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No Other Choice

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No Other Choice

I was greeted today by one of the fathers in my Incarcerated Father’s Class by a resident with a nasty looking black eye. We emphasize choice in this class. Our motto is; “Good choices make good men, and good men make good fathers.” I asked the owner of the shiner what happened and he said he was in a fight. I then asked; “Did you make a good choice?” His answer was yes. He explained sometimes you have no other choice.

I couldn’t argue with him. It would be nice if the world was black and white, clear negative and positives, defined good choices and bad. However, the world offers us a lot of grays. There are times when the choice of going one way or another doesn’t exist. You go forward, with your best intentions and wisdom and hope it works out.

These can be our best or worst moments. They certainly define us or scar us for life. When life doesn’t offer any options, no other choices, we hold our breath and cautiously step into an uncertain future.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Born Again

Born Again

I desire to be born again, each day emerging from a blanket cocoon, different from the person I was yesterday. Each day we take steps toward who we will eventually be at the end of our lives. Some are making progress toward love, grace, kindness, and peace, others walk in another direction.

What we do today determines who we will be tomorrow. This is a truth I try to live by. What we put our minds to, invest our emotions in, allow our spirits to inhabit, shapes the person we’ll be tomorrow and in the future. We underestimate the “big” and “little” experiences we encounter each day. We dismiss character flaws, hidden hurts, negative habits, and other behaviors and attitudes that either place chains on our souls.

To emerge, new each day, takes work today. We choose where our path will go, not what our path will go through, but its destination. We can’t make our path easy or difficult but we can decide how we handle both. The decision isn’t on tomorrow’s agenda but today’s.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Chirp and Chatter

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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.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Hate

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Hate

I have a friend who is dealing with a broken relationship in his life.  He has tried reaching out, apologizing, offering to make good on the accused slight he did to the offending party but nothing has worked. The wounded one doesn’t want anything to do with the other, has expressed his hatred for my friend numerous times, and it is bothering my friend something fierce.

He asked the question; “What else can I do?” after he listed all the things he’s tried to do to make up for something he’s not even sure he did. “You’re going to have to let them hate you.” I know this isn’t the answer he wanted but it was the only answer to give. When someone has been hurt by us whether we meant to or not it is not within our power to make them forgive us, to restore a broken relationship. As soon as we become aware of the pain, betrayal, we’ve caused we should immediately go to them, express a contrite and sincere spirit of sorrow apologizing for the behavior and offer to make penance to satisfy the other who has been wronged. If they accept, that’s great but if they don’t accept we have to live with that and though it’s not easy it is our only option.

What we hope for, pray for, look for every opportunity to make it right again in the future. However, for now, we must bear the burden of hate, knowing we have done all things within our power to right the wrong. We live with their hate and the separation hoping a time will come when both can reconnect and restore what’s been torn apart and destroyed.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Leaving Tomorrow Be

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Leaving Tomorrow Be

Yesterday I spent most of the mid-morning and early afternoon raking leaves. It was a nice day, almost 80 degrees and the job was pleasant enough and kept my mind from racing as it so often does. After raking for a while I noticed that as soon as I raked a leaf another would fall in its place. I looked up and saw the trees were more than two-thirds full which meant I would be doing this again, and again, in the near and distant future.

There was a part of me that questioned the validity of raking leaves when there would be more tomorrow but I know if I don’t take care of the ones I can today, tomorrow may be too much to handle. So, I raked, front, sides, back and when I finished, sure enough, leaves were already covering parts of the yard. I, however, took heart at a job well done and accepted the truth of repeating the chore.

Wisdom tells us that we are not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries of its own. Leaves will keep falling until the trees are almost bare. I will keep raking until the yard doesn’t need it any longer. I have learned the lesson of doing in the present what can be done and letting go of what may happen tomorrow. When tomorrow does turn in today I will again do my best and that will be enough.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Pauses and Spaces

Pauses and Spaces –

I worked with a dad today who struggles with addiction issues. He kept repeating the Twelve Step oft heard phrase; “Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray.” It is the addict’s response if they’re tempted to drink, use drugs, get angry, make poor decisions. They are to take a breath and then breathe a word of prayer for peace and  guidance.

I use the phrase; “The space in between.” Life is made up of experiences. We’re blind to most of them because we’ve become used to them, take them for granted. There are times however when an experience happens and our choice of what to do or not do, how to react, make the wrong, right or better choice could greatly impact our lives and the ones we hold dear. It is in the space between what happens to us and our choice of how to respond where our future is forged.

Whether; “pause and pray” or “the space between,” we choose to shape the experiences of our lives or be shaped by them.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Where We’re Going 


Where We’re Going

Last week, when I mowed the grass, there was a lot of dust, a few weed patches and sometimes it was hard to look and tell what I had cut and what I hadn’t. This past week we’ve had a good bit of rain and the grass grew quickly. When I mowed the back yard today I could tell where I’d been and needed to go.

A couple of days ago I heard an 80’s song which reminded me of a friend I had in high school. This friend had done something which hurt me and we were never the same after the event. As I listened to the song I realized there was no more pain just regret at two young people who didn’t know how to get over thoughtless actions and adolescent feelings of rejection.

As I cut the grass this afternoon I reflected on both of these and was thankful for emotional and natural growth.

Too often we think knowing the future would be the greatest of intellectual gifts. However, wisdom teaches us that knowing and learning from where we’ve been gives us a better view of where we’re going. 

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Luck or Life?

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Luck or Life?

On my way to worship this morning a big black cat ran  across the road in front of me! I needed to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting it. The reason for the rush is an even bigger gray cat chasing it. Black cats are supposed to be an omen of bad luck but for this one it was fortunate it crossed the road when it did, as fast as it did, or things might have turned out differently.

During service a special speaker talked about growing up in war torn Romania. Her past included sexual and physical abuse, mental health issues, infertility and an incredibly uncertain future. However, each of these painful, difficult and tragic events have given her a powerful testimony today and many blessings have blossomed from the ashes of what most would call a cursed younger life.

Our understanding of a lucky, blessed, fortunate life or an unlucky, cursed doomed existence is limited by our inability to know the future and how love, grace and peace often come from the most desperate and desolate personal journeys.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Fires Together, Wires Together

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This interesting picture and intriguing quote was in my Facebook feed this morning. It caught my attention in part because I’ve been studying Epigenetics. It’s the study of how trauma impacts people and generations following.

One of the experiments used to prove this area of science involved shocking a female rat with electricity when a certain odor was emitted. After a while the rat, even though there was no shock, still reacted when she smelled the specific odor. What’s even more compelling is the rat’s babies and the baby’s babies also reacted negatively even though the second and third generation of rats had never been shocked with electricity when the odor was emitted.

Epigenetics proposes that the genes of the rats have been altered, changed due to the trauma of the original female rat and these genes have been passed down to preceding generations.

Neurons that fire together wire together” is another phrase used by brain scientists which deal with nerve pathways. The more often we do something, or have something done to us, the more used to certain behaviors and environments we are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In other words it becomes our definition of normal, our reality. It is only when we are able to learn new ways of thinking, being, can we change our personal and family’s destiny. To consider that the choices for our lives impact the immediate now and our, other’s, future the more important it is to be sure our decisions are filled with wisdom and grace.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Leftovers

Last night I took the dogs out for their last opportunity to do some business for the day. I was about to release them when a shadow caught my eye, then another. I grabbed both dog’s leashes and strained to see what was running through the yard. I couldn’t quite tell but it was either stray dogs or coyotes. I kept the dogs close to me to be on the safe side. This morning, when I let the dogs out again, our Siberian Husky began chasing scents all over the area where the other animals had been. He was so preoccupied with tracking the shadow’s trail he forgot to do what needed to be done.

I watched him dart to and fro and thought how sometimes we are like my crazy dog. We chase after shadows of the unknown, things that scare us or bring confusion and doubt. We allow these distractions to take our focus away from the present and from our purpose.

Don’t dwell in the past or be obsessed with the future. Live in the now.

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

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The Glass is Already Broken

“A young monk asked his Father Abbott how to find contentment and stillness in a world where things are always changing, where nothing is permanent and nothing remains the same. ‘When loss and grief are inherent in our very coming in to existence, how can there be any happiness?’

That elder monk, looking compassionately at his brother held up a glass which he had been drinking from said: ‘You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably. Sometimes even the sun reflects in its beautiful patterns. If I should tap it. it has a lovely ring to it.’

‘But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters I say; ‘Of course!’ I understand that this glass is already broken. Every moment with it is precious, every moment is just as it is, and nothing need be otherwise. When we recognize that like this glass, our body, our life, is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, each moment becomes precious and we are open to fully appreciating the unbroken now, this present moment.’

‘When we understand that our loved ones are already dead. our children, our mates, our friends. how precious they become. Fear cannot rule us, uncertainty of the future, the unknown does not have power over us, estrangement cannot put doubt within. When you live your life as though you’re already dead, life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime. A universe unto itself.'”

One of the greatest lessons of wisdom is the truth and eventual acceptance that life is in constant transition and passes quickly. From the moment we are born every breath is one closer to our last. Every day, hour, moment brings us to our final resting place. The great struggle is in our intellect, emotions and souls to learn to live joyfully in the knowledge of the passing of our temporal existence.

Too often loss, instability, death are seen as causes to worry, be anxious, fearful and hopeless. Instead, they can be a reminder to appreciate the blessing of each moment as a unique, never to come again, miracle. To love extravagantly while the opportunity exists. To mindfully experience every “now” before it changes to a fading memory and hold loosely a future which is not guaranteed.

blessings,
@brianloging (twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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I Love Lucy & the Baltimore Riots

The videos and images are shocking. People destroying their own neighborhoods, attacking the police, reporters, innocent bystanders in an act of defiance, rebellion, protest and desperation. Why? Are they angry because another young black man has died at the hands of the police? Are they opportunists using a tragedy as an excuse to rob and loot stores? Are they victims of a system that’s broken, keeping certain socio-economic groups in poverty, uneducated, with little or no hope for a better life? Are they lacking morality, a sense of justice and the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong?

The answer is “Yes” but the next question is…”why?”

Last week I was part of a training of local law enforcement. As part of the presentation our group showed the hilarious video above of Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with the candy coming along the conveyor belt. I told the officers; “You guys are Lucy and Ethel. The chocolate keeps coming faster and faster and you’re doing all you can to keep up. Abuse, neglect, drugs, assault, robbery, murders. You’ve seen it all and it isn’t slowing down or getting better. You’re on the front lines, first responders. Your job isn’t to ask what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Why does the candy keep coming? You take care of the mess.” I then explained that finding out what’s on the other side, why it’s happening, helping slow or stop the candy from coming, is what our community organization does.

In times of social crisis and upheaval the immediate concern is to bring stability, help those who are hurting, and hold those who are responsible for harming others and the community accountable. However, calming the present doesn’t safeguard the future. We must not be afraid of asking tough questions that have no easy answers. “Why are some willing to torch their own communities?” “Why is there so much anger, vitriol, self righteousness and condemnation on both sides?” “Why do kids grow up thinking violence, criminal activity is ok?” “Why do others assume people of certain skin colors, from certain neighborhoods who dress, talk, look a certain way are always lazy and up to no good?” “Why do riots keep happening, law enforcement officials and young people keep getting injured or dying?

When do we ask; “What’s on the other side?”  If you think you know the answer, you haven’t thought long and hard enough about the question.

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

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Children’s Garden

 

On my way to a Community Action Board meeting in Centerville, Tennessee this morning I passed the sign pictured above. It is located in an overgrown, mostly dead, unattractive piece of land in the middle of nowhere. 

I arrived early to the meeting and sat in a room waiting for the other members. Pinned to a bulletin board was a piece of paper which read; “Being a Parent Means Loving Your Children More than You Love Yourself.” 

My mind went back to the sign I saw earlier. I wondered who put it there and what their vision of the “Children’s Garden” was originally? What happened? What stopped the seeds from being planted, watered, grown, cultivated, harvested? 

I thought about our world and the world our children, and our children’s children, will grow up in. What happened to giving future generations something better than what we have? What happened to the dream of a brighter tomorrow? Where are the seeds of hope, the light that grows, the love and grace that cultivates, the harvest of peace? 

Maybe if we loved our children more than we love ourselves…

Blessings,

@BrianLoging 

http://www.thewannabesaint.com

  

Firearms, Flocks and the Future Now

Luke 12:32-40

32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

A 44 year old man wasn’t ready late one night when 18 police officers raided his home believing that he was wielding a firearm. Keith Abraham’s common law wife Michelle earlier in the evening had called a paramedic because she thought Keith was having a heart attack. While the paramedic attended to Keith the paramedic mistakenly thought Keith was concealing a and thought the call from his wife might actually be a call for help. The paramedic contacted the police after leaving the home describing Keith as possessing a 10 inch weapon. Later that night as the couple was dozing off a team of 18 police officers, 10 of whom were armed, stormed the house, weapons drawn ordering Keith to get out of bed onto the floor! Both Keith and Michelle were forced out of their home and into a police van for questioning. While they were being interrogated the police searched the home for the weapon! What did the paramedic see? The TV remote control. By the way Keith wasn’t having a heart attack, it was a panic attack. No word on whether the uninvited guests that night gave him a real heart attack.

Text Background and Situation
Our section from Luke today finds its parallel in Matthew 6v19-21 & Matthew 24v43-44.

Jesus is in the presence both of his disciples and the large crowd we met last week in 12v1.  He speaks to the disciples specifically and the large number of people surrounding him in general. He follows the parable of the rich fool in 12v13-21 with the encouragement to live without anxiety. Worrying about food or clothing, temporal things, is unnecessary in light of God’s faithfulness to his children. Jesus says; “The nations” or Gentiles, those who do not have God’s promises, worry about such things 12v30. When attachment is to temporal items, these can be taken away, deteriorate, or change in unexpected ways, uncertainty and anxiety result.

32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Culture tells us that we must hunt, gather, accumulate, make sure we have enough to survive and enough “just in case”. Those in the Jesus movement not only live in God’s abundance but also share, provide for anyone who is in need, those Jesus label as “our neighbor.”

Jesus is teaching a radical re-oriented worldview, a paradigm shift, a way of seeing things that is not how the world sees. Abundance not scarcity, reassurance not anxiety because the community we are apart of, God’s kingdom come, reflects that care and love of our Heavenly Father.

Jesus implores his listeners not to worry; “Do not be afraid, little flock.” “your Father took pleasure in giving you the kingdom.”  The Greek word for pleasure means “seemed good” to do this, a commitment to do this for the reason it was good, not with repayment in mind. God did “freely give”.

This is a kingdom where social standing is irrelevant, everyone on equal footing. A place where nothing is lacking, neither food, clothing, love or community. In other words God wants and desires to take care of us and has made a place, a way, for us to live without taking or hoarding from others. A place where jealousy and resentment are no more because treasure is not found in Earthly things. This place is called the Kingdom of God, the community of Jesus.

The Lord’s prayer says not “Kingdom one day will come but Kingdom this moment, come.” Jesus’ followers are a vital part of the advancement of the Kingdom, making it present, a reality, by the lives they live. It has been “freely given” and Kingdom citizens freely give it to others.

33Sell your possessions, and give alms.

Because of what God has freely given those following Jesus are to freely give as well. A gift, not as repayment to God, but to anyone in need. Jesus says; “sell your possessions and give alms.” A sign of the Kingdom, a way to advance the Kingdom, bring it into the present is to give to those in need. Again, upside down. Want to show appreciation for God’s abundance? Don’t offer sacrifices, give to those who have nothing. God does not desire, nor is impressed, by our attempts to impressed him, he desires that we give to the weakest and most vulnerable.

“Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

Jesus asks; “Why invest in something that will become old, will wear out?  Why commit your life to the accumulation of perishable items that can be stolen or damaged, and are not eternal?”

Invest instead in Kingdom building and its upside down economy. Jesus tells them, “Make money-purses for yourselves that do not become old, an unfailing treasure … where no thief comes nor moth destroys.”

If your treasure is at risk than you are collecting the wrong kind of treasure. An easy question to see if you’re investing your life in the right things. Give away the treasure that can be stolen, goods that fade and wear out to help those in need. Invest in Kingdom economy! Trust that you are God’s treasure and he is yours. Giving away what can be taken away or taken with you is an act of trust that God has, is and will freely give you what you need. The ability to do this also reveals where your treasure truly lies.

Ready For Action

Let your loins be girded around and the candles be burning, and you yourselves like those looking for their lord who might return from the wedding banquet so that, when he comes and knocks, immediately they may open to him.  Blessed those slaves whom the Lord, coming, will find watching.  Truly I say to you that he will gird (himself) and sit down with them, and drawing near, will serve them.

Girded loins, may sound painful, but means fastening one’s clothes in such a way that a person wouldn’t trip over them if running or working.  It’s an expression meaning heightened anticipation a readiness for action.  The reference to girded loins recalls the passover experience of the early Hebrews in Exodus 12v11. The early Hebrews were told to gird their loins, be ready to move, prepared to go, anticipating and expecting God to bring freedom at any moment when they were slaves in Egypt. Jesus commands his followers to be this way. “…like those who wait for “their lord” coming from the wedding banquet.”

The Greek word for Lord is used twice in v36&37 and Jesus is referring to himself. The Lord is coming from a wedding banquet a feast, a party, a celebration! The image of a wedding banquet is used through out the Jewish and Christian scriptures as an important biblical symbol that represents the end of time.

This Lord, in Jesus’ parable, is not returning from battle, or a long trip filled with difficulties. He is not scowling pounding on the door! He’s coming back from a time of celebration and festivity. He’s whistling, humming, filled with food and wine. His servants/slaves are not cowering in fear ready to be abused, they are looking for him, ready for him, eagerly expecting and anticipating his return. They are girded, prepared for his homecoming, happy to have him back.

What is the Lord’s response to these ready ones? He “sit(s) down with them, draws near to them, serves them”!  In the Old Testament especially, often the Day of the Lord, God’s return, is bleak, fearful, dreadful. Jesus turns this on its head.

The Lord returns and pull his slaves close to him, a sign of intimacy and love. He serves them, a sign of humbleness. This is what the Kingdom of God, God’s reign, looks like.

And if he might come in the second, or in the third watch, and find so, blessed they are.  But know this:  that if the master of the house had know what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken through.  And you, you be ready, for at an hour you think not, the son of man comes.”

The elephant in the room of course when we talk about Jesus’ return is; “its been 2000 years! What’s taking so long?!?!?”

Jesus uses the image of a “thief.” A good thief is sneaky, quiet, plotting and not hurried. Like Jesus, he knows all about timing, the best moment, opportunity to make his move.

After a while, those who are prepared, ready, eagerly waiting and anticipating might begin to be restless and think “…OK, enough waiting already, let’s get this party started!” It’s easy enough to look around at our world and say “This is it! This has to be it! This is going to be it! Wait, this wasn’t it?”

Jesus is a master of the art of misdirection and seems to really enjoy turning our expectations on their heads. Jesus is coming and it will be in a way we do not expect at a time we will not expect. The Greeks here literally says at “an hour that seems like nothing.”

In the mean time we have two things to do. Freely give because we have been freely given and be ready.

Reflection
Psalm 28

“… in the Lord my heart trusts; he is my help, he is my shepherd…”

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