Celebration Has Become a Way of Life for Me

I have just celebrated my birthday, my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. I am not sure how old I am or how long we have been married and I won’t even go to my wife’s age. I’m old enough to know better.

I have long past the idea of candles on my birthday cake representing one candle per year. The fire department will not give us a permit to do that.

Someone asked me how long we have been married and without even thinking, I said, “Forever.” Once that word danced out of my lips I knew I was in trouble with the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. One look from her, and I knew that my forever had ended.

All seriousness aside, celebrations are wonderful opportunities, at least from my point of view, to gorge myself with cake. After all, if it is my birthday or anniversary or my wife’s birthday, I should be respectful enough to eat the cake presented.

At my age, I’m not too concerned about eating healthy. That’s why I love the holidays.

Between holidays, my wife insists on eating healthy. I cannot even name all of the vegetables that appear on our table at suppertime. I think they are vegetables, my wife says they are vegetables, but I am not so sure about it. My wife believes that if it is green and leafy it must be a vegetable.

I, on the other hand, with a fork in each hand, have had enough vegetables I want to get to the celebratory cake. After all, what is the sense in celebrating a birthday or an anniversary if you cannot eat the cake presented? Especially if it is my birthday.

I will give my wife the latitude to put vegetables, so-called, on our dinner table between our celebrations. The problem is, my birthday, her birthday and our anniversary are within three weeks of each other. That means, there are 49 weeks that I have to put up with vegetables.

Therefore, I am a great one when it comes to celebrating something. Anything. I am so glad that our culture is assisting me in this. It has come to the point where there is a celebration for every day of the year. I do not care what I’m celebrating, as long as cake is involved, I’m right there. After all, I certainly don’t want to offend anybody.

In my carefulness to not offend anybody in this regard, I have on occasion offended my wife. She is a vegetableaholic if ever there was one. She even eats vegetables as a snack. Once at a church fellowship, she brought in a huge plate of raw vegetables, insinuating it was a snack tray.

Recently, I was sitting in my lazy-boy chair, drinking a nice hot cup of coffee and reflecting on the important issues of life. I cannot tell you how many problems in this world I have solved if only somebody would listen to me.

However, in my muse a wonderful thought embraced several grey cells. What if, and I don’t have any legitimate documentation on this, when we get to heaven, it is a celebration every day with cake only an angel could bake? And what if, every day it was somebody’s birthday and we needed to celebrate it? That certainly would make heaven for me.

Further, in my muse, what if there were no vegetables whatsoever to be found at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? That too would make heaven, heaven for me. What if all we had at that table was cake, pie, ice cream and soda pop? Wouldn’t that just be divine?

I think most people, particularly my wife, take this matter of eating healthy too seriously. I think when a person eats it should be an enjoyable experience and not a ragged old duty.

I wonder what kind of soda pop they will have in heaven? I’m sure it will not be a diet soda. Why would we be dieting in heaven?

What if, and again, I am speculating, everyone in heaven is fat? Everyone is fat, eating, laughing and enjoying themselves. Wouldn’t that be a shock to some people? I’m not saying it is, but who’s to say it isn’t? A person can dream, can’t they?

That certainly would be something worth celebrating.

In the midst of all this musing, my wife happened to walk in and said, “What in the world are you smiling at?”

I confess it caught me a little off guard. I looked at her, still smiling and said, “I was thinking about heaven and the great time we are going to have celebrating up there.”

I did not give her any particulars, because it was my dream. All she said was, “I think it’ll be a wonderful time up there celebrating.”

Her idea of celebrating may not be exactly my idea of celebrating, but then why get caught up in particulars. Her celebration may be different from my celebration, but if both of us are happy in that celebrating atmosphere, what’s the harm?

I couldn’t help but think of what Jesus once said to his disciples. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

The best celebration that I know of is feasting upon that “living bread” which is none other than Jesus Christ.

Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World

Summer is a great time to decompress and enjoy a somewhat slower pace than the rest of the year. Children are out of school and many of us go on vacation during these warmer months. The days are longer and warmer allowing for more opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature and other people. All of these of good things!

Recently I have spoken to many people who are feeling out of balance, ungrounded or anxious. It seems that many are being thrown off balance by external events that are creating an underlying sense of instability. The tragic events in Florida, the contentiousness of the upcoming election and the uncertainty of the economy along with other international turmoil are all factors adding to the stress. While the outcome of these events are mostly out of our control, we can become attached to the negative energy surrounding them and it can impact our well-being, focus and energy. Restoring balance is a process which begins with awareness and leads to action.

Steps to Restore Balance

Awareness: Before you can restore balance it is important to determine which areas of your life are out of whack. Common areas are work, home, health, relationships, fun, finances or spirituality. Perhaps it is one of these factors or a combination of several. Once you gain awareness about where it is coming from you can begin to make changes that will help you find your equilibrium.

Determine what is in your control: Determining what is in our control to change and what is not is the next step. For example, we cannot control the negative events in the world but we can control our reaction and response. We can limit how much news we read or watch or how much exposure we have to social media. If events or people are out of our control to change and we continually attempt to do so, we will become frustrated and anxious by our inability to succeed. Letting go of what we cannot control helps us relax.

Minimize exposure to toxic people, places and things: Often we do not realize that external factors are draining us. Are there people or events that seem to suck the energy from your body and mind? If so, try limiting the exposure or setting personal boundaries can be helpful. For example, we might have a co-worker who constantly tries to engage us in uncomfortable political discussion. In this situation we can politely but firmly tell them that we don’t discuss politics in the office and then change the subject. Humor can work if the situation is uncomfortable. If the attempts continue, remind them of your policy and remove yourself if possible.

Pay attention to your health: During times of stress we often ignore our health and well-being which further contributes to our lack of balance. Prioritize self-care by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and regular meals, sticking with exercise that is enjoyable and gives you energy. Having fun might also be low on the priority list when we feel stress. Doing something to lighten the mood even if we don’t feel like it can be very helpful. Even something as simple as taking five minutes and watching a humorous video can make us laugh or smile which helps shift our perspective.

Find time for quiet: When we feel out of balance taking a few minutes or longer to get quiet and relax will help restore equilibrium. Try a simple breathing exercise like “breathing in I create space in my body and mind, breathing out I release tension in my body and mind” to shift energy and focus. Go outside and connect with nature if that is an option.

Connect with your support system: Spend time talking to those who you trust and share how you are feeling. Feeling isolated or alone will increase stress. Perspective from a trusted and supportive person or group will help us restore balance. If it is not possible to visit with your support, find time for a call. Seek the help and support of a therapist, coach or clergy member if needed. As the saying goes “A pain shared if a pain halved.”

Sights and Sounds of Summer

This evening as I was catching up on paperwork I heard an owl hoot and knew it was time for me to take a break. As I walked out the front door and took a short walk toward the place I thought the sound was coming from I was greeted with other sounds of summer.

I smiled and took in the evening air deeply as the hooting of the owl came closer and closer with each step. Mixed in with the intermittent hoots was the ongoing chirping of crickets and locust. I stood in silence at the entrance to our neighborhood park listening to the sounds as a sense of deep satisfaction, joy and overwhelmed me. What a wonderful world God has given us to live

Here are some more sounds and also some sights and smells that go with summer here in Colorado. Think about and take in each one… feel them emotionally either with memories, current events or anticipated activities prior to fall.

Sounds:

1. Children giggling and chattering during outdoor play

2. Waterfalls flowing across rocks ever down, down, down

3. Thunder claps from late afternoon or evening rain showers

4. Sprinklers rhythmic spewing of water onto parched lawns

5. Marching bands practicing for the beginning of the next school year

Sights:

1. Wide array of annuals and perennials in beds of all sizes and shapes

2. Swimming pools brimming with children

3. Water fowl gliding across lakes forming v-shaped waves

4. Bicycles, skateboards, scooters and balls randomly strewn across lawns

5. Lightning cutting jagged lines across stormy skies

Smells:

1. Fragrant roses and flowering bushes like lavender, honeysuckle and jasmine

2. Rain!

3. BBQ’s

4. Freshly cut grass

Life often rushes by so quickly that we find it difficult to slow down enough to listen, observe and breathe in all that wonderful happening around us.

We are so BLESSED, we just need to take moments to be reminded. Make a conscious decision to take those moments. Otherwise the sights, sounds and smells each hour, day and week will pass you by.