“The world today tends to be cynical about most things. We have a hard time believing in an enchanted world, a sacred or benevolent universe. Why would we if we see only at the surface level? Everywhere we turn, every time we watch the news, we see suffering. We have become skeptical about God’s goodness, humanity’s possibilities, and our planet’s future. We can’t help seeing what is not and are often unable to recognize or appreciate what is. I see this temptation in myself almost every day. I have to pray and wait for a second gaze, a deeper seeing. This is my daily bread.” (https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/) #RichardRohr
The quote above, from Richard Rohr, was part of my devotional reading this morning. I quickly took the phrase; “Second Gaze” to heart. I hadn’t heard it before but it is a primary wisdom discipline. It is the understanding that if we only see with our physical sight we will miss the goodness, the light, the continuing blossoming of creation all around us. We will also miss the ways in which we can be a part of creation by loving, acts of kindness, a gentleness of spirit and humility to each person and everything we include in the circle of our lives.
Let us look around us today without the cynicism and negativity which often plagues our sight. May we behold and become a part of the ongoing miracle that is life in all its universal glory.
Messy Good –
Today I sat on a stool in the kitchen while my wife cooked a dish for the family Thanksgiving meal. I watched her boil noodles, crack eggs, mix in cheese, add milk, thick whipping cream and whip all of the ingredients into a thick bowl of mush. It didn’t smell, look, or appear appetizing at all. She then poured it into a large glass casserole dish and slide it into the oven. About an hour later out came one of my favorite dishes, “Nana’s macaroni and cheese!” It looked great, smelled even better and, when it cools off, I will have a large serving and enjoy every bite.
It’s amazing to me how something so messy and chaotically made can turn into something so tasty good and wonderful. This week has been rough! Someone close to me is going through hell and the only thing I can do is pray and offer words of encouragement. One of the hardest experiences to endure is knowing you’re powerless to stop someone else’s suffering. Pain, medicine, bad reactions, heartache, death. Life can be messy, unseemly, and at times unbearable.
However, there is a light which stirs in us a hope that the chaos, the turmoil, the misery, somehow, someway, will be made into goodness and worth the messiness life can bring our way.
You are who your friends are, or show me your friends and I’ll show you, you. I was asked the other day if I had a lot of friends. I answered; “No.” For me, this is not a bad answer but it is a truthful one. I’ve never had a lot of friends, lots of acquaintances, people I know and say; “Hi,” to but not people I would consider friends. If you were to look at my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn profile, you would think I have thousands of people with whom I have a deep connection to. This is false. Online “friends” are fine but most of them are not close confidants with whom you share life.
I think the words friends is overused. Facebook didn’t start the overusing but I think it helped it reach its pinnacle. Each day I try to wish everyone on Facebook, who has a birthday that particular day, a “Happy Birthday!” Many days I recognize at least most of the names but other days I am at a complete loss as to whom I am writing a birthday wish.
The few friends I do have are wise people, not only smart but wise. They are spiritual mentors and people I’ve shared my journey with, the good times and what I’d label bad. They are folks who encourage me when I need it and call me on my BS, inflated ego, and the illusion of goodness I’d like to live in. They are also positive people. Not pollyannaish, pie in the sky, everything’s coming up roses people but truly positive. They help me believe when I am doubting, hold me when I am scared, help me get my bearings when I’m lost, and never give up on me. These are those who I trust with my life and when that’s the criteria, you have to and should be; picky.
Weeds are those things in our yard we try to get rid of, permanently. Last weekend my wife sprayed a lot of weeds in our yard which were growing out of control. Most people don’t like weeds because we’ve determined they don’t have any value. They’re unwanted, unloved and disposable.
I came across the quote in the picture (included) by Ralph Waldo Emerson and it gave me pause. It didn’t change my view of weeds but it did make me think of the men I work with on a daily basis. Most of these men are seen as unwanted, unloved and disposable. Those who are incarcerated speak of being lonely not receiving any visits from family and friends. There are many whose wives, girlfriends, and kids have begun to discover life without them in it.
I was speaking with another man this week who has a bias toward a particular group of people. When I inquired if he knew any of them intimately, had sat with them, talked with them, ate with them, gotten to know them, he admitted there wasn’t many. It’s easier to group them together and declare they have no value.
Our world is full of “weeds,” people who are looked at and disregarded for many reasons. Whether it’s their religion, skin color, accent, dress, tattoos, sexual preference, they are seen as less than and lacking virtues such as goodness, grace, and kindness.
No one is a weed. To think and act as if one person or group isn’t worthy reduces the value of us all.
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.
Slow, Steady, Still –
Today I worked on restoring the section of the porch I demolished earlier this week. It wasn’t complicated but did require some precise cuts to ensure it fit correctly. One of the trickiest for me was cutting a large eight-foot board exactly in half. I’ve never been good at making a straight cut and many scrap wood pieces have been made because of my lack of ability to stay on track.
Today, however, my Mrs. brought out a Chalk box (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_line), which has a string covered with chalk, that you can unravel and use to create a straight line over a long distance. We measured a few times to make sure we had the marks right on either end of the board, unraveled the line in the Chalk box, positioned it, snapped it and produced a nice, easy to follow guideline for me. I began sawing, took my time, and exacted a nice clean, straight cut. I exclaimed to Beth; “Not bad eh?” She smiled and said; “You did good!”
After we were done I reflected on the Chalk box line. Not all of life’s path is so straight and easy to follow. There are seasons when the path is had to find, the way hard to know and you hope for a sign or anything to point you in the right direction.
Wisdom tells us that patience, awareness, and the willingness to travel without wavering is key when the way is known just as stillness is imperative when we need to wait for the way to reveal itself. Both are vital to making our way on life’s journey and arrive at the place of goodness and light.
Accepting Both –
This morning I was trying to explain to the dog that; “sniffing” was not the point of him being outside. Realizing, again, our Siberian Husky doesn’t speak English I felt something buzz my head. It sounded like a huge BumbleBee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblebee), flinching I tried to spot the culprit and instead spotted a Hummingbird (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird). It was fluttering from one plant to another looking for nectar. I was mesmerized by its quick, sporadic, movement and “invisible wings.” I know that a Hummingbird’s wings are not transparent they just flap them incredibly fast and they are amazing creatures to watch. I forgot about the dog and watched the bird until it landed on a branch and began watching me. I was still as possible but Trooper had finished, came running back, and frightened it flew away.
A few hours later I mowed, weeded, the yard and after I finished I sat down outside drinking water and trying to cool off. I enjoyed the shade and a nice stiff breeze. I watched as the wind blew limbs, petals, leaves and grass. I thought to myself; “This is the second time today I’ve watched the effects of something I can’t see; the wings of the Hummingbird and the wind.”
I reflected on the invisible forces which move in our lives, propelling us on our path. There are seasons when these unseen powers blow chaos, difficulties, and tragedies and like the leaves and grass we are helpless to stop it. Other times, like the Hummingbird, with great effort we can choose to move to the rhythm of goodness and light.
True wisdom is not knowing how to avoid the hard times but accepting both with grace and humility.
Last night I celebrated with one of my Incarcerated Father’s classes as they completed the Spring 2015 course. I told them; “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t be a good man, good father, good partner, a good person. You are what you choose to be, you control your destiny.”
After the teaching portion of the evening I called each of them up and handed them a certificate of completion. I then opened up several boxes of pizza and said; “Have at it!”… and they did. They devoured every slice. For some it had been months, perhaps a year or more since they tasted “real”, outside food and they feasted on and savored it.
Over the last few months I’ve witnessed positive changes, new ways of thinking in these men. They have responded to the encouragement, truth, good news that their lives still count. They have feasted on the hope, encouragement and light of someone speaking words of grace, second chances and light into their often dark worlds. As the class ended and it was time for them to leave the room I shook their hands, looked them in the eyes and said; “Make good choices, be a good man.”
When our lives have been starved of real, authentic goodness even a small taste makes us hunger and desire for more.