How do we “do life”?

I’m a practical person and I get fed up when I hear a sermon or talk and there is no practical application, but then I realised I’d sent out a piece that talked of “doing life” and having the right attitude but didn’t really say how to. And ok one can say that actually we all need to work out our own path to finding a right attitude, but all these self-help books wouldn’t sell so well if it was just about us working it out in our own heads. So here’s my attempt at “how to do life?”

Life in all its fullness – John 10

As a Christian I do go back to the Bible and to what Jesus says about things. I believe as well as being the Son of God – wholly God and wholly human – Jesus was also a great teacher so I think it’s good to hear what he has to say on things. Jesus said “with me you can have life and life to its fullness.” This was doing life and life in all its completeness. I don’t think Jesus was saying there wouldn’t be any hassles, any deaths, cancers, loses to grieve over, hard times to walk thougth but I do think he that what he is saying is that we can have life in its fullness even in those hard time. But how do we tap into this?

Well Brian McLaren  in “We make the path by walking” says we need to look at the story behind the miracles Jesus did. In the story of where Jesus turns water

Paolo Veronese’s interpretation of The Wedding at Cana – hung in the Louvre, Paris

into wine (John 2) we get so caught up in the details of this story that we can miss what could be the underlying message. Jesus uses the jars that were for ceremonial washing and messes things up. McLaren says that Jesus is showing that it doesn’t matter if this are clean or unclean but that it is all about super-abundance and super-celebration. Here was too much wine for one small Galilean village to drink in a week let alone in a day! And also they could no longer ceremonially wash their crockery or hands. The need to be religious had gone and it was time to enjoy life. This didn’t mean they stopped farming, doing business deals (and a wedding was a place where many business deals were carried out), caring for children, elderly parents, those who were sick. The things of life would go on but the religiosity was gone. Again McLaren talks of a healing Jesus did on the Sabbath. And the sermon is always based on the fact that Jesus did his healing on the Sabbath. My daughter has always struggled with this saying that Jesus was being deliberately obtuse and surely that’s wrong. But actually what Jesus again was doing was saying let go of your anxiety and fear of getting it right, stop being paranoid and look at me.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones with the real Jane and Stephen Hawking

We watched “The Theory of Everything” and in that saw a man who could have so easily been pitied and achieved nothing, and I am sure people with lesser disabilities do give up but not just Stephen Hawking, but his wife Jane and many of their friends “did life”. In fact there are so many quotes for Hawking that I don’t know where to being. The film finishes with him saying “where there is life there is hope” and there is:

Look up at the stars and down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

Hawking doesn’t have much choice where he looks because of not being able to control his muscles but he does have a choice of how he views life. Often we can choose where we look but choose to look at our feet. As Oscar Wilde said:

We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars

To “do life” means we choose where we look and how we view the world. We can choose to look at the stars and be curious or we can choose to  look at our feet and our circumstances. We can choose whether we accept what we are told or be curious at what is going on. Hawking and especially his wife Jane, refused to accept what they were told and look at the difference he made to the world. My friend who started me on this quest regarding “doing life” refused to let cancer beat him. I have other friends who refuse to accept what the world says about how their story should be played out and are “doing life” in the craziest of ways.

I’m not sure how practical this has been but to be it is about having faith, being curious, getting rid of fear and paranoia and looking at the stars, at the what could be if only …  And then, I believe, not just going for it but helping, supporting, encouraging and loving each other to get there too.

Do Life

I have a lovely friend who, until recently, wound me up with his expression “I’m off to do life with … ” or “let’s do life together.” I use to think it was obvious that we all do life and that’s what goes on. But I’m now not so sure everyone “does life”, I think there are people who just get on with things and put their heads down and don’t enjoy life.

This weekend my husband’s Uncle Ron died. Here was a man who “did life” even if some of the family didn’t get it and thought he was being irresponsible. Nine and a half years ago he had a horrific car accident which cost him his legs. He was a big man and was wheelchair bound with no legs so never a possibility of walking again. I only really met him once not long after the accident and he was in hospital, but even there he was busy. He had decided to grow tomatoes on the roof of the hospital, where patients were allowed to go. Even though he didn’t know what life would bring he was planting something for the future. From what I heard from my mother-in-law Uncle Ron was always having barbecues, growing various flowers and vegetables and keeping his carers busy. He had to have full time carers because he couldn’t even get in or out of bed without help. Last summer him and his carers went on holiday to France. He wasn’t going to lie down and die. Because of his over-eating and lack of physical movement he had problems with diabetes and in the end that was what killed him. Uncle Ron could’ve decided to eat properly and give himself an extra five or ten years but he would still have been in a wheelchair, and in fact from the accident he did get another extra nine and a half. He could have died in that accident but didn’t and decided to “live life.”

My friend who has the expression “do life” is also someone who has see death and come through it. Life is a big thing fordo life him. As we get older we do see more and more people die, some in old age, some too soon, but eventually we will all die. The big thing actually to always ask ourselves is “have we lived life.” What does that mean?

To Uncle Ron it appeared to mean enjoying life, inviting people round to eat, and planting flowers and veg. For the friend I’ve just mentioned it means going on mission and giving to others. To some it means going to war torn countries and nursing or reporting to let those people know they are not alone. For each of us to “do life” means something else. As I mentioned in an earlier post about being able to “act on what transpires” which actually is living life. I don’t know what will  happen next at all. Take this morning – my neighbour and I set out with our dogs and were in the middle of a long deep conversation when we aspired a fellow dog walker and his Labrador puppy so we walked with him a bit, then he went off and we got back to our deep conversation, then bumped into some other walkers and walked and laughed with them for another hour. That wasn’t planned. In fact the plan for me was to have a quick walk then get to see a friend for coffee, who had cancelled that morning because her son wasn’t well. I was going to “do life” with her but in the end got on and “did life” with what transpired. Maybe this was the same for Uncle Ron. He never planned to be without his legs for the last nine years of his life but he made the most of the life he had without those legs.

We do all need to plan and to put things in place to look to the future but we need to be flexible so that things can change. And when we do put things in place we need to hold them lightly but hold them with joy and then hold the changes with joy and not with fear. Life is too changeable even in nice middle class England (a place I know and love).

So thank you John and now I get it completely. I have been lucky and not personally come close to dying but I’ve enough to know life isn’t static, isn’t predictable. There is a choice to live in fear and just get on with it, or to “Do life”. What do you choose? What do I choose?