Posts Tagged 'love'

Loving in Fear

Courtesy ChristusRex.org

My whole life, I’ve been told to fear God.

I have a hard time with that.

That’s not to say I’m unable to cower under the might of the Creator, I am certain the consequences of disobeying Him are far from pleasant — I’ve experienced some of them.

I’m unsettled by the claim I should pass my days quivering in the shadow of His power.

It is impossible for a human being to love in that situation.

The course of history is defined by people overthrowing those who punched them down with an iron fist. Action under such conditions is timid and guarded, measured by unsure steps with a watchful eye on the swinging ax of reprisal. Living by the rule of fear breeds resentment and, eventually, rebellion.

On the other hand, if motivated by love, we are made strong and courageous. Our decisions come with an added dose of bravery, even when shrouded in doubt. To move in this way is to be for something instead of against it, to go forward with momentum as opposed to being held back.

“Do not fear” is the most common command in the Bible.

It makes sense, if we think about it.

When scared, we are weakened.

We have no reason to be.

He will be with us, if we allow.

Why? Because He loves us.

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The Justice of Sobbing Hearts

Some people don’t get what they deserve.

As we pile through year after year, most of us are lucky enough to build an army of family and friends.  Through good times and bad, the support we offer and receive fosters strong bonds between similar hearts. The laughs we share lift our spirits together.

What is left behind weighs only on the living.

Old grudges, past disagreements and lost money are a tasty poison in quiet hours of mourning. The collection of things said and unsaid, done and undone can stop a heart or destroy a mind. This sadness is a burden for those bearing the yoke of tear-stained memories.

A long life provides a bounty of opportunities for blessings of all kinds, save one: full pews.

When decades stack up, friends pass away.

It seems unfair those who have blessed so many are celebrated by so few.

Or is it preferable to have affected more people and created a larger legacy?

My brain thinks the latter, my soul aches for the former. Bearing witness to swollen eyes and running noses confirms the impact of an individual, it a tangible reflection my mind can measure. Somehow I find comfort in the evidence of another’s love for the same person, selfish as the motives are.

The thought may be misguided, but I think it justice all the same:

Tremendous people earn sobbing hearts in overflowing churches.

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“I just felt kind of restless.”

I listened intently as the computer-exec-turned-pastor described her transition from the corporate world to leading a congregation. Over the course of about 30 minutes, she shared the string of experiences that led her away from big money and big business to “follow passion.”

Life presents dozens of opportunities to choose a new direction.

This woman recounted various instances which crystallized the necessity of her major switch.

The female vice president struggling through a proposal while fighting the flu because she “had to be there.”

Talking with her boss as he sat in an airplane seat awaiting takeoff and asking him if the effort was worth being alone on Christmas Eve, filled with dread during the long pause before he answered “No.”

The coworker who postponed his dream to gather a little more money, only to die at 51 and short of the early retirement he believed would open the door.

Listening to her church group describe each other’s strengths and being told hers was “that of an apostle.”

It’s amazing what you hear when you finally listen.

After years passed in the wandering pursuit of “unfulfillment,” you will come to a point where you acknowledge a question instead of seeking an answer.

Suddenly, you reach a crucial moment defined by five words: “How did I get here?”

And, despite what others–or you–may think, you are in a very good place.

People often make trade-offs, setting aside “foolish fantasies” for a far-off future of “what I really want to do.” By asking yourself if you are in the place you wish to be, you have turned the key of truth and cracked the door to new opportunity.

This is the moment you can be born again.

If you will seize the day and strike out on a new path, you will have made an investment with staggering returns in “psychic value.”

You will have set yourself apart from the “I wish I would have” crowd. You will have grasped a new, purposeful life guided by contentment and satisfaction instead of dollars and cents.

What could ever be wrong with that?

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The Forgetful Soldier

Flag-draped coffins are the currency of a heroic payment.

An email circulates from time to time honoring the armed forces for having written a “blank check…to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.”

Most who serve return home alive, though.

Regardless of whether they are bandaged or not, men and women who have seen combat are wounded.

Brains have been rattled in the pressure cooker of battle, shaken by horror and crushed under sadness.

War continues to withdraw from them throughout life.

They are asked to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. They become businessmen and policemen, preachers and teachers. In the years beyond their call to duty, their contribution is woven into that of the country as a whole.

Their passing occurs quietly as a largely oblivious world is unmoved by the death of the assimilated, forgetting the sacrifices they made and the valor of survival.

Those who’ve died in foreign lands under heavy fire deserve their place in the pantheon of American grit and glory. Let us not forget those robbed of their innocence and forced to fit into a world unable to comprehend their experience.

My grandfather’s “blank check” taxed him for sixty-plus years.

He witnessed disturbing deaths.

He had a woman kiss his muddy boots for simply letting her have some food.

He spent years required to fire a rifle into his infinite respect for the dignity of every human life.

The memories brought nightmares and tears each time.

But you hardly would have known.

He helped raise four children and owned an electronics shop, all the while demonstrating tireless commitment to integrity and service. As his family grew to include grandchildren, he became a whole new person.

He began sharing wisdom like “eating green beans will put hair on your chest.”

He pioneered the simple fun of laying on the floor and throwing a Nerf ball between rotating fan blades.

He made sure to show each child how to do a headstand in the corner of the living room.

He boosted multiple youngsters onto the bathroom counter and ensured all faces were covered with some fresh lather, then made sure everyone–not just he–left with a “clean shave.”

Then, we lost the soldier we hardly knew.

The things he wished so long to forget–the violence, the suffering–disappeared into a thickening fog of dementia. The bloodshed and terror faded away, taking with them his sense of humor and vitality.

The effervescent man became a shuffling shadow.

I write this to remind everyone of the heroism of survival, the value in returning from an unspeakable time in a fearful place and creating a legacy grander than what you left with.

Honor these men and women for the entirety of their work, as their days in uniform are usually short and their civilian lives–where they make the largest difference–relatively long.

We must never forget because they might not remember.

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This post first appeared as a guest blog on the website of Lissa Rankin, MD, who graciously allowed me to share my story on Owning Pink.

Are You Selling or Sharing?

I stood in disbelief listening to a man in a cowboy hat.

My patience waned as he described the wonder product he felt I should learn more about. He passed me a business card while listing off a host of professional athletes endorsing the thingamajig and guaranteed I’d be impressed by the medical knowledge displayed in the final two-thirds of the eighteen-minute video on his website.

“You expect me to spend twenty minutes of my precious free time watching that after you just hijacked 60 seconds of my life?” I thought.

I wondered how “Where are you heading on your trip?” became “Please tell me what you’re selling!” in his mind.

The sudden shift jarred my brain.

My genuine interest in his 50-day excursion through the Southeast dissipated in the train wreck of his sales pitch. I remembered Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.

The value of his wares–regardless of how grand–disappeared in the shadow of his actions. The clumsy transition from polite conversation to infomercial muted his voice. What began pleasant became unsavory.

I left the conversation somewhat offended.

Later, I pondered how often we confront unwanted communication.  In an age where information reaches across the globe in seconds, the propaganda bombardment mushrooms outward with each passing moment.

Regardless of native tongue, the tagline is always the same:

“You need this.”

The underlying point of most advertising is designed to make you feel inadequate, as though you lack a critical necessity. An oft-repeated mantra in the marketing world states reaching humans boils down to stimulating their desire for pleasure or making them afraid of pain.

Most choose to prey on fear.

I was reminded of a conversation I overheard the day before while dining at a fast food restaurant.

Three generations of black men discussed about the value of experienced eyes. The youngest quietly took in the thoughts of the verbose man two decades older as the the third–and oldest–added his own ideas from time to time.

This impromptu sermon had a decidedly different tone than my interaction with the guy in the boots.

“Can I help you?”

Though I am unsure the 29-year-old asked for the message, I am sure he was happy to receive it. In the midst of an uncertain time, he heard four comforting words:

“I’m here for you.”

Instead of being rapped on the skull with what he should do or admonished for what he did do, he was being offered an ear–and the opportunity to avoid repeating another’s mistakes.

This is the simplest gift you’ll ever give someone.

Showing people you care has incredible value.

Find a way to share yourself.

You’ll be surprised what you receive in return.

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Grief Interrupted

“Real life” resumes in the midst of grief.

Whether it’s the loss of a family member or the dissolution of a relationship, there comes a time when “normal” interferes with emotional processing. The moment sweeps your legs from beneath you just when you were getting to your feet.

It’s natural to be offended by this intrusion.

Your mending heart demands the courtesy of rest before beating on. Time yanks you back into routine coldly, expecting you at your station on time to perform your duty. The first instinct is to point a finger and call it unfair.

Realize the alternative is death itself.

Growth invariably includes loss. Measuring how far you’ve come requires mileposts.

Heartache is a powerful marker.

To have shed the chains of suffering is to have completed your days.

You can be locked up as long as you like.  Burden yourself as you choose, whether weeks or months or until your end.

The path will be walked regardless.

You must go on.

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5 Truths for My Newborn Niece

Image Courtesy of KenRockwell.com

Yesterday, my second niece was born.

This is the first child for my youngest brother and sister-in-law, the Bay Area’s newest 20-inch long, 7-pound and 14-ounce resident. I received text messages throughout the day about how things were going, then was happy to finally see my iPhone ring with his picture and phone number on the screen.

A couple hours later, as I headed out to run, I wondered if I could come up with a list to guide her through life.

If you’ve read this blog more than once, you know I’m expressing what I see as truth through the lens of a grown man evaluating 30 years of decisions before moving into the next three decades.

What would I tell her?

1. You are a miracle.
You are the culmination of billions of perfect reactions in a precise sequence. Each one occurred in an exact manner, without fail, step by step. Every single event was extraordinary, not the least of which was your dad turning off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and putting down the Wiimote.

2. It’s OK to fail.
Even with all your talents and capabilities, there will be times your results fall short of your expectations. You’ll skin your knee. You’ll get a bad grade on a test. Some unfortunate boy–assuming he passes Grandpa Clark’s thorough background check–will have the audacity to break your heart.

You will falter hundreds or even thousands of times before you succeed.

Learn something each time. Ignoring the lesson makes it easier to be hurt again.

3. Trust yourself.
When faced with challenges, you are the person you must rely on. You alone will reap the rewards or suffer the pain of your decisions. In those moments where your confidence wanes and fear grows, take a deep breath and remind yourself how amazing you are.

When your instincts tell you to go one way, pay attention. Unbridled and lasting joy is a good indicator of the quality of your choices. Live in the “irrational” area where buoyant mind and exultant love reign.

A full life comes from your head and heart working together instead of being at war.

4. Anything is possible.
Your great-grandparents wrote letters that reached a destination across town in days.

Your grandparents connected with people on the other side of the country by phone in minutes.

Your parents communicated by sending emails across the planet in seconds.

All his happened simply because someone thought it could, then expended the energy to make it so.

5. Faith means believing before seeing.
Over and over again, you’ll encounter situations contradicting what you hold as truth. Whether it’s something as trivial as the integrity of your favorite pop star or as overwhelming as the existence of a loving God, steadfast alignment of your actions and ideals–until proven false beyond doubt–will leave you satisfied regardless of the outcome.

Finally, my dear, remember this when you wake up: you are alive and loved.

It will be true every day of your life.

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