Silence over a Year

It’s been one year and sixteen days since I last wrote a blog. An eternity in the world of the internet. And a way to make oneself irrelevant in that same media. But it’s been one of those kinds of years in my life. During these 381 days, I’ve come to understand a number of things important to my well-being.  Maybe they will strike a cord with you, too.

The World Now has too many words:

I’ve been exhausted by the amount of words and media coming at me every day. Some of this is because I am an introvert and prefer more quiet moments, but in reality I get hundreds of emails a week in my workplace, notices on Facebook, and thousands of 140 character blurbs scroll past my Twitter feed in the same time frame. Everyone wants something of me and I have only a finite amount of time to read, respond and give to these requests. So I have been quiet in adding my own words to the mix.  One more voice in a expanding universe of words that is growing, as Buzz Light Year heralds, “to infinity and beyond.”

Learning to Focus in the Universe of Words:

While the amount of words is overwhelming to me, I’ve learned another lesson. Focus on the words and the ones sharing them that make the most sense to you and to the value they add to life and well-being. I follow less than 100 people on Twitter. I know you are supposed to follow many in exchange for those following you, but in the sea of words that are essential for me to know and understand, I don’t need to see someone’s food, hear of their latest breakup, or read political banter and prejudices that don’t really add to public debate or resolution of the world’s ills. I am looking for thoughts and suggestions that add meaning to life. So I follow the few I’ve found that add quality.  And I tweet or pass along this information only if it will be of value to another. I also discriminate Facebook friendship requests. I have over 200 requests sitting in my inbox. My method of screening is “If I wouldn’t sit and have an extended coffee break in conversation, I probably would not “friend” you.  I know we may have many people in common, but I value time together….not more words about things without meaningful conversation.  In Facebook, I even created a category called “Who I want to See.” I’ve gone through my entire FB friend list and checked those I want in this category.  I now go to it regularly as the place to start.  I may get to the trending or most recent, but those I want to see get priority.

Focus on Family and Relationships:

Over the past four years of my life, my mother and my in-laws have died. It is that age in life (now I’m 60) when all rapidly changes.  I’ve decided that focusing on family has the greatest rewards and benefits. I know focus on my children, grandchildren, siblings, and my dad….who is the last. I love him and want to spend quality time with him. I’ve learned it all changes in a telephone call. I want to live my life with no regrets when asked to give a eulogy. No relationship regrets….say it all when the time is right and live it all when the moments are present. My dad, who is in his 80s, reminds me that every day is a gift…no guarantees. I am applying this wisdom to every relationship I have right now.  No waiting.

Attending to the work that matters:

As I said, I’m 60. I may have six to eight active working years remaining. I want to give value to these years. Thus I am focusing in my work on what matters to future generations. I have the privilege of working in higher education. My current focus is on reducing student debt through a major grant. I know that a student going to college will earn in a lifetime at least 50% more than those who do not. But that comes with a price they should also not have to bear. My work is now focused on helping them graduate with little to no debt. That is a major gift. Also, I am focusing on those things that will give me joy in my retirement years. Peter Drucker counseled to create your second career while in your first. I am focusing now more on research, writing, and those hobbies that I’ve had on the side for a few years. I am also attending to my financial matters of retirement. My wife and I know the realities of a less than well financed retirement as we have witnessed it in others we know and in family members. It is heartbreaking to watch…make this a priority of life from age twenty…it does matter.

Health:

What can I say…health matters. If you are not healthy all the rest is irrelevant. I’ve watched vibrant, active people reduced to a bed in semi conscious states and pain over this past year. When your health goes, all the rest is totally irrelevant.  Period.

I trust 2015 will be a great year for those who read this blog. I hope in it there is wisdom for yourself and others. I plan on continuing action on what I’ve learned in the last 381 days. May you also find what matters and stick to it. Grace and peace to you in this opening day of 2015.

Your Next 100 Days

A lot can happen in 100 days. I haven’t written to my website blog for the past 100 days and more for the purpose of watching what happens. I last wrote a blog on the verdict day of the Kaylee Anthony Trial….the loss of a child in a tragic concoction of human choices, law and public fascination with this case. It captivated us worldwide. Dr. Phil has tried to keep this all alive via interviews with prosecutors and the Anthony Family, but alas…we have other things on our minds.

We soon left the trial for the most recent of events coming onto the screens of our lives via media bytes focused on new ways to capture our viewing, Twitter and Facebook posts. We saw the fall of Libya, Egypt and a host of unrest in the Middle East. Iran is trying to keep secret their ongoing nuclear arming, Heavy D died, as did Joe Frazier, and the Greek economy fell apart. Herman Cain seems to have gone the way of many politicians with a sex scandal, an asteroid comes ‘close’ to hitting the earth, and a star falls as Joe Pa and the Lions are embroiled in a sad display of treatment of our children.

I could write a lot here about what distracts and attracts us as consumers of media….but the point of this all for me is that life happens….and this too shall pass.

Yep, life happens. It comes and goes and fills us with events of world importance that grab our attention and “must see TV,” but it is also filled with those things most personal in our lives that supersede even the hottest of topics. In these 100 days, in my own life, family members have received not-so-good health news, some have died, financial burdens reflective of the economy have continued to be at the fore, I have celebrated with new students coming into the college environment pursuing a life calling and eventual vocation, been to some birthday parties, basked in Thanksgiving festivities and food, laughed a lot, cried some, and….well you get the point. Life happens….it goes on….and it is both predictable and surprising all at once.

So, what do we do with all this? I am reminded of my many years of academic training, professional work and personal philosophy that we should live each day as powerfully as possible, making plans for what we hope will unfold in life, loving those near us, counting our blessings, not sweating the small stuff, and being merry…..because we don’t know what the next 100 days will bring. This is not about giving one’s life up to the ‘fates’ but remembering that life is filled with certitude and joy as well as unexpected and unwelcomed moments. It is choosing to live life with gratitude, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, and all those things “against which there are no laws,” as the Apostle Paul wrote. It is about being aware that we live in a tension of the present and the future; finding a way to navigate them both with purpose, hope, joy and contentment.

I know what has happened in my past 100 days…I can only imagine what I must be prepared for in the coming 100. And you know them, too. Ever stop and wonder, “What is about to happen in the next 100 days based on the past 100?” So, bask in your blessings today, make the best choices you can for this moment, hug those you care about, live well as Aristotle challenged us, and work to keep all things in perspective.

Blessings to you for this day, and those yet to come….grace and peace.
David Neidert

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