Blog Archives

What’s Inside

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What’s Inside

This afternoon I burned old collected limbs which had fallen this past winter. Along with twigs and branches, there was a stack of large limbs that I cut up last year when part of a big tree was torn down by a thunderstorm. They had finally dried out enough where they would burn quickly. It didn’t take long to have a large fire burning brightly and hot! After a while, there wasn’t much left of the burn pile but red, orange, and blue scorching ashes. Before heading to the house I took a water bottle that was almost half filled with water and laid it on the hot embers. I watched as it shrunk, popped the top off and melted the places of the bottle where there wasn’t any water. However, where there was water the plastic didn’t melt. I watched as the water inside began to boil but the plastic wasn’t consumed. Because of the water inside the plastic didn’t melt outside. It was awesome to watch and wait to see how long it lasted. Finally, of course, the water evaporated and the plastic shriveled by the flames but it took longer than it should have given the power of the heat and flame.

It was a wonderful reminder that what’s inside; our spirit, emotions, mentality, don’t just protect what can’t be seen but also protects the outside, what we can see; our health, bodies, and relationships.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Turning People Into Trees

Turning People Into Trees

This week I had to drive into Nashville for a training. My destination was an hour and a half from the house so I made sure to leave extra early because Nashville is known for its snarling traffic. Each day I drove in, because I was early and not in a hurry I watched other zip in and out of lanes, speed past me only to end up at the same place as me when traffic slowed. People were eating, putting on make-up, looking at their phones, singing to songs. One woman was smoking with one hand and talking on the phone with the other. I don’t have any idea how she was steering. Everyone going in the same direction but getting there in a myriad of ways.

I reflected on the journey we share with others. Our path is ours alone and yet, paradoxically, we share it with many. It is easy to diminish, insult those who travel differently than we do. Wisdom tells us to be open and accepting not closed off and judgmental.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Touching Life

Touching Life

I watched a video today about a woman, who is afraid of spiders, try to get past her fear by being in the same room, sitting close to one, and eventually touching one and allowing it to touch her. It was an interesting study of fear, facing what frightens us and hopefully overcoming it.

Being fearful keeps us from participating in all life has to offer. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I am acutely acquainted with fear, in fact, its one of my worst friends. I don’t know the source of my fear. One of the reasons I go to therapy is to hopefully one day discover it. Perhaps its as simple as a chemical imbalance and the right combination of medicines will mostly alleviate the ball of worry and stress which sits on my stomach most days. Maybe its memories or experiences which I’ve buried and one-day uncovering them will set me on the path to a more lasting peace.

Whatever the path I travel I want it to be toward knowing joy, not fear, connecting not being disconnected, living not simply existing.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Stubbornness or Stillness?

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Stubbornness or Stillness?

This morning I had a meeting in Fayetteville, Tennessee. On my way, driving on country back roads I passed a Burro, standing by a fence. The other cows and critters in the pasture were nowhere near it but there it stood facing the morning sun. A few hours later I was returning home and passed the same Burro in almost the same spot as it was in earlier. It paid no attention to the automobiles coming and going or the other animals in the field.

As I watched the Burro I thought about its unwanted and unwarranted reputation of being resistant, refusing to obey, obstinately going its own way and doing its own thing. However, I did wonder; “Is he being stubborn or still?” I finally decided he was simply being still. He was facing the sun, he was on level ground, he wasn’t distracted.

I reflected on my day and my mental state and thought; “I long to be like the Burro; enlightened, sure-footed and mindful.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Blue

Blue

Everyone has a bad day once in a while. Mine was today. It started this morning and lasted all day. It was a bad day for decisions, conversations, yard working and everything else I tried. Finally, this evening, sitting in the yard of a friend, reflecting on this terrible, bad, no good day, a Bluebird landed on a branch not far from where I was sitting. I watched it. I would love to write it turned my whole day around but it didn’t. It did, however, impress me with its shade of blue. Beautiful. It was especially gorgeous against the brown yard and my dark mood. It was a reminder of spring, newness, and rebirth. I stared at it and the simple, obvious thought; “tomorrow is a new day,” echoed in my mind and spirit. I couldn’t argue with the Bluebird and as it flew off I was thankful this day was also quickly fleeting and the next one will be arriving shortly.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Old News

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Old News

The last couple of weeks of February have been a rough time for me the last several years. There are painful, heart hurting memories which seem to resurface and dealing with these challenging emotions is difficult.

Today I cleaned up our yard after a round of storms and rain this last week. I threw them on a burn pile and set it afire. I also had some old fence pieces and newspapers to burn. The newspapers are from my wife. She is doing her best to understand and begin to use extreme couponing in an effort to save money. I made sure to take old piles of newspaper and watched as the flames began consuming them. I tried reading some of the headlines and articles before the fire reached them and then they were gone.

As the fire leaped into the air I thought about it being old news which was out of date and historical. I also reflected on the memories I’ve struggled with the last few weeks and tried to remind myself that healing and time can also consume the heartache of the past and that our history enlightens our present.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

What’s on Your Plate?

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What’s on Your Plate? –

This afternoon, at a county health council meeting, a speaker from Vanderbilt Hospital gave us a lecture on the importance of heart health. February is Heart Health Month so it was certainly appropriate. He talked about healthy eating even stating; “If it tastes good it’s not good for you!” That certainly got everyone’s attention. He softened the blow a little by following up with limiting the amount of unhealthy, high fat, processed, high-calorie food and increasing healthy choices. The speaker had arrived late and lunch had been served before his lecture. The food wasn’t what he’d call the best in choices but not the worst either. After he sat down and the meeting dismissed someone mentioned to the attendees that there was plenty of food left over from the lunch and to please take some home. I can only imagine what the speaker was thinking as he watched people make “to go” plates. It certainly is a difficult job to get people to think differently, choose differently.

One of the disciplines of mindfulness is mindful eating. It is the recognition that everything we put in our mouths comes from the world around us. It’s not just consuming but being aware that each piece of meat, every spoonful of veggies, a bite of fruit, is a result of the creation we all apart of, participate in and exist in intimate connection. Too often, however, we just consume. Not only food but almost everything in our lives is used and abused, grabbed and possessed, with no thought of creation or consequence to our consumption.

What’s on our plate is, and is more than, the food we eat but also what we allow to fill up our lives.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Right or Wrong?

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Right or Wrong

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

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

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

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Watching Over

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Watching Over

This afternoon I ran into a store to grab something I needed. The place didn’t have the item so I exited the store. As soon as I stepped outside I could hear a toddler screaming. I looked and the mom, clearly at her breaking point, was fussing at a small boy and neither was getting the better of the other. Finally, the mom, who was waiting for the dad to come out with keys told this boy and his sister who was standing beside the grocery cart watching the scene unfold, to wait while she ran into the store. I sat and watched as she left both toddlers by the car and began to walk inside. I couldn’t leave. I thought to myself; “Someone has to watch over these kids.” Suddenly the little girl bolted towards the mom who was inside the store by now. I tried to watch over both of them making sure no cars were coming or that anything else would happen to them. After a few moments, the mom emerged holding the hand of her daughter walking toward the boy who had only gotten louder when mom disappeared leaving him in the cart. I left knowing they were safer than when they were alone.

This post isn’t about how bad the mom handled the situation. I’m not a parent and have no idea what its like to have children wanting, needing, things all day every day. It’s about helping others, watching over them, caring enough to protect even if the parties don’t realize you’re there. There are times in our lives when all of us need someone to watch over us.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Caged

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Caged

He paced back and forth like a caged tiger. I watched him as he went side to side, back to front. At first, he was on a phone call and then afterwards he continued his anxious pacing. I was sitting, waiting, in a room at our county jail which was mostly glass facing the pacing man. I knew what he was feeling because I was struggling with the same anxiety. My classroom wasn’t ready and I was asked to stay in one room until the other one was available. Inside I felt emotionally restless, ready to go, get the class underway.

However, unlike the man pacing back and forth, I noticed what I was doing and took a breath. I folded my hands together placed them on my knees, inhaled and exhaled again. When I was allowed into the classroom I was no longer anxious but settled. I organized the chairs, wrote my notes on the dry-erase board as the men began to come in and find their seats. A worker from the jail checked in to see if everything was okay and I assured her it was. She apologized for the wait. “That’s okay,’ I replied, ‘sometimes having nothing to do, being forced to wait is exactly what we need.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Wait, Hurry Up!

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Wait, Hurry Up!

This past weekend I went to see “The Last Jedi,” the latest movie in the Star Wars saga.  Beth with went me and when we bought our tickets they told us to go stand in line while we waited for the designated theater room to open. We were first in line and as time ticked by we noticed some people who had bought their tickets weren’t waiting. They were going into the theater room while the rest of us stood by and watched. After this happened several times the line behind Beth and me started to grumble. Finally, a man a few people behind us broke from the pack, hurried to the room and then signaled for us to come. We were swept away in the wave of frustration and elation that at last something was happening. I’m not sure what the manager thought when the line broke but people would not wait any longer!

When we arrived in the room showing the film it was large, seating over 1200 people. The people who had not followed the protocol were already seated but didn’t seem nearly as many in such a sizable place. Everyone found their place and the disgruntled ones settled down and after a few moments and too many previews the movie started.

Afterwards, Beth and I were talking about the movie and what happened before. There was a sense of injustice of the rule breakers being rewarded while the rule followers were punished. This isn’t how its supposed to happen. However, there are reminders around us every day that good doesn’t always win, the righteous aren’t always rewarded, and injustice triumphs more than it should.

So, what do we do? Do we all become rule breakers, go our own way and let the rest of the world be damned? It is a choice we all must make but remember what the Master said; “What good does it profit a person if they gain the world, yet lose their souls?

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Help

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Help

It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.

It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.

Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Watching

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Watching

Last night Beth boiled tea and I prepared it to be put it in the refrigerator. I had to remove a pitcher half filled to put the full one with tea on the back part of the shelf. I’m still not sure what happened but when I put the half-filled container back in it didn’t sit fully on the shelf. As soon as I let go the pitcher I watched it fall and spilled its contents under the fridge and all over the kitchen floor. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.  This morning, the wind was blowing quite hard and I went to get a sheet we’d hung up outside. I grabbed it and began folding it as I went inside. I wasn’t watching where I was going and stubbed my toes on a big rock! They’ve been sore all day.

I told Beth last night my brain was tired. I confirmed it with these two incidents and others. It’s been tough focusing on reading or even watching TV. My brain feels as if it’s in a fog. Grief, stress, trauma, life’s challenges can sap us physically, mentally and spiritually. We must be careful to take the time needed to recharge, replenish and renew or suffer the spills and stumbling along the way.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Similar

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Similar

This morning, on my way to a meeting, I was driving on the main two-lane road in Columbia, Tennessee. I was about to switch lanes when I happened to look up to see a red truck all of a sudden swerve from behind me in the right to the left lane. He didn’t use a signal or proceed cautiously. He seemed in a hurry to get wherever he was going and I waited for him to pass before signaling and merging to the other lane. A few minutes later a white truck ahead of us both quickly jumped from the right lane to the left lane in front of the red truck and then turned on his signal to turn on to another road. The driver of the red truck had to slam on his brakes and I watched as he shook his head at the carelessness of the other driver. I wondered if it ever dawned on him that they had driving habits in common? Probably not. I reflected on the fact that we recognize bad driving in others but rarely notice it in ourselves. The rest of the way to my meeting I followed the driver of the red truck and pondered if I was also a bad driver but hadn’t realized it yet.

We often spot the bad in the other person. Judge harshly another’s words and actions. We jump to conclusions and condemnations about people we see for a moment and allow it to become the lens by which we determine their motivations and value. We are too quick to label people as something negative because of a lapse in judgment. Our world doesn’t have a lot of empathy. We don’t want to walk a mile in another’s shoes. It’s easier to pronounce them as bad or stupid, unqualified or evil.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”
-The Master, Gospel of Saint Matthew 7:3-5

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Till Death

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Till Death

Today I had the honor of officiating the marriage between a young woman I have known for a long time and her finance. It was a homespun affair. The bride, groom and myself on the porch, the rest of the family and friends in mismatched chairs under two canopies to keep away the strong wind and drizzle that wouldn’t give up the fight. It was a beautiful wedding. The bride and groom truly cared for each other and it showed. They wrote most of their vows which is the norm these days. However, they still included the phrase; “Till death do us part.” Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong commitment.

Before I arrived at the home where the event was held I pulled into a church parking lot to put on my dress shirt and tie. Afterwards, since I was running early, I sat in the car and watched a family walk through a maze of headstones trying to pick one out at a Memorial and Engraving shop which was located just down from the church. I wondered about their story, the person they were looking for.

I thought about the experience after the wedding as well and hoped for a story of long-lasting love and a life-long commitment for the couple who said their; “I do’s.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Transition

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Transition

Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.

The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.

As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.

Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Free Zone

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Free Zone

Today, on my way to an Incarcerated Father’s class, I was passed by a truck with one of those “How’s My Driving? Call 1-800——–” sticker. There was a number identifying the truck and another sticker I hadn’t seen before which declared the truck a Cellphone Free Zone. Of course, what was the driver doing? Talking on his cellphone. I found it humorous and was tempted to honk my horn and point to his sign but resisted the urge.

I didn’t call the “How’s My Driving?” number either but I did reflect on the thought; what if we had stickers or buttons, shirts or pants, that asked; “How’s my living?” “How am I acting?” “Hate Free Zone” “Racist Free Zone” “Anger Free Zone” even the dreaded; “How’s my driving?” What would people say about us when they called the number? Good, positive reports or not so good, mostly negative?

The truth is we are being watched, all the time, everywhere. Reporting numbers or not, the world needs to see more kindness, grace, and love.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Small Things

Small Things

It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.

I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.

Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.

I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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