A Life Still Worth Living

When theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS more than 50 years ago, his doctors told him he would live a short life–a few more years. He is now 75 years old.
Eight years ago, Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice faced a similar diagnosis–with a similar prognosis. Before he became ill, he had married. He had children. He had won awards. He had climbed mountains. But life gives us real mountains and metaphorical ones too.
Now he faced the mountain of debilitation.
After Fitzmaurice lost his ability to breath on his own, his doctor suggested removing his ventilator–letting him die peacefully. But Fitzmaurice said no. Continue reading “A Life Still Worth Living”

The Food of the Soul

“As Chesterton saw, it is the search for truth that keeps us sane, because it always brings us back to reality. And why is reality so important? It is what we are made for. Reality is the food of the soul.” Stratford Caldecott
In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance includes a moment from his youth when he didn’t understand the difference between intelligence and knowledge” (59). A classmate had shown off his multiplication skills. Vance had yet to realize the concept even existed.
He felt stupid. In response to his sense of failure, Vance’s grandfather devoted time once a week to drilling the youngster in mathematical concepts. Papaw showed patience when Vance got frustrated. Papaw crowned success with ice cream. The lessons stuck.
But Papaw wasn’t the only one to enrich Vance’s mind. His mother introduced him to the library and encouraged reading in the home. His father introduced him to faith.
Papaw was a rock of stability for the boy. Mom? A sea of dysfunction. Dad? Absent in his early years. But what they gave was enough. Small meals of wonder. Continue reading “The Food of the Soul”

Barronelle, Belief, and Benedict

“The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way–in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc.–of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs,” Rod Dreher (emphasis his).
With little fanfare from the mainstream media, the Washington Supreme Court last week unanimously sided against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71-year-old florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Stutzman has been battling the legal challenge, which threatens to relieve her of her life’s work and earnings.
She is appealing to the US Supreme Court. A ruling favorable to religious freedom seems unlikely since the court has already refused to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer, also sued for refusing service for a same-sex wedding. These cases are a harbinger of things to come.  Continue reading “Barronelle, Belief, and Benedict”

The Perfection of Imperfection

For five children and me, times were dark. Then one of them lit a candle. You can light up a dark room, you know, with just a bit of humor.

A mere two months after their father left, my ten-year-old daughter told a story to her friends on the school playground. And because of our family history, they believed her.

That evening, my phone rang.

As I said, “hello,” my friend cried out, “Is it true?”

“What?”

“Are you having another baby?”

“What!?”

My daughter had told my friend’s daughter that the number of siblings in our tribe would increase. My friend and I pondered a moment.

Then we understood.

It was April 1.

Grace under fire. A child showed me what those words meant.

Thirteen years later, my phone rang once more. I knew at hello this call had joy in it. This same daughter had a wonderful lilt in her voice as she told me she and her husband were expecting their second child.

But a few months later, my phone rang again. A blood test had come back positive. Perhaps the child would have Down Syndrome. Doctors wanted to do a more invasive test.

“Come over for dinner tonight,” I said. “We can talk about it.” I knew that the test was not without risk. And the risk could be greater than the value of the information gained.

But when they got there, there was little to discuss. They wanted no part in an invasive test. They would welcome whoever was coming in whatever condition he would come.

“I would rather have a Down baby than no baby at all,” she said.

A few months later my phone rang once more. This time in the middle of the night.

It was time.

At the hospital, her labor seemed stuck. We walked around the hallway once. Then things began to happen quickly. So quickly that an emergency room physician rode up in the elevator just in time to attend the delivery.

A beautiful boy emerged. Perfect in every way.

What had the false test recognized? Not an extra chromosome. Perhaps an extra dose of talent and wit?

But the gift he is today would not be less if he had one more chromosome. It would only be different.

We are no less perfect in each of our imperfections.

——————————–

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Injecting Meaning into Life

“In the 1950s kids lost their innocence.

“They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term —the generation gap.

“In the 1960s, kids lost their authority.

“It was a decade of protest—church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.

“In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Continue reading “Injecting Meaning into Life”

Snow Day

There is something to love about every season.
In spring, the work of months culminates in a graduation. A new season awaits. Another year passed. Another pocketful of memories and lessons for all. Including me.
Summer is adventure. Fruit picking, ice cream, fireworks. (One of my sons is licensed to light up the sky. So fireworks are a family adventure.) There is baseball. There is swimming. There are rainstorms to clean the air.
The end of summer brings fall, a new school year. A new set of students getting ready to go or just arriving. These are important days. They are meant to prepare us all for what will come ahead.
Winter brings more work. More of those important days. But it also brings the occasional snow day. It is a small piece of a season.
And there is something to love in that small piece. Continue reading “Snow Day”

Doing a Hard Thing

What appealed to me about his story is that he picked the hard thing to do.
It wasn’t that he had played football at the University of Georgia. Not my team.
It wasn’t that he now plays for the New England Patriots. Not my team either.
It was that he found something hard and decided to work at it anyway. And then he did something to encourage others who also may find it hard.
Now, Malcolm Mitchell has a Super Bowl ring. But he told CBS News that getting to the big game isn’t his biggest accomplishment. Reading well is. He found reading hard. But he didn’t give up. He just worked harder.
And he didn’t let his image as a star athlete get in his way.
A chance meeting in a Barnes and Noble bookstore enhanced his literary journey. A woman invited him to her book club. It was a club of readers and he had become a reader. Nevermind that everyone else in the group was an over forty woman. Malcolm joined anyway.
Malcolm had realized when he got to college that his reading skills weren’t what they needed to be for him to succeed as a student. He decided he wouldn’t rest on the laurels of his athletic prowess.
He picked up a book whenever he could.
Then he wrote one. He was still a college student when it was published. The Magician’s Hat encourages young readers to open themselves up to the magic of reading.
Magic?
Malcolm Mitchell would say, yes, reading is magical. Hard too? Yes, sometimes it is.
But maybe that’s how we find magic. We decide to do the hard thing. And the world opens up to us.
Dust may settle on Malcolm Mitchell’s Super Bowl ring. But magic will be with him for the rest of his days.


Note: Malcolm Mitchell has established a children’s literacy foundation to “introduce book ownership to students in households where reading is not a priority and to improve literacy in schools with below grade-level reading skills.” Not on my team, but go, Malcolm.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

More than One Way to Give Your Life for Your Country

He was helping me carry my packages to my car. I was buying some items for a church group donation. We were collecting for a men’s group home in a nearby town. Most of the men there are homeless veterans making their way back into their communities.
This man was a veteran from Iran. That caught my ear. I’d never met a veteran of Iran before. Continue reading “More than One Way to Give Your Life for Your Country”