Blog Archives

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

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Heart Hunger

Heart Hunger

This afternoon I attended a meeting where a speaker talked about babies born being addicted to drugs. The mothers of these soon to be born children were addicts of both prescribed and unprescribed drugs and when the baby emerged from the womb it too craved the narcotics.

It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of some of the moms. 85% were on welfare, didn’t have much in the way of education, lived in poverty and were receiving the help of many community and national organizations. What was even sadder was the moms knew their addictions were harming their unborn child and yet couldn’t break the cycle. The addiction had overtaken the heart of the mother and superseded their instincts to care for their soon to be born child. The hunger for being a good mom was less than the appetite for the drugs.

Our hearts, the souls, and spirits of us are powerful. They can give us the strength to overcome the greatest of challenges and reach heights unthinkable or take us to the depths of hell and nightmares unimaginable. Wisdom teaches us to choose today who we will be tomorrow. Choose carefully because our decisions mean life or suffering and death.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Attention

Attention

The quote in the picture (attached) is a great lesson, one I learned again today.

Following a meeting, I was rushing to another appointment but had to stop and speak with someone. I was present bodily with the person but wasn’t present emotionally or mentally. I could feel the hurry welling up inside and my attention was elsewhere. As a result, the conversation I had wasn’t fruitful and I am sure I came across as flustered. I’ve since let the person know it was my mistake, apologized and confessed I should’ve been more mindful, present, in the moment, not on my way somewhere else.

It’s so easy to be moving on to the next thing. We love marking items off our lists. It makes us feel productive and successful when truthfully if we aren’t careful, we find ourselves failing at one of the most important reason for existence; relationships.

The difference between misery and happiness is attention. An important lesson not just to read but to practice.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Anticipation

Anticipation

The rain is coming! Be ready!” That’s the message I heard from the weather forecasters this morning. As each hour ticked away the chances of rain increased.

I knew the grass needed mowing and cutting wet grass is bad for your mower and your lawn. I rushed outside a little after 8:30 AM and began. I finished it in a couple of hours and hurried inside to collect the trash to take to the dump before the rain began to fall. On my way I drove into a small shower and thought; “This is it!” but nothing else happened. I got back home put up the trash cans, let the dog out, looked at the gray ominous skies and knew it was about to downpour. Nothing.

A couple of hours later it finally rained, a nice shower, but nothing like I, and the weather channel, anticipated. I was thankful for the rain but couldn’t help but wonder; “Where’s the rain that was promised? Why did I hurry to the dump? Mow the grass so early?

Wisdom tells us suffering comes from the difference between our anticipation of life and what life ends up being. The gap is where the struggle takes place. Living in anticipation instead of acceptance is the difference between turmoil and peace.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Balancing Act

Balance

Life is a balancing act. It is a lesson I have been keenly aware of this week. To walk the line between the joy of being alive and the acceptance that one day everything, everyone dies takes careful, reflectful steps. If you veer too far one way or the other you fall into illusion and suffering.

We all want to live but not just live, to thrive. This is our desire for those we love as well. If we could we would protect ourselves and everyone we care about from disease, difficulties, and death. However, when we forget our place, our lack of power and lack of ability to make life safe and well, we become anxious, envious and desperate.

It takes a while to learn to walk through the narrow gate of humility and acceptance. The narrow path becomes more narrow but the paradox is the smaller the way becomes the more we open ourselves to grace and healing.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Another Way

Another Way

Our little farmhouse has many quirks. One of the most frustrating is no back door. At one time there was one in the kitchen but someone filled that one in and installed a dishwasher. Today, the handymen made a doorway out of a window in the hallway next to our bathroom they are remodeling. It was loud and dusty but they got it done and it looks great!

I sit here today with concerns about friends, family, and acquaintances on my heart and mind. A good man who I grew up with lost his father in a motorcycle accident on Easter Sunday. Another friend’s father has a mental illness that’s beginning to impact his family’s life and a tough decision will have to be made soon. Still another friend is facing a big battle filled with an extensive surgery and an even more difficult recovery.

I find myself wanting another way for these people who are suffering so much in different ways. I wish I had the power to create one. A way not filled with the pain of death, the uncertainty of life filled with disease. If I could I would knock down whatever obstacles which stood in their path but regretfully I do not have that kind of power.

What I can do is pray, offer and give any help needed and trust that though another way may not be available, the way of kindness, love, and grace, are still the balm of healing and new life.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Unseen

Unseen

Last night I buzzed the tower at the County Jail to let them know I was there for our Dad’s class. They unlocked the several doors I have to go through to get to the classroom. I stopped about half way, opened my travel box and retrieved the list of names for the evening’s class.

I walked up the stairs to the tower where several men were sitting on one side of the octagonal room. As I handed the list to the corrections office in charge I turned to the men and asked; “how are you guys doing?” “Good,’ came the reply; ‘but there aren’t just men here.'” I looked around and on the other side of the room, sitting by herself was a woman corrections officer. I apologized for not noticing her and she accepted. If it wasn’t for the male officer I never would’ve noticed the woman.

I was talking with a friend this week who said he believed God had shown him his presence in a special way. I responded that I think God regularly shows himself to us; “We’re just too occupied, unaware to notice.” The conversation came back to me last night when I was unaware of the woman officer.

The Bible speaks of “serving angels unaware.” I wonder how many times we miss God’s presence, a stranger’s need, a chance to show grace, kindness, and love to a world which to see and experience it.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Intersections of Life

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Intersections of Life

On my way to the county jail, there is a long stretch of highway that has only one traffic signal which hangs about midway to the jail. There are flashing lights which tell drivers to prepare to stop. Each time I approach this intersection I begin to look for the flashing lights. I know that if I get past the sign with the flashing lights I don’t have to worry about the traffic signal turning red and having to stop. This afternoon I approached the sign, it never flashed me and I was able to sail on through the traffic light.

After finishing my class at the jail I had to run and errand and I turned on the road which would take me to my destination. It wasn’t long before some flashing lights caught my attention. They were warning me of construction ahead and to be ready for delays. It only seemed like forever until I was able to make it through this particular intersection.

It seems the road of life has a way of balancing out. For every unexpected joy, there is sorrow. For unplanned blessings there are hardships. For every intersection you sail through another one will take and test your patience.

The secret isn’t figuring out how to hit all the lights green, non-flashing, but to accept both with equal measure. It’s not an easy discipline to learn but one which will relieve much suffering.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Handle with Care

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Handle with Care

I gave myself a concussion today! Well, probably not an officially medically diagnosed concussion but I whacked my head pretty bad with a rake handle. We’ve had some much-needed rain this week and as has been my ritual the last several weeks I went out today and raked. The leaves were wet which made them heavier and there was a large collection I was moving and pushing with the rake when it snapped at the end and pressure I was exerting on the leaves reversed itself and cracked me on the head and ear. It was painful enough I dropped to my knees and if saying; “OWWWWWW!” counts as a prayer I did a lot of praying. After the pain subsided I began looking for a replacement handle. Finding one I removed the broken handle and attached one from another garden tool. My head, and especially the ear, continued to hurt the rest of the afternoon but the replacement handle worked fine and I was able to finish the job.

Wisdom teaches us that life comes with pain and brokenness. There is no secret prayer, acquired knowledge, or anything one can do to have a life free of suffering. What we can do, however, is accept what comes, fix and heal when we can, and keep going.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannebsaint.com

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Rest and Suffering

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Rest and Suffering

Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from an out-of-town meeting, I passed a delivery truck. Its hood was up, flashers on, obviously broke down and not going anywhere. What caught my attention was the driver. He was laying down in a shady spot, one arm for a pillow and the other holding a cellphone and talking. He wasn’t nervously pacing, angrily kicking tires, yelling into the phone. If he could’ve fixed the truck I am sure he would have. If there was a way to deliver his goods he would’ve completed his goals for the day. Instead, he was resting because there wasn’t anything else to do but wait.

I struggle following this man’s example. I like rhythm, order, control. I don’t like surprises, detours, or delays. There is certainly a part of that which comes from having a Severe Anxiety Disorder. Mapping out the day so it can be more easily managed is part of my therapy. However, I also believe it’s very human to want control, to get things done in a timely manner, to feel like our lives are not always a random gathering of happenstance.

Wisdom teaches us that the distance between acceptance of what happens every moment and our expectation of what should happen every moment is where suffering is found. Knowing how to rest in the unplanned, perhaps even unwanted, experiences of life is one of the toughest and most valuable lessons we can learn.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Left Overs

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Left Overs

It’s now the third day after my oral surgery this past Wednesday.  After a numbing gel on the impacted areas, shots of Novocaine which deadened gums, nerves, tongue, nitrous oxide which made me loopier than usual and a painkiller prescription, all that’s left over, 72 hours later, is the swelling and tenderness. I do have a few powerful pills but use them with extreme caution and sparingly for fear of becoming dependent. Even bread is hard to chew! The dentist said; “It would take time, not to rush it, invest in some ice cream.” Ice cream? Perhaps the dentist isn’t all bad.  🙂

There’s something about a part of your mouth feeling different from normal that makes you want to rub your tongue over the impacted area. With it I can tell where the surgery happened but must be gentle not to cause further pain. The first two days the ache wasn’t so bad but now that all the other desensitizing agents have worn off there’s only swelling, aching and waiting that’s left over.

Wisdom teaches us that traumatic and painful events, experiences happen to us all. We may have ways of coping with the hurt, masking the discomfort, ignoring the suffering, however, sooner or later, we must acknowledge the damage which has been done. We must accept the left overs in our lives that heartbreak and distress cause. Only then can we know the wound’s severity. Only then can we treat ourselves with gentleness and patience. Only then can we begin to heal.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Best Over Good

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Best Over Good

This a picture of my knees. I wrote about the difficulties I’ve been experiencing last week ( Crawl. Walk. Run. https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/05/14/crawl-walk-run/) when it comes to walking, exercising and almost everything I need to stand up to do.

Today, I went to a specialist who x-rayed my legs, did several other tests, poked, prodded and pinched before giving me a diagnosis. The not so bad news is there is swelling, inflammation and soreness. I have a couple of bone spurs but nothing requiring surgery. Some at home therapy is required, icing, anti-inflammatory meds and; “NO RUNNING!” doctor’s orders. As of now my running days look as though they may be over and the doc suggested I pick a new way to exercise. Reevaluation will be in a month.

My knees won’t get any better and the goal of therapy is to avoid further damage. The reality of not being able to run anymore is disheartening. Before I began battling depression (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/) it was an activity I enjoyed. However, I also don’t care for the idea of surgery on one or both knees.

Life is filled with hard choices.  Picking the best over the good can be some of the most difficult. There are activities, places, people we enjoy being a part of and with but sometimes we must choose to give these up in order to avoid further suffering or to be able to make greater progress on life’s path.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.co
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About Time

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On Sunday I was working outside, trimming Lemon grass. It can be tricky working with this plant because of the thin, long leaves which can cause a nasty cut if a person is careless. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as vigilant as needed and received a gash in my pinky finger. Small cuts might not bleed much but they can be quite painful.  It didn’t take long to forget about the mishap but ever since, each time I apply soap or antibacterial gel, I’m reminded the cut hasn’t completely healed. It’ll take a few more days before the wound is closed and no longer a painful reminder of my carelessness.

Life’s journey is filled with difficult and hurtful places, events, and seasons. Our recovery from these take time and often we encounter reminders of these painful moments which cause the agony to resurface. Our reliving of these can be disappointing and a cause for despair. We think; “Shouldn’t this wound be healed? Why is there still suffering? Will I ever be fully well, whole again?” In these times it’s important to be patient. Recovery moves at a different pace for everyone. You can’t rush restoration and redemption. “Progress, no matter how slow, is still forward.”Plato

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Brokenness as Healing

He sat a few feet from me and I watched as tears began to fill his eyes. It dawned on him, perhaps for the first time, the sum of his actions, words, thoughts and the effect they had upon his family. He had been so wrapped up in trying to control situations and people that he didn’t realize how many things had slipped from his grasp. Now, in a time of crisis and questioning, of rejection and regret he understood. Silence filled the space between us and I waited as he composed himself enough to speak. Until this point disappointments, difficulties and despair had been things which were outside of him, people and events were to blame. Now, he realized he was the designer of his own defeat, a victim of his own ego and self obsession.

It’s never easy to achieve and sustain self-awareness. There are moments when we see ourselves for who we really are; the weakness, selfishness and shallowness. The cold reality sets in and we often reach for the blanket of judgement and justification to stave off the chill. To recognize our real selves, to accept the imperfections, insecurities and insatiable desire to control, coerce and craft others and the world in our image is the most humbling and hurtful lesson to learn.

When we arrive at this place of suffering do we choose to find relief by reconstructing the illusion or embrace the brokenness as healing?

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Love and a Leper Colony

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Last night I listened to the NPR podcast, “Criminal” the episode was entitled; “There’s no place like home.”

The story began in the 1990’s with a business owner who was stealing money from his company to pay his personal debt. He was arrested and sentenced to eighteen months in jail at a minimum security facility in Louisiana. It was a tale of bad choices and their consequences, however, the story became even more interesting when he began serving his time.

The incarcerated facility was not only a jail but also America’s last leper colony. Men and women with this dreaded and deforming disease had been housed there for decades. Even with advances in medicine and treatment most of the patients chose to live in isolation than face society disfigured and different.

It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of a resident being dropped off at age twelve never to see her parents again. Another who dreamed of distant cities and sights but couldn’t bear the thought of the stares of onlookers or the disgust as they backed away illness which had ravaged parts of his body. It was safer, easier to be set apart from humanity than be rejected by it.

As I listened I couldn’t help but think of the outcasts, the unlovable, those on the fringes of society judged as unworthy, unclean, unacceptable. I also thought of those with the hidden burdens of mental illnesses, addictions and other secrets kept hidden away for fear of being labeled and ostracized.

Connection, relationship, friendship, love, fidelity with all. Acceptance and grace with everyone regardless of dissimilarities . To draw close to those whom others have pushed away, to listen when the world ignores, to extend compassion to ones who’ve been harmed, to be human to all of humanity.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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What is Heaven? What is Hell?

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One day, a mighty warrior set out to find an aged monk who was known to be very wise.
When he arrived at the monastery, he flung open the door and demanded of the old man, “Tell me, you who are learned in spiritual matters, what is heaven and what is hell?”
The monk, surprised at the warrior’s entrance and interest, sat still for a moment. After a while he looked up at the warrior and recognizing his attire the monk said; “I suppose you believe yourself to be a great specimen of manhood? You’re nothing but a mere sliver of a man! I doubt you could cut off the head of a fly with your sword.”
For a moment, the warrior could not believe what he was hearing! No one talked to a him like that! His face, turning blood red, contorted in rage, he bellowed, “How dare you! I won’t let you get away with such an insult.”
Pulling his huge sword from its sheath, he raised it high above his head, ready to kill the elderly monk. Unperturbed, the wise Father looked directly into the eyes of the furious warrior and said, “You asked what hell is? *This* is hell.”
The giant of a man froze, his sword still raised, as the hatred and anger which consumed him drained away. He looked at the old monk in amazement, realizing that this small, frail man had risked his life to answer his question.
Lowering his weapon, the once proud warrior bowed to the monk, as tears of gratitude appeared in his eyes. “Thank you for your teaching,” he said humbly, his heart filled with love and appreciation for the monk’s gift.
The monk smiled and said, “And this, my brother and friend, is heaven.”

A simple wisdom parable with a great truth. The difference between heaven and hell, love and hate, grace and judgement, contentment and suffering is humility and thankfulness.

It is the realization that life, each breath is a gift. To receive everything we encounter on life’s path, what we might perceive and label as “good” or “bad”, with open heart and open hand.

Humility and acceptance; learn them and live well.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Gap of Suffering

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A friend asked me today why we suffer so much at the hands of those we love. When I asked him to clarify he said; “When we need others to love us more, listen more, help us more and yet they always seem to fall short of what we’re desperately seeking.

I understood what he was asking but I gently told him that he needed to ask a different question. “Why do you continue craving what another cannot, or will not, give?

Wisdom tells us that mental and emotional suffering comes from the gap between what we desire and what is reality. Too often we want other people, situations, life, to meet our expectations. When this fails to happen, and it always does, we suffer pain, rejection, dismay and disappointment. We want our loved ones to be more supportive, our jobs to be more fulfilling, our purposes to be clearer and when these desires aren’t met we blame the other, whoever or whatever that may be.

True acceptance comes from receiving what life offers and being at peace with it. It is to cease demanding others rise to meet our dictates and loving them for who they are and what they can presently give. It is to stop fighting, grasping for what is not available and allow the blessings of now to rest upon our open hands before slipping through our fingers.

When life is spent trying to reach across the gap for that which is not attainable eventually we lose our balance and fall into suffering and despair.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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A Student of Suffering

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On Tuesday afternoon I ran into a store to pick up a snack to woof down on the way to a presentation. I hadn’t had time for lunch and I needed something on my stomach to make it through the two hour law enforcement training seminar I was taking part in. As I perused the snack aisle I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and turned around to see a friend who has recently been going through a season of suffering. She told me she was doing okay and trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. I listened and was able to share part of my journey these last eighteen months.

I’ve been discussing with another friend the quote from #ThomasMerton above. Here is some of what I wrote to him this week;

“I think longing for perfection leaves no room for the gift of acceptance of the myriad of things of which we have no control. For life to be our definition, version, of perfection is to not suffer. But some of our greatest lessons are found in suffering. We learn to treat others in the way we were not treated, to speak words of encouragement instead of insult, listen not condemn,
understand not assume, embrace not push away, give not take, be lowly not arrogant, the servant not the master. Grace, humility, surrender to the truth of our powerlessness is only found in suffering.”

Suffering is a needed and necessary, albeit unwanted, part of our journey. To resist suffering, to try and control, force, manipulate, coerce, make the world and others in our image doesn’t eliminate suffering but intensifies it.

The lust for perfection comes from our ego. Suffering, if we allow it, can purge our sense of self-importance and replace it with a sense of peace and purpose in the midst of hardships and heartaches.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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The Long (and Final) Goodbye

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Below is the final message I shared with my campus family today. It was a good and difficult time filled with memories, laughter and tears.

(Read the Long Goodbye, Part 1, The Long Goodbye Part 2)

Last week we spoke of Joseph, his father Jacob and how Joseph’s entire family came to live in Egypt. Joseph’s generation passed away followed by many other generations. In time a Pharaoh, who didn’t know the story of Joseph, rose to power. This Pharaoh came to fear and despise Jacob and Joseph’s offspring whom had multiplied greatly, became very numerous. The Egyptians began to worry these “outsiders” would someday take over the land. To keep this from happening Pharaoh took away their freedom made them slaves.

In the beginning of the book of Exodus God hears the cry of these descendants, now slaves, known as Hebrews and raises up a servant named Moses. God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of bondage into a new land, a new place where they could worship God and live in freedom.

However, even after God showed his mighty power through great miracles and made a promise the Hebrews would be God’s chosen people they would not listen to God. They would not trust God to do as he promised; lead them to a new place. These people complained about everything! They accused Moses, God’s servant, of not knowing what he was doing. They missed Egypt and wanted to go back. They grumbled in their hearts, became angry, doubted God in times of difficulty, and didn’t believe God could do what he promised. They could not move into God’s future promise because they clung to past familiarity.

Ultimately, their lack of faith, holding on to the past and fears of the future cost them dearly. God led them into no man’s land to meander aimlessly until the first generation died out. Instead it would be their children who would receive the benefits of the new land, the new place God had promised.

After most of this generation passed away a new one stood on the border of God’s Promised Land ready to go, to believe what the former generation could not. To journey on to this new place they had to leave the past behind, which included parents they had buried, places they were familiar with, lands they once called home and step into the next place God had prepared.


As they ready themselves Moses addresses them…

Deuteronomy 30 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses says;if you’ll follow your God, heart and soul, and listen to His voice and obey His commands and remember His regulations, which are written in this book.

11 What I’m commanding you today isn’t too difficult for you; it’s not out of reach.12 It’s not up in the sky, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go up into heaven and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 13 It’s not across the sea, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go beyond the watery abyss and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 14 No, the words you need to be faithful to the Lord are very close to you. They are in your mouth if you will speak of them and in your heart if you will treasure them.

15 Look, I give you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. 16 If you do what God commands you today and love the Lord your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live. He will bless you with a new place, give you a new land.

17 But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them,18 then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll not inhabit this place; this new land will not be yours.

19 The Lord is giving you the choice today between life and death, between being blessed or being cursed. Choose life, so that you and your family may live! 20 If you love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and always remain loyal to Him, for He is your life, then you’ll be able to thrive in this new place the Lord has promised you.

This must’ve been a bitter sweet time for Moses. He is 120 years old but is still very capable of leading. However, Moses is also human and flawed. He has made mistakes and God has revealed to him he will not be journeying with this generation to this new place. Moses accepts this and after addressing the people he anoints others to lead them where he cannot.

God does give Moses the assurances of his faithfulness by taking him up a mountain and showing him the new land, the new place God’s people will make their home.

Deuteronomy 34 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab to the top of Mount Nebo, to the peak at Mount Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land that would be Israel’s territory: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of Judah’s territory to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the southern desert, and the basin in the valley of Jericho, the “city of palms,” as far as Zoar.

The Lord (to Moses): This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I told them, “I’ll give this place to this generation. I’ve let you see it, even though you will not be going with them.”

So Moses, the Lord’s servant, died and was buried in a valley in the land of Moab. The children of Israel stayed in the plains of Moab and mourned for Moses, until the grieving period was over.

Today, in many ways, we are experiencing this story in the book Deuteronomy. It is a day of decisions. It is a time when we must choose this new way or choose to hold on to the past and what is familiar.

I have served this campus church for 5 ½ years and my history pales in comparison to some of you who have been at Lebanon Valley Nazarene much longer. I can only speak from my experience and from what many of you have shared with me. There have been some wonderful times and some rough times. Moments we’ll treasure forever and memories we’d like to forget! But God has always been faithful.

In many ways we have wandered in the wilderness for these past 8 months wondering where the path would lead us. Though unsure of the way we now stand on the border of something new and unknown.

The choice becomes; do we leave the past behind, the good and the bad, highlights and low times, beautiful and less desirable events and journey into this new place, or hold on to what was, complain, grumble, fear and miss the new thing God wants to do and is doing.

Crossing the border, going to this new place requires leaving some we love behind, familiar surroundings and a place we’ve called our home. It won’t be easy but life rarely is and God is always faithful.

In some ways I see myself as Moses in this story…give me time to explain before you start rolling your eyes and thinking; “The Pastor really does need this sabbatical if he’s comparing himself to Moses!” It’s in very small ways but I maybe sense what Moses was experiencing in this selection of text.

Like Moses, I have set the choices before you today and beg you to choose life.

Like Moses, I ask you to trust God and walk his way. He will not abandon the work of his hands.

Like Moses, I have had a group of leaders and supporters who have walked with me as I have led and who will go with you as we separate.

Like Moses, I stand on the border of this new and unknown territory but cannot go with you.

Like Moses my heart hurts today as I see my dear friends and loved ones prepare to continue on without me.

I wonder if Moses regretted his actions and hasty words which kept him from continuing the journey. I want you to know I regret not being able to do more to keep this campus church open and this from being our last Sunday. I am sorry I could not lead in such a way this could have been avoided and to keep this wonderful community whole and moving forward.

This deep sadness is tempered by God’s assurance that he keeps his promises even through the weaknesses and shortcomings of leaders. I stand here today seeing, though unable to experience, God’s faithful hand which will guide you and lead you to a new place filled with his blessings!

Hopefully, unlike Moses, I will not be buried here today but like Moses I can rest knowing God is faithful.

Today, in the midst of our parting and pain, let us choose to celebrate the future unknown and not cling to the old which is passing away.

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Psalm 145

The Greatness and the Goodness of God

I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall tell of your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

  He also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him.

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Time Wasters

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What happened to my hands? When did they become so wrinkly? What are these crinkles on my face? Why do I seem to have much more face and so less hair? Except, of course, on my eyebrows and ears which seem to grow hair at a phenomenal rate!

Getting older is a reality. We realize it happens and yet it still somehow takes us by surprise.

The other day I caught myself holding an item with fine print under a light, squinting, trying to read it…and I thought; “when did this happen, when did I turn into an old person?”

Time, the undefeated one.

If we can’t stop time hopefully we can make the most of the time we have left.

blessings,
bdl

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Burning Away: Part 3

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Last Monday I shared a few thoughts about a burn barrel I’ve been using this week and followed up with a few more reflections on Thursday. Below are my final ruminations on using the burn barrel and I shared these with our campus this morning.

Opening

In a world where privacy and personal information must be protected, great care is taken with you dispose of things with sensitive information. Over the last several months Beth and I have been collecting a lot of this type of trash. This week we’ve been doing some cleaning and needed to finally get rid of it. A few weeks ago I asked a friend if he had a burn barrel or know where I could get one. Being a great friend found one and brought it to our house.

The burn barrel has been used a great deal as we have set fire to old bills, junk mail, cancelled checks, and other materials we no longer needed.

Monitoring a burn barrel requires spending a lot of time watching things burn. As I stood there this week I reflected on the scripture text for today. How anger, revenge, bitterness have a lot in common with a burn barrel.

Reflection: A Burn barrel holds a lot of trash and ash.

It is amazing how much one burn barrel can hold. After several days of burning it still isn’t filled with ash. No matter how full it seems once it starts burning and turns to soot it settles and more fuel for the fire can be added.

Anger and bitterness are this way. Anger, bitterness, are never full, they always want more. There is always something else to become angry about, someone to be angry at. Unlike being filled with joy, anger and bitterness just consume.

Reflection: The ash stays hot, scratch surface, fire starts again

The first day I used the burn barrel it took a while to get a flame going. I used some kindling, a couple of matches and made sure the fire didn’t go out. Once it started however there was no stopping it. Even when I was done for the day, stirring it to make sure there was nothing else to burn, it still smoldered. The ash stayed hot even over night, when temperatures dropped into single digits, all it took was stoking the ash, adding some new paper and the flames would erupt again.

Anger and bitterness ignite quickly too. There are times in our lives when we have been hurt by someone or something and even when we think the fire has gone out it only takes is a little poking around and the fire erupts again.

There are places in where we must be very careful not to let the rage of fire ignite again. We must be aware of the areas in our lives where negative feelings smolder, vulnerable places where we are subject to becoming angry and bitter again, no matter how much we think it has cooled off.

Reflection: Fire doesn’t know the difference, it just burns.

Fire doesn’t know the difference between what needs to burn and what doesn’t. A few times after placing something in the barrel I realized it might not be something which needed to burn. Didn’t matter, the fire burned these as quickly as everything else placed in the flames. Though able to retrieve them they still bore the burn marks.

We must be aware how the fire of anger, bitterness, judgment, revenge can unintentionally burn the wrong things in our lives. Negative emotions left unchecked will not only burn against the person or situation which makes us to be angry but can also burn others closest to us. We’re mad about work and lash out family, upset about finances and blame love ones. The fire of anger doesn’t distinguish, it just consumes. If we aren’t careful it will consume our lives and the lives of those we love.

Reflection: All burnt things look similar

After a few days staring at the burn barrel you begin to notice everything burnt looks the same. No matter it looked like before when the fire is finished it’s black and unrecognizable.

Anger, bitterness, revenge consumed us and the fire of anger, the ash of long smoldering resentment, makes us see everything negatively.

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Reflection: Burn barrel affects surroundings

If we were standing in my driveway you would see ash covers almost everything. It settled on the snow, on the outside furniture, on the clothes I was wearing. In spite of the coldness this week the area around the burn barrel was marked by melting snow.

When anger and bitterness rage they affect everything. A black ash settles on our families, jobs, friends, and our life like a dark cloud.

Reflection: Smoke suffocates and blinds

Most of the week the temperature outside never rose above 15 degrees. I was layered up with long pants, coat, and a face mask pulled over, with sunglasses. Even with my mouth covered there were times the smoke still got the best of me. When the wind changed direction suddenly the smoke went right into my face, giving me a coughing fit. It also burned my eyes causing them to water. I couldn’t see.

When the flames of anger and bitterness burn hot within us we cannot breathe. Fire needs air to burn and it uses and takes it violently. In the same way anger takes the breath of life from us to keep burning, suffocating our spirit.

It also blinds us. Filled with rage, we can’t see straight. Our focus becomes that which makes us angry, the one who has wronged us; we are unable to see the blessings in our lives and what we have to be thankful for, all we see is hate.

Reflection: Burn barrel is addicting

When the fire in the burn barrel is really going the flames invite you to throw all sorts of things in and watch it burn.

It’s similar with anger and bitterness. When the fire rages we can always find something else to burn. We live in a world that thrives on anger, division, bitterness, blame, judgment. Radio stations, television channels, internet websites which will feed our rage. We can find people willing to gossip, to stoke our hate, share our bias, and give us more material for our flame.

Reflection: There’s always something left over

After a week of burning there is a lot of ash left over in the bottom of the barrel. When I started it was almost empty now it is almost full. No matter how much I stir, no matter how hot the flame gets, no matter how high fire burns, at the end of the day there is always something left over. When I noticed that it was filling up I asked my friend what to do with the ash. He said he would come haul it away for me. I asked him if there was anything else that could be done with it and there isn’t, it needs to be disposed of.

It is the same way anger bitterness, revenge, rage, temper, and other negative feelings. When they fill up our lives with their residue they need to be hauled away. There is no use for them. They do not serve any purpose. Aren’t we glad that we serve a God who is willing to come into our lives take it away?

Conclusion

Our lives can always be used as burn barrels. We can keep the fire going; let the flames consume our lives and the lives of those we love. We can allow the ash and soot to cover us, the rage and resentment to burn even unintended things or we can find someone to haul it away. The choice is ours.

Reflection

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear nothing.
The 
Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will not be afraid.

When evil attacks and tries to kill me,
    I will not stumble and fall.
Even if all hell surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
when I am under siege,
    I will still trust God.

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the 
Lord‘s presence all my life,
    to marvel at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

In times of trouble he will shelter me;
    he will keep me safe in his presence
    and make me secure on a high rock.

Because of the Lord, I will triumph.
    I will praise the Lord.

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