Not all the pictures are from yesterday, but a little video in honor of the day.
I think often we forget the name of this holiday is Independence Day. A great thing to celebrate. So much more than the 4th of July. Different than simply a day to celebrate freedom (which isn’t so simple at all and definitely worthy of its own celebration). I forget the distinction myself often and in doing so I think I have missed an important lesson that it is worthy to re-visit more than once a year.
I’m someone who has a rather strong streak of independence by nature. From the earliest times I resented someone telling me what to do. But I always have liked that side of myself, and also always known that I was able to be free in many things because I had a great safety net…..family and friends who love me and would be there when needed.
For my life, freedom has been my greatest gift. Give me rules, and I spend all my time trying to decide how to push them to the limit. Funnily enough, I also hate cheaters who break rules outright…..they make me angry. Especially when these rules are laws. Yeah….those who know my respect of speed limits can probably point out my hypocrisy here. But I do accept my punishment when caught…. and I have gotten better over the years! Overall, though, I try to respect even the stupid laws. And I try to get them changed through the system we have set up. Which is often cumbersome, difficult and seemingly unmovable. But yet also good in concept.
If I consider them “stupid rules” I often simply ignore them. I only allow this in myself when the rule maker is misusing their position or is not really in authority over me. Like at church when I am supposed to stand or put my hands in the air, even when I don’t want to at the moment or feel that the Spirit of God moving me to do so. I call that Christian aerobics and I have not signed up for that class. I often feel it is more about the person leading worship than the Spirit of God…so it frustrates me. Yet in another way I do understand it.
I often have difficulty at church anyway. There often gets to be a lot of negative messaging that seems based on the sin areas other people need to work on…..and not so much about our own sinfulness. I think we have that reversed. But really….I’d so much rather talk about the ways you are falling short, so often I don’t argue with or question that approach. Yep, the sinner in me. So yeah…I understand that, too.
I love the verse that says that it is for freedom that Christ set us free. We often forget that. I think it is because God knows our authentic relationship with Him is found in our heart…..and not by the dumb things we say or do. Often they are the result of external forces… our world…or the inner turmoil as we fight our natural inclination to live selfishly. Churches should be places where we are reminded that we have a tendency to sin, that our hearts can be deceptive, and that a close relationship with God (the Father, Son and Spirit) is our goal. When we know God more, and know His care for us, we naturally do the things that please Him. I remember a quote I heard when I was a teenager “if we spend our time doing the ‘do’s we don’t have time for the ‘don’t’s.” That gave me a spiritual freedom that made my faith more freedom-based and has become a philosophy I return to when my life is out of balance. So, what should I be doing? Watching where God is going and following, growing the fruits of the spirit, aiding a Samaritan. There are enough “do”s to last our whole lives.
Today is Independence Day…..so much more than the 4th of the month. I love that our country was built by the desire for independence. I think perhaps our founding fathers probably had some limits in mind based on their own desires and proclivities…..and I think my limits may be different than theirs. But still….what beautiful words, what a beautiful concept. I believe that freedom is a right with the only boundary being behaviors that interfere with the freedom of others. And yes, I recognize that to be a difficult concept to administer. I see the choice that God gives us daily to follow Him or not, and I see that as the perfect freedom we should try to imitate.
For myself, I know freedom has saved my life time and time again. Being given the choice, I am able to think before I choose, to not act like just a sheep or a rebel…learn and find truth and identify lies. I don’t always make the right choice, but when I look to God I see the safety net he throws out to me. He knows ultimately I will want to return to the one that I love. I will return to equilibrium and truth where I will find peace and contentment. And God is neither supportive or surprised at my mistakes….but always forgiving when I recognize them and find myself ashamed at who I can be.
As much as I travel the world, and though I feel that there are other amazing countries out there whose people I love and respect, I still love returning home. Though not perfect, my country is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. Not that I really feel all are free and brave here. But many are. This country is another safety net for me. Established for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in spite of whether the path of our neighbor is the same as ours. Easy to say, hard to administer.
Oh….and if you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence lately, maybe you should. Because you have the freedom to do so. It is not required. And you can either agree or disagree, but really…..it is the heart of who we are. If you don’t love our country, shouldn’t you find one you do respect and live there…or work to change this one in a peaceable and respectful way? There’s some harsh criticism in the Constitution about government and authority. Some that I think we may have out of balance today. But we are united together and I like to hope we will ultimately put our own self interest ahead of that of others. That is what will continue to make us a great nation. We just may need to get back our equilibrium.
As our flag flies, I think of the blood that has been shed for our freedom, the conceptual purity of those beliefs that our country was built upon, and our stars….not just the states, but the people whose character stands out (or has stood out) and make this such a great nation. It has endured much, it has taken much abuse, but it still stands. It stands for freedom. Even the freedom we find distasteful. Most choose to exercise that freedom for amazing purposes – to give people the choice to find God, to exchange ideas that can make us think differently and make better choices, to learn, to grow, to laugh, to cry, to protest, to respect, to work, to endure and to build our faith. That is an amazing thing. But I will also support the right for those to be free whose ways I don’t understand. Because even though it does not always lead to people making the right choices, ultimately I believe in independence. It means you may not agree with your neighbor…..but you will give your all for their right to be free. You are my safety net and I am yours. I wish you freedom for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hope you wish me the same.
Days 15-29 of my Love Month Facebook posts from 2012 (Remember it was Leap Year!) Looking over these I realize they probably still give a pretty good idea of who I am and what I believe.
Day 16 of Love Month – I love a good thank you. I’m probably a bit nontraditional in the way I look at them. You don’t need to write me a handwritten note afterward…..especially if it is anemic and obviously done only because it is the “proper” thing to do….but it is always good to know that you noticed you got the gift. I’m not an especially good gift giver, and I too have received gifts that miss the mark, but the thought that someone thought of you, and tried to acknowledge you and/or your special event, should always be noticed. (Trust me, that really bad gift may be a horrible result of a lot of hours of frustration and agony in someone’s life…on your behalf.)
A verbal thank you is always good, a hug better…..but if you really appreciated it, remembering it with them at a later date is the best thank you ever. If someone gives you cash, does it just get lost in your wallet, or do you think of it as a chance to gift yourself courtesy of the gift giver? It’s a good exercise for the recipient when it is spent thoughtfully, with thanks in your heart, and then the details shared with the gift giver later on. You know me…..I rarely give a gift just because it is expected (I try to do little just because it is expected.) I give it because I think the person or event is special and should be surrounded with joy. I’ve forgotten from time to time who gave me a certain thing that gave me immense pleasure and I hate that so much. I have missed the opportunity to thank them fully….and the opportunity to remember that they specifically have sprinkled my life with joy.
Day 17 of Love Month – I love healers. Those who spend every day of their life trying to help us find solutions to what ails us and then make us feel better. Take those in the medical profession – sick people are not necessarily at their best, but they (usually) deal with their complaints and frustration with patience and caring. They use the best in medical science to cure bodies, and dole out comfort when they can’t. They also deal with the anxious family members and friends who surround their patients, who are in a panic because someone they love is hurting or sick and they can’t fix it themselves. They are expected to be gods of sorts, when they are just human beings (though sometimes they are used to make God-breathed miracles come true.) But there must always be a blanket of frustration covering them….as far as medical science has come, they don’t know enough, and in an under-staffed and over-complicated system, they can’t do enough.
There are other people in our lives who are also healers. They listen to our complaints and help us find solutions. It may be to change what we are doing, or it may be to look at things a whole new way. It may be kind words or hand holding that just helps us get through some of those bad times in life that we must endure. They sometimes pull off the band-aid and sometimes just kiss us and make us feel better. Medicine can fix a lot of things, but the greatest healing is the salve applied to the soul. Yea to the healers that do it!
Day 18 of Love Month – I love people who love the one they’re with. It’s so easy these days to be tempted by technology. It entertains us and engrosses us as we explore what it can do and allows us to connect to people (those we know and those we don’t know) like we never could have believed. But when that technology causes us to ignore those people who are actually around us, it is the ultimate dismissal (“diss” to my young friends.) Be it your smart phone, your absolutely amazing big ole widescreen hdtv, your computer…..they are all good things that become evil when they take precedence over people.
A virtual world can be so much fun. I’m an introvert by nature, so would be quite happy residing there. It connects me to some very cool and entertaining friends that live far away and captivates me with all that is available there. How great is it that I can play Scrabble with someone who lives in a different state….or country? But I wasn’t created to live in a virtual world full time and though residing there may be easier for me sometimes, I have a responsibility to deal with the real one. Flesh and blood people were put around me for a reason, and they deserve my attention.
So let’s not run away from reality and hide behind the technology. Yeah, we know you are so very popular that you are always in demand by people and things at the other end of that smart phone (your future’s so bright, ya gotta wear shades), but take a minute, turn it off and look across the table. Snuggle with the person sitting next to you on the couch. Dance with the one who brung ya. Shouldn’t they trump your technology? When you look at that screen you are making a choice….and sometimes that choice is to be insulting and rude to those who deserve something better. They deserve the attention of the flesh and blood you. So give them that attention. Or just go ahead and dismiss them from your presence outright.
Day 19 of Love Month – I love the church. I’m not talking about the buildings here, though some of them are absolutely magnificent and I personally can’t help but worship God just by being in them. It reminds me of the most beautiful scenery God has created and I know he also had a hand in that craftsmanship. For me it is easy to worship the master of creation there. Still, as I have traveled the world and toured a lot of these churches, I have noticed that many of these awe-inspiring structures are almost empty when services begin. They have become little more than tourist sites. That’s probably because people have gloried in the church building instead of exercising the power of the real church.
The real church is made up of the people, the Christian church by those who follow Christ. There is one commonality with Christian believers, we must believe and admit that we are sinners (Christians don’t inherit their faith, as some would have you believe.) We have to strip ourselves naked (figuratively speaking, of course!) of the excuses and of convention (that would teach us to at least keep our clothes on) and say “Hey God, it’s me. The real me. The ugly me. And I can’t do it alone and don’t want to do it alone. Can you join me and take over the controls?”
These people then become part of a body called a church. And when we don’t forget our place, or our focus, or try to take over the jobs of others (such as the job of the Holy Spirit), it’s an incredibly great thing to be a part of. It’s alive and vital, and made up of people sharing what they have, looking out for the needs of each other, cheering each other on to do good things, and noticing that there is a world that needs the love of God.
Churches are made up of “sinners”….so if you are looking for a perfect one, you are by nature on a futile search. Being part of a church is in itself difficult. You have heard they are made up a lot of hypocrites. Yep, the first being me…the second being you. But join one that is trying and you get glimpses of people who are getting it right. Who are encouraging you to get it right. Who are loving passionately and purely and who are focusing on the will of God….not on the will of man. We’re told that the church needs to meet together regularly… in other words we need to hang out with other people who believe in the same God we do…. to inspire us and to keep pointing us in the right direction. Because we have attention problems. We have many things that distract us. We get discouraged because we so often miss the mark and it causes us to get a bit wacky and spiral in the wrong direction. And when we are distracted and discouraged and spiraling out of control, our focus is clouded and we miss an amazing God at work. So it is good to have someone to put their arm around us and steady us and help us regain our focus. That is the real church at work. And while as a Christian you are allowed the freedom to opt out of being a part of it, know that in doing so your decision is not just about you. Someone may need your arm.
Day 20 of Love Month – I love when people are willing to be undignified for the sake of others. (Thanks Mike Madding!) Years ago my friends David and Alison Bowman and I led the youth group for a group of junior high (now called middle school…yeah, it was a while ago) kids at our church. It was time for one of our denomination’s youth retreats and with Alison pregnant (that was why, right Alison? You didn’t just desert us for no reason?) , Dave and I took the group to a retreat at Camp Bonclarken. It came time for the big Saturday night dance, a Bonclarken tradition. I’ve always hated that so many men are so reluctant to dance (OK, I often am too!) and I figured that middle school was the perfect time to force these kids out on the dance floor. Of course the kids, especially the boys, did not feel the same way and when I issued the edict (and those who know me know I do issue edicts sometimes) that all in our group would dance, it was met with a few groans. My friend Dave, who had never been the first one out on the dance floor (is that an understatement Alison?) knew that his participation was crucial and (maybe a bit reluctantly at first) got his body out on that dance floor. It was that night the animal line dance craze began. Oh, you missed that craze? The alligator was my favorite, I believe, but name an animal and we did the dance. All in our group participated enthusiastically and what could have been an awkward time sitting on the sidelines gave a group of kids (ours and those of other groups) confidence to cut loose. They realized that dancing is not that difficult…. and we all usually look a bit goofy doing it, but that can be fun. Probably there was no dignity whatsoever on that dance floor…. or maybe there was nothing but dignity. It was good!
I guess I could have used myself as an example here, since I endured David spitting in my face at a lock-in at about 4 in the morning for the entertainment of the kids/himself (lock-ins being a torturous activity enjoyed only by kids and rookie youth leaders, for those of you not familiar). But I don’t want the nightmares to begin again….
Day 21 of Love Month – I love color blind people……and colorful people……and people who celebrate that they live their lives in a colorful world. I’ve never quite gotten the racism thing. I remained innocent that it even existed for most of the years I was growing up. Our schools were integrated….a little….and those of color were just other classmates to me. Then came college. I lived in a co-ed high rise dorm that had the highest minority percentage on campus. I had a black roommate for my first semester and many black friends. One night, during an election year, I was watching the news in a dorm lounge and a discussion started and escalated. I couldn’t listen and not speak. I ended up in a conversation with an angry black man (he would describe me as a crazed white woman.) We cleared the lounge and talked loudly to a impasse. But we both listened. The next night the same thing happened. It got to be a habit. (And fewer people watched the news in the lounge because it was probably not pretty to watch.) The conversations were always loudly spirited and often raw. But we got beyond the rhetoric and developed respect for each other. I learned that my head had been in the sand about the ugliness of racism, the outward hatred many encounter and the even worse subtlety of it. It was wrong to continue to pretend not to notice or care just because I had never voluntarily participated. He learned that not everyone looks at life through racist glasses and all should not necessarily shoulder the blame for the actions of others. To paint all in that picture feeds anger, reinforces stereotypes and usually does not lead to positive solutions. It was an important part of our college education. We lost touch for a time and toward the end of my college years I saw him on a bus and sat down next to him. I noticed a kid’s book on his lap. Turns out his current job was as a nanny for a white couple in my church…..who adopted orphaned children of every color of the rainbow from around the world. He was still passionate about racism, but no longer an angry black man. He was loving kids and teaching them to be color blind and celebrate being colorful. We laughed as we remembered our before and after. I have no idea where he is today, but I suspect that he is still changing the world, passionately and positively. I hope this crazed white woman is too.
Day 22 of Love Month – I love people who can say no! Such a little word that you would think it would be easy to say, but so often it isn’t. Refusing to learn it can get your life in an overwhelmed frenzy, and breed a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. I believe anyone has the right to ask me to do anything…..but I have the right to refuse. Even nice people. Even when it is something important that I believe in. Even when no one else is saying the same thing. I am learning I don’t even need to give them an excuse. I may not totally understand it myself….. sometimes it is just no. There can be a danger in the word, though. Sometimes we get too good at saying it and forget to say yes on occasion. That can take us lead us into a dull and unchallenged life. Think before you answer the question….will it be no or will it be yes? The answer really is your choice….own it. And either answer can enrich your life and color your world.
Day 23 of Love Month – I love freedom. It’s so prevalent in our lives that sometimes we forget how much we have. Part of why I cherish it so much is that being a bit rebellious I have never done well with a lot of rules. From as far back as I can remember I felt like I was responsible for making my own decisions (my parents did not agree). I think I have also, however, always accepted that the privilege carried with it responsibility. Rules, laws, restrictions…..they tend to come because people can’t handle freedom – they don’t consider (or care about) the consequences to themselves or others, they don’t want the responsibility it carries with it, and because they fear the perceived consequences. I’ve always loved the verse in I Corinthians that says “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” Freedom is such a glorious gift…. but is usually not free or without consequences.
Day 24 of Love Month – I love that someone beeped at me when I was texting while stopped at the stop sign. Really, I do! I was wrong, they were right and yeah…. sometimes you need to be reminded. Even when your first reaction is to be annoyed with them. No one had been behind me and they just sorta sneaked up on me. Which means one of us was not paying attention. Which you (OK, I) really shouldn’t do when you (OK, I) have accepted the responsibility of driving a vehicle. And it’s against the law, which I should be respecting (whether I agree with it or not…and in this case I do agree with it!!!) This person was not law enforcement….who could have given me a ticket. Which also would be right and who I also would have no right to be angry with.
I can justify it all I want by saying I was stopped and so no one could be injured….but personally when I start allowing myself small excuses like that, they seem to grow into large ones. So join me and let’s just refrain from doing stupid and careless things…..especially when we drive vehicles of any kind and could injure other people, property or ourselves. Consider it a love tap when someone draws it to your attention!
Day 25 of Love Month – I love a good story teller. I think I have all my life. Most of my childhood was spent with a book in hand. Sometimes I had to hide from my mom who, though she fully supported her kids being readers, thought I did it a little too much and wanted to force me to go outside and play in the real world.
My favorite people in the world were those who can spin a good yarn. Especially about the most mundane things. And best yet when they are funny. I think these are the people who notice life more than anybody else and those who use the past to brighten the future. If I am going to be stuck in an elevator, standing in a long line at the grocery store, or waiting out cancelled flight after cancelled flight at an airport, I want to have a good story teller on hand. As I am pretty good at picking a book off a library shelf, I am pretty good at finding someone in real life who will entertain me with a story. As a result, I suspect I spend far fewer boring hours than the average person!
As I have gotten older, I have discovered a silver lining to the crazy and horrible things that happen in life…..they can lead to a story that can entertain for years. If I run into someone who is very odd, get lost in a foreign city and can’t find anyone who speaks English, try a new activity that I think just may lead to disaster (and it does), have one of those days when I feel like I am living in an alternate universe….these are all are great stories in the making. And yeah, I hereby publicly admit I am going to tell them over and over…..so if you don’t want to hear them (or tell me those of your own), my best advice is don’t sit next to me!
Day 26 of Love Month – I love religion. Not the rituals and things we do by rote because we think we have to, because we suspect someone is watching, because that is what we have been taught that “good” people do, or even because our church tells us that is what we are supposed to do. Living life that way is both simpler, but more complicated, as it requires a certain focus on things that are less about honoring God than honoring man (and since we spend more time with other people, knowing the rules of man is so much easier…or they would be if we all agreed on what the rules are!)
Instead, I think religion contains a different level of discipline when we take off our human glasses and look at life the way God does. Love the verses in James that say “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1: 26-27, NIV)
When someone asks me whether I am “religious” my response is always “So how do you define religion?” The answer to how religious I am in God’s eyes probably would most often be an NI (“Needs Improvement” for those who went to school in a different era/area than me.) But as I continue “taking the class”, I like how God has given me one don’t (keep your tongue in check) and a couple of do’s (hey Kim, look after orphans and widows in distress…and keep yourself from being polluted!) For someone like me being religious is not something that comes naturally, so it is definitely a good class for me to stay enrolled in for life and continue to practice the basics every day. And I will make an effort, because while I’m not there yet, one day I really want to make an O (“Outstanding”) at being religious!
Day 27 of Love Month – I love people who give away their stuff. Most of us can just take a look around us and we have been blessed upon blessed with beautiful and functional things….way more than we actually use. I tend to get attached to my things sometimes….or just plain lazy…..and disregard that while I may never use it again, it could be just what someone else needs. While I don’t think most of us are called to a spartan life, I think it is a useful discipline to regularly give things away.
You can give away your time, your talents, and even give away parts of yourself…. blood, platelets, major organs. I once saw a sick friend through a transfusion process (before, during and after) and was amazed to see her go from a point near death to life again. It floored me to see just what a little blood can do for a person. Though I had already given blood before that time, I now think of the recipient as I give and pray that it brings them life as it did Mary. And I celebrate how very blessed I am with the gift of health.
Then there is my friend Jen Denis who is an example of a giver extraordinaire. She read an article on organ donation and saw that people needed them. Realized she had two functioning kidneys, only needed one and someone else could use the other. She then found a website with profiles listed for people who needed kidneys and picked one, almost at random (if I recall correctly, the woman’s son liked the same music as Jen’s little brother.) And so she gave this woman hers. A stunning gift and a stunning way to live a life. I’m not yet at a place where I am willing to follow in her footsteps, but if Jen ever needs a kidney, I’ll be first in line. Our world needs people like her around as long as possible.
Celebrate all you have today….but take a moment to think “What can I give away?”
Day 28 of Love Month – I love when people know when to get off the merry-go-round. You remember the merry-go-round, right? Not the carousel with the horses, but that piece of playground equipment that you would either sit daintily on when others spin it or jump on as you help spin it, and then you ride it until it slows down and stops or you jump off mid-ride.
There always seemed to be that rogue spinner that would spin it into oblivion when I was on it, and at some point fear would take over before I could jump off, and I would have to ride it to the point where I was dizzy. What happens when you get to that point? You don’t walk straight, you run into things, get a stomachache and vomit on people’s shoes. What began as something fun, controls you and what you do and ruins a perfectly good day.
Such are those things in our lives that spin us out of control. They always start out as innocent fun (and they can be innocent fun for some people, which makes them harder for us to identify when they are a problem for us), but one day we realize that they are interfering with the plans we had for our life, they are keeping us from being the people we want to be, and they are keeping us from doing the things we want to do. They interfere with us finding joy in life…..and often take away joy from the lives of the people around us.
There are all kinds of obvious culprits (such as alcohol, food, relationships), but there are some that aren’t quite as obvious. Things like our commitments, involvement with other people, shopping, procrastination, living life in fear, living the life other people have chosen for us, and having passion for nothing. Things that others may not even notice….in fact, things others may actually appreciate about us and encourage….but we know that they are holding us back from really living our best life.
When our life is filled with joy and purpose (which it should be, regardless of our circumstances), we need to examine ourselves and find our Achilles heel – the thing(s) that takes us beyond the point of no return on that merry-go-round and makes us sick. Then we need to figure off how to make that merry-go-round stop and just get off. Maybe the merry-go-round isn’t so great after all and we need to just stay away from it. Maybe we need to watch who’s doing the spinning. And maybe our day would be more exhilarating and way more fun, if we just head to the monkey bars.
Day 29 of Love Month – I love the perfection of the Trinity. God, the father – our Creator, who knows us to the crevices of our bodies and minds; God, the son – the sibling that protects us with his life even when he knows we are guilty; and God, the spirit – our best friend who stays with us always and continually whispers in our ear advice as to how we can live the glorious life especially created for us. God’s 3 in 1, who knows us all, knew us before we were ever born, sees how we live, and still doesn’t want to blow it all up and start again.
I’m a doubter by nature, and God certainly knows I doubt Him every day. But also every day, He patiently shows me He alone is worthy of my faith and confidence. You look at our amazing world, you look at the art that is its people, you look in the mirror at you…..and how can you doubt that there has to be something more than we can see and touch, something that is greater than what our minds can comprehend?
I’ve never had a difficult time seeing myself as someone who can’t do it on my own, someone who lacks perfection. (Yeah, I know….you don’t have difficulty seeing this in me either!) I don’t hate this imperfection (or sin)nearly enough, so I greedily grab any grace that is offered! Others can’t do that, and just wallow in their sin, refusing to easily accept the gift of forgiveness and grace so freely offered. We both have work to do. Surely a God that has provided for us so well deserves our honor and our respect and our trust. For us, it is a work in progress to get our part right.
God has told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30.) That’s when we know we are doing something wrong….when life is not easy and the burdens are overwhelming, we are taking on the jobs of the Trinity. We are trying to do the jobs the Father, the Son, or the Spirit have perfected and have offered to do on our behalf. And we just can’t do it all by ourselves…..we do not have that capability. Freedom comes when we just give up trying, step out of the way and let the Trinity get to work. We are changed when we stay focused and watch God at work….and allow ourselves to get excited by it all instead of complacent. We can be used by the Trinity, but never when it is our own idea.
Day 4 in Proverbs
Proverbs 4: 20-26 “My child, listen carefully to everything I say. Don’t forget a single word, but think about it all. Knowing these teachings will mean true life and good health for you. Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. Never tell lies or be deceitful in what you say. Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside. Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground.”
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – Author Unknown
You catch on pretty quickly in Proverbs that Solomon is writing to his son as he gets ready to celebrate a special kind of independence day….adulthood. A difficult time for most parents….and a time where there is a certain amount of urgency to make sure that the lessons they have been teaching all of their child’s life have stuck. My guess is that most people who have children who have left the nest, or will soon be leaving the nest, can relate to the need that Solomon has to know that his son is listening to him. There are a lot of pleas of “Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. This is a matter of life or death.”
You probably can also imagine the look on his son’s face as he rolls his eyes at Dad’s lectures. But my guess is that whether he did everything suggested or not (and my guess is that he probably did not), he heard every word. And when he didn’t do what Dad suggested, the phrase “Oh…..Dad was right again” came to mind.
I’m a believer that thinking something is not wrong….it’s something for which we have only a limited amount of control. Thoughts just happen, and if we believe we are by nature sinners (as I do), then some of those thoughts are not good. We don’t need to give birth to them and let them develop. What makes thoughts wrong is when we give life to those that should die on the vine. Giving them life….nurturing them, feeding them, growing them….is what gives them power. That is something that we can control.
When my nieces and nephews graduate from high school, they get a choice of two gifts. One is money, the other is they get to take a trip with me. They can go anywhere in the continental US or on a Caribbean cruise for that trip. The value of the trip will always be greater than the money. I like spending time with them….so the trips are going to be fun and hopefully create good memories for both of us. Because one of my passions is travel, I hope I can share it with them and teach them to love it as much as I do.
I also hope they gain a few life lessons from me in the process. There are things I have learned in life that I hope they learn at an early age. I think it will make for a more abundant life for them. I want these life lessons to be the gifts they really value as they grow older. Though they may not be my children, I love them so much that I want them to have the best lives they can. I want their lives to make a positive difference in the world. But I also am not convinced they are wise as of yet and aware of the price of their freedom. Or aware of the power of their choices.
I want them to be able to travel the world without fear, and to celebrate the differences in people instead of just seeing the similarities. I want them to open themselves up to different ideas and thoughts and experiences and not just float scared through life. I want them to learn to live life with enthusiasm and passion and not just exist. But like Solomon I want to encourage them to develop and exercise wisdom even now. I want them to realize that they have a lot of freedom to make choices and that freedom is a wonderful thing. But there is a price to all freedom and a consequence to every action. I want them to see it isn’t all about them….but consider that everything they do impacts other people. And even the smallest action can change their life, or someone else’s life, forever. These smallest actions begin with a thought….and their choice to either grow it or kill it.
One of the greatest freedoms is the freedom to tell the truth. Telling lies always puts us in bondage. We have to remember what we say and who we say it to, and then who may know the truth, and then develop excuses in the event it all comes back to bite us. We become not who we really are, but a fantasy, and so no one really knows the real us. That’s a lonely existence….to never know if someone loves and accepts you just because you are you, or because they love the fantasy you have created. And once again, it stifles your life. As does maintaining the base of lies you have created.
Being found out in even a small lie may make someone look at us differently forever. I know I put it in my memory bank when I see it….and I continue to watch and listen. There are some great liars in the world and they are a sight to behold. I have learned not to totally judge someone on the basis of one part of their character….but you also have to keep it all in context. If someone will lie about a little thing, they are more prone to lie about anything. To not have someone trust what you say? It really limits your credibility and your ability to live a life of purpose.
Those of us born in this country, who have adopted this country as our own, or who live in another free society, have been given great independence. But still the choices we make matter. Making wise choices brings us good life and good health. Doing a little mind control on ourselves…..to grow the good thoughts and kill the weeds….. can lead us to a full, healthy and satisfying life. As Solomon wanted it for his son, that is what I want for all of us. Happy Independence Day! Live free. And well. And purposefully. And thoughtfully.