Monday, August 8, 2016

Bob's Birthday - sharing his words...

The photo entitled, "Yers Trooly," his pen name for the blog.
August 9 is Bob's birthday.  He would have been 62 and probably would have been grumpy about it.  He did not like birthdays and did not like growing older.  The worst memory of a birthday with him was when he turned 50 years old, we were camping, and I had the nerve to invite some people that we knew to have birthday cake with us. He was not happy about that!  As I approach 50, I can see a bit of what he meant!

I have to admit that I've been missing him more lately.  [And please know that I can say that without it having any reflection of my marriage to Michael or my love for Michael.  I love Michael dearly, but just as many of you miss parents or siblings or friends who have passed, I miss Bob for the many different roles he had in my life.]  If you are new to this blog, I was married to Bob for 19 years, raised two children with him (to the ages of 15 and almost 17), and served in ministry together for nine years.  He died very suddenly in 2010, while we were living and working in Ghana, West Africa.  He started writing the blog when we moved to Liberia in 2005 (he started with and was a great writer.  Many of you can attest to that.  But even beyond writing, he was a great thinker and a wise man.  So to celebrate his birthday (and in some defiance to his wishes which may have now changed since he has crossed over to heaven and hopefully realizes that birthdays are a celebration of life, NOT an acknowledgement of age and demise!), I want to share some words that he wrote ten months before he died:

With his favorite pet in Liberia, a pangolin.
After living for 54 years, and paying attention for 40, I find myself tired and occasionally angry, a victim of sorts to an ironic paradox.  40 years ago—or more precisely 39 years ago—I set out on a quest.  Terrified by my own morality, of the thought that this incredible thing called life would end, I sought  the truth—wherever I found it.  I was particularly interested in the unseen truths. I wondered: was there a god, an afterlife, consciousness after death?  But really, any truth would help, I assumed, as I journeyed.   I hungered and thirsted for it.
After 40 years here are a few observations that have proven themselves worthy of being called true. 
·         Non attachment is the wise course through life. Attachment leads to loss of awareness and disconnect from self.

·         Quietness with patience is wise.  Quietness with patience clarifies and allows truth to emerge.
·         Distraction from being centered within ourselves is the great evil.  Being centered fosters patience, distraction leads to loss of self.
·         Truth is found in many places, but it is always found in beauty. 
·         Non attachment, patience, quietness and centeredness are great principles, spanning thousands of years across civilizations and religious traditions.
·         There is a Truth that especially honors patience, quietness and non attachment.
·         This Truth seems to be conscious and interactive.  I call it God.
·         The Christ event (Jesus of Nazareth’s life and resurrection from death) actually happened and is the central event in human history.

Bob and Noah
The irony or paradox is this: for years I’ve aligned myself with a religion that—in its American expression— often distracts me from my pursuit of truth.  American culture is not patient, centered, unattached or quiet, and these characteristics have permeated and saturated American Christianity.  My observation is that American Christians are quick to speak, reactive not reflective, noisy, slow to listen and seem thoroughly distracted by social and cultural activities.   And I find myself frustrated because I feel like I’ve joined a club of distracted, busy people, fully attached to the trappings of the surrounding culture, casually convinced that all is well.   And then I become distracted by my own observations, and then I become judgmental, and at that point my own pursuit of quietness and non-attachment gets derailed. 

What did Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish?  Was it not to simply restore us to fellowship with the Father? And once restored, how are we to live our lives?  Is it not at least to allow us to remain connected to spiritual principles that have remained constant across cultures and millennia?

For 10,000 years-- 99.9% of our time here-- we lived close to the earth, close to the beautiful, painful reality of the natural world around us. For 10,000 years, we lived as part of the creation and in small communities.  Our tasks were basic, in front of us, and simple.  Within just the last few hundred years, that “close to the earth” way of life changed profoundly, first for thousands, then millions, eventually for billions of us.  And for billions of others, still living close to the earth, many seek to live in the distracting, options-laden world spawned by the great Industrial and technological revolutions.   

Could it be that humans are not spiritually equipped for this high tech, options-laden life – separated from the earth, from the creation?  Could it be that we do not function as well with the distractions and choices of wealth and access?  Could it be that we are in over our heads?  How will we be able to find truth in the cacophony, without access to simplicity and natural beauty? 

And by the way, how do we fight for justice while remaining quiet and centered?
He closed this writing by asking people for their thoughts on the subject.  How I'd love to hear his thoughts, having had a view from heaven for six years now.  What would he say today about the racial tensions in the US, the upcoming election, the world situation with IS, and the growing refugee movement?  I'm thankful that some day we will catch up again.

Happy birthday, Robert Allen Reed.  Your life was and is a blessing.