Bad News –
A new pastor, on his first Sunday, preached the sermon and following the dismissal prayer, greeted people at the door as they were leaving. A man in a bright red sports jacket was next in line and before the preacher could say anything he blurted out; “That was a terrible sermon!” Taken aback the pastor tried to figure out his next words but the man left before he could reply. After a while, he noticed the man in the bright red sports jacket in line again. This time he said; “You could not have possibly studied for that message. It was a mess!” Again the pastor was at a loss for words and the man was gone. As the line to meet the new pastor was ending he couldn’t believe the last person in line was the guy in the red sports jacket! “I don’t know if I’ll come back if that’s the best you can do!” Abruptly he walked out the door and this time the pastor watched him get into his car and drive away. The new reverend, obviously shaken by this man’s constant critique saw a group of folks in the foyer, wandered over, and asked’ “What is the deal with the man in the red sports jacket?” “Oh, don’t worry about him replied a parishioner. He only repeats what he hears other people saying.”
Bad news. Sometimes we expect it other times it takes us by surprise. No matter who we are, what we do, sooner or later we get bad news. It may be from our spouse, boss, doctor, friend, co-worker, or stranger. The challenge isn’t what to do if bad news comes but when it shows up. Our choices following an announcement of bad tidings are often more important, and have a greater impact, than the news itself. The space in between the news and the choices we make are critical. This is why wisdom, knowledge, peace, acceptance, clarity should be discovered now. When bad news comes chances are you will do what you know and many times the battle is won before the soldier takes the field.
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Might Be –
One of the greatest senses we can develop is that of self-awareness. It’s the discipline of being able to look into an existential mirror and see who we really are, no delusion or illusion. We can see ourselves, the good and the not so good, discover what we do well and what needs to be improved.
Most live in a constant state of denial of who they are and/or who they should be. They allow others, culture, reputation, ego, the false self to define them. If we are not self-aware the world has a limitless number of fake identities to slap on us. If we aren’t careful we can settle for these alter-egos and never take off the masks too many wear for a lifetime.
Letting go of who we’ve always thought we should be isn’t easy. There is pain involved on the journey of self-discovery. However, if we dare, the challenges and difficulties can be overcome, the illusions and delusions shattered, and we become what most dare not hope for; at peace.
Chirp and Chatter –
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the front steps to our shed waiting for Beth to come home from work. Me and the dog enjoying the day when a bird overhead began to chirp loudly! It wasn’t the usual chirp and it was incessant. I looked to the limbs of our big Oak tree trying to find it. I couldn’t. The chirping didn’t stop but I couldn’t find it among the leaves. Finally, it stopped and only when it flew away could I see that it was a large woodpecker.
After watching this beautiful bird fly away I reflected on the constant chirping and not knowing where it was coming from. Some thought are like that in our minds. They chirp and chatter and we wonder, why and for what reason, they are filling our minds with noise. Perhaps its regret at an action, a question about why something is happening, puzzlement for a big decision which needs to be made, a betrayal, a hurtful word given or received, a reliving of past events, or worry about the future. Whatever the thoughts, the chirps, and the chatter can keep peace of mind and spirit elusive and unattainable.
Wisdom reminds us that thoughts are going to come and go but it is up to us not grab them and ruminate. A wise master once said; “I cannot stop the thoughts from coming to my door but I do not have to serve them tea.”
On my way home from Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this week the road I was traveling had a construction zone. I maneuvered into the proper lane and most other vehicles did the same. However, there was a woman in a silver Mercedes who misjudged when she needed to get over. I noticed just in time as she attempted to pull into the same space occupied by my truck. When I recognized that she didn’t see me I honked the horn but this didn’t stop her and I slammed on the brakes to avoid getting into a collision. I’m not a science professor but I remember that one of the Laws of Physics says; “Two solid objects cannot occupy the same at the same time.” I couldn’t tell if she was oblivious, didn’t care or wasn’t up on her physics laws.
After we passed through the construction zone we went back to our regular speeds and as I passed the driver of the silver Mercedes I reflected on the truth of this Law of Physics in other parts of our lives. We have too many things which occupy our minds and spirits. We fill our homes, jobs, brains, and souls with trinkets which need constant attention. We rarely, if ever, find a place to leave everything behind and just be still. The objects we possess end up possessing us.
Simplicity scares us because we think we must get rid of things; “we can’t do without.” This is a lie. There are many objects, treasures, things that seem important which if we dared we could eliminate. Stillness of spirit, peace, eludes us because too many things occupy our lives.
We have a beautiful Banana tree in front of our house. It is ten feet tall with as many leaves and several smaller Banana trees growing around it. Unfortunately last night a sudden thunderstorm with strong winds knocked it over and snapped the trunk of the tallest tree. We are going to have to cut almost 5 feet of the tree off and hope it will survive. Beth and I both are disappointed at the mishap. We’ve spent years feeding, watering and taking care of the Banana tree.
It was a painful reminder of the transience of life. There is nothing permanent, nothing which can withstand the storms of life forever. Everything and everyone has a breaking point. One of the most difficult wisdom lessons we can learn is holding things and people loosely. This seems like an easy concept to grasp. We are surrounded by constant reminders of how quickly life changes. What once was is not anymore. Years pass by in the blink of an eye. Adjusting to a new “normal” is an almost everyday occurrence.
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
-W. Somerset Maugham