Lifestyle

FAITHFUL LIVING: Time to spring clean faith

“Died at the age of 71, following a short illness.”

It is a line I see, with some variations, often. But this time it describes the death of a man in the community where I grew up. He was an engineer, a husband and the father of a classmate. He and his family lived one block over from my childhood home, and I remember his gracious, quiet manner with fondness.

His wife of many years passed away some months ago with no warning, and I understand he could not find his way without her. His children struggled with their own grief as well as his. So when I opened the back home letter this week, the newspaper obituary tucked inside did not come as a complete surprise.

A much larger reality did cause me to sit down for a minute: articles and clippings, graciously cut out and mailed by family and friends, have changed throughout the years.

During my college days letters were filled with clippings detailing college graduation notices, engagement announcements, and wedding nuptials. In my 20s and 30s I read about endless numbers of new babies. Some moved to new communities; many established themselves in careers, bought homes and creatively built on their dreams. I was frequently surprised and delighted by the stories of old friends and their adventures.

Now, as I parent my teenagers, seek ways to exercise without aggravating my slightly arthritic knee, and venture toward my mid-40s, the news clippings grow more serious. I am sobered all too often as I hold obituaries of old teachers, family and childhood friends in my hands. Retirement dinners and scaled-down homes are a big topic. So is news of child-rearing challenges, home-town growth management, illness and divorce.

Bright beginnings have given way to the nitty-gritty of life and a voice deep inside me urges me to think deep and advanced: Now is the time to dig in, to work hard, persevere, give it my very best--every day and in every way. It is time to stand bolstered against the tide that pulls some under. It is time to be rooted in faith as never before.

It is also prime time to clean out the unnecessary, to start the spring season organized and resolved. Ask yourself, What shape is my faith in? How might I work as a faith-filled individual during the next few months when the days are long and the situations occasionally complicated? What goals do I have and what steps have I outlined for myself toward meeting those goals?

For most of us the requests are now rolling in. Boards and committees are in high gear. Volunteer positions and opportunities abound. The world is full of needs. Where do you fit in? Have you identified your gifts and asked God to send you to places where they can be used? Is your faith strong enough to serve others or is it time to bolster your own spirituality by allowing others to serve you?

One of the most intriguing activities I have ever participated in involved writing my own obituary. I wrote the first one as a teenager and the second this January as I read my grandmother’s. I resolved that mine would be as noble. When I first learned of the concept, it made me laugh as I recall. I was young and uncomfortable with the thought of dying. I had never contemplated my own mortality or the idea that this life here on earth is just one aspect of an eternal life I can experience. I recall not taking into account my spirituality at first, focusing instead on the facts of how I died and how old I might be.

Writing your own obituary is much more than thinking about death. It is, in fact, not bout death at all. It is about life and passionate pursuit, hopes and dreams, disappointments and glorious overcomings. It speaks to the fundamental you: What kind of person do you want to be? What will gain your attention, your energy, your resources? What things energize and define you? How do you want to be brave? What makes you weep? What sets you into deep resolve and purposeful living?

Once you have outlined what you value most, balance this insight against your plans for spring. Is all your running around helping you meet your goals? Are you saying yes but exhausting yourself and never reaching the levels you envision for yourself? What role does faith play in your life? How is God using you? Through this exercise, can you detect God voice?

Most of all, are your activities going to have any eternal significance for you, your family and your friends?

Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jbklope@hotmail.com

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