Archives for the month of: July, 2011

So, do you have your stuff together?  As we move into the upcoming hurricane season this is the question being brought to the forefront of everyone’s mind here in Florida.  Come to think of it, I guess it really doesn’t matter where you live as the same question could apply whether you find yourself in the tornado alley of the Midwest or the earthquake zone of California.  As I reflect on this question I’m reminded that it often comes punctuated with a tinge of fear so as to create a real sense of urgency, that prodding that many of us need to get off the dime and get our stuff together.  This has caused me to pause even further, take notice and consider what it means to be prepared for the “stuff” of our lives as well.  Here too we might need to be prodded with the same sense of urgency so we can be even better prepared on this other “home front” of our lives.  So, I’ve been thinking recently about the parallels between the emergency list for the natural disaster and the emergency list for a “life” disaster in hopes of gaining some correlating insights.  One thing seems to be conclusive for sure…in either case it certainly seems appropriate that we should be hearing the clarion call for preparedness.

As I’ve considered the parallels, I’ve hit upon one common denominator that deserves particular note…the critical need for a flashlight.  Think on this for a minute or two.  When the power goes out in a natural disaster and we’re left to rummage around in the dark we need a light that will show us the way to safety; that reliable source of light that can illumine the path of uncertainty that is found in the disorienting darkness.  But don’t we have the same need in life?  Just think, for instance, how difficult it is (not to mention the energy it takes) to navigate the darkness of loneliness and despair.  Sometimes this darkness we experience can even catch us totally off guard.  For example, our incessant need for privacy can throw us into darkness as we sacrifice community for anonymity causing us to lose our way along the relational road of life.  Its no wonder life can seem so pale and subdued at times.  We need exposure to the light.  We need someone to be the “flashlight into our closet.”  Who is it for you? Is it the revealing light that one can find in the accountability of a close friend?  Is it found in the guiding radiance that can be experienced as we become one with our spouse?  Perhaps the best place to find it is faithfully turning to the “light of the world” as our eternal source of guidance.  Whatever you do or to whomever you turn this is one time we all need to heed the call to be prepared.  Who knows?  In doing so we might just discover the kind of peace that can only be found in the midst of the storm.  Peace. 

So, could I get somebody to please clear the table?  Perhaps this is a question that echoes in your mind from time to time as you think back on your upbringing.  I know this was an all too familiar refrain coming from the kitchen of my childhood home after the dinner meal was served and our plates were clean.  Little did I know at the time that my mom would be providing me with one of life’s greatest object lessons that would continue to ring true even later in life.  You see this is a question for us, in particular as we think about those relationships that are closest to us.  Far too many of our relationships are defined by unreconciled conflict, the wounds of criticism or even (yes, even) unspoken words of affirmation.  And the residual impact that stems from this painful reality continues its relentless pursuit on our self worth as the days, months and years of our life march on.  So, what is our next best step to fight against this becoming a continued reality in our life?  Well, I think the answer can be found in the question…leave nothing on the table in your relationships, in particular those closest to you. 

Not too long ago I told you about my refrigerator friend, Scott who waged an eight-year, valiant fight against cancer (see Side by Side post on 5/17/11).  One of the hallmarks of my relationship with Scott was that we left nothing unsaid to one another, nothing left on the table as we forged life together as friends.  In him I was fully known and he was fully known by me.  As I thing back on this the fact that he was facing a progressively deteriorating condition probably gave us an ever greater cause to keep the table cleared.  But truth be told isn’t this the way it is with all of us?  Aren’t we all in some way or another in a deteriorating condition?  It could just be that herein lies one of the best ways we can be used as an agent of healing in the lives of others not to mention our own.  A simple “I’m sorry,” a simple act of forgiveness or maybe just a simple word of encouragement may be just all it takes.  I know I need to hear this.  How about you?  Is there anyone you need to talk to?  Is there anything left undone or unspoken on the table of your life?  We have been made to be in relationship with one another, preferably one that is life giving.  To be sure there is much more life to be lived when we live with nothing left on the table.  As we think about this perhaps the first step for many of us is to seek to “reset” the table in just one fractured or distant relationship, choosing not to dine on the scraps of broken relationship but to once again enjoy the feast of reconciled and affirming friendship.  Peace.

So, do you have a hard time remembering things?  Historically this has been one of those signals of life indicating that one is getting on in years.  Senile, forgetful are just some of the words synonymous with this “condition.”  The more I “do” life and look inward however it seems that this is not just a phenomenon relegated to the prospects of getting older.  In fact, it has become apparent to me that very few people these days are immune from the grasp of forgetfulness.  A quick look at this might lead one to surmise that it’s largely a function of living a “sound bite” life where the tyranny of immediate access everything has tricked us to believing that a little bite of something is better than no bite at all.  For sure our attention spans seem to be responding well to the bait resulting in our threads of thought becoming more and more fleeting.  But for all of the theory and scientific evidence that one might find to support this hypothesis, I believe it runs much deeper than that.  It seems to be more a result of our doing everything but not being in the moment.  I know for me it’s often feels like my lights are on but nobody’s home.  I’ve forsaken the treasure of the moment in exchange for “not wanting to miss a thing.”  It’s as if I’ve chosen to look right past people in my quest to latch on to the distractions that can only be found in the distance.  Let’s face it…as long as we’re distracted we don’t have to be… intimate.  Yikes!  Could that be it?  Is our forgetfulness largely a result of having become so adept at deflecting intimacy we simply can’t remember a thing?  Why do you think it’s so hard to remember someone’s name that you just met moments before?  Isn’t it just easier to focus on the person in the distance rather than intently focusing on the person in your midst?  I’ve often wondered if this is where life’s cliché, “so close but yet so far away” came into existence.  Perhaps we need to latch on to another of life’s clichés, “practice makes perfect” as we let our guard down and begin to just practice the presence of the person right before us.  Who knows?  It might just lead to the memory of a lifetime. Peace.      

So, what are the things that you value in life?  All of the recent talk surrounding the “debt ceiling” has caused me to pause and spend some time thinking back on my many days spent studying Economics in school.  As I’ve begun to do this I’ve been reminded of the complexities of the subject and frankly how little of it that actually made sense to me back then.  I mean the whole course of study seemed to be characterized by confusing theories where opposing forces reigned supreme.  Just consider a few of these; macro vs. micro, supply vs. demand, consumption vs. production, Keynesian vs. free-market, etc.  Needless to say I was forever grateful to the professor when the test showed up as multiple-choice instead of essay form.  To be sure, my passing grade might have been significantly challenged if I would have actually had to explain with any sort of granularity the intricacies of the opposing theories.  But life itself has taught me more than any textbook or course could have possibly ever done; valuable lessons from an economics of another kind…the economics of value. 

My observation of life over the years has brought me to this conclusion; most people (including me) know the cost of everything but few people know the value of anything.  Rest assured if you checked with my wife she’d be the first to tell you that I’m a master at assessing the costs for a particular purchase, activity, etc.  Very rarely, however, do I take time to consider what the value the expense might bring to our family or our individual lives. Why is it that our default setting on how we gauge so much of life is seen through the lens of what it costs us?  What if we could reprogram the settings of our lives and see the costs of life’s experiences and encounters through the value of the people, places and things that make up the inventory of our existence?  Why, even the “opportunity cost” of what might seem like a sacrifice to us could then be seen in light of the immeasurable value it might just bring to another person.  And lest we forget, it might just be there would be a radical change in our conversation about the “debt ceiling.”  After all, aren’t we encouraged to “let no debt remain outstanding but for the debt to love one another.”  It certainly seems therein lies not a confusing economic theory but a timeless truth that will lead us to the true value in life.  Peace.             

So, what are you on the lookout for in life?  Can you remember the times in your life when you’ve enjoyed one of life’s sumptuous, multi-course meals shared at a friend or loved one’s home?  Take a minute and just picture yourself there.  The entrée is finished, a rich conversation has ensued around the table and the hostess calls out, “save your fork!” signaling the best is yet to come.  At that very point the wheels of anticipation take over as you begin to salivate over the possibilities of the dessert that awaits you.  As I’ve thought about this as a parallel to life I’m captivated by the reality that somewhere along the way our anticipation of the life ahead gets relegated to the leftovers of what we’ve already experienced.  Somewhere we simply stop feasting on the endless possibilities that life has to offer, choosing rather to gnaw on the bones of yesterday.  Those all too familiar day’s marked by regret that are masked as the “what could have been’s” of life.  Where do the wheels come off and we become willing to just accept the table scraps life sends our way?  It’s as if we stop looking out the front window of life at the road ahead and become fixated on life as seen through our rear view mirror.  We stop believing that there is joy even in the struggles of life as we anticipate better days ahead and we displace it with a defeated belief that joy is nowhere to be found.  No longer is our posture one of expectancy but rather it becomes one of presumption, the presumption that life is as good as it’s going to get.  So how can we return to the days when we long for and await with great anticipation the feast that comes from living? I believe we need to be on the lookout for eternity in the everyday of life.  We need to begin to see life through the lens of forever.  At this very point even the mundane becomes significant.  Even met goals that at once seemed to offer only a fleeting satisfaction become purposeful, perhaps even eternally purposeful. 

You know the old cliché, “nothing lasts forever” is only partially true.  For certain there are those things in life where rust and moths will destroy but there is a place where the feast will last forever.  It’s known as Heaven.  A place by the way where we can spend our lives here on earth captivated by and in great anticipation of…even on the days when our plates seem to be the most empty.  Heaven is a place where we will feast on the Bread of Life for all eternity.  It will be like feasting on dessert forever!  Be on the lookout for it and you may just find “a little bit of it” right here on earth.  Peace.     

So, how do you like your veggies?  Some of my fondest childhood memories stem from those times when I would visit my grandparent’s home over the summers of my youth.  My grandfather, a 40+ year railroad man, always had a garden in his backyard manicured to its finest and full of the freshest of vegetables.  This “garden of life” not only provided the sustenance for daily living for my grandparents but it did for many of his closest neighbors as well.  My grandmother, a simple and beautifully demure women would gladly gather the “pick of the day,” season them with the spices known only to the uniqueness of Southern cooking, place them in one of those brass-bottom pots and carefully set them on the stove to cook.  As the afternoons would while into the evening in anticipation of dinner their home would fill with the aroma of a deep freshness that one could never find in the frozen food section of any grocery store.  Even as a youngster I remember thinking there seemed to be a nugget of life hidden in that characteristic smell. 

As I’ve reflected back on these great memories from the senses I’ve begun to remember the pervasive and constant companion of simple joy that I experienced just entering their home.  Why was that?  For sure there was an ambience of love that was always present but there seemed to be more.   So I turned to the veggies for an answer.  You see what created that distinctive and pleasing aroma from the stove, not to mention that mouth watering taste, was the fact that the veggies were allowed to simmer so as to become seasoned and alive with a consistent and characteristic taste of fullness.  By this point you’re probably wondering what on earth this has to do with life.  You see it seems in this day and age of instant everything we have taken the element of purposed time out of the equation for our lives.  We no longer are content to let things just simmer for a while.  Life has become somewhat tasteless to us as the beauty of life has become smothered by our incessant need to know and have now.  Even our well intended sense of urgency has now become our “sense of everything.”  Everything now, everything solved, everything known, everything today, etc.  Let’s do more than face it…let’s embrace it. Some things just take time.   Maybe this is why the old adage, “haste makes waste” was once so often quoted in days gone by.  Could it be that our longing for that constant companion of simple joy can be rediscovered as we take our time with life allowing things to simmer just a bit?  Is this one of life’s next best steps to take in order to smell afresh the sweet aroma of life?  Go ahead…take some time and just think about it.  Peace.

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