a Visit –
Last night, before letting the dog outside for its last chance to do some business my wife asked me if I could bring two Christmas Cactuses in the house. The temperatures were supposed to be dropping into the 30’s and she wanted to make sure they weren’t harmed. I grabbed the flashlight and opened the door. The dog ran out quickly and grabbing the first of the Christmas cactuses to bring inside I was handing it to my wife when a small bird flew out of the pot and into the house. My wife surmised this wasn’t a situation she was comfortable with feeling certain the bird wanted to nest in her hair and bolted for the living room. I picked up two mesh hats and tried to corral and capture the scared and fast-moving critter. It wasn’t easy but after a few moments, I noticed it kept heading back to the door where it came in. I propped open the door and was able to guide it to the opening and away it flew. “Whew!” Way too much excitement for that late at night.
As I chased the bird around the kitchen, mud room, and laundry room I wondered how ridiculous I looked trying to catch a bird, without harming it, with two mesh caps and my obvious lack of speed and agility. I also reflected on the unpredictability of life and how we can find ourselves so quickly in a situation we wouldn’t have dreamed of before it happens to us. Then, without warning, the unexpected comes swooping into our lives, and we are forced to deal with it.
Life is many things but none of them are boring. Thankfully, the troubles and challenges also, sooner or later, take flight and we’re left to ponder; “What’s next?”
the Other –
Last night I was speaking to a group of men and we were discussing the needs men have to develop self-awareness. I told them; “Self-awareness is the ability to look into a mirror and see yourself for who you truly are, the good, the not so good, areas where you excel and places in you which need improving. The ability to know yourself is the first step in understanding what needs to be done to become the man you should be.”
Knowing, accepting and loving yourself is also the key to loving others. Unless we’ve learned to see ourselves; flaws, hang-ups, habits, hurts and love ourselves we will be incapable of truly loving others. Often times our shortcomings and failings cause us to judge ourselves more harshly than we’d ever do to others. We stew in our self-hatred and weaknesses. This corrupts us from the inside out and results in a distorted view of ourselves which bleeds over into the way we see the world and the people in it.
It is only when we accept who we are, all of who we are, and love what we like and don’t like can we be free of a soul that is bitter and barren. Released from the prison which contains our hearts we find that others, like us, are frail and broken. We recognize the same limitations and discover in each other the strength to travel the path of life together.
I was listening to a podcast earlier today and included was a story by the maker of the podcast about needing directions. He normally depended upon OnStar or a similar company for getting directions to a place he hadn’t been before. However, when he pressed the button which should’ve connected him to the service he discovered his subscription had run out. After many phone calls, credit card numbers, VIN numbers and a host of other hurdles he still doesn’t have service and doesn’t know what to do! The person telling the story is a funny guy and told it in a humorous way but you could tell it was also aggravating to him to put this much time and energy into it and still have nothing to show for it.
Each of us has a voice in our heads which tells us how to best navigate the path of life. For some, the voice is positive and good with directions. However, for others, the voice is negative and gives us directions which are wrong and we end up frustrated and desperate. These voices come from
These voices come from a myriad of places; people and places we grew up, mental health issues, trauma in our young or adult lives, being with an individual or group of people who treat us poorly. The voice can tell us We’re stupid, lead us to travel in circles never getting anywhere, or traumatize us to the point we can’t move.
Understanding where our voices come from and being able to identify if they are positive or negative can go a long way in making sure we are able to live a life of purpose and vision. If we have voices which aren’t good for us we can find others. Having a “subscription” to the right voices goes a long way in keeping us on the path toward health and wellness.
Today, I had a meeting at a discreet location in a women’s shelter. There was no sign and the house was off the road down a long driveway. Blink and you would miss the driveway and the house couldn’t be seen from the road. The meeting was one of our county’s Community Action Board which is made up of several organizations who partner together to reach as many families in need and/or in crisis as possible.
The leader of the house was a nice woman who talked softly but her love for the women in the house was obvious. The women who are enrolled there are from all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities. Some have experienced abuse at the hands of others and some abused themselves. Under the roof of this home, however, all were welcomed, loved and given the skills to start life anew with a sense of belonging and purpose.
Written on a huge dry erase board were the rules of the house, encouragement and motivational sayings, practical applications of the lessons being taught to those who stayed in the home. On one board, almost in the middle was the name of the leader and one of the tenants wrote; “She rocks!” I thought this was awesome. Here is a woman who has given her life to helping those in need. It did not go unappreciated.
I hope each of us can find a place where we can offer love, kindness, time, patience and give worth to those whom life has overlooked or discarded.
Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In Line –
This afternoon, on my way into town, I was in a line of traffic. About three cars in front of me a young man, hand out the window, smoking a cigarette, and in a hurry. He was “riding the bumper” of the car in front of him in spite of their being numerous cars in front of the object of his fury. I watched him and wondered; “Why? Why are you being an aggressive, desperate driver, when there are more cars in your way? Are you going to tailgate every car until you get in front of them all?” I knew the answer was probably; “yes if he could.”
I reflected on this man and the way our focus of life can be out of whack. When we go through a challenge, a difficult situation, we focus our intensity on the object in front of us. We blame it for our lack of peace and purpose. We think; “If I could just get this off my to-do list, remove that problem, rid myself of this habit, break off or begin this relationship, everything would get better.” The truth, however, is more poignant. If we do not have peace before we run into a challenge, overcoming it will not bring us peace. If there is no stillness inside prior to a relationship there will be none afterward. New job, friends, home, whatever, cannot bring us the sense of calm and wisdom we desire if we don’t acquire them deep inside by searching for them now.
“The only peace and wisdom you find at the top of the mountain you are climbing are what you bring with you” -Wisdom Proverb
Where are You? –
Last night I went to watch the play; “Charlotte’s Web” in which my wife, Beth, was a character. It was a great production and, though my wife says I’m biased, I believe Beth was one of the best performers!
There were several people present at this dress rehearsal including a little girl who couldn’t have been older than three. She was, as little children are prone to be, having a hard time sitting still and when the intermission “finally” arrived she couldn’t hold her self in place any longer. She started running around, releasing her pent-up energy. As the intermission was coming to a close her mom jumped up to bring her back to her seat. The lights were dimming fast and mom couldn’t quite get to her daughter before the whole auditorium went dark. I watched as the little girl froze not sure where her mother went but the mom never stopped. She made a bee line to her, picked her up and held her. The daughter unfroze, hugged her mom and went back with her trusting completely.
I smiled as I watched this event unfold and wondered if this is what God desires from us. Many times we’d rather run off on our own. We have places to go, a world to experience, we can make the journey by ourselves. Then darkness falls, we lose our way, we look but don’t know where to go. Tragedy, chaos, unexpected events cause us to freeze wondering if we’ll ever find our way back home. God, however, is not afraid not deterred by the darkness. He has been and continues to pursue us. He finds us, picks us up, holds us close and our fear of being lost melts away. In total trust we let God gracefully take us back where we need to be and wonder why we ever left.
This morning I needed a large metal hook to hang something. I looked all over for one and could not locate it. I’ve seen one recently, several times in fact, but for some reason, as the saying goes; “You can find what you’re looking for until you need what you’re looking for.” Someone also said; “What you’re looking for is always in the last place you look.” I would add; “unless you stop looking.” which is what I did.
One of my favorite wisdom proverbs is; “You always find that which you are truly seeking.” Maybe I never wanted to locate the hook but needed to remember this beautiful and poignant nugget of truth. We seem to always be searching for answers but rarely finding them. Perhaps it is because what we seek isn’t the same as what we want to find.