Posted tagged ‘family’

Funerals Bring out the Best in Us

March 17, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Being a pastor has afforded me many opportunities to preach or attend funerals over the years.  While these occasions provide some truly interesting stories, one common theme connecting them all is the goodness of the deceased remembered by family and friends.

In one instance where I had no personal connection with the deceased, I listened to the personal remarks of a couple of people and concluded that this person was truly a blessing to his family and church.  That’s when an elderly lady seated in front of me leaned over to her friend and “tried” to whisper, “Do you think they’re talking about another Bill Davis?”  Apparently, they thought that what we heard was too good to be true!

I recall only a handful of times when the obvious negative traits of the deceased were acknowledged.  Those speaking on behalf of the individuals were realistic and honest about the rough, sharp-edged, and even mean-spirited traits portrayed in these person’s lives.

These courageous friends and family dared to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’  Yet, their acknowledgment opened the door to also recognize some of the redeeming qualities in these individuals that may often have been overlooked by others or overshadowed by their own difficult personalities.

I was unacquainted with the deceased at the funeral I attended yesterday, but it was another of many instances where I sensed a missed blessing by not having the opportunity to know the deceased.  Though it was indicative that he persisted on having things done only his way, his love for family, friends, and church – along with an over-active sense of humor – endeared him to many people, and especially his teenage grandchildren, most of whom referred to him as ‘the greatest person they had ever known.’                 Our society has conditioned us toward suspicion, hesitant to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  We are quick to find fault and slow to look for the redeeming qualities in people.  We tend to make assumptions based on what we see (appearance) rather than what we could observe (character).

Further, we are swift to judge and unwilling to forget.  We are prone to allow a person’s single lapse in judgment or behavior to taint forever their image in our minds.  We typically are not big on mercy or second chances, which is part of our own unpalatable qualities.

The speakers at the funerals where the true colors of the deceased were stated unknowingly taught the listeners a lesson: look for and encourage the redeeming qualities of those present around us rather than waiting until they are no longer here to realize how their goodness impacts others.

I want to live my life in such a way that those who come in support of my family and to bid me farewell will readily remember the redemptive traits of behavior and attitude that, by God’s grace, I was enabled to portray.  The Bible teaches us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves.”  That is what it means to live redemptively.

The ‘Rest’ of the Story

June 29, 2016

By Dr. Steven J. Callis 

            It is mesmerizing, melodic in a way; almost hypnotic.  Continuously repetitious, invoking all five senses of the body, the ocean beach is a great way to relax.  If it has been a while since you were there, you may need to have your memory refreshed.

            The sight of the blue water capping to white as it rushes toward the shore partners with the crashing sound of the waves, one after another.  The feel of the ocean breeze is just enough to cool the body while the sun bears down on the sand, the sea, and the sun-screen-lathered beachcombers.  The subtle aroma of the salty air freshens the nasal passages and slightly informs the taste buds. 

            Being embraced by such an experience while lying on the sand, shaded beneath a large umbrella – well, no one is a match for the “sandman!”  Even the occasional flybys advertising Eagles Beach Store, and the faint screams of children running in and out of the ocean waves do not disturb the “music” of the beach.

            It is interesting to watch the various ways people choose to enjoy the beach.  For many of them, this is their one big week of the year away from time pressures and responsibilities back home.  Some are content to simply lie around and soak up the sun, while others romp and run and walk and play as though they are energized by that drumming pink bunny.

            Obvious beyond all of that is family.  The place we call “our” beach tends to attract families with young children, and often the grandparents are included in the fun.  To me, a real vacation is somewhat like a Sabbath.  It is not intended to be the norm of life, excessively taking us away from our commitments and responsibilities.   However, it is a prized opportunity that allows the body and mind to refresh, to rekindle, and then to re-enter life back home with a renewed sense of passion and purpose.

            It lifts my spirit to see families enjoying their time together, getting along and making the most of their week.  It seems that every year there is at least one large group of related families who have coordinated their schedules to be together.  Their planning and hard work to make it happen is well worth it as they enjoy their beach reunion.

            So here I am, back in the saddle, as some might say it.  Nothing has changed.  It is the same office, with the same schedule, the same challenges, and the same responsibilities.  Yet, there is a slight bounce in my step.  It felt good to get away, and it feels good to be home.  For you see, we are created with purpose; we are caretakers of our world and its inhabitants.  Our Sabbath rest serves to restore our being in order that we might effectively and efficiently serve our purpose.

            Whether we are talking about a one day rest to begin the week or a one week rest sometime in the year, our mind and body need that break.  When King Solomon declared that there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven, he understood that there is a time to rest, and a time to work.  The better we understand and embrace each, the greater will be our contentment as we fulfill our purpose.

A Day of Thanks and Praise

October 18, 2013

By Steven J. Callis

I recently saw a cartoon that portrayed a turkey grinning at the pumpkin which had been carved into a jack-o-lantern.  With a somewhat painful look on his face, the pumpkin declared to the turkey, “Laugh all you want, but you’re next!”

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but many people are already making plans for this national holiday, working out the details of what has become a tradition of family, friends, turkey dinner, parades, and football.  Family gatherings require advanced planning as some family members will travel for a few hours or more to be in attendance.  The menu must be determined, and the preparation of its entrée’s must be delegated to the various attending guests.

Some families change the gathering location from year to year, while others may have one home that most easily accommodates the crowd, or a home that is more geographically centered than the others.  There seems to be some kind of unspoken rule that the host has the privilege of preparing the turkey (and keeping the leftovers!).

Another fun part of Thanksgiving for some people is the close examination of store ads in the newspaper,  anticipating “black Friday.”  Some of the excitement about black Friday is getting up before the chickens in order to be at the store when they open their doors.  Many stores have robbed people of that excitement by opening Thursday at midnight or soon after.

Well, who should we “thank” for all of this tradition and celebration?  President Abraham Lincoln is credited with declaring the last Thursday of November as a national holiday.  History records that Secretary of State William Seward wrote the actual proclamation document.

It is further noted that magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a letter to the president requesting such a proclamation, stating that she had been advocating for 15 years for all of the States to recognize a common national thanksgiving date. Then, of course, there are the first settlers, the Pilgrims, who celebrated with a thanksgiving feast after their first harvest in 1621.  Many people had a hand in this holiday tradition!

Thanksgiving is not an official Christian holiday, but as you make your plans for this Thanksgiving, consider the words of President Lincoln, proclaiming “a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Let us give thanks with a grateful heart to the One from whom our blessings flow.