Regret #2 ...

Regret #2 from the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying is ...

I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

This can immediately make some of us feel guilty because we are working hard!

And there are certain seasons of life where this is unavoidable.

There is also nothing that implies this statement only applies to paid work.

There is nothing that implies that laziness is what will leave us with no regrets.

What I believe this statement does imply is that people - when they get to the end of their lives - regret:

 ... that they didn't create enough space to nurture important relationships

... that they focused too much on gathering more stuff, rather than more meaning

... that they didn't make time to read, rest, relax, recreate, refresh, renew

... that they spent too much energy and effort on self-improvement rather than self-acceptance

... that they worked too hard on home improvement rather than on travel, hospitality, and generosity

... that they allowed the Protestant work ethic to keep them on the treadmill of endless busyness

Again, this regret can be a great springboard for self-reflection:

Where and how am I working too hard? Too much?

Am I creating enough margin in my life for the things that really matter most to me?

Are my closest relationships thriving or withering?

Do I allow myself the freedom to cease work without guilt?

Is my life a balance of hard work and deep rest?

When is the last time I "wasted" a day doing something that refreshed my soul?

Maybe take a bit of time this weekend to ask yourself a few of these questions

... and be sure to do it with your feet up!

 

God is doing a new thing ...

The people of God were in exile when the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote words of hope and conviction to them from the mouth of their God.

This morning I read: "Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

I could not help but be reminded of the earthquake we are experiencing in the arena of women and men and sex and harassment and inappropriate behavior and flat-out rape.

For men it may seem as if allegations and accusations are appearing out of thin air. Memories that have been buried in women's minds, psyches and bodies are emerging on a daily basis.

Bill Cosy - BILL COSBY! - was sent to jail today for drugging and raping women. The ground shakes ...

And I get that there is fear.

Because the ground IS shifting. The old ways are gone; new things are happening.

Innocent men feel fear. But I believe that fear is unfounded. Less than 2-3% of these kinds of allegations are made up.

Less-than-innocent men also feel fear. I believe that fear IS founded. Perhaps the chickens really will come home to roost.

Women have always felt fear. Fear that we will be touched when we don't want to be. Fear that we will be harassed and no one will believe us. Fear that we will be taken advantage of at a party or if we have an extra glass of wine. Flat out fear that we will be raped if we jog, or walk, or stay home alone.

So, fear is now a common denominator.

And if fear is what is needed for some men to understand that inappropriate and unwanted behavior on their part may very well cause immediate and future damage to their lives and their careers, then fear may be just what we need until this ship gets righted.

Over two decades ago while attending a church different from the one at which I currently work, I, and several other women, reported a pastor who inappropriately touched us. We did this at great personal cost. We were all "crucified." The man is still a pastor. Thus, #WhyIDidntReport.

Currently, I face innaproppriate male behavior every month or so as I live out my calling to preach and teach. Never from my colleagues, however. If they saw some of these men do what they do, they would punch them.

All too often, I have been silent. I don't want to be rude. I am a pastor; I'm supposed to be nice! I don't want to make men feel bad. Maybe they don't understand that times have changed and it is no longer ok to either touch or comment on a woman's body. Sometimes, I am so shocked that I am rendered speechless.

No more.

It is past time for me to speak up.

For myself.

For the women who will come after me.

And for the men who do this stuff. For their sake, too.

The God who created us male and female desires that we treat each other with immense respect and fierce tenderness.

When we do this, men AND women, we will have absolutely nothing to fear. And everything to gain.

"Behold," God says, and continues to say, even in our day, "I am doing a new thing."

Accept being shipwrecked ...

I have always loved this little story from an essay by Brennan Manning. Hope you do, as well.

"One day Saint Francis and Brother Leo were walking down the road.

Noticing that Leo was depressed, Francis turned and asked: 'Leo, do you know what it means to be pure of heart?'

'Of course. It means to have no sins, faults or weaknesses to reproach myself for.'

'Ah,' said Francis, 'now I understand why you're so sad. We will always have something to reproach ourselves for.'

'Right,' said Leo. 'That's why I despair of ever arriving at purity of heart.'

'Leo, listen carefully to me. Don't be so preoccupied with purity of heart. Turn and look at Jesus. Admire him. Rejoice that he is what he is - your Brother, your Friend, your Lord and Savior. That, little brother, is what it means to be pure of heart. And once you've turned to Jesus, don't turn back and look at yourself. Don't wonder where you stand with him.

The sadness of not being perfect, the discovery that you really are sinful, is a feeling much too human. It even borders on idolatry. Focus your vision outside yourself on the beauty, graciousness and compassion of Jesus Christ. The pure of heart praise him from sunrise to sundown. Even when they feel broken, feeble, distracted, insecure and uncertain, they are able to release it into his peace. A heart like that is stripped and filled - stripped of self and filled with the fullness of God. It is enough that Jesus is Lord.'

After a long pause, Leo said, 'Still, Francis, the Lord demands our effort and fidelity.'

'No doubt about that,' replied Francis. 'But holiness is not a personal achievement. It's an emptiness you discover in yourself. Instead of resenting it, you accept it and it becomes the free space where the Lord can create anew. To cry out, 'You alone are the Holy One, you alone are the  Lord,' that is what it means to be pure of heart. And it doesn't come by your Herculean efforts and threadbare resolutions.

'Then how?' asked Leo.

"Simply hoard nothing of yourself; sweep the house clean. Sweep out even the attic, even the nagging painful consciousness of your past. Accept being shipwrecked. Renounce everything that is heavy, even the weight of your sins. See only the compassion, the infinite patience, and the tender love of Christ. Jesus is Lord. That suffices. Your guilt and reproach disappear into the nothingness of non-attention. You are no longer aware of yourself, like the sparrow aloft and free in the azure sky. Even the desire for holiness is transformed into a pure and simple desire for Jesus.'

Leo listened gravely as he walked along beside Francis. Step by step he felt his heart grow lighter as a profound peace flooded his soul."

 

 

A life well lived ...

My mom recently turned 80.

As with my dad, we took this opportunity to let my mom know how she has impacted our lives. Each of her 10 grandchildren, her 3 children and their spouses wrote her a letter expressing our gratitude for the ways she has played a role in our lives

When families do this themes start to emerge. The measure of a life is seen. Influence is more easily traced. My mom, a fierce advocate of family, loyalty, intergity and kindness, a person who never seeks the limelight, who never draws attention to herself, is a veritable giant when it comes to having influence on those in her innermost circle.

I had the privilege of gathering all these letters and reading them, often with tears streaming down my face.

These are a few the lessons I picked up:

1. Your family sees you clearly. This cannot be helped.

Here is how one grandson put it:

"I look around at our holiday gatherings and see a whole family that is enjoying their struggles. All of your offspring are happily and confidently pursuing lives that are meaningful to them. They love their lives, and they love each other and they love spending time together. This cannot be an accident. You are clearly doing something right. The way you have lived your life has resulted in a clan of thriving people."

And another:

"You have taught me how to work hard and how to rest, how to love and be loved, how to speak and how to listen, and how to serve others and be served."

And another:

"You have shown me how to be strong when things are difficult and how to treat everyone I meet with kindness."

2. Showing up matters. Show up as often as you possibly can.

A few quotes:

"For as long as I remember you have been on top of every activity and event that we had going on. Even now I am almost positive that you know my soccer schedule better than I do."

and ...

"One of the greatest lessons you have taught me is that you can show people you love them by simply being present. For me, that meant you came to everything from my 2nd grade youth soccer and tee ball games, middle school band concerts and track meets, piano concerts, high school swim meets, track meets, softball games, marching band competitions, my auditions for all-state band, spring training in Orlando to see my first college hit ... You taught me that if a person you love is doing something they love, your presence at that event is the ultimate expression of love and support ... your presence gave me even more joy in what I was doing because I knew you were sharing it with me."

3. The little things are always the big things. Don't be fooled.

Again, a few quotes:

"Every year I look forward to your twice-baked potatoes, banana bread, and Sunday school rolls, because no one is able to make them quite like you."

"I will always remember our Friday afternoon hot dog picnics ..."

"Thank you for showing me how to rock a simple hairdo."

"I will always remember when I was a little boy and you drove me to the end of Hammond Road to see what was there."

I will spare you the rest of the details and lessons from these letters for they are many ...

I simply wanted to share a bit of what I learned through this poignant family exercise.

Your family sees you clearly, you cannot help but impact them. For better or for worse ...

Your presence really matters.

Do the small things with great love, for in the end, the small things are really the big things.

If you see my mom, wish her a happy 80th year - she is truly one of a kind.

 

 

 

 

Of The Empire ...

At times, poetry speaks more eloquently than any other form of speech.

Mary Oliver's poem - Of The Empire - is an example:

"We will be known as a culture that feared death

and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity

for the few and cared little for the penury of the

many. We will be known as a culture that taught

and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke

little if at all about the quality of life for

people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All

the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a

commodity. And they will say that this structure

was held together politically, which it was, and

they will say also that our politics was no more

than an apparatus to accomodate the feelings of

the heart, and that the heart, in those days,

was small, and hard, and full of meanness."

My fellow Christians, please remember that throughout history when we proclaim "Jesus is Lord!"

we are, at the same time, proclaiming that the Empire is not.

Amen.

Service to others ...

"Service to others will help you become deaf to a voice inside of you that does not believe in happiness."

(Hafiz - Persian mystic, 1320-1389)

Forgive ...

#1 on my Top 10 List for Parents of Adult Children is ...

Forgive.

If there is one thing that can save family relationships,

hold marriages together,

heal old wounds

and protect new wounds from festering

it is the simple, yet costly act of forgiveness.

I love how Jesus puts it when his followers ask him how to pray.

He tells them to pray:

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"

or

"Forgives us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Tricky, Jesus .... tricky.

Do you see how he connects these two actions into one unified request?

We ask for the forgiveness of the Divine, our Creator, for all the ways we fall short, mess up, fail, wound, hurt.

And then ...

We turn right around and forgive all of those who fall short, mess up, fail, wound or hurt us.

Does this mean we allow abusive parents to still abuse us? Nope.

Does this mean we give our drug-addicted children drug money? Nope.

Does this mean we gloss over pain and heartache and mean words and broken promises? Nope.

There will always be hard conversations to have, truth to share and boundaries to set.

Always.

But, at the same time, we can also always forgive.

Always.

And we can start with the smallest of things - a word said in anger, a miscommunication, a forgotten birthday.

If we practice forgiveness in the small, we will be experts at it when it comes to the big.

If there is one thing I would leave all of us with as I bid a fond farewell to this little run of posts about parents and adult kids, it would be this:

Forgive each other in the same manner in which you have been forgiven by your heavenly Parent ...

If we can do that we may just spare ourselves and those we love from an abundance of unnecessary pain.

There is freedom and joy in forgiveness.

It is a gift you can give at any time; the greatest gift you can ever give to another human being.

And in the paradoxical way of the Kingdom of Jesus you will find that it is simultaneously the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Amen.

The year mom swore a little ...

Ok, one last little bit of hard-earned wisdom about the power of laughter in the parent-adult child system, especially around the volatile holiday season.

One Christmas I ruined everything by trying too hard.

WAY too hard ...

My daughter was bringing home a new boyfriend.

My brother and his family were coming for Christmas Eve dinner.

I - in my own mind - was going to crush it.

I was going to do all the traditions, have a great tree, cook a superb meal, make everyone feel welcome, have a few little surprises for my nieces who are Jewish, get just the perfect gifts, blah, blah, blah ... you know the drill.

Whole dang thing went south on me because no one - especially my adult husband and my 3 adult kids - didn't cooperate with all my ridiculousness. How dare they?

So I spent the bulk of Christmas Eve in bed weeping, pretending I had the flu, while my entire family laughed and celebrated at my dining room table.

Sad.

The next year I came up with a new plan - This would be the year mom swore a little. (Or, a lot depending on the circumstances.)

This created all kinds of fun for everyone involved.

A well-placed, polite little swear-bomb can sure lighten the mood, people.

Especially when young adult kids push back on all our best-laid plans.

Happiest. Christmas. Ever.

Now, I know the Bible discourages coarse language. I get it.

But what do you think is worse?

A cry-baby mom in her bed thinking bad thoughts about her family on the eve of our Lord's birth ...

or a nicely placed little cuss word?

Laughter - it works every time.

Try it.

Set the whole thing trembling ...

I love me some Freddy Buechner ... a Presbyterian pastor with a knack for turning a phrase.

The smallest acts of kindness, even circumscribed within our own families, can, as Buechner says, "set the whole thing trembling ..."

Stay kind, my friends ... stay kind.

Kindness can change the world.

Listen to how Buechner puts it:

"Humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling…

As we move around this world and as we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble.

The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt.

Our lives are linked together.

No one is an island."

(Frederick Buechner, b. 1926)