Reality Reflection: At An End

This week I got the news that a family friend is getting very close to the end of his journey.  He’s had medical problems for years and things have worsened and now he and his wife are working with hospice.  The man has always had a great sense of humor, is good to his friends, loves his wife, and has really endured through serious medical issues in a positive way that you don’t often see.  He’s not perfect, none of us are, and I’m sure that he’s had his moments of anger and frustration, as well as fear and sadness, especially at this point in time.

It’s not easy to know the end is very close, whether it’s your life or that of someone you know well, especially when they’re one of those ‘good people.’  No, it’s not good to wish anyone were dead or think it’s better to lose someone who has some not so great habits (everyone has a family and a mother), but when the world loses a bright soul it seems like it’s felt even more.  What would you do if you knew that your end was near?  I would hope that you would take advantage of every moment you have with those you love, and maybe even do a splurge or two that you’ve always wanted, like take a special trip with your partner or kids, maybe even take the opportunity to try and mend a few fences.

As I was reflecting on the impending loss of this friend it got me thinking about the other side of death and loss, the side of the living.   We don’t go anywhere when someone we know or love dies, we’re still here.  And often we end up at a funeral or life celebration talking about them with other friends and family.  It’s not often that we’ve got the opportunity to let someone know what they meant to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been in our life before they pass.  It adds something to the grieving process for both sides, to be able to share that with them and support and love them, and it can make their last days very meaningful and happy, instead of painful and sad.

Loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone we’ve known for a very long time, and known on a very personal level.  But the way things work right now, everything comes to an end.  So I do encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how you want your end to go and make sure that you’ve got things clearly written down, but more so I encourage you to make as many memories as you can, to love as big as you can and to enjoy as much of life as you can.

Reality Reflection: Past and Future

I was talking about the show “Hoarders” with a client this week.  I love organization and it’s something I work on with my clients, but it’s not a show I enjoy watching or choose to watch.  I have watched it in the past because of what I do and out of curiosity.  The premise of the show is that there are people whose houses are so crammed full of stuff that they can hardly move.  Something has happened in their lives or the lives of family members and as a result they’re finally deciding to try to do something about the clutter.  The Hoarders team is brought in and together the client and team work to not only throw out or donate a lot of stuff, they also talk about the non-visible clutter that made the visible clutter get this bad in the first place.  I saw a recent commercial for it featuring an individual who had been on the show as a client and he shared his thankfulness about the transformation that took place in his life through the show.   If you’ve seen it you know that as a result of the work the clients do experience great transformations and are given a fresh start at life.

The reason I bring it up is because of the conversation we were having around it.  Yes, the craziness of the hoarding was mentioned, and they said that they sometimes get sucked in and watch because they can’t believe it and it just amazes them.  The reason I like the show is because they achieve a great transformation with it.  I’m not a fan of news TV because often it’s just a report, nothing is done about the issue. Yes, it’s great that issues are coming to light, but just bringing them to light doesn’t really do anything. The rare exception is when someone’s experience or emotions are confirmed around a situation or person and they’re able to find some peace or freedom as a result (like hearing the story of a rape survivor or knowing a dishonest executive was sent to jail may give them some peace even if the individual that raped them or took their money wasn’t).

Yes, I take time to look at the issues with myself and my clients, I don’t believe we can really move on unless we take time to work through them and understand them at least a little and see how they fit into our life story.  But I don’t believe it’s healthy for all of us to be bringing up our history or focusing on what went wrong in our lives all of the time.  I believe there has to be a point at which we choose to move forward and start telling a new story.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move on to what 2017 has for us. I’m tired of talking about 2016 and the past, and ready to start equipping myself and others to conquer all this year has to offer.  Are you?

Christmas Carol Classics: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

“It came upon a midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still the heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world

Peace on the earth
Good will to men
From heaven’s all gracious King

The world in solumn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing

Peace on the earth
Good will to men
From heaven’s all gracious King

The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing

Hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing

On a midnight clear.”

Today’s carol is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and you can listen to it here.  This song was a poem and carol written by  Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts in 1849.  Sears wrote this piece when he was going through a time of struggle and darkness in his life (it goes to show you that even pastors struggle at times).

While it was Christmas time when Sears was going through his challenges, he didn’t write the song about the First Christmas, but rather about the Christmas he was going through then and the then-contemporary issues of war and peace.

However the call for peace is something that is always needed in our world.  If you’re fortunate enough to be experiencing peace in your life at this time I pray that you’ll find an opportunity to share that peace with someone who is not peaceful this holiday season.  I believe the holiday season should be a time of celebration, but there’s also opportunity for quiet reflection on your life and where God is leading you, like Sears took during the year he wrote this song.   So among the celebrating I encourage you to take some time for reflection as well and think about that night so clear so many years ago when Jesus was born.

Christmas Carol Classics: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!”

This is the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (you can listen to it here).  It is based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (you can read the poem here).  It’s a song that talks about the divide in the world and how there’s so much unhappiness and hatred in the world that it almost seems like a joke when the cheerful bells play and speak of peace.  But the longer Longfellow listened to the bells the more he was reminded of the hope that they sound and the promise of peace one day that believers have in God.

We struggle with the concept of peace still over 200 years later. We don’t have peace on earth with all men, we’re still learning how to get along with each other.  The song ends with a reminder that if we want peace it’s our job to spread it.  Just like the bells are most enjoyable when they’re heard, so too is the story of peace.  How will you share peace today?

Reality Reflection: Peace for Tomorrow

Like many people my heart breaks for the various tragedies and evil that goes on around the world and hurts people, destroys their families and lives and kills others.  It’s something we have to face as people of faith, that there will be evil until God comes back.  Do I believe that even with evil remaining we can do a better job than we’ve done? Absolutely.   I believe that there’s something that each and every one of us can do to make the world a better place, one that fewer people fear for their lives or sanity and have more opportunities to use their gifts and talents in a way that builds up the world and creates a better future for the next generations.

So when it comes to the choice to not stand for the National Anthem or not supporting police officers I have a hard time making that choice.  Yes, I absolutely believe that Black Lives Matter and that there are police who are completely prejudiced and that things have to change again, in line with the changes of MLK Jr’s days and even before that with the Civil War slaves’ freedom.  But I also believe that we have to give Veterans and those who are in the military more respect and support than we do (I have family and friends who have served), and disrespecting police isn’t helpful either.

So rather than seeing not standing for the Anthem as (just) disrespect, maybe it’s something that’s happening because people feel they have tried all manner of other things and have not found any other way to get people’s attention on the importance of changing things and actually causing change to happen.  The question is that as great as it is that people are finally noticing how not right things are and taking a stand as a result, is it really doing anything to make change happen in the people and places that it needs to?  Thinking back to the big blow up with the Veterans and the VA and how it was revealed how long it was taking to be seen and get help at the VA, while some things may have improved since then, I’m sure most veterans you talk to would say that not much has changed now that a lot of the noise has died down.

The thing with change is that it only works if people agree that there’s really a problem and things need to change.  Some people may say for example that the majority of black people (especially males) are out for violence and carry guns and should be treated as an imminent threat. Actual statistics may not support that, but because what’s in the news or presented as the credible threat is primarily black people, that’s what some people come to believe and get their tunnel vision as a result.

I can’t force anyone to change their opinions, even if I present credible evidence in opposition of their opinions.  But I can choose to stand with those who are bullied, seen as less than important, downtrodden, ignored, abused or judged for superficial (irrelevant) factors.  I believe that we should each be given the opportunity to prove who we are and our value before we’re judged by the world, and most be given a chance to start over if we fail.   As for how we change things, maybe we should be looking back at the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation and what happened after MLK’s March on Washington and how the changes as a result of the Civil Rights of the 50’s and 60’s were put into place and give them a modern spin to apply to our need for change today.

A Little Quiet Health

When it comes to health we spend a lot of time talking about what to do, or the actions to take to become healthier.  In 2016 that’s a really important thing to do because of all our technology, desk jobs, TV habits and other sedentary pleasures.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those activities (I love reading), do them myself and spend a lot of my day sitting or being less mobile (it’s not great to be huffing and puffing on the phone with a client).  So it’s important that during the hours we are mobile and “doing” health activities that we really do make the most of it.

That said, just doing, blindly or not, isn’t the goal with health.  Health isn’t just about “doing” the right thing (though sometimes actions are required), it’s about a state of being, about how you feel and about how you see and interact with the world.  If you have your day scheduled from one health activity to the next you may be missing out on the opportunity to find peace and mental health.  That’s only found when you take breaks and have fun.

I know it may not seem fun to do things like meditating, napping and sitting quietly, but those times of peace and reflection help you understand your goals and if they’re really what you want or if you need to make an adjustment, and work through the challenges and situations you are experiencing in your life (rather than just reacting to them), as well as take a break from the action of the world.  Let’s be honest: when was the last time you had a good break?  Do you make time for them on a regular basis?  If not you should, even if it means you have to get a sitter for the kids or trade off with another family or your partner.  Some people choose to get up early or stay up late because that’s the best time they know to find quiet.

The other thing I mentioned was fun.  Having health means you have more opportunities for fun, and health isn’t just about ‘chores’ that have to be done.  You can make them fun family activities, like getting dinner ready together, taking hikes in the national parks near you or visiting farmer’s markets to check out new foods to try.  Health is also a great couple’s activity, like long walks, cooking classes and quiet time together.

But before you run off and get active this weekend, take some time to consider how you can work a little rest, reflection and relaxation into your life.  You’ll find it easier to get through the challenges as they happen and feel better about all the things you have to do to be healthy or become healthier.

“Ceaseless activity, constant mental and emotional commotion, is not just the avoidance of our unwanted sense of emptiness, but (it is) also complicit in its continuing cause.” Guy Finley

Remembering The Liberator

July 18th was the birthday of one of the great men of the world: Nelson Mandela (celebrated as “Mandela Day”). No one is perfect (Mandela included), but he’s someone who showed throughout his life that he was a true leader. A 2013 article on Mandela called him a “Dissident, Liberator and Statesman.” Those are 3 big titles that all say something important about who he was, but the one I wanted to focus on today is “liberator.”

Mandela knew what it was to be not free, he spent 27 years in prison for his efforts to make South Africa a better place for people. Some people, having had his experience, would throw in the towel and spend the rest of their years quietly, thankful to be free. But Mandela never gave up on his dreams of and plans for a better life for himself and the people he loved, and people around the world too.

We take time each year to remember people like Nelson Mandela and the dreams they had for a reason, a reason that seems more important than ever with the violence over the past few weeks and months around the world. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and countless other men and women who have passed on would not be proud of the people some of us have become. I think they would be happy to see that some thing have changed and are changing for the better, but sad that we are fighting on many of the same things that should have already been addressed, and creating issues that shouldn’t be issues and haven’t been in the past.

What it comes down to is that the world is always in need of more people like Nelson Mandela. You don’t have to be in a traditional position of power to make a difference, you have to decide that you’re going to give your best effort to fixing or alleviating the problem(s) you see in the world. Whether you make that effort in jail, on the street, in your office, in a school, or as a president doesn’t matter. What matters is that you choose to step up and let people know that they too can be liberated and choose what they want to make out of life.