Reality Reflection: Death and Funerals

The past couple of days with Halloween, All Saint’s Day and Day of the Dead all happening and Veteran’s Day in a little over a week, we’ve been thinking and talking a lot about the topic of death. As I was out driving the other day I stopped for a red light and was met by a sight that we see on occasion and always makes me emotional, and that’s a funeral procession. This one had quite a few cops as escorts or participants, and it got me thinking once again about death and specifically about why we do things like funerals and funeral processions and graveside services.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy going to funerals or graveside services. I don’t really see a point in viewing someone in their death state or watching them be put in the ground. Do we need to see proof that they’re no longer with us? I don’t say that to sound callus or insensitive, I guess I’m just more personal and would rather say goodbye in a different way. That said I think it’s great when and important for family and friends come together to celebrate and remember someone, I’ve just always struggled with the aspect of including the person who has passed on as part of this event.

But seeing this procession the other day got me thinking about it again and for the first time I felt a bit of pride that people were stopping their day to put someone to their final earthly rest. I also had the thought that doing these activities (funerals etc.) is a sign of respect and love for the person who passed on, and a sign that they won’t be forgotten. So maybe there is some value in doing traditional funeral activities, it’s certainly something I’m going to think about the next time attending a funeral is potentially in my future.

Reality Reflections: Remembering Love

Lately I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve talked before about my habit of writing down thoughts as they come to me and always having a piece of paper next to me at my desk so that I can keep doing what I’m doing and writing down a thought or thing I have to do so I don’t forget it. And it got me thinking about all of the memory keeping we do. We use social media to record our lives, we use calendars on our devices to keep track of our lives and plans, we use search engines to learn facts and figure things out. What do we remember any more?

Quite frankly we don’t have to remember too much. We can find almost anything with a few clicks. So what are we remembering? Are we really taking the time to commit to memory the things that matter most in our lives or are we just letting them go digital and assuming we’ll be able to find them when we need them?

My partner has a better memory than I do for things like dates and numbers and even things we’ve done together too. Maybe you’re the one in the relationship who remembers things, or maybe you’re like me and you don’t remember as much as you maybe wish you could. Maybe you don’t take the time to remember because you’re scared the memories won’t be as good as you thought they were or you think it may hurt too much to remember someone you loved and now isn’t part of your life. But all of the memories, all of the events, all of the people are part of your life and who you are today.

Not all memories, events or people were good, but I believe that there are more good ones in there than you remember, memories that you’ll want to treasure some day or share with someone else. Don’t let your fear of remembering the not-so-good hinder you from remembering the good.

Treasuring Holiday Memories

There are lots of opportunities for whole-family non-screen activities in between the awesome holiday movies during the Christmas season. From baking cookies to decorating cookies to making gingerbread houses and decorating gingerbread people to decorating stockings to making homemade gifts to making ornaments, there are lots of things to keep you and your kids busy and they are things we look forward to each year.

Some of my best memories I have of growing up are consistently of the holidays and holiday activities with my family like baking cookies, unpacking all of the holiday decorations and decorating the tree. I look forward to having a place that I can do that with family and friends in the coming years, and making more of those memories together.

I remember few of the gifts I’ve gotten over the years, but most of the most enduring memories are of the activities of the season. It’s the memories that stick with us from year to year, and the memories that we want to share with our kids. Even if it is an item that we remember or have a memory around, it’s often about the person who gave it to us, the person it belonged to, the feelings around it or the way it fits into a holiday experience that sticks out in our minds.

It’s not really hard to make memories, they can happen anytime and anywhere and with anyone.  But you have to be with people to make them, and you have to create the opportunity for them to happen.  Yes, some memories will happen doing ordinary things like eating dinner at home, but most are more intentionally created with the hope that a memory can be made.

What are you doing with your family and friends to make memories this year?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Thankful Reminders

As I was working on a blog post for one of my other blogs I was reminded that sometimes what we need is a little reminder to be thankful. Whether it’s a thankful Bible verse or other words of thanks you hang on your wall, a little sticky note reminding you to smile and be thankful, a gratitude journal or jar, a chalkboard or white board where you leave notes of thanks for family members, or a thankful mantra, having a visible reminder to be thankful isn’t something to be ashamed of.

We know it’s good to take time to be thankful, but we’re really busy. So why not create, establish and schedule reminders to be thankful, just like we schedule hair appointments, play dates for our kids and time to eat? Why not keep our words of thanks around us like we keep pictures of our loved ones? Why not share words of thanks with those who visit our offices, desks, homes, cars and social accounts?

In this day and age where we’re reminded of tragedy, pain, challenge, loss and uncertainty throughout the day, why not be reminded and encouraged that there are blessings in the world, things to be thankful for, reasons to keep living, things to celebrate, people to love, things we still have to do and greater things yet to come?  What words of thanks will you surround yourself with today?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: All The Saints Before Us

This November we’ll be talking about the topic of being thankful.  This month I really want to work on being more thankful myself, so in addition to the thoughts of thanks on Facebook and Twitter, each day this month I’ll be sharing a reflection, encouragement, inspiration or just bit of thanks here on the blog. Today I want to start in what may seem like a strange place: Halloween.

Halloween was Wednesday, and while it’s a very secular celebration today, historically and originally it was something much different.  It’s originally known as All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve, the day before November 1, today, which is All Saints’ Day.  What’s All Saints’ Day?  A day honoring all the saints, both highly decorated and less known.  And what’s a saint? A saint is someone who is recognized for having an especially close relationship with God and living their life in a way that is dedicated to God.

It’s a day that reminds us of the afterlife, of the fact that good people of faith have gone on before us.  That they’ve had their turn sharing God with the world and doing His work here on earth.  It’s an opportunity for us to recognize, remember and thank all those from the past who have paved the way for our faith today.

This All Saints’ Day there are several new saints up there, including a missionary friend I’ve supported for several years.  It’s not easy to no longer have these people as part of our world because we loved them and they were doing such great work here on earth for God.  But at the same time we know they’ve entered into their eternal blessing and their reward after all the work they’ve done for God throughout their lives.

So this All Saints Day make time to thank God for the people of faith who influenced, guided and encouraged your faith, whether they’re from the past few years or several hundred years ago.

Remember Again

Recently I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve been remembering those early back-to-school days, contemplating summers at the beach, about the joy of eating watermelon in a backyard on a hot summer day, of taking walks on warm summer nights, of summer Vacation Bible Schools, hymns of old and songs of new, and of Noah and of the rainbow that is a reminder on several levels.

A big part of our lives is centered around remembering. We’re supposed to remember birthdays, appointments, where things have been put, people’s names, songs we’ve heard, books we’ve read, things people have told us, the list goes on. But not only are we supposed to remember what goes on in our lives we’re supposed to remember what goes on in the lives of our coworkers, friends, family members, significant others and/or kids. We’re also supposed to remember what God has taught us. It’s not surprising that we find ourselves forgetting things and feeling overwhelmed, it’s a lot to remember, more than most people can remember (which is one reason I write a ton of stuff down and feel very little guilt about it).

Much of the Bible is about remembering as well from Noah’s rainbow to the 10 Commandments to the Psalms to the many genealogies to the stories and traditions. One thing that sticks out with many of the remembered events of the Bible is repetition. It’s one of the greatest tools for remembering and most challenging as well. Repetition as seen in both hymns of old and songs of today, in the verses of the Psalms, signs of the Cross and occurrences of rainbows continue to be present in our lives, sometimes bringing hope, other times bringing frustration.

As frustrated as some people get with the repetition, it’s a crucial part of our lives and an important way of sharing about God. Someone may not believe or understand the first few times they hear something, but as they hear it repeated again and again they can reflect on it and learn from it and let God speak to them through it. Sometimes it’s exactly the reminder that we need to pick ourselves up, or turn ourselves around. If they can repeat the same lines throughout the book of Psalms, why can’t we repeat the same lines in the spiritual songs of today?

So the next time you’ve got a song stuck in your head, take the time to consider what the words are really saying. Thank God for the reminder and take a minute to discover what He may be trying to tell you.

Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?