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A Little Help

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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

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Life or a Dim Imitation?

Lightning-Strike

This morning a raging thunderstorm passed through the area bringing high winds, torrential rains and lots of lightning! Even though the sky was a bright shade of grey the flashes lit it up. Several times my eyes grew wide with wonder at the power and ferocity which was being displayed. In the midst of the downpour I was sitting at a traffic signal when another visual burst attracted my eye. It surprised me and as I whipped my head around I noticed it was only a strobe light on the top of a work truck.

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The strobe light, though it startled me, didn’t invoke in me the awe the lightning had conjured within. It wasn’t nearly as bright, the predictable, rhythmic flashing wasn’t as inspiring and frightening as the streaks of energy and chaos which seemed to appear out of nowhere without advanced notice.

I reflected upon the two lights and the unpredictability of life. We like to think that a controlled, managed, structured existence is best. Certainly we wouldn’t allow pain, heartache, difficulties to strike without warning. We’d never be surprised by disappointment, disease and death. There would be a steady, fixed, consistent way of being but what would we lose?

Wisdom tells us it is in the unforeseeable, uncertain, unplanned parts of life when our eyes, heart and spirits are open to awe and wonder. It is in these times and seasons when we are inspired, strengthened and consider possibilities of which we’ve never dreamed.

It is the unexpectedness of life which lights up the soul. Don’t settle for a dim imitation.

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

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Full Circle

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Tonight, after grabbing a bite to eat at Cracker Barrel, my wife and I stopped to fill the car up with gas. When we pulled in we could hear loud music emanating from somewhere. At first I thought it was the gas station’s sound system but it was actually from an S.U.V. parked at the pump in front of me. The door to the vehicle was open, the woman was texting on her cellphone, while the pump was on automatic.

As I stood there I mused; “does she really think everyone needs to hear this?” Then, I remembered a time when I was in high school and pulled into a gas station, started pumping gas with my radio blaring and an “old geezer” asked me; “do we really need to hear that noise?” and it hit me, I had become the “old geezer!”

My wife and I had a good laugh about this on the way to visit a friend in the hospital. My friend is almost 90 years old, in frail health, and coming to grips with the inevitability of death.

I have been reflecting on both the gas station experience, the hospital visit and how life comes full circle. We are born to die. Our first breath of life is one breath closer to death. We are indeed but a vapor, a flower quickly fading, lush green grass that quickly withers. We are…and then we are not.

blessings,
bdl

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Never Saw It Coming

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

This morning I awoke early. This isn’t uncommon lately with so much to do before we move.  I try not to let my thoughts get away from me when I wake before dawn in the hopes I can drift off to sleep again. Alas, this morning I could not so I got out of bed and began to get ready for an early breakfast appointment. Part of my morning routine is checking email and when I opened one today I was blindsided by grace.

The message was simple but it included an incredible gift to me and my wife. It was a profound and generous act that took an enormous burden off of our shoulders. It was both unexpected and deeply appreciated and we are very thankful!

At times we can become so focused on a task, an occurring or upcoming event that grace must come out of nowhere and jolt us out of our myopic state so we are able to see the incredible love and compassion that surrounds us.

blessings,
bdl

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Passing Through…

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There are times in life when instability happens, an event we didn’t plan for, a choice with unexpected consequences, a season which blows winds of transition into our lives and we become blinded by the debris of change.

When we encounter these sections on the path of life it can be difficult to get our bearings and we wonder if we are wandering aimlessly. Will the way ever be clear again? Yes. Seasons come and go, the unknown soon becomes the new normal. The passing of time has a way of revealing what was once hidden.

Patience is required. A waiting for the path to reveal itself again and trusting the path maker watches over our steps.

blessings,
bdl

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The Long (and Final) Goodbye

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Below is the final message I shared with my campus family today. It was a good and difficult time filled with memories, laughter and tears.

(Read the Long Goodbye, Part 1, The Long Goodbye Part 2)

Last week we spoke of Joseph, his father Jacob and how Joseph’s entire family came to live in Egypt. Joseph’s generation passed away followed by many other generations. In time a Pharaoh, who didn’t know the story of Joseph, rose to power. This Pharaoh came to fear and despise Jacob and Joseph’s offspring whom had multiplied greatly, became very numerous. The Egyptians began to worry these “outsiders” would someday take over the land. To keep this from happening Pharaoh took away their freedom made them slaves.

In the beginning of the book of Exodus God hears the cry of these descendants, now slaves, known as Hebrews and raises up a servant named Moses. God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of bondage into a new land, a new place where they could worship God and live in freedom.

However, even after God showed his mighty power through great miracles and made a promise the Hebrews would be God’s chosen people they would not listen to God. They would not trust God to do as he promised; lead them to a new place. These people complained about everything! They accused Moses, God’s servant, of not knowing what he was doing. They missed Egypt and wanted to go back. They grumbled in their hearts, became angry, doubted God in times of difficulty, and didn’t believe God could do what he promised. They could not move into God’s future promise because they clung to past familiarity.

Ultimately, their lack of faith, holding on to the past and fears of the future cost them dearly. God led them into no man’s land to meander aimlessly until the first generation died out. Instead it would be their children who would receive the benefits of the new land, the new place God had promised.

After most of this generation passed away a new one stood on the border of God’s Promised Land ready to go, to believe what the former generation could not. To journey on to this new place they had to leave the past behind, which included parents they had buried, places they were familiar with, lands they once called home and step into the next place God had prepared.


As they ready themselves Moses addresses them…

Deuteronomy 30 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses says;if you’ll follow your God, heart and soul, and listen to His voice and obey His commands and remember His regulations, which are written in this book.

11 What I’m commanding you today isn’t too difficult for you; it’s not out of reach.12 It’s not up in the sky, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go up into heaven and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 13 It’s not across the sea, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go beyond the watery abyss and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 14 No, the words you need to be faithful to the Lord are very close to you. They are in your mouth if you will speak of them and in your heart if you will treasure them.

15 Look, I give you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. 16 If you do what God commands you today and love the Lord your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live. He will bless you with a new place, give you a new land.

17 But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them,18 then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll not inhabit this place; this new land will not be yours.

19 The Lord is giving you the choice today between life and death, between being blessed or being cursed. Choose life, so that you and your family may live! 20 If you love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and always remain loyal to Him, for He is your life, then you’ll be able to thrive in this new place the Lord has promised you.

This must’ve been a bitter sweet time for Moses. He is 120 years old but is still very capable of leading. However, Moses is also human and flawed. He has made mistakes and God has revealed to him he will not be journeying with this generation to this new place. Moses accepts this and after addressing the people he anoints others to lead them where he cannot.

God does give Moses the assurances of his faithfulness by taking him up a mountain and showing him the new land, the new place God’s people will make their home.

Deuteronomy 34 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab to the top of Mount Nebo, to the peak at Mount Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land that would be Israel’s territory: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of Judah’s territory to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the southern desert, and the basin in the valley of Jericho, the “city of palms,” as far as Zoar.

The Lord (to Moses): This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I told them, “I’ll give this place to this generation. I’ve let you see it, even though you will not be going with them.”

So Moses, the Lord’s servant, died and was buried in a valley in the land of Moab. The children of Israel stayed in the plains of Moab and mourned for Moses, until the grieving period was over.

Today, in many ways, we are experiencing this story in the book Deuteronomy. It is a day of decisions. It is a time when we must choose this new way or choose to hold on to the past and what is familiar.

I have served this campus church for 5 ½ years and my history pales in comparison to some of you who have been at Lebanon Valley Nazarene much longer. I can only speak from my experience and from what many of you have shared with me. There have been some wonderful times and some rough times. Moments we’ll treasure forever and memories we’d like to forget! But God has always been faithful.

In many ways we have wandered in the wilderness for these past 8 months wondering where the path would lead us. Though unsure of the way we now stand on the border of something new and unknown.

The choice becomes; do we leave the past behind, the good and the bad, highlights and low times, beautiful and less desirable events and journey into this new place, or hold on to what was, complain, grumble, fear and miss the new thing God wants to do and is doing.

Crossing the border, going to this new place requires leaving some we love behind, familiar surroundings and a place we’ve called our home. It won’t be easy but life rarely is and God is always faithful.

In some ways I see myself as Moses in this story…give me time to explain before you start rolling your eyes and thinking; “The Pastor really does need this sabbatical if he’s comparing himself to Moses!” It’s in very small ways but I maybe sense what Moses was experiencing in this selection of text.

Like Moses, I have set the choices before you today and beg you to choose life.

Like Moses, I ask you to trust God and walk his way. He will not abandon the work of his hands.

Like Moses, I have had a group of leaders and supporters who have walked with me as I have led and who will go with you as we separate.

Like Moses, I stand on the border of this new and unknown territory but cannot go with you.

Like Moses my heart hurts today as I see my dear friends and loved ones prepare to continue on without me.

I wonder if Moses regretted his actions and hasty words which kept him from continuing the journey. I want you to know I regret not being able to do more to keep this campus church open and this from being our last Sunday. I am sorry I could not lead in such a way this could have been avoided and to keep this wonderful community whole and moving forward.

This deep sadness is tempered by God’s assurance that he keeps his promises even through the weaknesses and shortcomings of leaders. I stand here today seeing, though unable to experience, God’s faithful hand which will guide you and lead you to a new place filled with his blessings!

Hopefully, unlike Moses, I will not be buried here today but like Moses I can rest knowing God is faithful.

Today, in the midst of our parting and pain, let us choose to celebrate the future unknown and not cling to the old which is passing away.

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Psalm 145

The Greatness and the Goodness of God

I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall tell of your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

  He also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him.

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Getting Into Hot Water

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Great quote by one of the Inklings. As a person who gets into hot water frequently I often wonder if this is a result of wisdom or rebellion.

As a wannabe saint/contemplative/wise person you’d think trouble would be one of those things I avoided easily and yet I tend to find myself in tough conversations and situations. Mostly these result from asking too many questions and refusing to believing something to be true just because someone says it is…for some reason this makes people irritated and sometimes gives the impression I’m hard to get along with or have malcontent tendencies.

Maybe this is true. Maybe I enjoy rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe people need to think more and presume less? After all, hot water is the best way to cleanse ourselves of illusions and assumptions.

blessings,
bdl

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Selling Out

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The Master said; “One day a man found a treasure in a field. He was so happy that he went and sold everything he owned to buy that field. Another man went looking for fine pearls. When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.”

To sell everything one has takes certainty in what is being purchased. To know treasure when one sees it, an object of great value amidst the dirt and grime which surrounds it, takes a trained eye. If we aren’t sure of what we’re buying we could end up with junk and costume jewelry.

On the path of life we will pass many fields and have numerous shiny objects seek our attention. Knowing what’s worth buying and what’s worthless, what is eternal and temporal, wise and foolish, goes a long way in determining whether our life is filled with treasure or trash.

blessings,
bdl

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The Long Goodbye, Part 2

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Today I shared the following with my campus family as we began our last few weeks together…

 (Read “the Long Goodbye, Part 1”)

Waiting can drive us crazy. Maybe this is why there is so much of it in life. These last few months have been one long season of waiting. A thought that keeps coming to my mind, “perhaps, life can be best summed up as one long lesson in patience.”

In a world where almost everything moves at such a high rate of speed, sometimes it’s difficult to catch our breath before something else dashes in to take it away. Instant gratification is no longer an option but rather a necessity. At a time where everything happens so fast, shouldn’t patience be placed on the endangered species list? It seems to be no longer a virtue and no longer needed. 

However, life still requires patience and a recognition that for everything there is a season.

Genesis 31The Voice (VOICE)

Jacob, the heel-catcher, has met a kindred spirit. Both men are deceivers and manipulators. Both do whatever they can to get the better of the other. It just comes naturally. Laban tricks Jacob first by marrying him to Leah before Rachel…After many years of service, Jacob finally outwits Laban and gains a more valuable flock in the process.

31 As time went on, Jacob overheard what Laban’s sons were saying about him.

Laban’s Sons: Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father; he gained all his wealth from taking advantage of him.

And Jacob also noticed a change in how Laban looked at him and treated him. He seemed colder toward him than before.

Eternal One (to Jacob): You must now return to the land of your ancestors and to your own family. I will be with you always.

So Jacob called his wives Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was grazing.

Jacob: I notice your father’s attitude toward me has changed; he doesn’t regard me with the same respect as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me….(but God has said to me) 13 “I am the God of Bethel, the place where you poured oil on a pillar and made a vow to Me.[a] Now get up, leave this land, and return to the land where you were born.”

It has been a long season of waiting for Jacob, heel grabber, one who wrestles with God.

He has waited in a foreign land for his brother to cool off after Jacob tricked him out of his inheritance. He fell in love with a beautiful woman named Rachel and waited seven years, working for his soon to be father in law only to be tricked into marrying his beloved’s older sister named Leah. He then had to work another seven years to complete the payments for both sisters.

After this Jacob grew rich and Laban grew jealous. The time was coming when he would need to move away from his father in law. As he waited, God blessed and his father in law schemed. Don’t feel sorry for Jacob, he could scheme with the best of them. Finally, after many years of service, back and forth plotting and scamming, wives, many children, trouble between the two families, and much waiting, God reveals to Jacob what he is to do.

Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” 

It has been many years since Jacob has been home. His life has been lived elsewhere for so long home is more a memory than reality. It’s also filled with uncertainty. What will Esau, Jacob’s deceived brother, do when they come face to face? Where will they live? Will his livestock and investments continue to grow? No certainty is given except (God promised) “Go to the land of your ancestors and I will be with you.

Jacob gathers his family and discusses this life altering revelation.

Rachel and Leah (respond): 14 Is there any inheritance at all left for us from our father’s house? 15 He regards us as foreigners now that we’ve married you. He sold us in exchange for your years of labor, and he has been using up all of the money that should have been ours. 16 All of the property God has taken from our father and given to you actually belongs to us and to our children anyway! So do whatever God said to do.

So do whatever God said to do.” Remember these are moms saying this, wives giving their approval. Moms aren’t usually too thrilled when dads/husbands decide to make a U-turn in midlife and do something unexpected. Moms/Wives like stability. They like knowing the kids are getting fed; a roof over their heads, the dad/husband is going to be able to provide for them. Thank God for wives/moms/families who are willing to say; “Do whatever God said to do.”

17 So Jacob got up, and he put his children and his wives on camels for the journey. 18 He rounded up all of his livestock and all of the property he had gained, … crossed the Euphrates River and set his face south toward the hill country of Gilead, he was going home.

When I came to ECN almost 7 years ago I left a ministry which faced many challenges and came to a new place, a new life at ECN as their Christian Education director. Though I had never held this position before, I was excited to do something new after being a youth mentor for many years. However, less than a year later, I was asked to visit this campus church for a few Sundays to be pulpit supply, a fill in, a substitute and I have been there ever since. I have never regretted my decision.

Even last year, when the future of our church became uncertain and my position was no longer available, I still knew this was God’s place for me. In July 2013, after being informed ECN could no longer financially support my position I began searching for another position but also applied at many bi-vocational jobs in this area in case the decision was made to keep the campus church open.

Though I have been considered for various positions in these last several months I have prayerfully sensed God’s leading not to pursue any opportunities until the outcome of our campus was determined. Then in December, following the decision to close LVCN, God’s call for me was to continue being their shepherd, through this time of uncertainty and until the last Sunday, was clear. I obeyed but was unsure what this meant for the future.

As I have considered other ministries and waited for guidance on where to go next, I prayerfully sensed I was to wait, to rest.

One position seemed it might be a good fit. We exchanged emails, phone calls, video interviews and I sensed I would fit in rather well. My last interview with their leadership team was on January 16, 2014. It went very well. As soon as I finished the interview I picked up my bible, prayed and began to read scripture.

The Bible I was reading from has a selection of chapters to be read each day followed by one verse to meditate upon. The assigned section for this day was 5 ½ chapters, over 100 verses. Out of all the possible selections the verse to meditate upon was:

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Up until this point Beth and I had been discussing the sense of waiting we felt God had placed on our lives. We also reflected upon certain difficult situations I had encountered while serving here since July 2007.

In some ways we, like Jacob, have been in a period of waiting for almost 7 years. There have been times we looked for a sign to transition but were always directed back to shepherding our family at the campus church. In many ways it has been this place, these people, which kept us from moving on during some very trying times. It is a blessing being their leader.

Now this verse brought everything into focus. I understood why a spirit of rest had been laid upon my heart. That night I saved and annotated the page in my Bible (pictured above) dated it January 16, and shared it with my wife. I read her the scripture I had meditated upon following the interview and she replied; “Do what God wants you to do.” Following this I contacted the church and removed my name from consideration for the position. I realized this was not the season for “next” but of rest.

In the last several weeks, we continued to pray and counsel with mentors and friends, to confirm the direction we are to take and believe it to be our course.

Last week we traveled down to South Carolina where my folks have graciously offered to let us stay with them. So, following my final day as the pastor of these wonderful people on February 28, we will pack up all we own and, like Jacob, move to the place I call home.

The decision, like Jacob’s, is filled with uncertainty. How long this waiting will last we are not sure. How we are going to make ends meet we do not know. But, like Jacob, God has directed me back to the land of my kindred, to go home for a season of rest and he offers his assurance;

Genesis 31:3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” 

Reflection

Psalm 74

The Voice

O Lord we have waited for your signs

    we have searched and listened for your word,
    we have waited patiently for a season.
10 O True God, how much longer?
11 When will you release us?

12 Even as we wait, you are still our True God, our King from long ago;
    you bring salvation to Your people. You are faithful.
13 You are powerful and we praise you.
15 You made everything and give love and direction to those who follow you.
16 The day is Yours and also the night—
    You set in place the sun, moon, and all the stars to light up our darkness.
17 You have arranged all things, control all things;
    You are the Architect of our lives. You are creator of all seasons.


Amen

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Wise Use of Knowledge

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way… you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.” 

Aristotle –Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC – 322 BC)

A mark of wisdom is understanding the need to put acquired knowledge into practice. We do not become wise by more reading, vigorous discussion, being open-minded and self-examination. These qualities are certainly helpful but unless we are willing to put into practice what we have learned our study is in vain.

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.

blessings,
bdl

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Time Wasters

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What happened to my hands? When did they become so wrinkly? What are these crinkles on my face? Why do I seem to have much more face and so less hair? Except, of course, on my eyebrows and ears which seem to grow hair at a phenomenal rate!

Getting older is a reality. We realize it happens and yet it still somehow takes us by surprise.

The other day I caught myself holding an item with fine print under a light, squinting, trying to read it…and I thought; “when did this happen, when did I turn into an old person?”

Time, the undefeated one.

If we can’t stop time hopefully we can make the most of the time we have left.

blessings,
bdl

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Sink or Swim

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Terrified is a strong word. There are many things I might be anxious about in a given period of time but terrified? 

When I was younger I was terrified of swimming. I didn’t want to learn how to swim, see the need to swim, want anything to do with swimming. My parents, however, understood learning to swim, especially for a boy living in a coastal state, was important. So, they made me take swimming lessons.

Getting in the pool wasn’t a problem, getting wet not an issue, pushing my head under the surface didn’t seem to bother me. The terror came when I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool without my head also being submerged.

As we progressed through the class I did okay until it was time to jump in the deep end. No matter how much the swimming instructor assured me she would not let me drown I didn’t trust her. I stood on the edge of the pool trying to decide whether to jump in or run back to the locker room. Finally, after much coaxing, pleading and possibly some bribing I jumped in the water…to be more accurate I jumped on the swimming instructor! If I was going down she was going down with me. She didn’t let me drown and I learned how to swim.

When we, or someone we care for, are terrified it’s hard to move past the fear. No matter the assurance we give or receive from others sooner or later the decision has to be made to jump in or run away. What we need, what we must be willing to be, is someone who will sink or swim when the decision is made to take the plunge!

blessings,
bdl

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Grooming VS Petting

One of the “must dos” before my wife and I take a trip with our dogs is to give them a good brushing. The more hair we leave in the yard the less hair they leave in the car!

Grooming, however, is different from petting. Our Golden Retriever doesn’t mind being brushed. To her it’s attention and that’s good. Our Siberian Husky does not share the same perspective. For him being brushed is akin to being punished.  When grooming him you must stop to pet and reassure him everything is going to be okay.

People are this way. I once worked for someone who treated everyone the same. His idea of grooming, making us into better workers, was to review events/projects in staff meetings and critique, often in an abrasive way, the employees who were responsible. Though some co-workers didn’t mind the public praise or criticism that accompanied these reviews others were mortified. One staff member even mentioned to him in private that she wasn’t comfortable with this type of “grooming.” His response was she needed to toughen up or find another job!

People react differently to grooming. Some require more petting and assurance to help them be comfortable enough to learn and grow where it’s needed. To get the best out of one another we must be willing to approach each person open-minded, with humility, finding out what works and what doesn’t so we can make sure “teachable” moments aren’t torturous.

Remember what may be grooming to some might feel like punishment to others.

blessings,
bdl

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Being an Introvert is Okay

Guest Post by Tish Cambers

People using the word “shy” is a sore spot for me. A four year old girl hiding behind her mother’s leg when a stranger approaches is shy. A 23 year old woman who doesn’t talk much is not. Once upon a time, I was absolutely that shy four year old hiding behind my mother. You could say I spent most of my childhood and adolescence being shy, sure. But somewhere in my post-secondary years, I did indeed start to “come out of my shell”.

It took a few more years still for me to not just overcome my “shyness”, but to accept it as who I am. I am an introvert. Through and through. I am proud to say so, and will happily explain what that means to people who think I’m shy, timid, socially anxious or just plain weird.

People who met me when I was 20 years old starting my first job as a cashier, not knowing me before, would use words like “shy” to describe me, which felt like a punch in the gut. I knew I had come so far from my timid, socially anxious teenage self, but apparently that still wasn’t good enough for people.

The catalyst of my journey from social anxiety to social acceptance began with my first year of college. I was fresh out of high school. At just 17 years old I was dropped off by my parents in a new city, far from home, left to fend for myself. My first challenge came just hours after my parents and I had exchanged a tearful goodbye; I had to walk to my new school by myself, ask for help to find the classroom by myself, and sit in a room of peers while completing an entrance assessment by myself. I did it. All by myself.

Over the next few months, I did all sorts of new things all by myself. I went to school. I spoke to classmates. I went grocery shopping. I even acted in classmates’ (new friends) student films and developed a crush on a boy who, by some miracle, actually liked me back! The rest of the school year had its highs (my first boyfriend and my first kiss) and its lows (depression, failing classes), but by the time I came back home for the summer, my friends were commenting how outgoing I was being around people that I wouldn’t have said much to before. I felt like I had grown so much. And I had.

Skip forward four years and I’ve been to college again, worked a cashier job for almost three years, been a cake decorating class instructor for one year and just started a job in a bakery. I’ve come a long way with the socializing thing. I can small-talk now, if I have to. I can exchange pleasantries with strangers. I can even make new friends. Yet, this word “shy” still haunts me. Some people just don’t seem to understand that there could be any reason for not speaking other than out of fear. Is it really so strange for me to not chat while I’m concentrating on decorating a cake? I like my work, I like the people I work with, but being an introvert means that I don’t always remember social interactions that come naturally to people. Things like replying “And, how are you?” after responding to their same question with an perfunctory “Good” don’t come naturally to me. I’m not rude, inconsiderate, or self-centered. It’s just not wired into my brain to be curious about other people, I guess.

After a good day at work, feeling confident that I got everything done properly that was assigned to me, it’s a real kick in the pants to hear my boss tell me I need to stop being “shy”. Augh! That word! I’m trying my best, but sometimes it feels like my own personality, my true self, is just sabotaging me in my professional life. Can we get Introvertism declared some sort of official medical condition, so that employers cannot discriminate against it? I don’t think it’s fair to point out my personality as something I need to work on in an employee assessment. Next thing, they’ll be telling me I need to change my face. (I’ve suffered from chronic “mean-face” my whole life. I actually had a customer say to me “No, I think I’ll find someone who actually wants to help me.” after just looking at my face.) Why can’t people just understand that there are different types of personalities, that people have different ways of socially interacting? I might have to start listing “Introvert” under Skills on my resumé to warn people. Or hand out a pamphlet to everyone I meet; “Introverts: Care Instructions”.

Over the past few years, I’ve gone from wishing I was different, that I could make friends and go out and party to being very comfortable in my introvert skin. I spend the majority of my time alone, as I live alone, and only have a few friends to hang out with occasionally. But thanks to the Internet, I can keep in touch with old and new friends, and be a part of online communities that make me feel less isolated. I’m quiet around people because I don’t have anything to say, not because I’m scared to say anything. I don’t go out of my way to make friends because I’m happy with my handful of real-BFF-since-high school friends, and frankly, I haven’t run into anyone that I’ve felt a kinship towards in a long time.

So, you can say I’m quiet. It’s true, even when I do speak it’s not very loudly. You can say I’m a hermit. It’s true, I don’t venture outside unless I have plans with a friend, I need groceries, or perhaps I want a picnic in the park on a sunny afternoon. You can even point out my “meam-face” because I’ve seen it for myself. But, please, please, don’t dare call me shy, timid, scared, anxious, or weak. I am confident in my introvertness. I am strong. I am proud. I am capable of great things. You just won’t hear me say those things out loud, because, frankly, I don’t talk much. And that’s okay.

Read more by Tish Cambers

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A Spiritual Inventory

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Guest post by Kathleen Dowling Singh

The fact of death is the great mystery and the great truth that illuminates our lives. To face our own imminent death is to examine our lives with an urgency and honesty we may never have felt before.

A spiritual assessment is a helpful practice as we move close to dying. Such an assessment seems to arise naturally in the course of the profound psychological and spiritual transformations of dying. Since we all share the same human condition, many terminally ill people report asking themselves the same questions. These are many of the questions that those who have had a near-death experience report that they have been asked. They are questions that pierce through the frivolousness at the surface of life and confront us with the value and significance this precious gift of a human life offers.

It is not too late to take stock of our lives, even in the last weeks and days of terminal illness. And for those of us in the midst of life, in the apparent safety and security of our health, it is not too early. No matter how much time we have left to live, the answers to the following questions, voiced in the quiet honesty of our own hearts, provide direction to the rest of our living.

Who have I been all this time?

How have I used my gift of a human life? 

What do I need to “clear up” or “let go of” in order to be more peaceful? 

What gives my life meaning?

For what am I grateful? 

What have I learned of truth and how truthfully have I learned to live?

What have I learned of love and how well have I learned to love? 

What have I learned about tenderness, vulnerability, intimacy, and communion? 

What have I learned about courage, strength, power, and faith?

What have I learned of the human condition and how great is my compassion?

How am I handling my suffering? 

How can I best share what I’ve learned? 

What helps me open my heart and empty my mind and experience the presence of Spirit? 

What will give me strength as I die? What is my relationship with that which will give me strength as I die? 

If I remembered that my breaths were numbered, what would be my relationship to this breath right now? 

Who am I?”

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Burning Away: Part 3

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Last Monday I shared a few thoughts about a burn barrel I’ve been using this week and followed up with a few more reflections on Thursday. Below are my final ruminations on using the burn barrel and I shared these with our campus this morning.

Opening

In a world where privacy and personal information must be protected, great care is taken with you dispose of things with sensitive information. Over the last several months Beth and I have been collecting a lot of this type of trash. This week we’ve been doing some cleaning and needed to finally get rid of it. A few weeks ago I asked a friend if he had a burn barrel or know where I could get one. Being a great friend found one and brought it to our house.

The burn barrel has been used a great deal as we have set fire to old bills, junk mail, cancelled checks, and other materials we no longer needed.

Monitoring a burn barrel requires spending a lot of time watching things burn. As I stood there this week I reflected on the scripture text for today. How anger, revenge, bitterness have a lot in common with a burn barrel.

Reflection: A Burn barrel holds a lot of trash and ash.

It is amazing how much one burn barrel can hold. After several days of burning it still isn’t filled with ash. No matter how full it seems once it starts burning and turns to soot it settles and more fuel for the fire can be added.

Anger and bitterness are this way. Anger, bitterness, are never full, they always want more. There is always something else to become angry about, someone to be angry at. Unlike being filled with joy, anger and bitterness just consume.

Reflection: The ash stays hot, scratch surface, fire starts again

The first day I used the burn barrel it took a while to get a flame going. I used some kindling, a couple of matches and made sure the fire didn’t go out. Once it started however there was no stopping it. Even when I was done for the day, stirring it to make sure there was nothing else to burn, it still smoldered. The ash stayed hot even over night, when temperatures dropped into single digits, all it took was stoking the ash, adding some new paper and the flames would erupt again.

Anger and bitterness ignite quickly too. There are times in our lives when we have been hurt by someone or something and even when we think the fire has gone out it only takes is a little poking around and the fire erupts again.

There are places in where we must be very careful not to let the rage of fire ignite again. We must be aware of the areas in our lives where negative feelings smolder, vulnerable places where we are subject to becoming angry and bitter again, no matter how much we think it has cooled off.

Reflection: Fire doesn’t know the difference, it just burns.

Fire doesn’t know the difference between what needs to burn and what doesn’t. A few times after placing something in the barrel I realized it might not be something which needed to burn. Didn’t matter, the fire burned these as quickly as everything else placed in the flames. Though able to retrieve them they still bore the burn marks.

We must be aware how the fire of anger, bitterness, judgment, revenge can unintentionally burn the wrong things in our lives. Negative emotions left unchecked will not only burn against the person or situation which makes us to be angry but can also burn others closest to us. We’re mad about work and lash out family, upset about finances and blame love ones. The fire of anger doesn’t distinguish, it just consumes. If we aren’t careful it will consume our lives and the lives of those we love.

Reflection: All burnt things look similar

After a few days staring at the burn barrel you begin to notice everything burnt looks the same. No matter it looked like before when the fire is finished it’s black and unrecognizable.

Anger, bitterness, revenge consumed us and the fire of anger, the ash of long smoldering resentment, makes us see everything negatively.

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Reflection: Burn barrel affects surroundings

If we were standing in my driveway you would see ash covers almost everything. It settled on the snow, on the outside furniture, on the clothes I was wearing. In spite of the coldness this week the area around the burn barrel was marked by melting snow.

When anger and bitterness rage they affect everything. A black ash settles on our families, jobs, friends, and our life like a dark cloud.

Reflection: Smoke suffocates and blinds

Most of the week the temperature outside never rose above 15 degrees. I was layered up with long pants, coat, and a face mask pulled over, with sunglasses. Even with my mouth covered there were times the smoke still got the best of me. When the wind changed direction suddenly the smoke went right into my face, giving me a coughing fit. It also burned my eyes causing them to water. I couldn’t see.

When the flames of anger and bitterness burn hot within us we cannot breathe. Fire needs air to burn and it uses and takes it violently. In the same way anger takes the breath of life from us to keep burning, suffocating our spirit.

It also blinds us. Filled with rage, we can’t see straight. Our focus becomes that which makes us angry, the one who has wronged us; we are unable to see the blessings in our lives and what we have to be thankful for, all we see is hate.

Reflection: Burn barrel is addicting

When the fire in the burn barrel is really going the flames invite you to throw all sorts of things in and watch it burn.

It’s similar with anger and bitterness. When the fire rages we can always find something else to burn. We live in a world that thrives on anger, division, bitterness, blame, judgment. Radio stations, television channels, internet websites which will feed our rage. We can find people willing to gossip, to stoke our hate, share our bias, and give us more material for our flame.

Reflection: There’s always something left over

After a week of burning there is a lot of ash left over in the bottom of the barrel. When I started it was almost empty now it is almost full. No matter how much I stir, no matter how hot the flame gets, no matter how high fire burns, at the end of the day there is always something left over. When I noticed that it was filling up I asked my friend what to do with the ash. He said he would come haul it away for me. I asked him if there was anything else that could be done with it and there isn’t, it needs to be disposed of.

It is the same way anger bitterness, revenge, rage, temper, and other negative feelings. When they fill up our lives with their residue they need to be hauled away. There is no use for them. They do not serve any purpose. Aren’t we glad that we serve a God who is willing to come into our lives take it away?

Conclusion

Our lives can always be used as burn barrels. We can keep the fire going; let the flames consume our lives and the lives of those we love. We can allow the ash and soot to cover us, the rage and resentment to burn even unintended things or we can find someone to haul it away. The choice is ours.

Reflection

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear nothing.
The 
Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will not be afraid.

When evil attacks and tries to kill me,
    I will not stumble and fall.
Even if all hell surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
when I am under siege,
    I will still trust God.

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the 
Lord‘s presence all my life,
    to marvel at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

In times of trouble he will shelter me;
    he will keep me safe in his presence
    and make me secure on a high rock.

Because of the Lord, I will triumph.
    I will praise the Lord.

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The Patience to Live Fully

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Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Lets’ be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

There are days when Henri Nouwen speaks directly to me, this is one of those days and I hope his words touch some of you as well.

blessings,
bdl
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When You Fall

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I have a scar on my left knee that reminds me of the difficult task of learning to ride a bicycle. The scar is from a large rock I discovered when I fell on my grandmother’s semicircular, dirt & gravel driveway.

Once you learn how to ride a bike they say you don’t forget and so far, so good, but occasionally I still take a tumble. The bigger, faster, mountain bike I now ride is more fun but can also be more dangerous depending on what’s around the next curve of the trail.

Life is like riding a bicycle. Learning balance, staying upright, keeping your bearings, is hard and sometimes no matter how much experience you have you’re going to take a tumble.

Each of us bear the scars of this wild ride called life. It seems about the time we think we’ve figured it out is about the time we take the next spill. When, not if, we fall what do we do? We get up. We might be dirty, bleeding, hurt and tempted to quit but we refuse to surrender.

from The Lion in Winter:

Prince Geoffrey and Prince Richard are confined in a dungeon, the end seems near as their father, the enemy, approaches:

Richard: He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.
Geoffrey: You fool… as if the way one falls matters.
Richard: When the fall is all that’s left, it matters a great deal.

blessings,
bdl

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A Bad Idea?

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This is either going to be a huge success or an unmitigated disaster! 

Ever put two things together and bad things happen? Two good friends, you know will hit it off, end up not liking each other? A blind date which goes horribly wrong? Hired for your dream job and it ends up a nightmare? Vacation with family…

Not everything goes together, not everyone gets along.

Last night, on my way to the campus, I was thinking about a new situation I will soon find myself in. It will combine people and places I love but there is an uneasiness in regards to putting it all together. This uncertainty of mixing several ingredients and what will result had me feeling apprehensive.

However, after more reflection, I realized my anxiety was in not being able to predict the future. I do not have the ability to foresee if the upcoming situation will be a success or failure, good or bad, mistake or sound decision.

What I can do is allow the path to unfold in front of me, walk it, and carry as little baggage of expectation and worry as possible. Wisdom tells me this is how we are to live life, always.

blessings,
bdl
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Fooling Anyone?

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It’s almost always the little things that give us away, tell on us, blab our secrets to the world and often at the most inconvenient times.

I wish we could capture the way we see ourselves in a photograph and the way others see us in another and then compare the two. Actually, it would probably be hundreds or thousands because different people see us differently.

Holding our picture and the other snapshots, looking at them, realizing we weren’t fooling anyone as much as we’d think or like, would we have the courage to ask; “what gave me away? what were my tells? what about me dispelled the illusion I was trying to cast?” We might be shocked by the answers.

We spend so much time trying to appear as something other than ourselves. Often we listen to inner and outer voices as they suggest, “maybe don’t do this, hide that side, avoid this behavior, hold back, be more assertive, insert suggestion/criticism here: _____.

What’s interesting is the way others see us is an illusion that’s based on their own upbringing, biases, desires, and ideas of what would make a “better you.”

No matter whose illusion we try to grasp, wisdom tells us it’s only a vapor. To know our true selves, the strengths, weaknesses, dreams and fears, to be content with not being perfect, nor striving to be, is to let go of that which we will never attain.

Look at the pictures again then throw them to the wind, you weren’t fooling anyone anyway.

blessings,
bdl 
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Polluted Picture

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See More Polluted Pictures

To find beauty in ugliness, desperate times, trashed relationships, polluted words and corrupt actions takes a certain kind of vision.

Most times, when our lives are inundated with the messes created by our and other’s choices, we tend to focus on what’s wrong with the picture. Our eyes get fixed on what’s spoiling our environment and believe only when it is removed will there be beauty again.

Mindfulness and wisdom teach us to accept the truth that life will never be perfect, pristine or picturesque.

Whether it is a situation or a someone, when an eyesore becomes all we can see we are unable to capture the truth of a beautiful life in an ugly world.

blessings,
bdl

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