Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Something greater

There are so many ways we separate ourselves from one another.  We have a tribal instinct that carries from the stone age.  Perhaps that is the true core of "sin" - the need for segregation and separation.  Segregation and separation is the antithesis of God - the Great Spirit - the universal "I AM".   No matter how hard we try, we are not separate and cannot live harmoniously in segregation.
The very air we breath each day has been shared with millions of humans, plants and animals for millions of years.  Every action we take, every word we speak, every thought or prayer creates something that will carry just as a feather is carried in the wind. 
As much as you may hang onto the pain of a transgression, the next person may as well.  And so it grows.  The tribal instinct will drive the calling.  Gather in those who are likewise minded in hanging on to cause for separation and segregation.  This is the source of wars of nations.  It begins in a tiny spark and grows into a raging fire.
If we want to change the course of the world, it has to begin with our own actions, our own words, our own thoughts and prayers.  We truly need to become the change we want to see.  We have to do unto others what we would have others do unto us.
It's much harder to put out a forest fire than it is to put out a candle.  But the forest fire started with one spark - a tiny flame.  Be the spark that lights a fire to warm and not destroy.  Use your hands to heal not strike.  Use your words to sooth not stain.  Use your thoughts and prayers to gain understanding not grow pain.
We are all part of something greater and we are all called to something greater.  The more we seek to be one with that greater force and see that we are one, in that need to connect with that greater force, the more we will find harmony and peace.  Focusing on anything other is "sin".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The last shall be first

Jesus used stories about everyday life to convey deep messages.  It's important to explore and understand the context of the message.  What is so amazing is that they cross space and time and cultures.  And we can read them at one time in our life and see one message or perhaps not understand at all, but after we have a greater context, we see new meaning.
Recently I was reminded of the parable of the field workers at harvest time.  A landowner passed a group of men standing, presumably in the normal place that field workers waited to be hired.  With much work waiting to be done, they were still standing in the middle of the day.  Toward the end of the day, the landowner saw them again and decided to ask why they were not working.  "No one would hire us," they replied.  He sent them to his fields to work the remainder of the day.
At the end of the day, the landowner directed that these last workers be paid first.  The workers who were there all day, were paid last.  All were paid the same wage.  The workers who had been there all day were outraged.  The landowner chastised them.
As the moral of the story, Jesus said that in heaven the first would be last and the last would be first.
Through the years I have heard many interpretations of this story.  Most common is that our works gain us nothing in God's eyes.  But if you study the whole of Jesus' teachings, this cannot be correct.  We reap what we sow.  We are our brother's keeper.  Heal the sick and feed the poor.
We need to consider the whole of Jesus' teachings and all that we have learned about the human condition.  If it was harvest time, with much work to do, why would any worker be left behind?
The field bosses go to where 20 or 30 hopeful workers gather each morning hoping to be chosen to work the harvest for a day, a week or maybe more.  Recall the playground kickball team selection.  The biggest, fastest and strongest are chosen first.  The boss might look at the guy with a crooked nose and believe he is a fighter so he may cause trouble.  The littlest guy is always picked last.  The guy with holes in his shoes is dismissed as not able to travel the rough terrain.  Boss after boss passed them by.  They were not chosen.
Still they waited.  They waited as the mid day sun beat down on them.  And with each passing hour, there was less hope of being hired.  Still they waited through the heat of the day.  They stood waiting.  Many bosses must have passed them more than once but finally this ONE, asked "Why are you not working?"  And when he heard their answer, he understood.
The little guy is never chosen first.  The guy with holes in his shoes knows how to make the best of all that he has.  The guy with the crooked nose is not a fighter.  His daddy broke his nose in a stupid drunken rage.  The landowner saw something that none of the bosses before him saw and he himself had missed earlier in the day.
The landowner righted the wrong done to these men.  They would have worked all day for him, had they been given the chance. 
They were rewarded for their diligence.  They were rewarded for their heart and for having faith - beyond reason - that they would be hired.  They remained ready to serve long after most were already chosen and most would give up hope of being hired.
And what of the workers who were angry?  We should all applaud the righting of wrong.  They thought they were above the others.  The first shall be last.  The last shall be first.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Our connected world

There's supposedly only 6 degrees of separation between you and anyone else in the world.  That's an amazing thought.  So you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who knows Nelson Mandella or Queen Elizabeth or the King of Jordon.  And it's quite likely you have a much closer connection to a large percentage of people in the world.  But six degrees is supposed to be all it takes to make the connection.
So, it is quite possible that a story you tell, if compelling enough will reach the ear of someone you could hardly imagine.  Unless it's really compelling, it probably won't reach the Queen but....
In small towns we joke a lot, and sometimes complain, that everyone knows everyone.  And many here in Venango County, like me, have a whole lot of relatives and old friends.  The connections are important to keep in mind.  You can never go wrong if you are kind in what you say.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Divine Providence Prevails Always

I believe the most important part of living a spirit filled or spiritual life is applying your beliefs to every aspect of your life.  Talking the talk is not the same as living a spirit filled life.  We have to walk the walk.
My goal is that wherever you may see me - at a sporting event, singing, at work or tinkering in the basement - I am consistent in my behavior and actions.
I'm constantly striving to ensure my actions in any situation are consistent with my core beliefs.  The standard is simply the Golden Rule.  It's not easy, especially in difficult situations.  There are times when it is very hard to put ourselves in the other person's shoes - especially if they are doing things and saying things we would not.
While some are energized by conflict, my inclination is to try to resolve it as quickly as possible.  I'd much rather walk away from a fight than escalate it.  Especially when it's obvious the other person has no interest in resolution.  I've lived long enough to know that the door to resolution is not closed.
Divine Providence will take care of it in time.
I don't always get it right but I can measure progress in many ways and I won't stop reaching higher.  The greatest gift family and friends can give me, is to help me understand better how to grow.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Small Miracles

Recently I was reminded of a book I read some years ago called "Small Miracles" - a collection of short stories about miracles that happened in people's lives.  They are great uplifting stories about hope.  I like to read those kinds of stories when I'm traveling or feeling a need to lift my spirit.
In the introduction, the author encourages us to seek small miracles.  They are happening every day in our lives but we need to tune our spirit to recognize them and we need to learn that we can attract miracles to our lives by learning to believe.
As an experiment she encourages us to choose something small and simple as our miracle.  It has to be something we can truly believe will happen with no doubt associated with our thought of it.  She said hers was to believe that she would see pennies wherever she went.  She made that her miracle belief - stated it - and didn't give it another thought.  UNTIL - She started seeing pennies everywhere she went.
So I thought about it and decided that pennies were too common.  I would see dimes - heads up - everywhere.  Sure enough I was seeing dimes -heads up - everywhere I went.  I hadn't thought about that book and the dime experiment in years.  But I have been thinking about miracles lately - small and large.  Suddenly I was reminded that they can and will happen.
I jumped in the shower one morning last week.  I heard a ping hitting the tub floor.  After getting the soap out of my eyes, I discovered the ping was a dime IN THE TUB that had fallen from SOMEWHERE.  Heads up by the way.  Once I got over the "Where did that come from?" reaction, I remembered my small miracles experiment years ago.   And I knew this was a slightly bigger miracle to remind me that miracles do happen if we just believe.
Once again, when I am walking about, suddenly a dime - heads up - appears in my path.  I love the reminder that even bigger miracles are in my path.  I do believe.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Be thankful in relationships

More often than not, it's expectations that cause rifts in relationships.  We focus on what we are not getting and how the other person needs to adjust to us and our needs.  We determine that we are not valued in some way.  It's expectations that are at the root.  Maybe the expectations are justified and maybe they are not.
If we allow those feelings to grow into anger and frustration, they begin to take a life of their own.  We are no longer thankful for the other person.  We no longer respect them.  We no longer see their concerns or needs.  We become focused on ourselves.  We become engrossed with self pity.  And we begin to look for all the ways they do not meet our expectations.  Next we look for allies in proving they are deficient.
We really need to get to the root of why our expectations have not been met.  Sometimes our expectations are very rational and reasonable and sometimes they are not.  Quite often, they are not worth the storm we cause trying to get the other person to meet them.  Sometimes, the other person is clueless as to what our expectations are or perhaps we don't realize that we have unrealistic expectations.  If it is all about what the OTHER person needs to do, it's a red flag that it's YOU that needs to adjust.
Sometimes we just grow angry at someone for something they have nothing to do with but they remind us of something else entirely.
Relationships can be challenging.  Family - friends - co-workers - bosses - it's really all the same.  We have expectations.  They have expectations.  We all want to feel valued.
If you approach any relationship with anger, resentment and feeling that the other person needs to adjust to you - something is out of kilter.  If it is a relationship that is important to you, start with being thankful for what you have.  Never stay in a place of anger and resentment.  Let it go.  If you are truly justified in your anger and resentment, let the relationship go and shake the dust from your shoes.  If you want the relationship and value it - show it.  Be thankful.
Be thankful for their strengths and what they have to offer - what they have already given you.  That shift in attitude will generate respect and an ability to open positive dialogue.