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The Question of Freedom

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The Question of Freedom

This morning a question was asked by a friend; “What are you celebrating this July 4th?” My answer was; “I’m not sure.” The easy answer is freedom, but freedom from what? I feel like we live in a time of disillusion and division. People are losing their right to express themselves no matter where their theology, political allegiances or cultural upbringing. We have become an intolerant and shaming nation. Those who are different, not like us, don’t share our beliefs and convictions, we condemn without either side given the chance to express ideas and discuss. Instead, we see different as a threat and label them as unworthy to be an American.

What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to be a patriot? What does it mean to be nationalistic? At one point in our history, being a patriot was speaking out against the government when it stepped over the line and into people’s lives, didn’t treat everyone (EVERYONE) as equal, needed to be put back in its place. We have exchanged our right as citizens of America and traded it in for members of a political party. We are republicans and democrats, conservatives and progressives, commoners and elites. Both sides claim they’re under attack, true Americans, and those outside of their political persuasions as “destroying our country!” The hate, vitriol, attacks, insults, spewed by both parties and their followers is heartbreaking and stomach turning.

So, what am I celebrating this July 4th? The freedom to write this without fear. Another question is; “What am I mourning this July 4th?” The loss of civility, being one people, allowing politics to define who we are, our neighbor is, and what being an American means.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Right or Wrong?

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Right or Wrong

This morning I watched a political debate that quickly turned into a shouting, insulting, “I’m right and you’re wrong” diatribe from both parties. It’s disheartening to look at our present cultural landscape and realize not many people know how to talk to each other about things upon which they disagree.

One of the lessons I teach residents in my jail class is how to respect each other even if we disagree. We talk about eye contact (which may be while social media is the worst place to have a meaningful conversation), asking questions politely, consider your body language, what to do with your hands, monitor facial expressions, remember that listening is not agreeing and two people can be right or wrong about one subject. It amazes me that my jail students are often nicer, more respectful when discussing a difficult topic than many people on Facebook.

Hopefully, it won’t be this way forever. Debate and deep conversation are some of the values and pillars of a democratic society. I fear, however, perhaps we’ve gone too far and may never recover our civility.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Teaching Peace

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Teaching Peace

Earlier this week I was talking with a man who has a confessed anger problem. He’s also been hurt by some people he trusted. The pain and rage of this betrayal occupy his thoughts and revenge is his stated goal. As we spoke with each other I explained to him that violence is not going to fix things. It will only make it worse for the man and his family. “Good mental health, the ability to process our emotions in a healthy, positive way will have a lasting impact on your family. Not choosing wisely will hurt you and those you love. I know the feelings are there and they’re eating you up inside but taking a path which doesn’t lead to peace punishes everyone.

Peace is a hard concept and discipline to put into practice. We live in a world which claims the right to revenge and paying people back for the harm they’ve caused us. However, if we stubbornly stay on the path to; “right the wrongs” done to us we will not find contentment but an endless cycle of violence and retribution.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Wrinkles

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Wrinkles

This morning, per our routine, I ironed Beth’s clothes as she was getting ready for work. I turned the iron on and then took the dog outside. When I returned to the clothes that needed pressing I began to run the iron over them. My mind was elsewhere, on things I needed to do today, and so I didn’t notice the wrinkles weren’t being removed. When I finished I held the dress up to look at it and it was still full of wrinkles! “Argh!” I grunted exasperatedly.  I checked the iron and it was cool to the touch. I looked at the lights on the iron which indicate the amount of heat that is being emitted and then noticed the automatic off had been activated while I was outside with the dog. I had been gone too long.

Today is my birthday. The older I get the more I understand there’s always going to be wrinkles in my life, imperfections. I’m never going to be perfect and that’s okay. There will be days I get it right, on time, with no mistakes and other days when I wait too long, mess it up, wonder why I keep trying. Such is life and I am doing my best to live it.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Stuck

Stuck

This morning my wife had to be at work early. She’s not a morning person so when this happens I try to stay out of the way! After she left I was about to make some coffee when the phone rang. It was Beth frantically telling me that a couple of miles down the road a horse had fallen into a mostly frozen pond and would I do something? “Uh, sure?” I answered. I hopped in the truck, which was very cold inside and out, and drove down the road until I spotted it. Sure enough, there was the poor animal front half end above the ice and it’s back completely submerged. The question quickly became; “What do I do?” The field with the pond and the horse has no house near it. There are a row of houses on the other side but no way to tell which one, if any, owned the horses and/or the field. There were vehicles behind me so I pulled off the road. Feeling helpless and unsure I dialed 911 hoping they would be able to do something or point me in the right direction. A man answered the phone and I told him the story. I gave him the address of the house immediately across the road from the stuck horse and he said help would be on the way. I couldn’t stay where I was parked and the field had no gates to drive through so I trusted the man on the phone and went home.

Sitting here this evening I don’t know what happened to the horse. It wasn’t moving when I called the emergency number and I don’t have any idea how long it was stuck in the ice and freezing water. I hope it will be okay. I hope the help got there in time. I hope someone who could do something got it unstuck and it, along with the other horses, will stay away from the pond until it warms up.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Power

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Power

The lists have already started airing on television, showing up in online news outlets, heard on the radio. The top 10 newsmakers, personalities, sports icons, movie actors, deaths of the last year.

Most of the lists are silly and arbitrary but one usually grabs my attention. It is the lists of famous people who have passed away. I usually have forgotten the ones which happened earlier in the year. I listen to these lists and think about the people who society has lost, reflect upon how quickly life fades and wonder how these deceased became famous, powerful in whatever sphere they existed.

Deep in the heart of every person, there is the power to become whatever they want to be, given the right circumstances, and the combination of luck and perseverance. There is a commercial running on TV where a music mogul is shown being the success that he has made of his life and holding his baby boy at the end telling him; “You’re the boss! You’re the bomb! You’re the don!” In other words, the world is at this kid’s fingertips, it’s here for the taking.

Our society tells us we can be anything we set our minds to, fulfill our heart’s desire, and everything is equal. There is no higher calling. Being a politician, a famous actor or singer, a sports star, or countless other professions in which a person might find worldly success are all the ultimate good.

However, I wonder where are the mystics, the poets, the artists, the rebels, those who don’t desire the allure of the world but embrace another desire, dream? These folk aren’t usually the ones who are famous enough to make top 10 lists or are remembered after their passing but they’re also the ones who don’t care.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Heart Space

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Heart Space

This morning at worship service with my mom I bumped into an old friend and asked him how things were going. His birthday was a few weeks ago and he said that he was going to celebrate with a trip but had encountered some heart problems and wasn’t able to go.

I’ve reflected on the short conversation several times today. It is Advent season. A time of joy and celebration but our hearts are heavy with the passing of my dad. As we sat in church this morning, visited a home improvement store (which my dad loved to do), did some work around the house our hearts just haven’t been in it.

We know this is the path we must travel and one day much of the pain will dissipate but right now, this evening, it is not the time. Our broken hearts still ache and space which my dad filled is empty. There is no template for mourning, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. We take it one day at a time, one moment, one tear and laugh as the memories, experiences, and love flood us and fill us.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Stuck

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Stuck

Yesterday afternoon I loaded the pick-up truck with the household garbage we keep in a covered area outside. I placed two bins in the back and another bag shut the tailgate and headed to the Refuse and Recycling Center. When I arrived I hopped out the cab, walked to the back, let the tailgate down and something furry jumped out at me! That’s not what happened but it’s what looked like was happening when the deceased mouse (pictured) plopped down on the tailgate when it lowered. “Whoa!” I screamed, initiating a strange look from another person who was throwing away garbage also.

As I looked closer I saw that it was a dead rat. I emptied the bin and discovered he was trapped by a hole in the bottom of the trashcan. He had wiggled his entire body out with the exception of his hips and hind feet. He died trying to escape the trash he willingly entered into. I used a piece of wood to pry him out of the hole and a thick piece of plastic to grab him and toss him in the dumpster.

As I drove away I thought about the choices each of us makes; good and bad, right and wrong, positive or negative. I tell the men I work with; “The choices you make today determine the man you will be tomorrow.” I also speak with them about how there are some choices which drastically impact them and those they love and care about. “Once you make certain decisions you forfeit the ability to be a good man to those who need you be that the most.”

Each of our actions has consequences. We must be careful not get stuck by the choices we make.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Pauses and Spaces

Pauses and Spaces –

I worked with a dad today who struggles with addiction issues. He kept repeating the Twelve Step oft heard phrase; “Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray.” It is the addict’s response if they’re tempted to drink, use drugs, get angry, make poor decisions. They are to take a breath and then breathe a word of prayer for peace and  guidance.

I use the phrase; “The space in between.” Life is made up of experiences. We’re blind to most of them because we’ve become used to them, take them for granted. There are times however when an experience happens and our choice of what to do or not do, how to react, make the wrong, right or better choice could greatly impact our lives and the ones we hold dear. It is in the space between what happens to us and our choice of how to respond where our future is forged.

Whether; “pause and pray” or “the space between,” we choose to shape the experiences of our lives or be shaped by them.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Good and Bad

Good and Bad

Earlier this week a link to an old style entertainment wrestling video appeared in my Facebook feed. I recognized the wrestler and I admit succumbing to the temptation to click on the link. Watching it I was taken back to my childhood and enjoying these entertainment wrestling shows. My parents weren’t fans so my brother and I made sure they weren’t aware of what we were filling our brains with on the boom tube.

These wrestlers were incredible. They wore flashy clothes, had muscles everywhere, took a beating, kept on going and most of the time the good guy won the match. One of the reasons I liked wrestling as a kid was because you knew who the good and bad guys were by the way the dressed, talked, wrestled (good guys never cheated) and behaved in and outside of the ring. As a kid these were real life heroes and villains fighting for right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice every Saturday. Back then I didn’t know it was a lot more entertainment than wrestling. As I grew up I came to realize it was athletic acting, a male dominated, sports soap opera.

Someone asked me a few days ago who they should vote for in the upcoming presidential race. “Both candidates have tremendous flaws! As a Christian, how should we vote?” I shook my head and simply said; “I think you should pray.” “About who to vote for?” they asked. “No,’ I replied, ‘I’m not sure as a Christian you can, with a Holy conscience, vote for either one. But you can pray.”

The older I get the harder to tell who the good and bad people are anymore. Our world is so full of mixed signals, compromise and confusion. I don’t think its going to get any better. Prayer, humility, serenity of spirit is what it takes to survive and hope in times and seasons such as these.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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