Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections while reading the novel "Stone Arabia"

Reading this novel by Dana Spiotta is bringing me back to some sort of primal urge I have to blog and "document" my life. The character Nik does this in an extreme manner, creating an imaginary world wherein he is a rock star; his world includes fake album reviews and obsessive fans. The narrator of the book, his sister Denise, lives vicariously through the lives of others, getting lost in celebrity murder / suicides to the point of scouring the Internet trying to recreate the events that led to the tragedy that made the 24 hour news cycle for just about that long. What causes us to connect our lives to these stories, to become emotionally involved with the lives of people we've never met? I don't usually get deeply drawn into lives outside my own, but I did when John Lennon was shot and killed. I felt truly as if I had lost a friend and obsessed over every detail of that night, and the road his killer took toward that violent ending. For days (weeks?) I listened to nothing but Lennon / Beatles music. I'm sure there have been instances since then when I took a little too much interest in the life of some celebrity, but that is the example that allows me to understand the feelings when I see someone else go through that.

The novel explains this tendency as our attempt to escape our own subjectivity, to "give us a glimpse of ourselves connected with every human". That sounds like what draws me to wanting to blog, to connect to others in a way that affirms our own existence. Except that I feel that I rarely have anything interesting to say! I read other blogs, with their ability to tie random, seemingly innocuous observations into some greater truth. I envy that. It's the same ability that a good photographer has to capture the essence of a moment, or the simple beauty of nature in a way that speaks to all of us.

I've always thought of myself as a good writer, but I lack the creative spark to be able to turn these mundane moments into "art". I keep hoping I will be struck by inspiration. Part of my problem (or my excuse anyway) is that I am so busy with my job and my responsibilities, that any creative impulses I have are drowned out. I've been off work now for 7 days and I suddenly felt the desire to relate what I was reading into this blog, so maybe there is something to that?

For those of you who blog, how do you make the leap from the mundane to something universal?   Does it come naturally?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Stewardship Journey

I wrote this for inclusion in a Thanksgiving devotional our church is planning to distribute in November.  Since I haven't written a blog in forever, I decided to post it here as well.  Let me know what you think.

I didn't become a Christian until I was 30.   Before that, whenever I went to church, I was hyper-sensitive to any talk of money.   If you had asked me at that time, I would have agreed with the common perception that churches talked about money too much.

When I did join the church, I was happy to accept all the gifts that church could bestow on me; nice sanctuary, new classroom, beautiful gym for my son to play ball and roller skate in, etc.  As a token of my appreciation for these provisions, I agreed to be a "regular giver."  However, the amount I was "regularly giving" was not very much, certainly nothing near a tithe.  Part of me would still cringe whenever that passage about the "cheerful giver" was read aloud.  I continued to attend for years, but after the initial excitement of finding Jesus, I have to admit my spiritual growth became stunted, as did my attitude towards giving.

Then I discovered the Disciple Bible Study program.  Disciple I is a 35 week high level study of the entire Bible.  More than that, it is a transformational experience that promotes spiritual growth through daily Bible readings and in depth discussions with other Christians who are trying to deepen their faith.  I always think of Romans 12:2 where Paul instructs us to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind".  This is what it took for me to begin to understand what Christ is calling us to do.  He wants us to give all of ourselves, to hold nothing back, to "offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1).

So at this point, I knew what was expected of me.  However, I did not become a cheerful giver, much less an extravagant giver, overnight.  I wish I could say there was one moment, one sermon or one Bible verse that turned me around.  But just as my faith journey did not include a "road to Damascus moment" so too did my stewardship journey take time for me to internalize the head knowledge I had gained into a heartfelt understanding.  Continued involvement in Disciple, Sunday School classes, sermons,  service projects and personal Bible reading and prayer finally helped me to recognize all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, but more importantly, I learned that being a Christian isn't about taking, it's about giving.  It's about sacrifice.  It's about taking the salvation message of Christ into the world.

I am happy and honored and blessed to be able to do my part.  Christian stewardship isn't an obligation, it's a privilege!  Thank God for trusting me to use the money, talent and time he has given me in order to help others and to reach others with the love and joy of Christ Jesus!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My dad, Keith Lohmuller

My first blog was about my dad.  I haven't written one since July of last year, so it is fitting that this blog be about him also.
My dad died in February. He lived 19 months with esophageal cancer. He maintained a positive outlook through the entire time, and we were blessed that he never really suffered much pain. Over time, he slowly lost any ability to swallow, and that produced complications along the way. He had trouble sleeping during his last months, and he spent 3 months getting all his nutrition from his feeding tube. He slowly became weaker, but he continued to play bridge at the bridge club, up until about 10 days before he died. He went into the hospital with pneumonia on Feb 1st, and got out in time to watch the Super Bowl at home. Jeff (my brother) and he had a Sunday tradition of watching football together. I joined them a few times in the past year, and on that last Sunday, both Kathy and I made it over to watch the game with him. We had high hopes that he would be in better health after the hospital stay. He had a stent put in his esophagus, and he was actually able to swallow some liquids and soft food. When we brought him home, we stopped at a McDonalds and got him a mocha frappe, which he loved and used to buy every day before he was unable to swallow. The day he died he actually had cheesecake and coffee for breakfast! Unfortunately, he continued to have difficulty breathing after he got home. We hoped that would improve, but Lisa(my sister) took him to the doctor on Wednesday and the doctor was so alarmed he sent him immediately to his oncologist. Dr D, as we called him (Dubovsky) recognized that he was end stage. Earlier, Dr D had told us that Dad had blown past the bell curve of expected survival rate for the type and stage of his cancer at diagnosis. Recognizing that we were near the end, I called and wrote friends and family and asked them to come visit soon if they wanted to see him. My intention was to celebrate his life while he was still around to participate in it. On the Friday he died, I called hospice, hoping that a portable oxygen tank would help him regain some strength and energy. I did not expect and was not mentally prepared for him to die just yet, I figured we still had several weeks left. But that was not the case, and he died peacefully about 11pm that night, with Jeff and Lisa by his side. His last conscious activity was to watch his beloved Jeopardy with Jeff and Lisa and Jeff reports that Dad still got more correct answers (or questions, actually)than either of them!

Since his death, I have been blessed to hear many tributes to the man that he was. When I called lifelong friends, they gushed over things he had done for them and with them. I called a boyhood friend in CA, and we talked about some of the mischief they had gotten into. I told him that Dad had always "blamed" him for being the instigator, and he agreed. Several of his coworkers from NCR have written tributes to him. All have talked about his generous personality, his compassion, his intelligence and keen sense of humor.  One letter called him a pioneer of the computer age, and talked about how he helped many companies move from mechanical accounting to the computer age.  Others have talked about how he helped them move forward in their careers, but also mentioned how much fun they had over their lives with he and Mom.  It's been such a blessing to hear about the lives he has touched and to know that he had such a positive influence on so many lives.  He also leaves a beautiful legacy in the lives of his children and grandchildren.  The tribute that touched me the most was written by my daughter, Rebecca.  I can't describe it, you have to read it. I will post it in a subsequent blog.  If you want to know who my dad was, take a minute and read it.

I am sorry to  run on so long.  I have probably violated all the rules about blog length!  I originally intended to write this about the struggles I have gone through since his death, but instead the blog wrote itself and turned into a tribute to Dad.  God had other plans!

Grandad Keith Memoir

I promised in my last blog that I would post this tribute from Rebecca to her Grandad Keith.  She wrote this the day after he died and we had it framed at his visitation.  Please take a minute to read it.

For my Grandad Keith:

It’s hard to sum my Grandad Keith up in any one word or category. He represents so many things in my mind. I have always considered him a man of refined taste—I picture him alongside nice restaurants with black napkins, fancy wines that I can’t pronounce, and classic Bloody Marys—almost a James Bond (he looks so handsome in the old pictures). He was also a philosopher; no conversation could remain surface level with him—he always expressed deep conceptions behind every notion—everything he believed had been pondered through and through. I can’t remember ever leaving a discussion with Grandad without feeling thoroughly outmatched and feeling like I had learned so much. But he never belittled anyone. I respect his wealth of knowledge greatly. He was also a historian in his own way--he remembered so many stories from his own life, from my dad and his siblings’ lives, from my life, about Nana…so many great intriguing stories from a life well-lived. His memoirs are fascinating and amazingly detailed. And he was a historian of things outside his own life as well—TV shows, movies, sports, books, politicians. No conversation with Grandad would be complete without a quote or story from a TV show, book, movie, or distinguished person.

But despite all these other things, Grandad has always defined love and sensitivity for me as well. The love he and Nana shared could inspire any great playwright. In one glance at Nana or even Nana’s picture, Grandad demonstrated more love than many feel in their entire lives. And this extended to Grandad’s kids and grandkids. He loved so deeply and fully and was not afraid to say it—joyfully or tearfully but always sincerely. From the way he answered the phone when I called or said my name to others I could always tell that I was precious to him and that he was so proud. And I have always so admired how well he preserves connections and friendships with others. So many people in this world let friendships fade or destroy relationships over small things, but Grandad always treasured every person in his life continually no matter what choice they made or what situation changed. So many of my memories of Grandad are not about events or places but are about people and family moments—heartfelt dinner conversations at Thanksgiving or Christmas, long quiet breakfasts of coffee cake with him and Nana, long casual chats in the sunroom over appetizers, playing games in the pool or the hot-tub or on the rope-swing, reading books in Lisa’s old bedroom…. In all these different places I can picture his smile, hear his laugh, and see his love-filled eyes. He will be sorely missed, but my life will forever be different because of the love he shared with me during his life.

With prayers and respect and so much love,

Rebecca Elise Wright, granddaughter of Grandad Keith