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Into the Fire

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Into the Fire

I heard a story yesterday about a Roman soldier who fell in love with a young, Christian, woman at the height of Rome’s imperial glory. He wanted to marry her but she would not allow him to court her because he wasn’t a follower of Christ. Desperate, the young man began to follow her and eventually discovered where she met other Christians in a secret place outside of Rome. He stayed in the shadows, watched and listened as they sat around a small fire and shared their stories of being followers of Jesus. As he stood there his heart was awakened and a voice echoed inside of him; “You will never know the truth until you step into the light of the fire and have all that is not burned to ash.” This was a great challenge indeed for most Romans believed in many gods, not just one, and followers of Christ were persecuted, and executed for their beliefs. He would have to give up everything for the chance at eternal and temporal love.

As I’ve reflected on this story the last two days I’ve wondered about the power and sacrifice of love. Love is a double-edged sword. It is wonderful and terrifying. Many horrible acts have been done in the name of love. It gives the bearer great courage but can also make one a coward. Those who have loved deeply speak of the joy and sorrow, wholeness and heartbreak, feeling of ecstasy and indescribable pain. True love requires all of us. We can’t give only a portion. We must be all in or never experience the life-changing, mind-bending, chaos that is love. It gives and takes, makes and destroys, assures us and shakes us to our core. There is nothing else that can compare.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Empathy

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Empathy

My wife is a wonderful woman, and brave. Brave because she went to Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon! There are many reasons she’s wonderful but her concern and empathy for people and other things overwhelms me sometimes. Today, on her way to what we infamously call; “Wally World” a chipmunk jumped on the road and tried to run across when Beth was at the same spot with her car. “Thump, thump,” was all she heard but it was enough. She called me a few minutes after leaving the house and I knew something had happened. “Hello?” I answered. “Hey. I ran over a chipmunk,” she replied on the verge of tears. “It came out of nowhere and I tried to stop but couldn’t and that’s when I heard the ‘Thump!‘” I listened to her and told her I was sorry. “I know you would never do that if you could avoid it.” She knew this also and after a while she was okay. I asked her to be safe and remember that I love her. We hung up and the rest of the day has been without incident but the confession over her accidentally taking the life of a rodent is one of the many reasons my life is better because she’s in it.

While she was gone, after the phone call, I reflected on her having a heart big enough that a chipmunk she didn’t know existed a moment before the incident could have an impact on her. I wondered what our families, communities, nation, and the world would be like if each of us had the respect, concern, and empathy for all things, especially each other. I think we’d all live and be in a happier, safer, place.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Can You Hear Me?

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Can You Hear Me?

Earlier this week I had a frustrating conversation with someone (not Beth). I was attempting to explain and they weren’t receptive to my words body language and insistence. Finally, we decided we’d try again at a later date when cooler heads would prevail.

It is amazing how difficult it can be to communicate; listen and speak. It doesn’t only involve ears and mouths but minds, bodies, times, temperaments, and most of all the willingness of both parties to check their egos at the door. This is where I made my mistake. I was attempting to force someone to listen, to see and understand what I was doing and it wasn’t taking. Forcing people to do anything rarely, if ever, works. After we both stepped away I realized the whole situation was my fault. I wasn’t showing empathy but exasperation and that’s never a good head-space to be in when trying to speak to someone.

Thankfully, when we came back together I was able to recognize where I went wrong and tried a different way. I instructed and acted more respectfully and thoughtfully. I made sure not to try to cram information into someone but to let them absorb it. When it was over I apologized for my shortsightedness and hope this is a lesson I will take to heart.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Cries

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Cries

Outside our kitchen window, beside the front door is a bird’s nest under a wooden box. Inside this nest are several baby birds that apparently need a lot of attention. Because of where they are situated we can hear them every time they begin to cry for their parents and believe me when I write; “We can hear them!” They also cry each time we go out the front door because of the vibration. I want to pick the box up and look at them. I want to tell them to; “Pipe down! and give mom and dad a break!” However, I dare not risk disturbing the nest, the birds or frighten off the parents during this delicate time of growth.

As I type this post I am listening to the baby birds and reflecting on the needs of those around us. When we hear the needy cry we want to run to their rescue, free them from anything that might be holding them back and give them whatever they need whenever they need it. This sounds like what any person with empathy and a heart would do but can inhibit their growth. We should be careful not to let our emotions get ahead of us. The best case scenario is working with them, helping them so that, eventually, they can help themselves. If we come running each and every time they cry, giving them what they want, never teaching them how to make it without assistance, they will never learn to do and be.

One day soon the mom and dad will stop coming to the nest and the baby birds will have to make it on their own. When that day comes mom and dad’s skills at being parents for their needy ones will be revealed.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

In the Heart

In the Heart

Earlier this week a friend called and during our conversation, she mentioned the weather forecast called for beautiful weather now and the foreseeable future. I explained it was overcast in Tennessee and rain was expected the next several days. The conversation then turned to something she needed to talk about and as I listened it dawned on me that my outside weather was cloudy and rainy and this mirrored her inside on a certain subject.

I hoped my advice helped, at least in part, to help the clouds to dissipate and for her inside and outside to match. The experience was a reminder that we carry seasons, weather in our souls. There are times and places where things are clear, warm, light, easy. There are others where our spirits are dark, overcast, dreary and difficult. Wisdom helps us monitor, adjust, and accept our inside forecast. We change what we have the power to and trust that even the worst of our inside days do not last forever.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

A Picture is Worth…

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A Picture is Worth

A picture is worth a thousand words unless you are the kids who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Florida, several weeks ago. This past weekend there were gatherings in cities around the world. It was called; “The March for Our Lives.” Since this protest event, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez have become targets, again. There are news articles, memes, pictures and opinion pieces written that would make adults question their sanity, worth and the innate goodness of humanity.

My heart is broken and my spirit crushed as I listen, read and watch adults attack these children with vitriol. They are being bullied, lied about, crushed by those whose opinions differ from theirs. These young people have survived what will probably be the most traumatic event in their life. They are processing their grief, the loss of their friends and their innocence. They are trying to take a stand, find their footing after an event and in a debate bigger than them. They are exercising control by speaking out, marching, becoming an advocate against an act of violence that ripped their lives apart. Yet, while they attempt to put their lives back together, people online, on the radio, on television are tearing them down and apart, again.

Are these kids being used by persons and corporations with agendas? Maybe. Perhaps they are also smart and resilient enough to know what they want and believe. Have they said and done everything perfectly? Of course not. Who has? You don’t have to agree with them to see they are still in pain. You don’t have to march with them to stand by their side. You can disagree without abuse. We should be better than that. These kids deserve better.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Gathered Together

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Gathered Together

All over the world today youths and people of every color, creed, and nationality, clergy, organizational representatives, politicians, movie and music stars, are gathered together to protest gun violence and by their voices and presence hope to convince those who have the power to do something about people dying. You don’t have to agree with their position to respect their right and motivation to come together and show their solidarity and support. In this crazy, mixed up and messed up world at least they are doing something.

“Decisions are made by those who show up.” -Anonymous

It is amazing what a group of people, gathered together, with peace, justice, kindness, and determination can accomplish. Too often we sit on the sidelines and voice our opinions, make fun or mock those who think differently than us and are doing what their heart, emotions, and spirits, say is right and good. Perhaps we’ll make mistakes, maybe our ideas aren’t totally thought out and ordered. However, can you imagine an international movement where everyone decided to take action, do good, seek justice and change the world for the better? I can.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Old News

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Old News

The last couple of weeks of February have been a rough time for me the last several years. There are painful, heart hurting memories which seem to resurface and dealing with these challenging emotions is difficult.

Today I cleaned up our yard after a round of storms and rain this last week. I threw them on a burn pile and set it afire. I also had some old fence pieces and newspapers to burn. The newspapers are from my wife. She is doing her best to understand and begin to use extreme couponing in an effort to save money. I made sure to take old piles of newspaper and watched as the flames began consuming them. I tried reading some of the headlines and articles before the fire reached them and then they were gone.

As the fire leaped into the air I thought about it being old news which was out of date and historical. I also reflected on the memories I’ve struggled with the last few weeks and tried to remind myself that healing and time can also consume the heartache of the past and that our history enlightens our present.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

What’s on Your Plate?

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What’s on Your Plate? –

This afternoon, at a county health council meeting, a speaker from Vanderbilt Hospital gave us a lecture on the importance of heart health. February is Heart Health Month so it was certainly appropriate. He talked about healthy eating even stating; “If it tastes good it’s not good for you!” That certainly got everyone’s attention. He softened the blow a little by following up with limiting the amount of unhealthy, high fat, processed, high-calorie food and increasing healthy choices. The speaker had arrived late and lunch had been served before his lecture. The food wasn’t what he’d call the best in choices but not the worst either. After he sat down and the meeting dismissed someone mentioned to the attendees that there was plenty of food left over from the lunch and to please take some home. I can only imagine what the speaker was thinking as he watched people make “to go” plates. It certainly is a difficult job to get people to think differently, choose differently.

One of the disciplines of mindfulness is mindful eating. It is the recognition that everything we put in our mouths comes from the world around us. It’s not just consuming but being aware that each piece of meat, every spoonful of veggies, a bite of fruit, is a result of the creation we all apart of, participate in and exist in intimate connection. Too often, however, we just consume. Not only food but almost everything in our lives is used and abused, grabbed and possessed, with no thought of creation or consequence to our consumption.

What’s on our plate is, and is more than, the food we eat but also what we allow to fill up our lives.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Surprise!

Surprise!

Earlier today, on the way home from a meeting, I dropped by a store and picked up flowers, a card and a small gift for Valentine’s day. I was going to hide them and then, before Beth got up in the morning, put them on the kitchen counter. She was going to be surprised and happy and this brings me great joy. I arrived home and put everything on the counter. I fixed my lunch and sat down. Not long after there was a knock on the front door. I went to see who and it was Beth. She had gotten off work early today and as she came inside I remembered the flowers, card, and gift on the counter. “Don’t look on the counter!” I yelled, knowing it was too late. Her surprise of coming home early ruined my planned surprise for tomorrow.

Life is full of well…surprises. For a while, I was irritated things didn’t work out the way I anticipated but it occurred to me that its hard to give a gift of love with frustration in your heart. I shook it off and told her; “Happy Valentines Day!”

She did say she wouldn’t open the card until tomorrow.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

The River

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The River

“Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. The river is your stream of consciousness. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling or thought. Don’t hate it, judge it, critique it, or move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. When another thought arises—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river.”
#ThomasKeating, “Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel”

One of the greatest and most difficult realizations is the truth that we are not our thoughts. We are not our actions. We are not our egos. True, each of these can reveal things about us and to the world but we are not these things.

The problem is we’ve been taught the opposite most of our lives. The famous quote; “Reap a thought, a word, an action, then a destiny,” seems right but our thoughts do not have to lead us to who we ultimately become. We can choose to go deeper, change paths, refuse to be captive to our thoughts by breaking free of them.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Idols and Illusions

Idols and Illusions –

I would add to the quote attached to this post anything that’s fleeting, temporal, transitory, this that tell us lies about ourselves or others. Things like politics, money, jobs, reputations. Idols are all of these and more which fix our focus on the illusion that we are in control, we are powerful and by our wills, the world can be recreated in our image. It is this illusion that destroys our world and ourselves.

This morning part of my contemplation and meditation time included a portion of the Second Book of Kings, chapter seventeen, verse 15; “They worshipped false idols and became false.” I have read that several times today, talked about it with a friend and wrote it down in a journal. It says we become what we worship. Where our heart is, our mind, emotions, spirits, where our energies are applied is what we are and what we become.

Idols and illusions are hard to see sometimes. Breaking free from them isn’t easy. #AlbertEinstien said; “All of reality is an illusion, a persistent one, but still an illusion.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Second Gaze

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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.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

a Break

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a Break

Today was the first appointment with my therapist since my father passed. We kept coming back to the theme; “It’s been a long month!” We talked about a lot of things which have happened, are happening and will happen. Responsibilities, experiences, the new normal of living life without dad and how these are impacting my chronic depression and severe anxiety. As we were wrapping up the session her words, her prescription for me was; “Give yourself a break.” In other words, take it one day at a time, don’t fixate on certain challenges, try not to do everything at once and breathe, keep yourself centered.

On the way home I was driving behind a person with a bumper sticker which read; “Of course I love you! Why wouldn’t I?” I received the message and took it to heart. We put such a demand upon ourselves to get things done, live up to expectations, not let anyone down, be what we believe we should be instead of simply accepting ourselves for who we are; imperfect people trying to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God and with each other.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Power

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Power

The lists have already started airing on television, showing up in online news outlets, heard on the radio. The top 10 newsmakers, personalities, sports icons, movie actors, deaths of the last year.

Most of the lists are silly and arbitrary but one usually grabs my attention. It is the lists of famous people who have passed away. I usually have forgotten the ones which happened earlier in the year. I listen to these lists and think about the people who society has lost, reflect upon how quickly life fades and wonder how these deceased became famous, powerful in whatever sphere they existed.

Deep in the heart of every person, there is the power to become whatever they want to be, given the right circumstances, and the combination of luck and perseverance. There is a commercial running on TV where a music mogul is shown being the success that he has made of his life and holding his baby boy at the end telling him; “You’re the boss! You’re the bomb! You’re the don!” In other words, the world is at this kid’s fingertips, it’s here for the taking.

Our society tells us we can be anything we set our minds to, fulfill our heart’s desire, and everything is equal. There is no higher calling. Being a politician, a famous actor or singer, a sports star, or countless other professions in which a person might find worldly success are all the ultimate good.

However, I wonder where are the mystics, the poets, the artists, the rebels, those who don’t desire the allure of the world but embrace another desire, dream? These folk aren’t usually the ones who are famous enough to make top 10 lists or are remembered after their passing but they’re also the ones who don’t care.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

to Know

to Know

A story is told that one day Saint Mother Teresa was asked by a seeker how to find and see God. After a moment of thought, Sister Teresa responded; “You will find God when you can see Him in each next person you meet.” In other words, when a person realizes God indwells in his creation and the love we have for God should be reflected in all he has created.

I am reminded of this story, and wisdom lesson, when someone is getting on my nerves, bugs me just because of who they are, or seems to do everything wrong or not the way I think it should be done. “Do you see God in…?” It’s a powerful reminder that the way we see, treat and judge others is a reflection of our own heart and our relationship with God.

To know someone, to love them is to know and love God.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Help

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Help

It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.

It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.

Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Pure

Pure

One of the images I like to use with the men I work with is an illustration about a sponge soaked in water.

If I were to go to a store, find the kitchen aisle, and buy a pack of sponges, I could take them home to use as I see fit. If I opened the packaging, took out one sponge and if my kitchen sink was clean I could fill it up with water, take the sponge which had never been used, ball it up in my hand, plunge it in the water, let it go and it would soak up clean water. If I then retrieved another sponge from the packaging, took it outside, found a mud puddle, balled up the sponge in my hand, plunged it in the murky water, let it go, it would soak up dirty water. The sponge isn’t the difference, it’s the water.

It’s similar to our lives. We are mostly products of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. If our intentions are good and our hearts are pure most likely we will produce good results and our minds and spirits will be at peace. If, however, our hearts and intentions are selfish we will have no peace and wreak havoc on the lives of others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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

Words

Words

Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed.  Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.

Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.

Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people?  In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?

A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.

Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.

Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

The Heart’s Way

The Heart’s Way

The sky has been cloudy today. It has been mostly dreary and cool. It’s one of those days you stay inside and try to keep warm. This weekend has felt like fall. Not the fall with the beautiful leaves, cool nights and warmer days but the type of fall days which tell you winter won’t be long coming.

I’ve been tired today. It’s been a long 10 days and its caught up with me. I don’t mind “lazy” days. They are good for the mind, body, and spirit. However, there are things which need to get done that didn’t. I know there will still be enough sunny warmer days to finish winterizing the house and yard but letting go of “wasted” day thoughts is still tough.

Looking inside, into my soul, where the stillness exists I am reminded that there must be days we rest. I am thankful for the wisdom teachings of the importance of the mind but even more so the lessons of the heart. Going deep, when the surface is confused or condemning, helps me discover the path is not forged by a quickened pace but by a contented heart.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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