Love…Hate…Listen

Do you know what's really scary? Americans demonizing each other instead of listening to each other.

I am as guilty of it as the next person.

I love clever, witty, and yes, sometimes snarky comments or memes aimed at those I disagree with politically.

Sometimes I will even “like” them on social media.

Sometimes, if they REALLY strike a chord with me, I will even SHARE them.

But what do these comments really achieve?

I doubt they convert people to change their opinions.

Quite the contrary – I suspect they make those who are being made fun of and belittled feel angry and motivated to create or share their OWN clever, witty, and yes, sometimes snarky comment in response.

And so it continues.

The trenches grow deeper. The divide widens. The willingness to listen evaporates. Solutions remain at bay.

The issues are real and affect real people.

The opinions are real and honestly held.

It’s good that we care.

It’s good that we speak up.

But when we speak up with disrespect…when we expect people to listen, without willingness to listen in return…when we describe those with different ideas as evil or stupid…we chase away any hope of addressing these very real issues.

So I ask you:

Do you care more about being “right” or about being part of a solution?

Do you care more about tearing down the “other” or about building up something useful/helpful?

The image I created to go with this blog post includes a jack-o-lantern that once stood in front of our home.

Halloween traditions can provide a good backdrop for this discussion.

In the sense of political dialogue…are you in the gang that eggs houses and knocks over mailboxes?

Or are you among those who turn on your light, welcome the neighborhood kids, and share some candy?

Do you aim more for the “trick” or the treat?

Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Advertisements

BOOK REVIEW: Love to Stay by Adam Hamilton

252c0013739828d363d38b6898481d11

It “has its ups and downs, its ebb and flow, and it requires perseverance, hard work and from time to time a bit of help.”

That’s how Adam Hamilton describes the reality of marriage in his new book, Love to Stay, itself an effort to provide that “bit of help”, practical advice and encouragement for married couples or people contemplating marriage.

You can tell this issue is high on Hamilton’s list – Love to Stay is his second book dealing with the topic. In 2004 he published Making Love Last a Lifetime.

As in his earlier work, Hamilton provides a useful framework for examining the common issues in marriage (big and small) and strategies for working through them.

In Love to Stay he ends each chapter with suggested activities for couples, for individuals within a marriage and for single people. These sections are among the most valuable parts of this book.

He also draws on feedback and survey results from thousands of people to help illustrate some basic truths. The charts and graphs provide useful insights and help put many things into perspective.

One of my favorite pieces of wisdom in this book centers on keeping the long term view. “You do love until you feel love,” says Hamilton. “When it is difficult to feel love, the trick is to hold on to the knowledge that it will get better and not to do anything stupid in the meantime.”

He explores the little things (annoyances or habits) and the big things (emotional or physical abuse; addictions to drugs, alcohol or pornography; and infidelity) that can hurt marriages.

Hamilton states that his goal for the book is to offer an “honest, real and hope-filled picture of the blessings and challenges of marriage, and what it takes to make it work.”

I think he has succeeded in doing that.

The people who read the book may or may not succeed in building and sustaining a healthy marriage. Even with best intentions and seeking out guidance and support – “making love stay” is not a slam dunk proposition.

I know of at least two couples who participated in a study of his earlier book on marriage who have since divorced, despite good intentions and effort.

People (and spouses) are not perfect.

So, my advice is: if you are married, work at it (this book can help); celebrate the marriages that last; and be there for the people in marriages that don’t.

And remember the only love that consistently “stays” is God’s love for you.

But we can count on that. That is “love to stay.”

“For I am convinced,” Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Note: Abingdon Press provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. Graphic also used with permission.

Tooling Around the Kitchen

It is satisfying to prepare tasty (and preferably healthy) food for my family and me, but it often comes down to whether I have the time, the energy and all the ingredients…and whether I have them all on the same day.

One of the incentives for me to move to “part-time” at work was the prospect of having more time and energy for cooking healthy meals for the family.

I have been trying out some new recipes.

I have also been going through the cabinets and drawers, trying to bring some order to the accumulated chaos of our kitchen.

Even when I have had time – and energy – and the ingredients, I have found the kitchen clutter to be annoying.

Today I cleaned out the drawer in the kitchen that has all the “tools” and doo-dads.

You know the one – just to the right of the stove…the one you have to dig through multiple times a day to find that specific tool you seek.

Not surprisingly, the things we use the most were more or less near the front of the drawer.

Can opener, spatula, ice cream scoop, whisk, and potato peeler.

But towards the back of the drawer and buried beneath tangled knots of gadgets, I found lots of things that we could use if we remembered we had them, as well as many tools we rarely – or never – use.

I found some of those little corn-on-the-cob-shaped skewers. We have enough of them for eight to ten people to eat corn on the cob, all at the same time. Never mind that we (family of three) probably eat corn on the cob maybe two to three times a year. Never mind that you could easily eat corn on the cob without them.

I found four sets of measuring spoons. One set had come off of its ring, so the various sized spoons were scattered throughout the drawer – mostly buried out of sight. I assume we bought at least one of the other three sets, because we couldn’t find the original ones.

I found a potato masher. I think I have used it once or twice to make mashed potatoes. But honestly, our son prefers the Hungry Jack kind, because they don’t have lumps.

I found lots of equipment for grilling out, even though our grill has been out of commission for a year or so.

There was a nutcracker, a set of chop sticks, a baggie of little plastic cake decorating tips, and special scrapers for a Pampered Chef baking dish I got rid of long ago.

Perhaps my favorite find of the day was a plastic straw with a big pair of red lips at the top. Very groovy, but I have NO idea how that came to be in our doo-dad drawer.

So, while I hope to have the time, the energy – and the ingredients – to make great meals for my family, I am not going to stress too much about having the “right” tools.

I have a hunch that most of them end up in the back of the drawer for a reason.

You can hold corn on the cob with your own fingers, and the only lips you need on your straw – are your own.

Be Careful What You Spread

It’s been said that some people bring joy when they enter a room; others bring joy when they leave it.

We all have our days, but let’s face it: people do tend to be spreaders of either the “half-full” or the “half-empty” outlook on life.

I believe the “half-full” outlook, if not intuitive or second-nature, can be cultivated and learned.

(O.K. – so maybe I believe that because I’m a half-full-kinda-gal.)

Each day and in each situation, we have the power to choose our responses to the things that happen around us.

Obviously, we can’t control all of the happenings.

But our responses?

Yes. Yes we can.

Can we stop the other driver’s road rage when he/she flips us off at an intersection? No.

Can we choose to just LET IT GO and refuse to escalate it with our own gestures, facial expressions or gas pedal? Yes.

Can we make our children do everything perfectly, the way we asked, immediately, without eye rolling? No.

Can we model persistent, calm, reinforcement of consequences for our children’s chosen actions? Yes. (Most days…)

Can we make 535 elected men and women take legislative action when we want them to? No.

Can we refrain from participating in the demonizing, belittling, and ridiculing of those with whom we disagree politically? Yes.

Can we make everybody around us agree with our spiritual and religious beliefs? No.

Can we model and live out a life based on those beliefs and humbly serve everybody around us? Yes.

Ephesians 4:29, 31-32 offers some good advice on how to “spread” the half-full outlook on life:

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear…Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

On days when our son has a peanut butter sandwich in his lunch, I add my own little personal touch. Before I close up the bread, I draw a smiley face in the peanut butter.

Can we control the whole world? No.

Can we spread some smiles as we go – perhaps even in unexpected places? Yes.

So, we should.

Time Takes the Cake

We celebrated a birthday at our house this week.

O.K.

I confess.

It was mine.

Another year older…Another year wiser…It beats the alternative…

Yada, yada…

I’ve come to realize, though, that at some point over the years, my birthday became more of a touchstone for assessing life’s priorities than a day for presents and cake.

(Although, I remain somewhat fond of the cake…)

With each year my appreciation grows for this truth:

Every day, week, month and year represents an awesome gift.

So, I assess.

What has been accomplished in the past year?

What are my goals for the coming year?

Am I spending my time in meaningful ways?

This year, the day before my birthday, I had the chance to attend a worship service in which the speaker challenged us to make two lists:

1. What are my top five priorities?

2. What are the top five things I spend time on?

Compare.

To what degree do the two lists match up?

(Mine weren’t totally out of whack, but the comparison did result in some criss-crossing lines…)

Paraphrasing Matthew 6:19-21, Bishop Sandra Steiner-Ball challenged us to budget our time wisely and to use our time in ways that will have long-lasting meaning… “For where your treasure (time) is, there your heart will be also.”

She challenged us to build quiet time into our schedule – time for reflection and to listen and discern what God wants to tell us.

This paralleled advice I heard from another speaker this past summer.

At the She Speaks 2013 Conference in July, author Lysa TerKeurst cautioned us not to attempt to always be in “go” mode. We have to find our “go” and “slow” modes, she told us. It will be different for each person – but we must find ours and honor it, or face burning out.

Both of these messages resonated with me.

This past year I have made some choices regarding the use of my time.  I have worked on realigning some of my priorities.

When asked to take on more and more hats at work, I instead requested to move to part-time with a narrower focus.

I am striving to bring a better balance to time I have preserved for family.

With a still, small voice whispering to me that I can make a difference with my writing, I have set aside intentional time to work on it.

I am taking time to walk the dog, listen to the birds, look at the sky, and to be more fully “present” in each moment. I am learning to say “no” when my heart tells me that a proposed project or job is not my current calling.

It’s a work in progress, and even though I am not constantly in “go” mode, I still slip into some old patterns of spending my time in unwise ways.

But, by my next birthday, when I look back and reflect on another year, I hope to have my “time” and my “heart” in a better alignment.

Can it be done?

Piece of cake!