Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Have To Go P (pt one)

 “Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” ~ Barbara Johnson

There are three words we must endeavor to keep and do while we run this race called life. These three words are very similar, yet very different. Different in approach, yet intricately connected, meaning when you do one of these words, you invariably are doing the other two. These three words are PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE, and PERSPIRATION!

Today I want to talk about the first word, patience. Ahhh, yes, that dreaded word we have heard so many times over the years...patience. How many times have you heard in your life time, ‘Patience is a virtue’? “Just hang on!”  “Be Patient!” or better yet, "All good things come to those who wait!" In our instant gratification push button happy society, this dreaded eight letter word is almost hated as much as the four letter word, w-o-r-k but that’s another blog for a another day. The scripture tells us that in our patience we will possess our souls. As a noun patience means “good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence “ and as a adjective the word patient means “enduring without protest or complaint”. Either way, when we are patient, we are waiting and in this culture, if we are waiting or have to wait, well, that’s when we become impatient. The words ‘no’ or ‘wait’ in this time and age are almost fighting words. We want what we want, and we want it NOW. No wonder the newest label over this generation is called ‘the entitlement generation’. Fresh out of college, many young men and women expect to be granted all the rewards and bounty a hard working lifelong employee has earned after twenty-five years of working. It seems the more life loses its spiritual meaning and focus, the more hasty people become in capturing the most material possessions in their lifetime. It’s a race to fulfill the cliche, ‘the one with the most toys in the end, wins’.

This word patience is so contrary to our nature. We hear the word spoken, and we cringe when we hear it. We wince at the sound of the word because somewhere along the way we have learned to believe to be patient means to suffer. The word patience is almost synonymous with the word, ‘NO’. Yet, this is so very far from the truth.  Saint Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” How many times in our lifetime have we suffered because we moved too fast? How many times, after a hastily made decision, have we said to ourselves, ‘If only I had taken my time before I made the decision?’ How many times has our impatience engulfed our perceptions and made it impossible to ‘see’ beyond the moment? Questions like these can be asked over and over, because all of us have, from time to time, suffered from being impatient and making ‘dumb decisions’. And why were they dumb? Because we didn’t wait. We didn’t want to endure the pain of having to wait. Then, in the end, if we would have patiently waited before jumping into the situation, we would not be in ‘the shape’ we are in. Many times I have witnessed this with those endeavor to try to ‘get back in shape’. Rather than patiently step into an exercise program, they hastily jump into the foray with all the vigor of an eighteen year old. After having made up their minds to ‘do this’, they zealously lace up their shoes and go out for a ten mile run. This excitement pushes them past any wisdom that might come if they would just slow down, and hurls them into the usual ‘crash and burn’ cycle of impatience. Their new founded exuberance comes crashing down the next day when their feet hit the floor as the wisdom of their bodies tells their impatient minds of what a foolish choice they had made.

When one reads the scriptures, there is another word that is always coupled with patience and that word is FAITH.   “Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things - with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”  Corazon Aquino  We must see that being patient is not suffering at all, but it is IN these moments of patience we are able to gain the necessary understanding one must gain to make a right decision.  Benjamin Franklin said it this way, “He that can have patience can have what he will”. Many of us don’t have today what we truly had wanted yesterday because our impatience blinded us from seeing the bigger picture. There is wisdom in patience. As a marathon runner, when I commit to train for a marathon, I have learned to follow a training plan. Usually these plans range from sixteen to twenty week periods that outline a daily course of action. The training plan is designed to incrementally build my body up to endure the hardness of a full twenty-six mile run. The wisdom is IN the training plan. Why are there no long runs at the beginning of the plan? Because, wisdom says my body is not ready to endure such an undertaking. I have to trust the plan to this and this takes patience. After nine marathons, and one fifty mile ultra marathon, I have learned...if...IF...I trust the inherent wisdom of the plan, I will achieve the results I truly desire to achieve. But if I get restless, hasty, and impatient, well, to put it rather bluntly, I will fail.

Saint Francis De Sales said, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.” Today is a day to step back and take a good look at your life. Take a deep breath. Be honest. Scrutinize yourself and where you are right now. Why have things gone astray? Where is your happiness? Where are your dreams? Have you become hasty and stepped out of your life’s training plan? Has the rat race got you running on the wheel of impatience? Today is a new day...a new dawn. Its time to step out of the pace that the rat race has set, and run this race with the patience of your own know the pace...the pace you were meant to run so that you may obtain!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Seed For Thought

Our intentions -- noticed or unnoticed, gross or subtle -- contribute either to our suffering or to our happiness. Intentions are sometimes called seeds. The garden you grow depends on the seeds you plant and water. Long after a deed is done, the trace or momentum of the intention behind it remains as a seed, conditioning our future happiness or unhappiness. --Gil Fronsdal

There is no doubt I have written about this before and there is no doubt that I will write about it again. We are who we are and where we are because of our choices. Well, in reality, it goes far deeper than our choices because our choices were predetermined by our thoughts and the way we think. As the saying goes...”Watch your thoughts, they become your words; Watch your words, they become your actions; Watch your actions, they become your habits; Watch your habits, they become your character; and your character becomes your destiny.” Like a river flowing through uncharted wilderness, our character takes its shape by the choices we make, but those choices all started with a thought. In the end, we are not what others think we are, and we are not what we think we are, but we are what we think and what we think, like a stone hitting the waters of a lake, will have a ripple effect upon the outcome of our lives.

James Allen said, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” I have witnessed many people (especially youth) who grow up angry. Angry at their parents. Angry at their circumstances. Angry at God. This unchecked anger begins to permeate their every thought. When they speak, they speak within the framework of this anger, and soon their actions are mirroring this deep seated resentment. As time passes, this unbridled anger now consumes their every move, and since anger never bodes well, their destiny is not a good one. Sadly, with a lack of honesty and non-confrontation of self, this anger is cloaked within a cocoon of self-justifications. But no matter how much the anger is covered up, its there and the harvest will and does come. Like rearranging chairs on the Titanic, you may get a better view, but the ship is still going down.

So then, if our thoughts, whether they be anger, hurts, pains, and resentment, have brought us to where we are today, then is it possible to change our tomorrow? To this, I give an emphatic, YES! Napoleon Hill said, “Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality; man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true.” Many an author and poet have said, ‘Change your thoughts, and you change your world!’ But to do this takes courage. Courage to be something that few truly want to or can be. It takes a sincere honest look at oneself. To honestly examine one’s heart is probably the most difficult thing a man or a woman can do. This is why I love the Word of God, because it gives me the truth without the excuses I usually am apt to give when I try to examine myself by myself. Truly, if we are honest, there is no way we can give an unbiased assessment of who we are. We have to have something outside of ourselves to help us break up the monotony of what’s going on within us. Family, friends, and other humans can only go so far, because they too are full of their own feelings and biases. But the Word of God, well, I will let it speak for itself. Hebrews 4:12 - “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In this day and age of smoke and mirrors, I am in need of the TRUTH.

There is ONE principle we need to understand as we move to change the way we think. We live in a very push button, instant gratification world. A world where technology has actually stolen the victory that comes with true and honest work. Unbeknownst to us, many of us live within the Burger King mind set...we want it our way, and we want it NOW! But I want to remind you of the farmer who has plowed his field, and planted the new seed. He doesn’t go out the next day and expect the harvest. Before a harvest can ever be celebrated, the farmer understands the seasons and he works evermore diligently to protect the newly planted seeds from the fowls of the air, beast of the field, and the myriad of weather changes that may take place. So today, as you begin to examine your heart and meditate on the idea of a fresh start. Remember this new harvest will not occur over night. It will take honest work to break up the fallow ground, plant new thoughts, and then protect them long enough to produce the kind of harvest you have always wanted in your life. Yes, its work...its hard work...BUT anything that is worth anything in this life has always come with hard work!

Friday, March 9, 2012

What City Do You Live In?

“Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you… yet, someone survived… You can do anything you choose to do.” –Maya Angelou

Nowadays, especially in these perilous times, it seems like everyone has a story. Somewhere along the pathway of life, everyone has been hurt or traumatized by a painful situation. From living in a dysfunctional family to suffering some humiliating event, many people remain cemented in fear. The scripture speaks of how difficult it is to deal with a ‘wounded’ spirit. If our hurts are not properly dealt with, these mental images become the building blocks of perceiving the world. These thoughts, left to themselves, become an almost impenetrable walled city of self-absorption. And the city’s forecast is always one of doom and gloom. It is a place where nothing seems to be able to change the ‘reality’ of this urban city of dread and fear. No words are strong enough. No deed is positive enough to offset the inner turmoil of a mind in constant defense of itself.

This is not being written to make light of these ‘issues of life’ nor to poke fun, but one of the greatest deterrents to victory is our quick descent into claiming victim hood when confronted to move out of our city of comfort. I say descend because claiming victim hood is the easiest way to never commit to anything that promotes any type of growth. Usually, when one is confronted to ‘shake themselves’, like some volcanic explosion,  an immediate and  innumerable amount of reasons begin to spew out of our mouths. Using the most amazingly connived reasons, we move to justify ourselves by using our hurts and pains, which allows us to stay stagnant behind the 'safety' of our wall. Claiming the role of the victim is the expressway to 'safety' in our walled city of little hope. Over our lifetime, any life outside the walls, has proven over and over again to be a wild and exotic land of violence and evil.

Yet, in the midst of this atmosphere of seclusion, there truly is a world of beauty to behold, if only we can rise up high enough above the walls of our pained perception. I like how C. JoyBell C. said it, “Pain is a pesky part of being human, I've learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can't be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.” For me, after living fifty years on this planet, I have learned that pain is just a part of our humanity and it seems improbable to know and understand the power and depth of living without such pain. We can live a life trying to avoid the hurts and pains that naturally come with life or we can accept the richness that it brings to our lives. Truly the strength of character shows up in the ability to overcome resentment against others, to feel the hurt feelings, and at the same time to quickly forgive.

Mahatma Gandhi made a powerful statement, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” If we are going to live, we must remember what Ghandhi said. Not that nothing in life hurts, but we don’t have to allow the hurt to become the reality of our lives. We give the other person a license to hurt us for only as long as we say so. We must remember that we have a choice. We can choose to remain hurt or we can choose to move to a new city. “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” –Jim Rohn And only you can make that change. Think about it. You are one decision away from becoming a different person with a fresh view of the world!!! You are not finished and you are not dead! “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” -Richard Bach So if we are alive, then why don't we make the most of the moment of living?

Today, if you will CHOOSE, I want you as though no one is watching you. Love as though you have never been hurt before. Sing as though no one can hear you. Live as though heaven is on earth. And remember...

“People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be
shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind.
Think big anyway.
What you spend years building may
be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have
and you might get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.”
       - Anonymous

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Beautiful Life

May the sun bring you new energies by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away any worries you may have. May gentle breezes refresh your soul and all the days of your life, may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty. ~ Unknown

Confucius said that ‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ To capture the ‘reality’ of his statement may be difficult for us. The questions immediately begin to spring up from within and pour forth out of our minds of how anything can be beautiful when all THIS is happening to me? The lists of ‘bad’ things... from financial distress to sickness racking the body pumps diligently out of our hearts. The ‘pain’ of life seems to be enduring and blots out the reality of any beauty to behold around us. It just seems in this day and age our brains are being constantly bombarded with bad news. The negative surrounds us in an all encompassing act of blanketing the beauty of life. Bad news and the ugly represses the beauty of life and living, and pushes it into some dark corridor of our hearts. As though the only time we had to enjoy beauty was some long lost day of our youth. When we could roll in the grass, dash through a spring meadow, or lay on the ground in wonderment of a midnight starlit sky of a billion stars. No, we say to ourselves, those days are gone and are cloaked beneath a label of ‘in the past’. Beauty then, is categorized and placed on the shelf of a our past and relegated to as something being below our mature minds of adulthood.

Yet, deep inside each and every one of us, there resonates this inner fight to return. Oh! To be young again and to feel the cool grass crunch beneath our feet or grab a seeding dandelion and blow the white fluffy parachutes into to the wind and watch their loops and sways as they travel in a warm summer time breeze. We yearn for a moment of beauty and yet when the moment comes... when we are confronted with beauty, our minds either ignore it or we are thrown into some cognitive conflict. Like the man in the scripture who could not be tamed. Who, when he saw the Lord in the distance, all at once fell down in worship and yet tried to repulse him with his words, ‘What have I to do with thee?’ Caught in the crossfire of his torments, on the one hand he worshiped the Lord, but in his next breath, he tried to push him away. Is this not a picture of the modern day us? We look out and ‘see’ something of beauty and yet we quickly remove the thought of it as though it has no redeeming value. Just like the man of the Gadarenes, out of the tombs of our present day mind set, comes the cry, “I don’t like it. It’s too beautiful!’

The renown art historian, Herbert Reed, reminds us, “It is not so often observed that the same forces that have destroyed the mystery of holiness have destroyed the mystery of beauty.” So many of us, if not most of us, if not all of us... are so busy, we think we do not have time to appreciate beauty. Like the sun hiding behind the clouds, we know the warmth of beauty is out there somewhere, but we push if off as though the warmth is not for us but is reserved for ‘another day’ or for someone else who has the time to stop and ‘smell the roses’. To take time to enjoy beauty is tantamount to committing death by robbing oneself the pleasure of a moment. How often in our time-constricted schedules and burned out spirits, do we pass unknowingly by a lovely flower, fail to hear the symphony of the roaring tide, stop and smell the fragrance of a cool spring breeze, or even forget to see the glory of God in our own humanness? The list of not just seeing the beauty of life around us but perceiving that beauty is even there could probably go on and on. The point here, is not to degrade or tear down, but to once again gently shake that lust for life that each of us have within us. To remind us that many of the fetters and chains that seemingly have us bound are of our own doing. We are either handcuffing ourselves or allowing someone else to handcuff us into a jail cell of their own creation.

Often time the Lord would leave the ‘rat race’ of the multitudes and visit the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Leaving the hectic pace of ‘modern’ life, the Lord was moved to a place of beauty. Yes, we know he went there to pray, but is it possible He went there to remind Himself of ‘life’s beauty’. I find it interesting the Lord did not confront the pains of his inner turmoil in the market place, the financial district, or in a theater. It was here in the garden of Gethsemane where He really met himself and it was there where He came to face to face with the truth.

You know you want too... you know you want to touch it again. You know you want to smell it again. You know you want to be refreshed by it again. You know you want to hug it again. So today, I want you to stop and find a garden of Gethsemane, and breathe a breath of beauty and maybe, just maybe, you may find the answer you have been seeking as you unlock the beauty of your day.