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Listening is Not Agreeing

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Listening is Not Agreeing

Late last week someone said something about me and that I didn’t agree. At first, the emotion was to respond, defend myself, dig in my heels, push back against the criticism. It wasn’t something overwhelmingly harsh but it did rub me the wrong way.

Instead of responding right away I sat with it for a bit and reflected on it. Oftentimes critiques are met with resistance. We want to defend ourselves. However, if we are too quick to jump our own defense we might miss something constructive. There’s an old wisdom saying; “Both criticism and compliments should be taken with the same weight.” Receiving compliments and praise can be easier but they have a way of pumping up our ego and sense of self. Criticisms, if held on to, can create bitterness, rivalry, and ruptured relationships.

One of the greatest disciplines of contemplative listening is found in the truth; “Listening is not agreeing.” When someone speaks to us a compliment or criticism we do not have to own it, take it inside of us, let it mingle with our minds, emotions, and spirits. We can examine it, turn it over in our minds and, if we have self-awareness, can decide if it is meant for us, to grow, to learn, to let it become a part of us. Perhaps its simply another’s opinion and through insight and stillness, we discover that we can let it go. It’s not for us.

“The mark of a wise mind is the ability to hold a thought in our heads
and not necessarily believe it to be true.” #Aristotle

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Soul Infection

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One of the hazards of working on outdoor projects is foreign objects getting stuck in the wrong places. Last night my thumb was hurting and after a closer look I saw there was a big thorn lodged in it from some prickly bushes we are replanting.

I walked into the kitchen, showed Beth and she immediately went to work. She grabbed a needle from her sewing kit, a pair of tweezers, sterilized them both and began attempting to remove the shard from my finger. Unfortunately for me the thorn was deep and liked its new home very much. Beth picked, squeezed, tried to pluck it out but to no avail.

Finally, with a lot of effort on her part, even more squirming on mine, she was able to grasp the thorn with the tweezers. However, because it was embedded so deeply it still couldn’t be extracted and every time she latched onto it, moved it, pain would shoot up my arm, followed by a loud; “OUCH!” “Sorry babe,’ she would reply ‘but I have to get it out.’” “We could just leave it in there.” came my rebuttal. “Then it would get infected.” “Okay.” I said and sighed in resignation. Ten minutes or so later the splinter came out and we both let out an exaggerated; “Whew!

This morning, as I massaged my still sore thumb, I reflected on the truth that removing things is often painful. Life has a way of placing things inside our minds and emotions that can infect our souls. Bitterness, anger, unfulfilled expectations, despair, resentment, jealousy, unforgiveness all lodge themselves within us and, if not extracted, will poison and eventually kill our spirits.

Finding, acknowledging, extracting, these deep, painful and possibly infected places inside of us isn’t easy but wisdom tells us it is the choice between spiritual life or death.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Burning Away: Part 3

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Last Monday I shared a few thoughts about a burn barrel I’ve been using this week and followed up with a few more reflections on Thursday. Below are my final ruminations on using the burn barrel and I shared these with our campus this morning.

Opening

In a world where privacy and personal information must be protected, great care is taken with you dispose of things with sensitive information. Over the last several months Beth and I have been collecting a lot of this type of trash. This week we’ve been doing some cleaning and needed to finally get rid of it. A few weeks ago I asked a friend if he had a burn barrel or know where I could get one. Being a great friend found one and brought it to our house.

The burn barrel has been used a great deal as we have set fire to old bills, junk mail, cancelled checks, and other materials we no longer needed.

Monitoring a burn barrel requires spending a lot of time watching things burn. As I stood there this week I reflected on the scripture text for today. How anger, revenge, bitterness have a lot in common with a burn barrel.

Reflection: A Burn barrel holds a lot of trash and ash.

It is amazing how much one burn barrel can hold. After several days of burning it still isn’t filled with ash. No matter how full it seems once it starts burning and turns to soot it settles and more fuel for the fire can be added.

Anger and bitterness are this way. Anger, bitterness, are never full, they always want more. There is always something else to become angry about, someone to be angry at. Unlike being filled with joy, anger and bitterness just consume.

Reflection: The ash stays hot, scratch surface, fire starts again

The first day I used the burn barrel it took a while to get a flame going. I used some kindling, a couple of matches and made sure the fire didn’t go out. Once it started however there was no stopping it. Even when I was done for the day, stirring it to make sure there was nothing else to burn, it still smoldered. The ash stayed hot even over night, when temperatures dropped into single digits, all it took was stoking the ash, adding some new paper and the flames would erupt again.

Anger and bitterness ignite quickly too. There are times in our lives when we have been hurt by someone or something and even when we think the fire has gone out it only takes is a little poking around and the fire erupts again.

There are places in where we must be very careful not to let the rage of fire ignite again. We must be aware of the areas in our lives where negative feelings smolder, vulnerable places where we are subject to becoming angry and bitter again, no matter how much we think it has cooled off.

Reflection: Fire doesn’t know the difference, it just burns.

Fire doesn’t know the difference between what needs to burn and what doesn’t. A few times after placing something in the barrel I realized it might not be something which needed to burn. Didn’t matter, the fire burned these as quickly as everything else placed in the flames. Though able to retrieve them they still bore the burn marks.

We must be aware how the fire of anger, bitterness, judgment, revenge can unintentionally burn the wrong things in our lives. Negative emotions left unchecked will not only burn against the person or situation which makes us to be angry but can also burn others closest to us. We’re mad about work and lash out family, upset about finances and blame love ones. The fire of anger doesn’t distinguish, it just consumes. If we aren’t careful it will consume our lives and the lives of those we love.

Reflection: All burnt things look similar

After a few days staring at the burn barrel you begin to notice everything burnt looks the same. No matter it looked like before when the fire is finished it’s black and unrecognizable.

Anger, bitterness, revenge consumed us and the fire of anger, the ash of long smoldering resentment, makes us see everything negatively.

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Reflection: Burn barrel affects surroundings

If we were standing in my driveway you would see ash covers almost everything. It settled on the snow, on the outside furniture, on the clothes I was wearing. In spite of the coldness this week the area around the burn barrel was marked by melting snow.

When anger and bitterness rage they affect everything. A black ash settles on our families, jobs, friends, and our life like a dark cloud.

Reflection: Smoke suffocates and blinds

Most of the week the temperature outside never rose above 15 degrees. I was layered up with long pants, coat, and a face mask pulled over, with sunglasses. Even with my mouth covered there were times the smoke still got the best of me. When the wind changed direction suddenly the smoke went right into my face, giving me a coughing fit. It also burned my eyes causing them to water. I couldn’t see.

When the flames of anger and bitterness burn hot within us we cannot breathe. Fire needs air to burn and it uses and takes it violently. In the same way anger takes the breath of life from us to keep burning, suffocating our spirit.

It also blinds us. Filled with rage, we can’t see straight. Our focus becomes that which makes us angry, the one who has wronged us; we are unable to see the blessings in our lives and what we have to be thankful for, all we see is hate.

Reflection: Burn barrel is addicting

When the fire in the burn barrel is really going the flames invite you to throw all sorts of things in and watch it burn.

It’s similar with anger and bitterness. When the fire rages we can always find something else to burn. We live in a world that thrives on anger, division, bitterness, blame, judgment. Radio stations, television channels, internet websites which will feed our rage. We can find people willing to gossip, to stoke our hate, share our bias, and give us more material for our flame.

Reflection: There’s always something left over

After a week of burning there is a lot of ash left over in the bottom of the barrel. When I started it was almost empty now it is almost full. No matter how much I stir, no matter how hot the flame gets, no matter how high fire burns, at the end of the day there is always something left over. When I noticed that it was filling up I asked my friend what to do with the ash. He said he would come haul it away for me. I asked him if there was anything else that could be done with it and there isn’t, it needs to be disposed of.

It is the same way anger bitterness, revenge, rage, temper, and other negative feelings. When they fill up our lives with their residue they need to be hauled away. There is no use for them. They do not serve any purpose. Aren’t we glad that we serve a God who is willing to come into our lives take it away?

Conclusion

Our lives can always be used as burn barrels. We can keep the fire going; let the flames consume our lives and the lives of those we love. We can allow the ash and soot to cover us, the rage and resentment to burn even unintended things or we can find someone to haul it away. The choice is ours.

Reflection

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear nothing.
The 
Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will not be afraid.

When evil attacks and tries to kill me,
    I will not stumble and fall.
Even if all hell surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
when I am under siege,
    I will still trust God.

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the 
Lord‘s presence all my life,
    to marvel at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

In times of trouble he will shelter me;
    he will keep me safe in his presence
    and make me secure on a high rock.

Because of the Lord, I will triumph.
    I will praise the Lord.

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