Friday, October 31, 2014

She's There Now

His wife's graveside  service was just barely finished, when there was  a massive clap of thunder, followed by a tremendous bolt of lightning, accompanied by even more thunder rumbling in the distance. The little old man  looked at the pastor and calmly said,  'Well, she's there, now."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finding Peace in the Woods

A long walk in the woods is good for the soul.

"I went out for a walk,and finally concluded to stay out till sundown" said naturalist John Muir, "for going out, I found, was really going in."

The forest brings the majestic symphony of God's orchestra alive -- a far better production than anything originating from Carnegie Hall.

The heavens declare the glory of God. The birds, trees, sunsets. and lakes remind us that all is well.

Want a good remedy for a troubled heart? Go take a hike! Get out into nature and observe - watch - listen. You will find peace there. It's hard to be all worked up when you are quiet in a woods.

The Bible says, "Be still and know that I am God." Somebody bigger than me is in charge of the universe. I don't have to panic when situations arise beyond my control. Watch the birds. You'll see!

Joy is the natural state of the soul. The absence of joy indicates some kind of soul disease.

"Entanglements" keep us bound in turmoil. Sometimes, we let our negative emotions get the upper hand, and distract us from the path of peace. Fear and anger are both major entanglements, which can tie us up in knots before we even realize it. It's hard to be fully alive when anxiety and resentment are squeezing the soul.

Consider the lilies

Joy is internal, not external. It depends not on circumstance. "Stone walls do not a prison make, not iron bars a cage." A free spirit can never be imprisoned.

Hardships will come - but then they will pass. Yesterday's tears are merely passing showers. We should not dwell on the dark clouds. The sun always is shining behind them.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Clear Your Heart of Malice

Whenever you see a penny, remember the "Abraham Lincoln" attitude, and clear your heart of malice.

In 1864, there was, perhaps, not a more hated man in our nation that the gangly president. People on both sides of the Mason Dixon line blamed him for the deaths of their loved ones in the Civil War.

False friends betrayed him. Enemies assailed him. Throughout the course of his first presidential term, he had been misunderstood, condemned, despised and scorned.

On top of that, there were issues at home. In 1862, his son, Willie, died of typhoid fever, at the tender age of twelve. His wife, Mary, suffered from dark depressions, hysteric fits of rage, and mental illness. Poor Abe had his hands full -- both with a fractured nation and a dysfunctional household.

None was more surprised than Lincoln himself, when he re-elected for a second term. On March 4, 1865, he stood before a mighty throng of spectators and spoke these words at the inauguration:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Malice is defined as -- a desire to cause pain, injury or distress to another.
With malice towards none!

Yes, whenever you see a penny, remember the "Abraham Lincoln" attitude, and clear your heart of malice.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Good Place to Stop When You're Lost

The other day, while returning from my retreat at St. John's Abbey, I accidently made a wrong turn and was heading the wrong direction.  I didn't even realize I was lost until I saw Woodland Wesleyan Church on the horizon.  At that moment I knew I was on the wrong road -- so I stopped at the church, said a prayer, made a u-turn and headed home.

And my prayer is that Woodland Wesleyan Church will continue to be a good place for many lost people to make a u-turn and go in the right direction.

It is such a blessing to see the great work Pastor Andi Witter is doing as she leads this little congregation in the sticks and I also was delighted to see their brand new front doors,  inviting the community to come on in.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Be the Best "You" You Can Be

If you treasure the beauty that shows all around you, and try to add some of your own;
Enjoy the companionship others can give you, yet value your
moments alone.
If you honor opinions that differ from yours; yet stand up for what you believe.
Admire the accomplishments others have made,
But take pride in what YOU can achieve.
If you're a real friend who comes through when it counts,
Who is always worthy of trust?
If you follow your heart anywhere it may lead you, and do what you
feel that you must.
If you love those around you and love yourself too.
If your spirit is eager and free.
Then you know what it means to live life to the fullest, and be the best
--- YOU ---
"You can be."
(author unknown)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Kinds of Clarity

If you find yourself confused and in the dark, there are two ways to find clarity:  use a flashlight or patiently wait until the sun rises.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Difference Between Good Ideas and Bad Ideas

I've figured out the difference between good and bad ideas.  Good ideas are the ones we create.  Bad ideas are the ones other people concoct and expect us to endorse.

In other words, if it's my idea -- it's grand!  If it's your idea, it's bland.  At least, that's what most of us think.  We tend to support what we create.

"Nobdy likes change," said Mark Twin, "except a baby in dirty diapers,"  Maybe we should add, "unless it is their idea."

So, how do we implement change in our family, community, church or workplace?

Start by listening.  Hear other people's good ideas and, if possible, agree wtih them.  Realize you don't have the corner of the insight market.  

If you are the only one who thinks something should (or should not) be done, you are either a visionary or wrong.

If you are a visionary, others will join your bandwagon eventually, and it will be their idea too.  It's amazing what can be accomplished if we don't care who gets the credit.

If you are wrong, you will be trekking up the mountain alone.  As the old Chinese proverb says, "He that thinks he leads but has no one following is only taking a hike."

God's ideas are always good ideas.  Ideas inspired by faith and prayer are beautiful.  Others are inspired by our inspiration.

I once heard leadership guru,John Maxwell say people never change until staying the same is too painful, or if the new idea is too wonderful to pass up.

In other words, we change when hurt enough or dream enough.  I prefer dreaming over hurting.  Sometimes it takes both.

One thing is certain -- you can change without growing, but you cannot grow without changing.

Life is all about change, and it doesn't do much good to resist it.

When the waves of change are rolling and they're headed somewhere near your desired destination, grab a surf board and hang on!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Purpose of Theology is Doxology

"We should never forget that the purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.  The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship to praise God for being greater than we know."
--  Geneva Study Bible note

Monday, October 13, 2014

No God But Allah Dollars

A friend forwarded an e-mail expressing concern about the emergence of dollars stamped with "No God But Allah."

So far, we have not seen any of those in Hayward.  If one shows up in the collection plate, we will deposit it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Splendid Summer Dance

A poem I wrote a while back blending reflections on the grand finale of summer with my daughter's ballet recital:

Summer danced upon the stage
A slow ballet -- but halting.

The curtain, parting,
whispers hints of happy moments
this summertide may bring

A timid pause, then from the spring
on tip toe pirouetting --
Summer's here!

Magic gliding to the tune of
green grass, and azure sky
A choreography that flows so gracefully from June into July.

Capturing our breath, our hearts, uniting
and soulful happy thoughts begetting
The shorter days of August sadly hinting
that the dance is almost at an end.

And hardly just begun -- September coda.
Our summer dance is over.
How quickly good times fly.

A graceful bow
A glorious end, and then
The lights are dimmed.

The curtain falls
Green fades to autumn tones.
The silent dancer
leaves the stage --
contented, but alone

While the audience rises and wiping an eye,
salutes the glorious coryphee
With grateful hearts, and thundering applause.

"Thank You! Well Done! Bravo!"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Healing Troubled Hearts

Recently I had the privilege of reading HealingTroubled Hearts Through Exchanges With the Master, by therapist and minister, Dr. William Day.  Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say this book read me.

Drawing from his own painful pilgrimage to inner healing from childhood emotional wounds, Day presents a profound and beautiful approach to integration and wholeness.  Each page is packed with rich meaning.

The first section of the book shares his story -- from the "chosen one" in the family to be a Catholic priest -- a lack of affection from his father -- going to boarding school to be trained by priests -- walking away from it all -- then zagging through life -- as a humanistic social worker -- then a New Age cult member -- a transpersonal psychologist -- and finally a Christian minister, after a dramatic spiritual conversion.

Throughout, Day does not just tell about his life -- but interprets it.  The meaning he draws from these experiences is quite profound.

Long after his spiritual conversion, Day still found himself struggling with old thought patterns, and wounds from the past.  There seemed to be a disconnect between what he knew in his head and felt in his heart.  One day, while counseling a client, he witnessed the power of Christ's healing presence for painful memories.  This began a quest to understand the true nature of his own inner healing and transformation.

The second half of the book is a guide for helping others towards wholeness, with many powerful insights.

One of my favorite take home points is that healing occurs when Christ is actually present, speaking His truth to the falsehoods we believe (subconsciously) from the past.  Real healing primarily takes place deep in the heart rather than the cognitive level.

Cognitive therapy may adjust behaviors temporarily but will not lead to true transformation.  The healing presence of Christ can accomplish what nothing else can do.

There is so much more -- a great read -- and I wish I would have understood this stuff a long time ago.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review on this blog.  I was not required to write a favorable review.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Two Hammers

I have a sledgehammer in my garage, and I also have a small finishing hammer. They are both equally important to me.

If I had to choose between the two, I suppose I'd pick the little guy. He's been a real help to me over the years -- but I'd rather not choose at all. Both hammers are my good friends and trusted companions.

Thus, the hammers teach me a valuable lesson; bigger isn't always better! Smaller isn't always better either.

The value of the tool is determined by the task ahead.

Driving stakes for a circus tent? Use the sledge!  Repairing the living room coffee table? The finishing hammer will do perfectly. (My wife would not appreciate me using the sledge for that!)

This brings me to an important point. Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why do we allow ourselves to feel inferior (or superior) to the people around us? We're all equally important -- though we have different roles and functions in life. We're all a part of the same toolbox! We all belong to the same garage.

It would be silly for the finishing hammer to glance furtively at the sledge and murmur, "I'm so small and insignificant! Compared to that guy, I'm just useless!"
Likewise, the sledge could say, "I'm too awkward and clumsy. I wish I wasn't such a klutz and could be more graceful, like the finishing hammer."

Comparison with others is always a dead end street -- leading to inferiority or arrogance.

The importance of the hammer is determined only by the carpenter, not the hammer (or any other tool in the box!)

All the hammers -- both big and little -- are needed to build great cathedrals.

When it all is said and done, it won't matter which hammer was used for which part. Nobody will look at the majestic cathedral and say, "Wow, what a hammer!" Instead they will be inspired to glorify God and say, "What a Carpenter!"

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Troubles are Opportunities in Disguise

Troubled?  Well, join the club! You're in good company.

Troubles are simply a part of living. It's a package deal. You have to accept the bad along with the good. The only way to be trouble free is to be dead!

Some folks think they deserve to be excused from problems. Whenever a difficulty arises, they whine and complain about how unfair life is to them. They don't realize that life isn't fair to anybody -- and thus, become swamped in the mire of self pity.

Instead of griping about a hard situation, wouldn't it be better to face it boldly -- committed to see things through? You can cry until the cows come home, and that won't fix the situation one bit. It takes courage to buckle down and face the truth.

I do not know why heavy hardships are a part of life's package. I don't have a pat answer for the difficult perplexities.

Yet, I do know that the struggle helps us grow, if we maintain the right attitude.

1. Troubles teach us wisdom.
There is no such thing as a wise person who has not gone through the dark valley. Your problems are your teachers. John Maxwell says, "If you fall down, you might as well pick something up while you're down there!"

2. Troubles keep us humble.
Just when you think you're the big cheese -- WHAMMO -- a hefty difficulty plops into your lap. It's hard to be puffed up when you're carrying a load of trouble. In bad times, we realize we can't control everything, and we have to trust God more.

3. Troubles bring us patience.
James 1:2-3 states, "Is your life filled with difficulties and troubles? Then, be happy! It is only then that your patience will increase. So, let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems."

4. Troubles turn us into helpers.
We become more compassionate through suffering, Instead of nursing our sorrows, it is far better to encourage others in the same direction. There is nothing more comforting than a genuine friend who understands.

We can face our problems with greater courage when we realize that they are only opportunities in disguise.