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emotions

Life is Pushy - What To Do?

Life is just pushy. Life is demanding.


During my past life as a pastor and my current role as a manger in the business setting, I've been privileged to stand with people during all manner of crisis.  From being confronted with critical illness, accidental death to suicide and addiction, I've witnessed people walk through harsh situations.  Life is demanding.


 I've walked through the normal stresses of life with others, as well. We all experience the demands of relationships, illness, job transitions, aging and even the stress of our own feelings and thoughts. Life pushes on us – sometimes hard.
What to do? How about three things?

 

  1.  Know that it’s part of the process. In the same way that hiking to the top of a mountain requires effort, even discomfort life requires effort. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have gotten this idea that life is supposed to have a particular mix of easy and hard; more easy - less hard. Right?. Not true. This moment is our work, our living and it’s often hard, sometimes painful work. 
  2. Do a self-care check. Years ago someone introduced me to the acronym HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. HALT and see if you’re dealing with any of these. If more than two of these is the case, you could be in trouble. Make sure you have as many of these things taken care of as possible – and the good news is, most of these are within our power to address.
  3. Use the buddy system. Why is it we so often go into hiding when we are struggling? Isolation isn’t helpful for managing life’s pushiness. Get with someone else and push back! Throughout every religious expression the importance of community remains constant. As the often quoted, but seldom studied words of the poet remind us,
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. - John Donne
 

When life pushes, we can know that it is momentary, take care of ourselves and tap into our community for support.

 

Are You Hiding the Best Bad?

Are You Hiding the Best Bad?

Who are you? Really. Ponder that for a moment. We all, no doubt, have familiar labels based on our relationships, vocation, accomplishments, hobbies, gender and age. These labels are important to communicating an understanding of who we are, but what about the uncomfortable labels that are part of us as well? Do we own those, too?

Do we live a life such that we are honest about our full humanity?

William Sloan Coffin once said, "You are all so interested in putting your best foot forward, when it is your other foot that is far more interesting."

If we are honest, we all have 'the other foot,' those labels that represent another part of who we are. Try on a few of these: divorced, addict, depressed, confused, failure, angry, hurtful, prejudiced... you get the idea. How willing are we to let others know the full truth?

Do we allow our children to see us struggle with our limitations? Can they ever learn to deal with failure if they don't see us fail and recover?

"Your children need a model of honesty. If you pretend you have no weaknesses, and cover them under masks and facades, your children will learn to do the same and the game will go on. Begin today to see, and accept, the real you beneath the role." - William Martin

As a former pastor, I recall yielding to a similar fallacy. My belief was that if I allowed too much of my humanity to be known, I would not be accepted, liked, loved by the people I served. The trick was not to look perfect, but rather to look just a little bit human, a slight bit flawed - but not reveal the true depth of brokenness that I felt and believed every day. Instead, I played a self-inflicted game of privacy and loneliness. It is impossible to have deep intimacy when we hide our complete selves.

It seems to me that when I truly listen to others, when I get the gift of connecting with other people on a deep level, we are all deeply broken and sincerely fearful of our true selves.

It is impossible to have deep intimacy when we hide our complete selves.
— Kim Williams


What say you?


The call of the Divine to us is one of acceptance and knowing, that no matter how bad we may believe we are, no matter how misunderstood or broken we may think ourselves to be, we are nonetheless loved. Ours must be a journey of progress, not perfection, of trying and failing and trying again. Ours is a tale of human imperfection and amazing accidental moments of goodness and badness. We are all of the labels - those we cherish and those we fear revealing.

Hear that?

You're hiking in the woods with a good friend and all of a sudden she stops you and whispers intently, "Hear that?"

You freeze in your tracks, try to control your heavy breathing and listen...

At first nothing. Then a stirring in the brush. The snap of a twig somewhere behind you. You turn to look. A family of whitetail deer-  several does, a fawn and then a majestic buck come into view. You are amazed. Then, there - you see it all. The wildness, the beauty, the strength of the moment - nature, raw and untouchable, untamed. The buck catches your scent on the air, stares at you and your friend for a moment and then snorts and the deer are gone. 

You and your hiking buddy look at each other and smile, then laugh. You've been graced by the woods, touched by a fleeting moment of surprise and you both know it.

Nice?

Here's the deal. What about the woods we are hiking in right now? Am I listening for the subtle sounds of beauty approaching? Is a colleague (or Spirit) trying to alert me that I'm missing something important? Am I willing to stop and really soak up this moment?

Hear that?

An Open Letter to Hallmark (and others)

Dear Hallmark:

Thank you for your wide and creative selection of cards. As a man, it is most helpful that you provide me with cards that speak of love, commitment, passion and adoration between a husband and wife. At each season and holiday, when I reach to purchase a card – I am glad you have thought through these details for me.

How nice. You picked this one because you like the colors – didn’t you?


I would like to make one request, however. Can you please not design these cards to appeal to me just in order to sell them? Yes, I like brown, tan and other earth tone colors. I am a bit uncomfortable holding flowery, glitter laden and sparkling cards that sing love songs. And yet, even at the risk of making me uncomfortable can you NOT design any more cards that will result in my wife saying – “How nice. You picked this one because you like the colors – didn’t you?” I promise I will buy whatever you sell, just help me out, will you?

Sincerely,


a guy who likes earth tones…

This Just In - Goldfish Syndrome?! #MondayBlogs

 Goldfish Syndrome??


According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Wait? What was that?

 

Maybe - Don't Interrupt Those Interruptions

Feeling Ceaselessly Interrupted?

Interruptions Are the Best!
— Said No One...Ever


30 years ago…The morning sun shone through the stained glass of my church office windows. I settled into my chair preparing to type up my sermon when the door buzzer sounded –

Inner voice - “No! Not again!”

Yesterday’s attempt to find some time to write had been interrupted repeatedly and with the weekend looming, I was feeling the real pressure of being unprepared for Sunday. The person at the door turned out to be Edith. I need to tell you about Edith, and I need to tell you what happened that morning.


Edith, a 60 something year old woman, was a regular to the church for worship on Sunday morning. She was perpetually down on her luck and yet dedicated to Sunday attendance and a life of independence. She lived two blocks from the church in a low income housing complex. With only sporadic employment, she had very little to her name. She lived in a meager apartment, wore overly worn clothing and squeaked by from payday to payday.

On a few occasions, Edith had allowed the church to assist her with groceries and rent, but mostly her stoic and determined mindset made her powerfully independent. Each time I spoke with Edith, I was mindful that she likely warred with some internal mental health issues – but all in all – she was a gentle spirit, if consistently odd.


Today, Edith eagerly wanted to tell me something. Her enthusiasm barely allowed her to wait for me to serve her a mug of coffee. Once she took the coffee and sat down, she started talking.


What she told me was…


She had recently gotten a second part-time job had gotten paid the day before. After she had paid her bills and bought groceries for this week, she had some money left over. Then she leaned over and spoke as if telling me a secret.

“There was this bedside stand down at the drug store that I’ve had my eye on for some time. Something I could place by my bed, for glasses, and my bible and stuff. You know. Well I went right down there and bought that stand, yes I did. And I took it back to my room and put it together. Sat it right by the bed. Then I had a troubling thought. Something didn’t seem right.”


“What was that,” I asked.


“It took me a minute, but I figured it out. You remember that sermon you preached last year about tithing and bringing the first fruits of the harvest to God?”


I didn’t. “Go on,” I said.


“Well I have something for the church,” she exclaimed!


With that, she bounded from my office outside and in a blink was standing in front of me holding her prize. That stand, the bed side table wasn’t an actual piece of furniture at all. It was one of those cardboard storage boxes, the kind that you fold tab A into slot B to make a flimsy two drawer chest. There she stood, beaming and childlike insisting I take the chest.


“I want the church to have this,” she employed. "I’m sure you can use it somewhere. Can’t you?” she asked.

I stood there speechless. Part of me wanted to explain to her that her application of my sermon wasn’t needed in this situation. Still, part of me knew no amount of theology or biblical talk would help her right now. What she needed most, as one of the hardest things I’ve done.


I took the cardboard chest from her, feeling all the while like I was receiving the Eucharist from the very table of Christ, and said, “Thank you. I’m sure we can.”

She burst into tears of joy, hugged and thanked me.

I learned some things that day.


1. Most of the time, the interruptions people bring into our lives ARE the work of our lives.
2. Gratitude is a powerful thing…for the grateful and for those around them.
3. Always consider the person behind the action – not just the action
4. Big lessons often come from messy places


I’ll be headed down to that church in August for a centennial celebration of the church, 30 years after receiving Edith’s donation. I will be surprised if the office bathroom still houses a simple cardboard chest that I left there all these years ago.  I know it still rests in my heart and for that day, Edith's interruption will be very present.

Change vs Metamorphosis

We often find, in the most common of things, the familiar moments, our greatest experience of revelation.

The quiet of a morning coffee while listening to the birds wake.
The pauses between conversations between lovers
  Sunsets
                    Sunrises
           Beach strolls
                               Woodland walks
  Floating in a pond
                                               Porch sitting
     Surf wading...


Yet, we seek, nay demand change, movement in and around us as incessantly as the manic hummingbird, flitting from blossom to bloom sipping the momentary fuel needed for continued frenzy. We flip from screen to screen, between search and video, then off to tap texts and slide photos, with the occasional glance up to orient ourselves and then we are off again. We look to move and shake from job to job or better still - career to career - thinly skimming the darker pools below our wake, surface dwelling, unwilling to sink, float down to those deep abysses... relationships, partnerships, compromises, sacrifices, commitments...scary places. Long term, staying places. 

Metamorphosis, the transforming change that our very spirit seeks comes after the stillness, the cocooning of what we are and then...well then...the miracle happens. We become more. Different. Progressed.

It seems we are determined to churn, we...us people...us communities...us nations...to churn and flit about. As if our churning and yearning for change for change sake will somehow quench our thirst for becoming more, for growing. It can't. 

We need the rebirth that comes from the sedentary stillness of time moving around us, of the processing of knowledge into understanding, of the merger of people in meaningful connection.  

So, dear reader, what do you think? What means of metamorphosis have you found?

Thankful Attitude

The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.
— Williams James

We all know that our attitude toward just about anything can create joy and peace in our living. We also know that we often don't do the work of crafting a better attitude. This is particularly common our holiday activities. Here are three reasons we might fail to develop a grateful attitude and what we can do about it.

1. I'm  just too tired. The thought of reciting a a clever mantra or making a list of "things I'm thankful for" seems like too much work. Solution - get some rest. Sometimes I need to make time for sleep, quiet moments and space for...doing nothing. I need to try excusing myself from all the hustle and bustle long enough to walk down the sidewalk or breathe in the crisp fall air. Watching  a leaf fall and pondering for 60 seconds what analogy it might provide for my life is a wonderful thing.

2. I suffer from a moment of "it won't work for me." I get it. It is easy for me to offer pastoral advice or elderly counsel to others. I can believe in their progress through attitude adjustment, BUT when I'm dealing with my emotions,  my disappointments...well...that's different. I'm different. When we are in the midst of the emotional storm of guilt, shame or regret it is hard to see beyond the mess. Time to "phone a friend!" I have a hand of trusted, caring, honest friends and they are just the fix for my self-centered, myopic, 'poor me' attitude. A quick call to one of them will often walk me right out of the mess and into enough belief that I'll do those attitude changing things that I need to do.

3. I get out of the habit. Attitude management is really more about my daily self-care and personal development habits. I know that daily prayer, consistently reading positive and spiritual  words, times of playfulness, laughter and being in nature all help my attitude and perspective.  Yet, as much as I am a creature of habit, I will also break my routine here and there and soon I'm out of sorts.  At those times, I do well to remember what makes for a better attitude and make sure I'm mixing, routinely, a good measure of that activity into my day...week...month...now.

This is a season of thanksgiving, gratitude and joy. I can get off track. Here's my reminder to get my attitude back into shape.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Right Now - Dog Spelled Backwards is God.

Right Now - Dog Spelled Backwards is God.

Sometimes the pace of life is so swift that it sweeps away ever opportunity for reflection and self-analysis. The stimulus of voices, choices and ideas pour forth like a monsoon deluge, and the deafening stream of life invades me completely. Only the deepest sanctuary of self remains intact, only the most basic of truth dwells secure and I waver, twisting against the torrent of being, at risk of loosing self. Still, the desire to continue is unfaltering, and I risk an even further journey into this mire of self-exertion.

Gizmo!

Tonight I am in that place. Yet, just now, I found myself holding my small canine friend, bending over him, embracing his warmth and feeling the softness of his fur against my cheek and the fluff of his ear upon the base of my nose, and in the earthy smell of his being and I was reminded that I am held in the arms of God; safe. I choose tonight, for the next few moments to recline with that knowledge and my familiar upon the sofa. Come what may, I have finished this day and am done with it.

Amen.

 

Reclaiming Play for Adults

One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.
— Randall Jarrell

I know many creative adults, and I think adults – as a whole – get a bad rap. We are creative, fun, innovative and playful creatures. The idea that adults, by virtue of their age and place in society, have lost the desire or ability to be playful and creative is bunk. Bunk I say! B-U-N-K!

Even the most conservative minded business professionals I know are ready to laugh and dream if given a moment to do so. Perhaps it is the fact that children who grow up must develop some ability to set aside play and work through periods of methodical and measurable activity that is seen and misunderstood as losing the child-like gleam of creativity. Just because we can suspend fantasy doesn't mean we have lost it – or its power.  

It isn't that adults are not willing or able to play. In fact it may just not be a smart time to lay aside work and reason for fancy.  

The challenge, for us as adults, isn't so much to learn how to play. Our challenge is learning when to play and when to work – and even that statement isn't right because good creativity is often hard, detailed, serious work. The issue is about capabilities and how we spend our time, how we rest and relax, work and create and remain energized spiritually.  

Carl Jung reportedly scheduled time each day, for a period of years, to simply go outback of his home and play. This play allowed him to better free his inner creative self and in some measure reinforced the most profound pieces of his thinking – his work. 

I guess I’m advocating that we give a little thought to how much time we are spending in the realms of the adult and child each week… I’m just saying.