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Till Death

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Till Death

Today I had the honor of officiating the marriage between a young woman I have known for a long time and her finance. It was a homespun affair. The bride, groom and myself on the porch, the rest of the family and friends in mismatched chairs under two canopies to keep away the strong wind and drizzle that wouldn’t give up the fight. It was a beautiful wedding. The bride and groom truly cared for each other and it showed. They wrote most of their vows which is the norm these days. However, they still included the phrase; “Till death do us part.” Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong commitment.

Before I arrived at the home where the event was held I pulled into a church parking lot to put on my dress shirt and tie. Afterwards, since I was running early, I sat in the car and watched a family walk through a maze of headstones trying to pick one out at a Memorial and Engraving shop which was located just down from the church. I wondered about their story, the person they were looking for.

I thought about the experience after the wedding as well and hoped for a story of long-lasting love and a life-long commitment for the couple who said their; “I do’s.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Forgive

Forgive

I found this to be an interesting quote. I’m not sure how to forgive; “everything” or if everything needs forgiveness but certainly believe that forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness is in short supply.

We live in a world where everyone seems angry over something. We fight with family, friends, strangers, internet buddies, internet trolls about banal topics that are of no consequence and about subjects with grave consequences. The problem is we can’t tell the difference and fight over everything.

To live with an attitude of forgiveness, to be a walking, breathing living example of forgiveness in a world that hates, fights, shames, shuns, is to invite hurt, pain, betrayal, and accusations of being out of touch. However, it’s also the antidote to the poison that threatens to kill all we hold dear.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Perspective

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Perspective

Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.

The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.

Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;

“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”

This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.

We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Openness

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Openness

On Wednesday night of this week, I was speaking with someone about being truthful and honest to the people in our lives. He stated that being too open can lead to betrayal and pain and therefore he doesn’t share his story for fear of being taken advantage of. It was a fair argument but I told him maybe his issue wasn’t being fearful of openness but being open to the wrong people. People we can trust, who won’t use our words and experiences against us, who will listen to understand and be a shoulder to lean on are invaluable.

Earlier in the week, I shared a fatherhood presentation to a group of fathers who have young kids in school. There were dads who were going in to work late and some who had worked all night diligently sitting there to learn more about how they could be involved in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to education. After the presentation while saying; “goodbye” to the fathers one of the attendees came up and began speaking with me. She had some questions about getting a father involved and shared her story. What she told me was hard to hear with many issues and other challenges she’s had to overcome. I couldn’t believe how open she was being when we had just met a few moments earlier. She believes I am someone she can trust with her family.

Openness, transparency, is something most say they desire in themselves and others. However, these can bring feelings of uncomfortableness, questions that aren’t easily answered, and an unsettling fear of not being skilled enough to meet the need. When these thoughts are rushing through our minds the need to breathe and be still must be remembered. Most people don’t want you to fix them they simply need someone to listen without judging. If there are problems to solve and mysteries to unravel we can do them together as we travel this path called life.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Transition

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Transition

Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.

The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.

As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.

Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

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

Comparisons

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Comparisons

Someone told me today about a friend they have who is unhappy. This is the opposite of her usual demeanor. By most accounts, she’s always been a go lucky, chipper, satisfied, joyful person. However, in the last several months who mood has changed and the sparkle in her eye has dulled considerably. The person sharing this with me said her friend’s unhappiness with life has increased along with her social media consumption. She’s said; “When I read my friends’ posts on Facebook, look at their pictures on Instagram, see their interactions with countless other folks on Twitter, my life seems rather dull, empty, lacking.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone relay this type of story to me. Social media can be a wonderful tool and a good way to share select moments of our lives with our friends and family but we must remember the words; SELECT MOMENTS. Those inspirational posts on Facebook often come from a book or web page of quotes. The beautiful pictures on Instagram don’t show the before and after of getting ready to take the photo and recovering from it. Twitter can be an okay place to exchange ideas but more often its people shouting their opinions at each other.

Comparisons can be dangerous, especially on social media.  Most of what we see on these platforms are illusions. They rarely give us a real glimpse of who a person is and what their life is truly like. We have to be careful comparing our life, which we know intimately, with another’s snapshots of theirs. Our life may seem bland, our thoughts benign, our family and friendships boring, but that’s okay. Most of the time, if we were to see what a Facebook friend’s life is like, or the reality behind a Twitter account, or the other moments when everyone isn’t smiling on Instagram we might decide our life is good and worthy of our thanks.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Perfection or Progression

Perfection or Progression

A difficult discipline to master is self-awareness. It is when you are aware of the good and the not so good, the skills you possess and the ones which need work. The biases, skewed vision, different experiences, which make you the uniquely flawed individual like the rest of humanity.

Some of the men I work with have begun to develop this discipline and it is hard for them to see themselves as they truly are, with no excuses. It is especially for those who thought of themselves as good partners and fathers only to discover they have a lot of work to do. If we’re not careful these revelations can do more harm than good because the road seems terribly long. They may even ask; “Why try?

Along with self-awareness, another discipline I try to teach is the truth of progression, not perfection. Oftentimes when we see ourselves, perhaps for the first time, we also envision the amount of hard work inside of ourselves out outside. We have this perfect view of what we want to be and what we think our family, friends, and others want us to be. We throw all of our efforts into becoming this perfect version of ourselves, which doesn’t exist and isn’t attainable, and never come close. We fail miserably.

This is why the path to peace and acceptance is progression, not perfection. We are never going to be the idealized version of what we think we want and should be. We will only wear ourselves out and down. To pursue progression doesn’t mean there isn’t hard work to be done but we recognize the realization of our true selves is found on the journey and not at the end of it.

Perfection or progression, the difference makes all the difference.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Support

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Support

Today the Mrs. and I were working outside when I noticed a leaf from our Oak tree suspended in mid-air. I quickly put my hands around it and yelled for Beth. When she looked my way, doing my best magician imitation, I pulled my hands apart and waving my fingers declared it was; “Magic!” and wiggled my fingers as it moved in the breeze. To say she was impressed would be an overstatement.

As we continued to work I thought about the “floating” leaf and the invisible supports which held it in place. Even though the wind was strong the spiderweb, which held the leaf, was stronger. In each of our lives, it is important to have supports as well. Family, friends, co-workers, 12-step groups, mentors, sponsors, and other folks who will keep us afloat by helping us when the world and its challenges and difficulties weighing us down.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Protection

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Protection

Today I weeded the grass around our trees and bushes. Tomorrow I will mow. As usual, I grabbed my phone and earbuds going out the door. I also took my clip-on which cradles the phone, protects it and comes in handy when doing chores or other jobs which require two hands. I don’t use the cradle much because it’s too bulky and in most work settings would get in the way when I sit down or am driving.

Though not used often one thing I know about the clip-on is the phone’s screen is facing inward not outward. This way the screen is protected anything you might brush up or hit it against. If you faced it outward, which I’ve seen many people do, it puts your phone’s screen at risk of being scratched or cracked.

When I see people with their phone in the clip-on screen facing out I am always tempted to say something but never do. I don’t want to seem nosey and think; “They have to know it’s not in correctly! Perhaps they have it in backwards for a reason?” I also don’t want to embarrass or make someone upset. So, I try to ignore it thought my instinct is to walk over and put it in the way it belongs!

There are things in our life which offer us protection; jobs, insurance and medicine. Family and friends who care for us and help meet our needs. What we will allow or won’t allow in our minds, hearts, and lives. We make the choice to be protected or unprotected.

There is never a 100% guarantee that even if we avail ourselves of every protection offered we will not be harmed, heartbroken or wounded deeply. Wisdom, however, teaches us how to be protected and what’s worth protecting.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Vision

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Vision

Last night Beth and I watched the bio-movie; “The Founder”, starring Michael Keaton. It is the story of Ray Croc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain. It is an interesting movie of how Croc took a hamburger stand, owned by the two McDonald’s brothers, and made it into a food empire.

At the beginning of the movie, Croc is a persistent, charismatic, but not completely successful restaurant equipment sales rep. While on the road he learns that a place in Bakersfield, California, has ordered six milk shake makers! He’s intrigued enough to find out what kind of restaurant needs this many and drives to their location. While there he sees the McDonald’s brothers “Speedy System” (where and how the workers are placed in the assembly area) and the unique layout of their restaurant which allows them to make “made to order” hamburgers in less than thirty seconds! Ray Croc is in awe and talks the brothers into letting him begin to sell franchises all over America. Initially, everything goes relatively smoothly but Ray Croc’s ambition, craving for money and fame, eventually drive him and the brothers apart. I won’t spoil the movie but it’s worth watching.

As I was reflecting on the story today I thought about vision and how it unites or divides people. It can be the vision of ourselves, family, community, church, organization, nation or world. Everyone has a vision of how things “should” be and some share the same vision while others oppose it. Competing visions can cause dissension and dissolution of connectedness and relationships.

Wisdom teaches us the more tightly we hold to our visions of things the more suffering we cause ourselves and others. Only when we are open and allow for the possibility of differing views can we be at peace with ourselves and others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Hate

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Hate

This week and weekend have been about hate. Hate has only one outcome; death.

Heather Hyer (pictured) was the woman who was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a group of counter protestors at the Charlottesville, Virginia rally yesterday sponsored by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazi, and other terrorists organizations. Their hatred fueled the rally and the result was death for Heather and two police officers who died in a helicopter accident.

I don’t understand the hate. I grew up in the south, had a few black friends, but do not recall overt acts of racism. However, I did hear jokes, phrases, insulting words pointed at those who were not white. I didn’t understand what I do now that this is where hatred starts. Words are powerful. They have a way of lodging themselves in our minds and shaping us from the inside out. No one is born hating another. It takes family, friends, co-workers, and others speaking vile, evil, and vicious judgments it poisons our spirits, contaminates our brains and spews out of us like projectile vomit infecting everything we touch.

Hate makes me and others uncomfortable. It’s easier not to engage, to turn our backs, hope it goes away. Unfortunately, this isn’t what happens. Hate grows and spreads. Like minded people come together and depend on most folks looking the other way. Ignorance is a weapon used by people of ill will to gain power. If we aren’t careful, if we don’t call hate what it is it will win and we will be forced to choose hatred or death.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Carrier or Cure

Carrier or Cure –

I listened to a doctor today say that it was scientifically proven that the mood of one person can contaminate and infect an entire office or family. If an employee arrives to work exhausted, frustrated, malcontented, then it can “infect” their co-workers. If a family member is happy, content, joyful it too can spread to the other members of the family, lifting their spirits, helping them see the beauty in those who often drive one another crazy.

Most likely, each of us has experienced this phenomenon at work and at home. A husband or wife comes home in a foul mood after a long day of work, conflicts with another employee or the boss, fighting traffic and bringing this stress and anxiety with them as they cross the threshold of the family home. Or a co-worker, struggling with issues in the home, bringing their baggage to work.

The doctor noted that empathy, the ability to understand and feel what another person is experiencing, is an antidote that keeps the mood from spreading. Listening, patience, and the willingness to help the other are also effective in stopping the infection.

The question becomes; “are we a carrier or part of the cure?”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Grip

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Grip

Our Siberian Husky, Trooper, has a problem with our little farm-house. The kitchen floor is covered in old, slick linoleum and many other rooms have wooden floors. For most of his life, he’s lived in houses which were wall to wall carpet and gave him places to grip as he walks. Now, he’s finding it hard to keep his footing as he walks in our home. We’ve several large carpets in the wooden floor rooms and small carpets along with one of his beds in the kitchen. He slips and slides from one carpet to another and refuses to walk in a space where there’s no carpet in sight for him to reach. We’ve tried several different ways to help him get over his fear of the slick floors but fear has a way of getting inside of people and animals alike.

I have friends and family members today, as all of us do, who are finding it hard to get a grip on new, difficult and challenging situations. I also have friends and family members who are dealing with old hangups, habits, hurts and wonder if they will ever be able to grapple with and overcome these persistent, negative areas.

What can we do when those we love and care about are gripped by fear? We can lay down rugs, pieces of carpets, by doing random and purposeful acts of kindness and grace. We cannot take their fear away but we can show them our love is greater than what has them afraid.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

In Sight of What’s Important

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In Sight of What’s Important

Last night, my wife, the dog and I sat in the most interior room of our house waiting for the all clear sign to be given. About thirty minutes prior every phone we have buzzed and beeped a cacophonic chorus. We looked at them and they all read; “Tornado Warning! Find Cover Immediately!” When we had received the message we did what all logical beings would do…went outside to see what the sky looked like. It was gray and growing darker. We went inside when lightning began striking and watched until the winds blew the rain sideways and we couldn’t see anymore. We determined it was time to get into the safest room and wait until the storm passed by. I sat holding the laptop and hitting the refresh button, Beth sat petting the dog while hail, rain, and wind pounded the house. After about an hour it was over. No damage was done save a few huge mud puddles littering the front yard.

The darkness and blinding of the wind and rain made it feel more unsafe than anything else. When you can’t see it scares you. You can’t see exits, shelters, ways to protection and safety. Whether storms of the Earth, of the mind or the spirit, sight is valued above all things. Last night I was thankful for shelter, family, and light inside. It was great reminder of what’s important and what’s not.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Thanks for the Memories

Thanks for the Memories – 

We celebrated Thanksgiving at a place we’ve been going for years. When people ask I tell them we’re going to the Barrel’s for our holiday meal and they usually respond with; “I don’t think I know them.” Then I explain we’re going to Cracker Barrel for our meal.

We arrived around 1pm and the place was packed!  Folks were parking in the grass and any place they could fit their vehicles.  We placed our name on the list and was told it would be 30 minutes but our party was called in less than 5. Awesome! The meal good the company nice and no clean up necessary.

When we first started hitting the CB many years ago on Thanksgiving there wasn’t nearly as many people as recently. Now, the secret is out. People like the idea of others doing the work and they enjoying the benefits.

I can’t say that there isn’t something missing from Thanksgiving pasts, being with just family, the food being cooked exactly the way you like it to be, people you know and love being squeezed into a dining room, sharing familiar stories, laughing at old jokes and having that magical mix of love, nostalgia, and too many people in too small a room.

Unfortunately those times are long ago and seem long gone. However, its not forgotten and even in Cracker Barrel I carry those memories in my heart and enjoy new ones being made.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Spread it Around

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Spread it Around

Someone did something very kind for me today. It was an incredibly nice gesture backed up by a grace-filled act. I told Beth about it when I got home and she was genuinely surprised and grateful.

I was talking with a person this week about the meanness in the world. People spew hatred and judgement so easily. Whether it’s politics, religion, sexual preferences, what kind of #livesmatter, or a host of other hot topics, people choose to burn their neighbors with contempt, aggression, and hatred.

In the midst of so much evil in the world a genuine act of kindness, no matter how small, can change a person, a family, a community, a nation and a world. My life was changed by kindness today and I hope, pray, to spread the blessings to others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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It’s the Thought

It’s The Thought –

I sat with one of my regulars for a session yesterday. We made small talk at first asking each other about what’s happened in the last week between appointments. He told me about his weekend and I mentioned the rain and how this negatively impacted my work on the front porch extension. As I said this his eyes lit up and he said; “That reminds me!” and he put his hand in his pocket and brought out an object and slid it across the table.

He continued; “I know you don’t charge for these sessions  but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you helping me.” I looked down and it was a gift card for a local home improvement store. I smiled at his graciousness and then slid the card back to him and replied apologetically; “I’m sorry. I can’t accept this gift. We are a non-profit and can’t accept personal payment of any kind but I appreciate your generosity and the thought behind the gift means a great deal to me.”  Even as I think about his desire to tangibly say; “Thank you” it brings a big smile to my face.

I have no idea how much the gift card was for and it doesn’t matter. What matters is his appreciation for the times we’ve sat together and worked through some tough issues to help him become the best man he can be for himself and his family. The old adage; “It’s the thought behind the gift that counts” is true and was a wonderful gift that I will value for a long time.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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No Dumping

No Dumping

The other day someone mentioned a piece of juicy gossip to me. I replied; “Hmmm…didn’t know that.” and quickly exited the conversation by finding something else to do some place else. One of the things I enjoy is; “Being out of the loop.” I don’t have any desire to know secrets, troubles, and provocative nuggets of information about other people. The truth is I have enough junk of my own  and enough problems to deal with that folks can keep others’ tidbits out of my life.

If someone is going through a hard time, facing unfortunate circumstances and needs an ear to bend, or a shoulder to lean on, mine are available but those who are only spreading family and friends’  business all over can stay away. I only have enough passion, energy and time to deal with what should be in my life not what others want to dump there.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Shelter

Shelter

Beth and I just came in from outside. We were on top of the hill in our back yard when Beth said; “Look! Rain.” She pointed in the direction of a larger hill and grove of trees and I could see the rain coming down, moving swiftly in our direction. We began to descend the hill and before we could get to the house we were getting soaked. We walked onto the porch, sat down and enjoyed the sound of water dropping on the tin roof and seeing plants, trees, and grass be drenched in some much-needed nourishment.

Watching and listening I reflected on how most times we don’t see the storm coming. Catastrophic events and life altering incidents happen suddenly, without warning and we are drenched in sorrow and pain, blown over by problems and difficulties stronger than us.

This is why shelter is so important. Shelter’s not only places and institutions but family, friends, those who offer protection from drowning, giving us the opportunity to catch our breaths, find our footing and reclaim our bearings.

We may not be able to see the storms of life coming but if we have the love, grace, and kindness of others when they come we should consider ourselves truly fortunate.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Getting Started

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This morning, while waiting for the Husky to do his business outside, I heard a voice and looked up to see a scruffy looking gentleman walking towards me. “Excuse me!” he said. “Can you help me start my truck?  The starter has gone bad and I need to bang on it while someone turns the key.” em> Where is your truck?” I asked. He pointed to the church parking lot next to our little house and I told him to let me put the dog up and I’d help.

Grabbing my phone and a ball-cap from inside I walked through the wet grass in my flip-flops. When I arrived at his truck he had a hammer in his hand and instructed me to walk around and turn the key when I heard him banging on the starter. I thought to myself; “This has all the makings of a horror story!”  I didn’t climb in the cab but reached over to grab the keys. He crawled underneath the truck and started banging! I figured that was my cue and turned the key. Once, twice, three times and more. No luck. The truck was just sat there. I took a few steps back and waited for further information. “OK!” he yelled, “Try it again!” I’m not sure what he did but the banging got louder, I turned the key and the truck roared to life. He scooted out from under the truck and walked around. I met him in front of it, shook his hand and wished him the best.

As I watched the truck drive away I thought about those who had helped me on my journey of life. Strangers, friends and family who tried to get me going as I messed around, not sure what I was doing, hoping just to make it a little further down the road. They didn’t turn me down, give up on me even when it seemed the prudent thing to do, stayed until things got started again. For these folks I am exceptionally grateful.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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