Soul Alive –
Outside, under our two sheds and front porch are families of rabbits. I see them when I let out the dog, who’s too old to chase them anymore, when I drive the truck into the driveway, when I sit still long enough and wait for them to emerge from their hiding holes. It excites me. Wildlife has always had this impact on me. I slow down to look at deer on the sides of the highway or in far-off fields. Stare at Falcons and Hawks perched on fence posts or electric poles. Turkeys, skunks, opossum, armadillos, foxes, even cows grab my attention.
I grew up in the suburbs but my parents took us to National Parks as often as the could. We loved camping, canoeing, hiking, exploring. We saw lots of wildlife and even had a few run-ins with Black Bears. I believe this is where my love of nature was born and raised along with the important lessons of treating it gently, basking in its beauty and always leaving a place better than you found it.
Nature, along with other gifts we take for granted each day, bring life to my soul. I can’t imagine not being excited, filled with joy, while experiencing it.
Don’t Resist –
This afternoon I stepped outside and the warmer temperatures wrapped me like a blanket. The sun shone on me and the warm breeze stirred my soul. It’s been cold the past few weeks. Only a couple of days ago the ground was covered with snow and ice. Today, there is little snow to be seen and the remnants are being chased away by the balmy weather. The kicker is I didn’t have anything to do with the high and low temps, the sun or the clouds filling the sky, the wild difference between now and the near past. All I did was stay warm on the cold days and breathe in the warmth this afternoon.
Life is mostly filled with things we have no control over. We want the ability, the power to make things bend to our will but this is an illusion. If we pursue this type of control our lives will be filled with suffering. The secret to contentment and peace is to allow life to progress at its pace and accept what we think is good and bad, wanted and unwanted, desired and abhorred.
When we are able to practice this discipline we discover the ever-present now is exactly what it needs to be and so are we.
Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed. Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.
Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.
Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people? In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?
A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.
Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.
Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.
The Heart’s Way –
The sky has been cloudy today. It has been mostly dreary and cool. It’s one of those days you stay inside and try to keep warm. This weekend has felt like fall. Not the fall with the beautiful leaves, cool nights and warmer days but the type of fall days which tell you winter won’t be long coming.
I’ve been tired today. It’s been a long 10 days and its caught up with me. I don’t mind “lazy” days. They are good for the mind, body, and spirit. However, there are things which need to get done that didn’t. I know there will still be enough sunny warmer days to finish winterizing the house and yard but letting go of “wasted” day thoughts is still tough.
Looking inside, into my soul, where the stillness exists I am reminded that there must be days we rest. I am thankful for the wisdom teachings of the importance of the mind but even more so the lessons of the heart. Going deep, when the surface is confused or condemning, helps me discover the path is not forged by a quickened pace but by a contented heart.
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.