Posts Tagged ‘gift

21
May
18

The “Never Enough Club”

productivity-01I wasn’t very productive today.

But then again, I’m on vacation. Productivity is not really expected of people on vacation… is it?

Two weeks ago, on the other hand, I was NOT on vacation. It was a Thursday as I recall… a day that started off with a cup of coffee, a walk of the dog, and a list of items I was eager to complete and cross through.

And yet, I sat back and mused at the end of that Thursday… “What the heck happened? I was a whole lot less productive than I wanted to be today.”

Looking at my sad list of uncompleted items, I was somewhat consoled by the knowledge that lives would not be lost, relationships would not be destroyed, nor would cancer remain uncured as a result of my sloth.

EXAMPLE: I didn’t stop the newspaper or mail delivery in advance of our vacation… a task that absolutely had to be done. But it could just as easily be done tomorrow.

But it made me pause and wonder how often I am guilty of labeling my days as either good or bad based on my own personal level of productivity.

Check a lot of stuff off the list = good day.

Don’t = bad day.

Isn’t that a little bit sad?

I am not saying productivity is something to be sneezed at. Not at all.

We each have a calling to produce SOMETHING in life. And ideally, it is something that utilizes our unique God-given gifts.

Painters produce paintings. Cooks produce meals. Salespersons produce sales. Writers produce strings of coherent words. Clowns produce terrified children.

We each depend on the productivity of others to navigate even the simplest passages of our day. The light bulb you just turned on, the water that just flowed through your showerhead, and the YouTube cat video you just chuckled at were all produced by productive people… folks just like YOU!

What kind of world would it be if none of us produced ANYTHING?

But I have to level with you… there are a couple of places I keep getting tripped up in this whole conversation about productivity. The first is in my tendency to draw a direct connection between my (or anyone else’s, for that matter) WORTHand my level of PRODUCTIVITY. It is hard to ignore the pulsing message in my head that says, “The more you produce, the more you are worth.” 

My second snare comes in my tendency to pass judgment about the overall SCOPE of my productivity. I’m not even sure “scope” is the right word, but here is what I mean; every week I write an approximately 2,500-word sermon and a 700-800 word blog post (or two). But because I am not currently working on either a book or a screenplay, (or both) I regularly feel like a writer wannabe… a poser.

I might visit two or three people in the hospital and pray with them as they prepare for surgery, but because I am not instigating a nationwide movement to provide spiritual care for the elderly and disabled, I feel like a slacker.

I exercise vigorously at the gym at least three times a week; not including daily walks with Rosie the dog. But because I am not regularly putting marathon notches in my belt, I feel like a slug.

It is very difficult to publicly admit these defects in my thinking. As you read them, you immediately see how overly concerned I am with the imagined assessments of OTHERS about my life and me. I am also showing you how difficult it is for me to take Jesus at his word when he says, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”(Matthew 6:26, NRSV).

Here is where you say, “How about practicing what you preach, pastor.”

Are you a member of this club, too? Do you regularly flagellate yourself with the phrase, “never enough”? Do you get twitchy when you take a vacation? Are “to do” lists your highest form of artistic expression?

Well then, come over here and sit with me a moment, my friend. Take off your shoes. Put down your iPhone (unless you are currently reading this blog on it. Then please, continue holding it). Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel the breeze of the moment as it caresses your face.

Be reminded – as I must continually remind myself – that God’s mercy and love are not production-based. They pour over you like a waterfall… the same as they pour over the woman who runs her own company, competes in Ironman Triathlons, raises four special needs children, grows her own arugula, and is working on a script for Fox Searchlight, all at the same time.

Take as gospel truth the statement that you earned this magnificent extravagance merely by the heroic act of being born.

Seize it.

Revel in it.

Celebrate it.

And then go out and take a slow walk in your bare feet… smiling all the way.

10
Apr
18

Beloved

Seize the day imageIt happened again.

Sunday morning… there we all were; about 10 minutes before the worship service was scheduled to begin.

I walked in, set my stuff down, and made my way back down the brown-carpeted center aisle – exchanging pleasantries and greetings with some of the early arrivers (which, in this church, is virtually the entire congregation).

There they were, in their customary places… fifth pew from the front, west side, side-by-side on the aisle.

“How are you ladies today?” I asked.

“Oh, you know,” she said, offering a wry smile. “Same as ever.”

“Do you think it’s really going to snow like they said it was?”

Shhhh!” Her sister said in mock horror. “Don’t say it out loud or it will happen!”

And then, at 9:30 p.m. the call came. It had been a massive stroke at 3:30 that afternoon. She and her sister were chatting and doing their respective things… she was playing with the cats… when suddenly…

An ambulance and then a helicopter got her in front of the very best stroke specialists around. But they conferred and agreed; it was too late. The damage was severe and irreparable.

No eye was dry as we gathered around her bed and watched the life support systems being turned off and withdrawn.

Tears were shed. Long hugs were exchanged. Prayers were said. Comfort was offered. Her forehead was anointed with oil.

In the stunned silence of the drive home from the hospital, I kept saying the same thing to myself… over and over again.

“But… I JUST TALKED TO HER!”

As if death has no right to be sudden and unannounced.

As if I was due some kind of advance notice so that I might adequately prepare myself.

Once again I was reminded… as I have been reminded on numerous occasions in the past, and yet somehow, continue to forget and need to be re-reminded of… life is an incredibly fleeting and precious thing.

In one instant here… brimming over with laughter or tears or snow flurries or sunlight or loving friends or annoying neighbors or mismatched socks or ragged sweatshirts or cake or barbeque or squealing, frisky grandchildren…

… and the next instant, gone.

And so I stare into the mirror and ask the guy staring back,“How dare you take any moment of your life for granted? How dare you treat your life as anything less than a gift and a miracle? SHAME ON YOU for failing to squeeze every drop of meaning from even the tiniest moment!”

All of that is true. And yet I know, as sure as I am sitting here typing these words right now, that the lure of amnesia is powerful. As this day begins its unfolding, I will most certainly forget the lesson of that late night call. I will lapse into banality and routine, smudging the beauty of my NOW with a yawn or a gripe.

And so I pray; Holy, God… as you surely now receive your beloved daughter into your arms and welcome her into her eternal home, comfort all who love her. Breathe the breath of your holy, healing Spirit into each broken heart.

And by that same Holy Spirit, please, God, keep me awake. Prod me – gently or violently – whenever I threaten to doze off.

Thank you.

AMEN.

09
Mar
18

The Child Within

inner childrenHe sees so much, sitting there
Perched on the edge of my soul.
An avalanche of wonder cascades
On… in… around his open, receptive eyes.

He misses nothing.
He is a bridge.
He is a lighthouse.
He is the key to the door of secrets.

His hand outstretched
E.T. glowing white fingertips
He invites me to “come”
“Learn”
“Listen”

“We should climb this tree
And sit silently
And watch.” 

“We should dive into
That pile of leaves…
And roll around.”

In his hand, a wrapped gift appears.
Open it,” he sings.
And so I open it
And I weep.

The gift pulses, shimmers, purrs
It glows a deep, satisfying blue.
It is the gift I have always wanted
But could never speak.

It is the gift of my life…
Whole
Affirmed
Holy.

Mine to cherish.
Mine to own.

I love you,” he says.
And smiles.

24
May
13

What I deserve

DESERVE. What does that word mean to you? I had two encounters with it in close succession last week that set me to pondering.

            The first was while I was waiting on hold with my trash pick-up company. I was calling (again) to complain, er, I mean, OBSERVE, that they had not picked up my yard waste bags. The recorded voice reassured me by saying, “Please stay on the line and our customer service specialist will be right with you to give your call the attention it DESERVES.” I remember thinking, “I hope their definition of the attention I deserve is the same as mine”

            Then, just a day later, I sent a congratulatory email to my son as he started his new job. In the body of the message I used the phrase, “You deserve great things.”

            I thought, “Hmmm. There’s that word again. What does that mean anyway?”

            What are we saying when we say we deserve something? Obviously we feel we are ENTITLED somehow to something, whether it be great customer service, to a wonderful job, to clean air, to democracy, to be loved, to have beautiful and compliant children, or whatever else we might come up with.

            But do we? Do we really deserve those things? Or do we DESIRE them and then somehow come to treat our desires as entitlements?

             The more I think about it, the more I find the question of what you and I actually deserve from life to be a surprisingly difficult one to answer. In the first instance can any of us really say we deserve ANYTHING? Life itself came to us as a gift. Parents who did not immediately take us to the river and throw us in were a gift. Today I am sharply aware of just how huge is the gift of an intact roof over my head.

            And just between you and me, I am not sure I actually DESERVED any of those gifts.

            Looking back on the people I have known in my life, I can safely say that those who have been the angriest, the most distressed, and most out of sorts with the world, in general, were those who carry with them a LONG list of “things I deserve.”

            Because you see, when you feel that you DESERVE a thing and you do not receive it, you feel cheated. Inevitably those folks look around at other people who have that thing – many of whom are much less skilled, talented and deserving – and feel there is something tragically flawed about the world’s BDS… Benefit Distribution System.

And so they get angry.

It is a whole different conversation when I am considering what YOU deserve to receive from ME. I feel that you deserve my full attention, you deserve my very best effort to fulfill the commitments I have made to you… you deserve love, respect, honor, and hospitality. Those I can control. What you decide to extend to me… not so much.

OK, so I guess this was not such a short meditation after all. But then again I felt that you DESERVED a fuller development of the basic thought… so there you go! The bottom line is this: the more we think we deserve from life, the less we view life as a gift. And the less we see life – everything in life – as a gift from God, the less joy we experience.

As we are reminded in James 1:17 – “…every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”




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