Turning on the porch light yesterday I spotted a basket with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and fruit. This was one example of the flowers and plants that have been delivered, brought to the memorial service, delivered by courier to our family over the last several days. Each one comes with heartfelt condolences, sweet words, kind thoughts, and prayers. We have appreciated and placed every one of them in a prominent place in the house. I told my wife and mom today the living room looked like a botanical garden.
What’s interesting is many of these plants and flowers are in the process of dying. They are eye-catching, smell wonderful, and fill the house with color, but make no mistake, they are dying. From the time the designer cut the stems on the roses, carnations, lilies, sunflowers, and many more, they began to die. They were placed in water and other sponge-like materials to make them last as long as possible but eventually, they will wilt and be thrown away.
This happens to all living things. There is the moment of birth, growth, blossoming and adorning the world with beauty and life. However, as soon as each living thing is born it begins to die. It can be from lack of care and pass sooner or it can receive lots of attention and adoration and hopefully live a long fruitful life. However, either way, its time will come when it will be no more.
This last week has been a reminder of how soon things pass. On the way home from the memorial service for my dad yesterday I remarked to my mom; “No matter who you are or what you are going through, you always think you have more time than you do.”
Our Greatest Gift and Need –
This morning at church, a video was shown of a woman whose testimony included her first memories of involvement with Christian people. Her family was very poor and people from a church would bring her and her family food, clothing, whatever they could to help these in need. She credits this with why she is still a part of the community of faith today.
After the video the following verses were read from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 16;
“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.
“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.”
The “rich” compassionless man and the poor needy man switched placed at death. Now, it was the “rich” man who was in need and the “poor beggar” who had plenty.
One of my favorite wisdom quotes is; “Kindness is my religion. Kindness (another word for compassion) is always within our power to give.”
Too often we mistake our communities of faith for dogma, certain beliefs, attendance of services, giving of our time, talent and treasure to the community. These are all certainly important but they can never replace kindness, love, compassion. If the former does exceed these we will turn cruel, judgmental, hostile. We will find it is us who are in the greatest need for we have lost our greatest lover.
It snowed last night and today. It’s not a lot but a few inches and everything is a pristine white. The other day I was complaining about the brown, gray, dead look of winter and today the season revealed it too, can be beautiful. I’m not a fan of snow but the way it covers everything, makes it all look different, changes and challenges my outlook, even for a short moment, is wonderful.
The quote in the picture also reminds us that we have the power to change a difficult season for ourselves and others with acts of kindness. I would add; love, grace, forgiveness.
I told someone this week; “You sure are complaining a lot!” I now wish I would have blanketed them with compassion and compliments and perhaps, in their difficult season, their outlook on life would’ve changed, even briefly, and the world would’ve been better for it.
Awesome video! I watched in awe as the operator gently picked up the stuck deer with the giant scooper and placed it where it could move again.
As it played I thought about times in my life when I was stuck. Seasons when I couldn’t move, find my way, get loose of the muck and mire which held me, trapped me, threatened my life. I also reflected on those who came to my rescue. Folks with great skill, compassion, love and commitment who helped me when I couldn’t help myself.
Life’s path leads us to strange and uncomfortable places. There will be experiences and events which pull us in, hold us fast, wear us out and leave us stuck. Struggling, fighting to free ourselves may only leave us immobile and unable to journey forward. Having mentors, counselors, advisers, people who love and care enough to not leave us stranded can be one of our greatest treasures.
I was speaking with a friend this week who’s struggling with three things; judgmental thoughts, judgmental words and judgmental actions. The latter follow the first and are causing difficulties with people he holds dear. “I don’t want to speak harshly and condemningly to those I love but I can’t seem to stop the thoughts from expressing themselves.” He sighed. “What if your thoughts weren’t real?” I asked him. “What if your thoughts were just clouds of words floating through your mind and have no substance? What if they didn’t define your reality and only became form and influence when you plucked them out of the sky of your mind and made them into tangible words or actions?” While he considered this I quoted to him one of my favorite wisdom sayings from Aristotle; “The mark of a wise mind is the ability to think a thought without believing it to be true.”
When we judge others, even only in our minds, we are forcing our limited understanding of what’s real, normal, acceptable onto their limited understanding of the same. When we label someone as lacking we’ve actually judged ourselves. We show our minds, emotions and wisdom to be lacking.
Thoughts are meant to be considered, reflected upon, examined in broad and focused ways. We are to seek to understand and then be understood. When judgement fills our minds, hearts and spirits there’s no more room for wisdom, compassion, relationship.