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Another Way

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Another Way

This morning the pastor spoke from a selection of scripture regarding the story of how David, from the Bible, became King and conquered Jerusalem. It is an interesting story from the book of Second Samuel. When David, newly anointed, marched with his armies to the city of Jerusalem to reclaim it from the Jebusites, the foreigners were unimpressed. A ragtag, wannabe, King with his little army? How could they defeat the Jebusite army who far outnumbered them and were held up in the city of Jerusalem which had a great wall around it to repel invasion forces? They mocked David and told him they could put blind and lame men at the main gate and David still wouldn’t get in. However, David knew there was an access to the city through its water supply and his men came up through a well in the city and mounted a surprise attack to conquer the Jebusites.

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.

On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.[a]” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”

David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces[b] inward. And he became more and more powerful because the Lord God Almighty was with him.”
-Book of Second Samuel, Chapter 5

As I listened to the story I thought of challenges, difficulties, illnesses and other “enemies” had strongholds in my life. It seemed no matter what I tried I couldn’t defeat them. It was only after I stopped trying to take them “head on” that wisdom made known to me another way. There are battles for our spirits, emotions, our innermost being that requires us to be not frantic but still, not exhausting ourselves but saving our strength, not egotistical but willing to ask for and accept help, not stubborn but soft and bending, not stronger but wiser.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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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

Who Cares?

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Who Cares?

This morning, in worship service, the pastor asked; “Who’s rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles tonight? Who’s going for the New England Patriots? Who doesn’t care? Who didn’t know the Superbowl was being played today?” There were hands and voices raised for each question.

Around 120 million people will watch the Superbowl tonight. That’s over a third of the population of this country which is roughly 323 million. Amazing to me that we can watch a football game together but can’t seem to unite over much else. It’s also a surprise the 2/3 of America doesn’t care about the game at all!

I will be rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t have anything against the Patriots they’ve just won it so many times I think it would be nice to give it to someone else for a change. The coverage for the big game started early this morning. The network broadcasting the Superbowl had a great interview with a Patriot’s receiver, his wife, and children. It was a reminder that individual people, with unique stories, make up the teams.

It’s a shame we don’t remember that when we are attacking others for their political, cultural and religious opinions and beliefs. We cast a large net over those who don’t think like us and label them; “bad” or “good” according to our own fallible judgments.

Maybe, if we could see the individual, listen to their story, discover we’re all trying to make it the best we know how, we would realize when we fight all of us lose.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

How’s Your Aim?

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How’s Your Aim?

This past Sunday morning the Mrs. and I went to our neighborhood church. It’s a small country congregation who meet in a small white building complete with steeple. We arrived as the service was starting and were quickly noticed by one of our neighbors and invited to sit with them. As with most small churches guests are welcomed profusely and it seemed as if every person in the worship room wanted to shake our hands and to tell us how happy they are to see us. This is one of the reasons I love small churches.

Finally, we were able to sit down and the music minister asked everyone to stand. We sang a few hymns and then the pastor stepped up on the platform to preach. As he was walking up to the pulpit I noticed he was carrying a firearm in a holster on his hip. I began looking around and noticed the music minister, and two ushers also were packing heat! Four guns in a group of about 30 people in a room no bigger than 25 feet by 50 feet. Needless to say, I didn’t feel safer and whispered to my wife; “There are 4 people with guns in this room. If someone comes in and starts shooting there will be bullets coming from every direction. Get on the ground and stay as low as you can!” The pastor spoke on; “Guarding your thoughts” but I must admit my thoughts were on all the firepower in the room and what would happen if someone’s gun fell out their holster and start going off!

This isn’t an anti-gun post it is simply surreal that guns in church are now an acceptable casualty of our culture. It also begs the question; “What would Jesus say about guns in a place of peace?”

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Jesus, The Master; The Gospel according to Saint John, Chapter 14

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Perspective

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Perspective

Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.

The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.

Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;

“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”

This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.

We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Leadership is Not a Position 

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Someone asked me this morning what makes a good leader? I thought for a moment and replied; “I have worked with great and not so great leaders. The difference is a great leader doesn’t have the need to be recognized as great.”

I then relayed a story about a senior manager who told me how he’d been having trouble with some folks in his organization. He was going to have a meeting with them and invited the district manager to attend.  When the manager arrived at the room where the meeting would be held he found the district manager arranging the chairs in a circle for the participants. The senior manager stopped him and said he should be recognized, seated, placed among the the others in such a way they would see and know he’s in charge.

I remember listening to this manager as he shared this story with a sense of triumph and pride in his voice. However, all I could think is; “a leader doesn’t need special positioning to be recognized as great.”

The great leaders I’ve known and admire are humble, sit wherever there’s a seat, are as comfortable listening as speaking. They don’t dominate every conversation, are open to contrary opinions and aren’t threatened by the talents and gifts of others. They don’t desire a particular parking spot, the corner office or their name on a sign. They instill purpose not pressure, harness the passions of their team not harass those serving with them, embrace the strengths of others and are not envious of those who do some things better.

Great leaders see their position on a team as a blessing not a right and an opportunity to make others and themselves better.

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

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Changing the World

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This morning it was my privilege to speak to a group of almost 50 men about the path we travel and how our decisions have a lasting impact upon those we call our families.

In our me centered culture we forget how our lives are not just our own. Who we are, the way we live, models for those we travel life’s path with what’s important. What we hold dear, what we treasure, is reflected by where we put our time, energy and passion. Whoever or whatever is the object of our affection flourishes while what’s neglected wilts and fades away.

“What can we do to promote world peace? Go home and love our families.” #MotherTeresa

Simple but profound wisdom and guidance from Saint Teresa. How can we make this crazy, chaotic, spinning piece of space rock a better place? We start by making sure the ones closest to us are loved and appreciated.

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

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Seeing from Within

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It wasn’t the easiest of conversations to have but he had to know and I had to be the one to tell him. It’s difficult when someone needs to hear a hard truth.  He was sure, convinced, it was out there, beyond himself. Someone else was the harmful influence, another’s behavior and choices were ruining a relationship, spoiling a partnership, when it was, in fact, him. It was his bias, ego and flawed judgement. His view of a perceived “enemy” obscured him seeing the predator within. “The problem isn’t with this other person.” I said. “It’s with you. Until you become more aware of who you are, you’ll never see them for who they really are, appreciate them for the challenge and blessing they bring to your life.”

Unfortunately he never grasped what I was saying, never looked deep enough into himself to see that the way we view others reveals much more about ourselves than it does them.

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

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Don’t Let the Sun

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I was talking with a friend today about being frustrated, irritated, even angry at someone we love. It happens to us all and there’s nothing wrong with being angry if there is a legitimate reason. It’s what we do with that emotion that results in negative consequences. A harsh word becomes hurt feelings, a slammed door becomes a barrier, another flurry of insults adds injuries and a relationship is pulled apart.

Anger is oftentimes the result of ignored stress, built up resentment, unexpressed emotion, lack of communication. One or a combination of these clouds our minds, frays our nerves, drains our emotions, poisons our spirits.

Saint Paul’s wisdom for dealing with anger in his letter to the church in Ephesus is still viable today:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give evil an opportunity.

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

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The Perfect Moment

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How do you recognize the perfect moment? How can you tell if where you are at a certain place, a specific time, is more than coincidence, happenstance? How do you know the difference between divine design and dumb luck? Someone told me this week; “You are where God wants you to be!” They said it with such confidence I was taken aback.

There are those who see the world in black and white, right and wrong, God’s will or God’s wrath, while others live in a space painted with many shades of gray. I am one of the latter. I don’t doubt the conviction of the black and whiters I just question my ability to sift through the layers of motives, the machinations of natural and moral laws, missed, realized and ignored opportunities, perception and preconceived notions, desires dreams and destiny.

I believe the path I walk is uniquely mine though I travel with others. The way is uncertain though many have gone before me. The destination is described by the living but only the dead have arrived there. I have this moment, it is all that is promised me and I ask for the strength to live it well.

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

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When the Way is Dark

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I was talking with a friend earlier this week about a difficult time she’s going through.  Someone hurt her, lied and has brought pain and great upheaval into her life. She’s prayed over it, is trying to forgive but clearly the wound is still fresh and deep.

I shared with her my journey and talked about how difficult it can be when people we trust do things that cause us great harm. We agreed that time, grace and a listening ear are all ingredients to forgiveness and finding our path when the way is dark.

A wise person once said; “One day we’ll look back on the people who helped and hurt us and be thankful for them both.” Neither my friend or I have arrived at this point but I was thankful my story could bring solace to one who’s suffering.

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

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Spoiled

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World Water Day is marked on 22 March every year. It’s a day to celebrate water. It’s a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues.”

This past Sunday was World Water Day. I read about water related issues across the globe, tweeted a few links and mentioned it on Facebook. Truthfully, however, I didn’t give it much consideration until this morning when I opened up an extra bottle of water that was in my truck, not to drink, to rinse out my coffee mug. As the water spilled onto the ground I remembered those who do not have and I felt shame for my wastefulness and beyond blessed.

I am a white, middle class American male. Much of what I take for granted every day most of the world has little or no access. A lot of what I complain and whine about not having is a dream life to billions of people.

I am spoiled. It is a confession and a prayer to feel the hurt, know the struggle of my brothers and sisters with whom I share this planet.

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

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Whew!

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Busy day! Rushing, running, racing from one place to another. Trying not to be late for meetings and appointments while staying in the present moment is quite a balancing act. I took time to feel the warmth of the sunshine on my face, the cool breeze on my arm while being mindful of the clock that seemed to run fast all day long.

When I finally got home the quietness of the house literally rang in my ears. Silence is loud when you’re accustomed to noise, stillness unsettling when you’ve been in constant motion.

A deep cleansing breath to exhale the dust of the miles I’ve traveled today, a closing of my eyes to forget the clock I’ve watched, a letting go of the schedule I clung to so tightly.

Whew.

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

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Blessing of Chaos

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Let’s hear it for chaos! The confusion and catastrophes we encounter on the road of life. The chasms and canyons we must cross, climb out of, forge and finagle to reach the promise land of peace and contentment.

Change is frightening, fearful and our instinct is to fight and hold on for dear life to what is familiar. We place our faith in what is comfortable, old habits, well known friends, old wine skins stretched and worn.

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Chaos. Waves crashing, wind howling, tides pulling us under, we gasp for air, it is life. Going down, drowning, sinking deeper into the unknown abyss we close our eyes and breathe our last.

Chaos, uncertainty, instability. The tidal wave of change sweeps us under and in the depths we find stillness. Lost in the darkness of confusion an unseen path leads us home.

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

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Breathing in Hope

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The bug man came to the house today to spray inside our home and outside to protect future plants and soon to be flowers from pesky predators. It’s another sign that spring is on the way!

I took the dogs to the top of the hill behind our house so they wouldn’t bug the bug man as he did his business. The wind was blowing and the pooches and I stuck our noses in the air taking deep breaths of a new season sweeping in. There’s something about spring, the warm chasing out the cold, the blue skies overcoming the gray, the light increasing as the dark retreats.

Sitting on that hill, filling my lungs with air was like inhaling hope and exhaling the despair of a long, cold winter.

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

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the Happy Place

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Today is International Happy day! If you didn’t realize this you’re not alone. I had no idea until I read about it online.

Being happy can be difficult in a world so full of sadness and badness. Some folks find it difficult, if not impossible, to find the good, when darkness obscures their vision. Trite expressions such as; “don’t worry be happy, turn that frown upside down, you’re as happy as you make up your mind to be,” ring hollow in the ears of those struggling with life circumstances that steal their joy, sap their strength, weigh heavy on their spirits.

For some, at this time in their life, where they are on the journey, happiness isn’t an option. They are simply trying to take the next step, to not give up, to survive.

Happiness, an often desired but elusive emotion, state of mind and being.

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

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How it Ends

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I know someone who’s struggled through a very hard life. We talk about where and how he grew up, the choices others have made to help shape his life and the choices he’s selected. The toxic environment he was born into poisoned much of his childhood and tainted his vision of the world. Much of his current struggles have a lot to do with his complicated and chaotic past.

When we talk I remind him that the book of his life has not been finished. Some of the chapters were written by him and others by different authors but he decides who and what will write the rest.

The obstacles he needs to overcome, the lessons learned, the people left behind, the consequences accepted, will not be easy but it is his choice. He didn’t choose how the story began but he can choose how it ends.

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

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Good Shoes

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This morning I put on my “good shoes” for an important presentation to a group of highly respected people. These are my shiny, black, fancy dress shoes that I wear with one of the few suits I own. I’ve had these shoes for several years but they still hurt my feet because they’re not worn enough to get broken in. Mostly they’ve taken me to weddings, funerals, other important services and events. I’d much rather wear a pair of tennis shoes or flip flops but there are occasions when only my “good shoes” will do.

As I reflect upon my journey over the last year and the places my “good shoes” have accompanied me I realized most have been painful, even heart breaking. I wore them to a service when I said; “goodbye” to friends I loved. They were on my feet when I laid my dear friend Mary to rest.

No one’s ever promised an easy journey and sometimes “good shoes” are required.

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

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Still Believe?

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His life was written in wrinkles on his face and faded tattoos on his arms. As we talked it shocked me to learn he was not much older than I physically but the world had aged him far beyond his years.

He asked me a simple question but it was loaded with uncertainty and resignation; “Can it get better?” The inquiry betrayed his hard outter shell.  It revealed a life, a person whose hope had been dashed against the rock of reality, his outlook shaped by dissapointments and pain.

I paused before I answered. A blithe response, a quick anecdote, a dismissive comment could crush an already broken spirit. “Yes,’ I answered, ‘if we keep working, trying, and refuse to believe our story is complete, that there are no more pages to be written.'” He sighed.

We parted ways and I wondered if he’d heard that answer before and I wondered if he still believed.

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

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Getting Clean

 

My wife had an unexpected visitor in the shower this morning. A snail had made its way from who knows where and camped out on her shower scrubber. She was not very welcoming to her guest! I’m not sure what she did with the snail but the shower scrubber was thrown into the garbage immediately. I asked her why she got rid of it and she said because it had snail slime on it! “Don’t you wash with the scrubber and it gets dirty? Then the soap makes it clean. What’s the difference?” I inquired. “I’m not using it after a snail’s been on it!” She replied and in such a tone that also informed me the discussion was over.

Sometimes in life what and who we hope will clean us up, improve our lives us ends up slimy and sullied. Friendships which once helped now hinder us. Role models we emulated let us down. What we put our faith in crashes and burns.

It can be disillusioning and disheartening when this happens but it’s also reality. Wisdom tells us to be be careful and cautious in what and who we trust to make us better and that to grow in grace disappointments must be encountered and overcome.

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

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Odd Couple

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She was a conservatively dressed, hat wearing, gray haired elder. He was an earring dangling, boot stomping, faded jean sporting country boy, a cross between a hipster and Kenny Chesney. They made an incredibly odd pair. Yet, this morning, I watched as he gently helped her up from her seat and walked her down the aisle for morning communion. I couldn’t help but smile and wonder if they were related, this strange mix of people. Then it dawned on me, of course they’re related because we’re all family, one, human.

It’s easy to forget we’re part of the same species. Our differences in skin color, political affiliations, cultures, languages, geographic locations are used by those in power to rip us apart by trying to get us to focus on what separates us.

Wisdom, however, speaks amid the fractious voices and reminds us that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us. The question, as always, will we listen?

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

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