We Gathered Together … November 25, 2011

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In Washington, D.C.

Family is a collection of souls who share common experiences with often varying conclusions.

This is why those members of your household can be your best friends or your worst enemies. As the contradictory sayings put forth, “absence DOES make the heart grow fonder” but “familiarity has a tendency to breed contempt.”

So when it came time this year for Thanksgiving, I had one son in Miami, one in Los Angeles, one in New York and three in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. So it was logical to migrate the entire herd to Music City, USA. I rented a large house for four days so we could simulate the experience of the growing up years and share fellowship and the better baking of a bird. It was a fascinating experience.

All of these people who once lived under my roof, subjected to my tutelage, are now adults with lives of their own, with emotionally Xeroxed images of their particular interpretation of the philosophies put forth in our little experiment. I love them all–and even like them. But to assume that I agree with everything they do, approve of their actions or would find myself in complete synchronicity with their purposes is utterly ridiculous.

I think there are three phases in having children. Up to the age of five, you infuse manners, kindness, generosity and just general hygiene into them. From five to fifteen, you present yourself as an example–touting the better ways to handle things and also teaching them the value of having a clean emotional life, which lends itself to the possibility of spirituality. From fifteen to twenty-five, you have to gradually release them to their own missions, and also the favor that they will curry with God and man. After twenty-five, the deal is pretty well done and you need to settle in and become their friend instead of insisting on remaining their father or mother. Any other approach creates tension, disagreement and nasty disapproval, which in no way assists a human being towards for ongoing success. It was just wonderful to sit back and stop trying to be a patriarch and instead, reap the benefits of being a retired parent, who now is trying to find out–just like them–how to maintain the integrity of being a good human being.

The evening was further enhanced by the arrival of five friends of my son from Miami–old acquaintances of his from when he used to live in this region.  They brought freshness, energy, appreciation and joy to the excursion. We closed out the night in the master bedroom, playing songs around the piano, with Jan tootin’ her horns–creating the kind of “Kum Bay Yah” moment that makes for a great Hollywood ending. Yes–to a certain degree, I guess life is like a movie, or as Shakespeare put it–a stage. We develop relationship, we advance the plot, we encounter difficulty and we overcome together. (Honestly, anyone you do that with becomes family. And if your family hasn’t accomplished that, then you’re just related instead of relative to each other.)

I will go back on the road for a sixteen-city tour of a Christmas show of my own making. But I will have the memories of all these folks that I had the pleasure of nurturing, who have now found a way of enjoying their nourishment through life–absent of my interference and present of my approval.

Yes, we gathered together, but not to ask the Lord’s blessing.  No, just to look each other in the eyes and know that the Lord’s blessing is available if we will just have the tenacity to enjoy the pursuit of it. I am a father of sons, many of whom have found wives. I am not outdated, but rather, have updated my status to friend and confidante instead of tutor and disciplinarian. Because of that I am still of value to them. After all, in the adult world, spanking doesn’t work, even when error is made. All that truly is valuable is support and a lack of criticism.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of us–and may we continue to realize that what constitutes family is loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

***************

Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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