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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Matters

It so happens that I attended two memorial services recently for women who exemplify for me what it means to live a meaningful life. Neither of them was famous. Neither of them guided international gatherings or led large organizations. They simply participated -- participated in life through the gifts they were blessed with, journeying through the dailiness of their lives.

They were gracious, generous, invested in making life better for others by volunteering, by serving the society around them, and one by serving her country during World War II. Their beautiful spirits were recognized by the many whose lives were touched by them in healing and loving ways. They knew what mattered and how to stay focused on those journeys of self-giving and self-growing. Loss and heartbreak were familiar companions for them, and these were their means of understanding the pain that others experienced.

The service for one of them included excerpts from Michael Josephson's poem "Live a Life that Matters." I offer some of those lines that describe the lives of these two women, as they lived lives that mattered:
"What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.'

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Lately I have been seeking to define my time better. As I find days available for me to attend to my different projects, I end up wandering from one thing to another: time with my latest carving project, time working on my book about children of WWII, time spent emailing friends and reading news . . . and on and on. Then I realize the day is nearly spent and what have I done?

My old struggle between focusing on less, with greater intensity, and responding to the calling of and responding to great needs in the world around me continues. Part of today's Call to Worship contained excerpts from Paul's comment in I Corinthians about the diversity of gifts and services: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed: there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates them in everyone." This statement carried a new meaning for me as I heard them during the responsive call: that God recognizes we are gifted differently in terms of what we are able to contribute.

The passage includes examples of gifts and services, and I believe Paul is affirming that we do have gifts of abilities to offer, but what I struggle with is the point that I don't have to show forth ALL of these listed. If we each have talents and skills, then collectively we can work for the coming of God's reign of peace and justice and health and wholeness for all creation. But we are not individually responsible for doing it all.

I believe also that we can exercise our gifts in different ways at different times in our lives. Now in my mid-70's, I should feel that I can let go of some activities in order to acquire proficiency in others -- others which are still contributive to a better world. In reading Sue Monk Kidd's book written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, Traveling with Pomegranates, I find many of the same struggles of what to do with one's gifts, and which gifts are adequate and fitting. Do I work with my gift and desire for writing, and also my carving, and accept them as being sufficient unto the day, rather than try to attend every meeting of every cause, carrying banners of justice and peace for every issue that arises in our culture?

I think the answer is obvious. The question, however, is more soul-stretching. Can I trust life, trust God, enough to let go of trying to do it all? This is the calling for which I must answer in my life at this time. We shall see how the journey goes.