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Listening is Not Agreeing

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Listening is Not Agreeing

Late last week someone said something about me and that I didn’t agree. At first, the emotion was to respond, defend myself, dig in my heels, push back against the criticism. It wasn’t something overwhelmingly harsh but it did rub me the wrong way.

Instead of responding right away I sat with it for a bit and reflected on it. Oftentimes critiques are met with resistance. We want to defend ourselves. However, if we are too quick to jump our own defense we might miss something constructive. There’s an old wisdom saying; “Both criticism and compliments should be taken with the same weight.” Receiving compliments and praise can be easier but they have a way of pumping up our ego and sense of self. Criticisms, if held on to, can create bitterness, rivalry, and ruptured relationships.

One of the greatest disciplines of contemplative listening is found in the truth; “Listening is not agreeing.” When someone speaks to us a compliment or criticism we do not have to own it, take it inside of us, let it mingle with our minds, emotions, and spirits. We can examine it, turn it over in our minds and, if we have self-awareness, can decide if it is meant for us, to grow, to learn, to let it become a part of us. Perhaps its simply another’s opinion and through insight and stillness, we discover that we can let it go. It’s not for us.

“The mark of a wise mind is the ability to hold a thought in our heads
and not necessarily believe it to be true.” #Aristotle

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Expecting

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Expecting

It is so had to do, acting without expecting. Two plus two equals four but life is not mathematics. One action does not necessarily equal an expected result.

Several years ago I was on staff at a large organization and following a particularly long meeting I was among a group of members talking in a hallway. The conversation didn’t last long but I said something in passing that hurt the feelings of a fellow staff member. I didn’t realize it until that evening when I received a long email about what I had said and done. It took me by complete surprise. I sent an email back immediately apologizing and promising to be more careful with my words and received another email outlining other things I had done that this staff member found irritating and insulting. Again, I apologized and began looking at my words and behavior to see if I could find all of these faults. I didn’t agree with everything this staff member wrote but I felt they deserved enough respect from me to pray for greater self-awareness in all my interactions.

This is why expectations can be so dangerous. We may know, or hope we know, our intentions as we develop and cultivate relationships, make our way with others along this path called life. We may not wish to hurt others or offend them. Our life can be about peace and kindness but it may not always be perceived that way. We must purposefully live well but not expect our lives to be beyond questioning. When we make a mistake or someone is hurt by something we have done, even if we believed we acted innocently, we seek forgiveness and restoration so that our lives match the intent of our hearts.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Vision

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Vision

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.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Non-Stop

Non-Stop

One of my favorite wisdom images is that of a waterfall slowly wearing down the rock it is falling upon. It is one of the paradoxes of life; softness combined with persistence is more powerful than the hardest substance or obstacle.

There are many things in life which are hard to overcome. Diseases, health issues, broken relationships, betrayal, and death of loved ones, are never easy to face or deal with on a long-term basis. We’d rather bad things were quick. It’s why people become addicts of all sorts. To rid ourselves of the pain, almost anything else seems preferable.

Life is hard. No one said it would be easy and yet for most of us, our expectation is that it will be, until… Until something happens when we’re young or old that changes our understanding of life being fair, equal, honorable. Bad stuff happens and when it does something inside us breaks and we’re faced with the decision to harden our wills or our hearts.

If we harden our wills, let them be soft but strong, accepting life as it is not as we wish it to be we can overcome almost anything. If we harden our hearts, we keep people at a distance, refuse to be engaged in a dangerous and painful world, and wall ourselves off, stone cold, inside and out.

The choice is ours. It is the choice of living at peace or becoming the walking dead.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Toxic

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Toxic

There’s a funny, not so funny, saying that goes; “The world would be great if it wasn’t for all the people!

I spoke with someone today who’s going through a difficult time. His relationship with someone important is slipping away and he can’t do anything to stop it. I know this because he told me all the ways he’s tried to stop it and nothing has worked. As we talked I reminded him of the troubling, but truthful news, that if someone decides not to be a part of your life anymore there’s not much to do but accept it.

Sometimes people stay in toxic relationships because what you know is better than what you don’t. However, sometimes one-half of the poisoned couple chooses to end it. Most of the time, even when it’s for our own good, it’s difficult to let go of someone we’ve shared a significant portion of our life.

Wisdom teaches us to keep an open hand on all things and with some things to turn your hand over and empty it. Relationships, be it marriages, partners, friends or co-workers should be built upon trust, love, kindness and mutual growth. When they go bad and there’s no hope of restoration it’s best to let go and move on.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Important

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Important

In a conversation the other day someone made the statement: “I’d really like you guys to pray for me. I have a business meeting tomorrow and it’s the most important meeting of my life!” I thought for a moment about what he said, figured it was hyperbole, but didn’t want to take the chance. I responded; “It’s not even close to the most important meeting you’ve had or will have in your life. You’ve met your wife, your son, and there have been and will be countless meetings where you will show love, grace, and kindness to others. These meetings will be the ones that count. This meeting tomorrow? Twenty years from now you’ll look back on it and wonder why you worried or even cared.”

Too often we place too much emphasis on things which may matter a little but pale quickly in comparison to the truly important. Every now and then we need to be reminded and refocused. As it was for this man, may it be for me and for every one of us.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Fight the Way You Practice

Fight the Way You Practice

This afternoon was the first class for Incarcerated Fathers, Spring 2017. The first day of class is always a little awkward. The residents do not know you and you don’t know them. You explain how the class works, what’s required of them and what you will give for the class to be a success.

We talked about respect and relationships and how the key to successful parenting is our children being able to trust that we will be there for them in every way possible. By doing this we give kids the confidence that they can venture out into the world because home is always safe and always there.

Many of the men I teach in these classes didn’t have that kind of home life growing up and find it difficult to picture what a family such as this would look like. As we go through the class we will practice showing them it is possible and necessary to give their children the childhood the residents didn’t grow up with and for them to be the parents they aren’t sure they can be. Once they work on these skills, practice them they will begin to believe it possible.

You can only fight the way you practice.” This the hope we have for the men who participate in our class; to learn to fight in such a way that builds up, not destroys.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

To Trust, To Share

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To Trust, To Share

This afternoon I was in Lewisburg, Tennessee for a meeting. I arrived early along with several other people and we were sharing with each other big and small life events which have happened recently. There were several birthdays which happened in January, someone had gotten married, another person was recently engaged and other good news passed along to the group.

We know deep down that other people have lives we know nothing about. We understand that friends, acquaintances, even family members are experiencing things on the road of life that we may never know unless they choose to share.

Too often we are absorbed in our own worlds and forget about the countless worlds of others which surround us.  Sometimes this focus on ourselves isn’t selfishness but survival. We are going through challenges, fighting battles and just trying to stay alive. Sometimes we are myopic and consumed with whatever is happening in our lives there’s not room for others.

Life is sharing, connecting, enjoying and struggling with those with whom we share the road of life. Good and bad, negative and positive or somewhere in between when we open our stories to others and they, in turn, trust us with theirs relationships happen.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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On the Same Page

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On the Same Page

I like to pick on people I like, have a fondness for, value their friendship. Not bullying but simply old-fashioned kidding around. I am careful whom I do it with because knowing if they can take it is a must! My wife and I been married for 27 years next summer. That someone has chosen to be around me for that long is the only gift I truly want and certainly do not deserve.

My wife worked today for someone who had a relative pass away and needed to be elsewhere. She did this because that’s the type of awesome person she is, inside and out. When she got home, we ate lunch, took some measurements for a project we are working on and went to Lowe’s. I was in a picking mood. She was not. After a while she looked at me and said; “You’re in a mood today!” When she said it, the way she said it, immediately put me on alert. I paused the picking on her and picked at her statement a bit; “Getting on your nerves?” She smiled and replied; “Let’s just say; ‘we are not on the same page!'” That put an end to the picking and I was, and have been since, on my best behavior.

I love my wife. One of the things I am grateful for is a strong-willed, opinionated, passionate woman who will tell her often clueless husband, how she feels and what she feels about certain things. I also know that when we’re not on the same page it doesn’t mean we throw away the book. After 26 plus years we’ve learned how to turn the page, even start a new chapter.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Not a Great Fit

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Not a Great Fit

As a wannabe Saint and woodworker, I’m not sure which one requires more patience and effort. While working on an outdoor project today I had a piece of wood which needed to fit in a certain place, a certain way. I measured, marked the wood for cutting and then proceeded. The first cut was too long. I measured again, cut again and again too long. Repeating the process two or three more times I was finally able to fit into the certain place but not the certain way. I was getting frustrated and Beth noticed. “How about this?” she said. “Let’s go has some lunch and you can think about what you can do differently to get a different result.” Such a wise woman for this foolish man. By the time lunch was finished and a few other chores taken care of, I did come up with an idea on how to fix my board problem.

Stepping away, taking a breath, pausing, letting go for a moment and allowing space between the frustration and a reaction is a difficult discipline to develop. However, if ever mastered; chores, projects, even relationships and growing in wisdom, contentment might no longer be a source of contention but a more attainable path.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Look Around

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Look Around

Earlier today I stopped by a store to pick up a few items and proceeded to the cashier to check out. There was a line of two people who were clearly friends in front of me. What I noticed was the employee doing their best to greet the two women but they didn’t stop talking long enough for her to do so. She rang up their items, gave the total, received the cash, handed their change back, hoped they had a nice day, all while the pair hardly noticed her existence. After they left, I stepped forward and made sure to connect with the cashier so she knew she wasn’t invisible.

I wasn’t angry with the two women who were chatting amongst themselves for I too have been wrapped up in my world and failed to notice someone. However, it was a good reminder that it’s far too easy to allow other people to go unnoticed. Those who may need recognition, an open ear, a kind word, a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, an embrace, a connection, a relationship, are all around us. May our eyes, minds and spirits be open to them.

blessings,
BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Effort

Effort

I finished mowing the grass a few minutes ago. Last week’s rain did its work and the grass has exploded over the past 7 days.

This past fall, winter and spring, Beth and I added several objects to the back yard. Trees, bushes, grape-vine trellises, garden boxes, fire rings and more. While beautiful and adding character the yard they do make it more difficult to mow this year. There’s a lot bobbing and weaving, dodging and not quite being able to reach every spot of grass with the riding mower. As a result I have to also use a push mower, a weed eater and sometimes even my hands. After I’m finished I look over the yard and wonder if it’s worth all the extra effort?

Wisdom teaches us the more stuff we have in our lives the fuller they become and the harder they are to manage. While some things such as healthy relationships and productive hobbies are needed its prudent now and then to examine how much passion, energy and time all the extras take and if some need to be cut or trimmed out of our lives.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Unique Approach

Unique Approach

Sometimes working with people can be exhausting. You think you’ve reached a turning point which will make all the difference only to discover that around the corner leads to a dead-end.

I was speaking to a group of dads today and explaining to them each family, similar to individuals are unique. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to helping people get well and healthy. It takes time, effort and a willingness to listen, get to know, build trust and a relationship. Only then are you able to guide folks toward choices which benefit them and those they love.

Too often we approach people and life with a predetermined way of how things should be. We allow our biases, judgments and limited knowledge to build a lens which distorts our view. If we are to be of real service to those we love, our neighbors, those in need ,we cannot skip over respect, listening, building trust and relationships. If we only have a part of the picture and proceed to “fix” what we believe to be the problem we may end up causing more harm than good.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Telling It Like It Is

Telling it like it is” is not something I like to do. I try to always tell the truth but being brutally honest with someone is an uncomfortable style for me. I like a conversation rather than a confrontation.

However, there are times when; “telling it like it is” has to be done. Today, I needed to look someone in the eye and tell them a hard truth. Their body language told the story. They looked away, squirmed in their seat and their words back to me had a decided edge. We continued the talk and by the end of our time together we were on the same page but it was still tense.

There are moments when we must choose to speak the truth and suffer the consequences. Truth has a way of straining, testing, challenging and taking an exacting toll on relationships. Wisdom teaches us that the hard decision to be truthful, no matter the cost, is worth the possible consequences to others and ourselves.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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The Space Between

One of the most important teachings of wisdom is the “space between.” It is the distance between what happens to us and our reaction to it. The greater the space; usually the wiser choice and better consequence. The shorter the response time; the more chance of the decision/action being poor.

Wisdom teaches us that a word unsaid is usually not regretted.  This also extends to actions. Once something is said or done there is no reverse and we must accept the consequence, good or bad. “When a person picks up one end of the stick, they always pick up the other.” Wisdom also teaches us the concept of eternity existing in every moment. It is a harder lesson to learn and grasp but powerful in its impact upon how we think about life and relationships.

Take the time, exist in the moment, breathe, be still, reflect and then decide. The difference in a quick reaction and a wise one can be the difference between life and death.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
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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