All You Need is Love

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

(Written in 2007)

We decided that our older son, Owen, needed a little chair for the living room.  Sure, he can climb up on the big couch or sit on the floor just fine – but we wanted him to have his own chair.  So, we hunted around a little bit and then went up to Pottery Barn Kids to buy him a soft chair.  It felt terribly frivolous – all of our current furniture is either hand-me-downs from parents and friends or purchased at the local thrift store.  This little sea-foam green chair from Pottery Barn Kids is honestly one of the first pieces of new furniture we have ever purchased.

And as we all sat in the living room that night – Chad and I on the couch, Jesse cooing in his swing in the corner, and Owen alternating between sitting in his new chair and pushing it around the living room, I thought about how Owen has no idea how much he already has.  As far as he knows, every little kid in the world has a pile of toys in the corner, a warm house, a full stomach when they go to sleep at night, and a sea-foam green chair just their size to sit on.

It’s funny the moments that make you start thinking about important things.  A quiet evening and a little green chair started me thinking about the things I want my boys to value in their lives.  And since then many questions have been on my mind: how can we raise our kids to be people who care about others and this world we live in?  How can we best teach them about what matters and what doesn’t?  How can we best raise them to have thankfulness for their blessings and an awareness that a responsibility comes with those blessings?

There hopefully comes a time for each of us as years go by that we begin to see this world as a place that not just we or our parents live in – but as the place the generations after us will live.  We begin to understand in tangible ways what the teacher, academic, and humorist, Leo Rosten meant when he said, “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be ‘happy.’  I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate.  It is above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

And so I’ve been working on something – what follows is my first draft of a letter to my sons.  It’s a letter about my understanding of what is important and the tools I think will suit them best as they maneuver their way through life.  It’s far from complete and I have no idea when I will give it to them.  I’m thinking sometime after they are out of diapers and before they leave home.  I’m pretty sure that no matter how perfectly I try to time giving it to them, there will be a good chance it will end up on a dusty shelf underneath a pile of socks or video games or something.  But at least I’ll know I wrote it and maybe someday they’ll come across it at the perfect time when some words from their mom will be just what they needed to hear.  That’s what I hope for…but in some ways I’m writing it more for me than for them anyway as I think about them and pray about the kind of men they will become someday, and the kind of mom I want to be for them, and as we all contemplate the kind of lives God calls us to lead.

Dear Sons,

Not long ago I was up at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp.  The confirmation students I was there with were doing the ropes course one afternoon.  In addition to all the kids putting on their helmets and harnesses and heading up to complete this challenge course twenty feet in the air, so did the father of one of the confirmands.  He had come along on the retreat to help out and he had never done the ropes course before, but he climbed up there and finished a few minutes after his son.  Afterward we were talking about it and he spoke about how it was important for him to encourage his son through his own actions, teach his son to take on challenges by accepting challenges himself.

Of course his statement made me think about the two of you – and the years that lie ahead of us like crisp pages of a notebook not yet written upon.

I wonder what challenges that lie ahead of you?  What demands will be made of you and how will you step up to meet them?  What risks will you take as your future unfolds?

As I ask these questions of you, trust me that I’m asking them of myself, too.  Will I be the mom who tells her sons what they should do and how they should be without modeling that myself?  Where will I be standing when the time comes for you to brave that ropes course?  Will I be encouraging you from a comfortable tree stump somewhere on the ground or will I be trembling up in the trees with you?

I hope I’m in the trees.

I hope I’m in the trees because that will mean that I still value the lessons that can be learned from regularly doing something that terrifies you.  The lessons that can be learned from literally going out on a limb.

Be courageous, boys….but don’t think that having courage means never being afraid.  As the columnist Earl Wilson said, “Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death.”

You will need courage as you make your way through your lives:  Courage not only to live fully – but courage to live purpose-fully.

What does it mean to live purposefully?  I’ve found that answer in the words of Jesus.  Over and over Jesus calls us to go beyond the limits of our own comfort and safety.  He calls us off the couch to go and help our neighbors.  He calls us to find ways to share the gospel through word and action.  And he calls us to see that all we have – everything – is only ours for a time.

We are merely managers…that is what we are.  God entrusts us with this earth, with material possessions, with time, with relationships – and then we get to find ways to glorify God through how we treat all of these things.

Billy Graham said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.”  Hopefully our decisions about how to use our resources become clearer when we remember:

I’m not so interested that you know these statistics but rather whether or not you can answer the following question when faced with the troubles of this world.  That question is:  What will you do about it?

Unfortunately sometimes with age or busy-ness or bitterness, people get pretty good about ignoring the problems around them.  Sometimes the need can seem so great that we just throw up our hands, we say, “it’s no use – there is too much need.”  Or we make excuses, we say, “I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got, I deserve to enjoy it.”  Or sometimes we become good at avoiding – “maybe if we don’t look at the homeless folks in the park or pay attention to the news of the hungry and the war victims, they will go away.”

But I pray that no matter how old you get, you will never forget the words of Mother Teresa, “It is true poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  My sons, your choices matter.  All of them.  You may work very hard for the money you will earn in your lifetime, but part of being a Christian, part of being a member of this human family, is realizing that no matter how hard you work for it, it isn’t yours.  You must share.  You must find ways to show you care and not just say you care.

I pray that somehow you will avoid the sickness that afflicts this great nation of ours.  It’s an illness that afflicts most of us individually and even the church, too.  This desire to accumulate, to collect, to build bigger and better when we could get by just fine with what we have.  You are enough – you don’t need to collect things around you to be treasured, to be valued, to be loved.

Although I love our warm little house, the years I spent being able to fit everything I owned in the back of my old car were truly a happy time, too.  I want you to know how that feels.  I want you to learn to be content with throwing some clothes and books in a backpack and have the sense that you have everything you could possibly need and more.  I want you to have the opportunity to scrounge around in the couch for some money and then feel like the richest person on earth when you come across a couple bucks so you can get a taco or something.

No, I do not wish for you wealth.  Oh, if you happen to become wealthy someday – that is no crime – but I simply wish for you enough – enough money to buy the things you need and then the courage to share the rest.

It’s all about being good stewards.  And yes, we often think about it in terms of money – but that’s not the only thing.  Another precious commodity you have is your time.  You get a certain number of hours every day.  How will you spend them?

Susan Polis Schulz said, “If you have a goal in life that takes a lot of energy, that requires a lot of work, that incurs a great deal of interest and that is a challenge to you, you will always look forward to waking up to see what the new day brings.”

But in addition to the blessings of material things and time, there is also something far more precious we are blessed with – we are also given love.

One look at you and your father and I went from being people who had very little patience for children and their strange noises and smells, to being absolutely in love with you.  But the truth is that even though your very cells were created out of ours, still you don’t belong to us.

Remember that about all the people that come into your life – whoever you love  – whether it be your partner, your friends, your children.  God will give them to you for a time – to treasure, to adore, to share your journey with.  Each day you will get to decide if their interaction with you will be one of patience or impatience, joy or anger, peace or discord.  Each day you will get to decide how you will show them what they mean to you.  More than anything I pray you will be excellent at doing this…being good stewards of love.  Most anyone whose opinion is worth anything will tell you that Sir James Barrie was right when he said, “If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”  Or as John Lennon more concisely said, “All you need is love.”

All You Need is Love
by The Beatles
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Yee-hai! (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=csyHN3LoRJ4


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