Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind (Elder Care, Part II)

In my last post, I shared my personal views on elder care. There are many reasons for finding ourselves in this mess. First of all, let’s be honest, a lot of us are just too busy (or, too far away, … Continue reading

Last-Minute Gift Ideas

IMG_3379.JPGIf any of you are heading out to the local mall to face the crazed masses in this final week before Christmas, I thought I’d provide you with my wish list, just in case you still need to get me something. None of the things on my list will cost you a dime, so I’m counting on you coming through for me!

#1 – Make someone smile this week. Do whatever you have to do with the gifts you’ve been given. If you’ve got a wacky sense of humor, use it (getting a laugh will score you some extra points with me!). If you’re not the humorous type, then compliment someone. Tell them they have beautiful eyes, or you’ve never seen anyone look so cute in reindeer antlers or…whatever. You can do it, I know you can! I’ll also give you extra points for garnering a grin from a harried, department store cashier. “Tis the season to be jolly” (not crabby and stressed out!).

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#2 – When you notice a driver who needs to get over into your lane, slow down and let them in, instead of employing that usual impulse of speeding up, and thinking, “You’re not cutting in front of me, buddy!” And I’m not accusing anyone, here – I’m just quoting my own mean-spirited thought bubble (that rears it’s ugly head way too often, I’m embarrassed to confess). Letting someone out who’s waiting to exit a parking lot is the cheaper version of this gift, but will be gladly accepted.

 

#3 – Donate something to facilitate a happier holiday for someone less fortunate than you. Dropping a couple of coins in a red kettle will not count for this one. Be generous – give until you have to give up something. Offer a cash contribution to a local church or social services agency, sign up to support a needy family for Christmas, or take advantage of the many locations accepting food and toy donations this time of year. You have so much…give up a little to give a little (which will be seen as a lot, by those on the receiving end!). IMG_3375.JPG

#4 – Visit a nursing home. Call some local retirement homes before heading out, to make sure that they are in need of this service, and then put your whole heart into it. Make cards or cookies, and take your children (or your dog) along. If you play the guitar, drag that with you, to sing songs for (and with) the residents. Visit those folks who are open to visitors (most retirement homes will have a list of which members of their community like to have visitors dropping by). Ask them about their family, their history, or some interesting story they have to share. You’ll be surprised to find yourself leaving there with so much more than you took in!

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#5 – Adopt a pet from an animal shelter, where the really unwanted pets are dropped off. It could very well be a matter of life or death for a sweet, loyal, homeless animal, that just happens to be a bit old, or too much work for a busy someone, or any other myriad of reasons that pets get “surrendered” to a shelter. Need I say more?

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Enough of my own wants. Let’s move on to what the rest of the world needs. These are not really things you can easily give, but you can pray, and encourage, and make little impacts here and there.

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A sense of humor – Have you ever delivered a perfect one-liner, setting someone up for a hilarious comeback, and all you get is a blank stare, or a response indicating that your wittiness went flying way over their head? It happens to me a lot. I have a few regular comebacks to things that people say often, like, “Sorry about your wait.” I hear that all the time at restaurants, stores, etc. I always respond with this, “Oh, don’t feel bad…I’m quite happy with my weight.” Some people laugh and laugh, and some people look at me with one of those blank, speechless, “I have no idea what she’s talking about” stares, and I realize that my wittiness has gone soaring right over their somber little heads. Often, I make things up on the spur of the moment. At a local amusement park’s winter festival, I went up to a young man at a booth where large wreathes were being sold and I said, “I’m just wondering what you think….should I buy my wreathe before or after I ride the roller coaster?” Man, he coulda’ flew with that one. I’m talking budda-bing, budda boom. But no, he very seriously replies, “Oh, you can do it either way. I can hold it right here for you while you ride the new coaster.” Sigh……poor child! One of my goofier friends always had a response to that. She would actually say, “I know what I’m getting you for Christmas…a sense of humor!” I’m not really blaming people for not getting my humor. Not everyone is going to be a match for me in the wittiness arena. All I’m saying is, there are funny things all around us, and some people have forgotten how to laugh. Let’s pray for everyone to lighten up a little!!

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Better vision – Not eye vision, but soul vision – I’m talking about the habit of being focused in, so much, on your own little world, that selfishness and anger and combativeness have taken over your means of interacting with others, whenever you don’t get every little thing that you like to think you are entitled to. Way too many people fall into this category.IMG_3376.JPG

Compassion – we’ve seen a lot of this displayed lately, in the midst of widespread devastation from natural disasters and displays of deadly violence, but, we see just as much of the other side of the coin – anger and blaming and mocking. God, please fill our hearts with compassion!!

I think I’ve given you plenty of suggestions to work with in the days ahead. Don’t worry if you don’t have this all wrapped up in time for Christmas day. 😉 This is something you can work on/pray for/plug away at every day throughout the Christmas season and into the coming year. And, if you do get a gift for me, from the list above, please leave a comment, and tell me about it. It will fill my heart with the joy of the season. And my wish for you is to experience that same joy! I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas.

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Rise Above with Humble Love

When I look at what you suffer, I don’t notice color of skin. I don’t ask who you voted for, What church you worship in.   I feel no wary suspicion For an accent not like mine. Your clothing might … Continue reading

Weathering the Storms of Life

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As a country, we’ve been going through the valley lately, experiencing some pretty serious hardship. In our lifetime (despite all of mankind’s advances in science and technology), most of us will face some sort of calamity or painful loss, possibly even catastrophic destruction, sometimes individually, sometimes as a community at large, sometimes as a nation. The United States of America has just endured the one-two knockout punch of back-to-back destructive hurricanes. Add to that the tragic, widespread fires out west, the anniversary of the indescribable terror of 9/11, and the crippling division being displayed amongst our citizenry, and…yeah, we could definitely quote Charles Dickens’ opening line in A Tale Of Two Cities (one of my all-time favorite novels, which I highly recommend, if you’ve never read it!), “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” We have “it all,” and yet we are finding (more and more often, it seems) that it can all be taken away in a heartbeat. The question is, will we confront these challenges facing inward, focusing only on ourselves and our own problems, or facing outward, together, with a disposition of serving others? In other words, will we allow it to make us stronger, more compassionate, and united, or reduce us to an outraged, bitter, broken people? From what I have seen, so far, from the stories of people reaching out to help, sending money, praying unceasingly – most of us have opted for the healthy and fruitful orientation.

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The absolute best perspective on all of this tragedy comes from an (almost) unbelievably sweet and adorable couple, who I know you have all heard about since Twitter (whose existence I usually refuse to acknowledge) is apparently abuzz with the news of these people. I am referring, of course, to Irma and Harvey Schluter, the elderly couple from Spokane, WA (ages 92 and 104, respectively), whose story has been shared on every reliable (and, otherwise) news source since last Friday when the story first broke.

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These are two remarkable people, who survived the challenges of World War II, had three children, and then fostered over one hundred more children. If the story stopped here, that would be enough, but Irma and Harvey also offered some sage advice. This amazing couple (who are still in love and still relatively healthy, with minds as sharp as tacks) shared these pearls of wisdom from their years of commitment and sacrifice:

“Each one’s gotta have love,” says Harvey.

“That, and faith,” adds Irma, “Two things that were here before and will be here after (the other Harvey and Irma pass from history).”

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THAT’S IT, PEOPLE!! Yes, it’s as simple as that! That’s all we need to get through this – faith and love. (And, yes, they are referring to faith in God, because that is their history and their personal motivation – they even taught Sunday school classes together! – and it is what facilitates a growth in self-sacrificing love.) As a former foster-parent of two children, I know, without a doubt, that welcoming one hundred & twenty foster children into your home (and doing the job with the proper spirit) requires a supernatural “inpouring” of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and authentic love (spelled out by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 13). If we open our hearts and our lives to embrace these truths, we will weather the storms of life, no matter how widespread and devastating they might be, and we will do it together. And together (i.e., hand-in-hand, united, with one voice, committed to one another, in concert, linked together, etc, etc.) is where we need to be right now. More “storms” are on the horizon, some we can see, some not even on our radar, but they are there, and they will come. Will we face them together, or separated; in a spirit of “love thy neighbor,” or a spirit of “I’m right, you’re wrong, and I will hate and mistreat you because your beliefs don’t jive with mine”? The choice is ours, and our choice will decide our ultimate fate. As for me and my family, we’re gonna follow the example of our country’s “very own, real-life, time-tested” duo, Irma and Harvey, from Spokane. I speak from personal experience when I say: Love, rooted in faith, will build an effective fortress, a sturdy stronghold, in which we can withstand the onslaught of any and all storms that head our way. Let’s keep building….together!

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