I had a fun conversation with Wes Telyea, @westelyea the Provost for Bible Institute of Seattle, about wrestling with the concept of “calling,” which led to a conversation about discovering our purpose, and that ties powerfully into navigating life’s myriad transitions.
Imagine being married for 75 years.
75 years of good times, hard times, confusing times and well, just about every experience you can imagine. For Fred Stobaugh, being married to his wife Lorraine was the best part of his life:
“That was a wonderful 75 years. I often think I was dreaming or something, but it was real,” Fred Stobaugh said. “She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw. I just fell in love with her right there.”
When Lorraine died Fred was 96 years old and he did something most people his age don’t do…he wrote a song about Lorraine and entered it in a songwriting contest. The Brisbane Courier noted:
“Soon after Lorraine’s death, the Illinois man penned a song in his wife’s memory. He then, on impulse, sent the song into Green Shoe Studio’s singer-songwriter contest after he saw an ad for the competition in a local paper. The content required participants to upload songs onto the internet but Fred just sent the song in on paper and via snail-mail. He also knew that he couldn’t sing a note. At Green Shoe Studios, the song caught the attention of Jacob Colgan, who was so moved by Fred’s tribute that he decided to produce it.”
It is stories like these that our soul longs for…
It is stories like these that remind us that love and commitment are not only possible, but necessary…
It’s stories like these that redeem our understanding of love in a culture that equates love to a sexual impulse rather than the aquifer of all things good, beautiful and true.
Watch the video, you will be glad you did.
As I settle in to select quotes for tonight, my choice has been influenced by the events of the day. This afternoon I officiated a funeral service for a man who knew me most of my life. He lived 94 incredibly full years, and today his family and friends said goodbye and entered the journey of grieving which actually reminds us of life and love. So, my quotes tonight will focus on life. May they bring you some sense of God’s goodness and presence in all things. ~Monty
Every man dies. Not every man really lives. ~William Wallace
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Seuss
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ~William W. Purkey
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
“Where there is love there is life.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~Søren Kierkegaard
“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.”
You might not know it, but today is “World Alzheimer’s Day.” This day is spearheaded by an organization called The Global Voice on Dementia. You can check them out at: http://www.alz.co.uk/ This has become a global concern that even the UN has taken notice of, and this week they are addressing it for the second year in a row.
The most recent stats claim that there are currently 30 million people who suffer from dementia, and there will be an estimated 100 million people by the year 2050.
If Alzheimer’s has not affected you or your family, there is truly no way to adequately communicate how painful, hard and devastating it is on the whole family. As the days go by, there seems to be less and less of the person you knew and loved “at home” in their body. To live through the deterioration causes you to ask God some serious questions. Walking through the effects of Alzheimer’s when it came to visit my family, has left all of us changed…it was a very long and hard journey.
I think that is why I had such an instantaneous reaction to Pat Robertson’s remark about Alzheimer’s this week. A man whose wife had Alz indicated that since his wife was no longer “there” he was moving on with his life, and wondered if it was okay to divorce her since there was not a tangible relationship anymore.
While Pat has made some pretty embarrassing news remarks over the years, which have often given Christianity a black eye, when he said it was okay for this man to divorce his wife since Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death” I was speechless.
When we reduce love and commitment to a formula that says, ” I am only in this as long as my needs are met, we have absolutely missed what it means to follow Christ with our actions and choices.
This kind of ethic-less thinking means that if you are not able to do for me what I want, regardless of a medical diagnosis, then I have no moral or ethical responsibility to stay in a relationship with you. Unfortunately I have actually witnessed couples divorcing months after a marriage began because one spouse got cancer, and the leaving spouse knew his sexual needs wouldn’t get met.
This reveals how me-centric we have the capacity of being, and how desperately we need God to help transform us into men and women who choose truth and sacrifice over self, ease or comfortability.
Do you remember the old “Lifeboat” analogy we grew up with…where there was a diverse group of people in a rescue boat, from teachers and lawyers, to disabled and jobless. The Lifeboat dilemma was that the boat was overloaded and some of the people had to go…the question to process through was…which life was truly worth saving. Welcome to ethics 101, and throw in a dash of situation ethics as well.
When we think life can be trimmed down to easy answers and flippantly decide which people deserve our love; which people deserve our unconditional commitment, and what is the loop-hole I can deploy when life get tough, we reduce our humanity to something more animalistic.
The man who Pat gave a get-out-of-marriage free card to, might have felt some relief for a while, but I think soon he will be flooded with other feelings that are not quite so life-giving. I know the weight and burden the loved ones of Alz patients carry is immense, but life isn’t devoid of pain. Instead of running from the pain and the feelings, real life it’s about who we are becoming through the pain.
You see God has placed His own source code into the hearts of us all. While we are good at tricking ourselves, living in denial or avoiding the questions of the soul…when the night spaces come, our heart is crying out the questions unleashed by the divine DNA within us, and we know that there are truths that exist beyond our comfort zones and our ability to justify.
Every life matters because every life has its genesis in the creative imagination of God. We have the opportunity to most reflect the God-reality within us when we choose love, life, to invest in those considered un-worthy, to love those who seem un-lovable, and to stay committed to those who we made a covenant with and are unable to reciprocate because of something as devastating as Alzheimer’s.
In a very real way, God demonstrates the opposite advice that Pat gave. As God looked at broken humanity that struggled with a complete disconnect from the divine, He could have said, “Well, their sin situation is kind of a death, so I don’t need to stick around.” Fortunately for us He didn’t. In fact in Romans 5:8 we read:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Then in chapter 6 verse 23 Paul reminds us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So when we were considered “dead” that is when God’s extravagant love went into overdrive, not into a me-centric justification for non-involvement.
The life-giving model we see in the choices of the Father and the Son is to preserve the beauty and sanctity of life…not look for loop holes to disengage.
May we raise our awareness, compassion and love and stay committed to the ones we love, especially those with whom we said, “Til Death do us part.”