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Long

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Long

A question was asked today; “If you had one word to describe this year what would it be?” I knew the answer before the question was finished. The answer was/is looooooooooooooong.

My father passed away on December 1st. His battle with pancreatic cancer began near the first of the year. I went through it with him and my mom long distance, over the phone, and travelled down to South Carolina several times to see them. What they went through, the endless doctor’s appointments, the good news and bad news proclamations from well-meaning physicians, the ultimate acceptance of; “there’s nothing more we can do,” and then his sudden demise. As I said, “long year.”

Yet, paradoxically, there is a part of me that is holding on to 2017. It may have been fraught with battles and ultimately surrender but at least there was still a fight to be had. Since December 1st and the flurry of activity of the next few days prepping for his memorial service, the days have been living in slow motion. In spite of it’s pace, this was the last month I can say that I saw him, talked with him, sat in his presence, read and prayed with him. Now, in just a few hours I won’t have that attachment any longer.

It is quite difficult to let go, to walk into an unknown future, live a new normal with only 30 days of adjustments and finding our place, gaining our balance. It will be a challenge to press on into this new, strange year, but it must be done.

A soft, sorrowful; “Goodbye 2017” and a hesitant, and perhaps hopeful; “Hello” to 2018.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Refelction

Reflection

As I wrote about yesterday, this has been a somber and low-key Christmas for my family. It’s been a crazy, hectic, sorrowful month. Today is Christmas day and it feels like Christmas, sort of. My mind can’t help but think about Christmases which have gone by when the family was all together and laughter and joy filled the air.

I was reflecting on Christmas past this morning as my wife slept in. Being a couple who can’t have children we’ve never had the “privilege” of little ones waking us up at 4 or 5 in the morning declaring; “Santa’s come and it’s time to open presents!” Nevertheless, I am married to a woman who loves Christmas and even in the midst of this year’s challenge to find the Christmas spirit she has filled our home with laughter, reindeer antlers on her head, too many Christmas carols and songs, baked goodies and more. She’s been this way since I’ve known her and the only Christmas I can remember her not celebrating was when her mother passed, December 8, 2006. She is in many ways a light in my darkness.

So today I am thankful for the gift of a beautiful, fantastical, in touch with her inner-child wife who won’t and can’t be stopped from bringing a little Christmas cheer.

Best. Gift. Ever.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Problems

Problems

There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.

It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.

Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.

Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Bright

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Brightly

The sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.

I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.

Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Safe to Land

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Safe to Land

Today, I was mowing grass and doing yard work for a friend. Most of the grass has already turned brown for the winter except for a few green patches. As I mowed over a patch a large grasshopper jumped up and from the ground and landed on my shirt. I didn’t have time to figure out what to do because he got his bearings and jumped again to a safe space. This happened more than once as I kept infringing on his territory.

Each time the grasshopper hitched a ride I thought about our lives and the times we need temporary safe places to land. Not spaces we will occupy permanently but where we can get our bearings, catch our breath, take stock of what’s happening, see the challenge and the difficulty and perhaps a way to avoid it or, if needed, endure it.

I also reflected on the need to be a place that is safe to land for others who are in trouble. A place where they can feel accepted and be safe. A space that has a listening ear, no advice unless asked for, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, patience and empathy to endure and understand.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Yielding

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Yielding

I am not a mountain. Today I yielded to the wind.

When I first went outside this morning the air was still and cool. A few hours later I went out again to go to a luncheon and the wind was blowing wildly and powerfully. I knew quickly I would need a jacket. The wind was powerful, forcing me to lean into it as I made my way to the truck. The cool wind made quick work out of my jacket and soon and felt as though it wasn’t even there.

A young man spoke with me a few days ago. He’s been having a rough time and he’s at a loss of knowing what to do. He’s not a mountain either. The winds have made quick work of the ways he protects himself and is blowing him around with no anchor to tether to.

As we talked I helped him separate what he could do with what he had to accept. We aren’t mountains. When the winds come billowing we can feel at the mercy of them and to an extent this is true. However, there’s almost always something we can do. We might feel weak compared to the power that’s blowing against us but this doesn’t mean we are powerless.

Firstly we accept the storm, the wind, the hardship and challenge they bring. We cannot stop the wind but accepting it, respecting it, allows us to stop trying to control it. We don’t have that kind of power. Secondly, in the stillness of acceptance, we discover what we can do and we act. We might not be able to do all we want but we do all we can. We can lean into the wind.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Afraid

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Afraid –

This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.

After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?

I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.

In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Thinking

Thinking

One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.

Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.

For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.

Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.

I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Free

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Free

On Monday I wrote about installing a light for a friend on a high wall of a building (Highs & Unknowns) (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/06/25/highs-and-unknowns/).  It was hot on that ladder and my hands and arms were dripping sweat as a vent from the building blew out hot air making it even more stifling.

I’m not a big fan of heights but I made the decision to go up and not look down. I had a hand towel to dry off my hands, arms, and forehead and used it to get a better grip on the light and keep the sweat out of my eyes….all for a friend unable to make the climb.

When we take on a burden from a friend, when we set out to help someone, we do it, hopefully, out of love, kindness, and concern. The challenge becomes when, if, the burden become greater than we realized. The decision must be made repeatedly to continue to carry on, not give up, look for the extra strength needed, to not give up or give in until the burden can be laid down and both are free.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Sore

Sore

I am sore today! Yesterday we spent most of the day trimming and hauling away a big limb from one of the four huge trees in our yard. Today I am paying for it with sore arms, back, and legs. I don’t think I’ve developed any muscles but trying to lift some of the pieces we sawed off yesterday gave me an appreciation of how strong the wind must’ve been to down the limb and how strong the tree was to support a limb of such great weight. It took a lot of energy, strength and time to remove most of the obstacle.

I spoke with a few friends today who are also trying to overcome a great obstacle. They are, like we did yesterday, dealing with it one piece at a time. When you’re faced with a huge challenge there is a part of us who’d like to get it over with NOW! However, life doesn’t usually work according to our time schedules. We must take each step, walk each mile, and hope the journey ends well.

I imagine a person who lifts and cuts wood as their job must be strong. I also know that those who face tremendous battles will develop the strength and energy necessary to see it to the end, what the end may be.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Snap!

Snap! –

Last night a fierce thunderstorm passed through the area and downed a huge branch off a tree right outside our bedroom window (see photo). The size of the damaged area leaves doubt as to whether the tree can be saved or if we will have to cut it down when removing the limb. I love trees, flowers, grass, spring, and summer, nature at its absolute best. It hurt my heart to see the beautiful tree, which is much older than I, with such a gaping wound.

I spent the week helping friends whose world, like the tree, has been torn apart. Two months ago everything seemed on track and then one of life’s damaging storms ravaged their lives and left them in doubt and afraid. They are looking at incredible odds against survival itself. They stand in the midst of what used to be their normalcy and are surrounded by debris, devastation, and the possibility of death.

Life is never predictable. It doesn’t have a reset button, can’t go back and fix things or jump forward to see how it ends. We weather the storms of life, pick up the pieces and pray for the strength, stamina, and the will to survive.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Absence of Disease 

Absence of Disease

This afternoon, at a staff meeting, we listened to a Harvard University graduate talk about happiness, mindfulness, and contentment. He was humorous and engaging with lots of information.

One of the things he said that seemed to resonate with the staff was; “Absence of disease is not health.” It takes a while for the truth of this sentence to sink in. We often think sickness, a diagnosis, a trouble, challenge, a difficulty, is what keeps us from a contented life. Perhaps it’s a new job, losing weight,  a promotion, a relationship or whatever that will make us happy.

Wisdom teaches us that anytime our quality of life depends on outward circumstances we are not where we need to be, ie: unhealthy. CS Lewis says; “Never let your happiness depend on something which can be taken away.”

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Not Comfortable

Not Comfortable – 

I did something today I’ve never done before. I am confident doing certain things but projects dealing with engines, big or small, aren’t in the comfortable category. However, the John Deere lawn tractor I bought a few weeks ago required an initial oil and filter change after a designated number of hours. For people who’ve grown up, went to school, are naturals with engines and their workings an oil and filter change is child’s play but for me it was intimidating.

The first step was finding the owner’s manual and reading the steps to completing the project. I read this many, many times. When I was finally ready to attempt the job I took the owner’s manual with me and had it open to the instructions the entire time. I removed the oil cap, drained the oil, used a filter wrench (first time ever!), replaced the filter, put the oil cap back on, filled it with oil and turned the engine on to check for leaks. Seeing none, I hopped on and mowed for about an hour without it blowing up! As far as I can tell it was successfully done and I was proud of myself for doing it.

Life is full of projects, events, experiences, challenges and difficulties which put us in situations in which we are uncomfortable. We have the choice of avoiding what needs to be done or trying. Trying doesn’t mean we’ll succeed but we’ll never know all the things we can do if we focus on what we can’t.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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for Granted

He hovered about as the other men left the classroom. I didn’t know what to expect, I never do when it comes to the incarcerated dads I am privileged to work with but who also keep me on my toes. He was tall, skinny, long grayish brown hair, missing most of his teeth and spoke softly. It was the first class of the spring semester and after everyone had left he came forward. He is soft-spoken with lines and wrinkles of a life filled with heartache and wrong decisions engraved on his face. I leaned forward as he struggled to tell me his secret; he couldn’t read. My heart sank.
Reading is such a vital part of our program and everyday life. There are homework assignments and times during class we read to ourselves and together. Not being able to read certainly presented another challenge for a man who has faced, and lost, his share of them including a drug addiction. I asked if there was another resident in the jail he could ask to help him and he shook his head; “No.” I breathed in silently and thought about the courage it must’ve taken to admit his weakness. “Then we’ll meet after each class and go over the lesson. Let’s start today.” We made our way over to a couple of chairs, sat down and began to review.

After we were done, driving away from the jail, I reflected on the different ways we can be imprisoned. It’s not just about concrete walls, bars, thick glass and heavy metal doors. Prisons can be addictions, basic education skills we’ve somehow missed, mental illnesses, bad attitudes, negative environments. Too often we take for granted so many blessings. The gifts we’ve received, the talents we’ve been given, the good, are not for hoarding but for sharing, multiplying and helping others find freedom.

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

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A Little at a Time 


This morning I participated in the monthly ritual of refilling the ice trays. We have various ones of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the designs of the trays make them harder to fill. If the water faucet handle is too far up the water comes out too fast and instead of filling it overflows and the water is wasted. The different trays requires adjusting the flow.

With each tray I filled I began to think about various parts of my life’s journey. When I am open to learning, being filled with wisdom, I soak up every drop and seemingly can’t get enough. Coincidentally, these lessons being poured into me are usually in harmony with much of what I already believe and accept.

I also reflected on times and seasons which are difficult to have a spirit of openness to receive the truth being offered. Instead of not getting enough, I resist even the smallest amount. Not amazingly these wisdom lessons often challenge my preconceptions, beggar my intelligence and spirituality.

I am thankful that if we desire to be filled with wisdom it doesn’t just pour into us with what we prefer but also fills those empty places with truth that challenges our beliefs, understandings of God, life and each other.

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

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