This afternoon I received a cryptic message about meeting someone. I read it, checked my calendar, read the text again and checked my calendar again. I had no meeting scheduled. I went back into my emails and did a search and still couldn’t find any messages regarding the meeting and still couldn’t find anything. The sender of the message, however, had a picture of her calendar with my acceptance! There was no doubt the meeting was scheduled and I was supposed to be there. Unfortunately, I was in another county so was unable to make it. We rescheduled but I don’t like missing appointments whether they are or are not on my calendar.
It’s bothered me all afternoon. When I got home I checked my emails and calendars again but still didn’t locate anything regarding the meeting. The only thing I can figure is I have a new work phone and the first couple of days I was messing with it, trying to figure it out, I accepted the meeting and then somehow deleted it. I don’t know if this is happened and might not ever know.
Schedules, calendars, planning out our days is a necessary discipline. If we don’t at least attempt to live in an ordered manner the chaos of everyday life will take its toll. However, no matter how much control we think we possess when our calendars and schedules are in sync life has a way of surprising us with events and experiences that don’t fit our schedule and forces us to accept and adjust.
“The rain is coming! Be ready!” That’s the message I heard from the weather forecasters this morning. As each hour ticked away the chances of rain increased.
I knew the grass needed mowing and cutting wet grass is bad for your mower and your lawn. I rushed outside a little after 8:30 AM and began. I finished it in a couple of hours and hurried inside to collect the trash to take to the dump before the rain began to fall. On my way I drove into a small shower and thought; “This is it!” but nothing else happened. I got back home put up the trash cans, let the dog out, looked at the gray ominous skies and knew it was about to downpour. Nothing.
A couple of hours later it finally rained, a nice shower, but nothing like I, and the weather channel, anticipated. I was thankful for the rain but couldn’t help but wonder; “Where’s the rain that was promised? Why did I hurry to the dump? Mow the grass so early?”
Wisdom tells us suffering comes from the difference between our anticipation of life and what life ends up being. The gap is where the struggle takes place. Living in anticipation instead of acceptance is the difference between turmoil and peace.
The Procession –
The other day I pulled over and stopped for a funeral procession which was passing. I was in a hurry but not so much that I wasn’t reminded that one day all of us will be riding in the back of a hearse with friends and family members traveling behind.
I am not sure when and where pulling over for a funeral procession began. I know different regions of the country do and do not practice the behavior. When we lived in the mid-west of the country it was sometimes yes and sometimes no for pulling over to the side. Living in the Northeast there seemed to be a lot less of honoring the dead by stopping your vehicle.
There’s a wonderful anonymous wisdom proverb which states;
“Rich or poor, famous, infamous or unknown, person of power or a simple man, all are buried in the same size box.”
Our box awaits for us. It will fit in the back of a slightly larger car and proceed to our final resting place. The questions of; “When? Where? How?” aren’t important. The primary question is; “What do we do with the time we have left?”
My Kind of Reality –
I like the truth behind this quote from Bill Waterson. Many realities are forced upon us by different medias, people, cultures, and environments. We are told what to think, who to trust, where we’re supposed to go and how we are to get there.
I enjoy social media for the most part. Catching up and keeping up with people whom I care for and love is one of the biggest positives of being connected. However, one of the worst bits of social media is the relentless posts on political preferences, judgements and snarky remarks against folks who have done one thing or another to upset the poster. There are litmus tests such as abortion, gay rights, presidential candidates, celebrities, and a host of other subjects that decide for us whether or not a person is worth our time, and perhaps even our love. I am consistently appalled at the vitriol people say to one another online, things, I hope, they’d never say face to face.
It seems we’re surrounded by litmus tests such as abortion, gay rights, presidential candidates, celebrities, and a host of other subjects that decide whether we ae worth a person’s attention or their love. If we fail, we’re not worthy.
It wears me out! This isn’t the reality I choose to live in. I want to be in a place where people can believe and express different opinions and still be friends. I desire a world more nuanced where one won’t decide whether a person is good or bad by whether they agree or disagree on a subject the other is passionate about. I long to see people converse instead of scream, listen and not talk incessantly, have an open heart and spirit to the one who is different, offensive and human, just like us.
This is the reality I choose and pray others will join me.
Progression not Perfection –
Today in our Incarcerated Father’s class we talked about; “How to be the Perfect Dad.”
I began by drawing a stick figure and asked the men what it needed to be an ideal father. On the face we drew a mouth for praising and giving guidance, ears for listening, eyes for seeing the good in ourselves and our kids, a nose for sniffing out trouble and a big ol’ brain for making good choices which have a long-lasting impact on us and our children’s future. We then went on to hands, feet and lastly I drew a large heart in the middle of the stick figure. “Without a heart which loves, helps, leads and values our children, partners and families, we’ll never be the father we need to be.”
After the exercise, we looked over the list of traits and duties a perfect father has, does and I asked the men a question; “Can anyone be a perfect, ideal dad?” They paused for a moment and said; “No.” “Correct!’ I replied, ‘we seek progression not perfection.”
It’s a good lesson for each of us to learn. We live in a world where celebrities on websites and magazines look amazing, not a blemish to be found. We read articles which extol the feats of men and women and they seem more advanced and evolved than us. We peruse Facebook and other social media sites where friends post photos, quotes, eloquent thoughts and we think to ourselves; “They’ve got it all. I’ll never be a _________ as good as them (fill in the blank).”
We forget so easily that pictures can be photo-shopped, well written pages are heavily edited, most folks only post their best on social media sites and no matter how perfect a person’s life may seem it is anything but…
Too often we have an ideal self and try to live up to it and, of course, we fail and spectacularly! Give yourself a break. Open up your heart and learn to love your frail, faulty, fickled self. Remember; progression not perfection is the way of the sane and contented.
Everyone should have a friend who dances to their own music, marches to the beat of their own drummer. These special ones seem to walk a path that others cannot see and probably wouldn’t have the courage to navigate a path so culturally unconceived.
We seemingly live in a world where there are only two sides. These sides are chosen by litmus tests and depending on what you believe, where you stand on the issues, a label is slapped on you and you assume the responsibility and culpability of all others labeled and standing along side you. There is no nuance, no subtleties and we all suffer from it. Vitriol, disdain and hostility are hurled at those on the other side and our cultures are divided seemingly to never be brought together again.
I wonder if there are enough people who would dare to not accept this paradigm, view of life, of others. Are there enough folks who would put aside the expectations and be the exceptions to what our world demands? How many would choose to belong to the community of nuance, walk the road less traveled and dance to the music of the middle?
A couple of months ago I transplanted a young oak tree. It was growing in a precarious place and I didn’t want its growth impeded. I moved it to the center of our back yard with great care and hoped it would survive and thrive. It did. The young oak took quickly to its new spot and soon began to get taller and its small branches reached up to the sky.
That was before. Before the June bugs came. In a matter of days they had stripped my little oak bare! I couldn’t believe how fast it happened. One day a flourishing sight to behold; plenteous leaves, vibrant colors, the next a pitiful looking, mostly naked tree. The ravenous insects had pillaged the foliage leaving only bare stalks behind. I was shocked by how quickly what was once beautiful and vibrant was devoured, used up and left for dead.
Last night my wife and I were walking in the backyard following a thunderstorm. It was cool and a gorgeous sunset illuminated the clouds. As I approached my little oak I noticed new leaves, fresh buds. It was growing again. It had survived the onslaught and now dared to try once more.
I reflected this morning about how much we have in common with this tree. There are times in life, seasons, when we grow and thrive. We revel in our blessings and reach for the sky with no a doubt we will reach it.
Then the pestilence comes. Pain, difficulties, disease, doubt, betrayal, hardships, death strip us bare, seemingly stealing all the joy and beauty life had to offer. Afterwards we’re left with the remnants, the despoiled stalks of our dreams, faith and sense of worth.
The choice becomes will we try again. Do we dare look longingly into the sky and hope, when our brokenness and bareness mocks us? Can we trust enough to open ourselves up even with the possibility of repeatedly being hurt? Are we willing to take the chance when we are offered no guarantee of not being stripped bare and once more left for dead? It’s the decision we all must make.
It’s the choice to live…again.