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Three Surpises

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Three Surprises

In a recent conversation that included a range of topics including heaven, I told a friend what had been said to me many years ago. “There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. People will be surprised who made it. People will be surprised who didn’t make it. Lastly, people will be surprised we made it!” It’s a humorous yet true statement about the afterlife and Heaven’s membership. There will be surprises aplenty so don’t be so convinced in your beliefs, ability, and acceptability that you lose the mystery of a God who knows more than you, sees more than you, and is bigger than you can imagine. Heaven mirrors God’s nature and love not ours.

Wisdom teaches us that our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. In the Benedictine tradition, we are to keep our; “eyes tilted toward the ground.” We are to keep our sin and shortcomings always in front of us. Not as a burden to bear but a constant reminder of God’s goodness and a reason to rejoice.

Several years ago I was leading a Bible study and we were talking about God’s grace. I made the statement; “Without God, no matter what we said or did, we had no true goodness or love.” A man in our group spoke up and asked; “If we don’t have anything worth redeeming why does God love us?” “That,’ I answered, ‘is why they call it grace.

For more posts, reflections, poems, and other writings, please visit:
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)

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Straight

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Straighten

Last week was a mess! Weather-wise it rained a lot, the wind blew, the skies were overcast. As a result of the drenched soil and the wind, several of our young trees were tilted and needed to be straightened. To make them upright is more than grabbing them and forcing them back to the desired position. What needs to happen is for two or three stakes to be driven in the ground around the tree, a rope or string tied from the stake to the tree so that it can keep it straight. So, Beth and I went out Sunday and did this to several of our trees in need. As they grow the strings and ropes will need to be adjusted, the stakes repositioned and anchored until one day the tree doesn’t need the support any longer.

People in our lives are like these trees. The storms of life come and blow them off-balance, weakens their foundation, makes life skewed and pointed in the wrong direction. What we can do is come alongside these needy ones and be their support, giving them the additional strength they need until one day, hopefully, they are ready and able to stand straight on their own again.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Putting Feet to Your Faith

Putting Feet to Your Faith

This morning, in worship service, when one of the staff members went up on stage and gave the announcements she talked about a missions class. She said; “This class will help you put feet to your faith!”  To my knowledge, this is the first time I heard this phrase or at least the first time it resonated with me. I liked the idea of beliefs and action coexisting, what I think, say and do being in sync.

Later I reacted to a post from someone on Facebook who’s having a rough couple of weeks. There has been progressing in the recent past but for some reason, the last month or so battles thought won were being fought again. I replied to her post; “I understand and live these “honest and ugly” truths. It’s tough, feeling like you have to start over, but I’m reminded by wisdom and therapy that we’ve grown, have learned/are learning, experienced a new normal and the starting line has been moved. We may not be where we want to be but thankfully are not where we started.”

Even when it seems like our journey is two steps forward and three, maybe five, steps back we are making progress. We ask, no plead, for the faith to keep walking, to put feet to our faith.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Keep What Works

Keep What Works

This advertisement was in my Twitter feed this morning. When I was a pastor who had to prepare and deliver a message each Sunday I loved the times when after the service people would come up and ask a question, make a comment or even challenge something I said during the message.  It meant they were listening! I would listen to them and then discuss whatever was on their mind. At the end of the conversation I would often tell them; “Don’t take what I say as the truth. Go search for yourself. Find out if the all or part of the message is for you and keep what works and leave the rest.” I understood that depending on where we were on our path greatly determined what our minds, emotions, and spirits could process and apply at any given moment. Most of us have had the experience of someone excitedly telling us about something they heard someone say, or read in a book, and how it changed their lives. While we are grateful for our friend’s epiphany we also think to ourselves; “I’ve told them this a thousand times and they never listened!” It’s because they weren’t ready. The good piece of advice, the important life lesson we told them wasn’t ready to be heard.

Wisdom teaches us that many truths surround us presently. However, we can only perceive a few, if any, because we are unaware, distracted. The best news is that these truths are timeless and sooner or later they’re ready to be received and applied. Sometimes we become frustrated because we seem to be learning the same things over and over. We need to learn to give ourselves a break and trust that one day the truth we’ve been searching for will be received and kept because it works.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Knocking

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Knocking

This morning I woke up with a headache. It felt like a giant was knocking on the front door of my face. I at breakfast took a pill and laid back down. It helped a little but it’s been painful off and on most of the afternoon.

Last week a friend told me he had a “secret knock” whenever he went over to his mother’s home. He said this knock was for her to know that it was him without looking out the window to see. I liked this idea both the reality and the thought behind it.

We have ideas which knock on the doors of our heads. Some of these thoughts, especially the ones filled with doubt, confusion, anger, can take us to places we don’t want to go. Wisdom teachers call this; “monkey mind” a mind filled with chatter like monkeys in a tree, never-ceasing or giving a moment’s peace. It can also be called; “thought train” which is a mind that’s on a particular set of tracks taking us to places it’s not always wise to go.

The good news is we are able to train our minds to recognize “monkey minds, thought trains” and refuse to let them take over our spirits and emotions. The key to mindful living is to be present, in the now. Our minds are not all-powerful and we do have the capability of saying; “No” to negative, repetitive, thoughts and “Yes” to those which keep us centered, balanced and at peace. We simply need to know when and when not to open the door.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Cracked

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Cracked

My fingers have a nasty way of cracking and splitting open when I work outside during the winter in cold and dry conditions. Last week my thumb developed a big one. I had several days of work in front of me and it was becoming sorer by the moment. Finally, after arriving home from a trip yesterday, my wife “made it better.” She cleaned it with Peroxide, gently using a Q-Tip to get the dirt and grime in the crack, applied Neosporin to the affected area and then covered it with a Band-Aid to keep it protected. I repeated the procedure this afternoon and will continue until it improves.

Certain seasons of life can also wound us physically, emotionally and spiritually. We do our best to keep going but sooner or later we must pay attention to the hurt because if we don’t it will only get worse. At times others can help us heal and other times we can do it ourselves. Wisdom teaches us the important axiom; “If we can’t take care of ourselves we can’t take care of others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Big Ol’ Pile

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Big Ol’ Pile

In our second bedroom/exercise room, we have a queen size bed. At least we think we do. Most of the time it is covered in clean clothes. We call the ever-growing pile; “Mount Clothesmore.” Eventually, we decide to scale the mountain and fold the clothes. This was my chore today. I don’t like folding clothes. I think it’s because it never ends. You fold, put them up, wear them, wash and dry them, and then back on the bed. The cyclic nature of it all can make you feel as if it doesn’t matter whether the chore gets done or not. To prove my point, when I finished today Beth said; “There are more clothes in the dryer!” See? Never ending. Most of life is this way. You get up and do the same things over and over. Eating, working, exercise (maybe), chores, bed. Repeat. It can begin to feel as if nothing matters.

How do we keep going? How do we find meaning in this Big Ol’ Pile of cyclic activities we call; “life“? Being mindful helps. Trying to be aware of the differences each unique day and moment brings. There are new things to see, to experience. Things which give us a one of a kind, never done before, never to be repeated, life.

Perhaps, the question to ask ourselves is; “Am I ready? Am I looking? Am I expecting to see, to find, that new thing which makes all the other mundane stuff worth doing?

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Behind the Eyes

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Behind the Eyes

I saw a picture of me from several years ago today. As most people, I don’t care for my photo to be taken but when it is I “grin and bear it.” Looking at the picture today the smile was there but it wasn’t genuine. There was also something missing in the eyes. There was no light behind them. They were hollow and sad. I was surrounded by friends in the photo, good friends. It should’ve been a time of stories, thankfulness, and memories but I can tell in my eyes it wasn’t any of those for me, only a blank stare and pasted smile. This was about a year before I was diagnosed with a Chronic Major Depressive Disorder.

The journey over these last years has been a hard one and there is still far to go but looking back I can see where I’ve come from and this does bring me relief. I’m not stuck in the same place even though sometimes it feels that way.

I’ve been watching a documentary titled; “The Kingdom of Us.” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/08/the-kingdom-of-us-review-netflix-teenagers-lucy-cohen) It is the story of a family recovering from their father’s suicide. They listen to recordings of his voice, often in song, and watch videos of him and the family. They ask each other repeatedly, “Look at him! He’s so sad. Why didn’t we see it?” I know the answer; “because he didn’t want it to be seen.” We’ve all been there and done that; plastered on a smile when our hearts are breaking inside. We’ve pushed on even though everything feels broken inside.

Too often we take people’s word when we ask; “How are you?” and they reply; “Fine’ or ‘Good.” The key to discovering the truth is asking more than once and keep at it until they feel you might actually want to know.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Keep Your Feet

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Keep Your Feet

Yesterday we had snow and ice fall in our area. As a result, today’s travel by truck and foot has been perilous. I drove extra slow around some of the country back roads that were hills and curvy. At each place I arrived, I carefully exited the truck and made sure my feet were on solid ground and not icy patches before fully placing my weight upon them. I walked slowly, deliberately and kept my feet where I could see them to be sure I didn’t slide, fall and hurt myself. This evening when I pulled into the driveway I checked the mail and walking to the house I continued my deliberate pace. Finally, once inside I put on a pair warm PJs and felt I could fully relax.

As I traversed the ice and snow today I remember the wise saying; “Keep your feet beneath you. Don’t let them wander off or there’s no telling where you will end up.” I kept my feet and they led me home.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Where You Heading?

Where You Heading?

I’ve spent much of this week thinking about my past and considering my future. It’s always scary, wondering what’s around the corner.

I started two new jail classes this week. One of the first disciplines I teach is for them to consider their present and think about their future. The first part is necessary because it helps us take stock of what we’ve done, who we are, and how choices have led us to this place in our lives. After you’ve accepted where and who you are, then you decide if it is where you want to stay. “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

Most of the men I work with tell me they want to make better choices, be better men and fathers but it’s not enough to want, action must be taken. Different choices must be made to be a different man and father. I explain that; “What you do today determines who you’ll be, what you’ll be, tomorrow.

This is true for all of us.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Empty

Empty

Last week Beth had purchased some groceries at the store and brought them home. I went outside to help her bring them in when she arrived home. One of the bags I grabbed was a carton of milk and as I carried it inside somehow the milk fell out and bounced off the floor. Then milk began to shoot out everywhere. I picked it up and put it over the sink and observed there was a two-inch crack that resulted from the fall in the plastic container. I called to Beth and she came and found something else to pour the milk into before it had all of it was wasted in the sink.

There are times when I feel like that container of milk. It’s like; “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up or stop leaking!” Life has a way of bouncing us around, cracking us up and before we know it the good stuff; emotional stability, mental acuity and healthy spirituality are wasted away. Thankfully most of us have others we can depend on to help us through these difficult times. They help keep negative attitudes from filling what is empty and enable us to still remain useful no matter what life may bring our way.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Warmth

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Warmth

I think I’m in love with the electric-heated fleece throw my wife bought me for Christmas. It is wonderful! Especially when it is cold outside like this week has been. Instead of putting over me I’ve tucked it in and around the place I sit on the couch. I come home, turn it on, throw a blanket on top, change and by the time I’m ready to sit down the blanket is warm. It’s like sinking into a soft cocoon of heat. The room and house don’t feel as cold when I am wrapped in the throw.

There are also people and places who make us feel this way. There’s something about their presence which makes us feel good and safe. I’m not a hugger but I love getting hugs from my wife. She’s the type of person who portrays warmth and acceptance. My aunt Evon, who passed away several years ago, was the same way.

In a world which seems to be increasingly divided, we need more warmth, more acceptance, more love. Our crazy mixed up world thinks there are other ways to heal the divisions, start over, bring peace. Truly, only love has that power. It takes more courage to love someone than to hate them, let go of prejudices than keep them, listen and build relationships instead of keeping everyone who disagrees with us at arm’s length.

Warmth. On a cold day in December, it’s a needed and comforting thought.

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

Bright

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Brightly

The sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.

I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.

Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Mentoring

Mentoring

Today, at a county health council, I had the privilege to listen to a man speak about an abusive childhood which was saved by someone who cared enough to take him under his wing and become his mentor. He described how this older gentleman would take him out for breakfast some morning and listen, just listen. This went on for several months. Finally, it dawned on the young man that he wasn’t being judged or given unsolicited advice, his mentor was there to hear him. He listened to the good and a lot of bad, the smidgen of positive and a plethora of negatives. The young man, at last, ran out of words to say and the mentor slowly helped him work through all the challenges and difficulties which result from growing up in an abusive and neglectful home. This mentor made all the difference in his life and as a result, the speaker now helps run a multi-county mentoring program and has improved the lives of countless young men and women.

It was a great reminder that most times the greatest gifts we can give another is presence and listening. Too often we see our role in the chaotic lives of others as telling them what to do, how to do it, advice that will make things better and shape to look more like ours. The speaker said today; “I didn’t need someone to tell me all the things I needed to do. I needed someone to let me get it all out so I could sort through it all and figure out what to keep and what to throw away.

Presence and listening. Two of the greatest and perhaps least used treasures we possess.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Rolling in the Deep

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Rolling in the Deep

Today I had my annual doctor’s visit. It went well with lower weight and blood pressure. Although I was happy with the outcomes of these I knew what was coming. They had to draw blood. I don’t like needles, small rooms, people breaking my personal space, so this was not going to be fun. The nurse was likable and chatty. I told her; “Just do what you have to do. I’m not going to look. I don’t want a warning. I want it over.” She understood and began tapping my veins to find a good one. She said; “Oh! This is going to be easy. You have nice big veins. What she didn’t realize was my veins like to roll. She stuck me, “Ouch!”, and began trying to pin on of them down. She couldn’t do it. After trying to catch the vein with the big metal needle she had in my arm she took it out and tried to find another one. Locating it she stabbed me again and once again couldn’t pin the rolling vein. Finally, she said; “Let me see if another person will have better luck.” I waited and the next nurse came in, began exploring my other arm, found a vein, and struck blood on her first try. “Whew!” When she was finished I was thankful to get out of that office.

After leaving the office I thought about the interior work of wisdom. Sometimes it is a lot like drawing blood from an uncooperative vein. The lessons learned, bring pain and there doesn’t seem anything to show for it. However, if we keep at it, sooner or later the innermost parts of us are touched and the fruits of our searching produce needed results.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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