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How to Calm the Loneliness Within

Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net

This morning as I walked out of the house, I found myself singing a familiar tune. When I realized what it was, I stopped in my tracks.

Eleanor Rigby? Where did that come from?

Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics in 1966. Eleanor Rigby departed significantly from anything the Beatles had done up to that point. In my opinion, it’s the most haunting and powerful song the group ever recorded:

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

The song touches me to the core. I can see them, and feel their pain and loneliness.

Or am I perhaps experiencing my own?


We are the Lonely People

Loneliness is rampant. We’re surrounded by people and laden with technology designed to better connect us, and yet this feeling-alone-and-separate stuff runs deep. And no wonder. We’re relational beings at our core, created to love and be loved. We thirst for heart-soul connections that really matter.

Our world doesn’t foster this. Instead, we’re daily, repeatedly enticed by pseudo-fulfillment. Products that will help us feel better. Entertainment that delivers momentary escape from the internal gnawing. Technology that keeps us distracted and numb to the churning monster of aloneness within.

And so we skate through life, few of us ever experiencing the heart-satisfying, contentment-producing connection we’re meant for. Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie are still out there. Down the street, and next door. At the office, and at Starbucks. In the movie theater, and at church. In every mirror in every house.

It’s time to save them, and perhaps ourselves in the process.


Saving Eleanor Rigby

Of course, you and I cannot save anyone. That’s for a Higher Authority. But we can slow down, lay down the gadgets, and put aside the to-do list long enough to see the people around us.

The cashier at the grocery store. The server at the restaurant. The driver in the next car over. Our own children.

Look. Observe for a moment. There’s a little Eleanor Rigby in all of them. Do you see her?

This doesn’t come naturally. Distraction and “not seeing” are the norm. We must dare to be different. Connecting begins with seeing, and seeing is a discipline that must be practiced.


Learning to See

We must train ourselves: be aware, notice, observe, see.

As we practice the discipline of seeing, something strange happens. We get out of our own heads. We become more present. We live more in the now. And we feel something inside. What’s that? Connection. It may not be much, but it’s there. Our souls are stirred.

The connection we yearn for begins when we make ourselves available to see others. We can’t force anyone to connect with us. That’s up to them. But we can learn to see, and when we do, our hearts wake.

Yes, we’ve been hurt. We’ve had dreams crushed and expectations dashed. We’ve been betrayed, used, and neglected. Many of us have been abused, abandoned, and forsaken.

Well? Are we going to take this lying down? I think not. It’s time to fight. How? By learning to see.

Choose to see today.


Pay attention.  

Fight to stay present.

No, there’s no guarantee others will return the favor. But if you take the time and effort to see, I believe you’ll end up being seen as well (though not necessarily by the one in front of you).

Eleanor Rigby. She’s everywhere. She needs us. She needs you.


QUESTION: How big an issue do you think loneliness is?

Why Freedom Scares Me (and Why It Should You Too)

Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net

Freedom scares me. At least, the current definition of it does. It should scare you too.

I had the privilege of living on the island of Maui for several years. The beauty of the place was astounding. Every morning I was greeted by the aroma of plumeria, the gentle clack of palm fronds in the breeze, and a kaleidoscope of color so fantastic it almost strained the eyes.

Holidays were different on Maui, partially because of the lack of seasons, but also because each was celebrated with its own unique Hawaiian flair.  I remember one 4th of July in particular. As the sun set over the neighboring island of Molokai, the beat of drums filled the air. Hula was performed by torchlight, followed by patriotic melodies accompanied by the ukulele and slack key guitar. Then fireworks over the water. Incredible.

I never got over Maui or that 4th of July. I wear an aloha shirt almost every day, and I have one special red, white, and blue one that I break out at this time of year.

Independence Day is upon us. This is our day. We fly the flag, eat watermelon, and light the night sky. We take off work and enjoy a long weekend. It’s a time full of activity, family and friends. We celebrate freedom.


What freedom is NOT

And yet, deep inside, a question crosses my mind: What is it I’m really celebrating? Yes, 4th of July is an American thing, a patriotic holiday. But freedom is more than this. It’s more than a unique, incredible document signed by a courageous body of men over 200 years ago. It’s bigger than a single country or a political philosophy. Definitions are important, and what we think about the guts of freedom is no exception.

In my opinion, there has been a slide here – a big one. Freedom doesn’t mean what it used to. It seems to have degenerated into something like this:

  • Freedom means I can think what I want.
  • Freedom means I can say what I want.
  • Freedom means I can do what I want.

That’s scary. Terrifying, in fact.

If that’s freedom, we’re in serious trouble. Hitler lived that definition. So have many other dictators and oppressors. History is chocked full of examples of people who used their “personal freedom” to coerce, manipulate, deceive, abuse, steal, and kill.

This certainly isn’t the freedom we believe in, fight for, and celebrate.


What freedom IS

Freedom can’t be the right to think, say, and do what we want. Freedom, instead, is the choice to love.

True freedom has always lived under the umbrella of love. Love birthed freedom in the first place. It is love that frees each of us to live, flourish, and pursue our God-given dreams and passions. It is love that brings life, hope, and meaning into relationships, work, and play. True freedom is a part of love. It’s constrained by love, and fights against evil rather than allowing or pursuing it.

Freedom means I can choose to love.

This runs far deeper than political convictions or national loyalties. We’re no longer talking merely about laws and do’s and don’ts. We’re talking about our hearts.

Freedom begins within us.


The incredible power we have

If this is true, then I am, at any given moment:

  • free to be compassionate
  • free to have personal convictions
  • free to own my issues and problems
  • free to heal and to grow
  • free to forgive and make amends
  • free to make peace and pursue peace
  • free to exercise self-control for the good of others
  • free to treat others as I want to be treated
  • free to use my words to encourage and build up
  • free to be generous
  • free to be real and authentic
  • free to do massive good

The potential expressions of love go on and on.

In my mind, true freedom means that:

  • I am free to think the next loving thing
  • I am free to say the next loving thing
  • I am free to do the next loving thing

That’s powerful, far more than we realize.


The power to choose, and choose well

And so we celebrate Independence Day. Independent doesn’t mean self-sufficient. It means we have the right to choose. Let’s choose real freedom. It has to do with expressing love. It begins and lives in the heart. Nothing and no one can take that away.

This morning I’ll be wearing my red, white, and blue aloha shirt. As I look in the mirror, I’ll say, “I’m free to love today.” I hope you’ll do that same.

The world needs us, just as badly as it needed those men in Philadelphia in 1776. The power to choose is immense. Let’s choose to love.


Question: How can you use your freedom to love today?

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