A Sacred Conversation

The hours went by very quickly sitting in a private hospital room.  The hours cascaded seamlessly as I sat with my college roommate discussing health, the past, what has transpired already, and the future.  He was there for a knee replacement, the result of years of wrestling (where he was a collegiate champion).  The surgery would hopefully return him to some freedom from pain that he had experienced for most of his adult life.

But the time was more than talking about injuries (mine included which resulted from a fall that shattered my femur just a year earlier).  Our time was filled with remembering our roommate days (and laughing about them) and it was filled with the lessons learned to date.  We talked of friendship, perserverance in life, passions, things beyond our control, contentment, and legacy; all of it to consider what the two of us together and individually have given to the world as our payment for being in it.

The best conversation came when Rick asked, “What is your burn?”  I knew what he meant.  What is the passion that burns in my heart.  As a good coach, he has asked that of hundreds of student athletes; now he was asking me.  It hasn’t changed over the years.  My passion is education through a number of venues; teaching at the university level, writing, and teaching in the life of the church.  If there is one that has become more essential for me in the past five years, it is the area of discipleship education in the life of the church;  helping people not just know something about scripture, but make sure they integrate into their daily lives.  And, not just to have an opinion about something, but to have a solid foundation of why they believe what they believe.  Too much meaningless talk in this world, as noted in the New Testament letter to Titus.   Too many talking-heads available 24-7 telling us what and who to believe.  So my passion is helping people understand what they believe SO THAT they might discern what is true, noble, excellent, and worthy of our energy in these complicated days.

The conversation ended with what have we done in this world; what lessons had we learned.  We both agreed that we have learned to be content in life; to savor what has been given to us, to embrace what happens every day, to be present in the moment and not worry about what is not yet realized.  Our experiences have taught us that today is the day, even if we have plans for tomorrow.  We were in sync as we both realized that we are only a cog in the vast machine of the universe, playing out our part for a minute or two in the scope of the history of the universe.

We agreed that what we offer each day, to the best of our abilities, with “kind and generous hearts” (as Mr. Hoggett said to Babe) is all we can do in our four score of life, if we should be so lucky to get them.  I was deeply blessed to be in the room with my former college roommate.  It has been 34 years since we shared a dormitory room, but our hearts are kindred and linked nontheless.  It was a sacred moment for me (and I trust too for Rick), one that will be etched in my soul for years ahead.

Blessings to you, dear reader, for this day and those to come.  Grace and peace.

David

Choosing Joy

Try to guess what ails me.  You won’t see it because it is inside of me.  From outward appearances, I look good (if I do say so myself).  Yet I ache, all the time, from an injury that shattered my femur, the largest bone in the human body.  Surgery, a metal rod with screws, and a metal band put me together.  Four months of rehab and therapy bring me today—about 85% of my former self.  My final doctor visit tells me “this is as good as it is going to get.”  It is now a time of ongoing ache, back pain, and fatigue, as well as a little hitch in my step that those closest to me see, especially when I am tired.

This has been a year of lessons for me.  The first relates to what we cannot see.  I no longer look at people the same.  They may look just fine on the outside, but “you cannot tell a book by its cover.”  I have come in contact now with many people with hidden physical, emotional, or mental hurts in their lives.  Most simply go about life without complaint.  They might easily be judged by external appearances, but they carry burdens most would never want to bump into during life.  So, I have learned that most people carry hidden burdens which require my grace in how I might interact with them.

The second lesson I have learned deals with personal choices about my “lot in life.”  I could choose to be bitter, vindictive, a constant complainer to everyone who would listen.  But I have chosen to not talk about my situation, except on occasions with those who are close to me and understand my daily feelings.  Otherwise, you won’t know my internal aches, pains, and mental state that comes from being as “good as I am going to get” after this devastating accident.

I have chosen this because of my faith and in echo with the Apostle Paul “to be content in whatever state of being I find myself.”  I trust God daily for the strength I have and the situation I am in.  I know he was there with me at the moment of my accident, the surgery, the recovery, the long and distressing days of rehab, and now everyday—he knows my frame and I trust that by faith.  I choose to believe God’s good will ultimately prevails in what I experience each day.

Charles W. Naylor, a practical theologian out of my own faith tradition, wrote a book “The Secret of the Singing Heart.”  This book has been encouraging to me—and I think it might be to you also—in this new season of my life.  Naylor was injured in the prime of his career as an evangelist.  He was traveling around the country in the early part of the 1900s.  He was sought after for the power of his teaching and preaching.  Life couldn’t have been better.  But, he was injured in an accident that left him confined (I use that word literally of this period of time) for the next 41 years.  Yet, in time, he saw that he had a choice to make about life; he chose it to be one of optimism and living faithfully, even from a darkened room where he lay day after day.  He changed lives of those who came and sat with him.  He believed in life, goodness, and the present we all must encounter.

Naylor once wrote, “Long ago I determined to be happy.  I determined to be happy no matter what happened and no matter what condition I might be in or what my circumstances might be.”  What are the circumstances of your own life?  What choices are you making about them?  What prejudices and judgments might you make of others when you do not know their “lot in life?”  Fellow life pilgrims, I invite you to choose grace as we live with each other.  I invite you to extend grace to others when you encounter them who do not appear as you might want.  You will never guess the ailments of most people, but if we extend grace to them we might lift another human’s burden, even if it just be for a moment.  And I hope you, too, choose to live well in the circumstances you find in your own life.  Choose to live with joy at what is present with you.  Make the best of what is happening in your day today so that you might experience potentially brighter tomorrows.

Blessings for you this day. Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

One by One, Count Them All

“It seems kind of surreal,” my wife remarked laying on the couch absorbed in her iPhone apps.  We were talking about a friend of mine who died a few days earlier of cancer.  I had commented to my wife that I was glad I went to visit him in the hospital only a few days before he passed away.  I’m not sure he was 70 years old yet; the loss of an energetic community leader.

                My wife’s statement was about my own cancer surgery in 2008.  While my wife thought it all felt surreal from the vantage of the beige couch, I responded, “I think about it almost every day.”

                Now, I don’t think about cancer in the gloom and doom kind of way.  That episode did not paralyze my life or destroy my attitude about the future.  Quite the opposite happened, really.  I think about cancer almost every day and it reminds me of how blessed I am; how thankful I am for the moments I get to experience and savor.

                I do feel blessed.  There is gratitude for my family.  They bring joy and enjoyment.  The telephone calls with my daughters and son add to each day.  Seeing my wife reminds me of commitments and that two people, so connected to each other, can weather much.  I also enjoy a good hug from my eldest grandson or just playing gently with the brown, curled locks of my youngest’s hair as he masters yet another video game (he is three by the way).

                My work—my life calling—brings intellectual, spiritual and emotional satisfaction Monday through Friday (and a number of evenings).  What I do in those 8 to 10 hours isn’t really work—like labor one would dread.  It is a path to legacy and service to others.  I give my best to this vocation because I am reminded that the service given to another through my efforts is a high calling for life and what one owes another human being.  Blessings come in unexpected ways daily because I am looking for them with those I encounter; but they also just appear from the most unexpected moments of bumping into another’s life story.

                If there is a downside to this gratefulness it would be twofold: I am less patient with people who don’t count their daily blessings (because they are bountiful in this country) and I have a more even temperament about a lot of things that riled me before my cancer diagnosis and surgery.  I do get angry and frustrated about issues and stuff (I am human) but I have started to see that most things “will be okay.”  That may be taken as non emotional, a lack of engagement, or not caring about items which make up our everyday existence; but that would be a false assumption.  I do care, I am engaged, but in the end “it will be okay.”

                And the impatience?  Well, many people (in my opinion) make the trivial so life important or earth shattering.  I have little patience for this kind of response these days because people have lost perspective by deceiving themselves into believing they will live forever.  A reality check everyone—you and I are going to die.  My advice: keep all things in their proper perspective and place of importance in your life.

                “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” is a song I learned early in attending church.  I count them every morning and throughout the day.  The ten-inch long scar I see every morning when I look at my naked torso in the mirror reminds me how blessed I am for good healthcare, family, friends, faith and all I experience in 24 hours.

                Take a moment right now—or at least sometime today—to reflect on your life and its blessings.  Put it all in its proper perspective.  Count your blessings one by one.  That simple act will keep you centered on what matters in the world and in your life, whatever amount of it you get to enjoy.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert