Behind the Eyes

26 08 2012

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a fan of Amy Grant for more than 30 years!  Her music has always touched a place deep inside of me, and her thoughts and feelings have always profoundly resonated with my own.  That is particularly true of her CD “Behind the Eyes” — released in 1997, 20 years after her first album, and during one of the most difficult periods in her life.  Songs like “Somewhere down the Road” and “Cry a River” reflect a deep and brooding melancholy that I have to believe touches each one of us; and as I listened to Amy’s heart on my way into work this morning, I was reminded how often we never know what is going on . . . behind the eyes . . . of those we meet.

I’ve actually been thinking alot about this all summer!  For we live in a world where people are not really all that interested in those things that weight us down — those things that try our spirits and that test our souls.  Oh, perhaps they are for a while.  When we lose someone we love, friends show up for the funeral and support us as best they can.  And when we loose a job, or deal with an extended illness, or face any kind of major setback in our lives — those we love are there . . . for a while.

But then, days pass and time goes on.  The people we love — the people who love us — they move on!  After phoning with their condolences, mailing a note or  a card, or perhaps even sending over a cake to let us know we’re being remembered, they move on.  And not because they’re neglegent or inconsiderate; but simply because life takes them in other directions.  You see, others’ memories fade more quickly than our pain.

Let me say that again.  Other peoples’ memories, often fade more quickly than our pain!

Today, remember that!

Look deeply at the people that you meet . . . and consider not just what is going on in their life today, but what happened yesterday that is perhaps still weighing them down.  Listen for the unspoken words, and try to feel that hidden pain.  Because while it may not be obvious, chances are pretty good that there is still something that warrents a gentle touch, a warm embrace, a word of grace and compassion.

Today, in the people we meet, may we all seek to look . . . behind the eyes, and respond with grace and love.

Hope Springs? . . . really?

15 08 2012

Last night my wife and I went to see “Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, and like last spring’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” we were surrounded by senior citizens. Clearly we’ve crossed the line into that age where movies about vampires and caped crusaders no longer interest us.  These days we’re far more attracted to films about growing old with grace and keeping our marriage strong and healthy after the kids are gone.  (Ok, almost gone!)

So “Hope Springs” did not disappoint us!  Yes, there was a lot of talk about sex, but the message was still a good one.  And both my wife and I walked away thinking about how hard marriage can be, but how well worth it such work really is!  That was one of the messages of the movie; and unfortunately I fear it is a message that will not be heard by the people who need to hear it most today — and that is the young people in our culture.

We live in a world that is preoccupied by weddings — and I’m sorry if this offends my female readers, but this is particularly true among young women.  Before girls even make it to their senior prom they are on Pinterest planning their “big day.”  The wedding ‘industry’ in our country has distracted couples from the real task of preparing for marriage, and instead focused couples’ attention on celebrations that are little more than lavish displays of excess and extravagant examples of self-indulgence.

Is it any wonder that two years after the party has ended, when the reality of a life lived committed to another person becomes challenging, she gets up and just walks away?  Did no one model for her that a healthy marriage is about acknowledging that health requires work?  Did no one tell him that a wife’s job is not to make him happy — he has to work at that himself?  Did no one teach them that good marriages are not without problems, but rather learning to work through them?

I am the first person to say that I have absolutely no desire to go back to those days when people stayed together no matter what!  Far too many husbands and wives missed out on all that God has for them in this life because they were trapped in marriages that lacked the health, joy, and love that should be the fruit of healthy unions.  But why are people today so quick to give up?  And why are people so lazy that they put less time into the planning of their marriages, than they do in the planning of their weddings?

Perhaps the conversation that needs to be had in this country is less about gay marriage, and more about marriage in general!  What is the future of this bedrock relationship?  Why are people so afraid of it?  And is there a way that we in the faith community can do a better job of preparing people for the most important relationship in their lives?

If there is any hope for marriage, this is it!  Its work . . . and sometimes hard work!  In many instances, the work is so hard that couples can NOT do it on their own, and they need professional help.  But in the end — its worth it.  My wife and I know that.  Meryl and Tommy know that.  And many of you know that!

Now, let’s make sure our kids know that!  Because if they don’t, hope doesn’t spring, it dies!

No more unlit candles!

1 08 2012

It was like a museum!  Growing up, our living room was a place reserved for special guests.  Our TV was strategically placed in the family room, beside the hifi; and that was the place where me, my brother, my two sisters, and my parents hung out.  That’s where we ate Jiffy-pop popcorn and watched the miniseries “Roots.”  It’s where my sister laid on the brown shag caret and listened to her Donny Osmond albums.  And it’s where we put our Christmas tree and opened gifts on Christmas morning.

But the living room . . . no one ‘hung out’ in the living . . . ever!  It just wasn’t a ‘hang out’ kinda’ room.  The tables from Ethan Allen had shiny finishes that were easily marked up and required coasters, and the bone china roses from England were breakable and not easily replaced.  The large, red pillar candle was only lit once, when it was first set on the large red candle holder . . . but only then to make it look like it was lit regularly.  But it wasn’t!  And the green, Wedgwood ashtray was never used . . . God forbid there’d be ashes in an ashtray.

Once, in middle school, I invited a bunch of my classmates over to work on a school project, and for some reason, one of them — who I didn’t particularly like —  plopped down in one our living room chairs and put his feet up on our coffee table.  I almost threw him out of our house!

So it shouldn’t be surprisiing that when I got married, I wanted to creeate just such a room in my own home; and much to my wife’s confusion and dismay, that’s what we did.  We created a beautiful . . . museum . . . completely with shiney table and Lenox candy bowls that never had any candy in them.  We bought a camelback sofa that was more uncomfortable than a church pew, and most frustraing to my life partner, we had candles that were NEVER lit.  (We certainly didn’t want to chance them dripping onto the table?)

Well, today, that museum is officially . . . closed.  No longer is there a room in my house that gives the impression that the place in which I live is free of clutter and baggage.  No longer am I interested in giving people the impression that my life is not messy, and that it’s natural and normal to hide my ‘junk’ in closets where it cannot be seen.  No longer am I interested in trying to fool people into thinking that the life I live, is not at all like the life they live, but rather, mine is better, cleaner, neater.

You see, our living room was all about looks!  It was the room where everything had its place and where there was a place for everything.  But I don’t want to live that way any more.  Today I want to live honestly and authentically.  I want to live more spontaneousely, and in ways that invite people to come in, put their feet up, and relax.  I want to live a life that is not there to be admired, but rather embraced.  And I want people to enjoy coming alongside me, and living WITH me, and allowing me to live WITH them.

Perhaps most important, I no longer want to live a faith that is all about pretending, and hiding, and wearing masks that lead people to think that if they just believe and do the right things, their life can become something to be looked at and envied.  Because in the end, I don’t think there really are such lives.  And the ones that I think I’ve seen out there, where people spend all their time and energy pretending . . . they are the ones that I don’t envy at all.  In fact, they are the lives that I most pity!

I’m tired of living in a museum, and I’m weary of not be able to ‘live’ in my living room.  So today it’s all changing.  The  uncomfortable sofa has been replaced by two recliners, and candles will be burning all the time!  Today I have a room that says ‘come on in and have a seat’!  Let’s talk.  Let’s get to know one another, really!  And let’s walk together through this life that is sometimes hard, and often a little messy.

So when you’re out and about, stop by, and we’ll invited you in!  And if you’re not from VA, and ever visit Williamsburg, give us a call, and we’ll invite you over.  I’ll offer you a glass of sweat tea (or a glass of wine if my wife is around!), and look forward to spending some time with you.  I still may be give you a coaster, but we’ll sit together in our living room — that place where we ‘live,’ and together, for just a few moments, life  . . . in all its messiness, will be good.