My Blog: Good Decisions

I was in a room listening to physicians talk about intensive care and how timelines were important to patient care and to providing health care. Patients get better when they’re treated. Or they don’t.

If they get better, doctors know why. And the same is true if patients don’t get better. If certain things were going to happen, like recovery, then they would have happened.

The importance of recognizing that trend along with all the other information available is freeing. It can free you to choose well. It can enable a person to have a good death and a good life in the sense that there’s life to live after the next decision.


You don’t have an income or a bedroom that belongs to you.  You don’t have clothes that haven’t been given to you.  So, beautiful son of ours, remember to be thankful because your entire life is still so early and so young that it’s all a gift.

Walking into your room, which I still say is my home office, you are surrounded by gifts, things given, including the words painted on your walls which were done by Auntie Sheila and Uncle Alan.  When you’re able to read those words, they too will remind you that you come from some where, that your life was given to you and given to us.

Everything around you, unearned by you and really unearned by us, is a bold or implicit sign to be grateful.

Name the Reality

One casualty of that frantic schedule has been the Christian practice of prayer before meals, a practice often referred to, appropriately, as “giving thanks” or “saying grace.”  Christian parents honor the vows they make at their children’s baptisms to nurture their children in Christian faith in a variety of ways.  Some try to teach their children, with at best mixed results, how they should understand themselves and their world.  But whether they recognize it or not, all parents teach their children by how they themselves live.  Surely one of the most important things Christians do is teach their children to name the reality of God’s grace in their daily lives and to express gratitude for that grace and for their life before God by praying before meals.  It is one thing for a child to grow up in a Christian home and church in which the language of Christian faith may occasionally be heard.  It is something else altogether for a child to hear and learn how to speak not just about Christian faith, but the language of faith, the language of God’s grace in reference to the realities and events of their daily lives.

From George Stroup’s Before God (pgs. 160-161), a solid book that’s hardly about parenting and very much about parenting

Do This Sometime This Week

I’ve had wonderful experiences expressing gratitude to the writers I read.  I’m surprised by their reactions to my thanksgiving.  Until I remember that writers and communicators are people too.  Their words come from deep, unseen places.  Their stories and anecdotes, their lessons and characters come out of things we often can’t see on the page.  And what they do matters.  Have you thought about that, how much writing matters?

It’s definitely and a nod to the importance of reading.  But words have to be printed for them to be picked up.  They have to be written to be read.  And I love what writers do.  Aside from my obvious connection as a writer and aspirant of related futures, it’s wonderful to read something life-giving.  Still, that’s not the most sparkling event of my experience.

Communicating, even just a line or two in an email, with a writer is that much more exhilarating.  It brings me back to the humanity of the writer.  It helps me recall that this person–whose words have created a world for me to sit in and walk in and breathe in–goes to the grocery store to pick up yogurt and broccoli and plums.  She goes to restroom and leaves it stinking.  He shaves and has hair to clean out of the sink.  That writer reads emails from people like me.  That writer needs to know that what she did or what he wrote wasn’t published without an impact.

So I want to challenge you to do something in the next week.  If you’ve read an article, a blog post, a book, an essay, or something written that doesn’t fall into those categories, will you write a note to the author and send it?

Thank them.  Tell them what you read and when you read it.  Tell them anything you want.

I was at a conference once, in a breakout session with a novelist I attribute as responsible for my starting to desire to write fiction.  One of the women in the room told her that she saw her at some random place in the neighborhood, which made me feel weird.  The author was gracious.

That said, don’t find them in person.  Just write them and email them.  You’ll likely have to search for them through Google, but the odds are in your favor.  They may or may not reply, but I’m certain they’ll appreciate it.  And who knows, they may just respond right after they get home from the grocery store or, perhaps, after the come from the restroom.

For those of you who have an author you can’t email–perhaps they’re dead or reclusive–post something as a comment.  Name them and their work.  I’d love to know about them.

Before They Leave Us

We should start eulogizing those who mean the most to us before they leave us.

Michael Smith said this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.  It holds loads of material, this quote, for how we live, doesn’t it?

As a pastor, I’ve conducted a lot of funerals, not as many of some of my friends, but enough.  And every funeral has the same quality.  At some point during or after the service, perhaps leading up to the memorial when loved ones are most open and fragile and honest, I’ll hear somebody tell the family or the crowd something along the lines of “Let’s not let this be the only time we come together.”  Or “We should talk more.”  Or “I didn’t know that about him, what you said.”  Or “I wish I could have said this one thing to…”

It dawns on me every time I participate in the ritual of death–be it at a funeral or, oddly, when I wrestle to fall asleep at night–that at death, for some amount of time at least, words are silenced.  Gratitude as we understand it can no longer be expressed.  Praise is said but goes unheard by the one about whom we speak.

Have you ever thought about the fragility of the moment that is death?  Writers may live close to that fragility, artists and pastors too.  But there is a healthy reminder in fragility or in, simply, change.  Seeing a loved one, once strong, lean under the slow and heavy hand of age.  Cleaning up a relative’s work space, boxing up his things, after he’s left it there.  Fainting when nothing like fainting was expected because who faints for anything other than some bad reason.  Listening to your kid babble in now semi-understandable words when, just moments ago, he couldn’t even roll over in a crib.  Turning away from a person who has just said goodbye.

I think a sensitivity to endings changes how you look at life.  Endings, like death, change how we live life because, well, we just won’t live forever.  Sometimes that alone is a reason to linger.  In a conversation, over somebody’s house, perhaps even in the congestion of rush hour trying to make it home.  Sometimes that is a reason to say something that a person can hear, write something they can read, draw a picture they can stick on a wall, or snatch his or her attention in some way before they leave us.