Not quite a year had passed since my dad died when I received a call from a close friend in tears. He was on his way to see our friend Jamon. Jamon was in the final moments of his battle with cancer.
Fatherhood ain’t easy
As with many father-son relationships, there can be seasons of distance and contention. I experienced it in my relationship with my father. But, what is so interesting about terminal illness and dying is that the pain and suffering clear away the trivialities of life. The fire of trial and pain strip away the coldness of wills and egos.
When you are in the crucible, there is no way of understanding gain as there is no way of experiencing rising when falling. The goldsmith dare not attempt to snatch up the gold while it’s in its liquid form. He must wait. In the fire of trials, we must wait.
Priceless treasure can be found when the fire dies down and the fog of grief dissipates. I think it is our duty to discover the gain. Where is it? What does it look like? What does it mean?
Later that night as I was working in my home office, I received a call that Jamon was gone. Jamon died on March 6th, 2017 at the age of 44. Although time and distance separated us, he was my friend. I began to weep. All I could do was weep – weep for the loss, weep for Jamon’s teenage son who was going to be graduating from high school soon, weeping for his parents, weeping over the memories… weeping over the laughter and good times we shared.
That is when I discovered a priceless treasure formed when my father passed away. My son, Nelson (7yrs old) quietly entered my office. He gently placed his little hand on my shoulder. Nelson recognized the tears of his father. He had seen the tears before and he was ready and willing to step into my pain.
Nelson looked me strait in the eye and said, “I am sorry about your friend Jamon dying.” He put his arms around me and held me like I hold him when he’s fallen and hurting. I hope that I hold him like he was holding me and would do well to aspire to his example.
I cried on my 7 year old son’s shoulder for a few moments. Then, Nelson backed away to look at me again and put his hand on my arm. He said, “In times like this we should pray.” So, we prayed. Then Nelson said the most profound statement any human being could make. Remember, he is 7 years old. He said, “Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”
“Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”
I was presented with a priceless treasure in fatherhood that had been refined and purified for more than a year in the fire of my dad’s death. I had received a father’s gain.
This is not the end of the story. Here is a link to Part Two…
Read previous posts: Are you a person of peace?
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The US Elections are one for the history books. Here is my analysis. Please bear with me as I draw on chords that lead to what just happened in the US last night. Please understand, I’m making broad observations above politics.
A good friend of mine in Montreal Canada posted a comment on Facebook this morning. He and I are on different sides of the political spectrum. Let me provide a backdrop to our friendship.
Alex and Me – Friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum
In 2004, Alex booked me for a gig at StereoBar in Montreal. I stayed with him and his family. We all enjoyed a home cooked meal as the snow fell on the city. It was a record snowfall. GW Bush was in office. We had a lively political debate and I so enjoyed their company, I remember it fondly to this day. We tolerated each others differences and embrace each other in friendship. Both of us lost our fathers way to early. We share that loss, vigorous debate at times and a love of house music.
Alex’s Facebook post this morning (after elections):
“Urgh. Brexit, Trump – This is what happens when you continuously talk down to people who already feel that they have nothing, and are angry about it. In 2016, working class beats smirking class.”
Alex is spot on in his analysis. Remember, we are from opposite ends of the political spectrum but we find agreement here.
Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or faith, I believe most people just want to work, enjoy family and be generally left alone. For the past 20 years, the establishment has trespassed into the lives of normal folks trying to live quiet normal lives. Trump and Sanders are what you get when the establishment starts exerting its will on everyday folks. I think ‘the Bern’ phenomenon speaks just as loudly as Trump. There has been a shift in American political culture.
I think the turnout in the US will be a study into the anthropology of a cultural shift.
What cultural shift?
Let me draw on some historical chords that stand out in my mind. I’m not positing moral equivalency here. I am simply ‘thinking out loud’ for the sake of discussion.
The Woodstock Flower-Power generation challenged the established authority and found unity in disrupting the status quo. They activated for racial equality, freedom of speech and expression, sexual freedom and anti-war. Somewhere along the line, this movement was subverted by an insurgent movement emanating from the academy (universities). 30-40 years later, the anti-authority Boomers became the established authority in America. They eventually violated their original cause. They undermined the very freedoms they fought for in the 1960s. That was one cultural shift worth noting.
In 2010, the world witnessed a populist uprising against the establishment in a few countries in the Arab world. This is still unfolding six years later. But, its worth noting, it began with everyday folks rejecting the establishment.
This year, the UK surprised the world when it held a referendum to leave the EU. The people voted to challenge the establishment. This is still unfolding.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
As an anthropologist and student of culture, I don’t know what is more interesting, the Bernie phenomena or Trump’s victory. If the Bernie would have been allowed to run against Trump, I think he would have won handily (not by a landslide but handily). However, the DNC establishment wanted none of it. I know Sanders supporters who voted Trump because it’s not a left vs right thing anymore… it’s a establishment vs the people thing. Bernie brought that to light and Trump played that chord. It resonated with the people.
Bernie and Trump supporters are at opposite ends of the left vs. right spectrum. Yet, they are in agreement in their challenge to the political and economic establishment and power structure. Their means are different but they both are convinced the status quo must go.
So, here we are on the first page of a new chapter in history. As the ink spills and fills the future pages of this book, it is worth noting ‘what the heck just happened’ is not a political shift but a cultural shift. Politics and legislation are lagging indicators of the culture. The anti-establishment movement is the new establishment. Hopefully, it does not succumb like past movements.
As the Zen Master once said, “We’ll see what happens….”
“The tide—so faithful and so sure—offers every man, sooner or later, the chance of escaping from the tiny cove of the Here to the broad bosom of the Everywhere, from the little bay of Self, to the infinite sea of Service; and they are life’s most enviable voyagers who, when the sublime opportunity presents itself, are all alive and all alert, waiting, with oars in rollocks, to make the most of it. It is the hour of destiny. The kingdom of heaven pours its wealth into the heart of the man, who is ready when that hour strikes. He was waiting: but only waiting for the tide!”
-F.W. Boreham, ‘Waiting for the Tide’, The Nest of Spears (London: The Epworth Press, 1927), 48-57.
There are tides in life as there are in the sea. We need only to wait for them. One cannot rush the ocean’s tides, neither can rush the tides of life. I cannot face a beautiful sunrise, look at my watch and command the sun to hurry up. The sun doesn’t respond to such a foolish thing.
In all manner of life, there come opportunities. Whether in love, life or death; life has all manner of tides. When the tide comes in, there is abundant opportunity. However, in order to make the most of it, we must take our eyes off ourselves and place them on others. The farmer enjoys the harvest by waiting for the season to arrive as the fisherman waits for the tide.
True wealth is not found in the “little bay of Self”. The real treasure of life is discovered and enjoyed in the “infinite sea of Service.” Making the most of life is about being ready and waiting for the tide. We must be ready when the tide comes by taking our eyes off of ourselves and looking toward others. In serving, we find infinite possibilities to express love and kindness. Jesus said he came to serve. He opened the door and we can follow his lead into a universe of overwhelming need knowing we cannot meet the insurmountable need alone. Go to where there is need and serve. There is a voyage ahead for anyone willing. Are you ready?
Love changes everything about you.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV).
Instructions: Print this “Love is” (PDF Worksheet)
Continue on your journey….
A few years ago, Kathryn and I owned a beautiful SUV. It was truly a work of precision German engineering. It was the top of the line of ‘top-of-the-line’ SUVs containing all the ‘bells and whistles’ one could possibly imagine in a fine motor car. It was stunning and impressive. The darn thing was expensive. The warranty expired and we learned that maintenance was darn expensive as well. The ‘special’ run-flat tires could not be rotated. They had to be replaced (usually two at a time). The tires alone cost $650 each and had to be replaced about every 10,000-12,000 miles. Do the math. That’s $2600 per year in tires! As a special bonus, we had the privilege of replacing a cracked wheel at the low-low cost of $900. In one year, we spent over $3500 on tires and wheels. Oh yeah, did I tell you that it was beautiful, stunning and impressive? You can learn something from car tires.
Materialism requires maintenance
Here’s the lesson that you should take away from my foolishness. If you place any of your personal self-worth on the stuff you buy, get ready to spin your wheels and work your arse off to maintain it. I don’t care if you have millions or billions, if you place your ANY of your self-worth on the stuff you can accumulate in life, you will live in a cycle of maintenance. Take if from me, I’m a recovering materialist!
Everything we buy ends up in a trash heap somewhere. That expensive SUV we owned will eventually end up a rusted hunk of junk in a junk yard. That expensive home will eventually be torn down. All the stuff that we buy to impress others and/or make us feel better will eventually decay in some hole in the ground.
The material isn’t the problem, ‘Materialism’ is
Owning nice stuff is not the problem. The problem is when we tie our value to the stuff we own. When we love stuff and our capacity to attain more stuff more than we love God and people, we have exchanged that which is priceless for something with a price tag. Stuff can become an idol. Eventually, we run the risk of allowing that idol to rule over us and we eventually end up in bondage. The stuff owns us.
I’ve seen too many people end up with a pile of really expensive junk and massive bank accounts only to spend their last days completely alone in the pit of regret. They don’t even have anyone to share the regret with except those who they hire to maintain their stuff while they die alone.
You don’t have to get caught up in the nasty cycle of Materialism! Ponder this…
- Order you life: Life is about relationships. Who would you trade all your stuff to save their life?
- Motivation of the heart: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why’ before you buy?
- Value: Do you attach personal value on things you buy? A little status, perhaps? Be honest.
- Envy: When someone else buys something you desire to own, does it make you angry or bitter?
- People: Who are the people you spend the most time with? Are they people who work for you?
- Generosity: One cure for materialism is to give stuff away. Give something you love away (rinse and repeat)
- Breaking the grip of Materialism: Read this post..
- Cultivate Relationships: Seek time with God, family and friends. This means reaping and sowing. Do you invest in these three relationships? Are you generous with your time, talent and treasure?
What is true wealth?
“Add up everything you have that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.” -Pastor A. Rogers
Explore these passages.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
“Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”” Mark 12:17
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22
World War I was thought to be the ‘war to end all wars’.
It was a bloody conflict that dragged on for years. Both sides were entrenched in the mud and blood across Central Europe in a stale-mate. Between the trenches lay ‘no man’s land.’ When either side called their boys to charge, it was a death sentence. The charging soldiers who emerged from the safety of their trenches would be mowed down like fresh blades of grass by enemy machine-gun fire. From 1914 to 1918, 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died.
One cold winter’s night early in the war the guns fell silent. In late December 1914, young men emerged from the trenches and greeted each other. The Allies and Germans met in ‘no man’s land’ in an unofficial truce. It was a Christmas ceasefire where men of goodwill but of opposing politics and heritage met in the most dangerous place in the world at the time, ‘no man’s land.’
Over the years, I’ve learned that Christmastime is much like ‘no man’s land’ for many.
Conflicts and turmoil within families have killed any spirit of goodwill or peace among kin. Practically all joy has disappeared as hearts sink and tensions rise among family members. The wounds are so deep that many refuse to leave their trenches. They remain alone on Christmas. Others attempt to endure with family by showing up physically while their hearts remain in the trenches. As bitter winter winds sweep through our towns, bitter spirits chill hearts and the soul shivers from lack of warmth and love.
Having personally come from a complicated and conflicted family, Christmas was a time of the year I wanted to skip usually. Although the situation has been healed and I cherish Christmas today, I understand what many are going through.
In his moving book, ‘Silent Night’, Stanley Weintraub captures the story of the Christmas Truce during WWI. Enemies emerged from the cold, wet trenches to meet in ‘no man’s land’. They erected Christmas trees, played games, exchanged pleasantries and mementos. For a few short hours sworn enemies became men of goodwill.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 began with one man’s courage and goodwill. History does not record this man’s name but his action spread up and down the enemy lines in Europe. One man of goodwill, took one step into ‘no man’s land’ and changed everything.
Perhaps you are dreading the days ahead and coming into contact with family or friends who have become enemies over the years. Maybe the wounds run so deep, you can’t possibly bring yourself to be in the same room. The trenches have been dug and ‘no man’s land’ is so frightening, why even go there?
What would it be like if you stepped out of your trench and into ‘no man’s land’?
What would have to change in your own heart to suspend your thoughts about the enemy and meet him or her as if you did not know them at all? Treat them as if they were a friendly stranger who just wished you a Merry Christmas?
Peace begins in the heart and is acted upon through the will in one person. One person makes one bold move and others respond. It is not about building consensus. It is about having courage. Sowing the seeds of peace will reap a harvest and potentially change the trajectory of a relationship.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Proverbs 34:14
A Peace Promise with yourself:
An old hymn points out that peace is seated in the will and heart of the individual.
“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow….”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27
In seeking peace with God, there is a blessing. In seeking peace with others there are more blessings.
Do you want to pursue peace?