shortbread

short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the tag “mid-life”

“Being Human Better”

being-human-better

It’s not a scientific study or Barna research, it’s just my take…my personal observation over time. The little chart above is not about race, or religion, or creed. It’s not about who we cheer for on Saturday afternoons or vote for in November. It’s about how we see people and treat people and live in God’s world.  They are four basic world views, and they inform every thing we do:

#1 “My Life Matters”
It’s safe to say that I came out of the womb thinking about my own personal comfort. Instinctively, I will do or say anything to have my wants and needs met, even if it means someone else will not have theirs met.  Nothing personal, I just have to take care of old #1. MY LIFE MATTERS.

#2 “OUR Life Matters”
At some point, as we become aware of people around us, we naturally gravitate toward those who look like us—or think or talk or believe like us. We find security and acceptance in families and teams, office pools and peer groups and political parties. At this stage we do anything, say anything, in the name of taking care of our own. Why? Because OUR LIFE MATTERS!

#3 “ALL LIVES Matter”
Hopefully, one day, we venture outside of the family/friend compound. At this stage, we recognize the humanity in all of humanity. Why, that man in the supermarket has feelings too!…and the lady behind the checkout counter has a story,…and the Syrian refugees on the evening news—they must be terrified!  Newfound compassion and mercy compel us to stand up for the little guy. Maybe it’s a random act of kindness; maybe it’s a career in social work; but we do it because ALL LIVES MATTER.

#4 “ALL LIFE Matters”
The final perspective—and I would say, the highest—moves beyond mere human concerns. “All Lives Matter” is noble, but there is a greater good: “ALL LIFE MATTERS.”  Not just homo sapians, but every living thing. The coral reef, the polar ice caps, the itsie-bitsy spider, the earth and moon and stars. God made it all and called it “good.  No doubt, ALL LIFE MATTERS!

So, which is your life line?…your soul mantra?  Not sure?  Just ask anyone who has known you for a week or more. But be prepared—sometimes the truth hurts.

Keith
10/6/2016

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“Psalms…Up Close and Personal”

Psalms have always been special to me. Maybe because they came out of the gut of the writer—David for the most part. David and Psalms are a little like Billy Joel and “New York State of Mind” sung in Central Park, or Whitney Houston hitting the key change in, “I Will Always Love You.” Soul stuff.

Decades ago, I read that Billy Graham went through Psalms every month—all 150…five per day. That’s commitment—particularly when Psalm 119 rolls around. It may have been the original praise chorus as it goes on and on…and on. (Being a little ADD, I appreciate the short ones. 🙂 )

I tried the “five a day” approach for a while, but for me it was just too much goodness to savor at one sitting.  So I adjusted and have for many years now, read just one psalm a day—a sort of spiritual vitamin. But that one psalm a day has become the most meaningful reading I do. As my little quartz guitar tuner helps me tune my guitar to a standard “A=440” tuning, Psalms helps me tune my heart to God.

A couple of tips that, for me, have multiplied the power of Psalms.

1) Take it personally!  Read the verses as though you were the writer—not David or some ancient, at-a-safe-distance somebody else.  Yes, psalms were written about Jerusalem, or David vs. Goliath, or a monumental blunder with Bathsheba, or processing up Mount Zion to worship on holy days.  But for your devotional purposes, the psalm is all about you. Take it personally.

The second tip has to do with a sort of spiritual geography.

Assume “Jerusalem”–that all-important, center of the Hebrew universe, the Holy City–is your life, and  that “the Temple” is your heart..your soul.  “The wilderness” and “Babylon” would be those times and places you feel furthest from God–desperate times and lonely places.

And what about “the enemies”?  Well, for now, the enemies are not some invading army or an angry King Saul trying to destroy David.  For now, the enemies  are those real life forces that are out to do you in.  Fear… lust… loneliness… financial pressures… addiction… anger,… shame… grief… greed… pride… a physical malady.  The enemy may be real life attackers like terrorists or political adversaries, or perhaps, social ills such as racism or injustice.  

Has that devotional time been a little lacking of late?

Try reading Psalms “up close and personal” for thirty-days…or thirty years.  Just one-a-day. It might just be “the cure to what ails you.” 

Keith

4-11-2015

http://keithelder.com/

“Smokey the Bear and Catherine of Sienna?”

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Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Wait for it…  Hold that thought…  I’ll tell you in a sec….

It was just another facebook poster:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Saint Catherine of Sienna  (shared on meetville.com).

The irony—and I didn’t know this till I did a little research—Saint Catherine was/is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

I’ve known a few “saints of fire-prevention” along the way.  Self-designated dowsers throwing water on anything vaguely resembling innovation. If it was not in the rule book…if it meant going off the beaten path or over the beaten budget…if it threatened to crack the glass ceiling of “the way we’ve always done it”—the saints of fire prevention just said, “No.”  In church. In business. In society.

Unfortunately, the only way we find the new-and-wonderful is to let go of at least some of the old-and-not-as-wonderful-as-it-once-was.  Nicodemus did it in John 3.  It’s the story where Jesus said, “you must be born again.” It’s a new wineskins for new wine thing.

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Though Catherine received no formal education, and though she only lived to the age of 33, she was recognized as one of the most intelligent theological and philosophical minds in the Catholic world.  Don’t you know the old cardinals loved having this young, female voice swaying the Pope’s decisions?  But she didn’t care. True truth-tellers aren’t bent by winds of popular opinion. She was a mover and a shaker. And despite her later designation as Patron Saint of Fire Prevention, she was anything but in her life on earth.  She was a fire starter, bringing light and hope and joy and new life to a struggling Church.

Her secret?…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  She was, and she did.

Oh… I almost forgot….

Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

…………..same middle name.

It’s a dumb joke, I know.  But becoming who God meant you to be and, setting the world on fire is not.

Keith

5-21-14

http://keithelder.com/

https://twitter.com/keitheldermusic

“Wake up Leroy!”

Joe was a long-time, long-haul trucker. With several million miles in his log, he found himself having to apply for a new job with a new freight line.  On the oral exam, the interviewer lays out a scenario:

“You crest a mountain in your rig and begin easing down a long, steep grade.  As you try to shift to a lower gear, for whatever reason, it won’t engage, so you begin picking up speed.  After a minute or two, your brakes begin to fail. To your right is a guardrail, then a 400-foot drop. Ahead, you see two 18-wheelers coming toward you—one in your lane trying to pass the other. To their right is a sheer granite mountainside. What would you do?”

After a moment, Joe leans forward and responds, “Why, I think I’d wake up Leroy.”

The interviewer asks, “Leroy?  Who’s Leroy?”

Joe explains, “Why, Leroy’s my driving partner. And you see, if I’m driving, Leroy’s probably back in the sleeper catching a few winks.”

“I don’t understand,” said the interviewer. “Why, wake him up?”

“Well, you see, Leroy is a young fella—just 20 or so.  And he comes from a really small town, and I guarantee you, Leroy ain’t NEVER seen a wreck like the one that’s about to happen!”

“Wake up Leroy!”    It might make for a pretty great battle cry…

…for those who’ve been waiting on life to come to them.

…for those who’ve “let themselves go,” physically, morally, spiritually

…for those who’ve been shaming and blaming everyone else for their problems

…for those who have been in a self-imposed exile due to past failures

…for those who are waiting for all of the lights to turn green before they start whatever.

“Wake up Leroy!”…not to watch a big wreck, but to avoid it!  Joe might have been in an impossible situation, but you’re not—and I’m not.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” *

…and I can too,… if I will.  And you can too,… if you will.

Otherwise, you “ain’t never seen an accident like the one that’s about to happen.”

Keith

5-1-14

*  Philippians 4:13

http://keithelder.com/

“Expiration Date… NA (not applicable)”

It was a picture-post on “The Idealist” facebook page.  A sky with birds hovering over a tree…in a boat…with a light in a window on the trunk of the tree (shades of Keebler elves)…and a girl standing at the bow of the boat gazing into the future.

Caption: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

I REALLY like this. Being a Boomer who’s taken a few tumbles and had many a doubt as to whether I will ever see my potential realized, this reminds me to hope.  The idea shows up all over the place.

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” –anonymous

God called an already up-in-years Abram and Sarah to pull up roots and go to a new place—and start a family.

God called to 80 year-old Moses from a burning bush and said, in essence, “It’s time to do your thing, Moses.  Go tell Pharoh to let my people go.”  The Red Sea, water from rocks, manna from heaven, and forty years of wilderness wandering—all came after Moses turned 80.

God kept old Simeon and Anna alive long enough to realize the hope of seeing the Messiah come.  (Luke 2:21 ff.)

And it’s not just about age.

Jesus used little kids, disenfranchised women, greedy tax collectors, fiery zealots, and a foot-in-mouth-prone “Rock” (Peter) to make the kingdom magic happen.  He even used a few rich people.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”  Paul wrote, “If any person is in Christ, he/she is a new creation.  Old things have passed away, behold the new has come.”

I wonder how many of us have given up on our dreams or ideals because it (whatever “it” is) got hard. Because we sinned and fell short of the glory.  We’ve thrown in the towel on a job or a call or a person or a love or a dream—or ourselves.  News flash—the past is prologue, folks.  The clock’s still ticking… the game is still on!

Remember: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

Keith   3/06/2013

Modes and Mortals

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks.  Reason?  I’m working on a new CD project and my brain has been in a different room—literally and figuratively.  I write in one room and record in another.  Can’t be two places at once—physically, mentally or emotionally.  And that’s not a bad thing.

The recording process involves lots of numbers, meters, mixes and cables—and countless decisions, great and small.  Even the playing and singing are different in record mode.  It has to be just so, because once mastered and replicated, it is what it is.  The artist mode can generally be summed up in a phrase, “going with the flow.”

One day I asked acclaimed Alabama artist, Sarah Towery Carlisle, how she approached a new painting.  Wizened by experience and years, she said that her way was to sit down in front of the blank canvas with pallet and brushes–and  just begin painting.  Over time, she would paint and watch as the subject emerged.

Call them “modes”…capacities…rooms in our house of life.  We all have many. Role-wise, we are friend, spouse, parent, employee, teammate, student, etc.  Capacity-wise, we are thinker, feeler, judge, responder, reactor, talker, listener, etc.   I’m sure you could create your own lists.

Sometimes I feel guilty or inadequate because I can’t be all things to all people all the time.  Welcome to mortality. We have only so many minutes.  We can only be in one place at a time.  We can only listen—really listen—to one person at a time… read one book at a time… etc.

I love the words of Achilles (Brad Pitt) to Briseis, in the epic movie “Troy”.

“I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Friend, do what you are doing now.  Do it the best you can. Enjoy the ride.  Tomorrow, if you are lucky, you will be in another mode and get to do something else.

Keith   2/04/2012

“Life’s too short to spend it ________.”

“City slicker”/mid-life crisis guy, Mitch (Billy Crystal) had to figure out his “one thing”.  (Remember leathery, real cowboy, Curly, giving Mets-cap-Mitchie life advice?…holding up that one index finger?)  Mitch was unhappy.  Unhappy at work, at home, at his kid’s school career day, wherever. The whole cattle drive adventure with his buddies was just one more attempt to jumpstart his heart.  But riding and roping weren’t going to do it.  Before Mitch would find his happy face again, he would have to figure out his one thing—that is, what was most important to him.

There are various ways to approach eating this elephant—some positive (What do you want to be when you grow up?) and some negative (What are you NOT good at?).

The go-to scripture reading at many weddings is First Corinthians 13—a.k.a., the love chapter (Imagine Barry White saying, in his deep mellow tones, “the Luv Chapter”—very cool.)  The Apostle Paul, was back-and-forth with the negative-positive approaches, as he tried to help people grasp the concept. After a couple of positives, “Love is patient and kind,” he launches into the negatives, “…love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude…” etc.  Of course, he gets back to the positives, but knowing what love is not is helpful.

This little blurb is one of those negative-on-the-way-to-positive exercises.  Of course, it’s shared in the name of helping you find–or, perhaps, just helping you fine-tune your happy face.  It’s fill-in-the-blank.

Life’s too short to spend it ______________.

Of course, I have a few thoughts.  Life’s too short to spend it mad  (I know, “Dogs are mad; people are angry.”)  Life’s too short to spend it pretending.  Life’s too short to spend it with a pain that can be repaired (not talking about spouses, here—just the bum knee, the lack of education, etc.). Life’s too short to spend it watching TV.  Life’s too short to spend it trying to eat, drink, or entertain your way to happiness.

Your turn now—and you may have several as well.

Life’s too short to spend it ______________.

So, why do we? 

Keith Elder  1/30/12

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