Posts tagged ‘Family’

To speak or not to speak

Most everyone that’s new to meditation practice has expressed the same conflict and confusion. How do you tell your friends and family about your practice? The internal dialogue surrounding the decision is an interesting paradox worth exploring for ourselves.

You may have been at this for a while now and realize that this is something that you want to become a regular part of your life, or you may have realized that being yourself, being connected to the universe, practicing kindness is your life. It’s only natural to want to talk to others about something good that has happened to you. You may even have the best intentions of wanting others to find the happiness and calm center that you have discovered, but you know that some people in your life won’t be very receptive. Some may even be very judgmental and say hurtful things to you. So there is this conflict of wanting to share about your practice and the way you see the world and being afraid of being judged by loved ones who just don’t understand.

First, we need to explore our motivations for wanting to tell others about it but also explore why we are afraid of being judged by others. On one hand we may want to share our experience with others as another form of seeking approval and validation from people. While not to let anyone know about the changes we’ve experienced is a fear of rejection and losing approval. It’s really a paradox. The ego is at play in both decisions, but realizing how it’s at work gives us areas to explore and work through.

  • What is it about me that craves the approval of others?
  • Why do I need others to validate my experience for me?
  • If I can’t be myself around those that love me, do they really love me or the idea of me?
  • What is it about rejection that terrifies me and paralyzes me?

Second, we shouldn’t try to evangelize others to bolster our own lack of confidence. I ran across a wonderful Taoist insight by Chuang-tzu this week that we could learn from:

She let’s the confused stay confused
if that is what they want
and is always available
to those with a passion for the truth.

When we free ourselves of this desperate need for approval, we can be truly ourselves. When someone that we love has a genuine need or has expressed interest in changes they see in us, we can have the courage and humility to be honest and to be kind in our responses.

Remember, the Buddha said, “Be a lamp unto yourselves.” We don’t have to seek validation for the path that we know is right for us, but we also don’t have to force our way on others who may not be ready at this time or ever.

Practice loving-kindness and mindfulness for their own sake, whether anyone understands why you do or not. Just be yourself. Be present. Be kind. Let your life touch others and let your actions speak louder than words. Explanations won’t be necessary.


I saw love today

As I walked up to a nursing home this afternoon, I noticed a frail old man sitting on a bench outside. He was tall and thin and appeared to be at least 80. He was leaning over a bit, holding something to the tip of his nose. I thought it was sad that he couldn’t see any better and had to read like that. As I got closer, I saw that he was holding a worn 3 x 5 photo of him and his wife from at least 10 years earlier.

He didn’t just glance at the photo and tuck it back into his pocket. He looked long, hard and lovingly at the face that he saw every morning for most of his life. As I opened the door, he slid the picture slowly into his left shirt pocket and stared out into the distance. I felt like I witnessed something so intimate but so powerful. I felt intrusive just to be there but so grateful that I was.

Spending the Dog Days in New Orleans

I’ve been working in and around New Orleans for a few weeks now. I do twice a year. After a couple weeks the family came back with me last week. It’s a sort of working vacation. Money’s low, gas is high. Don’t know if there will be a real vacation this summer, but I don’t know that it could be anymore fun than this one.

In years past my trips to NOLA were limited to in and out, do what you came to do and go. I was always intimidated by big cities and far too judgemental in the past to enjoy the Big Easy. Not so anymore. I think I’ve finally managed to learn my way around including public transit. I feel accomplished, lol.

I’ve always been a student of people and places. There’s no greater classroom for that than this city. Having my family here has been a lot of fun. I’ll never forget the look of my four year-old sitting in the sunshine leaning on the window sill of a trolley on Canal Street taking it all in or my six year old asking a million questions on the Algiers Ferry. It’s been a blast.

For all the big box stores, fast food drive thrus and expressways we live with, it’s nice to come to a place that is unique unto itself and comfortable in it’s own two shoes, even if the soles are worn out. This is a melting pot of people like no other. Millionaires mingling with paupers and grit mixed with glitter. An out of the way trolley ride took us out of the tourist traps and our comfort zones. We saw the destruction and blight up close and personal. We also met people who had “salt in their character,” a lot of salt. They were good people.. helpful, friendly, and not so different than you and me.

The days have been blistering hot. The nights have been heavy and thick. The bourbon sweet. The smiles and laughs… unforgettable. For all, thru all, in spite of all.. I am thankful.

Words That Must Be Spoken

ShoutWhen I first started this blog in December 2005, I chose the title based upon Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. I’ve used this outlet to talk about everything from my years as a pastor, to gardening, to wines, movies, books, and of course politics. I’ve been reflecting the last few days on relationships, mine and others, which have gone awry. To oversimplify complex problems, it seems that much of the friction that I have observed between people is the result of words left unspoken.

Things need to be said, but most importantly the right things need to be said. Too often we dance around the issue and assume communication is taking place. None of us are mind readers. Not only do certain things need to be said to another, but they must also be spoken soon. The longer you wait to say them, the harder they become to verbalize.

I’m a bit of an odd duck, I know, but I’d rather have heated words than silence. Sometimes the situation can be resolved on the other side of an argument but seldom after silence. Part of this is inherited behavior. My wife’s family talks about nothing. They watch t.v. by leaning over to see around the 2 ton elephant in the middle of the room. My family talks about everything, even if not always politely. I prefer the latter. At least everything is laid on the table. It’s seemed to work for these 31 years of my life, because we all still get along even if we don’t always agree.

What I mean to say more than anything in this post is that words matter. Your words matter. Say them. Say them often. Say them soon. Scream them if you must, but say what must be said not only for the health of your relationships but for the sake of your own sanity. Tell someone you love that you love them. Then tell them again as often as you can. Tell someone that’s hurt you that it hurts. Tell someone heading for trouble that you care enough to warn them. You never know when you’ll have one last chance. Don’t let words that must be spoken go unsaid.

Life happens and so does death

Yeah, I know. I haven’t been around much lately. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t had anything to write about or maybe too much to write about. Life happens. I haven’t felt like writing. It’s felt like an exercise, and I’ve been slack on that too for the last few weeks. There has been work, lots of work. There’s been sickness. Between the four of us somebody’s always passing something around. There’s been lots of family time, for which I’m very grateful, and there’s also been death. My grandmother ended her struggle with Alzheimer’s three weeks ago.

I never really expected to be affected by her passing as much as I was. I thought that I had dealt with this already. She started going downhill a few years ago, and for the last two rarely knew most of us. I don’t know that I fully grieved the loss a few years ago, or maybe it was a slow constant awareness of things lost. My feelings on the subject had degraded to indifference. Then she died.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have known all of my great grandparents during my childhood and also to have never lost an immediate family member in my now 31 years of life. I have had my share of death in the pastorate. It’s part and parcel with the trade. I spent many hours going through prolonged terminal illness with several people. You cannot help but become emotionally invested in others during such ordeals, but this was different.

Not only had we lost our grandmother, but in manys ways her passing closed a door on a huge portion of my life. Growing up as a child in south Louisiana is long since past and will not be again. Although myself and my cousins have grown up and are trying to find our way in the world, I believe each of us are those same little kids at Maw-Maw’s house. We may look like we’ve got it together, but in many ways we all still battle our same childhood insecurities. We just think when we’re kids that the grown ups have their act together. Ignorance is bliss, right? All sorts of family drama have not made handling any of this any easier.

My grandmother asked me a few years ago to preach her funeral. I agreed. Little did I know that I would no longer be pastoring churches and seldom preaching when the time came. The task is hard enough in and of itself, but so much of my belief system has radically changed. There are more things that I do not know than I used to know. Gone is the dogmatism. I live in the tension of mystery and paradox. I ended up spending most of my time ulogizing her and speaking briefly about her faith, which was also my faith. It didn’t help matters that her funeral fell on my birthday, but we move on, although walking slowly.

Do not hurry
As you walk with grief,
It does not help the journey.

Walk slowly,
Pausing often:
Do not hurry
As you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed
By memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive;
And let Christ speak for you unspoken words
Unfinished conversation
Will be be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one
Who walks with grief,
If it is you,
Be gentle with yourself.

Swiftly forgive;
Walk slowly
Pausing often.

Take time,
be gentle
As you walk with grief.

– From Celtic Daily Prayer by the Northumbria Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about death the last few weeks. Morbid, I know, but someone has to do it. I don’t know what happens when you die. I know all the lines about heaven and hell and what gets you where. I don’t think it works quite the way we’ve been told. The whole system is too conveniently construed to give power to those who want power and peace of mind to those who need peace of mind. Truthfully, I don’t think anything happens when you die. That really sucks when you think about it. Even hell seems preferable to nothing.

Listening to “Last Request (acoustic)” by Paolo Nutini a few days ago really brought home the gravity of the moment of our death and sums up my feelings about nothingness:

Slow down, lie down
Remember it’s just you and me
Don’t sell out, bow out
Remember how this used to be
I just want you to know something, is that alright?
Baby let’s get closer, tonight

Grant my last request and just let me hold you, don’t shrug your shoulders
Lay down beside me
Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere
But one last time let’s go there
Lay down beside me, ohhh

I’ve found that I’m bound to wander down that long way road, ohhh
And I realise all about your lies,
But I’m no wiser than the fool that I was before.
I just want you to know something, is that alright?
Baby let’s get closer, tonight.

[chorus repeat]

Baby, baby, baby
Tell me how can, how can this be wrong?

[chorus repeat 2x]

Ooohhhh wohhhhohhh, yeah
Lay down beside me
One last time let’s go there,
Lay down beside me.

When you think about dying, it makes every day of living that much more precious. I don’t really know how long we have on this earth. Even if it were 80 years, it would not be enough. What matters most isn’t how much money you made and the stuff you’ve bought. What matters most is those you loved and the time you spent with each of them, which makes grieving over a death or loss of relationship all the more difficult.

Grief is a strange and unwelcome guest that you just don’t know what to do with and can’t wait to get rid of. I’ve been grieving in a way over leaving pastoral ministry. Not that I miss it, but that I get angry thinking of how I was used and tossed aside. Learning the painful truth that relationships were a means to an end for most people. They were friends with my position but not with me. I grieve over time wasted but find a measure of comfort in knowing it led me to where I am now. I also grieve over the loss of my childhood, the loss of innocence. Many people that I’ve talked to who have deprogrammed from ministry and from church go through a process of grieving with all of its stages. I’m somewhere in the mix… not where I was but not where I’m going. I’m just trying to take one day at a time and be myself. I’m not qualified to be more than that.

I’ve been working a lot the last few weeks, which is a good thing. I’m trying to get back on track making up for lost time, which has been a needed distraction. I’ve been able to be home a lot but not as much as I’d like. I’m looking forward to down time for the holidays and a change of pace come January. Something’s got to give. If you don’t mind, you might not hear from me again until 2008. Silence is therapeutic, and I’m overdue.

Happy holidays to all of you. I’ll drink a spiked egg nog in your honor and put 2007 to rest.

Keep the change, on second thought, I’ll take it

It never ceases to amaze me to hear what my kids come up with. My five-year old Timothy and I stopped by Sonic a few days ago to pick up a couple happy meals for he and his younger brother Andrew.  The attendant said the total was $6.08 and would be out shortly. I pulled out six $1 bills, dug in my console for loose change, and found a dime. I asked Timothy if he knew what a dime was, but he didn’t. I told him it was the same as 10 pennies. He laughed and said, “you’re so silly, Daddy.”

“No, I’m serious. It’s just like giving somebody 10 pennies,” I told him. Thinking I might quiz him while we were waiting, I asked him, “They said it costs $6 and 8 cents. So if I give her six dollars and 10 cents, how much change will she give me back?”

Without hesitation he said, “two pennies.”

Wow! That’s pretty cool. I know they didn’t talk much about money in Pre-K last year. I thought it was amazing that he did basic math in his head without any visual aids to play with. I decided to try again, “If it costs $6 and I gave her a $10 bill, how much change would she give me back?”

“Four dollars,” he spit out laughing.

Well, I’ll be dang. “You’re just too smart, Timothy. You’re gonna be the smartest kindergartner ever.”

“Yeah, I know,” he grinned all over himself.

I asked him a couple other math questions because it took forever to get our order, but the game quickly broke down because he was tired of it. When the attendant finally brought our happy meals, I gave her my $6 and my dime. She fumbled around with her change dispenser and her money apron. I really wasn’t sure if she didn’t know how much change to give me or was fresh out of pennies. She said, “I’ll be right back.”

I kind of laughed, “No, really I don’t need it. Keep the change.”

Kids can be a lot of fun. They can also be a lot of work and quite a challenge at times, but overall they’re a blast. My boys are at such a fun age and fairly independent. Even Andrew who’s 3 has the whole potty training thing down, can get his own snacks, and dress himself too. He’s even mastering the remote like his brother and his daddy. The boys even play really well together most of the time. Often when it’s really good, I wish I could just freeze time and keep them at this age forever. Who needs acne, girls, and graduation? You can keep the change.

Because they’re my kids, they don’t have to do anything to make me love them and can’t do anything to make me stop, but some things they do just really get me. I thought a lot about what makes them such a joy. I think more than anything I can see myself in them and relive parts of my childhood through them, but the greatest joy is seeing them do new things, learning, and growing. Everyday there’s something new to be amazed by. I guess I can’t imagine keeping them the same. I don’t want china dolls on the shelf.

I think they’re growing up way too fast, and I know it will only get faster. As much as I love these moments, I don’t really want to freeze time. I want to make each moment count, even if it is only two cents. On second thought, I’ll take the change.

Alzheimer’s: As strong as death, as cruel as the grave

A response to a friend’s post at The First Morning on caring for his mother with Alzheimer’s: 

David, I don’t believe people can truly understand until they’ve been there too. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s also, but she appears to be further progressed than your mom. She is a shell of a person. Aside from eating when spoon fed, she is not far from comatose most of the time. It is painful and has taken its toll on my entire family, especially my grandfather. In many ways I too consider her to have already died, but she hasn’t, so we grieve but not fully. It’s sort of the funeral that never ends.

When I think of how long Nancy Reagan cared for “Ronnie,” I am convinced that she deserves consideration for sainthood. My family’s situation is not yours. This is my grandmother, not my mom. Like others in my family I can try not to think about it. My grandfather is there everyday. We don’t have to be. It’s a selfish means of coping. I cannot know exactly what you’re going through, but I empathize no less. I will offer my prayers for you and your family as well, but, truthfully, we don’t know how to pray at times like these.

Watching my grandmother slip away, as well as watching hospice patients and parishoners go through the long process of dying, throws what is left of my faith into a tailspin. Why? How? What? When? Life may have its sanctity but where is its dignity? Even then Jesus gives voice to our brokenness “why have You forsaken me?”

Knowing nothing else to say, having nowhere else to turn, we go in the name of the forsaken one and pray simply, “Have mercy.”