Sunday, January 29, 2023

Good Idea, Once Upon a Time

The final portion of the house tour was viewing the partially finished basement. Upon entering a room with finished walls and an uncovered concrete floor, the console television, turntable, and AM-FM stereo radio combination captured my attention. The person giving the tour of the parsonage stated that the unit has not worked for years. Due to it being a gift from a family in memory of a loved one, no one dared to dispose of it. The tour occurred in 1981. I wonder if the unit is still in the basement?

Memorials, those gifts given to organizations in order to secure a loved ones name will be recorded somewhere. While I could not find the origins of memorial gifts on an internet search, I decided to seek another source. A mortician friend reinforced my suspicion that memorials began as a way to assist a family during the transition following a death. Maybe the monies helped pay for the funeral expenses? Maybe the cash provided a small cushion for the family if the deceased was the primary income provider? This was a practical and helpful gesture necessary to care for others in a concrete way. 

During the Annual Meeting at Hillsboro United Parish, I wondered about the longevity of the Memorial Committee. Fewer funerals are conducted in the church. The nature of ceremonies at the end of life are changing. These insights were shared with the aforementioned funeral director. I was told that the idea of memorials continues to haunt families. Once discussion of a service or gathering begins there comes a time when the family asks, "What about memorials?" It is now an expectation that monetary gifts are a part of

death rituals. Looking at various obituaries many included the phrases, "in lieu of flowers" or "memorials can be given to." It appears that what was once a expression of kindness and support has turned into an expectation. One obituary stated that memorials could be designated to the church's elevator fund. My thoughts are if an organization believes something is important enough to have or maintain, why is there an ongoing fund? Is a brass name plate going to be placed in or near the elevator recognizing the deceased? 

As in many things, what was once a good idea has served its purpose. Most people no longer need help with funeral expenses. Other societal safety nets assist with maintaining income during a transition period. I believe there are many needs in our society. I am not opposed to providing financial support to organizations I find meaningful. I also choose not to wait for someone to die in order to make a contribution. The beverage

services which can still be found in many congregations rarely get used. Weddings and anniversaries are held in other venues. Being served by someone else is rare in a self-service society. Many people bring their own beverages to various events. No one tells the story of the person whose name may adorn the platter, if anyone even remembers that person. Yet like the behemoth piece of entertainment furniture in the parsonage basement it cannot be discarded because of an unknown memory associated with it.

I would appreciate your insights and feedback on this topic. You can leave comments on this site. Or go back to the Facebook page and add a comment. 

I will be taking a couple of weeks away from blogging. I plan to post again on February 26th.Thank you for reading and responding!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

By the Numbers

Since the beginning of the month I have been surrounded by numbers. Everything from fitness, to tax forms, to gas prices, to lottery jackpots dot the landscape of my days. What is out culture's obsession with numbers? Are they meant for guidance or for definition? Do numbers imprison us, free us or both? Or am I experiencing the creeping senility of aging? Maybe I am becoming more like Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in the movie Gran Torino, muttering and scowling, "Get off my lawn!"

There is no consistency in the interpretation of numbers. Gas prices are to be low. Income is to be high. Interest rates are to be both low and high depending if a person is purchasing or investing. Clothing sizes are never consistent, yet we are told that smaller is better. Additional the numbers attributed to sizes vary from country to country. My European Union shoe size ranges from 47 to 48.5.If I was buying the same shoes in Japan it is 31.5 to 32.5. Who comes up with all of these numbers? We are labeled "successful" if numbers reflecting are income are high. Low income numbers come with labels of "uneducated" or "lazy". We want high numbers in the scores of sporting events or they become "boring". What is our obsession with numbers? Do they objectively measure aspects of our lives? My sense is numbers are manipulated to benefit our facade of self. They are used as a reflection of our status. They are equally used as a reflection of our superiority over others. 

The author and poet, Donna Ashworth wrote, "Friendship Is Not A Numbers Game"                                                                                                           You can have one friend-one single friend-whose support is so fierce, that you feel like there is an army behind you. And yet you can have umpteen other friends whose allegiance you are not entirely sure of. You can meet a friend tomorrow who rocks into your life, rolls up and says, "I am here for you." And they actually , truly are. Yet you can have friends you've known and loved for years and years, who can't show up even for the best of times, never mind the worst. If you're really lucky, you can have a few of each, but one is all you really need. Friendship is not a numbers game, it's a game of instinct-trust yours.

I need to trust my instinct more often. Yes, I need to deal with W2s and 1099s and submit my taxes. I believe it is important to pay for the many great services and benefits which I receive daily. I believe it is important to support others by contributing to the general well-being of society, also. But the numbers which serve to measure my foot size, my waist, my retirement funds; the numbers generated by my fitness tracker to achieve a check mark next to step count or the numbers indicating the street I traveled most often in 2022 are of no substance or value unless I choose to provide it. My instinct tells me I have value beyond numbers. I have value in being me, however that is displayed each day. 

The New Testament book of Luke, chapter 12 sums what I am trying to express well, "Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing...which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to life...if God clothes the grass which is alive one day and dead the next, how much more will God clothe you"

Trust your gut. Trust that it is not numbers which define, but our choices to engage in life every day!

Sunday, January 1, 2023


Ancient in Rome
I am beginning another trip around the sun. For all of the orbits I have previously made nothing looks familiar. It is either that I was not paying attention the other times or every annual journey is unique. One of my daughters told me that I will soon carry the moniker of "ancient." Someone nearing ancient status should have life figured out and be going through thoughtless motions. In other words, I should be coasting while enjoying the good life!

Winter night near a river
I am enjoying life! However, I choose not to mindlessly go through the motions of living. Also, I have no desire to
make resolutions in the vain attempt to move closer to perfection. Each day will be embraced for its own beauty and uniqueness. Maybe that is the reason for this orbit not making me think, "I have been here before." I am open to discoveries and surprises as I move ever closer to "ancient."

A person I follow on Instagram, shared the following poem/writing by Donna Ashworth. I encourage you to read and ponder other poems available on her website. This writing struck me as fitting as I set out to circumnavigate the sun once again.  ENJOY & EMBRACE 2023!   

Why do we start a new year, with promises to improve? Who began this tradition of never-ending pressure? I say, the end of the year, should be filled with congratulations, for we all survived. And I say a new year should start with promises to be kinder to ourselves, to understand better just how much we bear, as humans on this exhausting treadmill of life. And if we are to promise more, let's pledge to rest, before our bodies force us. Let's pledge to stop, drink in life as it happens. Let's pledge to strip away a layer of perfection to reveal the flawed and wondrous humanity we truly are inside. Why start another year, gifted to us on this earth with demands on our already over-strained humanity? When we could be learning to accept, that we were always supposed to be imperfect. And that is where the beauty lies, actually. And if we can only find that beauty, we would also find peace. I wish you peace in 2023. Everything else is all just a part of it. Let it be so.