Monday, May 30, 2011

Lessons in Life: from the Elderly

For those of you who do not know, I work in the wonderful and exciting world of assisted living.

I represent two incredible communities in my town and have the opportunity to spend much of my time with people over 80 years old. Their outlook on life is so incredibly similar to mine and yet so different at the same time.

It’s an amazing reminder that we are all the same and we are all unique.

While perpetually “waiting for some inspiration” to write my next blog I found myself working on some mailers for work and listening to the group of residents come in from an outing. The conversation was as follows:

Resident #1: “It is so chilly today! I hate cold weather!”
Resident #2: “Don’t worry, it’s almost June. It will get warm soon!”
Resident #1: “Oh, I hate warm weather too.”

It just made me smile!

I started thinking about all the many, many things I have learned from my residents and their families.

I have reflected today on two specific lessons that I would like to share with you today.

#1 Don’t complain about your life around elderly people. Trust me, they had it worse.

After I had my son prematurely and he had his hospital stay in the NICU for fifteen days, my heart ached for months. The extreme pain of losing this amazing birth process that I had been dreaming about my whole life was shot to heck. Bed rest was terrible. Leaving the hospital without my baby boy was by far the most heart wrenching experience I have ever been through and I wish it on no one.

Due to necessity, I had returned to work after six weeks, thankful that my baby boy was with my husband and that my job was allowing me to work from home twice a week for the following six months.

Most of the residents had sauntered in and out of my office for the first few days asking about Braylon and myself. I was simply keeping it light and not going into any of the details.

One resident decided to stay and share her experience with me.

Her child had also been born prematurely, but in a time where medicine as exists today was not a reality. The doctor had sent her daughter home simply so that she could die at home and not in a hospital. Children born prematurely in those days simply did not survive, or if they did, it was by miracle alone.

Her tiny baby girl could only drink ½ an ounce at a time (over a two hour period) without choking and extreme respiration. She would stay up around the clock nursing her so she would get enough to eat.

Oh, and by the way, that daughter was daughter #4. And her husband was away at war. And her family lived far away. And she lived in Minnesota. To stay up all day and all night she would fill buckets of snow and sit with her feet in them until her feet hurt so bad she was forced to stay awake due to the pain.

Her baby girl is 45 years old now.

And if THAT isn’t a mother’s love, I don’t know what is!

As flawed an experience of having my baby in the NICU was, in perspective it was a God send. My child had access, regardless of insurance, to some of the best technology, education, care, and medicine in the world. I was able to come and go as I pleased (mostly come) while allowing the caring and beautiful nurses to ensure my baby’s best start possible.

I had my feet in buckets of snow exactly zero times.

It was, by comparison, a dream.

I shut up after that and from then on.

It was a lesson to look at my blessings and not my burdens.

Because I was incredibly blessed with a healthy and beautiful baby boy.

When elderly people say that they walked to school up-hill both ways, most people laugh, but I am not so sure that they are exaggerating.

#2 The Bible is not purely historical document, but it is a living document as well.

Many people are quick to dismiss the Bible as simply a book of rules that worked for some bizarre ancient civilization, and ergo not applicable to the “drastically different” life that we live today.

While I believe not only that the Bible is a living document in the way that it was written (by God to transcend generations), working with the elderly has given me an additional perspective.

Human kind at it's most basic core hasn’t really varied all that much from generation to generation!

In other words, considering the distinctly polar opposite lives that I have lived in comparison to our residents, if THEY and I still have similar core values and hopes and dreams and desires in common, then I do not believe it is a stretch to say that all humans in all times have basically the same core as well. I am not really sure exactly how it all works, and I dare to say I am not meant to know.

But, I do love to reflect on the simple beauty of the promise that that all humankind’s fears and hopes in the truest of forms are simply the result of being uniquely hand crafted by a loving and miraculous God.

“Listen to me... I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you.” Isaiah 46: 3-5

I think this verse is not only talking about “you” as “you,” but “you” as “humankind” as well. He was there in the beginning and He will be with us through all our ages.

So…that pretty much rocks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Self-Righteous Christians

Self-Righteous Christians

I was driving my (new) usual route from my house to the main part of town. My route, similar to many suburban routes, takes me past many billboards, neon lights, and dancing people spinning arrows dressed in strange costumes (why anyone would want that job is beyond me).

I especially notice (and the marketers smile) signs that you can change, sometimes daily, with little quips or quotes such as “Happy Birthday Honey Bunny love, Big Fred” or “United We Stand” and the like. These signs are usually owned by gas stations, churches, schools, etc.

So here I was driving along, bopping around to Taylor Swift, and listening to Braylon talk to his stuffed elephant and zoning out (the good kind not the unsafe, distracted driver kind).

The sign I noted that morning in particular was from a local Christian church (which will not be named). As I pulled up to the stop sign and looked out my right side I noted the sign today read “NOW OPEN FROM EASTER TO CHRISTMAS.”

My first thought was, “How odd. A church that is closed from Easter to Christmas? Must be those crazy enter in random denomination!”

A few seconds later it hit me.

“Oh my gosh!” I thought. That was actually a (not so clever) sign targeted, quite rudely, at church going folk that only attend church on Easter and Christmas.

I could not believe it.

Not only was that probably the worst way to entice people to church I had ever seen, it was aimed at people who are already Christians!!!

Not only was this church attacking those who didn’t attend church at all, but those who didn’t go to church “enough.”


Now, I believe in attending church regularly for many, many reasons including community, specific time for worship and prayer, etc.

But I absolutely, positively, 100% do NOT believe in guilt tripping, humiliating, shaming, or taunting people into attending church regularly (or at all).

It seemed so…self-righteous. And oozing with pride (some of Satan’s favorite chess pieces).

This sign painfully reminded me of one of the most devastating words ever uttered to me.

Back in high school, I had a large eclectic group of friends. Like most teens, whose ideas and passions were just starting to bloom and clash and collide, we enjoyed hours and hours of discussion about literally everything about the world. Inevitably religion (and, in my case, Christianity) would come up.

I remember sitting around a giant round table at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in town. The kind where you pay $8.00 and eat anything and everything you want.

After all the food had cleared, the religious debate had begun. Out of the twelve around the table, myself and one other (much less out-spoken) Christian were holding down Jesus’ fort. It felt like an ambush.

My best friend in the whole world, completely dead honestly, looked me straight into my eyes and said, “The thing I don’t get about you Christians is when the Judgment Day comes and we all burn in hell and you go to heaven, you guys are going to feel so validated and celebrate that you were right.”

I remember sitting there completely stunned and speechless. My heart sunk into my stomach as if I had been hit with a sledgehammer.

Being an “infant Christian” at the time I had nothing to say. I couldn’t believe that the Good News had been so twisted that THAT was the message and vibe non-Christians were getting from us!

Happy that our fellow men, our friends, are burning in hell, because that’s means we’re right?


The idea made me literally sick.

Are we so obsessed with being right and with being “better” than other people (and other Christians) that we are forgetting what is at stake here?!
Those without Jesus do NOT deserve to be ridiculed so that you feel better about yourself.

Those without Jesus deserve to be saved. They deserve to have Jesus.

So SHUT UP about why you’re better than them and tell them why Jesus is better than YOU.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why I don't want Good Luck

“Crossing my Fingers”

This morning while sending a marketing progress report to our owner group I found myself erasing the sentence “saying a prayer for a sunny skies” for our afternoon marketing event. I replaced the sentence with “crossing my fingers for sunny skies.”

Why are we so ashamed of even those most innocent of phrases?

Now, mind you, in a professional marketing report to an owner one should be extremely cautious of one’s words.

However, it got me thinking to other every day situations where I could be speaking the truth (without fear of losing my job).

How many times a day do I tell a college, friend, or family member “Crossing my fingers for you!” or “Wish me luck!” when what I really mean is “Sending up a prayer for you!” or “Say a prayer for me!”

I find that this also extends to my occasional spew of talk about karma (which I have no belief in???). What I’m discovering about myself is that if it’s a spiritual belief that is not offensive and generally socially perceived as innocent I would rather take on emulating those beliefs rather than the ones I actually hold? What sense does that make?

When I tell a friend “Good luck!” about their results and performance at an archery shoot, what am I really saying? I don’t believe in luck. After I shout that self-contradictory nonsensical phrase out into the universe, I always send up a little prayer to God.

What would it really hurt if I just said “I’ll be praying for you!”
Not only would this be more truthful, but it’s far more powerful and helpful!

I pray for people because I believe it works. I ask for prayers because I believe it works.

Bottom line: I am doing a disservice to others (and myself) by wishing them luck (when I could be praying) and asking for luck (when I could be receiving prayer).

And, as a believer in prayer, I should feel comfortable enough to tell others that I have confidence in prayer. Maybe that would increase their confidence and allow them to dust of their “prayer hats.”

So, fellow Christian, next time you are compelled to say “good luck” or “best wishes” or “crossing my fingers” or any other phooey that you just don’t believe in (and you won’t lose your job) go ahead and say what you really mean.

(P.S. This blog (especially that part about “prayer hats” what was that??) could be written far better. I am extremely sniffly and my head hurts and I’m exhausted from moving this weekend in the rain…and God wanted me to write this blog. So I am. But I told him it wouldn’t be pretty. He said that’s okay…write it anyway. So I did.)

Life Lessons from Family: Uncle Borrvs

Have you ever wondered how I got to be so awesome? I was thinking the same thing.

I am “me” because of a million and one amazing combinations of lessons, enlightenments, and experiences. Some of the most prominent of those experiences in my life, luckily, have been learned through my family and close friends. I will spend the next several days, maybe weeks, reflecting on those experiences and how these incredible people of all kinds have shaped my life. I would just encourage you to do the same. Hard truth: you don’t have too many completely original thoughts (if any). Someone at sometime helped get you there.

Don’t let that discourage you! Because chances are, that your inherent awesomeness has in no doubt affected someone else’s life positively! Isn’t that super cool?

Uncle Borrvs

For those of you who know Uncle Borrvs, this would seem like such an odd place to start. For one, my time with him compared to the other people in my life has been very short. For two, he speaks mostly in enigmas and riddles and rants. Yet, I truly believe that he has influenced me in some of the most profound ways.

Lesson #1: Don’t let other people label you. Label yourself.

The most incredibly awesome thing about Uncle Borrvs is that he somehow manages consistently to be different than any other person you’ll ever meet. He falls into ZERO stereotypical categories (think about how hard that is) and just when you think you have him figured out…BAM. You don’t.

Born with the name proper name William, Uncle Borrvs had since changed his name (the rumor I heard was after a cartoon spider he was particularly fond of) and graduated from Georgetown University with a philosophy degree.

Most of my life he wore full black and brown leather suits with vests and long coats no matter what the weather. He didn’t wear a wrist watch, but rather carried a silver pocket watch. His hands were full of large silver rings shaped like dragons, snakes, and swords. Sometimes he adorned a cowboy hat, but he always wore his light brown hair down to his knees. He washed that hair once a year with olive oil.

In other words, if Uncle Borrvs wasn’t blood related, I would definitely question the amount of time (if at all) I would have been permitted to be around him.

Uncle Borrvs didn’t let the world define him. He defined himself. And he is awesome at it.

Lesson #2: Philosophy and logic is an amazing way to make people really mad / Don’t take arguments with others too seriously
Spending time with Uncle Borrvs for me is like spending time with a genius from another planet. He can respectfully and tactfully converse about any topic whatsoever (especially the super controversial ones) and most of the time you are left feeling even more confused about the world than when you started.

I have seen others get so extremely intoxicated with anger and frustration speaking about the simplest of topics with him. Uncle Borrvs always kept his cool and would incredibly intelligently dance around the topic with such ease that the conversation became impervious to any opposition, no matter how ridiculous and asinine his stance.

It was, as a child just learning the ways of intellectual rebellion, absolutely inspiring.

Uncle Borrvs is a very convicted man. But, most of the time, I think, he was really just trying to push buttons. He didn’t really care so much about the arguments at all.

Now, I am definitely a debater for the sheer sake of the debate. I would also contend that Uncle Borrvs also shared in this passion for respectful banter, or even non-respectful banter simply for the sake of the banter. The overwhelming beauty of a carefully selected argument. The irresistible allure of perfectly chosen and laid out logic.

Most other people? Not so much. A lot of people insatiably crave to win arguments. They approach a hot topic of conversation ravenous for a clear successor of the discussion.

Uncle Borrvs’ circular logic and shades of grey colored semantics are utter hell for a black and white traditionalist.

And, quite honestly, that makes it way too much fun for those of us out in the grey.

Thanks to Uncle Borrvs I can sit through any argument whatsoever without getting much flustered at all. Arguments are just that. Arguments! They’re words. That’s all. I guess you could say that part of what I’ve learned from Uncle Borrvs is a glorified version of “sticks and stones.”

No matter how insane Uncle Borrvs might have seemed through his appearance and/or conversation he was always respectful. He is one of the most intelligent men I have ever met and he would never make you feel inferior in any way than he.

He isn’t just a great orator, but also one of the best listeners I have ever met. He taught me to listen to others without judgment. He taught me that everyone has a story and everyone’s ideas are invaluable and should be heard.

He taught me that no one can set their expectations on you for your life.

Set your own expectations. Maybe keep your name though.

Hypocritical Christianity

Did you know that it is impossible for a Christian to be a hypocrite?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from my non-Christian friends about Christians is that they perceive the Christian life to be extremely hypocritical. What we as Christians say and what we as Christians do seem to be so dramatically dissimilar that we come across to the world as, at best, phonies and, at worst, clinically insane.

Why as Christians are we so quick to get into the historical debates about the atrocities of the Crusades, the horrific sexual crimes, polygamy, etc. instead of simply preaching the very thing that makes us “Christian?”

Is it, perhaps, that we don’t know what makes us Christian?

I’ll give you all a hint. It’s Christ.

Christ makes us Christian. More specifically, Jesus Christ’s grace and love and salvation in Him and through Him makes us Christian.

So, what?

Well, if you leave Jesus out of the conversation it’s very easy to spiral into the historical and societal arguments and semantics. What if instead of trying to refute every single atrocity done by his followers (from gossip to the slaughter of innocent lives) we simply preached the Good News?

It is impossible by nature for Christians to be hypocritical because we shouldn’t be trying to be perfect or even good all the time (ergo seeming to fall short when we are not perfect). That’s impossible. That’s why we need Jesus.

We as humans are sinful by nature. We gossip. We lie. We lie to cover up lies. We are basically a big hot mess.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t sin. Being a Christian means that we sin so much that we need Jesus. If we could live the perfect sinless life and waltz into heaven we wouldn’t need a Savior, a free pass, forgiveness, or salvation. We could do it ourselves!

Now, I believe in being good because the Bible says that if you follow the Bible (be a good person, etc.) it will make your life on Earth much more pleasant. And it will. So, I’m not saying stop being good.

Instead, we need to be more honest about what a Christian life looks like. The reality is that a Christian life looks exactly like a non-Christian life in many ways. We lose our cool at the grocery store when our kids throw a fit, we cuss when we stub our toes (even if it’s just in our head), we feel guilt and shame and loss and pain and hurt and agony.

If we were just to embrace this aspect of being ourselves instead of pretending we are some sort of impervious-to-hurt-and-failure-always-smiley-Ned Flanders type of person maybe people wouldn’t see us as so hypocritical. Just maybe.

And just maybe if we could get past this perceived “barrier to entry” (sorry, past economics classes coming out) into the Kingdom of Heaven we could get to the really good stuff like salvation and grace and hope and love and passion and fellowship.

Christians, don’t be afraid to admit your failures. It’s in these failures that you have been saved and that God has called you by name. Hard truth: your friends do not need another role model (at least not in you). Your friends need to see you as approachable and human (i.e. with faults).

Non-Christians, I would just encourage you to lay down your swords when discussing religion with Christians. I get really flustered because my convictions don’t make sense to you. And I KNOW they don’t make sense to you. And I KNOW I sound like a lunatic. You retained WAY more from history class than I did, have read way more Times Magazines than I have, you finished your college degree, and your parents were friends with Gandhi. If you let me talk more about Jesus and less about me/my beliefs I’ll start to make more sense. I promise.