A message based on the gospel of Saint Mark, chapter 5.
I think I am getting old.
This morning I woke up and is my custom headed to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. I pulled out a filter, placed the proper amount of coffee grounds into it, put it back into the holder and turned on the coffee maker. I then walked out of the kitchen, did a few other things, walked back in and noticed there was no coffee in the maker. Why? Oh wait, I forgot to add the water.
Yesterday, I was doing some yard work which included mowing. I started the mower, began riding over the grass and after a few rounds looked down and realized I hadn’t engaged the blades. Basically, I’d just been taking a ride around the yard.
As a man in his mid 40’s I hope I have a few more years before I can blame aging for my forgetfulness but getting older is a part of the transience of life. It happens every day whether we can see it or not, acknowledge it or not, accept it or not.
“As a parent has compassion on their children, so the Lord has compassion on those who love him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of a human is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”
The Book of Psalms 103
Remembering our frailty and shortness of life is not a reason to despair but to celebrate every moment and breath knowing it could be our last.
My brain feels like mush today. The last several days I have been in South Carolina where I had the privilege to present a message on fatherhood to a group of people trying to save the world, at least their part of it. The conference was also near my mom and dad who gave Beth and me lodging as well as hospitality, and food. We left early last Saturday and arrived back home last night near midnight. Now the readjusting begins.
As a person with a severe anxiety disorder rhythm and normalcy are important. When traveling I become over stimulated with all the extra noise, sights, interactions, and this drains me. After coming back home it takes me a few days to reorient myself and for my anxiety to dissipate. It helps if I begin to do the normal, rhythmic, everyday things again even if they feel foreign, which they always do following a trip away from home. However, the more I do them the more still my body and mind become. I let home wash over me I feel the anxiety settle, the pit in my stomach becomes more of a pothole and I can breathe.
For home, stillness, and silence, I am thankful.
Today has been a quiet day, save a few thunderclouds which have threatened rain. The word “Sabbath” is defined as; “a weekly religious observance by Jews and Christians. A day of abstinence from work” and since I’ve done nothing today I think I’ve met the requirement of this command.
It’s amazing how many days we work. I’m not referring to just our “normal” jobs but also the additional duties we take on, extra curricula activities we participate in, chores, responsibilities and the mundane tasks required of everyday living.
To have a day in which nothing is attempted let alone accomplished is a rare joy in our busy world. We can almost feel guilty for not breaking one of the ten commandments, for following the (religious) law. However, this is what we are supposed to do; rest, sleep, breathe, receive the blessing of the Sabbath and be thankful.
grace and peace,
Lay Me Down to Rest…
Wednesday night, before my lecture to an Incarcerated Father class, I was speaking with one of the men and learned that a few days prior someone had died in the jail. He was an unknown older black gentleman who had been brought in late Sunday. The story was that he had laid down, complained a little about his chest hurting, rolled over and in the next hour breathed his last. For those who witnessed the event, it was both haunting and a fantastic tale to relay to others. Though morbid, being incarcerated can be terribly boring, it was an unexpected dramatic experience in the malaise that is life behind bars.
As the excited chatter ceased regarding the spectacle, I looked at the man telling me the story and said; “What a sad thing, to die in jail. Alone with no one knowing you or loving you.” I am not sure why I made such a blunt statement except it was a lesson I couldn’t pass up. Many of the men I work with have been in jail several times and if they do not change their ways could very well die behind bars, surrounded by those who are not their family and friends.
I tell the men every class; “Choice is destiny. WHAT you do today determines WHO you’ll be tomorrow.” and we all have a limited number of tomorrows.
Season Pass –
“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” ~ Author Unknown
On my way back from a lecture today in Hohenwald, TN the sun was shining brightly through the limbs of the trees which are rapidly becoming barren. It still feels like summer with temps in the low to mid 90’s but fall is approaching. The leaves are already giving up their grips and descending to the ground. We probably won’t have too much color as they turn this year due to the lack of rain this hot and barren summer.
Fall is another reminder of the transience of life. Summer’s rapid end reflects our own aging and how life is fleeting. The youth of spring and summer is like the cool morning mist of fall; easy to see but impossible to grasp and hold on to.
Accepting that life’s seasons pass quickly is the first step to living fully in every moment, not taking for granted any breath, experience, ray of sunshine, or drop of rain. Wisdom teaches us to be mindful of every moment for these are what life is made up of.
Life is never predictable.
I was talking with someone yesterday about having “blinders” on when it comes to certain people. Some folks we see in a mostly positive light. We emphasize the good, minimize the bad, expect the best and see their potential. For others it’s the opposite. We are blind to their goodness. They are viewed by us in a mostly negative way. We don’t expect the best, focus on their weaknesses, anticipate what and how badly they’ll mess up, hurt us and take advantage of our generosity.
Blinders often come from good relationships or broken ones. We put them on and rarely question if we see the whole picture as it pertains to certain people, cultures and our worldview.
The discipline of viewing life as blessed rather than cursed can be one of the hardest and most important wisdom lessons we learn and put into practice. This is true especially when our journey has been difficult and we’ve seen “more than our share” of heartache, pain and loss. To look for the good, the beautiful, the “miracle” of everyday life influences each breath and every moment.
This morning I woke up about ten minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off and noticed my bladder was telling me to; “get up!” The bed however was giving me another message; “be still, stay, relax.” I compromised. Normally I hit the snooze three times before dragging myself out of the bed but today, because of my bladder’s urgency, it was only twice.
Life is filled with experiences in which we try to find the balance between stillness and urgency. There are moments, times, seasons when urgency is not only needed but necessary. Emergencies, crises, or other situations may require us to be more hurried in order to avoid dire, serious or even grave consequences. However, mostly our days are filled with the temptation to turn ordinary, normal occurrences and happenings into times of great stress and anxiety. Instead of allowing the usual to become the urgent wisdom teaches us to take a breath and let go of that which is not truly critical so we can embrace the crucial.
On my way to the office this morning I ended up behind an elderly woman who was driving slow, really slow. We were on a two-way road with no passing lanes and though I was in a hurry she was not. 35 MPH in a 45 MPH was her chosen speed as we ambled down the road. We approached a major intersection, the traffic light was green and I anticipated getting through it in time. However, the creeping driver decelerated and the light turned red. Argh! To add insult to injury the woman navigated into a turning lane and instantly received a green arrow. “Sigh.” I watched her continue on her way as I just sat there.
After an exaggerated, exasperated, exhaled breath, I inhaled deeply and was reminded that we have little choice over the pace of life. Our journey has its own timing and unfolds incrementally, one stage, one season at a time. Wisdom teaches us to accept life’s speed and our powerlessness to make it go faster or slower.
Last night, around 2AM, I woke myself up coughing and couldn’t stop. I usually have a bottle of water by the bed but had finished it a few nights before. I didn’t want to wake Beth up but I also didn’t want to get up out of the warm bed and walk to the kitchen. I tried not thinking about coughing but trying not to think about something never works. I swallowed several times hoping to moisten my throat, no luck. Finally, leaving the cozy confines of the bed, I retrieved a new bottle of water, drank it, and hoped this would do the trick, nope. After several more gulps of water, and rousing the Mrs. with my incessant coughing, the attack subsided and I was able catch my breath and go back to sleep. Whew!
Not being able to stop something miserable, annoying, difficult and painful from occurring brings with it a feeling of helplessness. Life has a way of taking our breath away with troubles, painful and unwanted events. We try our best to not be overwhelmed but it takes all we have just to inhale and exhale.
In these times it’s important to remember that being alive starts with breathing. As long as we can catch our breath we can hold on until help and relief arrive.
Scooping some out for the dog’s dinner Monday night it hit me that the next time I buy a bag of dog food I will be living in a new place, doing a new thing. Each evening, every serving gets me closer to the unknown and a new normal. Like sand slipping from the top of an hourglass so the bite size bits are disappearing and when the bottom is reached I will need to find a new place to shop for sustenance and nutrients for my furry ones.
As I begin my sabbatical next week I also wonder where my sustenance, nutrients will come from, who/what will feed, inspire, heal and help me.
Reflecting on this yesterday I observed that the dogs aren’t worried about the food running out. They have a lifetime of being taken care of, provided for and have never gone hungry.
Maybe a lesson can be learned as I scoop away the past, embrace an uncertain present and unknown future. Wisdom teaches me to live with open-handed mindfulness, approaching every moment, each experience, ready to receive and release.
So I will trust, and remember that even though I will soon reach the bottom of the bag, I too have never gone hungry.blessings, bdl
Getting older is a reality. We realize it happens and yet it still somehow takes us by surprise.
The other day I caught myself holding an item with fine print under a light, squinting, trying to read it…and I thought; “when did this happen, when did I turn into an old person?”
Time, the undefeated one.
If we can’t stop time hopefully we can make the most of the time we have left.blessings, bdl
Guest Post by Tish Cambers
People using the word “shy” is a sore spot for me. A four year old girl hiding behind her mother’s leg when a stranger approaches is shy. A 23 year old woman who doesn’t talk much is not. Once upon a time, I was absolutely that shy four year old hiding behind my mother. You could say I spent most of my childhood and adolescence being shy, sure. But somewhere in my post-secondary years, I did indeed start to “come out of my shell”.
It took a few more years still for me to not just overcome my “shyness”, but to accept it as who I am. I am an introvert. Through and through. I am proud to say so, and will happily explain what that means to people who think I’m shy, timid, socially anxious or just plain weird.
People who met me when I was 20 years old starting my first job as a cashier, not knowing me before, would use words like “shy” to describe me, which felt like a punch in the gut. I knew I had come so far from my timid, socially anxious teenage self, but apparently that still wasn’t good enough for people.
The catalyst of my journey from social anxiety to social acceptance began with my first year of college. I was fresh out of high school. At just 17 years old I was dropped off by my parents in a new city, far from home, left to fend for myself. My first challenge came just hours after my parents and I had exchanged a tearful goodbye; I had to walk to my new school by myself, ask for help to find the classroom by myself, and sit in a room of peers while completing an entrance assessment by myself. I did it. All by myself.
Over the next few months, I did all sorts of new things all by myself. I went to school. I spoke to classmates. I went grocery shopping. I even acted in classmates’ (new friends) student films and developed a crush on a boy who, by some miracle, actually liked me back! The rest of the school year had its highs (my first boyfriend and my first kiss) and its lows (depression, failing classes), but by the time I came back home for the summer, my friends were commenting how outgoing I was being around people that I wouldn’t have said much to before. I felt like I had grown so much. And I had.
Skip forward four years and I’ve been to college again, worked a cashier job for almost three years, been a cake decorating class instructor for one year and just started a job in a bakery. I’ve come a long way with the socializing thing. I can small-talk now, if I have to. I can exchange pleasantries with strangers. I can even make new friends. Yet, this word “shy” still haunts me. Some people just don’t seem to understand that there could be any reason for not speaking other than out of fear. Is it really so strange for me to not chat while I’m concentrating on decorating a cake? I like my work, I like the people I work with, but being an introvert means that I don’t always remember social interactions that come naturally to people. Things like replying “And, how are you?” after responding to their same question with an perfunctory “Good” don’t come naturally to me. I’m not rude, inconsiderate, or self-centered. It’s just not wired into my brain to be curious about other people, I guess.
After a good day at work, feeling confident that I got everything done properly that was assigned to me, it’s a real kick in the pants to hear my boss tell me I need to stop being “shy”. Augh! That word! I’m trying my best, but sometimes it feels like my own personality, my true self, is just sabotaging me in my professional life. Can we get Introvertism declared some sort of official medical condition, so that employers cannot discriminate against it? I don’t think it’s fair to point out my personality as something I need to work on in an employee assessment. Next thing, they’ll be telling me I need to change my face. (I’ve suffered from chronic “mean-face” my whole life. I actually had a customer say to me “No, I think I’ll find someone who actually wants to help me.” after just looking at my face.) Why can’t people just understand that there are different types of personalities, that people have different ways of socially interacting? I might have to start listing “Introvert” under Skills on my resumé to warn people. Or hand out a pamphlet to everyone I meet; “Introverts: Care Instructions”.
Over the past few years, I’ve gone from wishing I was different, that I could make friends and go out and party to being very comfortable in my introvert skin. I spend the majority of my time alone, as I live alone, and only have a few friends to hang out with occasionally. But thanks to the Internet, I can keep in touch with old and new friends, and be a part of online communities that make me feel less isolated. I’m quiet around people because I don’t have anything to say, not because I’m scared to say anything. I don’t go out of my way to make friends because I’m happy with my handful of real-BFF-since-high school friends, and frankly, I haven’t run into anyone that I’ve felt a kinship towards in a long time.
So, you can say I’m quiet. It’s true, even when I do speak it’s not very loudly. You can say I’m a hermit. It’s true, I don’t venture outside unless I have plans with a friend, I need groceries, or perhaps I want a picnic in the park on a sunny afternoon. You can even point out my “meam-face” because I’ve seen it for myself. But, please, please, don’t dare call me shy, timid, scared, anxious, or weak. I am confident in my introvertness. I am strong. I am proud. I am capable of great things. You just won’t hear me say those things out loud, because, frankly, I don’t talk much. And that’s okay.
Read more by Tish Cambers
According to the article, “Blue”, an unfortunate name in hindsight, died Wednesday morning, after firefighters rescued it from a tree branch about 40 feet from the ground. The temperature outside was 12 degrees below zero.
The saying, “freedom isn’t free” works on many levels. There is a cost for freedom, an expense for breaking loose from the confines which hold us. While freedom may be what we desire, there is also a need of protection so one’s freedom does not infringe on the freedom of others.
The balance of freedom and limits, no holds barred and boundaries, being carefree and being disciplined, is a fruit of wisdom.
Knowing ourselves well enough to understand we don’t need everything we crave, that at times other’s well-being should supersede our own, and the things which we think are holding us back might be the very things that are saving our lives.blessings, bdl
How counter-intuitive this seems to be.
Our world moves at such a high rate of speed. Sometimes its difficult to catch our breath before something else dashes in to take it away. Instant gratification is no longer an option but rather a necessity. Scientific discovery, technology innovations, breaking news, even updates about family and friends come quickly via social media.
In a world where everything happens so fast, shouldn’t patience be placed on the endangered species list? It is no longer a virtue, no longer needed.
What if the opposite is true? Could it be that patience, pausing, waiting, is not only required but desperately needed?
In this ever accelerating world we should relish the chance to sit and do nothing in a doctor’s office, enjoy an opportunity to exhale while on hold with a customer service rep, embrace the occasion to be still when waiting at a red light.
Without wisdom and mindfulness we may never realize that what’s moving so quickly is this thing called life.
Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important.
I was asked to do something today I didn’t want to do. My objection was not ethical or moral but resulted from a difficult past I have with the person who asked. I have a hard time saying “no” and …well, you know.
Before, during and after I was monitoring my emotions, thoughts and spirit. Centering and breath-meditation are wonderful ways to be in the present, finding meaning in places/moments that aren’t pleasant. Mindfully I observed people who were enjoying themselves, others ambivalent and some who’d like to be someplace else.
Wisdom teaches us the importance of letting go, one of the keys being to resist the compulsion to then grab hold of something else. We don’t have to let go of resistance to an event and grab hold to an engendered excitement about participating, let go of hard feelings and then sign on to be someone’s fan club president.
Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important. We simply have to let go of that which keeps us from being mindful, at peace in every moment with everyone.
peace and grace,
“…desire truth in your deepest parts; learn wisdom in the inmost place.”
My Friday Lauds (morning prayer) always include Psalm 51. This poem/song is recited on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, and is read by contemplatives, oblates, monks, and others every Friday in remembrance of the most Holiest of days when Jesus mounted the cross.
Following Lauds I like to take a stroll through the yard prayerfully, meditating and mindfully breathing the prayer phrase to myself. (To the observing eye no doubt it looks as if I am talking to myself. Add this to the growing list as why our neighbors think we are strange southern folk!) As I ambled reflectively I noticed a poor, struggling rose bush with one lone blossom. It is surrounded, choked?, by a vine, rooted next to a wall, not in a good place for light, failing at being beautiful, yet still growing where it’s planted.
“Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.”
The wonderful quote above, from Saint John Climacus, is in regard to confession and humility, but might it also be said of wisdom and truth? If we were the bush would we demand to be replanted, complain about our surroundings, see one bloom as a failure, or would we see perfection?
Wisdom and truth reveal to us that the purpose of the rose bush is to bloom and it is doing what it is intended to do. Nature doesn’t judge how many, how beautiful, what other rose bushes are doing. The rose bush isn’t worried about the vine, the wall, the lack of sun, or someone’s opinion of its beauty.
“…desire truth in your deepest parts; learn wisdom in the inmost place”
What if life is not vainly trying/striving to make everything around us fit our idea of perfection, our paradigm of what life should be, but rather simply growing, blooming where we are planted?
May truth and wisdom find a home in the deepest part of you.
peace and grace,
I was washing dishes yesterday and thinking. This particular chore has a way of making me do this…. stuck in one place, my hands in the soap, staring out the window above the sink, just me and my thoughts.
Life is rarely, if ever, boring and at times unsettling with its randomness and challenges. In those times our minds can run away with itself and make us feel like we are treading water. The problem is one can only keep their head above water for so long. Sooner or later, if we can’t find rest we sink into anxiety and suffocate.
Catching our breath in a chaotic, unpredictable world is essential. Contemplative thought says that life is found now, a letting go of expectations and anticipations of past regrets and future worries.
As I stood over the sink, my mind whirling about issues and challenges life is bringing my way, I thought “…when these difficult times are over I’ll be able to catch my breath.” Almost as soon as this crossed my mind, reflexively, I took a deep, centering, breath and was reminded that life is this moment. Not sometime in the future, not by reliving the past, this moment, right now, I can catch my breath.
Stillness and life,
I know, but I often forget, that life keeps going no matter what is happening.
I mentioned to my Dad this past week that even on the day of the funeral it was just another day in so many ways with one major difference.
Even though it was different for us it wasn’t an odd occurrence. People die every day, others are born. The first breath we take is one less breath we have before we breathe our last, whenever that may be. So, what do we do in between the first and the last?
So far this summer I have officiated 2 funerals. One for my grandmother who was 92, one for an 11 month year old boy. Both weeks the grass grew, the sun shone, the wind blew and I was able to breathe.
This week I have reflected upon where I am between the two breaths, the first and the last. Which am I closer to? If we aren’t careful we can get distracted, disturbed by meditating on this question. There are times though to consider what “between the breaths” looks like…
A favorite quote of mine is from the country philosopher group “Alabama.”
“I’m in a hurry to get things done, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I’m going to do is live and die and I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”
What if today we are just one day away from the last breath? Can a life that matters be found in one day? One moment? One breath? To live with an awareness that brings us mindfully, presently, into the reality of death and life moving on can change the way we see the world and each other.
Care to give it a try?
peace and light,