Last Sunday our granddaughter Charlise was confirmed in the Catholic Church. The bishop’s message was that it was indeed a special day and certainly deserving of the pomp and circumstance on display. However he reminded those being confirmed that he wasn’t dispensing magic but instead he was conveying the sacrament that was promised them at baptism. He also reminded these young people that Confirmation wasn’t just something to achieve but that by accepting God’s gift of the Holy Spirit they had an obligation to be transformed. To be agents of positive change in our world. Pretty heady stuff for 13 & 14 year-olds.
I’m most proud of the fact that Charlise chose Confirmation on her own – it wasn’t forced on her by her parents; she wasn’t pressured by peers. She chose to receive this sacrament and make this commitment. It is her choice. A sign of her maturity.
Scripture tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I believe that Charlise will meet the challenge to be changed; to be transformed. She will be an advocate for social justice and peace. She will love those who are at times unlovable (including yours truly); bring joy to those in sadness and sorrow; bring peace to our world in her deliberate and thoughtful manner; afford patience to those most in need of understanding; show kindness to those who are hurting; goodness in her manner and in her unselfishness; faithfulness to God and to all God’s creatures; gentleness in her strength and determination; and self-control in her lifestyle choices.
Now I have to try to live up to her example. And pray for a little transformation of my own.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
I often joke about the fact that no sooner than we rid the house of all the Christmas glitter and tinsel, it’s time to get out the Easter decorations. And then when we finally wipe that last bit of fake plastic “grass” out of the nooks and crannies, it’s time for barbecues and fireflies. And then pumpkins and so on and so on…
Perhaps my need for seasonal change is the reminder that life is indeed in constant motion. I mark time with events – birthdays, holidays, graduations, anniversaries. For me the cyclical nature of seasons is reassuring. It’s comforting to know that with the unknown comes the known. I face change and uncertainty with each passing day but I also have the reassurance of yet another season. Another Christmas, another Easter, another Thanksgiving. I believe the traditions that we celebrate with each season help keep me grounded. I believe that holding on to what I know helps me handle the unknown.
Think about a favorite memory. Was it summer or winter? Spring or fall? That moment will never return but that season will. I’ve been told that we are creatures of habit, but I am also a creature of adventure. I need the security of the familiar, but I long for new experiences. I think that having seasons, those repetitions, those traditions, gives me an advantage while I summit the mountains; while I swim the oceans; while I explore the unknown. My life changes but soon it will be spring again and I will return to a familiar place.
The seasons also remind me that I can’t just expect tomorrow to be better. Life will always be challenging. Disappointment and heartache may fill my days but I must learn to be thankful for what I have. I should find peace and happiness now. I should treasure the gifts of love that I have been afforded in this life. Because winter comes, too.
There is some comfort in the surety of it all. The seasons help me remember to slow down once in a while and savor the moment. I thank God for my blessings (and even my struggles) and then I step out to face the unknown.
I’ve always been a little envious of the completely ‘Free Spirits’; those folks who just throw caution to the wind and take off on yet-another-adventure. They rarely seem to plan much more than what to wear or what to eat (and usually that appears unplanned, too). At the opposite end of the spectrum are the ‘Judicious’; those folks who are overly cautious, sometimes paralyzed by indecision or fear of the unknown; needing assurance and insurance at every turn.
I’d like to think I’m somewhere in between Free Spiritedness and Judiciousness. You know, ready to jump on that plane or train or boat or bus but packing carefully and making sure the door is locked and the lights are turned off on my way out the door. I’m probably 60% Free Spirit and 40% Judicious – my lovely wife Debbie is probably 40% Free Spirit and 60% Judicious. She’s more of planner and I’m more of a doer. (Come to think of it, she plans a lot of the stuff that I do). We make a good team. We have a plan. We are on the right course.
And then comes change. Change creeps in and well, changes everything. How many times in my life have I had to adjust to change? Another baby. A lost job. A new home. The death of a loved one. A promotion. An illness. An accident. A marriage. A new grandchild.
Some change is good. Some is bad. Some is scary. Some is delightful. But somewhere amidst all the change remains a constant. It’s love.
Jobs are lost. Marriages end. Accidents happen. People get sick. Loved ones are mourned. We say goodbye to friends. But love stays.
New homes are found. Different careers are begun. Babies are born. Unique places are discovered. Strange new skills are learned. Unusual experiences are shared. And love stays.
I often think about the young girl I met 43 years ago who changed my life. We couldn’t afford to be free spirits or planners back then (we just muddled through) but God had plan for us. She was this short sweet little Baptist girl who had attended public schools and I was this tall skinny smart-ass who had gone to Catholic schools. Debbie was very popular in high school. Everyone was her friend and everyone thought that she was too nice for me (even me). I was not popular in high school. I was sort of a doofus. We were an unlikely match but we somehow fell in love.
And then I changed and became a man worthy of her love.
I know that life will constantly test my free spiritedness and my judiciousness. And nothing will ever be the same. Not even me. And the more things change the more our love will remain the same.
P.S. The video attached is one that our daughter created over 6 years ago and a lot has changed since then (except the love).
When you’re an old dog, learning new tricks can be daunting. I like to think of myself as someone who is open-minded, likes a challenge, loves adventure, is willing to try new things and embrace change. But truth be told, I like a little routine now and again. There’s something comforting in those ‘old tricks’ that I have mastered. Still change is inevitable.
So I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone and I have to say that it’s been fun and invigorating (even if it’s a bit scary at times – The Autobahn at 120 miles per hour). And it turns out that you’re never really too old to learn something new. My new job responsibilities have brought me to England and I will be working extensively throughout all of Europe. It’s strange being ‘the foreigner’ but I believe this experience will enable me to become more tolerant of others and gain a global perspective of human rights. But before I achieve those lofty goals I will need to learn to drive on the left side of the road in a car with the steering wheel on the right and understand the difference between a lorry and a lift! At times I feel I’m better understood in Germany or Spain than in England. At least in Deutschland or Espana I’m not expected to understand what’s being said to me. Bullocks!
Today I met a with an Indian who lives in Dubai and has businesses in Turkey, India, China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. We were discussing global partnerships and emerging markets in Uzbekistan and at some point my mind wanders and I begin to think, “I wonder how the St. Louis Cardinals will do tonight?” And I wonder how Anna will do at preschool today, and if is Deb packed yet for her trip over here? So I silently scream at myself, “Focus, Denis!” “Focus.”
But that’s whole point isn’t it? Things change but we remain the same. We might live in new places and learn new things and meet new people but we are who we are. That doesn’t mean that I won’t stretch myself a little and embrace new ideas and new ways of doing things but fundamentally I am who I am. My heart, my soul is grounded in the love of my family and friends. My faith remains in God, my Creator and Redeemer. I am the same husband, father, son, brother and friend today that I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. I may gain some new insights along this journey and meet some new friends but my true self remains unchanged.
And that’s the beauty of change – change of jobs, of scenery, of locales, of time zones. It only makes us truer to ourselves. Even on the days of uncertainty and new discovery I know where I belong – in the hearts of those that love me. And that never changes!