Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Empty Chair

the_empty_chair_91605860_2-2The empty chair has always been a “concept” for someone else… until this year.

Since June 6, when dad left us so suddenly, we have had an empty chair.

The first place I noticed it was walking into his house and seeing the place on the couch where he sat all the time. The blanket I made him last Christmas, draped over the back with no one to warm. It was startling and it took my breath away…and I turned my face so that I wouldn’t have to acknowledge the pain.

A few days later he wasn’t sitting next to my mother-in-law in church. She was there but he wasn’t. I pushed through the emptiness to encourage and lift her up and I turned off the pain so that I could be strong for those around me.

He wasn’t in the driver’s seat of his new car, a car that he never got to drive. I remember him in his old car, teaching my daughter how to drive. I see him in his van hurling down I65 as the rest of us hold our breath in fear. I see him in the ugly brown Pinto he used to drive. But not anymore.

He is not in my kitchen, he isn’t sitting on my couch, I can’t see him on my patio or in my pool or at any birthday celebration we’ve had since June; not at Emily’s or mine or Wesley’s or even his own. He wasn’t there. But I turned away and felt all the business of life and the attended to all the stresses on my plate because that was safer.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m afraid that I can’t turn away anymore.

There is an empty chair and it is his.

My tears fall with no end.

My tears fall for all the little things that won’t. Seeing him carry in a crazy amount of boxes filled with goodies, taking his coat, giving him a long hug, hearing him say “Happy Thanksgiving.” My tears fall because no one will be crowding me at the stove or asking “am I in your way?” or giving my dad that look that says, “I got her!”

Every day since June 6 has been a first. The first June 7 without him, the first June 8, the first June 9…etc… Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving.

Not once through his battle did he ever curse God. He wouldn’t even allow me to complain or express my feelings that God was being unfair without reminding me that God was good.

My reading today was from

Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

These words describe dad’s outlook and his countenance. He would always tell me that I shouldn’t be consumed with the current circumstances but to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

It’s not going to be easy this year.

I can’t turn away from this emptiness any longer. It will be impossible to not see his empty chair. It’s real. We are here, he is not.

Fighting against being consumed sounds almost too hard.

It is ok to let the tears fall, they must, right?

I will walk through tomorrow with my heart aching because I miss dad. I’m praying my eyes will be open though as well. Open to God’s great love and compassion. Open to the people who are still coming and praying they will crowd me in my kitchen, for dad’s sake.

The empty chair is no longer just an analogy, it is very real. It hurts.

Dad would tell me, “Life is hard…but God is good.”

Sometimes, that’s all you have.

 

Peace vs Frantic this Holiday Season

Phill4My turkey is already thawing in my fridge, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Ready or not, the holiday season is coming and with it comes all the expectations, traditions, and general busyness that is wrapped up in the season.  The music, the food, the togetherness, the shopping, the concerts, Elf on a shelf insanity, Santa, etc…

Do these things come as welcome interruptions to our normal lives or as intrusions? Or do they fall somewhere in between?

I am generally a calm and peace loving person by nature, that is my role: the peacemaker. I go out of my way to avoid conflict when it is at all possible: it’s a sickness.

However, there is something about the holidays that brings out a side in me that is not something you would brag about in a Christmas letter. I have a lot of expectations for the holidays, they need to be special and inviting, include the many traditions that are important to me, include the foods that I have deemed “right,” include fast moving compitent cashiers and free delivery. I know that the song says “the streetlights blink bright red and green,” however, I’m really only interested in the green ones, the red ones are for the rest of you.

I become incredibly opinionated during this “most wonderful time of the year.” I’m easily offended. I tend to sped my precious girlfriend time to sit and chat about how disappointed I was or outraged I had become or shocked I am…

The complaining can go on and on and it doesn’t stop when I’m alone. Sometimes the most avid listener to my complaining is myself. I can reck havoc on someone’s character and worth inside my own mind for the benefit of making myself feel better or simply enjoying a good rant.

I think it has to do with the fact that I fear disappointment during this season. I want the magic and the mystery and the “Ah-ha” factor. I work so hard at engineering the holidays that when someone disagrees with me or simply has another opinion or heaven forbid slows me down in this quest, watch out!

I’ve discovered that becoming offended, angry or frantic during the holidays and just in general, is a choice. Crazy is not inevitable. It may feel like the season is out of control but I certainly don’t have to be.

This year, I’m choosing not to be offended, not to get angry, not to be frantic. I’m choosing to put others needs in front of my own. I am choosing to refocus how I view stress, people, and expectations. Why? Because that is where peace hides and I want peace in my life. I don’t just want to talk about how I want a more peaceful life, I’m going to choose to be intentional about it.

Philippians 4:5-7 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I need God to guard my heart and my mind this season. Friends, don’t lose sight of the fact that God will help you through this season. He can teach you gentleness. He will bring you joy. He will give you peace that transcends all understanding but you need to ask him.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This Christmas song is a beautiful reminder of how we can effect the world around us, God helping us.

Media Warning: The danger of listening to yourself

mediaI’ve been fascinated by the media coverage of the election for the last year and a half. As a communications professional and a self proclaimed student of politics, I’ve never seen or heard anything like the coverage that has been provided in America this year.

Journalism used to be held to a standard of objectivity, fairness and a pursuit of the truth. These standards have always been a difficult pursuit and with the advent of cable news and talk radio the quest has become even more difficult. However, what I saw this year was a complete and absolute abandonment of ethical journalism.

In it’s place, journalists forgot that their most valuable tool, their job, was to listen closely to everyone and they replaced it with a narcissistic infatuation of listening to themselves.

Harsh? I suppose it might be. However, I think as Americans, we can demand and should expect better from the media. If there is only one positive outcome from this election, I hope it is that the journalism profession takes the time to examine themselves and fix the issues that have allowed them to stray so far from their professional expectations.

Last night as I watched election coverage, I was amused to see looks of surprise on the faces of journalists who were stunned by the outcome they were being required to report. Phrases such as “unprecedented victory,” “shocking turn of events,” “we never saw this coming,” and “complete shock,” were uttered over and over again. “How did we get this so wrong?” was asked countless times.

You stopped listening. You stopped reporting and you got caught up in editorializing and that is why you are so dumbfounded.

Over the months of the campaign, it was shocking to me that to so many media outlets including radio, television and internet news forums seemed to band together to produce what I would term, “hit pieces” and disguise them as objective reporting. Radio DJ’s, internet reporters, and television news journalists alike created and sustained a media culture of distain, moral superiority and condescending discord. It was a steady diet that was served day in and day out.

In the process of hearing themselves talk and being ever more impressed with themselves, the noise they created halted their ability to listen to the American people. They sought out only those who looked and sounded and believed like they did and completely refused to recognize that there might be another perspective to consider. They closed their eyes to half of the American people and rendered them silent. Until last night.

The polls got it dead wrong. This Trump victory was not a narrow win. It was decisive. How was that not heard or seen or recognized? Am I to believe that there weren’t even rumblings of what was going to happen? That this was impossible to predict?

I don’t believe that. I believe you stopped doing your jobs. I believe you got so mesmerized by your own reflection, you refused to recognize that you weren’t the only ones in the room. Febreze coined the term, “nose blind” and I think it’s a perfect description of what happened to the media.

It’s despicable.

It’s malpractice.

It needs to change.

Journalists need to do better. I hope that as the whirlwind of excitement and disbelief over the results of this election dissipates, the media take a long hard look at themselves. I hope they rightly criticize and evaluate where they went wrong.

Take a look in the mirror and see how badly you have served our country.

Start reporting what you see and hear. Listen to everyone, not just the people who look like you or think like you. Stop trying to influence people’s opinions and instead, start informing the American people so that they can form their own opinions.

Whether you voted for Trump or for Clinton, please be outraged. From the primary elections to November 8 this media has failed you. You were either told you were in the clear majority, and you weren’t; or you were in the inferior minority and you weren’t. How can we begin to come together and understand each other if the media is refuses to represent us equally.

We need to listen to each other better.

The media needs to help us do that.

This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue.

This is an American issue.