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spirituality

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.

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.

Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone

My Attitude Could Whip Your…A

My Attitude Could Whip Your…

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

I spent 8 years in higher education, 15 years beyond that as a pastor for a mainline denomination. I've studied human psychology, pastor counseling and theology. It took a man with no more than a high school education and a background in construction to teach me something real about people, about me.

I was having a bad day and it wasn't even 8:00 am. I’d had an argument with my wife. My children were not behaving the way I wanted them to, and my work schedule for the day was so packed that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get all of it done. My brain hurt, my back hurt and I pretty much hated everything and everybody at that moment.

My boss at the time took note of my bad attitude and asked me to come into his office. I did. He listened to my story and then paused before saying, “You have two choices this morning. You can stay pissed and have a sorry day, or you can do something about your attitude.” He reached in the desk drawer and handed me a card that resembled one of those “do not disturb” door hangers. On the front and back were a series of sayings, positive affirmations. He told me to take it and if I wanted to change my attitude to read the sayings out load on the way to my first appointment for that day. My attitude wasn’t very receptive. I thought of all the psychological cliques that I knew. I thought about how what I was going through was much bigger than a few clever and witty sayings. I thought of a hundred reasons why his suggestion was stupid. I didn’t challenge him. I took the card and headed for the truck. As I walked out of his office he said one more thing, “I bet you’re too chicken to try it.”

I smiled and for some reason warmed up to the idea of proving him wrong. On the way to my first appointment, I read them out load:

“I will win. Why? I’ll tell you why – because I have faith courage and enthusiasm.” 
“Today I will meet the right people in the right place at the right time for the betterment of all.” 
“I see opportunity in every challenge.”
“When I fail, I only look at what I did right.”

“I’ll never take advice from someone more messed up than I am.”

The readings continued, and so did a change in my attitude. There is great power in the words we speak to ourselves. By the time I was done I did feel better and begin to think on the things I could do to be effective and successful that day. I have never forgotten that lesson.

What we believe, about ourselves and our world is directly related to the words we say to ourselves and others.

5 Tricks To Connect With Others, #Intimacy

Truth. We all need human intimacy. Anyone here struggling with the need for balance between quality human connection and fast paced, technology driven day-to-day, get-it-done, one-more world?

What's a human to do?  

 

I've been reminded, of late, of the importance of meaningful human connection. I live with this need everyday. I'm good at that. I tend to connect deeply and meaningfully with others. How do I do it, you might ask? Well, here's 5 tips for making deeper connections with others. Take them. They're free.

 

  1. Set aside technology for the duration of the conversation. Don't allow the distraction of other 'conversations' to insert themselves into your face-to-face time with others. One of my new games is to get all the people present at the lunch, dinner or coffee table to stack their phone face-down in the middle of the table. First one to check the device, buys. 
  2. Look at people's eyes. There is a world in the eye.  It seems that if anyone takes time to look at that particular place on a person's face, they instinctively are more intimately connected.
  3. If you think of someone, reach out to them. Our minds are amazing machines. More than we commonly understand, the mind thinks beyond our consciousnesses. If you find yourself having a thought glimpse on a friend, take it as a cue. Pick up the phone (not email of Facebook) and talk to them. Better yet, set up a time to meet and visit while seeing #1 and #2 above.
  4. Prior to a visit with a friend, ask yourself, "What do I not know about this person?" Make a list of 2-3 things you want to ask them. Of course, then actually ask them.
  5. Write a note...with paper...and pen...and snail-mail it or hand deliver it. There is something substantial and lasting about written on paper communication. the act of inscribing the letters, thinking through your choice of words without the benefit of the backspace key, and holding that complete message in your hands that adds intimacy to the communication. 

Do you have other tips for connecting deeper with people? Are there rituals that dot the landscape of your meaningful relationships that you can share. Please do!