Year-Round Resolution

Posted December 29th, 2010

resolutionDecember always feels like the bottom half of rollercoaster ride. I start off the year at a full rest, get in gear in the spring, take a breather in the summer, pick up steam in the fall, and by December, I’m flying down the tracks so fast, I can scarcely breathe. I think they call this condition “busy.”

We’re all busy. Just ask your neighbor. Some of the busyness is legitimate. One has work, business trips, meetings, and conferences. We pride ourselves on our to-do lists, ranking ourselves with the world’s most successful people. Aren’t they all list-makers? We squeeze in laundry, car repairs, shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and if we’re savvy, volunteer work. We pay bills, wash our car if we have one, do home maintenance, exercise (I wish!)—the list seems endless. In short, we’ve got lots on our plate. Why do we always compete? (Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the busiest one of all?) Let’s call it a draw, shall we?

I mentioned that to a friend, recently, after she’d broken a lunch date with me for the third time in a row. She apologized, reiterating yet again that she’d been busy. To her credit, though, she admitted her “crazy schedule” was no excuse. And she was right.

Here’s the thing: Only God and Man are eternal. That means, at the end of the day, everything else needs to take second pace. If we are not routinely carving out time in our lives to nurture our relationships with God and the people we purport to love, then we are too busy. Period.

As we begin a new year, let’s all take stock of how we use our time. Remember, we all have the same 24 hours. Let’s resolve to spend some of those hours nurturing our relationships. They are the source of our joy, our meaning, our sense of place in the universe. Our relationships matter, and they are worthy of our investment. Yes, we are all saddled with a myriad of obligations. But what say we control our schedules, rather than allowing our schedules to control us?

At the end of your life, you’re not going to want five more hours at work. You’re going to wish you had even five more minutes with those you love. Spend that extra time with them now.

Schedule a weekly date-night with your partner. Arrange time with at least one friend each week. Have lunch. Go to a movie or a concert. Make cards, or play them. (I occasionally plan a craft-day with a good friend, and we visit while we work. It’s always a blast!) Have coffee or tea. Go on a hike. Whatever. Sometimes I’ll go shopping with a friend who is a busy mom, and we’ll stop on the way for a quick salad at a favorite healthy fast-food restaurant. It’s a challenge for us to work in time to visit, but we do it. Just be intentional about spending time together. Do this and, if you have four close friends you’ll be spending time with each at least once a month. Those hours will fly by, but they will leave something rich in their wake.

Use the telephone and/or SKYPE. Schedule time with friends or family who live far away. Distance is no excuse not to stay in touch.

Schedule an occasional play-date during which you plan to spend at least half a day with someone. Do something special with that time. You won’t have precious memories if you don’t build them. That goes double if you’re a parent. Spend quantity time, not just “quality time” with your children. They don’t want things half as much as they want you, anyway.

Will all this take effort? Absolutely. Are your friends and loved ones worth it? You tell me.

Happy New Year to you and may all your resolutions bear fruit in 2011!

Under the Tree

Posted December 23rd, 2010

Under the Christmas TreeI thought I’d close out this year with a couple of Christmas poems. These are both from Under The Christmas Tree, HarperCollins. Alas, it is no longer in print.

Under the Tree

Love and compassion

Posted December 9th, 2010

As we dive into holiday festivities and rush headlong into a new year, one thing weighs heavily on my heart: the recent rash of suicides by gay teens.  The deaths, themselves, are alarming, of course. But what also troubles me is how little this issue is addressed from the pulpits of America’s churches.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

The subject of homosexuality is a problematic one, where Christians are concerned.  On the one hand, the bible condemns the homosexual lifestyle. (Note, I said homosexual lifestyle, not person. There is a difference.) On the other hand, scripture designates as the second highest commandment that we love one another.  The church, as a whole, hasn’t quite figured out how best to navigate the territory between the two.  This is tough stuff.

We humans, in general, tend to treat as villains those we don’t agree with, for whatever reason.  (Politics, anyone?)  Our default is often judgment and condemnation, mostly, I think, because both are easy.  Yet Jesus will have none of that.  He calls us to something infinitely more complex.  “Forget the speck in your brother’s eye”, he says.  “Worry about the plank in your own.”  Once we’ve got that settled, his refrain is “Love one another.”   Our task is to wrestle with how.

I have friends who are gay, some self-professed Christians, others not.  I know gays who’ve stepped away from the lifestyle, and others who have stepped into it.  I know gays who have been kicked out of one church, and embraced by another.  I care for them all, grieve for them all, cannot begin to imagine their suffering.  Are some people born gay, or is it learned?   Does that even matter?  I’m hard-pressed to make unequivocal statements on the subject.  But there are certain things I do know: God weeps over the death of every one of his creations, and that most definitely includes every gay teen.  To say or do anything that would cause a young person—or any person—to take his or her own life is unconscionable.  To refuse to speak out against such actions is only a little less so.

Am I taking the church to task here?  No more so than I’m taking myself to task as part of it.

To be frank, this is not a topic I’m comfortable addressing publicly, but I must go on record here.  No matter what an individual’s chosen lifestyle, in terms of gender preference or otherwise, God loves each soul he has created.  He sent his son to die for each one.  He has a beautiful plan for each life, and most importantly, God considers that life of limitless value.  For anyone to suggest otherwise is to make a mockery of the cross.

If you choose to spew words of hatred, don’t pretend to be speaking for God.  If you lash out at someone because that person is gay, or lesbian, or transgender, don’t credit God with your behavior.  God has not called you to hate, or abuse, or despise anyone—anyone! That’s all on you.  In the end, I believe we will all have to answer to the God who has called us to love and compassion.