The pastor started out this morning’s message with the question; “What’s worse than finding a worm in the apple you’re eating? Finding half a worm.” The insinuation being you are already eating the other half. It’s gross but it’s funny. His message was about being good, having true character, inside and out.
Google defines authenticity as; “the quality of being reliable, dependable, trustworthy, credible; accurate, truthful.” That is a lot for a person to live up to. We live in a world where the president’s lawyer said last week; “What is the truth? There is no truth.” The president himself is seen as a man whom constituents from both parties agree has a difficult time with the truth. The cardinals, bishops and perhaps the pope(?) in the Catholic church, the head coach at Ohio State University, Republican and Democratic congressional candidates, and many others from all walks of life seem to find telling the truth, being of true character, a challenge.
True character starts from the inside and makes it way out. Who we are, what we are, will always be revealed sooner or later. The question; “Am I an authentic person? A person of true character?” is one of the most important and ultimately life-defining we can ask. However, don’t stop until you can answer it with certainty and clarity.
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Bad News –
A new pastor, on his first Sunday, preached the sermon and following the dismissal prayer, greeted people at the door as they were leaving. A man in a bright red sports jacket was next in line and before the preacher could say anything he blurted out; “That was a terrible sermon!” Taken aback the pastor tried to figure out his next words but the man left before he could reply. After a while, he noticed the man in the bright red sports jacket in line again. This time he said; “You could not have possibly studied for that message. It was a mess!” Again the pastor was at a loss for words and the man was gone. As the line to meet the new pastor was ending he couldn’t believe the last person in line was the guy in the red sports jacket! “I don’t know if I’ll come back if that’s the best you can do!” Abruptly he walked out the door and this time the pastor watched him get into his car and drive away. The new reverend, obviously shaken by this man’s constant critique saw a group of folks in the foyer, wandered over, and asked’ “What is the deal with the man in the red sports jacket?” “Oh, don’t worry about him replied a parishioner. He only repeats what he hears other people saying.”
Bad news. Sometimes we expect it other times it takes us by surprise. No matter who we are, what we do, sooner or later we get bad news. It may be from our spouse, boss, doctor, friend, co-worker, or stranger. The challenge isn’t what to do if bad news comes but when it shows up. Our choices following an announcement of bad tidings are often more important, and have a greater impact, than the news itself. The space in between the news and the choices we make are critical. This is why wisdom, knowledge, peace, acceptance, clarity should be discovered now. When bad news comes chances are you will do what you know and many times the battle is won before the soldier takes the field.
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On the Inside –
This weekend has been hot! Temps and humidity in the 90’s. In spite of the temps, I did some yard work on Friday and Saturday and I made my self sick. I took water, Gatorade, breaks. I sat down in the shade several times and laid down with my feet up to avoid heat exhaustion. Even with all these precautions I still sweated buckets and became too hot for my own good. The result was major fatigue and a nauseated stomach. Today, I determined it wasn’t healthy for me to get outside again and so I’ve taken it easy. My stomach is still not normal but better than it was Friday and Saturday. Being sick to your stomach is a terrible feeling. It impacts everything from your appetite to sleeping and doing even the simplest of chores or hobbies.
When I read the quote in the picture (included in post) my stomach troubles are of what I immediately thought. The nauseated feeling is similar to how I feel when I have an anxiety episode so it not a new sensation. I reflected on the truth of how what’s going on in the inside impacts the way see and experience each other, every situation and life. Only when the inside is calm, settled, still are we able to accept life and all of its unpredictability.
“The only peace you find at the top of the mountain
is the peace you bring with you.”
– Wisdom Proverb
I listened to an author today talk about the way he writes a book. His latest offering is a metaphor for his family life growing up. His father committed suicide, his brother was a genius and these, along with others, are mirrored by the characters in his novel.
The person interviewing him asked; “Why did you write such a book now? What was the motivation?” The author thought for a moment and then replied; “I guess there were some things I was yoked to and I need to get unyoked.” I don’t hear the word yoked used often. Most of the time it’s being quoted from the Second book to the Corinthians written by the Apostle Paul. This man believed there were memories, experiences, and relationships which had shaped his life for good and bad and at this time of his life he needed to bring them to the surface to examine them and understand why and how they made him into the man and author he has become.
As I reflect on what he said I hear and feel a great truth in his words. Each of us has those life events which help shape us into the people we are today. Unfortunately, along with the good, there are the bad, with the love there is abuse and other negatives to which we are yoked. Becoming unyoked is not forgetting or escaping where we come from but allowing even the worse of times to be a light shone upon dark places inside.
It is only when we come face to face with all that made us who we are can we choose a new path or learn to be thankful for the one we currently travel.
In the End –
This morning I watched a documentary entitled; “Get me Roger Stone!” It was a biographical tale of one of the most famous, some might say; “Infamous” political consultants. He helped Ronald Regan get elected, many other Republican candidates be successful, and was one of the architects of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Near the end of the film, Mr. Stone says (paraphrasing); “If I go down as the dirtiest player in the game I’ll consider myself a success.”
I grew up thinking people, as the get older, begin to think on the brevity of life and what comes after. I thought the older people became the more spiritual, wise and kind they became. No matter the type of life they lived when they were young there was always an age where they turned the corner and began to live virtuous lives.
I think my understanding of older people was skewed by the ones I knew. I had two godly grandmothers and the only others were from church. They taught Sunday school, gave praises and lots of hugs, smiled a lot, didn’t judge and seemed to be one step closer to heave n than the rest of us youngsters. To me, this is how all older people acted. However, as I grew up I realized this wasn’t the case. True, there are some people who changed but most older people are just older versions of their younger selves. There wasn’t an age where they ripened into good fruit or a corner that made them spiritual and wise.
The documentary today was a reminder that we are choosing our destiny every day. Each choice we make takes us down a path and at the end of our journey the story of our lives will be told by the choices we made. What’s written on our headstones, spoken about at our eulogy, remembered about us is what we have done, are doing and will do.
Our Greatest Gift and Need –
This morning at church, a video was shown of a woman whose testimony included her first memories of involvement with Christian people. Her family was very poor and people from a church would bring her and her family food, clothing, whatever they could to help these in need. She credits this with why she is still a part of the community of faith today.
After the video the following verses were read from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 16;
“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.
“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.”
The “rich” compassionless man and the poor needy man switched placed at death. Now, it was the “rich” man who was in need and the “poor beggar” who had plenty.
One of my favorite wisdom quotes is; “Kindness is my religion. Kindness (another word for compassion) is always within our power to give.”
Too often we mistake our communities of faith for dogma, certain beliefs, attendance of services, giving of our time, talent and treasure to the community. These are all certainly important but they can never replace kindness, love, compassion. If the former does exceed these we will turn cruel, judgmental, hostile. We will find it is us who are in the greatest need for we have lost our greatest lover.
“Struggling with the quest for meaning in painful happenings is endless. We worry less about the meaning of nice things, just glad that they happen.” #LaurenceFreeman
Search for Meaning –
This quote was part of my morning devotions and I’ve reflected on it several times during the day.
Each of us can look back upon a time of, or may be experiencing, a “quest for meaning” in the midst of “painful happenings.” Seasons of loss when what we valued, cared for, loved, was taken from us. In the midst of our lives, when tragedy happens, the search for meaning and fitting the hurt and loss into our paradigm of existence is difficult, if not impossible. We wonder; “why? what did we do? didn’t do? how do we fix it? stop the hurt? save ourselves from being wounded again?” Our minds, emotions, spirit whirl with questions and we drown in the minutiae of confusion and blame.
The second part of the quote states; “We worry less about the meaning of nice things, just glad they happen.” Rarely do we reflect upon the why the blessings of life happen. We tend to take the happy, joyful parts of our life for granted. However, if we stop to think about it the “good” which happens to us can be as bewildering as the “bad.”
By the end of today, votes will be counted, a winner chosen and many people will be experiencing pain and others; joy. Hopefully, we don’t stop with the emotions but look deeper into ourselves and ask; “Why this happiness? Sadness?” We’ve been beaten over the head this political season with one side is “evil” while the other is the “savior.” Truthfully neither is either. We get wrapped up in choosing sides, labeling, and judging others who don’t think or vote like we do.
It’s easy to forget how small we are, how little we matter in the vast history fo space and time. We don’t reflect upon our place in all things which exist and accept that we are but brief, flashes of light, that are barely noticeable in a universe full of brightness and darkness, emptiness and fullness. Meaning is greater than an election and we are more than then our precious few breaths between life and death.
The meaning of life, of existence, is greater than an election and we are more than then our precious few breaths between life and death.