What Makes Life Matter?

 September 26, 2020 by Menagerie

I am sure by now all of you, like me, are weary of hearing Black Lives Matter, and all the rhetoric associated with the phrase. It isn’t really being used as an introduction to a productive and honest conversation, or even as a true call to arms to change injustice. I am not, and I will emphasize that for commenters, am not wanting to discuss the worthiness of the cause and all the associated protests, and violence. We can leave that for other posts.

Because this has been at the forefront of our minds the last months, no matter which side of the issue you take, I have been giving a lot of thought to what makes life matter. You can throw out a phrase the media seizes or glorifies without really having any true understanding of it. That is inconsequential to the truth, and only the mentally lazy or immature accept it at face value.

For this thing we sum up as life, a big word indeed, what does give it meaning? What really matters? I’m sure since the beginning of human ability to discuss and record ideas no consensus has ever been found, but, at least in Western society as I know it, until recently, it appears to me that people, families, cultures, governments, philosophers, historians, educators and theologians shared some ideas.

What are they? Unique to each person, we can never speak authoritatively for all, and I do not seek to do that here. I would just, with your assistance, examine some of the more common motivations that I became familiar with through my childhood, born in the late fifties, and adult years, and feedback from friends, family, and ideas from my reading and studies.

It seems to me that every generation bore the burden of living up to unspoken standards, perhaps innocently as a toddler, and maybe even unwillingly as the child grew and became a teenager, in certain instances. No individual came away unswayed by those parental and societal expectations, not even the great and small rebels who defined their rebellion against those very expectations, be they bath and bedtime, curfew, length of hair or hemline, or denial of civil rights or religious freedom.

From earliest human history, people had to work to provide their safety, sustenance, and hope for another tomorrow. Only relatively recently in our existence have we had the luxury of leisure and reflection.

I know that life for my grandparents was all about work, survival, and that included surviving the Great Depression and all that entailed. Gardening especially, farming in Kansas during Dust Bowl years for my dad’s family. Re-using, repairing, making do, sacrificing for the whole family, and especially for the sick, the young, the old.

Throughout our American history, immigrants arrived on our shores with their own expectations and goals and desires. They brought into our melting pot cultural richness and beliefs that added to who and what we are, added by their work, sacrifice, hunger for success and life for the generations they gave birth to. But they also, upon arrival and integration into American life and society accepted the expectations of previous generations of Americans and determined to live up to those expectations, those standards, and stand alongside their American brethren to contribute not only daily bread to their hungry children, but to the building and protection and success of this great country that they gave everything for.

Immigrants did not leave their homes and families behind, almost everyone of them knowing they would never see father, mother, brothers and sisters again, to come to America and stand idle, to wait in a bread line, to huddle in hovels and listen to the powerful tell them how to live and what to think.  They came with dreams yes, but equal measures of determination, grit, work ethic, and hope. They came to build, and build they damn well did.

When I was a child our parents, and every teacher I ever had, painted pictures in our daily lives, in our minds, by words and deeds, of those who came before and built. In kindergarten we learned the story of the Pilgrims and Indians and the struggle to establish a home in the wilderness. Later in school we celebrated Thanksgiving through plays and the fictional words of Patricia Mullins “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

In very early years we knew how America was settled, we knew of the building of the Colonies, the great Revolutionary War, the establishing of the United States of America under our Constitution. Later we learned more, the fleshing out of the great statesman and their long days writing that Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and every single one of us had a picture of George Washington leading his troops across the Delaware River, but also leading his fledgling country as it began a legendary march into history and world power.

Subsequently we learned about American expansion across the Continent, we learned about the Louisiana Purchase, we learned about the rise of industrialism, slavery, the abolitionist movement, the compromises and Congressional battles prior to the firing on Fort Sumter. Here in the South most of us learned about Reconstruction from old family members and friends. We learned about the World Wars, especially WWII.

Because we knew about the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, we learned that people survive great pandemics and economic crashes. We knew about victory gardens, war shortages, rationing, and such obscure things as women painting a line down their legs to simulate stockings because they had none. Every family had an aunt or mother who learned to weld or rivet during the war.

We learned about heroes and heroines. We learned about heritage and pride. We learned patriotism. I was taught the states and their capitals by an old black man who worked for my father, along with a lot of other special things, both academic and practical, and I remember the dignity, confidence and pride this friend of mine had when he taught me, though he was impoverished and caught in alcoholism. This was a time when he was denied basic rights and privileges that I, unknowingly at that time, had merely by virtue of my birth.

I learned that he expected me to come to him after test day and report my good grades, measuring not only the knowledge he imparted to me, but my valuing of that teaching and time invested, and I learned that his expectations were very high. All this he did voluntarily, imparting knowledge he had gained to me just because that is what people did, across race, culture, societal and economic status.

Let’s narrow this in some, and individualize it. When I graduated high school, I went into the world expecting that there was some thing I had to contribute, some actions and work and effort that I should put forth, primarily for my own success, but also because I wanted, like every other graduate in my class, to make my mark, to measure up. But we all had an unspoken idea that we owed the world we lived in our best.

I graduated in 1976. We were caught up in a year long celebration of 200 years of American history, excellence, and potential. In that time, not only for us young adults, but also for the country, there was an air of pride and patriotism, and absolute belief that we had greatness ahead. As valedictorian, I still remember the closing line I wrote for my speech.

“We now have the key to our future. We must find the lock it opens.” At this point, I am told, my future father in law gave me applause. You better believe that ranks in my list of things that matter. He was one tough man, not given to praise.

Later when I married, we each had a firm idea of what we wanted and what we had to offer, as well as what it would take to make life happen for us. First and foremost, perhaps even more than love, that idea for both of us involved work. My husband knew absolutely what hard work was already, and he immediately and everlastingly (still going like the Energizer Bunny!) set out to make a future for us. I wanted more than anything to build a wonderful home for us, to learn to cook, especially his favorite biscuits and gravy, and to help work and provide security for the coming children.

We wanted to be able to provide our own home for our family, give them security, teach them about life, work, home, family, and yes, all those things I listed above, the richness of our American heritage and experience. We wanted to prepare them for an indifferent and often hostile world, to give them confidence, strength, determination, hope in the face of trials, and belief, both in themselves, and in our family.

If there was anything we took for granted back then, it was perhaps the freedom we had to practice our Christian faith, to have a church building, a parish family, priests and nuns and parish schools, and all the richness and splendor and fruits of living in a land where you can worship God and try to pass on your faith to your children, all without persecution or punishment. In those busy days, we gave little thought to not only the American history we knew insuring our right to worship, but the poor workers who make our beautiful old church building possible, the priest who is now a candidate for sainthood because he gave his life in a Yellow Fever epidemic, staying in town to care for the sick and dying.

We wanted to build a good life for each other, we wanted a great future for our family, our sons. We didn’t just have an idea in our heads for how life should be, not for ourselves, and not for our sons. We wanted to teach them all they needed to know to make the best of their lives, to be able to go out into the world and make a good life for themselves, yes, but more still. We wanted to teach them about adversity, strength, endurance, getting up when life knocks you down. We wanted to teach them to do things for themselves, and that they could do hard things.

We wanted to teach them the value of hard work, and my husband especially was determined that no son of his would be anything less than the hardest, toughest, longest enduring man standing when the chips fell. We wanted them to see the value of their contributions, to our family, and to our common experience as Americans.

Our sons knew what it was to work from a very young age, and just as my husband and his siblings had done, they contributed to our family’s well being. As teens they helped pay their school tuition, they always paid for their own gas and insurance, and even sometimes bought their own clothes, especially if they wanted nicer things than mom was willing to spring for. Yes, shout out to you, number two son.

They learned the cost of failure, of lack of effort, and of mistakes. They learned that actions have consequences, and they learned that their parents would not bail them out of troubles, large and small. They learned to make recompense when their actions cost others. Looking at you, number one son and the spray painting of the barn episode.

They learned that mindless destruction and irresponsibility had repercussions, number three son and the screwdriver episode, and that privileges were not to be taken for granted.

As a proud, very proud, mother and grandmother now, I can say they learned all those things well and taught us others. They are finer men than we dreamed of, and life will never mow them down. They are wonderful husbands, fathers, and each in his own wonderful and unique way adds value to our world. They are patriots all. They have brought very special and resolute women into our family, and we have eight wonderful grandchildren who represent the hope and the future of our family.

To help me gather thoughts for this post, and because I value their opinions most, we had a conversation this week about what makes life matter.

Every one of them ranked family at the top of the list. One daughter in law is in school, and that ranks high on the list of things that matter. Another daughter in law, established in her field, still seeks further personal purpose and feels the quest continues, a sentiment that I share, although she sure words it better. A sense of humor, so necessary in our family, which is perhaps why my daughter in law named it.

My youngest son just finished school a year ago, all while working and raising three kids. He wants a better life for his wife and family, but he also wants the things he does to make his family, especially his wife and kids, proud of him, as well as us, his parents. And by us, he mostly means dad, because that’s a healthy desire in a young man, just as my husband was satisfied that he was able to please his father and make him proud.

My middle son separates his motivations into professional and personal. Professionally he is driven to succeed not only for personal satisfaction ( I can say from experience he was driven from birth toward excellence) but also for the sake of building a team and doing his best for them and his company. Personally, he wants his kids to see and experience the limitless possibilities life offers, and to understand that sacrifices must be made to win those things. He wants them to be confident in the security and love of their family, as do all of the sons and daughters in law. He wants them to be aware that their lives and potential are tied to the sacrifices of generations of family before them.

My oldest son experienced personal loss this year in a big way, a huge and heartbreaking struggle this year has been for him, again, personally and professionally. As far as bad things happening, big and small, 2020 has been a year of hits for him. Through it all he has not only kept on going, he has made his kids a priority, kept a sense of humor, hope, faith, and made time to come home and help take care of me in my time of recuperation, and make things easier for his dad by doing whatever he can around the house.

I had a bad ankle injury a few months ago, and it is a long journey toward being able to walk again. Every single one of my sons and daughters in law have been there for me in ways large and small, from one son who had to make himself the contact during and after surgery, all of them who took me to and from doctor and hospital, cooked and cleaned and shopped and mowed grass. Perhaps most important, they just came when I needed company and encouragement most. Extended family brought meals and visited. Family matters.

And because this is what the post is most about, passing on what matters, I’ll brag on the grandchildren, from the oldest ones who even stayed with me a day or two to help when I was almost immobile, to the little ones who give me hugs and solemnly promised not to bump my leg, all of them have been there for me when it matters.

My husband has worked a full time job, been nurse, caretaker, coach (he’s brutal – no room for safe places in his thinking) and been the most uncomplaining companion in the world, when it was not easy to be any of those things, and when I was depressed and hurting and a big PITA. He epitomizes the for better or worse clause, and he is just absolutely as faithful and true and motivated in the worst as he is the better.

All these things matter. For us, they are the tip of the iceberg of love, family, tradition, hope, faith. They are the spoken representation of what can never truly be spoken. Together we stand, and we will not fall, and we will succeed in giving the eight kids entrusted to us to care for the best chances we possibly can to grow into adults who find their meaning and build their lives.

I submit to you that life must have deep and powerful, sacrificial meaning. One phrase can’t give life meaning. Signs can’t make life matter. Before it comes to showdowns with police, especially if they end in gunfire, life matters or it does not. From the time of conception, if this world is to matter, then life matters, and parents, family, society owe that child protection and care.

I will say what I said when Mike Brown died, and I saw his body on the street. I cried, I cried for a loss of what should have been as well as what was. He, through his own actions, lost the future chances to make his life about something that mattered.

When one young man or woman loses their life, we have all lost. But when a large, formidably, scary percentage of our youth are not given meaning and hope, values, responsibilities, family, and expectations, yes, expectations from parents and society, we all lose.

Until society understands the phrases Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, and all their other words designed to inflame, are incomplete without an ending, we have work to do. I think that our thinking should go further.

Life Matters Because…

A few notes in conclusion here. Most of you know me from family and religious posts. I have mostly kept my faith out of this. It is too huge a part of life to tag on here, and possibly deserves another post. You may of course address that in comments, but in order to stay on track with the ideas here, I did not include the most important thing in my life, but not out of neglect or failure to appreciate it.

This post is intended to encourage personal reflection (I could insert various scoffing adjectives from my sons here, as they reluctantly shared xxx feelings, as they so eloquently put it). I do not intend it to be a referendum on the various shootings, protests, and political arguments about them.

Be respectful, please.

Addition to original post.

In their review of this post, my sons placed emphasis on the value of humility. I’m sorry I forgot to include that, it’s very important to them. Indeed, it was a three way tie as to who is most humble.

10 Ways to Replace Fear with Faith

young man praying while wearing surgical mask and gloves

Alisa Hope Wagner

During this season of COVID-19, fear has become rampant throughout the earth. People are isolated and scared, and Satan is feasting, creating havoc in hearts, minds, homes, families, and nations worldwide. As Christians, we must take back our rightful authority that Jesus died to give us. 

We trample snakes by rebuking fear and standing firm on faith. When the temptation to fear is all around us, we must remember that fear literally gives the Serpent authority in our lives. The Bible says that the way to “stand firm against him” is to “be strong in your faith” 1 Peter 5:9 (NLT). Faith gives us back the keys of authority when the world around us is festering with fear.

Standing strong in faith during these scary times can be difficult, but there are 10 ways we can safeguard our choice of faith. We become motivated to claim faith rather than fear because it is our faith that pleases God: “And without faith, it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

  1. Guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Your heart is the tender soil for thoughts of good or evil to grow. When the enemy tries to plant seeds of fear, worry, anxiety, etc., we rebuke them instantly. Only allow God’s seeds of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control to take root. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. Stand firm in faith. (1 Corinthians 16:13) Faith protects us from the enemy’s schemes and places us in the center of God’s perfect peace. Our faith demonstrates to God and the world that we trust His provision, plan and power. When the circumstances around us swirl with disorder and animosity, we have every right to claim God’s peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
  3. Listen to the prophets. (2 Chronicles 20:20) God does nothing without revealing His plan to the prophets first. No prophet knows everything, but God gives them each a partial view of His Kingdom Plan. We seek prophets who have an excellent track record of speaking God’s heart in order to calm our fears.
  4. Capture your thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:5) We must play an active role in standing firm in faith by capturing thoughts of fear that are not of God. This habit may take a few weeks or even months to form, but the complete peace we gain is worth the effort.
  5. Rejoice, pray, and give thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) We can move from fear to faith simply by praising and thanking God through prayer. The enemy can’t attack worship, so our thanksgiving is the key to rising above the negative waves in life.
  6. Read your Bible. (Joshua 1:8) The Bible is a living source of God’s encouragement and strength. (Hebrews 4:12) During times of stress, reading verses from the Book of Psalms can be particularly reassuring.
  7. Stay in community. (Hebrews 10:25) When we are bombarded by fear, we need to purposely surround ourselves with faith-filled Believers. Just knowing we aren’t alone is enough to fill us with a peaceful confidence that will sustain our faith.
  8. Pray in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:2) (If you’ve been given this Spiritual Gift – 1 Corinthians 12)Many times we don’t know what to pray, but the Holy Spirit does. Speaking in tongues may feel strange at first, but it can be done in secret, allowing the powerful presence of God to disperses all fears.
  9. Speak the name of Jesus. (Philippians 2:10-11) The name of Jesus spoken in complete faith of its authority will rebuke ugly thoughts of fear. Remembering that Jesus overcame death on the Cross gives us a hope and confidence that we are on the winning side. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
  10. Remain in God’s love. (Jude 1:21) Love disperses all fear. (1 John 4:18) God loves us so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins, so He can have a relationship with us. (John 3:16) When we immerse ourselves in His love, our worries, anxieties, and fears have no chance to survive.

Copyright © 2020 Alisa Hope Wagner, used with permission. 

Find more information about resisting fear and standing firm in faith with Alisa Hope Wagner’s book, The Way of the Wolves: The Enemy’s Planned Strike on Your Life.  Watch Alisa’s video about her family’s experience with COVID-19 and rebuking fear.

Can God change your life?

God has made it possible for you to know Him and experience an amazing change in your own life. Discover how you can find peace with God. You can also send us your prayer requests.

https://www1.cbn.com/spiritual-life/10-ways-to-replace-fear-with-faith

VA partners with Clubhouse International to help Veterans with recovery

Creating a community for those with mental illness

VA partners with Clubhouse International to help Veterans with recovery, creating a community for those with mental illness.

Getting back to life can be difficult for anyone diagnosed with serious mental illness, including Veterans. A new partnership between VA and Clubhouse International gives them another option for rehabilitation.

Circle City Clubhouse is like a second home for David Fearance. The 59-year-old Army Veteran has been coming to a converted office building on the Indianapolis west side for nearly three years.

Clubhouse member David Fearance and his caregiver Kat Blane at Circle City Clubhouse. Fearance, a 59-year-old Army veteran has been coming to Circle City Clubhouse, Indianapolis for nearly three years. Photo by Jill Sheridan/IPB News

Clubhouse member David Fearance and his caregiver Kat Blane at Circle City Clubhouse. Fearance, a 59-year-old Army veteran has been coming to Circle City Clubhouse, Indianapolis for nearly three years. Photo by Jill Sheridan/IPB News

What’s right with you?

“I work at Circle City Clubhouse house,” says Fearance. He was in the Army for 10 years. Fearance suffers from severe psychosis. Before he started coming to the Clubhouse he was mostly home bound. Now he answers the phone, helps in the kitchen and in other ways.

“I vacuum. What I should do is clean these windows,” says Fearance.

Clubhouse members help staff and other members run the daily Clubhouse program. It is open to anyone who has been seriously affected by mental illness.

There is a growing need for mental health services for Veterans. An estimated one-quarter of active military members showed signs of mental health conditions.

Jay Brubaker is executive director of Circle City Clubhouse.

“We start instead of saying, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ we say what’s right,” says Brubaker. “What are the things you’re good at? What are the things that you like to do? We try to get our members involved based on that.”

Clubhouse members may help cook meals or clean. They can get vocational training or help run the thrift shop inside the club.

“So that they can build an identity based on these are the things that you’re good at and use those then to kind of help get back into the community,” says Brubaker.

“It really drives home the need for community connection and Veterans to connect, not to keep them separated,” says Brubaker.

Jason Riddle, a social worker with the VA in Indianapolis, works with the Clubhouse organization to assist and refer Veterans with severe mental illness .

Jason Riddle, a social worker with the VA in Indianapolis, works with the Clubhouse organization to assist and refer Veterans with severe mental illness .

From depression to severe mental illness, Veterans practice recovery

Jason Riddle is a social worker with the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

The VA doesn’t have this type of psycho-social rehabilitation model and the MISSION Act makes it easier for VA providers to refer Veteran patients to resources like Clubhouse, and for organizations to get reimbursed.

Riddle says the move makes care more accessible. “Especially with a big focus on suicide prevention and then the things that go along with that and not having a good support network, the isolation and loneliness in general can just make for a hard, hard time,” Riddle says.

Clubhouse is now open to Veterans suffering from a range of issues. About half of Veterans with a mental health condition don’t seek treatment. Riddle says this model can be another option.

“It doesn’t have to be just for someone that … has a chronic mental health condition,” says Riddle, “It can be someone that’s just having some depression, they’re feeling depressed, they can’t get out of the house. This is something that you can actually get out as tangible and just practice your recovery.”

Riddle has reached out to other clubhouses in Indiana and beyond to increase referrals and make connections to assist other Veterans.

Vital support for caregivers and families

At Circle City Clubhouse in Indianapolis, David Fearance is with his caregiver Kat Blane. She’s his cousin and legal guardian. Her family took him years ago and when her parents passed, she became his sole caregiver.

“Had it not been for the Clubhouse, he probably would have been back in the nursing home,” says Blane. She says David has made great strides in his recovery after he started coming to clubhouse.

“He can be home by himself if I have to be gone,” says Blane, “I can say ‘David here is your food,’ and he knows how to get it. And all of that is from him being a part of the Circle City Clubhouse.”

She says as a caregiver that is invaluable. “That’s helpful for me because I wouldn’t be able to do all these things although I am retired and totally responsible. It always helps when you can get extra support,” says Blane.

For more on Clubhouse International visit: https://clubhouse-intl.org/.


Jill Sheridan is the Health and Science Reporter for Indiana Public Broadcasting, WFYI Public Radio

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