@kameronbayne's Posts

“…There are two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

Terrence Malick

“Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”

 

Memories of My Grandmother

After 90 years of life, my Grandma Helen passed away last week. For her funeral, people came from all over different parts of the country and halfway across the world to celebrate her life and the unique gifts she’s given each of us — her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My cousins and I remembered visiting her on the farm, exploring vast open spaces, swimming in the cow trough in the summer, chasing the chickens, swinging from ropes tied to the trees, and sledding down a sea of snow dunes over Christmas holidays. These and more of some of the memories shared at her funeral.

My most distinct childhood memory of my grandmother comes in the form of the painting above, which hung over her dinner table. I would stare at it for hours while I was supposed to be eating my peas. I immediately felt the seriousness, the devotion, and the sacred silence present in her home. As a child, I thought of those as both frightening and boring. But as I grew up and watched her age, I saw it as the beautiful foundation to my grandmother’s life of faith.

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:12-13

She was warm and unassuming, with a thin frail frame. She was consistently kind, good-humored, full of spirit and a little spunk (someone in the family nicknamed this spunk, “Helen sass”). Her hair was as white as a cotton ball. Her voice would hum with a little crackle in the back. She would quote and sing the Psalms. She forgave those who wronged her. She did not shame. She grieved for those she loved and lost. She preserved. She remained present and happily engaged with whoever was in front of her. These graces only grew in her with age.

When 1st Corinthians 13 was read out loud at the funeral, it was clear the word “love” could easily be replaced with “Grandma” and it would be equally true. Grandma Helen was patient, kind, not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. She did not demand her own way. She was not irritable; she kept no record of being wronged. Grandma did not rejoice about injustice but rejoiced whenever the truth wins out. She never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. My grandmother had come to live almost every part of her life inside love’s reach. She became intertwined with love itself. Isn’t that what it means to become one with God?
 

Her Last Conversation with Me

Shortly before she died, I had rare opportunity to visit her by myself. Usually, I would be with my dad or have the kids with me. But this day, I was alone with her at the nursing home. When I came to her room, she was sitting in her chair, awake in complete darkness. The lights were off (I remember hearing my aunt was concerned this was a warning sign of depression). Grandma perked up when she saw me and what followed was the best conversation we’ve ever had together.

I shared tears with her for the first time as I got to express the true gift she has given our family. She was the moral center of our tribe, always shining a bright light further up the path of life. She believed a man could change before he did.  And for the most part, her faith and perseverance paid off. When we were lost, which was true of all of us at one time or another, we were able to find our way back home. Everything good could be traced back to her. I told her, “Because of you, and your presence in our lives, everyone in our family is a better version of themselves.”

 
Grandma Helen

She leaned over to share with me her wisdom, and went on to describe the nature of contentment.

Of anyone I’ve ever known, she was content in all circumstances. Looking back, it suddenly occurred to me, she wasn’t sitting in the darkness because she was depressed — no. She didn’t need the lights on. She was simply content to sit and enjoy the quiet darkness!

Thank you Grandma, for leading me directly to one of life’s greatest treasures. Contentment is not only desirable but, actually possible. Your life was a rich and vivid vision for aging gracefully.

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An unusually beautiful story of boyhood friendship, Little Men is a nostalgic ride which slowly builds towards the unavoidable crash we call the coming of age. This bittersweet tale of manhood effortlessly weaves together the struggles of being a father, a son, a good friend and decent human being. The magic is in the subtleties of its storytelling.

Small Everyday Heartbreaks

I could easily relate to the pressure the father felt from life’s demands. I could equally understand how the son emotionally experienced those realities. What a quagmire! This tension was illustrated by a number of scenes. One small example came when the son entered the kitchen looking for a childhood drawing. It occurs to the father, this picture might have been thrown away in their recent move. The child is upset and tries to explain how important it was to him. The father appears slightly defensive and tries to recover by imparting a life lesson about the goodness of letting go of stuff. But the son felt ignored and rejected. No connection was made, even though both of them wanted and tried to connect honestly.

For many of us, this is a typical parent/child interaction.

What We Really Need

The child is distraught and the adult attempts to comfort him with the truth of a broader perspective. But in practice, the reason it falls so short is because it’s a very self-centered exchanged. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. These lessons for “way down the road” aren’t about the child at all. They more accurately express what the adult has recently been or is currently struggling with — it’s the father who needs to let go. In that moment, the son needed to learn how to hold on, not let go. He needed to build a connection with his father. He needed assurance what’s important to him is taken seriously by those who profess to look out for his best interest. Somewhere down the road, he may need to let go of something. But not now. Now he needs the wisdom of a father’s acknowledgment and vulnerability.

Letting You Be You and Me be Me

How often does this happen between children and parents? How many times do opportunities arise to connect, only to be missed entirely? The relationship we want too often isn’t the one we get. How do we change this trajectory?

We can.

What if we stopped projecting onto others what we need to learn ourselves? What if we stopped trying to determine what the other needs to learn and just focused on listening deeply?

Mountains move.

When we share ourselves honestly, from a personal perspective, and listen with openness, which allows the other to be him or herself, connection is possible. Our most important relationships will look more like the intimacy of the boy and his friend rather than the disconnect of the son and his father.

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“Patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history,” writes Shane Claiborne. When we go digging into the lesser known aspects of our past, it’s clear America has never lived up to its own ideals. But this very fact is one of the catalysts pushing us forward, even if it is only inch by inch. This is the unfinished American dream totally worth celebrating — the dangerously subversive idea all people are created equal and have an important voice regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, or religion. May it someday be fully practiced and realized.

If patriotism is a love for one’s own country, then it matures and grows up when we recognize patriotism is a love for the people of our own country. To love another is to ascribe infinite worth, without stipulation, condition or reciprocation. To love someone is to stop trying to recreate them in our own image of who we think they should be. To love simply means we allow others, especially those “different” from us, to be themselves and to accept the depths of our truest self without shame. Anything with conditions — hidden or otherwise — isn’t love at all. Thus it ceases to be patriotic.

Who are we to love? The folks at Love Has No Labels shed some light on the average American of today and, in the process, remind us what it means to be a genuinely patriotic American (with a love that goes far beyond the walls of our borders). We truly are an interdependent and diverse community.

Happy “Interdependence” Day! #weareamerica

To celebrate our national interdependence more deeply, Claiborne offers a couple inspiring suggestions:

1). Track down old teachers and mentors. Let them know the influence they have had in your life.
3). Try to go a whole week without spending any money. If you have to, barter or beg a little to make it through.
14). Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, remember the folks who made it possible for you to it it.

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“We are, I know not how, double within ourselves, with the result that we do not believe what we believe, and we cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.”

Michel de Montaigne

“Human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.”

Barbara Brown Taylor

It’s funny how those life-changing “ah-ha” moments happen when you least expect them… like watching the last Rocky movie.  The character of Rocky has always been fascinating to me. Maybe that’s because the story has been around as long as I have. Growing up, Rocky reminded me a little of my own father — strong on the outside, soft on the inside, and nothing pretentious in between.

The final chapter of the Rocky story begins by revealing what happens after all the glory fades. He had fame and fortune and was on top of the world, but as he’s aged, life has taken its toll. People still recognize him on the streets, and ask for his autograph, but the money’s all gone. He grieves the death of his lovely wife, Adrian. On the surface, he seems painfully unaware of his own irrelevance — the world has moved on but he appears to stuck in the past, living backwards.

But there is more than meets the eye.

Rocky seems to have figured out something about life few of us get to taste. He is truly free from the opinion of others — not in the way that devalues others — but in the way that can keep us from ever knowing ourselves, forming our own opinions and convictions, and taking a stand in the world.  Over the years, Rocky has become a remarkable man inside; he’s simple and far from perfect. He’s unpretentious, humble, gracious, strong, confident, and vulnerable and real and wise. This kind of perspective is only possible for a man who gives up trying to be what he thinks everybody else wants him to be, a man who stops pretending to be something he is not, a man who is so comfortable in his own skin his very presence invites us to take another step in becoming comfortable in ours.

In this scene, he speaks to his son as only a father can — with love and truth. Rocky calls him out of his own insecurities without blaming or criticizing him. Rocky calls his son to something bigger by restoring his true identity. Then he walks away. You get to decide who you are going to be.

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All my best days begin with you in my arms.”

Jesh de Rox

 

Life can be so hard sometimes, but there’s something beautiful and magical about facing those hard moments with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of never ending laundry runs, a mountain of dishes with a life all its own and the tornado of toys left behind when my kids leave any room, I stop taking in moments to breathe. I start to shut down inside to do whatever it takes to get through the day. But if I catch myself, I realize there is something more than meets the eye — there is something extraordinary going on.

These are the best days of my life.

Last night was such a moment. My wife and I took a 10 minute break in between after the kids went to bed and before we tackled the kitchen (for the 5th time that day). We sat snuggling for a moment in each others’ arms, gently swinging on our porch watching the sun go down and let our minds wander. Surprisingly, our thoughts both rested in gratitude. For a moment we looked at each other — past the peanut butter in her hair and the bags under my eyes. The life we’ve always dreamed of is here. We’re doing it. This is it.

Soak it in and let yourself smile. Let yourself enjoy your life just as it is.

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How do you put color into words for someone who has never seen it for themselves? How would you describe red? Or blue? Or burnt amber? How would you experience a sunset without color? Watch as these colorblind folks see all of that for the very first time. It’s an incredible personal and intimate experience most of us take for granted. What a breath-taking gift!

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There is a great deal of talk about leadership lately in my circles. But it’s still a bit elusive. What are we talking about when we talk about leadership?

The Cultural Ideals. What comes to mind when you think about leadership — the charisma of a Fortune 500 CEO, the bold strength of a four-star general, the sacrificial service of Mother Theresa, the fame of celebrity, or the principles made popular by John Maxwell? Millions of books have been written and taught about the virtues of the subject and yet, in practice, the very idea of leadership can trigger a great deal of mistrust. Why is that?

The Rarely Addressed Consequences. When everything in our culture celebrates the spotlight, it’s difficult to separate leadership from the hierarchy we crown it with — it creates the notion leadership is synonymous with an achievement or climbing up the ladder of success. Fierce competition overshadows the importance of how the hierarchy is scaled and confuses leadership with identity. It also causes an unhealthy codependency between leader and follower where one decides the fate of many, at the expense of many, because the many gave permission to the one. Because of this, we’ve all experienced the harmful effects of poor leadership — the proclamation of something good traded for an abuse of power, coercion, deception, manipulation, destructive control and exploitation of authority. The person we celebrate in the spotlight can be someone who wants the position of glory more than the sweat required to actually care and serve, all because somehow we’ve agreed to the premise that power comes from a higher position rather than the character within.

The Character of Leadership. Generally, there are two types of people who want to be leaders… those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something. If we ask ourselves which one we are, it will tell us if we really are leaders or are merely pretending to be something we’re not.

If we take leadership outside of an artificial hierarchal power structure, what might it look like? Maybe something like this:

  • Leadership is about service, not rank or position. It’s caring for your neighbor. It’s cleaning the toilet. It’s being the last one to eat because you want to make sure everyone gets some good food before you can think about rest for yourself. 
  • Leadership takes initiative. It is the willingness to go first, to courageously do the right thing, and to go alone if no one else dares. It’s the internal drive that no one else can decide, create or duplicate for another person. It is a heart thing that cannot be faked.
  • Leadership is not about needing permission from “followers”You don’t need someone else’s permission to care about, serve, or love them. Of course, those you serve have the choice whether to receive it or not. But that cannot be confused with waiting around for someone else to see you as a leader.
  • Leadership knows authority comes from character alone. Authority is the moral center we trust and submit to when power, responsibility, and love collide in perfect harmony. We naturally follow those who serve and care about others, commit to taking responsibility, and have the power to follow through and deliver. Authority without trust is abuse.
  • Leadership functions as power under, not power over someone else. There is a wide gap between influence and service to others vs. exploitation and using others — one empowers an individual while the other forces submission of that individual. When all of these aspects align, there is an unleashing of power that is not threatened with others have that same power.
  • Leadership is not exclusive to men. Women have as much, if not more, of a right to lead because of their proven history of service, commitment, care for others and strength of character. None of these traits are exclusive to men — in fact, many men fail to develop such traits where women excel. Woman are equal in capacity for authority; I think it’s time they are treated with the same automatic dignity and respect we’ve naturally given to men without question.

Who wants to be a leader now?

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