Friday, December 27, 2013

It's Not All About the Anticipation


Reading: James 1:17--"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

 

I always get a kick out of hearing about how people prepare for the Christmas season. It seems that more and more are following suit of the department stores and are decorating their homes earlier and earlier in the calendar year. Then, by the evening of the 25th of December, they're beginning to get the itch to restore their homes to pre-holiday d├ęcor. Many trees head out the door or back into the box on December 26--the day is over and the anticipation is over. Time to get back to the day-to-day.

 

This reminds me of how we pretty much handle any important events in our lives. Remember proms from high school?  Graduations? Birthday parties? In retrospect, it seems that the anticipation gets more of our attention and energy than the event itself. In fact, when the event does arrive, we have already grown weary of the whole thing. Isn't that silly of us?

 

Christmas is not just about all the anticipation, although that anticipation has a name--Advent. It is a beautiful season in and of itself. And, after Christmas, we have the next wondrous season leading up to Epiphany--the momentous time when the three Wise Men found the Christ Child and worshipped him as King of Kings.

 

So, remember...Christmas isn't necessarily over at the stroke of midnight on the 25th of December. It's also not a single season in and of itself. There's so much more to enjoy--and yes, anticipate. The greatest beauty of the season is the unchanging gift of perfect love that we are all given with the birth of this wondrous child. Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, Happy Epiphany.

 

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nice Little Projects, After All


Readings: Job 34:19--"...who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands."

Psalm 136:26--"Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever."

 
I decided to plug in my sewing machine and make a few Christmas gifts this year. About mid-way through the first project, I began to wonder why I did so. As I put the finishing touches on the gift, I started seeing every little flaw that I had created along the process. Doubt began to take over whenever I would work on or look at the project. Why didn't I just buy something instead of trying to make something? One day a friend came along and I showed the project to her. Her response was much different than I expected. She was honestly impressed with my handiwork. She, without giving false flattery, told me how much she knew the recipient would enjoy the personalized gift. Later that evening, I once again picked up the project and looked at it. This time however, I looked at it with eyes of appreciation rather than eyes of skepticism. Instead of seeing every slight error I had ruminated on earlier, I now saw a much neater version of the project where I painstakingly removed a row of stitching and carefully replaced it to make it look nicer or re-trimmed a spot here or there to neaten everything up. It turned out to be a nice little project, after all.

When we're feeling extra critical about ourselves, our neighbors, or our surroundings, we need to remember that we are, after all, created in God's image. The human part of us that is limited in scope, tends to want to zero in on the flaws. How much better to look through the spirit of God's infinite love and see just how blessed and divide we and everything around us is created. We've all turned out, after all, to be nice little projects, too!

 
Peace be with you.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Not My, But Thy Will Be Done

Reading: Matthew 6:9-10 "This, then, is how you should pray--"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

As I write this morning, one of my brothers is in surgery for a heart catheterization, and another friend in is in the middle of a dialysis session suffering with a severe headache. The roads are still a mess from the ice and snow that came piling in late last week. My mom's telephone is still out. Wouldn't it be easy to just say, "God--fix all this. Make it better"?

That's just not the way it works; and, as I grown older, I'm actually glad that it doesn't work that way. Why, you ask? Why not just get things put back into the order we want?

I have found that our ideas of "fixing" things are highly limited. We are finite creatures with finite thinking. God's way is always better--more thought out and, of course, perfect. He is infinite. If I want my brother's heart catheterization to be "fixed", my way of thinking would be one of ignorance in that area. I'm not a cardiac physician--I have no idea of all of the intricacies of this type of procedure. Similarly, if I think I could "fix" my dear friend's dialysis session so she feels better, it would be fleeting at best. I'm not a nephrologist--I know very little about how the kidneys work (or don't work). Add to this list my lack of knowledge of how to best deal with icy highways or malfunctioning phone lines. It makes me very humble and full of gratitude that God is in control.

Will my brother's procedure turn out as I would like? I don't know that. But I do know that whatever happens, it truly is in God's loving hands. Will my friend's kidneys ever function again on their own? I don't know that answer, either. But once again, there are no better hands in which she can be than God's. The good Lord will watch over our roadways, and my mom's phone will be repaired in good order.  In the meantime, He has blessed us with capable workers in each of these areas as well as surrounding us with good people who work hard to fill in the momentary gaps.

As difficult as it is for us, once we learn to pray not my, but God's will be done, life does become far more comforting and pleasant. The relief that all is not up to us and our limited skills, knowledge, and means to keep things going is a blessing indeed.

Peace be with you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Reading: Colossians 3:17--"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."


Thanksgiving will arrive in just a few days. I must admit that it's one of my favorite holidays. It's all about thanks--thanks for family and friends that gather, thanks for the good foods that are shared with one another, thanks for the past seasons that allowed many of those foods to be grown and harvested.

It's nice to have a holiday where it's all about the thanks. It's too easy to overlook gratitude in our hectic lives. Focusing on being grateful for what we have in front of us is a relaxing and enjoyable feeling. There's no planning (other than cooking some food--but isn't it nice that most any combinations of food works well on this holiday?), there's no expectations of those in attendance of gifts other than the company of one another (and that good food, of course!).

Another nice thing about Thanksgiving is the name of the holiday itself--thanksgiving. Giving thanks. What could be more gratifying--giving thanks for everything good and right in our lives. For different people, this could be different things: a new job, perhaps, or a new spouse or child; good news from medical reports; just being alive on God's beautiful earth. No matter what the event or occasion, giving thanks is a beautiful tribute to our all-watching and all-loving God and his son, Jesus Christ.

So, I'm thankful today for a holiday of thanks...I'm also thankful that I can extend that holiday into each day of my life. Yes, I'm most thankful for Thanksgiving!

Peace be with you all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keeping an Eye on the Storm



Reading: Matthew 16:3--"'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

Last Sunday was a day that many will not soon forget. Across the Midwest, horrific storms and tornados roared through towns and the countryside, taking with it homes, businesses, possessions, and life itself. As tragic as it all was, we were still at a great advantage due to the weather service giving us warnings hours and even days in advance that prepared us as much as possible for the storms. Nevertheless, none of us knew the exact location of where the storms would hit--even advanced weather radar is still unable to give pin-point accuracy. So, we prepared. We planned our day's activities around the time of the storm, we made sure we had needed supplies in case we needed them later, and we checked on loved ones to make sure all were okay. We do our best to be wisely prepared.

All throughout time, we have watched the skies. Weather plays a very crucial part in our day-to-day existence. It not only predicts whether the ballgame or picnic will happen, it also alerts the boats on the water and the planes in the sky of impending trouble. Watching the weather is certainly not a new invention. Even in Biblical times the adage "Red sky at morning, sailor take warning" was much-depended upon for safe sailing of the seas. With the passage of time, we now have very elaborate equipment that can forecast even the suggestion of a storm, much as it did last Sunday.

God tells us that He, too, is a forecaster--the perfect forecaster. He's always 100 percent correct in his predictions. He tells us to become better at being forecasters of our surroundings here on Earth. The world is indeed changing, and not necessarily for the better. The winds are stirring; the storms are brewing. The proverbial sky is red and threatening. These signs of inclement weather are our watches and warnings to be prepared for in heading to shelter--the shelter of God's perfect love and protection. We need to be vigilant in keeping a lookout for ourselves and others to stay safe from the coming storms. We'll never have a better storm shelter than the one God offers us; upon acceptance of Him and His son as our Savior, we have constant shelter. As the children's Sunday School song goes, "His shelter over me is love." What more could we need?

So, let's all keep alert with an eye to the skies. Let's also keep alert for the signs of the ultimate beautiful day of Christ's return.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blessed by Examples of Godly Women

 
Reading: Proverbs 31:26  "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
 No one, I doubt, would disagree that our world is quickly changing.  I think age might have a little to do with it, but even remaining "young at heart" has become a real challenge in some areas--like TV. Tom and I usually go to church on Saturday evenings, so Sunday mornings are sometimes comprised of sipping coffee and enjoying CBS Sunday Morning. I'm guessing it's considered an "old people show", since it has a variety of low-key stories of people and events. This morning the TV got turned on a little earlier than usual and we ended up wading through some morning shows while waiting for our dependable Charles Osgood. And wading seemed to be the correct term--maybe even wading through molasses. We were bombarded with one meaningless story after another that had very little content and pretty much was just a lot of noise. I'm not sure this kind of change is what we all need.
 As I sat and watched some women participate in a cooking segment, my mind started mulling over just how difficult they were making easy steps of preparing a recipe. No woman I had grown up with would approach a meal in this way. The women I grew up watching and learning from could tackle a church supper feeding 500+ people without blinking--no running around, dancing, or posturing about the kitchen. And feed the masses they did--year after year. They worked passionately so that their friends and neighbors could enjoy a great meal and some equally great fellowship. And then they took their earnings and gave it back to the community. I have been richly blessed by these examples.
Those particular church suppers are in the past these days, but I was a recipient of a priceless treasure of those times. My mom was, for years, one of the main planners and cooks; I have her hand-written notes from years of planning. So many women's names listed quietly and efficiently pitched in, baking pies, making dressing, preparing massive amounts of mashed potatoes, baking endless turkeys. They cooked, they shared, they cleaned up, they planned for the next one--Godly women who worked harmoniously together as Godly women have worked harmoniously together for generations throughout the Bible and in times since.
 One of those Godly women listed as a strong participant in those notes will be marking a particularly momentous event on the 14th. Marian will be turning 100; and yes, she is still just as kind, gracious, and lovely as she was during all those suppers in years' past. Many, many of us throughout the years have been blessed by her example of what how a Godly woman lives. As the Proverb above states, "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue". Ask anyone--they would agree that this particular verse is a loving definition of this dear lady.
 So, Happy Birthday to you, Marian...a blessed example to so many of us of a Godly woman. Thank you for being you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family Ties

Readings: Genesis 28:14--"Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

I had the opportunity to spend a day yesterday with a family that was not my own. Every year, most all the females of this family gather together to visit and to assure that cousins, cousins once-removed and so on know who each other is beyond the yearly Christmas card picture. It was a nice time for this outsider to witness. I do like it when families stay families.

The ages of these ladies ranged from three to beyond 80. All decades were well represented. There was one happy incident that made this gathering all the more positive. The cabin had a tin roof and the over-all location in general made for lousy phone reception. Yep...a cabin full of 21st century females and not one working smart phone. What a nice site to see. The family members weren't strewn throughout the cabin staring at screens; on the contrary, they were talking--face to face. They were laughing, not LOL-ing. It was refreshing to see. They were truly connecting. Conversations could be random just that way they should be when sitting in the same room having eye-to-eye chats. No "????" message needed. The facial expressions and voice inflections gave all the needed clues to be able to keep the changes in conversation topics flowing.

We live in a precarious time when technology is horning in on one of our most important needs as humans--we need people-to-people communication, no electronic device-to-people communication. Sure, it's great to use in a pinch or when distance is an issue. But in the same house, in the same room, it has no place. We need to get back to learning what it truly means to look one another in the eye. We need to keep our family ties strong so that our future generations will know the sanctity of family love and trust. 

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gentle Men

Reading:  Titus 2:6-7
" Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

After a long day out and about yesterday, I asked Tom what sounded good for supper. His reply was a good diner that was open late on a Sunday evening. Lo and behold, a few miles down the road, that diner appeared.

The food was really good. I'm convinced that one reason it was really good was that I had the opportunity to watch it being prepared. Interestingly, it was fixed by two high school-aged boys. You know, the age that tends to have their eyes and fingers glued to a phone--the age where fixing sandwiches for folks on a sleepy Sunday evening is the last thing on earth they'd want to do. That's where it got really fascinating. And, I will admit, when I first saw who our cooks were, I had my doubts. Then I started watching, fully prepared to see a scuffle break out with the some shoving while the onion rings burned or a moping routine that resulted in a poorly prepared supper.

I'm happy to report that none of the above took place. As I continued to watch, I witnessed two young men on task, working smoothly and efficiently, chatting while working, and taking care to make sure everything was completed to a t. When the order was finished, they delivered it to the serving window and lightly gave the bell a tap. No slamming, no excessive tapping...just a quiet "ding".

Two young men that made our day.

As we left, I went back to the kitchen doorway. I figured the least I could do was compliment them both and give them a little monetary tip for their good work. As I left, the young man I was speaking to reached out and shook my hand.


What a pleasure to know that the ageless graces are still alive and well in some little corners of the world. It gives us hope that the ridiculous "dramas" of so many young people today are a passing, mindless phase and that these young men exemplify the solid good nature of young men we so need them to have for our world to remain strong. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do What You Love...

Readings:
Ecclesiastes 3:22 --"So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them "(NIV)

Colossians 3:23--"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (NIV)


I work on feet. I enjoy it. And yes, when I reply to someone when being asked what I'm doing these days, I get some interesting expressions as well as responses. As you can guess, the most heard question is, "Why?"

Why indeed...

Many who have asked have heard my story. I had worked in education for 27 years in different capacities--I've always loved sharing information with others. So, it seemed only natural that I would continue on the "sharing trail" even if formal education was no longer my daily job.

One day it came to me--reflexology. Up until that day, the only knowledge I had on the topic was the contents of one 20+ year old book I had bought on a whim. A book that, every once in awhile, I would pick up and read a bit. It intrigued me--but not enough to give it more than a passing glance. Nevertheless, when I donated a bunch of my books to the library a few years back, the reflexology book stayed on the shelf. Why? No idea.

Isn't it neat how God works? It was all in the timing.

And so God led me on an interesting journey to Greenfield, Indiana, to study feet...and so much more.

With this new work that I do, I am once again able to share--information, hope, healing energy, positive thinking, and, through Reiki which came to me via the reflexology practice, unconditional love.

I've always read that when one works doing what one truly loves, all good things follow. I am blessed--I know it. I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these are gifts from God is that I am being allowed to share with others. I pray each morning that I will be able to continue to share these gentle gifts with many different folks. I thank God each night for those He brought to me.

There is nothing better than a person to enjoy his/her work. Unfortunately, so many go through life doing work that is only work. If we look at the verse that tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" perhaps everyone's work will be more fulfilling. By serving our brothers and sisters with good and honest work, we are, at all times, serving our Lord. I hope all of you will be able to find love in your work--if not, remember that all work we do to help others is good in God's eyes.

Peace be with you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Turning Back Time

Reading--Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under Heaven." 
 
 
Turning back the clock. How many times have we found ourselves wishing for the power to do just that? "If only", "If I could just turn back time a little bit"...we can easily slip into this mode and, before we know it, we're living lives of regret. And, sometimes, we do regretful things to ourselves and to one another. Nevertheless, if we take the Bible verse above to heart, we know in our heart of hearts that no matter what has transpired, there is indeed a time for every event under Heaven.
 
 
God has granted us a pretty good device to figure out lots and lots of things. Our brains are able to calculate, guess (with pretty close accuracy), and decide how to make good choices.
 
 
But we're not perfect.
 
 
We're not given the gift of knowing all--that left us a long, long time ago. We are fallible; we are capable of making mistakes. We are also capable of longing for the days when life was so much easier...but was it? Perhaps in some cases. But, for the most part, life becomes different. New situations spring up--some seemingly out of nowhere, catching us off-guard. And we wonder...why did this happen to me or to her or to him? What did I do wrong? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. Nevertheless, God is there...always. With His eternal love there's no need to turn back any clocks; there's no need to wish for a do-over.
 
 
The next time something doesn't necessarily go our way, let's not spend a bunch of time lamenting the fact that we can't have a re-run. Let's remember the lesson that "to everything there is a season" and then take the time to sit at the feet of the Master through meditation with Christ to learn the lesson and to grow yet closer to him and our Heavenly Father. His lessons are the best...and the outcomes are miraculous.
 
Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

Exodus 20: 1-17  Mark 12:31

I normally try to keep this blog spiritually based and keep the "profane" of the world out of the central focus. However, after the past couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to voice my frustrations--frustrations of many, I'm guessing.

Doing the right thing. During these irritating times when those of us in the United States become more and more appalled day after day while helplessly watching our elected officials acting more like selfish and entitled spoiled children rather than the statesmen and women they claim to be, we wonder where common sense and clear thinking has gone.

And then, this morning, during the usual political prattle that has become commonplace from the D.C. folks, the term slipped out from one of those folks..."doing the right thing".

My first reaction was how dare you use this term only to push your poorly thought-out arguments.

Doing the right thing. How have we slid so far from center that this morally loaded phrase has lost all meaning?

Maybe we need to head back to the rule book--the original "Big 10". A straightforward, simple set of rules that a child can understand. Here's a few of these ageless rules revisited. Perhaps the egos in tailored suits running amuck in our country's capitol might want to briefly review:

No idols...that includes yourselves, ladies and gentlemen. Your egos have become so unbearably inflated that you believe anything (and I do mean anything) that comes from your mouth. You've increasingly built up yourselves to be idols...bad move.

No stealing...Stop it. Stealing comes in all forms. You're stealing not only currency from the pockets of the taxpayers, but more importantly, you're stealing the very heart of people of all walks of life. While you're pretending to keep our best interests on the forefront, you're actually driving the morale of the country down to some of its absolute lowest levels.

No false testimony against your neighbor...WOW...how about less back stabbing for the sake of your own ego and more working together for the good of those you're suppose to be serving...remember us? The ones who go to work each day and try to keep the country running and running well despite the present situation?

And one more for good measure...Love your neighbors as you love yourself. Health care? Why is it okay for us but not those of you in power? Employment? Again, why do you continue to demand high salaries with no annual evaluations while, at the same time, you're not allowing people who want to work and to support their families go about their business with decent employment? I don't see this as loving one's neighbor as oneself.

Thankfully and mercifully, there are many many people who still look out for one another day after day. Nameless people who will make sure that bills are paid, homes are cooled or warmed, pantries are not empty. We the people. No matter what the conditions in Washington, we will continue to live these heavenly rules to the best of our abilities. They, ladies and gentlemen, are doing the right thing. Bless them all.

Peace be with you.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Empty the Vessel, Become the Instrument


Matthew 19:26 (NIV) "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

 One week ago, I experienced a renewal of my faith--perhaps not a renewal, but a resurgence. I attended a two day Reiki class where I reviewed Reiki I and learned Reiki II. The word Reiki means, in a Japanese translation, "life-giving energy from the divine source". Practiced in its purest sense, it knows no boundaries nor does it hold to any specific religions. We are all welcomed to discover it within our beautiful world and to share it with others. It is, without a doubt, the deepest level of spiritual experience I've ever shared with others.

 Still, until this morning, I spent this past week measuring my limitations. As I approached the more intensive levels of this beautiful healing gift, I wanted to make sure that I stuck closely to my Christian morals and didn't "cross over" into murkiness that might lead me (or others) to stray from those rules that accompany my beliefs that have been with me for as long as I can remember.

 Then, this morning, as I was sending out a distance Reiki session to a dear young lady I've recently met, the verse "With God, all things are possible" reverberated in my head. It brought a great deal of inner peace to me and I felt myself relaxing and reaching even deeper within myself to a better delivery system of energy to share. If I approach each session with reverence and love and if I ask for guidance from Christ, our great Physician, how can it be wrong or improper on any level?

 So, from that moment on, my Reiki practice has taken on a deeper level of peace. No worrying about breaking the rules or making God angry by not following specific guidelines. The vessel is now empty of those doubts and concerns. The instrument is tuned with pure love.

 And the energy flows and flows...because, with God, all things are indeed possible.

 Peace be with you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vary Your Diet

Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-24 "Am I only a God nearby,declares the Lord,  “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”declares the Lord.

We all have been told since we were kids that we should vary our diets. It's actually no healthier to eat only carrots every meal of the day everyday than it is to eat only a hamburger every meal of the day everyday. Besides, it's boring and we'd eventually just get tired of the whole idea of eating and keeping up our health.

I'm kind of this way in my spiritual path when it comes to religions. As a kid growing up, I was raised in one church and that was great--it gave me some really strong roots that have and will continue to guide me throughout life. When I became a teenager and started being with other kids more independent of parents, we had a little singing youth group that would go around to different churches to perform. We were made up of several different churches in our area. No one in our group was concerned that we were all coming from different religious backgrounds; in fact, it was pretty fascinating. Once I started college, my expanse widened. One of my good buddies was Jewish and he took me to his synagogue's Rosh Hashanah services--beautiful and interesting. At that time I was also friends with several Catholics and ended up with them at a mass more than once--beautiful and interesting as well. 

Now, well immersed into my "middle ages", my spiritual path has broadened from my early roots. It is remarkable to me how lives over thousands of years have molded into the various religious groups of today. On a somewhat related note, I also now love to cook. I especially enjoying cooking foods from different regions of the world; I enjoy how food is tied to peoples' history and their spiritual faiths and religions.

My mom taught me a long time ago that it's all about God--not about any specific rules or regulations that groups of people come up with. And like her, I believe that God is everywhere; even in the food we eat and in the ways we prepare it. 

Don't ever let your diet go stale. If you ever start feeling that you are less interested in your spiritual life because of something your particular church is or isn't doing, vary your diet a little. Because, as Kent M. Keith wrote in his Paradoxical Commandments: "You see, in the final analysis, it is all between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway".

Peace be with you.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Setting the Monkey (Mind) Free

Reading: Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

The topic of "monkey mind" has come up several times in reflexology sessions this past couple of weeks. I've read in several different books on meditation that "monkey mind" is what happens to us when we just can't turn off our thoughts at the end of the day or during any time we set aside for relaxation. Those who practice intense meditation work for long periods of time to free the monkey from the mind. It can be done, but those monkeys are a stubborn lot!

Continuous thoughts can fill up our heads, day and night, day in and day out. Ever go to sleep at night only to wake up with a start that you'd forgotten something earlier in the day or needed to remember something for tomorrow? Psychologists and numerous magazine article authors advise us to get up and write these things down; better yet, they say, keep a pad of paper and a pen by the bed to write down all these random thoughts that come about. Talk about "conformed to the world". Yikes.

All religions talk about becoming more spiritually in tune; Christianity has a very useful guideline as well; the reading from Romans 12:2 is a nice example and incredibly useful to us. Our need to conform to the world doesn't allow us the renewal of our minds--and a renewal of our minds is vital to living a full life. The monkey represents all that is of this materialistic and limited world, and, more often than not, it's on a rampage of some sort. Have trouble getting to sleep? Staying asleep? Staying focused during the day? The monkey is present. And let's face it--a mind full of monkey is never a good thing.

 Renewal of the mind comes from the ability to meditate throughout the day as well as enjoying restorative sleep at night. We don't get either of these as long as we limit our minds to the mundane. We need to remember at all times that we are spiritual bodies on a journey--this truly isn't all there is. When we limit ourselves to this small way of thinking, our problems seem bigger and many times insurmountable. And the monkey runs rampant.

We can, however, quiet the maddening monkey in our heads. Wayne Dyer, in his book There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem writes, "I simply do not know how to resolve this situation and I am turning it over to the same force that I turn my physical body over to every night when I go to sleep." Acknowledgement is the first step. If we can admit with conviction that our small, limited thinking of I can handle this on my own (aka ego) will not still the monkey but will only feed it, then we can open up our lives and our minds to a daily spiritual walk with God. It is the infinite power of God that will set the monkey (mind) free...and we will once again sleep and go throughout our days with great restoration of our minds and our bodies.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Want? Need? What's the Difference?

Readings:
Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
2 Timothy 3:1-4 "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." 

We've all been there...the little kiddo in the store in the midst of a meltdown, the parent nose-to-nose with the little guy or gal asking above the wailing, "What do you want?" And, usually, the child can't answer...and the wailing gets a bit louder.

More than likely the little person can't answer because, frankly, the little person doesn't know what he/she wants. It's all too overwhelming. Too many choices...too much stimulus from all the "stuff" in the big, giant store. It's frustrating and, in little person terms, this equates a meltdown.

We're not much different these days, it seems. So many meltdowns all around us--locally, on a national scale, on a world-wide scale. It seems that we have so much of what we "want" that we've begun to overlook what we "need".

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a tried-and-true theory triangle that shows that we humans, in order to become better at being truly good humans, need certain things. We need shelter, we need food, we need safety. Once we have these, we can move up a ladder of sorts into being able to distinguish wants from needs. In today's society, we are beginning to invert the triangle. We're bent to getting our wants met with immediacy. We want to have the nicest car, the best vacation, the easiest lives, etc. We're pretty good at wants. Herein lays the problem...we have, many times, what we want, but it's coming at the sacrifice of what we need. We want nice things, so we work crazy hours of the day, we max out credit cards, we burn out, and then we wonder why we're still not happy. We've forgotten to first take care of our needs. We need to have good food in our bodies--not junk. We need to have good food for our souls--God's word and time for meditation. We need to have safety in our lives--not compiling so much that we need to barricade ourselves in with our "stuff". We need to be able to sleep at night--not lie awake at night worrying about our over-spending and our over-indulgences. And we need to care for one another--not being self-centered with our time, possessions, and our patience. When we once again meet our true needs, our wants will fall into our lives more neatly and more orderly.

Want? Need? What's the difference? There's a big difference, indeed. We need to make the triangle point the right direction once again. The easiest and quickest way to do this is right at our doorstep...love one another, help one another, and, above all else, love God.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Clutter, Clutter Everywhere


Reading: Matthew 6:19-21    
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I woke up this morning thinking about clutter--rather the temporary disposal of it. By temporary, I mean removing it from view.

I'm just not a fan of clutter. I think it has something to do with claustrophobia; I don't like tight spaces and a bunch of clutter gives me the same feeling as being in a too tight spot.

So, this morning, after a fruitful weekend of cleaning and hauling various treasures and trash to the Goodwill and the dumpster, I woke up thinking about how to take on the next batch of clutter.

How or why do we accumulate so much stuff? I have no clue.

When I was younger, I tended to be much more cluttered--just ask my mom. My bedroom was cluttered to say the least. I didn't throw much away; it all held some fun memory, so I thought I needed to keep it. Happily, as my mom predicted, I passed through that teen-age phase of hanging on to anything and everything and got pretty much clutter-free. Nevertheless, living in the same house for 20+ years tends to invite clutter, no matter how vigilant we are. So, every once in awhile, I take on the role of anti-clutter ninja and clutter becomes enemy #1.

The reading today tells us to not get too carried away with these earthly "treasures". And it's right--they do tend to rust, break down, and lose their initial enticement. It's that temptation to buy more, more, and more rather than help a neighbor--near or far away--with our limited resources that gets us in hot water. "For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also."

So, the next time I'm out and about and I'm thinking that whatever it is I'm looking at would be just great at our house, I'm going to do my best to remember today's reading. Uncluttered home--uncluttered mind. Sounds great!

Peace be with you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

OUR Father...

Readings: Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. Traditionally, this is the day of bad ties, naps in the hammock, and adoration. Dad is in the spotlight...as a dad should be. It's not an easy job. What, keeping up with kids' schedules, daily work duties, fix-its around the house, etc...it's not for the weak.

Now, for a moment, think of OUR Father...who is in heaven.

He, too, has some kids to keep up with--frankly, the whole WORLD. And his kids are some doozies! We're enough to wear anyone out--thank God He IS our Father.

Repairs needed around the house? Look at what we've done to our "house"...this poor planet has been pummeled, polluted, and roughed up to the nth degree. We're not very good kids when it comes to keeping our house in a neater state then when we found it.

Bad gift? A tie can't hold a candle to the lousy gifts we've given OUR Father. Although we know what's right and what's wrong, we still don't do a very good job with honesty, we don't treat our "siblings" as we'd like to be treated, we don't share our toys, and we don't do a very good job of keeping in touch with Him. In short...we're kind of weak in the faithful kids department.

Dads in general don't get much extra rest--those occasional naps on the couch or a hammock or a special "sleep in" time some morning can be pretty nice, but we all know they're pretty rare. Now just think of OUR Father--it's only 24/7/365 that someone needs Him and is calling His name for comfort, assistance, or rescue. No hammocks in His world.

So, on this Fathers Day, when Fathers are honored in person or in memory, let's remember OUR Father who is in heaven and keep His name hallowed.

Peace be with you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"It Was Never Between Them and You"

Reading: Deuteronomy 15:10--"Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to" (NIV).


We generally have a tendency to be concerned with what those around us think of us. We start hearing this as kids and it embeds itself in our minds and in our actions throughout our lives. We want to be accepted by others--it's human nature. All is fine with this, until it starts infringing upon our need to be, first and foremost, concerning ourselves with God's will.

Mother Teresa, one of the most loving and giving of God's servants in modern times, is quoted as saying the following:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” 

How exhausting it is to try and keep unreasonable and self-centered people happy? How many hours have each of us spent thus far in our lives trying to accomplish the impossible by making truly unhappy people happy? How about from now on that we do as Mother Teresa suggests and forgive them for being as they are rather than falling into the trap of becoming unreasonable and self-centered ourselves?

While living our lives simply and practicing active kindness, we occasionally find ourselves being accused of having ulterior motives. We are caught by surprise. Upon further examination, the accusation against us of practicing something less than pure kindness may have little to do with our gestures and much to do with the soul of the accuser. Our true test--are we being true in the eyes of God? If so, all is well.

We've all been cheated, one way or another, in our lives. Our feelings are greatly hurt when we know we've been honest; how could someone do this to us? And when a friend or relative is the one doing the cheating, the hurt is all the deeper. Our consolation? God knows. We don't need to point out all the errors. We can, however, pray for those who find honesty a difficult task.

When something really nice happens to us, we might find ourselves floating along in a mood where the sun seems to be shining just a bit brighter and the birds are singing just a bit more on key. We catch ourselves smiling--what a great feeling. And then, out of nowhere, comes a cutting remark or an arrow of ill-will shot in our direction. What happened? Why do people need to bring us down from our happiness? It could very well be jealousy--nothing more. It's a truly "human" nature. Don't let it spoil your moment...it's not between you and them anyway, remember?

I once had a professor that asked the class how important we thought we all were. We weren't sure how to answer. He further suggested that to see just how important we were we should take a bucket, fill it with water, dunk our hand in it, swirl around liberally, and then remove it to see how big of a hole we left. Yep...it's the same with the good gesture we perform for others. It can quickly be forgotten by the recipient. It's the chance we take in being benevolent. We should, however, look for every opportunity to help one another. I do believe it makes God smile.

We work and work, practice kindness, give our best...and people continually ask for more. It's okay--truly it is.

When we work as a hand of God, we will naturally give without ceasing, practice kindness on a daily basis, act honestly, and accept the fact that we will probably never meet the needs and wants of our fellow men and women. And, at the end of the day, it's all okay.

"For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” 



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sleep in Heavenly Peace


Psalm 4:8--"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe" (NLT)


  "Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take."--New England Primer

Sleep...elusive sleep. That simple, wonderful restorer of life is becoming more and more rare in our society. As a result, more diseases are attacking more people of all ages. Bodies are unable to successfully perform and keep themselves in good health when such a large part of restorative health is missing.

Simply put, we surely need our sleep.

Kathy Gruver, PhD., writes in an article entitled "The Disruptive Nature of Chronic Stress" (Well Being Journal, May/June 2013) that we have become so stressed on a daily basis that this stress now never leaves us and creeps into our precious hours of sleep. When stress takes over our sleep, it takes over our dreams. Our dreams become more and more vivid and memorable. When we wake up feeling more tired than we did when we exhaustively fell into bed the night before, stress has won out and the body suffers further damage.

How did we get to this point?

Perhaps we got away from the simple, yet profound prayer taught to us as little kids.  "Now I lay me down to sleep...I pray the Lord my soul to keep...if I should die before I wake...I pray the Lord my soul to take".  Maybe if more of us started saying this prayer at night again, we would discover that the troubles of the world can stay with the world, allowing us to drift into blessed, restorative sleep. This little prayer said at night once we're ready to truly rest, is a true testament to our faith that all is truly in the Lord's hands.

So, tonight, when the lights are out and the day is done, take some long, deep breaths and try this little prayer. And remember, "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe".

Peace be with you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The New Normal--Panic Mode--Part One: Panic Parenting


Ephesians 6:1--"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."
Proverbs 29:17--"Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart."


Anybody noticed lately that Chicken Little seems to be the role model of the day? Maybe a modified version, but it's a Chicken Little world out there for sure.

How so, you ask?

How about parenting? Tom and I were watching a vintage episode of "Leave It to Beaver" the other day. As usual, the Beave was in a fix...this time he was the only boy invited to an all-girls birthday party. Through the usual channels of story line and lack of information, Beave was reluctantly marched upstairs to don that blue suit and make a b-line to the party. And he did. Once there, however, the birthday girl's parents made arrangements for Beaver to hang out in the study with the birthday girl's dad. Beaver had a great afternoon looking over and pretending the shoot many of the guns in birthday girl's dad's collection. We had to laugh--not only at the actual show, which was funny--but also at the 21st century response of a parent to this happening. My guess is that about half the original guests would have been no-shows in current times, knowing that the parent kept guns in the house. The other half (including the Beave's parents) would have completely alienated birthday girl's friendship by now as a result of such as atrocity as allowing a child to "play with guns" in a home...and without Beaver's parent's permission. Who is this nut of a father?? Thus ensues the panic mode.

To us baby boomers who grew up and survived (quite nicely, thanks much) these environments, the guy isn't a nut at all...in fact, he was just doing a very natural thing. He was being an adult and showing a child a collection. There were no  schemes of ill will, no lack of thought, no stupidity involved. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Adults became adults and stayed that way. Once they crossed that threshold, they no longer tried to go back and be kids again. As a result, the panic mode was somewhat unheard of...only a few folks ever slipped the phase of going from kid to adult. The adult assumed the responsibility. The kids, throughout their lives, were in safe training modes of becoming adults.

Actually, it was all quite clearly defined...unlike today.

Somewhere between there and here, things got loopy. Adults decided it was more fun just not to grow up so, instead of taking the path from kid to adult, they created a loop so they can  repeatedly--at will--loop around from adult to kid and back to adult. I don't know about you, but that sounds exhausting. It also creates panic mode. How does anyone have time to be a parent, a bestest buddy, a #1 fan, and a provider of not only basic necessities but also every desire? Pretty big plate, if you ask me.

And what happens when it's time for the next generation to step up to take over and take care of the older folks and the younger folks? They don't know how? Their every need and want has been attended to (sometimes before they even realized there was a want or need), and now they're in charge?

That's when we'll see a REAL panic mode, folks.

Let's face it...not all kids are going to grow up with the perfect lives--at last count about 0%. It's not our life's work to protect our kids 24/7/365. They have to grow up; they have to stumble; they have to make nasty mistakes that sometimes leave some pretty deep gashes. And, sadly, some kids will just pretty much blunder all throughout life. But parenting in panic mode isn't going to make their lives any less messy...in fact, it will more than likely get all the messier. 

We adults have a serious job in just being adults. We don't have the time to be our kid's friend...we're their parents. They have to know there are lines drawn and if those lines are crossed, there are consequences. We've blurred the lines between loving our kids and feeling the need to be their best buddy protector and it's darned confusing to those little guys...that's what their peers are for. And, let's face it--we're not very good at it. It keeps us in panic mode. And, when we're in panic mode, we're not in control. Birthday girl's dad was totally in control...he was the adult in the situation with a kid. Beaver had a neat experience holding a gun and pretending to shoot it. He didn't go out and directly try to hustle one off the street or steal one before he left birthday girl's house. There was an adult in control that was calling the shots, no pun intended.

Are we in panic mode, or are we the adults in control? Let's lose the panic button and see if things get a little better for everyone.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Plant Wisely and Grow with God's Grace


"So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but (only) God Who makes it grow and become greater" (I Corinthians 3:7).

This spring I've had my first experience with growing tomato plants from seed. I've always admired how people have grown massive tomato-bearing behemoths from tiny seeds; I've always made myself content with buying a more mature plant at the garden store that, many times, had small yellow blossoms already. My fascination with watching them grow from "little sprouts" to the more mature plants was increased ten fold last year when I bought a tiny plant and brought it to my little greenhouse. Given its size, I had no idea if it would even survive, much less grow into a healthy fruit-bearing plant. I watered it, put it in a big pot to match the size I hoped it would achieve before planting it in the ground once the dirt warmed, and then tried to be patient. That plant grew almost before my very eyes. It was incredible how it grew each day.

I was hooked.

This spring I had every ambition to start from scratch...or seed, as the case may be. I knew how well the plant enjoyed  and thrived in the greenhouse environment, so I knew that seeds would find the perfect environment for germination and becoming healthy seedlings.

Then the greenhouse was destroyed.

I found myself with a bunch of "orphaned" tomato seeds and little good experience with growing anything indoors. In the past, I would have lots of good intentions and leggy, thread-like wisps of seedlings that never survived. This time I needed to grow more wisely. So, I read a good book on germination and seedlings, bought some decent germination trays and planting medium, and invested in a good grow light. After following the directions carefully, the seeds did germinate, and they did grow under the encouragement of the glow of the grow light. In fact, they grew out of their little germination squares pretty quickly.

I was in new territory again.

So, back to the research and the wisdom of others who suggested I "cook" some dirt to sterilize it, and then transplant the tomato plants. I had read originally that the roots of a new plant are exceedingly delicate and the transplant process can destroy them. Apparently, leaves grow back freely...roots, not so much. So, I took the greatest care I could in separating the "twins"--the two germinated seeds originally planted together  that had both grown into seedlings. So delicate, so tiny… Into the new planting medium they went in their new "homes"...the peat pots. Each were carefully watered and placed back under the grow lights to get accustomed to their new growing environment. The next morning I hesitated to look at them, fearing that I would see wilted little green messes rather than the healthy little plants I'd seen the night before.  Happily, they were all still standing and looked okay...no worse for the wear.

A pretty humbling experience…

We can plant, we can water, we can feed...but it is ultimately God's incredible wisdom and grace that makes anything on this glorious planet truly grow and thrive. And, it's kind of the same way with all of us. We can plant the seeds of faith, love, and trust within ourselves and then share with our neighbors, but it will need God's consistent input to make it truly blossom into the healthiest  kind of harvest.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Love for our Enemies


Luke 6:27-36: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

It's been a tremendously rough week on a lot of people. I'm writing this as I watch Bob Sheiffer and "Face the Nation"--not my usual routine, but it's not exactly been a "usual" week, either. There is, of course, a great deal of coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings as well as the gun control vote this past week. Two extremes in our country with, what would seem to many, mind-boggling outcomes. In one report, we  now know that an American citizen and his younger brother did the unspeakable by killing and maiming just plain folks who were out on a spring day to participate in an innocuous event. In another report, we have our own Congress voting down any measure of protection for our citizens in violent outbreaks; in a discussion, three family members of three of the deceased at Sandyhook Elementary were feeling very betrayed by the representatives of their own country.

Our country is hurting...hurting...hurting…

What a paradox we face--in our gut, we want to lash out at the three men who caused unimaginable pain in these two incidents; yet, as Christians, we are called to a higher command: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

The first response will be that they should be tried by our courts--I agree. That's how we handle the earthly transgressions in our time. However, the greater test is for us individually. We have been commanded to love our enemies. This great challenge is where we need to not divide as Christians, but unite...we NEED each others' support for this one! I invite you to join me in being very careful in what is written, posted, or said about these tragedies. It's extremely easy to make it our mortal battle without  heeding Jesus' words. I need to constantly remind myself that it's not my plan, it's not my rules, it's not my say, it's not my planet...I'm just here for a visit. It is, however, my call as a follower of Christ to follow his words. Not always easy, and, for the most part, I'm guessing I do a pretty lousy job...but to know the peace of Christ makes it all worthwhile. 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Good Tired

"The old has passed away; behold, the new has come"--2 Corinthians 5:17

Happily, happily spring has arrived for real. Coats are being shed as the sun gives us some warmth...what a treat! Yesterday was the first real work day in the gardens and around the yard. Limbs to be hauled, flowers to be transplanted, garden beds to get ready. It's incredible to see everything coming to life, yet, by the end of the first week, it becomes pretty overwhelming to keep up with the pace. There's always something needing attention, and a finite amount of time in season to get things going before the weather gets too hot to do what is needed. Besides, after a winter lay-off from physical labor, it's just plain tiring to dig, hoe, haul, and keep moving all day. This wonderful feeling has its price.

As I was getting ready to head out to transplant some huge chunks of day lilies I dug up yesterday, it occurred to me. how our spiritual lives can emulate our first days of emerging from the winter season. When we are immersed in God's perfect love, we are exhilarated...we feel fresh energy and ageless...we soar with happiness. Then, once we get bogged down with our daily routine, we begin to feel somewhat overwhelmed with this wonderful gift. We have a misunderstanding here, an uncomfortable decision to make there. We start to feel the enormity of the gift. Will we ever get things done in our finite time here on earth?

In gardening as well as in life, probably not. But I think it's okay.

As we start getting a little dirt on our jeans and on our shovels, we get into a smoother routine. We realize that there doesn't need to be the frantic rush; what will get done will get done. Anything that we get accomplished toward growing those beautiful plants is a good thing...there will be a payoff of good eating in a few weeks. We can relax and enjoy the experience. We can share the fruits of our labors with others. The same applies to our freshening of the soul...we can share our love of God and all His creation with others. We're not going to be perfect at being a Christian--but it's gloriously okay. During our finite season during our lifetimes, we can expand God's garden of love...one nurtured seed at a time. Do we get tired? You bet. But, in both cases, it's a good tired.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just For Today...And All Our Todays

Luke 24:34: "...He is risen indeed..."

Happy Easter.

I study Reiki through the lineage of Dr. Mikao Usui. One of the delights of this study is the mantra Dr. Usui asks that we repeat each morning:

"Just for today, do not worry
 Just for today, do not anger
 Honor your parents, teachers and elders
 Earn your living honestly
 Show gratitude to everything."

This is, of course the same mantra I use to honor Christ; I share this mantra with you on this holy day. 

Because of his sacrifice, just for today (and all of my todays) we need not worry; we need not anger. 

To honor the commandments sent by our Father, we honor our parents, our teachers, and our elders.

To honor all that we are as children of God, we earn our livings honestly.

Because Jesus loves us beyond human comprehension, we show gratitude to everything.

He is risen indeed...what a wonderful day to share in the blessings we all have received.

Peace be with you, for today and for all our todays.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Loop

Readings: Proverbs 8: 1-10

Our world, our country, our towns, our neighborhoods, our personal lives seem to be on a loop these days. We know what we need to do, what we should do, yet do we do it?

Nope.

Why?

No idea.

Life could be so simple...yet, for some weird reason, we make it anything but.

Wisdom...the central idea, word, philosophy of the Book of Proverbs. 

"Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances  she cries aloud: 'To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold'" (1-10).

I truly believe that the vast majority of us start out each morning with these words in mind--that we will follow them and choose wisdom. But then life gets in the way. By the end of the day, we're beaten and tired and realize we've done little in the pursuit of "our call to wisdom". We've fallen into the same old loop...working our tails off for lots of wants and few needs only to be let down after the initial excitement quickly wears off, not having the time to really enjoy life and the company of others. We start off the week--much like we start off each passing new year--this time we're going to live uncomplicated lives, take care of ourselves and of one another...living the command to love others as we love ourselves. Most of all, we'll put God in spot #1 in our lives, above all others and all things.

And then our good intentions fall far short...we're back in the loop. It's not a happy place to be. Stress, frustration, anger, confusion. No actual peace, no feeling of prudence, no true understanding. 

Let's all work together this week to avoid the loop. I'll pray for you...you pray for me...and let's pray for the whole world while we're at it.

Peace be with you.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The List the Leads to Inner Peace

Readings: Proverbs 6:16-19

We all read magazines, books, newspaper articles, and websites that are composed of lists. I kind of like those articles--they are easy to read and comprehend with no excess of words to make the content murky. As in the reading from Proverbs today, the writers of these books of wisdom--from time to time--supply us with lists much like this particular one.

"There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes
a lying tongue
hands that shed innocent blood
a heart that devises wicked schemes
feet that are quick to rush into evil
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers"

These verses offer us excellent guidelines still today on our journey to be people of peace.

--haughty eyes show a proud heart: humility is our goal to live lives of true inner peace;

--a lying tongue, a heart that devises wicked schemes, a false witness who pours out lies: a heart that is hardened to peace will always be searching to make others feel/act like him. Just as dogs go from docile to vicious when packed together by an aggressive leader, so will humans when led by a person with a hardened heart. The hardened heart will stop at nothing to destroy those with inner peace...lies, false witness, scheming...Once these elements of hate disappear, the heart and soul once again gains inner peace and the torture ends;

--hands that shed innocent blood: a commandment for all time. Inner peace cannot be achieved when innocent blood is on one's hands;

--feet that are quick to rush into evil: beware the one with the lying tongue, the false witness...if our feet fall into the pathway of those who live to hurt others to gain an advantage, we too will find our hearts and souls getting farther and farther away from inner peace;

--and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers--this can be somewhat confusing when speaking of inner peace. Should we always go with the flow? This is not what we're being guided to do. We must always look to the right and the true. If we're following God's path, our hearts will continue to have inner peace and our souls will feel free. To assure us that we can follow that path, we follow Christ, our eternal guide.

During this time of Lent, we follow the footsteps of Christ and look inward to find our eternal inner peace of heart and soul. Following this list that is provided will aid us in finding a smoother path to this wondrous gift.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Need to be Right

Readings: Proverbs 3:7-8

We all have a need to be right. We like it when, during a discussion, someone looks at us and says, "You're right." We smile to ourselves and do a little imaginary back-patting.

It just feels good to be right. 

Sometimes, however, the need to be right overrides good sense and disassociates itself completely with wisdom. At that point in time, our need to be right does us (and others) more harm than good. And, nine times out of ten, the victory is quite a shallow one at that.

Proverbs 3: 7-8 tells us, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones."

Needing to be right impedes healthy bones? Proverbally speaking...yes.

Think of wisdom as absolute health. When we are purring along through life and are keeping everything in check, we are indeed healthy. However, we seldom just purr along through life anymore; we are constantly in interactions with people, with machinery, with too busy schedules. Study after study has proven that as much as 95% of disease these days is from the debilitating effects of stress. Much of that stress comes from confrontations with others--yep, on needing to be right. It's difficult to fold to someone when we just know they're wrong and we just know we're right. It's frustrating to work at a computer that we just know is working incorrectly and we're doing it right. It's irritating when others don't see just how valuable our limited time is. Stress, stress, stress...and, of course, we're right about how we live our lives. We have good reasons for every mistake we make. 

The cure? We don't always have to be right. We don't need to waste all that time and energy arguing our side of the case in the car to ourselves after a confrontation with someone--we don't need to "be wise in our own eyes". 

Our biggest goal is to shun evil--evil thoughts towards others when they don't see things our way. Just give it a try for a day, then for a week. See if your overall health improves...you will, in essence, be giving "nourishment to your bones"...stress won't be tearing you apart.

It's actually quite a relief not needing to be right all the time. It takes a great deal of burden off one's back. Give it a try...we can all use more healthy days.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Making the Simple Complicated

Readings: Proverbs 2: 6-11

I feel sorry for kids these days. But not for the usual reasons I see and hear online and out amongst folks. I feel sorry for them because we continuously make the simple complicated.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's was not exactly a non-happening time in the world. We were involved in a highly unpopular war, women were leaving the traditional home in droves for the world of work, kids were finding themselves with baby sitters more than their own parents, TV shows were getting more gritty all the time with their content, people were protesting in the streets about most everything imaginable, drug usage was rampant in the country.

Wait...how is it different from today?

From one point of view, it's just more of the same. From yet another point of view, it's a different world altogether. 

When I was a kid, our parents didn't make the simple complicated. At our house, when the news was carrying every bloody detail of Viet Nam at supper time, the TV was turned off or down so as not to interrupt our meal...and yes, the TV was in a different room. If it was something my dad saw as important, he got up, went and listened for a couple of minutes and returned to our meal and our mealtime conversation. I was a fortunate kid who had Mom at home during the day, so I had supper from the stove most every night. Fast food or eating out was the exception, not the rule. There was no status in being the first to eat at a new restaurant; it just didn't really even make sense when there was a good cook at home. I kept busy with school, church, and community projects and events, but they had a time and place. If we had been told we were expected to travel all weekend for an event or to be at said event practically every night of the week, I think the laughter from my and other parents would have drowned out the idea. We were, after all, kids. And TV shows? If they were not good for me to watch, I was told to go play in my room or something else was found. In my house, the "talk about drugs" didn't happen--drugs were something the doctor prescribed that you took only if you were sick and sick was not something anyone wanted. Sick was a quick bout to be tolerated and gotten over as soon as possible. Healthy was prized. Healthy meant you could re-join the fun. Didn't feel good? Stay home. Period. That made healthy a serious goal...so we ate our vegetables and went to bed at bedtime. It was a simple remedy.

We've become a society that goes to great measures to make the simple complicated. We have mopped ourselves into those proverbial corners where we feel compelled to the point of misery if we're not on the run to the newest restaurant, to the newest gadget, to the newest whatever it is. We spend way too much money on things that we feel we need, which oftentimes gets confused with want. We fall for that "you deserve this" line more often than not. We share too many details with little ones about world events--they didn't create this mess, how are they supposed to understand it? We share too many details of our adult lives with kids--once again, they didn't create the mess, so they won't understand it and they will get overwhelmed...and quickly. That's just not "kid brain" territory. Ditto for the TV shows that push this message to them. It may be the cool thing to watch these shows, but I've found the old standard rule to work...would it embarrass  you to watch this with your grandmother? If so, don't watch it. 

We can take the wind right out of the sails of complicated and bring it back to the calm of simple. It's going to take effort, because our ways have become habits...not good habits, mind you, but habits none the less. Turn the TV off or down during meals; have meals at home; join less and spend more time with one another--remember, these kids are supposed to be having fun with the extra stuff they do, it's not going to be their life's work. Keep the content in check--kids need kid-level info. Trust me, they'll enjoy watching otters romping around much more on the nature channel than the Kardashians romping around on the gossip channel. Keep them healthy--inside and out. Good food and good environments. 

And for goodness' sake, keep it simple. Adults don't need to wear themselves out keeping kids entertained or happy...nine times out of ten, just letting kids be kids works. Let them play--no fancy play dates--let them figure out how to play with their toys and games. They don't need a cruise under their belts by age ten--unless that cruise is an imaginary one in a big cardboard box. Now that's having fun...and keeping it simple--blissfully simple.

"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair -every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you."

Peace be with you.