January 28, 2019
Greetings from Urbana, Illinois, and welcome to the new people who are viewing this blog for the first times. I hope that it provides you with some food for thought and hopefully some help and comfort as you deal with life, which simply is not simple for any of us!
My dear friend is part of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony, and their marvelous concert Saturday night included one of my favorite symphonies by Franz Schubert. Schubert, like Mozart, was a child prodigy who produced an amazing volume of work and then died tragically at age 31.
That experience engendered a lot of thought about longevity. Most of us want to live as long as possible, and we do what we can to take care of our health to add precious years. We believe that life comes from God and we are meant to cherish it as long as he wills it, something which is complicated by modern society’s emphasis on longevity.
However, does the length of a life have anything to do with it being productive, meaningful and happy? Should we wish that Schubert had lived to a ripe old age and composed much more music? Is there any guarantee that a longer life would have meant more music?
In this month of my son Josh’s birthday, when he could have been 39 rather than dying at age 33, some regret at the brevity of that life were part of my thoughts. But this week end, as I thought about Josh and many people, some of them much younger when they died, it became obvious to me that length of life has nothing to do with quality of life.
Just as our Lord accomplished His ministry and work on earth in 33 years, each of us can lead lives of worth in service to Him and each other within whatever time we are given. Valuing each day, valuing each other, valuing our relationship with God – all of those things need to be part of our daily awareness, our daily dedication to being the best we can be.
For those of you who are grieving, may your focus be on the time that your loved one did have here and on the love that person gave and was given. And let’s value every person we know, whether they are hours old or over 100 years old. God smiles on that kind of thinking.
January 21, 2019
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I am sure that few people are not familiar with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. No matter what your opinions are regarding the Civil Rights Movement and the results of King’s efforts, I think we can all agree that the speech was powerful and wonderfully crafted.
Because so much of what I have written in my book is based on light, I have to share a quote from King’s speech: "Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” I think that the sentiment can be extended beyond the subject of racial segregation and justice to any situation in our society which is dark and desolate and needs sunlight.
Martin Luther King saw us all as “God’s children,” referred to constantly throughout his famous speech, and we need to remember that above all else we are all God’s children, created by Him and in need of His compassion and words. The source of light is Him and His Son, and the darkness will not be conquered without them.
The other factor in what King said is that he was emphasizing his dream that things could be better. That kind of forward thinking is what I refer to so often in my book – forward thinking expressed in everything from the Gospels and Epistles to the Lord’s Prayer.
Things are definitely better for many people because of Martin Luther King’s and others’ efforts. Are they perfect? – No, but is the human condition ever perfect? What God gives us intelligence and abilities for is to continue to work to make things better, to help each other make things better not only for individuals but for our society.
I repeat my favorite words from my treasured minister author, Norman Vincent Peale, who reminded us that instead of saying “at least we can pray,” we need to realize that “at most we can pray.” I hope you will spend at least a little of this holiday to pray for the dream of better lives for all people, ourselves included.
January 14, 2019
Tomorrow I will be playing the piano, as I do every Tuesday, for the seniors at the nursing home and assisted living home in our community. But tomorrow is special because the music will consist of favorites of my mother, Myrtle Jackson Elliott, who taught me to play the piano and gave me a lifelong gift. January 15 was her birthday.
Our society currently dwells heavily on the troubles of children with abusive parents, with neglectful parents, with no parents at all. Of course, we need to be concerned with these issues and to attempt to correct what can be corrected and to prosecute those who seriously damage children.
However, as in so many areas where we accentuate the negative and hear almost constantly of the ills of our society, we would do well to take a stronger look at what is good and what keeps it good. There are many good parents like mine, parents who make mistakes and have some regrets but who overall are able to do well at managing their lives and raising their children.
What makes the difference? I think we can start with faith. People of faith look at marriage and parenthood as something related to God’s will, something involving commitment beyond a simple promise but instead at the level of a holy promise. When that kind of promise is made and adhered to, it helps people to keep their lives on track far beyond daily decisions.
Priorities like raising children well, serving family and others, attending church regularly and putting decency above pettiness follow directly from faith and adherence to God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings. They become a way of life – and a benefit not only to the children involved but to the whole society.
Back to Mom and her music, here’s one of her favorites brought to mind by my comment about “accentuate the negative”: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In between. You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum, have faith or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.”
January 7, 2019
A week of our new year has already scurried by! Did you make resolutions which you are already breaking or “bargaining” about? And was that what you expected to do because it always goes that way? Or perhaps are you doing pretty well but aware that one of these days the breaking or bargaining will kick in?
Resolutions are not a bad idea, and often they represent sincere thought about our lives and about what could be improved. The problem is the way that we approach change and the priorities we base that change on.
At the risk of sounding a little “preachy,” I want to share some thoughts I have had as I have dealt with years of broken resolutions and then a change in direction which made a lot of difference. I can tell you that the one resolution I keep for sure is to make sure that my relationship with Jesus is solid and my prayer life focused.
Jesus makes it very clear throughout the Gospels that better lives require more than just the changes we think should be made – like the blind man who received his sight or Mary Magdalene who needed to be saved from stoning. Jesus would provide what they needed, but then he would ask that they “go and sin no more.”
The key, then, is within ourselves and our relationship to God, something which must be changed or improved before any of the other behaviors can change. If we want weight loss, for example, the goal must be to see ourselves as God would have us be – healthier and more energetic, more able to live our best lives in company with His expectations.
If we ask forgiveness for past bad habits and get ourselves square with our God, then we can accomplish the life improvements we honestly want. If we place our intentions in front of our Savior in prayer, then He becomes a partner in the process and our walk with Him becomes richer because it includes viewing ourselves through His eyes as well as our own.
May your 2019 find you walking with Him and viewing yourself through His eyes.
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.