The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.
This morning I went to the dentist. I hate going to the dentist! I went at 7:30AM because thinking about the appointment all day would make my anxiety grow by the hour. This way I wake up and go straight there and get it over. I take my phone and ear buds along with me to listen to, a dose of anti-anxiety medicine, and the dentist provides comforting words, gentle work and a supply of Nitrous Oxide (https://www.google.com/search?q=nitrous+oxide&oq=nitrous+o&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.2956j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8). When I first went to the dentist we sat and talked about my anxiety and claustrophobia issues. He understood and has done a fantastic job making me feel the least anxiety as possible. After it was over I left, slightly woozy but two teeth which needed fillings done completely.
The dentist is one of those things in life you don’t want to do but know have to be done. Know matter how much worry, dread, and procrastination, sooner or later you have to go and if it’s too much later you will regret it. As the numbing in my lips and gums wore off I thought about other things in life we don’t like to do but should. Forgiving people who have hurt us, asking forgiveness of those we have offended, reflecting on difficult and painful situations and asking; “What did I learn?”, allowing wisdom to search the deepest places in our lives, filling the holes in our minds, emotions, and spirits to be filled with kindness, love, and grace. These are never easy but waiting until we are ready might mean we never reach a place of healing and peace.
Last night Beth and I watched the bio-movie; “The Founder”, starring Michael Keaton. It is the story of Ray Croc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain. It is an interesting movie of how Croc took a hamburger stand, owned by the two McDonald’s brothers, and made it into a food empire.
At the beginning of the movie, Croc is a persistent, charismatic, but not completely successful restaurant equipment sales rep. While on the road he learns that a place in Bakersfield, California, has ordered six milk shake makers! He’s intrigued enough to find out what kind of restaurant needs this many and drives to their location. While there he sees the McDonald’s brothers “Speedy System” (where and how the workers are placed in the assembly area) and the unique layout of their restaurant which allows them to make “made to order” hamburgers in less than thirty seconds! Ray Croc is in awe and talks the brothers into letting him begin to sell franchises all over America. Initially, everything goes relatively smoothly but Ray Croc’s ambition, craving for money and fame, eventually drive him and the brothers apart. I won’t spoil the movie but it’s worth watching.
As I was reflecting on the story today I thought about vision and how it unites or divides people. It can be the vision of ourselves, family, community, church, organization, nation or world. Everyone has a vision of how things “should” be and some share the same vision while others oppose it. Competing visions can cause dissension and dissolution of connectedness and relationships.
Wisdom teaches us the more tightly we hold to our visions of things the more suffering we cause ourselves and others. Only when we are open and allow for the possibility of differing views can we be at peace with ourselves and others.
Today I’ve been thinking about the eclipse which happened yesterday. It was awesome and am thankful I was alive to see it. However, I’ve also been thinking about the fact that we see the sun and the moon every day. All we have to do is look up at the correct time, as with the eclipse, and we can see both in much if not all of their glory. What made yesterday’s event special was the two occupying the sky at the same time. It was so spectacular we bought dorky looking glasses, closed down schools and businesses, marked the day on our calendar and watched the time closely. All so we wouldn’t miss two objects in the sky, hundred of thousands of miles away from us, come together.
The moon is about 200,000 miles from the planet we call home. This seems like a huge number until we realize the sun is almost 93 million! Yet, for a few moments yesterday, the moon, which is much smaller, blocked out the sun. The difference is compared to the sun, the moon is sitting right next to us.
Reflecting on this I begin to wonder about our proximity to each other and the troubles we are all trying to overcome. Sometimes the obstacles and dangers we face seem so big and terrible. They are daunting and overwhelming until someone does something kind for us. Then, even if for a few moments, the act of mercy and grace is what we see not the enormous challenges we are fighting to overcome.
There are people we know who are fighting for their very lives. An enemy, a disease, a crisis of a sort that we ask; “What can I do?” The answer is simple; be kind. We will be amazed at the difference a random act of kindness can make.
Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
This morning I had to pull up a part of the porch we’ve been working on. The problem was that a particular spot was weak. If you didn’t step in the particular place one would never notice the “give” but when you hit it just right there was no missing the lack of stability. I unscrewed the section of flooring and discovered there wasn’t cross beam to aid the support of this portion. So, I added a couple of two by fours, dropped the wood floor back in place, added a few extra screws and; “viola!” no more weak spot.
Reflecting on the weak spot I thought about the areas of weaknesses in our own lives. Sometimes the vulnerable places are well-known to us and those who care for us. These are hurts, habits, and hangups, which are easily visible and not difficult to find. Then there are those hidden areas that unless the precise place is touched, a name is mentioned, temptation beckons, fragility exposed, we give, perhaps even believe in, an image of strength and control.
Knowing and adding support for our vulnerable areas takes first a willingness to see the soft spots and allow others to view them as well. Then, in humbleness, we seek guidance in how best to make strong areas which are weak. Many times our frailties are revealed to us by others. Though we may be uncomfortable with others knowing our flaws, defects and shortcomings, many times it is the keen eye, and strong support of a friend, that helps put us on the road to true inner wisdom and strength.
Last week was the first time I had heard the words; “Pokemon” and “Go” together. A couple of folks in the office were talking about it and I was listening trying to figure out what they were saying, describing and deriving so much joy and interest. Like a newbie, I asked several questions but still didn’t understand the concept. Little did I know this conversation would be the beginning of an information immersion into this app game for a cellphone I would receive over the last several days. I’ve heard about it on the news, podcasts, social media and more. I’ve seen pictures of people, phone up to their faces, meandering around, running to areas where “creatures?” can be found and trying to “catch” them.
Reflecting on this latest phenomenon I am reminded how each of us have goals we pursue. We seek the elusive, the valuable, the treasured, the thing that will bring contentment and meaning into our lives. However, unless we are pursuing the truth each goal we grasp only leaves us unfulfilled and a new goal appears with further promises of purpose and peace. If we’re not careful we can spend our lives chasing, finding and capturing that which will not satisfy.
“Truth is easy to understand once it is discovered; the point is to discover it.”
This morning was communion Sunday. At our place of worship we celebrate it monthly. This sacrament is special to most believers and specifically for me. Normally, communion is held on the first Sunday of the month, however, the pastor was on vacation last week so today was when the elements would be served.
I’ve been fighting a sinus infection the past several days and the symptoms that go with it. Being sick is never fun and meds plus mucus can equal bad breath. Fearing someone might collapse as I was talking with them I’ve been keeping a supply of breath mints with me this week.
Coming into the sanctuary this morning I popped a large spearmint candy into my mouth. About half way through the service, and my breath mint, the stewards were called forward and began distributing the wafers and grape juice (our denomination doesn’t use wine). “Uhoh,” was my first thought. “What do I do with the too big to swallow, don’t want to break my teeth trying to chew it, piece of candy?” Finally, I surreptitiously removed it so I would be able to; “eat the bread (body) and drink the juice (blood.)”
After reflecting upon the symbolism of the Last Supper, prayerfully considering and confessing the state of my spirit and life I ate and drank. The taste was odd. Unleavened bread, Welch’s grape juice doesn’t mix well with spearmint. Slowly, the strange flavor faded and the taste of the elements was all that remained.
As the worship service continued I thought about the breath mint and what to do with it. I decided to discard it. I preferred the new taste was better and wanted it to last as long as possible.