Decorating with Love

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Recently, we have had our fair share of mishaps with trees falling on our home. Within one year we have had three trees to crash into our house. Within this year timeframe the end of life ministry work I do and the insurance business my husband addresses has gone through major restructuring. Our family has added in this year timeframe two new grandsons and a set of beautiful twin girls. I have wrapped up a five-year journey of a doctoral studies in Christian Spirituality with a focus on grief and loss impacts. Finally, within this year we have enjoyed making memories with family and friends as we celebrate the calendar events around the year.

A Golden Rule of decorating for me is to live with what you love. Do life with those you love. Live the life you love and love the life you live. Find comfort in those who love you in return. That seems to be a good way to live a life that is decorated with love!

But, in the book of Luke Jesus challenges his disciples and listeners hearing his Sermon on the Plain to follow ethics of daily living with blessing and woe language. The Golden Rule of love extends to enemies, the challenging, the unfair, the unjust, and those who simply do not love me or you. What?!

When I decorate, I design with concepts around rhythm, flow, function, repetition elements, focal points, and symbolism. The chaos of destruction done by disasters, individuals, accidents, or circumstances cares little about ordering one’s life by such design concepts. Hurricane Irma certainly didn’t care about chaotic destruction and collateral damage. We, as people also contribute to costing chaotic outcomes into one another lives too. But, Jesus reminds us that God is still the Creator that takes chaos and makes something beautiful out such. It is the Joseph story (Genesis 50:15-21). It is our own human story.  The main element in God’s designing spiritual tool box is the design element of love. The reality of losses from intentional or unintentional may result in ostracism, division-ism, elitism, egotism, racism, sexism, materialism, poverty, denial, greed, want, naivete or ignorance will not limit a Holy God who can resurrect, rebuild, redesign, remodel, redirect, rejuvenate, restore, refurbish, and rise to something new with the use of love.

Jesus reminds us in his Sermon on the Plain that living a blessed life is not about an easy life. Living a life with love is about our own internal peace and contentment. It is about rooting for wholeness and wellness and belonging for everyone. His woe language is warning those who create chaos, loss, and harm to beware that there is an end game.

Singer Gary Allan reminds us in Every Storm lyrics that every storm runs out of rain. When the destruction is over we do best to keep on going and face the wind knowing that every storm does run out of rain.  Jesus points us to decorate our lives with the love of God. And whenever the storms of life hit, and they will, we can stand on the promises of a God who loves, creates, and makes all things new again. That said, I must go now and pick up a paint brush. God does create beauty out of chaotic lives and He invites us to co-create with Him in this loving beautification of living. In my imperfections I strive to live with the colors of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, perseverance, long-suffering, kindness, gentleness, meekness, peace, and generosity. And I hope both my home and my life reflects a life decorated with love and offer such beauty into the lives of others. “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.”  Mother Teresa

 

Given to Remember

 

Someone once said, “Live a life worth remembering.” I have a great appreciation for quotes of inspiration. I once use to read a newspaper every morning. I loved how the paper felt in my hands as I turned the pages. The smell of ink whiffed a fragrance into the air that made the words seem more impactful and worth reading.  I don’t know who authored these specific words, but I am sure many minds and mouths have offered the concept down through the generational ears.

In the Greek Parresia παρρησία means to live a life worth remembering. The essence is to be of courage and confidence that improves one’s freedom of speech. If we are going to live lives worth remembering there is a challenge in being honest with one’s story and learning from the details of the events that impact the making of our character, sense of self, and soulful transformations because of the remembrances. Jesus once said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) The story unfolds from his own pain and suffering, the reminder of the Sermon on the Mount, he lived his own life to show us how to live ours, he taught us to pray, he gave people hope in the miracles, he offered us the world as our neighbor, he gave us a mission to go forth and live as boldly as he did, and he offered teachings on love and faith.  That is a well-defined life worth remembering.

I no longer hold a newspaper in my hands every day. But, I do still remember the rush of energy and efforts to turn pages and glean the stories of the day that are worth capturing to memory for the sake of civic mindedness, inspirational awareness, or learning something that improves my own life.

The past few weeks have been about hurricanes, remembering 9/11, an adult’s child’s birthday, a new birthday to remember of a new grandson, and the to do list of maintaining order in one’s own daily routine. Each of these items listed have personal significance to me and my family of loved ones. We have had hurricane damages of the past and presently. We have a loved one who survived 9/11, and my son now has a son celebrating birthdays not that far apart on the calendar. The past and the present are building upon the act of remembering.  The act of remembering offers me the disposition of gratitude for each story, each person, and each opportunity of doing life with the people in my life.

When I remember stories of family members, travels, historical events, birthdays, and death dates I find I remember to be grateful for the privilege of being a witness to the remembrance of all of it. Maya Angelou reminds us that, “we are the sum total of everything we have ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgotten- it is all there. Everything influences us.”

Jesus reminds us/me to remember the value of our lives in being alive in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. There is a challenge to holy living and living wholly well with God, self, and others. But, I bet living out such a life would be a life filled with love, empathy, kindness, gratitude, hope, peace, perseverance, determination, forgiveness, positive power, self-control, humility, authenticity, and flavor. The kind of life worth remembering. The kind of life worth living.

 

Fact Rather Than Fiction

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There is a humorous jabbing at my expense in our family. If a true story is made into a movie then the laughs begin regarding, “mom must go see that one.” That is fine with me! All my life I have been a collector of biographies and people’s stories. The one constant in all the labels I have on a resume is within the common denominator of seeking truth that informs, transforms, and challenges us all to rise up, press on, be real, get honest, and be wise because our stories have come together. The defining truth in the details of one’s story acts like iron sharpens iron as we encounter one another’s story. (Proverbs 27:17)

Reader, you know by now my love for history. In the details of a historical timeline I am keen on drilling into the motivations that drive the story in history. I seek answers, character traits, personality and goodness squeezed from bitter bites of living. What impacts one to choose within a tragedy the attributes of optimistic triumphs? Do we learn from life’s ease and celebrations as much as we do in the difficult and traumatic ones? Are the stories of struggle or ease; of equitable influence in the shaping of human beings? Can we be ethical and balanced in all circumstances?

One of my first true stories I ever read was the Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl hidden with her family by Miep Gies during WWII. This Jewish family’s story is woven into historical fact with the life of Christian compassion by Miep and her husband Jan Gies. There are many stories of this kind of heroism of hiding, resistance, and soldiers fighting for freedom over oppression. Good reads include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Louis Zamperini, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and Oskar Schindler to name a few true stories from this historical timeline. These stories are a challenge for the rest of us to be inspired to simply show up bravely for one another as human beings. There is something sacred in the witnessing, telling, and inspiring others with the truths within one’s personal narrative. To know another’s story is not for consumption of opining opinions, frivolous entertainment, or line the pockets of authors or film makers of the story.

At the heart of the purpose of gleaning truth from another’s story is to collect the truth about yourself.   Would I in my own freewill choices be brave enough to stand up for another being oppressed? Do I live a daily life of appreciation for the calmness of ordinary days? When chaotic events hit do I stay the course of being true to God, self, and others? In the midst of grief, disappointment, tragedy, loss, and lament will I sell out God, myself, and another?

Recently, I sat on the deck of a beautiful lake home. The waters were sparkling in the sunlight. We had music, food, friends, and laughter swirling through our days together. Routinely, as a hospice chaplain I see death often. As a human being I have my losses and death stories too. But, I sat in the beauty of that day and proclaimed the one true lesson that death and loss teaches me. I have come to this place in my life that I can separate fictional influences like denial, naïvetés, and the cost of false optimism in daily living. Instead, I can hold the truth of living in celebration and the truth in crisis with equal respect and equal appreciation for what the story holds for me. I no longer live for the calendar events worth celebrating and dread a loss or death of someone I loved or love still. I strive to live each day with the freedom that truth and fact finding offers me.

This truth allows me to keep perspective, live out the values and beliefs that influence my attitude and ethics, and be responsible for owning my own reactions and responses to any given event or saga.  The outcome is to rest in doing life with a balancing act of gratitude, advocacy and encouragement to others, and self-awareness for empathy sake for others and true to self. Whether I am enjoying a celebration with friends at a lake house or sitting with God in prayer over another in illness, crisis, or declining to death: I simply breathe. And remember the words Anne Frank reminded us to live by, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Now, that is a fact!