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Heart Space

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Heart Space

This morning at worship service with my mom I bumped into an old friend and asked him how things were going. His birthday was a few weeks ago and he said that he was going to celebrate with a trip but had encountered some heart problems and wasn’t able to go.

I’ve reflected on the short conversation several times today. It is Advent season. A time of joy and celebration but our hearts are heavy with the passing of my dad. As we sat in church this morning, visited a home improvement store (which my dad loved to do), did some work around the house our hearts just haven’t been in it.

We know this is the path we must travel and one day much of the pain will dissipate but right now, this evening, it is not the time. Our broken hearts still ache and space which my dad filled is empty. There is no template for mourning, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. We take it one day at a time, one moment, one tear and laugh as the memories, experiences, and love flood us and fill us.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Flowers

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Flowers

Turning on the porch light yesterday I spotted a basket with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and fruit. This was one example of the flowers and plants that have been delivered, brought to the memorial service, delivered by courier to our family over the last several days. Each one comes with heartfelt condolences, sweet words, kind thoughts, and prayers. We have appreciated and placed every one of them in a prominent place in the house. I told my wife and mom today the living room looked like a botanical garden.

What’s interesting is many of these plants and flowers are in the process of dying. They are eye-catching, smell wonderful, and fill the house with color, but make no mistake, they are dying. From the time the designer cut the stems on the roses, carnations, lilies, sunflowers, and many more, they began to die. They were placed in water and other sponge-like materials to make them last as long as possible but eventually, they will wilt and be thrown away.

This happens to all living things. There is the moment of birth, growth, blossoming and adorning the world with beauty and life. However, as soon as each living thing is born it begins to die. It can be from lack of care and pass sooner or it can receive lots of attention and adoration and hopefully live a long fruitful life. However, either way, its time will come when it will be no more.

This last week has been a reminder of how soon things pass. On the way home from the memorial service for my dad yesterday I remarked to my mom; “No matter who you are or what you are going through, you always think you have more time than you do.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Home

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Home

My friend, role-model, and father passed away early this morning a little after midnight. His fight was over and he was ready. He sat up one last time as if to say, “It’s my time. I’m coming home.

The house seemed empty today when we returned from all the breathless running around one does after a loved one takes their final breath. Even though he hasn’t been home in a few weeks it seemed he had just left the house. Keys, hats, computers, movies, his chair all still in their proper place. It seems this is still his house, his home. But…it’s not. Sure, there are memories and experiences. A lifetime of highs and lows to relive for the rest of our time on this shadow side of eternity but he has moved and left a forwarding address.

I sit in the quietude with his presence still lingering. I think about all of the rough days he’s had over the last 8 months, the noises of the machines which were keeping him alive. After we received the phone call we drove over to the hospice house to say our; “Goodbyes.” The room was so still. No beeping, whirring, pumping, dripping, nurses checking in. It was motionless and the silence was deafening. My mother began to fill the atmosphere with soft cries, and soft words to her best friend and lover of the last 40 years. My brother and I standing in the background, witnesses to a heart affair which is rare in this world. Finally, after a few more kisses from her on his hands and cheek, we left all thankful we’d never see that room again and that he had moved on to his permanent address.

And now, we are left to carry on. To occupy a house which isn’t home without him. To learn to adjust to a new normal we didn’t choose. To loosen our grip on this world, this place, because we know home is waiting for us on the other side.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Renewal

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Renewal

Last night I sat in front of a roaring fire outside at our fire-pit. I had cleaned up the yard over the last two days and had limbs and other stuff we no longer needed to burn. I watched as the flames consumed the items and then deposit them in the air as smoke and ash.

I thought about life and all that we hold dear is quickly used up and thrown away. Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is transient. I reflected upon the life of my friend who is suffering in a hospital holding on to a life which isn’t intended to endure. However, he holds on as tight as he can because he loves his family and his friends. He and we don’t want to say; “Goodbye.” In his weakened condition, he still worries about others and how they will make it without him.

The fire burns down and I start to feel the cold of the evening. I’ve run out of fuel to feed the flames. They get lower, the embers glow less brightly and soon will go out. I get up and move inside. A place of warmth, safety, and comfort. I pray my friend, at the right time, will leave this cold world and find his eternal dwelling place as well.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Laughter

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Laughter

Late last night a friend of my wife and me texted concerning a “rat” that was in her kitchen! I called her and asked if it was dead, moving and how big? She confessed it wasn’t a rat but a mouse and it was moving quicker than she or it would be a dead rodent! I inquired if she had traps or poison and learned all she possessed was a broom. “What are you going to do with a broom?” I asked bemusedly.  “I don’t know. Maybe I can kill it.” I began to laugh at the thought of my friend chasing down a small, fast, furry, creature and then she began to laugh as well. I informed her that the chances were slim she would rid herself of the mouse with a broom and she could either go get traps and poison now or tomorrow. She was already dressed for bed so she decided to wait until today.

My friend’s had a rough go of it the past several months and a mouse was one more problem she didn’t need. I understood but I also told her at least it was a distraction for a couple of moments and we did have a good laugh at the thought of her playing hockey with a broom and the rodent.

Laughter, funny moments and experiences, can be a blessing. Even in a time of turmoil and terror, a good laugh can chase the fear and uncertainty away for a little while. I hope my friend finds more moments of light-heartedness as she walks a trail that no one desires.

Treasure laughter. A good medicine. A great reminder that even in the darkest of times we can find humor, hope, and the strength to go on.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Continues

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I spent most of the day raking leaves and mowing the grass in the front yard. Raking isn’t my most favorite thing but it did get me out of the house on this beautiful, cool, day. As I raked I thought about a couple of things. I thought about my friend, who’s in the hospital right now fighting a losing battle for his life. I reflect on the leaves, now brown and shriveled were green and beautiful not too long ago. Time passes so very quickly and it catches us by surprise no matter when it runs out.

The wind was also blowing as I raked today and it was frustrating at times when it would catch a group of leaves I was trying to make go one way and send them scattered the opposite way. I noticed if I could collect a large group of them together it made a difference in getting them to the spot I needed them to go. The larger the group the better it worked. As I used this strategy I was thankful for the help and support of others as my friend battles an ominous disease. He doesn’t fight alone.

A quiet day, a somber day, a beautiful day with a reminder that even as life ends, it also continues.

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

Stop!

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Stop

Yesterday on my way to a meeting I rounded a curve and noticed vehicles pulling over to the side of the road. I slowed down, wondering what was happening when I heard the unmistakable sound of an emergency vehicle siren. Then I saw the ambulance. He passed in the opposite lane before I could find a spot to pull over. After it was out of sight; “poof” everything went back to normal. Everyone went on with their lives.

Except. Except for the person or people, the ambulance was rushing to get to. Could be something small or life-changing. There’s no way of knowing. A person said to me one day; “When I see or hear an emergency vehicle I pray for whom it is intended.” I liked this practice. I’ve tried making it a regular discipline but often forget.

Today, a friend of mine was rushed to the hospital via an ambulance. I’ve been praying for him all day long. The difference between the two scenarios? One ambulance had a person I loved the one yesterday, no one I knew.

Perhaps, if I remembered how connected all of us on this small planet really is I’d care more, pray more and love more.

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

Sight

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Sight

I have a friend who has vision problems. Not eyesight but “heart-sight.” My friend was hurt a while ago by a group of people and is having difficulty letting go of the pain and rejection felt, still feels when the experience is thought about, re-lived.

My friend recognizes the blinders has upon their heart and mind. They realize the past keeps them from seeing any good in the ones who hurt them. His vision of them is dark, judgmental and biased. In their minds, there is a reluctance to admit there are good and positive things about them but the heartbreak makes even their most magnanimous acts of kindness and grace be viewed with suspicion.

How,’ they ask, “How am I supposed to get past this? How long before I can move on?” I tell them the stories of my pain. I explain to them there is no timetable to heal a heart and soul deeply wounded. It takes as long as it takes. I remind them also that each of us has done things we would do differently if we could. I also remind them not to give up, not to allow the heartbreak to twist their soul and become embittered and unable to see the good in others again.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Hugging our Enemy

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Hugging Our Enemy

I am not a hugger! Could be my social anxiety, could be the belief that hugging is reserved for special people and special occasions. It’s probably both.

I do however like the sentiments of this quote; “Hug your haters and kill them with kindness.” The first thing I like about it is that hugging and kindness are powerful. They will; “kill” our enemies. I don’t think they will literally kill a difficult, obstinate person, but by offering kindness in return for hatred, they will cease being our enemies.

The next bit of this quote I find worthy of reflection is the deliberate act of hugging of one who would never dream of embracing us. I find it humorous to imagine the look on an adversary’s face if just out of the blue you were to hug them. Might be a wonderful act of grace received or result in a punch in the face. Again, as understood above, to hug a hater is to metaphorically stop looking at them as an opponent and begin seeing them as a friend.

The quote puts the emphasis, action, intent, on us. We are to change the way we view those folks in our lives. Every enemy is a friend in waiting.

“I defeat my enemy by making them my friend.” Abraham Lincoln

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Ego Breeds Ego

Ego breeds ego.

I have a friend who is dealing with the impact of another person’s giant ego. This person throws his weight around, reminds subordinates of their place in the company’s food chain, bullies, threatens and seems completely unaware of his self obsession. He feeds his ego by feasting on others. Meetings are uncomfortable because other employees aren’t sure who the target of wrath will be for the day. “It seems selfish,’ says my friend; ‘but when he chooses someone else I’m relieved that it isn’t me even though I feel the other person’s pain.'” My friend has tried fighting back, confronted his rudeness, challenged his preconceptions, pointed out mistakes, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. “I’ve found that when I begin to focus on taking him down a notch or two, proving he’s not as great as he thinks, my ego begins to grow and manifests itself in ugly ways.”

As we worked though this issue I reminded my friend that; “Ego breeds ego. When your goal is to win or someone else to lose, you both suffer.” One of the most difficult people to deal with are those with an inflated opinion of themselves, especially when they are in positions of power. Wisdom teaches us that humility, even in the face of the egotistical, is the path we should walk. Power, pride, personal gratification always slips through the fingers of the grandiose. Starve ego, don’t feed it or breed it.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Leadership & Personalities

This morning someone asked me if; “a leader with a strong personality is a good or bad thing?” I reflected for a few moments on the leaders I have served under. Surprisingly there haven’t been too many who’ve had strong personalities. As I whittled my way through the last I thought of two who fit the description. Interestingly enough one had the opposite personality of the other.

The first was gregarious, affable and larger than life in his expressions of love and support for friend and stranger. He was the type who would come unexpectedly into my office, plop down in a chair, talk for a while and then decide we needed to go to breakfast, no matter the time of day. He wasn’t in competition with his staff, allowed others to shine and didn’t keep a scorecard.

The other wasn’t at all like the former. His personality was certainly large but in a way that kept others in fear of their job or at least being aware their job’s future was in his hands. I do not doubt his love for other people but his leadership style could be overbearing and constraining. There was one way, his, one voice, also his. He believed his vision for where the organization was to go was the right one and took umbrage to anyone who challenged this belief. For those who were comfortable with his style, and their place in the food chain, things were pretty smooth. For those who struggled under the weight of his personality it could be difficult and debilitating.

As the conversation with my friend continued I spoke about both leaders, their style of leading and managing and their grandiose personas. “For those with over-sized personalities, whose job it is to guide staffs, peoples and organizations, not taking oneself too seriously is a good trait to possess. Humility, a servant’s heart and a willingness for others to succeed, to surpass and outgrow your ability to lead are also rare and valuable gifts. Leadership isn’t about sitting, guarding the big chair, but helping others find big chairs of their own to sit in.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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What We have in Common

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Earlier this week a neighbor invited my wife and I to, “friends day” at their small, rural church close to our home. We have a regular place of worship but, as former campus pastors, we also have a special place in our hearts for spiritual families of diminutive sizes whose leaders, usually of the older generation, are trying desperately to identify and anoint new, younger members, who’ll run with ball after they’re gone.

Small congregations have the difficult task of not losing sight of the past and finding a vision for the future. They don’t have the budgets, staff or volunteers to compete with the large (and want to be larger) churches. The entertainment, programs, and culturally defined approach to ministry doesn’t usually work for churches living Sunday to Sunday, offering to offering.

We entered into the brown paneled sanctuary with a ten by ten stage up front complete with podium and a bouquet of flowers. We were welcomed graciously, found our seat and soon the service began. We sang; “gasp!” out of hymnals. “It is Well with my Soul’ and ‘How Great Thou Art,” were some of the known ones with others I’ve never heard before sprinkled in. The pastor preached a short and to the point message, communion was given and received, a benediction song, prayer was said and that was the end.

Overall a nice service and a loving and welcoming people. I’d never been to a church of this denomination before but was struck with the thought; “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”

I also reflected on the words; “friend‘ and ‘friendly.” I hope and pray every church who dares to open it’s doors will never forget that unless the known one and the stranger are loved equally we aren’t living our purpose or obeying our Master’s greatest command.

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

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Feasting on a Carcass

When you do as much driving as I do, especially on the back hills of rural Tennessee, you become accustomed to the sight of deceased animals that chose the wrong time to cross the road, zigged when they should have zagged, froze in terror in front of an oncoming vehicle.

You also get used to seeing turkey buzzards or turkey vultures. They appear majestic with their impressive wing spans, long dark feathers and, until you get a closer look, might even mistake them for an eagle or large beautiful bird of prey. However, these nasty fowl are scavengers. They use their powerful wings to soar high in the sky, looking for dead creatures of all shapes and sizes, then swoop in and make a feast of the carcass.

Earlier today, on my way to a Community Action Board meeting, I was hit in the nose by the unmistakable stench of deceased animal.  Surrounding it was a flock of turkey buzzards in the tall grass gorging themselves on the repugnant meal. I never saw the remains but the feathered opportunists gave it’s location away.

In my life I’ve met people who might be considered vultures. They’re always on the look out for someone who is wounded, hurt, in pain. They search diligently for an opportunity in another’s time of weakness and frailty. They’re hoping they can benefit from a time of crisis, an unfortunate event. They often look impressive, big smiles, soothing words, can even be mistaken for a friend. However, this noble persona is only a disguise to hide their intentions and voracious appetites. There is no caring or empathy for the dead or dying. They’re only concern is gaining from someone else’s loss.

A poem; “Illusion” I penned a couple of years ago about turkey vultures:

with your beak stuck in the air
high browed and looking 'round
descending from on high
an archangel coming down

with keen crystal eyes
you see the world as yours to take
soaring with the clouds
earth-bound creatures are your prey

talons outstretched, sharp and at the ready
squeezing, tearing, grasping that which satisfies
hunger driving you among lowly ones as they scamper
soiling yourself briefly then returning to the skies

perched majestically above it all
a belief you're God's crafted sculpture
but up close a lowly scavenger
not an eagle just a vulture

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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