love

As Ourselves

Today I am catching up on a few emails that have sat unread in my inbox. (Probably the proper plural form is ‘email,’ not ‘emails,’ but even if it is proper, it sounds ridiculous to me and I won’t use it, today or ever.) In one of them, I read this from a fitness/nutrition coach named Aadam Ali: “Most people only love the idea of change. But they don’t really want to change and do what needs to be done to become the person they want. I can give you all the tools you need to succeed and offer advice. But all the guidance in the world means nothing if you aren’t willing to commit and do the work that needs to be done.”

In another one, this time on motivation from Mark Manson, “When I’m feeling unmotivated or just outright lazy, I use what I like to call “The ‘Do Something’ Principle.” It’s based on the observation that action is not just the effect of motivation, it’s also the cause of it. That is, not only do we take action when we feel motivated to do so, but taking action creates motivation to take even more action. And so if we can just manage to do something—anything really—this almost always sets off a chain reaction where action begets motivation which begets more action which begets more motivation… and so on.”

First, I agree wholeheartedly with both of these perspectives. And second, you’d think this fits nicely with the New Year and the train of thought in the talks I’ve given over the last few weeks (new bowls, possibility, etc). Right now, though, it makes me a little uncomfortable.

You see, there is a general restlessness communicated in these messages. It’s unstated and subtle (and at least in my case, unintentional), but the implication is that who we are right now isn’t good enough, that what we’re doing right now isn’t enough.

Maybe we do need to change, maybe we do need to do ‘something,’ but the question is why. What drives us to desire this change, this transformation? Is it from a positive platform, a yes that invites us to step into a new way of living? Or is does it stem from a negativity that whispers discontent and disappointment into our ears, an ultimate no?

It’s very different to say, “I am going to (eat healthy or read my Bible or meditate or exercise or organize my closet or whatever) because this is all a gift, because I am loved and worth this attention, because I want to become more of who I have been made to be,” instead of, “I’m going to (eat healthy or read my Bible or meditate…) because I’m pathetic, I’ve ruined it, I have to flee from this that I am now.”

I think that the reason so many resolutions or diets or new leaves fail is because they’re taken from that second space, and where we might start fast, the thread that convinces us we are not good enough remains the foundation and is only a matter of time until it whispers again, but this time that we are not good enough to continue on this new path because we ‘always quit,’ or we are unworthy or whatever our particular negative narrative is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that contentment is not the same a complacency, and rest is not the same as laziness. Maybe our entire perspective has to shift. Instead of hating ourselves into a new reality that may look different but feels eerily similar to the old one, perhaps love is a much better motivator. Instead of running from, we might try moving to. The verse is loving our neighbor as ourselves (we often forget that second part, right?) And I’m just not sure our impatient dissatisfaction with this messy, sweet, broken, wonderful, deeply flawed yet even more deeply beautiful person we are right now is very loving at all.

The End Of The Year

This will be my last post of the year. Tomorrow is a half day at school and that means this house will be, more or less, full and I’d like to be totally present for every second of it.

If you’ll miss this space, and these posts and my thoughts on the new Spider-Man film, you can read what I wrote throughout the year on my other site, lovewithacapitall.com. And I did write a book 2 years ago about the Bible, the Bridge and me. The truth is, I talk and write a lot, so if you miss me for the next 2 weeks, there is a humongous pile of work you can find. Or you can call, text, or email anytime.

This last year was so full, right? Our hearts were stretched, damaged, broken & bruised, healed, always deeply moved. We were disappointed, discouraged, overwhelmingly sad AND fulfilled, elated, overwhelmingly joyful. Would you say it was a good year?

I get the giant honor of performing marriage ceremonies, and there was this one. Many in the immediate families weren’t coming because there was fractured relationships and misused religion. (Until 1, a dad, did.) And in the middle of these 2 lives with very scary, winding paths, obstacles, challenges, dark nights…And also in the middle of a field right next to the Susquehanna river at dusk on the most beautiful night of the year, we got married. Would you say that was a good day?

This other one. I happened to be there because of a not so happy pastoral decision – but one’s not so happy is my wonderful gift. There was a huge family and one largely absent, and next to a pond on another lovely day, we got married. During the ceremony, all of the guests gathered around us, holding hands and each other and prayed. How about that one?

And one other. This one had very few of us under a tent in the rain on the side of a mountain in Harrisburg. Again, winding paths, not even close to the way we dreamed when we were kids, obstacles, challenges, tears, but right there in the rain, we got married. Was that day good?

Ok, 1 more. This one was at the neighbor’s house with lots of questions and stress and second-guessing and fear over if they were or were not ready, whatever that means. Are any of us? There was also love and respect and potential and hope. High school sweethearts and me, there in the hot sun, we got married.

I’ve been asking if these weddings were good, because these weddings are pretty perfect metaphors for 2021. Which of us would’ve chosen last year, chosen illness, chosen loss, fear, (oh man, the fear, the FEAR), sadness, chosen broken relationships, busted marriages, chosen division, anger, hate, disrespect, chosen extra police presence in our schools, chosen isolation, loneliness, hopes dashed on rocks, chosen to hurt? Do I need to go on?

But you know what? What else about 2021? New hopes, new creation, new jobs, careers, relationships, marriages, amazing discoveries, fresh words, renewed commitments, communities, the Dallas Cowboys, Shang-Chi & Spider-Man, presence, rhythm, blessing, the gift of you & me here now, peace. I could go on here, too, right? We got to love each other.

Each of these weddings I mentioned (Jesse & Heidi, Brad & Becca, Sonia & Jeff, Mark & Muriah) happened in the same month and (where I only knew Mark & Muriah last year) they are now my friends. Can you imagine how awesome that is to say? We are friends. FRIENDS.

In front of God and all of us, they gave themselves to each other in the wild risk of loving another person. Their paths might not have been perfect, but those messed up paths brought them here, before God, to each other, to us. We can watch them navigate the choppy (sometimes calm, serene, sometimes dark, treacherous) waters of marriage with grace, forgiveness, celebration, and gratitude that we get to watch from up close while we walk alongside of them.

2021. Maybe things are judged as great in their depth and significance. Everything happened this year and we were here, feeling all of it, wide awake, with authenticity, honesty and the courage to continue to show up with faith, hope and love. And as we know Paul says, the greatest of these is love.

So, now. Was it a great year?

It was the greatest.

A Season Of With

I’ve been reading the book of Hebrews lately, and really loving every moment. There is a distinct possibility there is more in my Bible in my own handwriting than from the author of this letter, whoever that is. It doesn’t start like a letter, but it ends like one – there’s even a celebration that Timothy is now out of prison and greeting from the Christians in Italy.

Hebrews has everything anybody would ever want from a book in this vast beautiful library of books we call the Holy Bible; doctrine, instruction, history, even very personal touches. What I could do is pluck a verse from anywhere and talk about it for a few paragraphs here, but the one I am choosing is in chapter 10, verses 24 and 25, with Christmas on my mind.

This has been a long year of variants and political warfare, loss, disconnect, and division. Last year, we hoped the mood would pass with the year, full of hope that the new 2021 calendar would be new, fresh, peaceful. Now we know the only thing that changed was the calendar.

So now what? You know that is my favorite question, said with wide eyes and anticipation. I don’t throw my hands up and sigh, “now what?” I lean in and feel the energy crack and hum. The answer can and will set our course. The posture we take can and will decide our future. Do we think 2022 is, again, just a digit of difference, or is it a whole new world? Can it, can we, be transformed? Is January 1 just an extension of December 31, 2022 just 2021 part 2, 2020 part 3, or can it actually be the beginning of an original story?

Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Maybe instead of spending our time alone, thinking of ways to tear each other apart, we could give our time to coming together and brainstorming as many ideas as we can manage to encourage each other. And if we could fan the flames of culture and humanity with love & good works instead of paranoia & pain. Maybe our flags could have less demeaning slogans and more of, literally, anything else. And instead of standing on the sidewalks shouting at each other, we could take our conflicting views to the yellow line in the middle of the street and engage in actual conversations. (I did not say our opinions have to be in the center. We can hold opposing perspectives, but only with the acknowledgement that, though our ideas may be far apart, we are not.)

I can love you. I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit (the SAME Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave), learn to start to try to start to try to love my enemies. I can listen, reach out, feel, hope.

I have always thought that the only way this great divide could happen is to stop sitting next to each other, causing us to forget that it’s NOT us vs. them, that it IS just us. When we don’t sit next to each other, our 3rd, 4th, 5th, 100th dimensions fade away, leaving cardboard cutouts, caricatures drawn on the boardwalk.

And the only way it can end is when we “not neglect our meeting together.”

This season, a season of love and presence, a season of “with,” is one that is crying out for us to heal these wounds. To build bridges across these imaginary divides. To sit side by side in worship of this Savior who came to show us what it meant to be human and gave us the Church to live it out.

A 3 Or 4

No post here or anywhere last week because I was quite ill. In fact, over the last 3 weeks, a virus (not THE virus) has swept through this house, affecting each of us to varying degrees. This happens. Spending time in close contact with others carries a certain risk, as people are walking, talking, hugging germ farms.

So we get sick from time to time.

Now that I think about it, spending time in close contact with others carries giant mounds of “certain risks,” so many, and so big, that it’s easy to wonder why we would ever spend time in close contact with others. If we are honest, some parts of the quarantine weren’t awful, right? We had a built-in excuse for anything and everything we didn’t really want to do. Nearly every one of our relationships and communities suffered from the distance. Screens are a substitute, but they just aren’t that great of a substitute. My dad had a saying, “6 in one, a half dozen in the other,” meaning the 2 choices were so similar, the choice was insignificant. Screens are not 6 or a half dozen, they’re more like a 3 or 4.

We are still hanging on to the excuse. It’s become the new “washing my hair,” the new “I don’t have time, I’m too busy.” We all know we have time. We maybe don’t have time for this, but we do have time. It’s hardly ever about dirty hair or jammed schedules.

Maybe we just don’t want to take the risk, and would like to be safe instead.

The author Paulo Coelho wrote: “A boat is safe in the harbor. But this is not the purpose of a boat.” It is not the purpose of a human being, either.

Since my cold is still stubbornly hanging on, a standing Monday morning meeting was moved from in-person to Zoom. The person I meet is lovely, and is also lovely on Zoom. (Like I said, it’s a 3 or 4, not a zero – it doesn’t turn beautiful things into trash.) But both of us would be lying if we said it was the same. In her living room, we can easily spend an entire morning in deep, thoughtful conversation. Today it was barely 45 minutes until we both faced silence and the familiar, “well… I guess we’ll get going.”

This isn’t a surprise. BEFORE the fall in Genesis, 1 thing was “not good,” and that was for you & I to be alone. We are made for this kind of relationship, to celebrate, to laugh, to cry, to bear each other’s burdens. I have been made to share in your mess. My arms were made to wrap around you, and if that sometimes means we get sick, well then, I guess I’ll get sick.

dishonor

My family & I read a devotional with the suggested passages of the Bible and then answer the questions. This is a relatively new practice for us. Maybe not that new. We’ve started this type of thing several thousand times over their lives, sometimes it lasts for a day or 2, sometimes for a week, hardly ever longer. When I think about my boys having no spiritual study or direction in their own homes, I am embarrassed and know exactly why God had to look for the man in the garden in Genesis 3. We desperately want to hide our faces rather than see & feel the look of disappointment in His eyes. Where are you?

Anyway. The topic last night was our bodies, presenting them as living sacrifices to the God who made them and gave them to us. It’s a devotional “for athletes,” so it focused on drugs, mostly the performance enhancing kind. As far as I know, my boys don’t have much experience with these, so I changed the first question a little. “What substances do you put in your body that might bring dishonor to the name of God?” became, “Do you do anything that might dishonor this gift you’ve been given?”

There is a fine line here. It’s a decidedly good thing to examine the care we take with ourselves, what God would consider His temple. And we can even examine the ways we dishonor ourselves that, in turn, dishonor this gift and the Giver.

But it is a very bad thing to cross that line into the space where God is disappointed with us, looking down with arms crossed shaking His head. Do you remember when your parents would say, “I’m not angry, just disappointed,” and it would break your heart in a million pieces? That is the posture we assign to God, and through that posture we receive guilt and, even worse, shame. This is the shame that causes us to run away to hide our faces.

It’s so bad because, as far as I can tell, it’s just not true. As it says in Romans, there isn’t any condemnation or separation from God. There isn’t any distance we can go that’s too far away, no amount that is just too much. In the Age of Grace, our transgressions are as far removed as the east is from the west. (Ps. 103) The shame we feel doesn’t come from God at all, we are the ones dragging that baggage to the feast.

I don’t think true life change happens from a negative impulse (like “shall not ___,” “stop ___,” etc.) Instead, it comes from a big, strong Yes. The shall not is a consequence of a beautiful shall. What I mean is, there’s no room for cake when we’re so full of Brussels sprouts. (Which is probably a bad example because Brussels sprouts are soooooooooo gross.) We will stop scrolling porn sites when we’re turning pages in a great uplifting book. There’s no time to stoke the embers of infidelity when we’re fanning the flames of a passionate marriage. We won’t have energy to gossip when we’re listening to and following our divine call.

So. The earlier question’s ‘dishonor’ can lead to visions of disappointment which leads to shame which leads nowhere. I’m convinced that look in God’s eyes is a crushing sadness that comes from His awareness of the violence we’ll inflict on ourselves.

I don’t believe God is mad at me anymore for my lack of follow through. (It’s a great thing to dive into the Bible and this devotional, the conversation an even better thing, the connection the absolute best thing.) I think His heart breaks at the horribly destructive words I point at me, His own carefully, wonderfully made creation.

My answer to the question is, yes, I do. I have been mean and disrespectful of me way too often. The only difference is that His arms aren’t crossed, they’re wrapped around me loving me into a different perspective, a different response, a different reality.

A Million Bucks

Earlier this week I was standing on a chair (long story), got too close to the edge and fell. After sitting for a second to do a quick “is anything broken?” conversation with myself, I walked around for a minute reflecting on how old I am and just how much that fall from a kitchen chair hurt. Then, in the middle of the night, I got up to walk to the bathroom and discovered that the room was spinning with the earth. That’s nothing cool to discover anytime, much less the middle of the night. In the morning it became apparent that the world was not spinning, I was.

You know that natural lack of awareness that we have where we can see clearly in others what we are completely blind to in ourselves? Well, I’ve been through some training and am a reasonably bright person, so I know the symptoms of concussion. However, I am made of steel so I simply can’t be concussed. 

Anyway. I shouldn’t have been driving a car so much and ended up on the couch, Netflix and chilling alone. Generation Wealth was the doc, not onNetflix, but on Amazon video. This Generation Wealth is the feel good hit of the summer, displaying our drive for excess, love of money, and rampant consumerism at any & all costs. 

The filmmaker made an interesting observation I hadn’t previously considered. In the old days we coveted our neighbor’s things (cars, donkeys, picket fences, wives, etc) but now we look to celebrities, athletes and CEOs with whom to compare ourselves. 

Most everybody has an addiction in the modern world, whether it’s money, fame, plastic surgery, work, OxyContin, or sex. If a little is good, more and more and MORE is better. Maybe that’s true, but it really depends on what it is we’re getting more of. If it’s peace or love or peanut butter cups, that’s true. If it’s sports cars or infidelities, probably not as much.

When the world shut down because of COVID, I had dreams that there would actually be a “new normal.” I dreamt that we’d find the time at home is awesome, that we like our families, that our priorities would be rearranged. I dreamt we’d miss each other more than our cars and wheels & ladders to success. 

Of course I was wrong. There’s no new normal, just more of the same. But the people in the documentary (and I suppose all of the people ever, even us, now) all learned something. I’ll tell you what it is in about 3 paragraphs.

Today I went to the funeral of a man whom I never met. By all accounts, he was a beautiful, caring, loving man. Many of his family spoke, telling stories and reminiscing. They had the blessing of feeling only loss. What I mean is that we often get more than 1. We get loss, but we also get regret, anger, fear, right? It is a fortunate person who can only grieve, and the only regret in that packed room was that they didn’t get to spend more time with him. 

So, the chorus of the voices speaking at the memorial was how much and how well he loved them. I saw this quote from Mother Teresa the other day: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Too many times we get this all mixed up, and we leave home to change the world, leaving our families as casualties of our ambition, no matter how well intentioned it might be. 

This man, Paul, loved his family, and as in most people like him, family was far more than blood relation. It was anyone and everyone in his sphere, anyone and everyone the universe brought into his path. And they were all better for it. But here’s the thing, he loved that family, stuffed them to the gills with significance and worth, and now I get to know them and I’m all the better for that. 

That’s how it works with beautiful people and the pyramid scheme of love. We love those in our orbits, then because they have been loved, they love those in theirs, then they do the same. 

I cried at the service. I listened to this shining tribute – of course, there were flaws, but just like all of us, the flaws lose power in the light of connection, presence, and love. Maya Angelou said people will never forget how you made them feel, and he made everyone feel like a million bucks. I would love to be just like him when I grow up. 

In the film, a guy in Iceland who had lost everything, said, “That’s the good thing about collapse.” What a strange thing to say. But what everyone had in common was they got all they wanted and it wasn’t anywhere close to filling the hole. It was just more. More more more. 

Sometimes it takes catastrophe, or collapse, to figure out what is truly meaningful. And as it turns out, what matters in our lives isn’t money or stuff at all, it’s the people we share them with. It’s the broken-hearted families, full of tears and overwhelming gratitude. It’s the people who run when you fall off a chair. It’s the hands to hold and the arms that squeeze so tightly, they keep us from losing any pieces when we fall apart.

Hotels

One morning last week I woke with a physical exhaustion that has thankfully become quite rare. So when I came home from an unenthusiastic workout, I opened Netflix and crawled under a blanket.

In one of my searches, I discovered 2 documentaries that interested me and were listed to be streaming on Netflix, but were not! I scrolled and scrolled, past so many until I landed on The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel. A young woman named Elisa Lam left Vancouver in a familiar quest for answers to the question we all ask at some point; Who am I? This quest took her to California, first San Diego through Los Angeles ending in San Francisco. She would get no further than LA, no further than the Cecil Hotel.

It was an eerie story of conspiracy and perhaps the supernatural as she simply disappeared. There was a surveillance video of her in an elevator and then no more. It was also a story of homelessness, hopelessness, mental illness, depression, bipolar disorder, the police, a hotel’s history of evil/tragedy and a musician in Mexico. 

The series was 4 episodes and in the 4th, we learned what actually happened. I’ll ruin the suspense here, this is the 4th paragraph and there wasn’t a conspiracy or governmental coverup, there was a lovely young woman who had serious mental issues that caused her, ostensibly, to climb into a water tank on the roof of a hotel and drown.

I intended to make this a post about easy characterizations and a need to understand that lead us down all sorts of paths we don’t want to go, and which have been adding to our disconnect and division. Maybe I will, but it’s so much more in my head now, I just can’t let this one go.

Elisa Lam was a very prolific blogger, posting every thought and idea on Tumblr. I imagine anyone who read her work felt as if they knew her, that’s probably why the story was so captivating for so many. She was our sister, daughter, friend, co-worker, wide open about every thing in her life. We wanted the best for her, wanted her to find meaning and love. If you’re reading this, do you feel like you know who I am? Do you think we’d be friends? I hope so. In all likelihood, we would. It’s sure a new, interesting world, where we can become close to people we’ve never met, and in Elisa Lam’s case, never even had a conversation. 

I like that. I think it’s one of the most beautiful side effects of social media. We are closer than ever before, nothing separates us (except physical space, I suppose.) And we are farther apart than ever before, falling prey to the delusion that online relationships can take the place of relationships IRL. She traveled to California and slowly fell apart in public and no one asked the smallest question, if she was ok. Maybe she would’ve lied, pretended like we do, that yes, she was fine. But maybe she would’ve told the truth, that no, she wasn’t.

I wonder how many times I pass by a person in distress, too busy or distracted or too minding my own business to look or listen. I wonder if a human connection – even a tiny, superficial one – would’ve saved Elisa Lam’s life.

You already know I think we’re here to walk together. We’re made for just this sort of human connection, and we’ve wandered so far off that path that when we are asked, it’s jarring and we feel a sense of intrusion. When did that happen? And I wonder if we felt it slipping away. 

In this film, one of the main characters was Los Angeles and a part of LA called Skid Row. Apparently, the idea was to take the homeless and other “undesirables” and imprison them in a square of the city where they could be ignored and forgotten. Human beings were “undesirable” and systematically, purposely ignored and forgotten? It seems like we all have to ask the question that drove Elisa Lam to California in the first place: Who are we???? 

Her death obviously wasn’t the Cecil Hotel’s fault, but it sure feels like a metaphor. The Cecil was crafted with great care and beauty and over time, seems to have forgotten it’s original creation. Great care and beauty were poured into this structure so that it could take creat care of others. But without a clear vision or purpose, it fell into disrepair and became just another flop house where the people who interacted with it were seen and treated as disposable, which in turn made this once grand hotel disposable, rotting from the inside.

It was a super sad documentary, but as Black Widow says to Bruce Banner in the 1st Avengers movie, “No, we need a little worse.” Not paying attention, whistling through graveyards and hiding behind masks of the images we desperately try to keep, has gotten us here. Maybe we need a little worse, too, a few more cameras shining the light of truth on our increasing dysfunction, to force a course correction. And if we do that, if we start to care or listen or love, maybe Elisa Lam’s death would’ve been for something. Now, it’s just a senseless casualty of modern life. 

But it doesn’t have to be. We get to choose what it is, and we get to choose here, now, today.

Mayhem

We’ve been in a conversation on spiritual gifts at the Bridge, and Sunday we had homework. I called it Project Mayhem because any time I can reference Fight Club, I do. In that film, the underground clubs (that we DO NOT TALK ABOUT) are the first step taken towards shaking individuals out of the familiar rut of modern life. Once that step is taken, once the culture is beaten out of them, once they see light in darkness, once they taste life, there is no returning to what they had mistakenly called life before and now have newly opened eyes to experience the big, beautiful gifts of their lives that these men had taken for grated for so long.

The film is just so great.

Anyway. Once they are transformed, there is a need to take this revelation out into the world to ‘infect’ the others who are still sleepwalking behind masks/images of their own creation. This is what they call Project Mayhem. (“I want you to start a fight…and I want you to lose.”)

Now before we go further, the characters in Fight Club are violent and are bent on destruction, both of which are decidedly not part of the homework assignment. But here’s the thing about this metaphor, doesn’t it sound familiar?

A person finds/meets/experiences something (or someOne) that changes them (us), transforms us, opens our eyes to a new way of life. This transformation exposes the superficiality of the previous sand that we had built upon. There is now meaning, significance. We are connected to each other and the world around us in ways we never acknowledged, never noticed. We start to care. We are loved and we fall in love. We are brand new.

If it stops here, it’s a cool thing that’s happened, but that isn’t where it ends, is it? We want to pass this beautiful new life on to others, because we know beyond reason that if others receive, it doesn’t decrease ours. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more who are awake and alive, the more the world crackles and hums with the energy and possibility of the Divine. So we take it out, and since telling isn’t always good enough, we show. We show with joy, peace, patience, life, love. The world changes, or rather, the world can change. It’s the only way it can change.

Yes, Fight Club uses violence and destruction to bring about the “complete destruction of civilization,” but listen to this: “SO THAT [we] can build something better.”

I know I talk too much about Fight Club sometimes, but I’m not sure the way it is is exactly what we want or what we dream it could be. Maybe we are also called to build something better…

Maybe not by using bombs or baseball bats, though. Maybe with hugs and prayers and meals and kindness and empathy and best of all, Jesus. Maybe that’s the mayhem that tears this whole silly facade apart and then it can finally be replaced with a Kingdom.

Accidents

I’m now 46, passing last Wednesday without incident. I still haven’t reached the mid-life crisis I hear so much about. Maybe next year. But for now, I want to talk about this Instagram post I saw a few days ago that made such an impression that I emailed it to myself so that I could spend some time thinking about it.

This is it: “Pay attention, none of this is happening by accident.”

It’s from a new age-y account that is sometimes strange and sometimes profound and mostly both. So, about this one.

“Pay attention.” If you’ve ever been around me and heard even a tiny moment of the Sunday morning talks at the Bridge, you know why this stands out so brightly to me. In Genesis 28:16, Jacob wakes up in the wilderness and says, “Surely God was in this place and I was unaware.” And in Exodus 3, Moses notices a bush burning and not being consumed.

I think probably the biggest obstacle we have in creating and living the full, beautiful lives we dream of is the simple fact that we’re distracted. We’re really distracted, right? We’re busy, too busy, trying (and failing) to always multi-task, glued to smartphones, wishing we were somewhere/somewhen else, missing the best moments of connection and significance. So if we could pay attention to each other, here, now, we would see immense kindness, compassion, love – we would be in absolute awe at how wonderful this divine gift of life can be and often is.

That’s why that stood out in this post, easy peasy.

Now, the rest. “None of this is happening by accident.” I don’t even know if I believe that, I literally don’t give it a second of thought. Did I see her, meet him, hear that song, see that ad, get caught in traffic, stub my toe, eat that sandwich, as part of some grand plan? Or on a larger scale, is that war, that genocide, that abuse, those atrocities happening on purpose? Was it pre-ordained? Do I have choice in my life, do any of us, or are we simply pawns in a game?

Maybe I don’t give those questions any thought because there just aren’t answers for us, so it truly doesn’t much matter, outside of an interesting intellectual exercise.

But there is something there that can be awfully important.

If we viewed our lives as accidents, random happenstance, or absent any free will of our own, we can easily take them for granted and check out. We can sleepwalk though these days, these interactions, these moments. But maybe if we held Now as something that is meaningful, we would have a much easier time of showing up and engaging with it. We would notice. We would have our eyes, our hands, our hearts, open to the possibility that always lives inside Now.

When we’re at the store, at work, at the dinner table, holding our spouse’s hand, playing with our children, everything, everywhere, every time – if it is all of grand importance, great significance, then we won’t have to wake up and say, “sheesh, God WAS here, I was alive, we were together, this all mattered…and I missed it,” ever again.

The Keys To Me

Today is my 46th birthday.

As birthdays so often do, that new number brings with it a certain amount of conflicting emotions. I am no longer 20, can no longer be considered a young man. In fact, even with what has always been a bit of a baby face, I am no longer mistaken for being significantly younger than I am. That’s not too awesome. I have so many lines on my face and gray hairs in the growth on my face (but not on my head…I have been shaving that since before I started to lose it).

I’ve learned quite a lot and have become a very different person than I was yesterday, much less 20 years ago. That is pretty awesome.

I get the opportunity to officiate weddings, and before every one I tell 2 Bible stories. In Genesis, Jacob wakes up from a dream in the wilderness and says, “Surely God was in this place and I was unaware.” And in Exodus 3, Moses sees a bush burning and not being consumed. Bushes burn all the time and they are always consumed except for this one time. But to notice that it was not being consumed takes a great deal of attention, takes eyes that are wide open and fully awake.

Over these 46 years – and I get awfully reflective on days like this – I think about where I am, from where I’ve come, where I’m going, the people who are here or gone, the bushes that are burning, and the spaces where I have been unaware.

Maybe I’m not perfect (maybe;), but I am not who I was yesterday, and what I’ll do today (whatever day today is) is pay attention. I’ll surely open my heart more than is wise or prudent, I’ll laugh, I’ll eat ice cream cake, kiss my wife as many times as she’ll let me, and hold my boys tightly once we’re out of view of their friends at school.

The biggest difference between 16 year old Chad and 46 year old Chad is how deeply thankful I am to be here, now, and me. I couldn’t always say any of those things, especially, especially, the 3rd. That allows me to be fully present much more often, and it seems to me like that’s most of what makes life meaningful, that I walk past less burning bushes and the times I am unaware is smaller.

(I wrote a post earlier this week on the Love site, and it ends exactly the same as this one will:)

At 46, I have many trusted people in my life who love me and exercise an unreasonable concern for my heart. Maybe that’s why every year is better and better, my circle is expanding. The Angel, these boys, this family, this faith community, these neighbors, you. You know, if you asked me when I was 18 to dream of a wonderful life, I could not have come anywhere close to the beauty of this one and the absolutely overwhelming blessing of it all. Of course, it hasn’t been easy or without heartbreak, floods of tears, or tragedy. I haven’t erased the depression or the issues in my head. But it has been real and it has been full. I have loved and I have been loved. 

I’ve learned to release my grip on how you see me, what you think of me, what I should do, who I should be, and instead jump from the top of that hell into the wildly loving arms of a Savior and an endless sea of others who will not only catch me, but walk with me every step. I’ve learned to believe what is true about me rather than the nasty destructive lying voices that have always been in my head (more or less;). I can give the keys to me back where they belong.

46 is a lot of years full of days, moments, and all I can really say is that I’m grateful. So if today is my last day or if I get 46 more years, it will have been, as it is right now, a very, very good life.