Monday, April 12, 2010

Never Enough

This last week I have been beating the heck out of myself over my lack of productivity in the last few years and I find that I've allowed myself to buy into a family fallacy.  If you aren't producing something (whether it's a clean house, organized bookshelf or a newsletter or written article - it can be anything from the mundane to the esoteric), you need to explain yourself.

There was no sitting around when I was growing up if Dad was in the house.  Fortunately for all of us, Dad was a busy man and gone a lot!  The exact opposite of that behavior was found in my mother.  So, we lived in a strange dichotomy.  If Dad came home, we found ways to be busy.  The moment he left we dropped all pretense of productivity. 

If he found us sitting down, his eyes would drift around until he discovered something that we could be doing and remind us to get busy with that.  Life was not something to be frittered away. But it was his approval that we all sought, so being productive and getting a nod from him was important.  

Saturday mornings were a riot.  For years, there was a chalkboard hanging on the wall behind our kitchen table.  When we got up, there was a list of things to be accomplished before the day was ours to squander.  He wasn't about to have a household with idle hands.  Consequently I laugh about the fact that I have absolutely no idea what Saturday morning cartoons were - I never watched them.

When my report card came in the door, Dad was always there to check things out.  Straight A's would bring a question (with a bit of a smirk) about where the A+s were.  Yes, the smirk was there, but the intent was also there.  Dad expected me to always achieve more than I had before and do better than I thought was possible.

All of Dad's insistence on productivity was balanced by Mom's pure and utter ... well ... laziness.  The woman was beyond brilliant and could do things well in incredibly short amounts of time.  When I look back on her shortened life and realize the many things that she pulled off in that time frame, I'm overwhelmed.  But, she did them in short bursts of wild, creative energy and then simply stopped.  I discovered a picture of her lying on the couch with the animals at her feet and a book in her hands.  That's a strong memory I have of her.

I spent the first 30 years of my adult life being insanely busy. When I worked in a job, I poured everything I had into it. I can't stand to have tasks unfinished or projects undone so those would get accomplished as quickly as possible and then I'd move on to something else.  But, I always knew that I was desperately missing those quiet moments when I could let my mind be creative and allow myself to actually think through an idea.

So, given the opportunity, I eliminated the frenetic activity from my life and finally had the time to bring my brain online again.

It's been amazing.  

But, you know what?  I don't feel successful or productive or like I've done much of anything with this time.  Now ... stop ... don't try to contradict me ... I'm not finished yet.

I need to come to the realization that being productive is not the best part of my life nor is it the measure by which I will be judged on earth or in heaven.

My life has changed and transformed in these last two years.  I have done more writing than I ever imagined, I have read more and taken in information that I would never have thought possible. I have readjusted my outlook on who I am, learned things about myself that I assume everyone else knew and I just ignored and I'm learning how to focus on the things I want to achieve rather than trying to do everything.  I can't be everything to everyone and I finally figured that out.  That was hard for me.

I will always want to be productive and busy.  I will never stop beating myself up when I don't do all that I think I should be able to do.  These things keep me from being complacent.  

But, when I find myself disappointed rather than motivated, I need to recognize that the fallacy is at work again.  I don't have to be busy every time Dad walks by.  Sometimes I can be reading a book.  

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Day After

One of the things Mark (Pastor Mark Holland, Gretna UMC) talked about in his sermon on Sunday morning was 'the day after.' The day after the crucifixion, all of Jesus' followers were lost. They only saw His death, that's all they could think about.

I remember the days after Mom's death and then Dad's death quite clearly. There was a lot of activity in those days, but the stunning shock of loss was overwhelming at times. I remember the day after Insty-Prints closed. I remember the day after hearing that we would be moving when I was growing up. I remember the day after hearing that Mom had cancer or the day after finding out that Carol had a tumor (benign, but still required surgery). I remember those hideous days when all you can think about is sorrow, loss, tragedy, everything seems bleak.

Today is the day after the Resurrection. This is the day when the disciples and Jesus' followers were trying to find each other to share the good news! They couldn't wait to tell everyone that He actually had conquered death and was back with them, walking and talking!

I remember the day after I made Jesus a part of my life, the day I got my first job, the day after I moved into my first apartment, the day after I got my dog, the day after I was married, the day after I realized I was accepted into seminary. The good news filled me with excitement and anticipation!

There was a very short period of time between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Though it may have seemed like it would never end for Jesus' followers, it did finally give way to something absolutely incredible.

When we are faced with destruction and sorrow, anger, bitterness, betrayal, pain, sickness, death, we have hope that those are here for just a short time. We can release the emotions and move into a resurrection of our spirit.

There have been nearly two thousand years following the Resurrection. Jesus conquered death and sorrow, pain and sickness by bursting forth with life. This 'day after' has not ended yet.

When I face my own dark moments, I think it's important to remember that I am in the 'day after' the Resurrection not the day after the crucifixion.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Death gives way to hope.

Christ is risen!

The stone has been rolled away. The darkness has been washed away by brilliant light. Hope returns to the earth. The greatest love mankind has ever known fills the world and changes everything.

No longer are we bound by sin and death. Those chains are gone.

The great part of this is that it is not about us, yet it is for us that God sent His Son to walk among us. The focus of the Resurrection has never been about mankind and his sin, but about the great miracle, the great work of God who loves His creation more than He loves Himself.

The purpose of the Resurrection is to bring everyone home.

When the Lamb of God was slain on the cross, that would have been enough to take away the sins of the world. He offered His life willingly in payment for our ugliness. That would have been more than enough. God could have stopped the process in that moment and we would have been redeemed. It was finished.

But, God wasn't finished. God isn't finished!!!

Jesus' death on the cross was just the beginning. Death was not the end. He overcame the one thing that each of us must face. He walked away from death.

Where, o death, is your victory?
Where, o death, is your sting?
Death has been swallowed up in victory! (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

When all hope was gone that his friends would ever see Him again, He returned.

He showed us love on the cross. He brought us hope with the resurrection.

Hope is revealed every day because the stone was rolled away, the Savior rose from the dead and will return to reign.

Our God is a living, creating Lord!
Darkness can not surround Him. Sin can not bind Him. Death could not contain Him.

We do not have to live in darkness ... sorrow and death have been swept away in one glorious moment by the God who created us and loved us.

Today we celebrate that great love and that incredible hope.

Christ - our Messiah - our Savior is a Risen Lord!