the Other –
Last night I was speaking to a group of men and we were discussing the needs men have to develop self-awareness. I told them; “Self-awareness is the ability to look into a mirror and see yourself for who you truly are, the good, the not so good, areas where you excel and places in you which need improving. The ability to know yourself is the first step in understanding what needs to be done to become the man you should be.”
Knowing, accepting and loving yourself is also the key to loving others. Unless we’ve learned to see ourselves; flaws, hang-ups, habits, hurts and love ourselves we will be incapable of truly loving others. Often times our shortcomings and failings cause us to judge ourselves more harshly than we’d ever do to others. We stew in our self-hatred and weaknesses. This corrupts us from the inside out and results in a distorted view of ourselves which bleeds over into the way we see the world and the people in it.
It is only when we accept who we are, all of who we are, and love what we like and don’t like can we be free of a soul that is bitter and barren. Released from the prison which contains our hearts we find that others, like us, are frail and broken. We recognize the same limitations and discover in each other the strength to travel the path of life together.
For the last few days, we have had a lot of rain. It’s remnants of Hurricane Harvey the horrendous storm which slammed into parts of Texas earlier this week leaving devastation in its wake. Most of the morning and afternoon I have listened to the rain fall on the tin roof of our porch. It’s a mesmerizing and relaxing melody. There is a wisdom proverb which says; “Some people feel the rain other simply get wet.” I am of the former variety. I feel rain, storms, overcast skies. There are times when a rainy day is nourishment to my soul. It’s like the water falling from the sky is landing on my parched spirit and bringing needed comfort and nourishment. In other seasons the overcast clouds and rain dampen my motivation and put me in a trance where I get nothing done.
“Without rain, the flower does not grow.”
Like the flowers, trees, bushes, and grass we need rain in our lives. We need times of growth and blossoming. However, too much rain, as Houston and other Texas areas dealing with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, can drown, devastate, and destroy.
Rain, like life, can be beautiful and dangerous.
An elder monk was visiting a friend in the big city. They were walking down a street filled with people, vehicles, construction and a cacophony of noise surrounded them. As they were talking the elder monk paused and said; “I hear a cricket.” His friend raised an eyebrow as the monk went over to a section of the concrete sidewalk which had been carved out and filled with dirt and a small tree. Sure enough, after looking for a moment, he pointed out the chirping insect.
His friend was amazed! “How did you hear the cricket amidst all this noise?” The elder monk smiled and replied; “You hear what you are listening for.” The friend, still astonished, shook his head. “Do you have a coin?” his monk friend asked. “Here,” said the friend as he gave it to him. “Now, watch.” the monk ordered. The elder flipped the coin in the air and let it land on the ground making a tinkling noise. Several people stopped and began looking. “Do you understand?” asked the elder monk with a smile.
One of my favorite wisdom parables. It is a reminder that our lives are about listening to the truthful, just and grace filled voices and sounds in this world. Too often we allow the negative noise into our lives which drowns out the voices of God, nature and the sound of the spirit of each other.
There’s nothing like a nice rain after a stretch of hot, humid days. Last night and this morning a strong set of storms moved through the area and brought with them cooler temps and a good soaking rain.
This has been a long, rough week, my spirit and body have been drained and relief is what I desire. The rain, though physical, also permeates my soul. Nature has a way of healing. To see the cycle of life, the beauty of the universe in every drop of rain, the opening of blooms, the water infusing with the roots and leaves. The earth taking a cleansing breath.
It’s what we need to do when drained. We pause and allow our spirits to be refreshed and renewed.
Nipping At Our Heels –
Monday I watched the documentary; “Weiner.”(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTpnBDu6Y6Q) It is the story of Anthony Weiner’s rise and fall on the political landscape not once, but twice, both times because of a sexting scandal. Anthony Weiner is a flawed character that could come straight from a Greek Tragedy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_tragedy). The sexting wouldn’t work but the narcissism, short-sightedness, being your own worst enemy, destroying everyone and everything you love, certainly would make a fitting template.
The question I came away from the documentary is; “Why?” Why would a person who is obviously charismatic, appears to care for the people of his community, is by all accounts a decent person, except of course the giant gorilla in the room…his addiction to receiving attention no matter the damage, and there’s the answer.
In the end, it cost him the mayoral race of New York, his reputation (again), his marriage and his child. He’s now a television mercenary, for hire to anyone who’ll interview him, put him on a TV show panel, feed his need to be in the spotlight.
Wisdom teaches us the demons of pride, envy, wrath, gluttony (the insatiable want of things), lust, sloth (laziness), and greed are always nipping at our heels waiting for us to think we’re invincible, can control them to sink their teeth into our soul and destroy us and everything we love, hold dear.
Burning Brightly –
On Saturday I had some old mail, leaves, limbs and small pieces of wood to burn in our burn barrel. The leaves and limbs had been in the barrel for several weeks and had become damp from recent rains. I added a little fuel, lit a match and threw it onto the debris. The fire started almost immediately but it didn’t take long to burn up the fuel and the limbs and leaves on top. However, once it began trying to burn the damp portions in the barrel, layered and compressed in the barrel, there was a lot of smoke and eventually, the fire would go out. I added a little more fuel, some dry pieces of mail, struck another match and lit the fire again. I repeated this process several times until the fire in the barrel was hot enough to burn away the dampness and consume everything within.
In the same way, there are times in life when our spirits are damp, compressed, buried under layers of debris drenched by storms passed, times which make us feel the fire which burns within have been quenched with only the illusion of smoke remaining.
In these difficult times, when our souls seem filled with smoke, when it’s hard to see, hear or know there’s a flame burning inside we still don’t give up hope. We try, we wait, we listen, look and believe the fire will burn brightly once again.
An Anxious Word –
I didn’t sleep well last night. I am facing a real fear today. At 9:00AM I will be walking into a dentists’ office for oral surgery. There are a lot of people who are afraid of the dentist but for me; someone who’s diagnosed with severe anxiety and clinical claustrophobia, there is a growing anxiety and sense of dread that’s been building for several days. Beth has taken the day off to help me through this which is one more reason I love being married to someone who accepts me and all my baggage.
Waking up early this morning, after a night of tossing and turning, I sat on the couch and began the morning portion of the Daily Office. The first words each day are; “Let’s begin our morning in silence.” I took deep breaths and, like everyday, recited a section of my favorite Psalm, 46, which says; “Be still and know.” Then my prayers and readings began. I have most of the Daily Office memorized after many years of using it but the chosen Psalm for the day was a surprise. It was Psalm 46. I recognized it immediately and the words gave me a greater sense of calm and assurance. It was a settling word in the deep places where my anxiety seems to flow from…it didn’t take away the fear but it gave me wisdom, truth, to counter the fear within.
I don’t know what kind of shape I’ll be in the rest of the day so I wanted to write this post out of thankfulness for God’s word always being what my soul needs to hear and to ask, if you think of me, please say a prayer.
Blown Away –
Earlier today, after mowing the back yard of the Loging homestead, I grabbed my leaf blower, leaned a ladder against the house and climbed up on the roof. Using the blower I cleaned off the limbs, leaves and gunk that had collected over the past couple of months. Carefully navigating our steep roof I made my way to each side, and with wind power, rid the roof of some unnecessary and unsightly junk.
Last night, I spoke to a group of men about emotions. We discussed how men have a difficult time showing what they’re truly feeling. “We often avoid our emotions, ignoring them, letting them build up and then releasing them in ugly ways with negative results. As men we must have a method of processing, showing and releasing our emotions in ways which do not harm ourselves or others.”
On the roof today I was thinking about these men and the need for all of us to occasionally have a fresh wind blow through our lives. A stormy and chaotic world can often leave debris, junk, littering our spirit and having the unnecessary and unsightly mess blown away is good for the soul.
It has rained most of the day. A wonderful, steady rain that has penetrated the ground and brought life-giving sustenance to planted flowers, gardens, trees and grass.
The sound of rain is good for my soul. I like to sit and listen to it, fall asleep to its melody, awaken to it glancing off the window panes, open the door to the front porch and watch it fall. I posted last week about our need for rain (80% https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/05/13/80/). We stayed dry for most of the past week but today brought relief.
There are times when I feel this way in my soul; dry, barren, in need. I long to have it quenched, to have it resuscitated after the world drains the life out of me with its meanness, hatefulness, division, death and misery. I look to the skies, I strain to hear the sound of thunder, my spirit aches for a drop of hope, love, kindness and grace.
Then, in its own time, it comes. The path leads me to a place of reprieve where the water of renewal washes over me, soaking into the deepest parts of me. I feel it course through me and once again am reminded why this is the way I have chosen.
This morning, on my way to worship, I passed a huge flock of birds inhabiting a neighbor’s front yard. Resisting the urge to honk my truck horn I noticed that the birds on the fringes of the mass, away from the center, took flight at sudden noises or unexpected movement of a cow or passerby. However, in the middle, the birds didn’t move, remained undisturbed.
I reflected on the longing I have to live in a similar way. I realize that scares and unexpected shifts in how life plays out may frighten me for a moment but I desire to be still in the center. I want to be undisturbed, grounded, at peace.
I am reminded of a verse from an old faith song; “When peace like a river, attends my way,
Or sorrows like giant sea waves roll; Whatever my lot, you have taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
I spent some of the morning and most of the afternoon filling in holes in our walls left by the previous home owner; who seemed to never meet a nail they didn’t like. There were big and small holes, deep and shallow ones. Each needed to be repaired with spackling and sanded down so that the Mrs. and I can begin painting and, hopefully, make something beautiful out of someone else’s mess.
As I moved from one hole to another, patching and fixing, I reflected on the holes which are left in our lives by others. Some of the damage is done purposefully, others by accident. Motives are notoriously hard to decipher but the hurt to our hearts, spirit and faith is much easier to gauge.
Repair work is also difficult. The holes left by family, friends, co-workers, strangers range from bruised feelings to hearts so injured they may never be able to trust again. If only there were soul spackle, an easy way to fix what’s been broken. Alas, repairing holes in our lives only come with time, grace, forgiveness and a willingness to be patched up people.
One of the hazards of working on outdoor projects is foreign objects getting stuck in the wrong places. Last night my thumb was hurting and after a closer look I saw there was a big thorn lodged in it from some prickly bushes we are replanting.
I walked into the kitchen, showed Beth and she immediately went to work. She grabbed a needle from her sewing kit, a pair of tweezers, sterilized them both and began attempting to remove the shard from my finger. Unfortunately for me the thorn was deep and liked its new home very much. Beth picked, squeezed, tried to pluck it out but to no avail.
Finally, with a lot of effort on her part, even more squirming on mine, she was able to grasp the thorn with the tweezers. However, because it was embedded so deeply it still couldn’t be extracted and every time she latched onto it, moved it, pain would shoot up my arm, followed by a loud; “OUCH!” “Sorry babe,’ she would reply ‘but I have to get it out.’” “We could just leave it in there.” came my rebuttal. “Then it would get infected.” “Okay.” I said and sighed in resignation. Ten minutes or so later the splinter came out and we both let out an exaggerated; “Whew!”
This morning, as I massaged my still sore thumb, I reflected on the truth that removing things is often painful. Life has a way of placing things inside our minds and emotions that can infect our souls. Bitterness, anger, unfulfilled expectations, despair, resentment, jealousy, unforgiveness all lodge themselves within us and, if not extracted, will poison and eventually kill our spirits.
Finding, acknowledging, extracting, these deep, painful and possibly infected places inside of us isn’t easy but wisdom tells us it is the choice between spiritual life or death.
Last weekend I opened a bag of Iams dog food for the pooches. Chances are it was the last bag of dog food I will buy at our local PetSmart store.
Scooping some out for the dog’s dinner Monday night it hit me that the next time I buy a bag of dog food I will be living in a new place, doing a new thing. Each evening, every serving gets me closer to the unknown and a new normal. Like sand slipping from the top of an hourglass so the bite size bits are disappearing and when the bottom is reached I will need to find a new place to shop for sustenance and nutrients for my furry ones.
As I begin my sabbatical next week I also wonder where my sustenance, nutrients will come from, who/what will feed, inspire, heal and help me.
Reflecting on this yesterday I observed that the dogs aren’t worried about the food running out. They have a lifetime of being taken care of, provided for and have never gone hungry.
Maybe a lesson can be learned as I scoop away the past, embrace an uncertain present and unknown future. Wisdom teaches me to live with open-handed mindfulness, approaching every moment, each experience, ready to receive and release.
So I will trust, and remember that even though I will soon reach the bottom of the bag, I too have never gone hungry.blessings, bdl
When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.
Thank you for the new day.
Thank you for this work.
Thank you for this family.
Thank you for this daily bread.
Thank you for this storm and the moisture it brings to a parched earth.
Thank you for the corrections that bring me to growth.
Thank you for the bank of crown vetch that brings color to the hillside.
Thank you for the necessities that keep me aware of your bounty in my life.
Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God.
Praise is not an idle virtue in life. It says to us, “Remember to whom you are indebted. If you never know need, you will come to know neither who God is nor who you yourself are.”
Need is what tests our trust. It gives us the opportunity to allow others to hold us up in our weakness, to realize that only God in the end is the measure of our fullness.
Once we know need, we are better human beings. For the first time we know solidarity with the poorest of the poor. We become owners of the pain of the world and devote ourselves to working in behalf of those who suffer.
Finally, it is need that shows us how little it takes to be happy.
Once we know all of those things we have come face-to-face with both creation and the Creator. It is the alleluia moment that discovers both God and goodness for us.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post
This week, America will kick off the sixth holiday-shopping season since the economy melted down in 2008. As everyone sits down to be thankful Thursday, too many people are still struggling to recover. Here’s a free-market way that everyone can show their concern about inequality: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.
More than half a decade on, we’re still missing 976,000 jobs — and we’re missing 12 million jobs if you figure that jobs should grow as the population grows.
But it’s one thing to be economically afraid. It’s another to be cut off from fully celebrating America’s all-race, all-religion family holiday because you and your fellow Americans are fearful economically.
That’s what’s happening to millions of retail workers who’ve had to work on Thanksgiving for the past half-decade.
Stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving because they’re doing well. Just the opposite: They’ll open because they’re not doing well.
And that’s because their customers aren’t doing well.
Consider: Walmart starts “Black Friday” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, pushed from 8 p.m. last year. Though it’s long offered drugstore-style round-the-clock hours at some stores, the company has grown markedly more aggressive since 2008, with Black Friday promotions on Thanksgiving Day.
And what Walmart (with its 150 million customers) does, other stores imitate.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Davidowitz & Associates retail consultancy, calls it a “war-zone” retail mentality. The reason: Retail sales have recovered — but that recovery mirrors what’s going on in the economy. “The top 10 percent do 40 percent of the spending,” notes Davidowitz.
The top 10 percent are doing fine — so Tiffany and Saks are doing OK. What about everyone else?
Sales at Walmart’s US stores have fallen for much of the past year.
Before 2008, people could take money out of the rising value of their homes to pay for shopping, says Robert E. Schulz, a retail analyst at Standard & Poor’s. Today, people will buy a car if they need one, but they won’t buy a closetful of cheap clothes.
Discerning shoppers mean desperate retailers.
Other retailers “being open on Thanksgiving is almost inevitable, given what we’ve been seeing,” said Kristina Koltunicki, also of Standard & Poor’s. Plus, this year’s Christmas shopping season is one weekend shorter than usual.
But why should being open on Thanksgiving help?
Behavioral economics. Get people in for a “one-time only” deal, and even if “doorbuster” stuff is gone early, they’ll buy something to justify the time wasted.
This “doesn’t make any sense for anybody,” says Davidowitz. The stuff on sale now will be even cheaper in a few weeks.
And wealthier consumers know that. Davidowitz says the top 10 percent are “definitely not out there” on Thanksgiving. (The exception may be the foreigners who pour into Manhattan, but they can wait a day.)
There’s nothing wrong with marketing ploys. But there is something wrong with preying on people’s impulses to the extent that they are sacrificing time with their families for one day that shouldn’t be commercialized. Time is the real gift.
And it’s worst for people who are in the stores involuntarily.
Sure, firefighters and police officers have always had to work on the holiday. But they make good pay. Plus, saving someone’s life is different than selling someone a LeapPad2. (And yes, restaurant and hotel workers toil, too — but that’s no reason to make more people work than necessary.)
Some stores do stay closed — and their employees appreciate it.
Rob Petrella, the store manager at a PC Richard & Son in Manhattan, says this is “the one day out of the year I see everyone in my family.”
This year, he’s looking forward to seeing an aunt he hasn’t seen in several years — because she’s been working at Walmart.
Omotayo Riley, who works in sales at the same store, notes that with the day off, he’ll “go to my mom’s house and my wife’s mom’s house.” He’ll enjoy his mom’s cooking, and his mom can enjoy her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter and the toddler’s teenage sister. It would be “just terrible” to work, he says.
Gregg Richard, the PC Richard CEO, says that his firm has been running an ad noting their closure for 18 years. But people have only started noticing in the past few years — as more and more stores either open or lose sales to Walmart or to online-only retailers. “We feel it is a family day for our 3,000 employees,” he says.
It’s shoppers, not the government, who should force stores to close.
If you’re tempted to skip pie to go buy a cheap tablet, remember that the tablet will be obsolete by next Christmas — and your kids, too, will be a year closer to being grown up.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post
TWS Contributor: Doug Blair
-written by Doug Blair
TWS Contributor: Doug Blair
Have I seen
Around the corner
Young mother in wheelchair
Pushed by sensitive son
Legs limp and thin
After the accident?
Or at the store,
Frail, neatly coiffed elder
Mere inches from the eyes
Hiding her blindness?
Or young man
In the one good suit,
Seeking again today
That job of promise
In the wake
Of broken promises?
Or single mother
In the parking lot,
Trying to contain
Who cry, compete
For so long they were invisible.
But then came
A Great Pain,
And in connection.
A slip from the ranks
All in the mercies of Providence.
And I see them now,
And I feel the pulse
And reach out.
-written by Doug Blair
TWS Contributor: Mark Dohle, OSB
When young it was hardly noticed or thought about,
though it would be forced upon consciousness when someone’s time had come,
their number called and appointment time arrived,
causing a pause of sorts in our lives, but soon gone.
This waiting can be experienced in many ways,
some pleasant, others not, yet there always;
like an itch seeking our attention and perhaps contemplation,
though I suppose it is something not welcome most times.
The inner silence speaks to us in quiet whispers,
“listen to me, this is important”, yet often the voice ignored,
as the appointment moves forward a little closer
to its meeting point with us.
As the years fly by the voice harder to shut down,
for some fear grows, others a peace of sorts takes root,
many still able to ignore its gentle reminders,
to seek what they are really about, what they are for;
that life has deeper meanings than many suppose.
Some leave early, others late, very late,
yet when the moment comes and the meeting happens
it perhaps seems as if it was always so,
so fleeting the intervening years.
-written by Brother Mark Dohle, OCSO, of Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, GA
TWS Contributor: Michael Brown
Years ago, as I mention at our retreats, back around 1993, I was asked by the monks at the Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane Farms, Kentucky, to stay over on a Saturday night, a wonderful experience in that prayerful, peaceful place where — for decades — there was the vow of silence (no longer). In fact, the next morning, after Mass, when I had breakfast with all the monks, one of them told me he had been the room-mate of famed Trappist writer Thomas Merton’s for more than twenty years, yet had never spoken to him (if we can imagine!).
But that wasn’t what I most remembered about breakfast that day. It was our little round-table discussion on near-death experiences.
During that chat the monks described how there had been a short, jovial, and uplifting brother-monk who’d recently died, a treasure of a man who was always smiling and making others feel good about themselves. In my mind I pictured a monastic version of Mickey Rooney: energetic, jolly.
What I remember most is the description of how this monk died.
The monk, in his older age, had fallen into a deep coma, they told me; they took turns holding vigil around him. I don’t recall if it was for hours or days. The upshot was that after an extended time of total unconsciousness the monk had shocked them by suddenly coming to, sitting up with a start, looking at them happily, calling out, “Ciao!” — and then collapsing back into a coma and death with a smile on his face. That’s the way I’d like to go: with cheer. With a smile. We all can.
This was a monk, I would speculate, who enjoyed purity; who had accomplished what God had for him to do; who was free from the shackles of this passing world because he had released what he had to release and cut himself free from his last hold.
Have we? Have you? What binds you? What may be your last hold” — or holds (plural)? What might still keep you tied to this earth and cause fear? For we all have holds — burdens, “hang-ups,” sin challenges, inclinations, temptations — that we must shake free from to avoid purgatory. What keeps you “hanging on”? What do you hold onto? What are the “hang-ups” that could trip you up on the way to the best entry into the eternal?
A hold is a root cause of imperfection.
And it’s like the web of a spider, a thread that is nearly invisible and yet super-strong.
Like what a spider spins, it can grow and interconnect with other threads that entrap us and keep us bound to this place of exile with fear instead of joy. It can be lust, which at its base is the inclination to generate a powerful force or emotion, including anger, jealousy, gluttony, greed, and sinful sexuality. Lust is a root hold. So is anger. So is pride — for sure. Ego. Money. We hold on to such imperfection like a first-time parachutist might hold onto the door of a plane not wanting to make that first jump. Every cardinal sin is a “root hold.” As author Janice Brown Carbon points out, in her book, Fully Alive!, some of us remain caught in an infantile mode; we have traits that are narcissistic, that are selfish, that are “me, myself, and I,” that cause us to be impulsive and difficult to get along with; that compel us to self-gratification. We lack empathy. I would add that we are argumentative. There is also the childish thinker, the person — those among us — who avoids conflict, who seeks to get along with everyone, who has a good heart. That’s all fine — as long as it doesn’t include insecurity and trouble saying “no” even to evil. A childish spirit can be a real benefit if it isn’t motivated by fear and guilt.
There is the adolescent in us.
Hallmarks of that: motivated by anger, oppositional, reactive, no respect for authority, claims not to care, self-defeating, difficult, has trouble saying “no,” but also, writes Carbon, will not accept “no” for an answer.
What is your “last hold”? What weighs you down? What repeats (and repeats, and repeats). What transgression or inclination and temptation or unforgiveness do you still hold dear?
Like gunk, we must ask God to reach His Hand through us — to the very bottom of our souls — and remove it.
Every last drop of sullied water must be emptied or it will sully the pure water poured into us.
No water is pure once it’s mixed with tainted liquid, no matter how vaguely tainted the mixture is.
This should accompany Confession.
We all can do it.
We all have time.
And when it happens, we are light as a bird. We’re free. We are untethered and fully feathered (for full eternal flight).
On a deathbed, we may even be able to wake from a deep swoon to send final love on those who love us with the simplicity of a word like, “Ciao!” and a smile before passage into what is timeless, through stars that, as in time-lapse photography, form a passage around us.