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Small Things

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

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Weeds

Weeds

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.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Grace and Work

 

Grace and Work

Someone asked me today; “So, is it grace or works which get us into heaven?” My answer was; “Yes.” After a moment to let the words sink in I went on to explain that grace is God’s “unmerited favor” or “God’s love for us is absolute even if we never love God in return.

Grace is given to us and then we give it to others. This is the ‘work.'” We are blessed to receive God’s spirit of love, forgiveness, and kindness and in return, we give it to others. When grace touches the deepest part of us our worldview, the reason for living and being, come into focus. We are placed here, at this time and place, to give God’s love, forgiveness, and kindness to others.

Too often; “work” is made out to be dogma, discipline, dutiful acts of trying to be good and acceptable to the God who alone is good and has already accepted us. “Work,” should be a celebration. We freely give to others what we have freely accepted.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

UnYoked

UnYoked

I listened to an author today talk about the way he writes a book. His latest offering is a metaphor for his family life growing up. His father committed suicide, his brother was a genius and these, along with others, are mirrored by the characters in his novel.

The person interviewing him asked; “Why did you write such a book now? What was the motivation?” The author thought for a moment and then replied; “I guess there were some things I was yoked to and I need to get unyoked.” I don’t hear the word yoked used often. Most of the time it’s being quoted from the Second book to the Corinthians written by the Apostle Paul. This man believed there were memories, experiences, and relationships which had shaped his life for good and bad and at this time of his life he needed to bring them to the surface to examine them and understand why and how they made him into the man and author he has become.

As I reflect on what he said I hear and feel a great truth in his words. Each of us has those life events which help shape us into the people we are today. Unfortunately, along with the good, there are the bad, with the love there is abuse and other negatives to which we are yoked. Becoming unyoked is not forgetting or escaping where we come from but allowing even the worse of times to be a light shone upon dark places inside.

It is only when we come face to face with all that made us who we are can we choose a new path or learn to be thankful for the one we currently travel.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Thinking

Thinking

One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.

Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.

For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.

Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.

I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Strangled

Strangled

I don’t like wearing ties. They aren’t my preferred mode of dress. When I am forced to wear ties I feel as though I am being strangled and somewhere in my mind, there’s a countdown clock ticking to when I can loosen and take it off.

I exclusively wear ties for important events. Weddings (maybe) unless I am the minister officiating the wedding (then definitely), presentations for the company I work for (if the people I am presenting to are expected to be wearing them) and funerals (always). I own enough ties to do each of these a few times a year along with one suit.

Life is meant to be experienced, enjoyed, savored. Even when wearing a tie, or going or doing something we’d rather not be going or doing, it is a moment never to be repeated. Every instant is an opportunity to allow it to exist, to be what it is going to be, without our controlling or manipulating. Nothing lasts forever. Not even wearing ties.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Want to See

Image result for zen sayings

Want to See

Last spring my wife planted some Petunias in a steel bucket that sits in our front yard. This spring she’s been too busy. In place of the beautiful flowers we had last year there are several weeds growing. This afternoon, while mowing the grass, I looked in the steel bucket and there was one single pink Petunia. It was small, crowded and shadowed by the weeds but it was there none the less. If I wasn’t looking in the right place and the right time I would have missed it.

Life can be similar to the small flower in that bucket. There are plenty of weeds; stress, schedules, emergencies, life changing decisions, habits, hang-ups, and hurts. It can be easy not to see the good when we are surrounded by so many things which crowd our lives and shadow our hearts. However, if we keep looking, daring to hope and dream perhaps we will see the beauty of kindness, grace, and love blossom before our eyes.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

Perfect Timing

Perfect Timing –

Today was a great day for yard work. Our lawn has feasted on the rain and nutrients it’s received this week and has started to grow wild. It was windy and cool today and so I put on my blue jean overalls and hopped on the lawn mower. I had exactly one tank full of gas and it was enough for me to mow the front and the back.

About a third of the way through with the front yard I ran over some landscaping cloth. It was thick enough to get stuck around the blades of the mower. I stopped under our big Oak tree. I was busy messing with the cloth and when I was able to get all of it removed I was about to get back on my John Deere when I saw a long, thick branch just a few feet from where I was parked. Because I was under the mower near the engine I didn’t hear it crash to the ground but was certainly glad I stopped where I did and not a few feet further.

When I finished mowing I grabbed the weed eater and began working my way around the yard. The wind picked up and a few sprinkles fell and I wondered if I would finish before the rain started. I got through and was headed into the workshop as the rain came.

I had experienced two instances of perfect timing in the short span of an afternoon. Time is an interesting concept to try to wrap our minds around. We wonder why things happen when they do. We complain when we’re victims of bad timing and consider ourselves blessed with privilege and perfect timing when things work out for us.

The truth is we can’t control time and must accept with open hand the good and the bad. It is hard trusting the path of life to take us where we need to go and when we need to get there. Acceptance, grace, and thankfulness should be how we receive all that life brings our way.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Grip

Image result for old linoleum floor

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

Balancing Act

Balance

Life is a balancing act. It is a lesson I have been keenly aware of this week. To walk the line between the joy of being alive and the acceptance that one day everything, everyone dies takes careful, reflectful steps. If you veer too far one way or the other you fall into illusion and suffering.

We all want to live but not just live, to thrive. This is our desire for those we love as well. If we could we would protect ourselves and everyone we care about from disease, difficulties, and death. However, when we forget our place, our lack of power and lack of ability to make life safe and well, we become anxious, envious and desperate.

It takes a while to learn to walk through the narrow gate of humility and acceptance. The narrow path becomes more narrow but the paradox is the smaller the way becomes the more we open ourselves to grace and healing.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

A Little Help

Image result for dump yard debris

A Little Help –

This afternoon I took a large load of yard debris to the county dump. It was a truck and trailer full. When I arrived I began unloading the trailer first. It was filled with rotten deck boards and trusses. It was quite a bit to handle by myself but the man standing at the dumpster, who presses the button to activate the compactor, wasn’t in the mood to help. In fact, he asked me to walk to the other side of the dumpster to push in a small piece of lumber which was sticking out. I thought to myself; “Dude. You see how much junk I am trying to unload. A little assistance would be greatly appreciated.” Sigh. I finished with one dumpster and moved to the second one, unloaded what was left and drove off.

I don’t know what kind of day the worker had. He might’ve helped everyone before me and was too tired to be of any assistance. It is unfair to judge him by one encounter and so I let the frustration go. However, the lesson of offering help to those in need, little and big gestures of kindness and grace, wasn’t missed. Hopefully, the next time I can lend a hand I’ll remember and not leave someone hanging.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Together

Image result for red tip bushes

Together

A friend of mine had surgery not too long ago and is still recovering. As a result, he is unable to do yard work or any other outdoor project. One of the projects on his list for the summer was to remove several Red Tip bushes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photinia). Red Tips are great for privacy but can quickly grow out of control. Before his recent bout with the illness, he had started the removal but couldn’t finish the job. However, while he was in the hospital a group of neighbors got together and completed the project for him. They didn’t expect to get paid or rewarded in another way they did it because it was a way to help.

As I listened to the story being told to me yesterday my heart was warmed at the generosity we can show each other. A person told me recently; “The news is too depressing. I just don’t watch it.” I tried explaining that ignoring the news doesn’t make the world better but it does eliminate our ability to confront, counter the evil and darkness with good and light.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Fuel

Image result for 5 gallon gas tank

Fuel

His braided hair was unkempt, long and matted. His feet and hands were covered in dirt. In his hands was a gas tank and as he approached me I knew what he wanted. “Could you give me some gas?” came the anticipated question. “Sure,” I answered. “Where are you headed?” He named a town not anywhere near the gas station and admitted he had taken several wrong turns, ran out of gas and didn’t have the money to get the gas to get him to his destination. I finished filling up my truck and brought the nozzle over to his small tank. I filled it up and wished him the best in finding his way.

As I drove off I thought about the small act of kindness extended to the unwashed young man and was thankful for the ability to offer grace to him as he traveled. I’m also thankful for the many small and big acts of grace and kindness extended to me over the span of my journey to help me get closer to my destination.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Another Way

Another Way

Our little farmhouse has many quirks. One of the most frustrating is no back door. At one time there was one in the kitchen but someone filled that one in and installed a dishwasher. Today, the handymen made a doorway out of a window in the hallway next to our bathroom they are remodeling. It was loud and dusty but they got it done and it looks great!

I sit here today with concerns about friends, family, and acquaintances on my heart and mind. A good man who I grew up with lost his father in a motorcycle accident on Easter Sunday. Another friend’s father has a mental illness that’s beginning to impact his family’s life and a tough decision will have to be made soon. Still another friend is facing a big battle filled with an extensive surgery and an even more difficult recovery.

I find myself wanting another way for these people who are suffering so much in different ways. I wish I had the power to create one. A way not filled with the pain of death, the uncertainty of life filled with disease. If I could I would knock down whatever obstacles which stood in their path but regretfully I do not have that kind of power.

What I can do is pray, offer and give any help needed and trust that though another way may not be available, the way of kindness, love, and grace, are still the balm of healing and new life.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Flowing

Flowing

This afternoon, before the person remodeling our bathroom left for the weekend he rigged a shower and a working toilet for us to use. I took my first real shower in almost a week about an hour ago and it was wonderful! Standing there as the water flowed I was reminded of those around the world who have no water due to poverty, homelessness or lack of clean water in the areas they live.

Blessings are in abundance for so many of us and yet we miss the wonders. They are bountiful and flow into our lives like a giant waterfall. Unfortunately, we have become so used to them we take them for granted and dismiss their importance and rarity.

Today is Good Friday, the day the Master died. Because of his death, we in the Christian faith are showered with grace, love, kindness and mercy from our Father who is in Heaven. We’ve grown up with the story. It is so familiar that we miss the importance and the rarity of the God-man who came to our world, clothed in our skin, and made a way for us to bathe in the presence of the Father for all eternity.

For Good Friday, Eternal Acceptance, and showers we thank Thee, O’Lord.

blessings,
BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Unseen

Unseen

Last night I buzzed the tower at the County Jail to let them know I was there for our Dad’s class. They unlocked the several doors I have to go through to get to the classroom. I stopped about half way, opened my travel box and retrieved the list of names for the evening’s class.

I walked up the stairs to the tower where several men were sitting on one side of the octagonal room. As I handed the list to the corrections office in charge I turned to the men and asked; “how are you guys doing?” “Good,’ came the reply; ‘but there aren’t just men here.'” I looked around and on the other side of the room, sitting by herself was a woman corrections officer. I apologized for not noticing her and she accepted. If it wasn’t for the male officer I never would’ve noticed the woman.

I was talking with a friend this week who said he believed God had shown him his presence in a special way. I responded that I think God regularly shows himself to us; “We’re just too occupied, unaware to notice.” The conversation came back to me last night when I was unaware of the woman officer.

The Bible speaks of “serving angels unaware.” I wonder how many times we miss God’s presence, a stranger’s need, a chance to show grace, kindness, and love to a world which to see and experience it.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Important

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Important

In a conversation the other day someone made the statement: “I’d really like you guys to pray for me. I have a business meeting tomorrow and it’s the most important meeting of my life!” I thought for a moment about what he said, figured it was hyperbole, but didn’t want to take the chance. I responded; “It’s not even close to the most important meeting you’ve had or will have in your life. You’ve met your wife, your son, and there have been and will be countless meetings where you will show love, grace, and kindness to others. These meetings will be the ones that count. This meeting tomorrow? Twenty years from now you’ll look back on it and wonder why you worried or even cared.”

Too often we place too much emphasis on things which may matter a little but pale quickly in comparison to the truly important. Every now and then we need to be reminded and refocused. As it was for this man, may it be for me and for every one of us.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Our Greatest Gift and Need

Our Greatest Gift and Need

This morning at church, a video was shown of a woman whose testimony included her first memories of involvement with Christian people. Her family was very poor and people from a church would bring her and her family food, clothing, whatever they could to help these in need. She credits this with why she is still a part of the community of faith today.

After the video the following verses were read from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 16;
“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.  

“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.”

The “rich” compassionless man and the poor needy man switched placed at death. Now, it was the “rich” man who was in need and the “poor beggar” who had plenty.

One of my favorite wisdom quotes is; “Kindness is my religion. Kindness (another word for compassion) is always within our power to give.

Too often we mistake our communities of faith for dogma, certain beliefs, attendance of services, giving of our time, talent and treasure to the community. These are all certainly important but they can never replace kindness, love, compassion. If the former does exceed these we will turn cruel, judgmental, hostile. We will find it is us who are in the greatest need for we have lost our greatest lover.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Old and New

Old and New

Yesterday, on my Facebook memories page, was a picture I took of a wonderful couple Beth and I know in Pennsylvania. It was taken in March of 2014 just after beginning my sabbatical. The smile on both their faces portrayed the genuineness and kindness they had shown Beth and me for many years. They were only in town for a Sunday and after church, we went out to eat. As usual, they picked up the tab and the photo was snapped before we said our goodbyes.

I was in all kinds of pain at that time but didn’t have a real grasp of the mental and emotional toll the previous years had taken on me. I’m still coming to grips with a lot of it.

We had moved from a people, place we loved and had no idea what was ahead. Everything seemed to swirl around us and we could not seem to find a place to plant our feet and get our bearings. Then, along came this couple back into our lives. It was a reminder that love, grace, kindness were still present even though the winds of upheaval seemed to strip away all we held dear.

Most of 2014 seemed like the end of life as we’d known it. It would stay that way for next year. However, slowly we found our feet on firm ground and began building something new.

This evening I am thankful for old friends and new beginnings.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

New Life In Dead Things

New Life in Dead Things – 

This morning I was walking, reflecting, on a number of things in a friend’s yard where we are spending the weekend. As I ambled around I came across a rotted tree stump about three feet tall (pictured). I jiggled it a little then a lot and soon it came loose and broke off from the bottom. Carrying the piece of dead wood to a place to throw it away I felt a flutter by my hand and looked down in time to see a bird fly up and land on a tree limb nearby. At first I thought it strange for a bird to fly that close but then I examined the dead stump in my hand. Looking closely I spotted a hole in the trunk about a quarter size with tiny red dotted eggs. I realized I had, like a giant movie monster, yanked up the bird’s home and carried it off. I gently righted the stump and took it back to where it was removed. I hope the mama bird will return.

It was a wonderful reminder that life can be found even in places which appear desolate, dark and dead.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Left Behind

Left Behind

Whew! It’s been a long day! So, this will be a short entry.

Today, Beth and I went through the belongings of a dear friend who passed a few years ago. It was both erie and interesting.

To know one day each of our lives will be reduced to a few boxes, pieces of furniture and other knick knacks is a great lesson in humility. Truly, what we do, who we are is what matters in the short time we exist in this planet. What a shame it would be to just be remembered for the trinkets we left behind instead who we were and the lives we impacted.

Thankfully, my friend lived a life that touched many, didn’t collect a lot of useless things and as we went through her left-behind belongings they paled in comparison to who she was and what she left in us by her love and grace.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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