LET THEM KNOW

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The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

This year has been one with way too many funerals.  Precious souls who have been wrenched from our lives. Sudden. Untimely. Unfair.

At each service while listening to friends and family share how the departed enriched their lives, I’m reminded of a song that states, “Give me roses while I am living.”

Am I doing enough of that? What would I say about someone, about what they meant to me, about their character, and what I really appreciated about them, during their funeral service that I’ve not said to their face?

Now, while they live, it is time to let them know.

WHAT DID YOU SAY????

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The message sent is not always the message received.
Virginia Satir

Years ago I visited a friend in Honduras for a couple of weeks. Their Internet service was sparse at best, so I could only contact my husband, Neal, every other day or so, via email. The night before I was to fly home I received a message from him that said something like, I’ve looked over our budget. We need to make some changes. Vacuumed the entire house. Changes need to be made there too. See you soon.

Well, I don’t mind telling you I was pretty darned miffed. All night I fumed. So, he thinks I spend too much money does he? Well, one look in my closet where only six dresses hang and three pair of shoes sit on the floor, will prove I don’t. So, I don’t clean house good enough for him? Well, if he wants to take over the cleaning, more power to him.

At the airport in Tulsa, I had plenty of time to marinate in my anger. When I saw him, I could have frozen him with my stare. Clearly confused, he followed me as I sped to the luggage pick-up, all the while asking me what was wrong. Believe you me, I let him have it.

Neal was so shocked by my inference of his email, he had to sit down. “Linda, I meant that our budget had to be changed to provide you with more money. I saw your closet when I vacuumed it and realized you clearly needed more clothes. And after using that vacuum, I realized we need a new one. I would have bought one already, but I wanted you to get what you wanted.

By the time he finished I was looking for something to crawl under. Since that day, when one of us says something that nettles the other, we answer, “This is what I hear you saying,” which gives the other the opportunity to clarify.

Emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are fertile seedbeds for misrepresentation, anger, negativity, and misunderstanding. Let us be careful. Yes, we are entitled to our opinion on our own page. Personally, I try to avoid controversial opinions even there. On another’s page, however, unless invited to do so, it is best to keep our opinions to ourselves.

That said, I violated this advice myself just a couple of days ago. A dear friend posted something that I had strong feelings about and I wrote a comment. Then I deleted it and wrote it again, edited and then posted. This violated my core value of peace and the nagging followed me like a whiney child. So I deleted it—again. What bothered me the most was the possible message she might have received from my comment. I would never want her to think that I thought of her as anything less than wonderful.

In my opinion it is best to send undeniable messages of peace, understanding, and love. AND yes, I was a teenager in the 70’s.

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I’M FINISHED WITH IT!

You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, “I forgive. I’m finished with it.” ~ Maya Angelou

The reason I love this quote is because it both embodies what love truly is and the real benefactor from forgiveness.

Ms. Angelou got it right. Love isn’t sentimentality or mushy feelings. It is respecting, valuing, and honoring. It is doing the right thing even if it is hard or goes unnoticed.

Dovetail that with forgiveness. I used to think forgiveness was to benefit the offender. This understanding of forgiveness made it hard  for me to forgive because I didn’t feel that person deserved to be forgiven. I felt like I was giving that person a pass. It was the same to me as saying, “What you did was okay, you are not to blame.”

However, now I realize forgiveness is for me. It is for me to be free. I needed to respect, value, and honor, myself! And I couldn’t do that while holding a grudge, wanting justice, and wanting that person to suffer as I had. Just as Maya Angelou said, I had to say, I forgive. I’m letting it go from myself. I’M FINISHED WITH IT! And I did.

That said, for a couple of years the person and the offense replayed in my mind and I had to remind myself, I’m finished with it. After a while, it no longer played in my mind.

I’m free! DSC_0025-9

FEBRUARY MUSINGS ~ Unpacking Valentine’s Day

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On February 14, a Roman priest named Valentine was beheaded. Romantic? A beheading doesn’t bring images of flowers, wine, chocolate, and romantic dinners to my mind anyway.

You see, Valentine lived during the rule of Claudius the Cruel. The emperor sought to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed married soldiers were unwilling to leave their wives and families. He deduced how unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones for that reason. Therefore Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome.

However, Valentine, believing in the sacredness of marriage, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages in secret. When he was found out the emperor ordered the priest put to death in a three-part execution: beating, stoning, and decapitation.

Legend  has it that while in jail, St. Valentine befriended the jailer’s blind daughter. Just before his death the priest left a farewell note for her and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

So what can we learn from this priest’s example, and how should we celebrate this day in honor of St. Valentine? We see that he stood for what is right. He served others at great risk to himself. And he wrote words of friendship, encouragement, and love until the very end of his life.

Face it, flowers fade, wine bottles empty, chocolate is consumed, and romantic dinners are over in an evening. And yet we are bombarded with messages that this is the way to celebrate the day. What would St. Valentine say? Thoughts?

Love isn’t always convenient, appreciated, or recognized. Love can hurt. Love is often sacrifice. These statements will never be printed on tiny candy hearts. 

 

LOVE ACTUALLY?

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Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward. ~ Thomas Merton

Yesterday was perfect book weather. The steel-gray sky threatening icy rain gave me permission to curl up on the couch, sip hot coffee and indulge in a couple of books. I alternated between Normandie Fischer’s, Sailing Out of the Darkness, and Steven James’s, Sailing Between the Stars. Hmmmm, I wonder if my subconscious is trying to tell me something?

Any way, James made a point in his book that made me stop and think, (actually, he makes a lot of points that makes me stop and think). He wrote that the opposite of music isn’t silence—it’s noise. A sour note that ruins the harmony and distorts the melody.

After I read that I thought about what the opposite of love might be. Some would say hate. But I don’t think so. To me the opposite of love isn’t hate—it’s selfishness. It’s the what’s in it for me mindset.

The problem is with the English language. We say we love everything. We love our warm socks, our pets, traveling, chocolate, riding our bikes, our mate, our children. But does our use of love there mean the same thing for all the above?

No.

In the Greek language there are many words for love. Smart Greeks.

What they are passionate for they use eros. Whom they are fond of as friends they use phileo. Natural love of family is Storgeo. But the highest form of love— the sacrificial, unconditional kind— is agapao.

My daughter, Olivia, once said, “Hollywood film directors and producers are the prophets of our generation sending a false message of love.” I might add so do those in advertising. Most of what the media feeds us is created and based in eros. And we buy it, believing this is love.

No wonder so many relationships are built on toothpicks.

Erros says, “You look sexy, you make me feel good, you make me happy, you make me look good, you make my life easier.” Notice a trend here? It’s all about how others make us feel.

What does agapao look like?

In a word, sacrifice. It isn’t about us.  And the troublesome thing about agapao is sometimes it isn’t convenient, appreciated, and at times it even hurts our hearts. And yet, it remains. Agapao doesn’t depend on emotion, as does eros. Eros evaporates with the changing wind. Agapao cherishes, honors, accepts, is devoted and focused on others. It remains through the tough seasons of life.

This month is dedicated to love, so why don’t we give the gift of agapao—the gift of true love. And, when eros comes knocking at our door with candy and flowers—think. It isn’t our good it wants and we shouldn’t accept anything less than agapao for ourselves!

ROMANCE = LOVE?

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I am going to write 4 romance novellas and I admit, writing romance may be difficult for me. Why? Well, it certainly isn’t because my husband isn’t romantic, because he is the prince of romance. I think it is because too many people equate romance with love. And while the two go hand in hand, like steak sauce and steak, they are not equal.

Therein lies the problem. People confuse the two. So what is love? In the English language there are many ways we use the word love: I love you, I love tiramisu, I love horror movies, I love the holidays . . . you get the picture. Most of these, like romance, are heavy in the emotional, feel good, category. So what is real love? 

The best definition I know is found in the Hebrew word agapao. It means to honor, esteem, cherish, favor, respect, accept, prize, relish, to be devoted to, be loyal to, it is the kind of love rooted in the mind and will that motivates us to actions that benefits others

And there you have it. True love primarily benefits others. While we are looking for someone to love us we are missing out on true love. Love that has less to do with emotion and everything to do with how we honor, esteem, cherish, favor, respect, accept, prize, relish, are devoted to, and loyal to. And the highest kind of love is when the person we are loving are not behaving in a way that deserves it.

The love I have described is not easy, it doesn’t always feel good, and sometimes it isn’t  recognized or appreciated. But, it is that kind of love by which Christ loves us. To love with unconditional love is hard. It takes a dedicated mindset. But when we love with this kind of love it heals and empowers us.

I read this yesterday, a prayer by Francis Frangipane and made it my prayer: Help me, Master, to recognize Your love, not as a divine emotion, but as Your very substance. Help me to see that it was neither Pilate not Satan that put You on the cross; it was love alone to which You succumbed.

THE LASTING LESSON OF 911

“I have found a paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” ~ Mother Theresa

Two years ago on September 11, I listened to rebroadcasts of the terrorist attack on our nation. I was driving to meet my friend Jan who was traveling with me to Oklahoma City. It felt to me like the attack had just happened.

When Jan got in the car, she had also been listening to the same radio station. We talked about that day and she made an interesting point. It intrigued her how important it was to those who knew death was immanent for their family and friends know that they loved them. 

I  couldn’t quit thinking about what Jan had said and when I returned home I googled the last words of the victims. My tears blurred the words as I read transcripts of phone calls and interviews of those who lost loved ones in this heinous crime.

Not one person called to say, I’ll never forgive you, you hurt my feelings, I hate you. Instead they left messages saying, I’m okay, I love you, never forget that.

This just goes to show us what really matters, to give love rather than to expect it. It also presents the true meaning of love. In our English language there is only one word for love that is supposed to cover everything. And unfortunately, the way most of us understand love as an emotion. But love is more of a verb than a noun. It is an action more than an emotion. It is respecting, honoring, esteeming, and valuing others.

Do you remember how we as a nation pulled together in unity after September 11, 2001? It took a tragedy to remind us of who we really were. Unfortunately, like a vapor, that unity evaporated and once again we began fighting among ourselves over politics.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This election year, I pray that we not let the lesson that cost precious lives go to waste. Let’s love (honor, respect, esteem, and value) our neighbor even if he or she votes different from us. Let’s not hate the people on our televisions or radios who express opinions different from ours. After all, isn’t it that freedom that makes this country great? We can have our convictions and stand up for them without hate.

Remember the lesson of love from those who died September 11, 2001. Love should be given more than expected. And remember this also—Unity begins with us.