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.

Together in Love

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away many people are thinking about love in the US.  But love and relationships aren’t exclusive to the US, they’re present around the world. As I was reading through my emails today and thinking about my partner a few rooms over from me I was reminded about one of the things that often challenge us in a relationship: unity.  That’s kind of a big part of a relationship, that on multiple levels you and your partner are a good match.  Even if you’re together for “political reasons” (not something that happens as often today), there are still things that bring you two together and you can agree on or talk about comfortably without the conversation feeling one sided.

The other part of unity is the feeling of being completed you have about/with/because of your partner.  I don’t believe we are supposed to be alone, I believe we should be going through life together, and that everyone should be able to find the person that makes them feel like a better and more complete person. Not every couple experiences that “click” where you meet someone and it just feels right.   Sometimes getting to the point of feeling that connection takes time and effort even if your intention originally was just to build a friendship.   No, it doesn’t have to be for forever, but for however long you are together you should feel that connection with that other person, and work together to keep that feeling alive.

Unity is all about who you two are together, whether with family, your kids, at work or out with friends.  It’s also what others see in and of you and how you interact with the world as a couple.  Constantly berating your partner or telling (negative) stories about them in public doesn’t make you look unified, it hurts the relationship and may even hurt your relationship with others.   Valentine’s Day does have a way of bringing people together, which is one of the reasons I love it.  But this year instead of just taking time out during one day to be together, I encourage you to work on building your unity and connection throughout the year.

Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

How Would You React?

It’s not something everyone does, but when I’m out driving, whether running errands or heading to meet with a client, I listen to the radio.  I’m one of those annoying radio control freaks who constantly changes the channel and only listens to commercials if there isn’t a better option.  As I was driving yesterday I heard that it was National Sandwich Day.  The radio personality said that he called a few sandwich shops in the city where he works (a major US city) to wish them a happy sandwich day.  He went on to mention the name of a sandwich shop and said that they had hung up on him when he called and delivered his cheerful greeting.  Yes, on a major radio station a deli was called out as a grumpy (which leads one to assume they’re not customer-friendly) business.

The other day while driving I heard another story of a little child who started up a conversation with a senior gentleman at the grocery store while she and her mom were shopping.  She told the gentleman that it was her birthday and she talked to/with him for a few minutes and before heading on to do the rest of their shopping the girl asked if she could take a picture with the man.  He agreed, and her mom posted it on Facebook.  After seeing the post a friend of a friend shared that they knew the man and that the man’s wife had recently died and he’d been lonely and struggling to adjust.   The mom reached out to the man through their mutual friends and since that incident they’ve had visits and the gentleman is now part of the little girl’s family.

Why do I share these 2 stories today? I share them because the differing reactions of the people really spoke to me.  Sure, we can react like the deli did and shut people down because we think they’re rude or weird or making fun of us.  Or we can choose to say even just a simple thank you “thank you” or do a little more and be willing to meet a new person and not just judge them for how they look, how old they are or a quirk they may have.

As you finish out this week I encourage you to take a breath before going with your initial reaction in situations that aren’t the norm for you (like in these 2 stories).  Don’t just react and be a jerk or dismiss someone as silly or not important.  That deli could have gotten great publicity, but instead they’re possibly losing business as a result of a snap judgment.  There’s now another family learning from the wisdom that seniors have to offer and sharing the gift of being alive and enjoying life with each other across multiple generations.  What will your reaction be today?

Reality Reflection: Being a Dad

This Sunday in the US is Father’s Day.  You’ve probably been seeing the ads on TV and maybe thinking about the experience you have had with your dad or dads or the father figures in your life.  Whether you’re reading the papers, watching TV or reading a fiction book, more often than not it’s the dad who screws things up or is “evil”.  Dads don’t have the best reputation, and it’s unfortunate that I agree that they don’t have the best reputation and that there’s a really good reason for that.

I’ve met more dads than I would like that don’t live up to the responsibility and gift that being a dad is.  These are men who don’t see any responsibility towards their children, don’t feel anything for them or about them, don’t show them any love or affection, beat them or their mothers up, and don’t try to give their kids the best chance they can have.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great dads out there, and there are bad moms too, being a not-great parent isn’t limited to the dads.  And even though men have failed over and over as dads, the men of the world are the ones given the next superhero role, looked up to for their “superiority” and seen as default leaders.

Again, don’t get me wrong, women (and moms) fail too.  But like I said there’s a reason for the stereotype of men failing as dads.  As we look ahead to Father’s Day I encourage you if you’re a dad to step up and let your kids know you’re there for them, let them know you care what happens with their future, and be a good example for them now even if you haven’t been in the past.  Choose to be the man that everyone looks up to, choose to do the right thing when you could do the wrong, choose to show your kids in more ways than just buying stuff that you care about them, and don’t be ashamed to be proud to be a dad.  Who are you celebrating this Father’s Day?

How Do you Talk with Strangers?

Would you consider yourself an angry person?  How about someone who has lots of friends (real friends, those you actually know personally)?  Would those who know you say that you’re a generous person?  These are important things to know because like it or not we all deal with other people every day.  Sometimes we interact with those we know and other times we interact with strangers.  But whether the person is a stranger or a friend shouldn’t impact how you generally act towards them; for example, just because they’re a stranger doesn’t mean you should disrespect or ignore them. No, you may not give them a hug when you meet them like you might a friend, but you’ll still be civil to them.

But there are those who are overly suspicious of everything and everyone else, those who see the world as a half-empty glass, and those who believe that there aren’t many good people in the world.  We all have our bad days and misunderstandings or miscommunications, but that’s no reason to assume that the rest of the world is all bad and treat them as such.

You may not fall into the category of those who believe most of the world is bad, but you may have fallen into the habit of being snarky or treating friends in a certain (less than polite) way and it spills over to how you interact with everyone else you meet.  You may not even realize you’re doing it.

But James 1:19b reminds us to: “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  I’m going to pay more attention to how I interact with others this week.  You know why? Because it’s not just about those we personally and currently know, it’s about those we meet and the role they may play in our lives in our future too.  You don’t know what role a stranger you meet today may have in your life several weeks or months down the road, but if it’s a negative interaction they have with you now that may ruin the opportunities you could have with them in the future.  How do you treat others?

Love Through Thick and Thin

Ah Valentine’s Day, or single’s awareness day as it is known by some. How did you end up spending it? Did you do fun activities with your kids? Watch cheesy movies on TV? Eat too much chocolate? Have a nice date? What are your Valentine’s traditions?

Some of the things shown on TV and in movies are about couples that really screw up with celebrating. Whether it’s forgetting the actual day, getting cheap or bad gifts, or doing something that really ruins things like getting sick or proclaiming your love only to find out your partner doesn’t feel the same, it happens! But Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day that things and relationships get messed up, it happens all year long.

Traditional marriage vows talk about being there for each other through thick and thin. Marriage, like life, isn’t a guarantee of happiness, there will be challenges, and even if the relationship is solid there are outside challenges like family and work that can affect a great relationship. The question is how much influence will you give those challenges over your life and relationship?

If you’re determined not to give them a full foothold it’s up to you and your partner to be great communicators, have lots of trust and tons of patience. It’s not always easy to admit when things aren’t going well or when you’re feeling upset, sometimes you need to give your partner time to process before they will share with you. It’s not that they don’t trust you or want to share with you (although they may be embarrassed), it’s that they haven’t processed it enough themselves to share with you. Their need to process is not a good reason for you to pull away from the relationship until they’ve got everything back together.

So my advice for you is to remember that life isn’t all rainbows, but that there will be ups and downs, even in the best relationships. Choose to not let the tough moments ruin the good ones.

“The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but to hold hands.”  Quoted by Alexandra Penney in Self