I’m a firm believer in the ministry of presence. We won’t always know exactly what to say to someone in need, or even what to do, but simply showing up speaks volumes.
That’s why I was moved by this Daily Mail story about a Dallas middle school that spread the word on social media recently in search of 50 men to attend a “Breakfast with Dads” event because so many of the children have absent fathers. Six hundred men showed up, overwhelming organizers.
If you scroll through the story, you’ll see pictures of mentors showing these young men who to tie a necktie and how to play a trumpet. The pictures also show mentors — sometimes four or five to each boy — eating with them, locking arms with them, and posing for pictures with them.
A Facebook page has since been set up in hopes that the event will become a movement. How cool would that be?
Have you heard Brad Paisley’s song that proclaims a long list of lasts (called “Last Time for Everything”)? There’s a last time for wearing a tux in a gym, he says. A last time for spending all day on the lake with your granddad. A last time for biscuits and gravy at momma’s house. And so on.
This is why I take so many pictures. A person does run the risk of taking so many that he or she actually misses key moments, so I try to remember that. But I think I’d rather take too many than not enough.
This past week, I attended the funeral of a good friend’s mother. My friend and I go way back. The last time I saw her mom alive was two years ago at my friend’s father’s funeral. Amazingly, she recognized me, even though we hadn’t seen each other in probably thirty years. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of us together.
A few years ago, I posed for a picture with a buddy in his driveway at his going away party before he served a tour in the Navy overseas. I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be the last time we would ever see each other (I wrote more about it here). Thankfully, he came back safely. So, we’ll have a different last time.
Every Saturday when I visit my 81-year-old mom, I hug her and tell her I love her as I’m heading out the door. Then I pose with her and take several selfies. I try not to think about the fact that each photo could be our last. But when that time comes, I’ll treasure that photo.
How do you try to capture lasts? Memory? Photos? Journal? Something else?
No matter how much you try, it's difficult to avoid the comparison game.
I joined a gym a few weeks ago so I could walk on the treadmill during the winter months. Walking is sort of my thing, mostly because I'm 51 and multiple injuries have stopped me from doing much else. But walking is good.
I'm not really a treadmill person, though. So I don't have a baseline. I initially set my pace at 2.7 miles per hour and walked for forty minutes. I felt pretty good about that until three days into my new routine, I had a callous the size of Vermont on my "good" foot due to an insert. The callous was so big that I went to see a doctor, thinking it might be something else. Nope. Just a callous. That was probably the most embarrassing doctor visit I've ever taken.
So, I tweaked my shoe setup and set a new pace: 2.5 miles per hour for forty minutes. I felt pretty good about that, too. Until one day, a guy on a treadmill to my right was jogging sideways, and a guy on my left was actually jogging backward. My brain can't even comprehend jogging backward on a treadmill. Which direction would you step? I have no idea.
Since then, I've seen people running at 7.0 miles per hour at an incline that would probably cause Jillian Michaels to gasp for breath three minutes in.
Meanwhile, I trudge along at 2.5 miles per hour while holding on to both handrails for dear life. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I've been listening to sermons, podcasts, and music - feeding my soul while working my body. I'm not much of a multi-tasker, but that's a pretty good combination if I do say so myself.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas season, for whatever reason, know that there will always be people who can run backward on a treadmill, or seem to have the lungs to conquer Mt. Everest, but your task is your task. Your life is your life. Set your course and walk your path. Or run. Or sprint. However you conquer it, make sure you enjoy the journey.
Richard Bach one said, "The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it." I think he was saying that we all have a finite number of moments and when we live in a distracted manner, it comes with a price. We miss what is right in front of us and we have one less moment to live.
Distracted driving has been getting its due. You see it every day on the road. So do I. But what about distracted living? It doesn't quite have the same negative connotation, does it? Mostly because the only one who is paying the price for it is the person who is engaged in it, but I don't think we should overlook the detriments of distracting living.
I visit my 81-year-old mother on Saturday afternoons and I have dinner with her most Thursday nights. That's 104 opportunities, with a few exceptions for various reasons, to spend time with her. I know those opportunities will cease one day, so I'm trying to be fully present during those moments, setting my phone down so we can engage.
This fall, my friends and I will have maybe 10 opportunities to sit around the fire pit on Friday evenings. We'll cook some burgers, play a little music, listen to the fire snap and pop, and talk. Some of the best conversations I've had have come during those moments. I don't want to check out by thinking about my concerns for the upcoming week.
My great-nephew is three years old already. Every time I see him (one or twice a week), he's saying or doing something new. We laugh, sing, play, and snuggle. That won't always be the case.
The best way for me to pay for these lovely moments is to enjoy them. To enjoy them, I have to be fully present for them. That's my goal. If you see me living otherwise, remind me about what I'm missing.
I have several friends and family members who are experiencing chronic pain right now. As someone who lives with it myself, it hurts my heart to know what they are enduring. But I've also learned that pain has a cleansing element.
It makes us less self-reliant, less proud. And it gives us a small taste of what Jesus endured on our behalf. One nun who suffered two strokes and multiple other health issues, believed that every day she suffered near the end of her life was for God. In a way, she was offering her suffering up as a living sacrifice.
With that said, I'm all about doing whatever I can to help lessen someone's pain. One of the problems with pain is, it limits your ability to do what everybody else takes for granted, like going to the grocery store, renewing your driver's license, finding transportation to the doctor before and after procedures, replacing broken appliances and so much more.
People with chronic pain not only face medical restrictions, like not lifting more than ten pounds, but they also don't feel up to tasks everybody else takes for granted.
Last week, I was in a lot of pain after oral surgery and I was on my way to pick up my niece to take her to my mom's house for a visit. There's a stretch of road on the way that has 18 traffic lights. I'm pretty sure I hit at least 15 of them. By the time I arrived, I was a bear. My head was pounding and all I wanted to do was get out of the car so I could lie down somewhere.
That ailment is temporary. But I also have a permanent condition with one of my legs. Long story short, I had a blood clot after surgery in 1997 and it destroyed my leg. Every day, I have about three good hours (meaning, hours in which I don't necessarily have to elevate my leg before it starts to hurt) and I have to tell you, I'm thankful for those three hours because you can do so many activities in that time period - go to a movie, or out to eat, or to a coffee shop to meet with friends.
I walk with a slight limp and it always reminds me to be grateful for what I do have. I can still buy my own groceries, drive to my own doctor appointments, meet friends and family for dinner and attend worship. Of course, I know that a day is coming when that won't be true. It'll be true for most of us at some point. But I hope that when that day comes, I'll have the same attitude the nun had, knowing God is with me in each broken step and that I'll offer that brokenness up to God.
Until then, I'll walk with God. And I'll ask for help when I need it. And I'll offer help when others need it. Leaning on each other isn't a burden. It's the blessing of relationship.