this gentleman.

I entered the funeral home looking for familiar faces; spoke to his widow briefly and then stood over Johnny to say goodbye. I was immediately drawn to 2 items there in the casket with him.  The first thing I noticed was the bright and shiny Disciples Men pin affixed to his suit jacket lapel and secondly, hanging about his neck was a cross.  Not just any cross, a special gift that was given to him.  I have the same cross as it was given to me for the very same remembrance.  Both Johnny and I were members of the 12 Disciples in our church’s production of The Living Last Supper.  Johnny portrayed, ‘Thaddeus’ and I, ‘Thomas’.  The production ran for about 5 years in the mid 2000’s.   At the conclusion of the production each cast member was given this special hand crafted metal cross as a keepsake of the experience.

A warm glow came over me as I stood there smiling at the sight of both of these items knowing that they would be buried with him.

That cross was indeed a special connection we shared, but we also shared fellowship as Disciples and Jesus Followers off stage.  Johnny was a devoted attendee of the Disciples Men book study group that I had the honor to be a part of.  As I stood there, I recalled giving Johnny the lapel pin and I remember how honored and appreciative he was that I had given it to him; no ceremony.  I had an extra one and I told him that he deserved it for his steadfast commitment to the church and the men’s group. 

We learned so very much in that small group setting.  5 to 8 men met every Monday night for a time of fellowship; discussion of spirituality and perhaps do a book study.  Johnny was the eldest in the group.  Many times this small framed man would sit quietly through an entire evening’s reflection and discussion.  Then other times he would become a giant of wisdom in the room, recanting in his soft gravelly voice some special encounter or treasured personal story.  On more than one occasion Johnny shared his questions and views on what happens at death.  The topic of the ‘golden rule’ came up often with Johnny present.  We talked about how ‘burning bushes’ are all around us and we asked how we’re to know how to recognize them.  We asked what would clue us in to someone in real need or someone only looking for some change to collect for that next ‘40’ at the convenience store.  Johnny would remark by asking how could we ever know whether someone would use a gift of compassion for good or for bad.  He believed it's not our place to worry about that.  The importance for him was the act itself because that’s what he felt Christ had taught him.  

One special moment that sticks out for me that I can recall in group with Johnny present is when we discussed where we went to be close to God.   Johnny talked about how growing up he would walk through the woods to a small stream and once there listen for God’s voice in the quiet rippling of the water.  There was no doubt that all of us learned something whenever he would speak.  I think he enjoyed the fact that it was a relatively small group and that it was a genuine safe place for us all to share our inner most thoughts on spirituality.  What happened in men’s group stayed in the men’s group.  So, yes, seeing the Disciples Men pin I’d given him was truly heartwarming and very meaningful for me.

God speed Johnny!  Peace be with you my friend.

He told us, ‘Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’”-Line of Thaddeus from ‘The Living Last Supper’ drama (Matthew 10:16)

God thank you during this Thanksgiving season for the spirit of Johnny Johnston and for the wisdom, compassion and friendship he shared with us.  Amen.


Sunday, November 4, 2012


Most of this post is inspired by a comment I made on Derek Maul's blog, "The Life-Charged Life" entry of Oct 31st, "The Last Post You Need to Read About This Election".

I hope readers will take time to pray about their decision making process before acting on their civic duty on Tuesday.  My thought is that regardless of which candidate(s) you support, the most important part of being an American is to make your voice heard through voting.  It is our opportunity to weigh in; to support individuals who have decided to submit themselves and their families to public scrutiny through public service as well as, initiatives and causes in the public sphere.'s a dirty, slimy, backstabbing exercise in character assassination.  

Whoever escapes the vitriolic rhetoric and becomes the last candidate standing, emerges as the office holder accountable to the entire electorate.  Sometimes it's with a mandate, sometimes it's not.  Since 2000 the nation has become split between the so-called 'red' states and 'blue' states as a result of not only Bush v. Gore decision, but because of a whole myriad of other issues and topics.  All too often people now wear their politics on their sleeve and I'm not talking about the generic candidate sign in your yard or bumper sticker on your car.  

Sadly, the one important topic that has been thrown under the bus that should trump all of the ideological extremes and philosophies is that of the dire need for cooperation and compromise through respectful civil discourse.  Until politicians and the general public alike recognize that we can't have one party rule exclusively without the other and that compromise is not a dirty word we cannot move forward.  Compromise has been and must continue to be an essential part of this nation’s history; toward getting things accomplished, but without it we will continue to wallow in the endless bickering of gridlock that leads us nowhere. your candidate because you truly want that cooperation; support your candidate because, although you perhaps don't agree fundamentally with the other candidate's philosophy, you don't harbor ill will or disrespect toward him or her.  Remember, these individuals, more often than not, are willingly submitting themselves to the most rigorous, most intrusive review of themselves, their families, close friends, old flames, and general acquaintances they will ever undergo.  And...perhaps this is precisely why there are few willing to take the plunge into public's too invasive, too intrusive, too disrespectful, the media too relentless and the public too hungry for emergence of any skeleton lurking in any closet they can find in order to scandalize, derail and destroy a human being. So I'll say it again...'s a dirty, slimy backstabbing exercise in character assassination.  

Tuesday, vote because your proud to be able to and vote because so very many have sacrificed in so very many ways for your right to do so. 

Government(s) can indeed be a bad thing, but government too can be a very good thing as recently been exemplified as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Let's all try and remember that.

Today a political commentator made a prediction that the losing side, whichever it is, will not accept the outcome; will not accept the legitimacy of the winner and thus lead to more entrenchment and disfunction. 

Let's all exercise our civic responsibility and be respectful of whatever the outcome(s) may be and honestly, and truthfully commit to working together to move forward, but to also quell those elements who will put political expediency and authoritarianism before the common good.  

As you make your decision remember to discern the words from the ‘sermon on the mount’.  Hear them in your ear….those words from undoubtedly the most authentic, most accurate stump speech in all of history. 

“Then – and from the depths of all I have ever tried to tell this world – check out what Jesus (my son) said; it’s a no-brainer. In fact, Jesus may possibly have addressed a couple of these issues in a little thing we like to call, THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT!!!" – God