Several years ago I got the idea for a fun group (or individual) exercise from one of author Robert Fulghum's books. It goes like this - ask everyone to bring out their wallets and/or purses and basically go on a scavenger hunt using a list of things like a band aid, expired drivers licence, grocery list, etc. Make it your own fun list. It is always interesting and often surprising (sometimes embarrassing) to see what people carry around with them. It also gives a little insight into who we are.
Recently I heard an interview with another author, Austin Kleon, who shared his regular practice of reading obituaries to remind him that "living" is the real purpose of life. Years ago I also regularly read obituaries to remind me of the impermanence of life. There is also that funny line attributed to several people from Mark Twain to Henny Youngman, "I read the obits everyday to make sure I'm not in them."
Bringing these two things together with the quote above raises the question, "What's in your obituary?" How do you want to be remembered? Who will read it? Who will write it?
How about writing it yourself? That's right. Take a few minutes and write your own obituary. Tell those closest to you, your family, your friends, your work colleagues, your neighbors - tell the world how you want to be remembered. Write it down. Ponder it. Then share it, not by letting others read it, but by - living it! Give whoever will eventually write your actual obituary enough good material to work with.
(Camera zooms in to close-up of Samuel L. Jackson) "What's in your obit?"
Veterans Day (and others like it) always sends me into a turbulent spiral of conflicting emotions. To put it plainly, I want to honor people who have served, while at the same time resist sentimental glorification of war and militarism that parades as patriotism in today's world.
My observance of Veterans Day has for the past forty-something years been simple - a phone call to my brother Tom Walton to simply say thank you, without any elaboration.
This morning I am painfully lamenting that I can't make that phone call today.
And so I observe the day by sharing what I said about my brother's military service and patriotism at his funeral this past July.
"Tom was a worker.I think he had his first job when he
was 6 years old.At least that’s
the way it seemed to me.He was
always cutting grass, bagging groceries, stocking shelves, or working the
butcher counter.He was a true
worker.He put his all into
anything he did.
This is one of the main
things that made him the patriot he was.
Tom loved and served his
country with the same honor and trust he lived the rest of his life.He loved his fellow military veterans
in a bond that only those who have been there have and know - a bond forged in
the abyss of war.
I’m going to say something
here that may offend some of you, but many of you will know deep inside the
truth of it.
Regardless of ideology,
nationality, creed, or pledge - War is the tragic flaw of humanity and it not
only takes life, it ruins it for many who survive.
My brother, patriot that
he was, was also a living testimony that 13 months, perhaps a single day, or
even a particular moment in war will change a young man’s (or woman’s) life
Tom lived with the demons
of Viet Nam. But in spite of his war
demons, Tom was a patriot. And his
patriotism was forged in places many have been but most of us don’t really want
Having said all of that, I
want to publicly say thank you to Tom’s brothers and sister of the American
Legion, especially post 145 where he served with utmost pride. You were truly a second (and maybe
sometimes first) family to him.God bless you."
Thank you, Tom, and all other veterans!
My simple hope and prayer is that the human family can one day eliminate the need for Veteran's Day. After all it did begin as Armistice Dayof "the war to end all wars."
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and
with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first
commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as
yourself.” ~ Jesus
I'm trying to adjust to a new life rhythm. You see, for the past twelve years my work
week has been back-loaded with the lion's share of deadlines and meetings
coming Wednesday afternoon and evening through Sunday. Since moving to a new congregation this
schedule has been flipped 180 degrees and now my week is front-loaded from Sunday
to Wednesday morning. The thing this
change seems to have affected most is this blog space since from its beginning
I have mostly written and posted it on Wednesday mornings. All of this is to partly explain why you
didn't see this post yesterday and why it has been coming to you sometimes
later on Wednesdays. My muse has become confused as to when to appear!
Now, with that out of my system, this whole dynamic also has
me thinking about life rhythms and how physical routines and activities affect
our thoughts, imaginations, emotions, and spirit. I'm reminded of the body-mind-soul connection
and how Spirit traverses every aspect of our lives.
Mindful and thus authentic spirituality requires attention
to all areas of our being. Most of us
are pretty good at one or two while neglecting the other(s). Maybe while
exercising we ruminate on negative thoughts of things in our lives. Or perhaps we feed our minds with good
reading or listening while consuming a bag of chips or a pint of ice
cream. We could be meditating every day
while sleeping only 4-5 hours a night.
There are too many examples in our lives, so I won't belabor the point
other than to repeat that body, mind, and spirit (heart, soul, and mind) are
integrated, and care of our whole person is necessary if we are to care for one
Jesus reminds us in the quote above of the ancient Truth
that in order to love and care for another we must first love and care for our
whole selves. It all goes together.
So, whether it's Wednesday or Thursday, be kind to yourself
and then to someone else!