What If Today…Was It?

“There is a strange reluctance  on the part of most people to admit they enjoy life.”  ~William Lyon Phelps

I love music and how it touches the deepest parts of me. So, I’m sharing this video to hopefully take you to that place inside of you where gratitude resides. Where the calm and beauty of life isn’t affected by the noise of the world. Where today is wonderful and tomorrow will be what tomorrow is…tomorrow.

May you be one of the ones today and tomorrow who admits that it’s a wonderful life and welcomes the new year with an attitude of gratitude for today.

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What If Today …You Understood and Used Fear?

Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/UsqgjW

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” ~ Mark Twain

“Happy New Year!”

I have never liked nor understood that phrase nor the goal-setting that is so prevalent in the beginning of any new year.

The motivation to carry out something new, important, or necessary fades. Every time.

I like fear instead. Not the kind created by scary images or imagined disasters if a certain road isn’t taken.

I like the kind that settles in to try to convince me to turn and run even though I’m in the very place I chose to be, doing what I want to do.

  • Note: I’m not talking about bungee-jumping or cliff-diving. The feelings that show up at those times are reminders that we are mortal and there’s no shame in wanting to live!

Never once was I comfortable standing in the wings, waiting for my turn to enter stage right or left. Every single time I swore if I didn’t get to the bathroom in the next minute, I was going to explode. All the hours of preparation, every memorized step and phrase of music flew out the window, promising me complete embarrassment if I dared step out of the darkness and into the bright, exposing lights. And I knew that failure was a real possibility.

I thought that with experience those feelings of discomfort would go away. But they haven’t. I just understand them now.

Over time I repeatedly moved forward every time I was confronted with those feelings even though I wanted to throw up instead. And I never failed. I actually had fun. But more importantly, I’d grown. I’d learned to make decisions that weren’t based in emotions.

The jitters, the over-analyzing, justifying self-talk are signals that I’m having a moment. It’s not a typical moment like the ones that string 24 hours together and weave them into another day. It’s the kind of moment when an unexpected and different pattern is starting to reveal itself, and I’m faced with letting it unfold or disregarding it because it’s different and doesn’t fit with the expected and comfortable pattern I’d been working with.

So, the real “Happy New Year” happens for me as it happens. As I get a thought, and with the thought a choice, I walk into new and unfamiliar territory. Every day. I still can’t stand those uncomfortable jitters or the analytical thoughts. But they tell me that I’m up to new, life-changing things.

And I like that.

(Not really.)

What If Today…You Didn’t Know For Sure?

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” ~Vincent  Van Gogh

“I’m going to feed the seagulls,” I whispered to the occupant of the bottom bunk, startling her from a deep sleep.

“Sorry,” she said, which was my queue to slink back out of the room and to let the sleepers enjoy a few more hours of quiet before everyone woke up. She’d been game for the adventure days earlier.

It was 5am, raining and very black outside.

I remembered as I buckled my seatbelt that the sun wouldn’t be up ’til about 6:30. But I was committed, so I started the car.

As I made my way down the road I thought, “Do seagulls eat before sunrise? Will they see me? What am I doing?”

Some things don’t make sense.

Such is my life, I live most of it figuratively and literally in the dark.

But I always act in the light of faith. I believe in living whether I understand, know for sure, or think I’m safe or right, considering how my actions affect other people, of course.

Last night I listened to a conversation about college math and another about relationships-  how it was wonderful when it all came together in your brain and made sense. Until then it was no fun, and the void of understanding was filled with game-playing, practice, failure, and a lot of pain- some of it inflicted on purpose.

As I drove  I contemplated the light from stars that travel for millions of years to finally be seen by us in the present.

Their journey is in the dark, not knowing for sure their destination or the blessing they’ll be for anyone or whose path they’ll light.

Can you imagine if they waited to know for sure before they shined?

What about you? Are you waiting for signs and wonders before stepping out into your life? Are you waiting for things to make sense?

Me? I finally got to the beach even though my gas gauge read “empty.”

There were no seagulls, but I scattered my bread crumbs anyways.

They’d be around later.

It would have been nice to see them swooping and racing to get a morsel of bread. But I’d come when I could and given the gift that I had to give.

Sometimes I think we think too much and act too little.

Why are people like that?

What If Today…Your Gift Was Being Present?

“There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving- by paying attention and doing what thereby one discovers has to be done.”`~ Aldous Huxley

He crossed the street and headed towards my parked car. Our eyes met and in seconds he was on top of the stone wall that separated the sidewalk from the parking lot. I waved and smiled. He insisted that I roll down my window.So I did, and spent the next few minutes petting  him and soaking in his joy. For a moment nobody else existed. Just me and the dog.  I turned my attention to his owner and thanked him. He thanked me and moved on.

We connect in moments. Moments that come when they come and pass quietly and sometimes unnoticed.

Here are a couple of questions for you to ponder, as I have many times in my life.

While in a conversation do you watch for the next important person to walk through the door?

Do you start meetings and classes on time even if there’s only one person present or do you wait for late-comers to arrive?

Some people have a gift of being present with one person at a time.

The message they send is, “You matter. This moment is a gift. I’m honored to share it with you.”

Think about it for a second.

When I contemplate Wise men, shepherds, and strangers  kneeling, arms outstretched, offering  gifts to one who is too young to enjoy them, what is really exchanged? What is the hope?

Answer: the only thing that is ours to give that another person can receive.

A moment shared by two who know that the other matters.

The class or the meeting will start on time because the most important person is already there, and eyes, ears, and heart will stay focused on the one who’s talking.

Many gifts are exchanged at this time of year.

My question is,  how many moments of quiet and complete giving are we really enjoying?

That kind of gift, once received and shared, lasts forever.

What If Today…You Felt Joy?

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“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Khalil Gibran

I was in the store talking to a friend when I heard about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

I cried in the car for the sweetness of the children.

I cried for their silly jokes and belly laughs, for their tiny hands and arms that give the best hugs and kisses and show love by reaching out and hanging on. I cried for a lot of beautiful reasons.

My eyes were opened to the wonder of my life. Colors became more vibrant. The walk on the beach the next day was more soothing. I had increased understanding for my children’s squabbles. The monotony of meals and laundry was swept away in gratitude for having mouths to feed and bodies to clothe.

Perhaps I’ll stand alone in my joy and thanksgiving for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.

Early yesterday I sat next to my 10-yr.-old daughter on the couch. She was home from school because of a virus she and her little brother have. Neither of them knew about Sandy Hook. So I told her while her brothers slept and after the older ones had left for school.

She is not afraid because I’m not afraid. That’s the way she is. I didn’t talk about safety or trust in locks, teachers, or first-responders. I didn’t bring up guns or gun control.

We briefly talked about mental health and how important it is not to judge.

I introduced the concept of wisdom. We’re both ruminating on that one. With the facts in plain view, what choices do we make? How do we live full and happy lives? So many opinions. They all tire me out.

The answers for me are in the children.

So quick to forgive. So eager to play. So ready to love.

Is there any other way than to find joy in the deepest sadness, to let it take root, and nourish it?

For me and my house there is no other way.

You and yours?

What If Today…You Knew What “Turn the Other Cheek” Meant?

It doesn’t mean what you think it means. Read the words first:

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

This post is not intended to teach anyone, to preach, or to counsel. It’s simply a reflection of my reviewing what’s important to me as I search for meaning and direction as I have had experiences that beg me to look inward and upward for the higher laws that bring me peace.

Imagine,  if you will, either being poor with little or no means to defend yourself in a court of law, and/or living in your enemy-occupied homeland, dealing with injustices every day.

Then imagine being told what you just read above.

We think we understand what that would feel like. I wonder how few of us really do. How many people walked away in anger when they heard those words, refusing to ponder their real meaning? How many stayed to listen?

In the culture of Christ’s day, and in the original language of the text, this passage was clear to those who were open to being taught:

“Resist not evil”  (the Greek word antistenai, as used in the New Testament ) means do not meet offense of any kind with anger or violence. It was not a call to pacifism. It was a call to take a look at what you want and to be creative to get it without harming your inner peace. Like attracts like.

“Turning the other cheek” meant “I expect to be treated as an equal”. Most people are right-handed. To hit someone on the right cheek requires a right-handed person to strike someone with the back of his hand which implied superiority to the one hit. A palm slap on the left cheek forced the aggressor to admit to a person’s equality if he was going to hit him.

  • And he couldn’t admit to that!

Giving your cloak meant to literally give your accuser the coat off your back. The poor of His day typically had no coats over their cloaks and were left with only their cloaks to cover their nakedness-literally. An accuser would be left viewing someone in their nakedness while holding their cloak which was more shameful for the viewer than the viewed in that culture.

  • So the cloak would remain and the case would be closed because the accuser wants to avoid shame.

Military law of their day allowed a Roman soldier who occupied their land to compel a civilian to carry his heavy pack a mile but no more. There were markers along the roadside and the pack was to be dropped at the marker when reached. To carry it more than a mile meant that the control of the situation would be taken away from the soldier who, if caught in this situation, would be punished.

  • So a soldier would eventually learn not to take advantage of the citizens out of fear.

What do I want, I ask myself? I want to be heard, I want to progress, I want to be treated justly.

Can I control that?

No. Even if I possessed the power to sit the whole world down and tell everyone how I felt everyone would still have to decide for themselves whether to listen and respond. And even then the response might feel inadequate.

But sitting on my hands and bemoaning my fate is not being a good steward of my life.

However, if I can heed this wise counsel from Him whose only wish for me is to find peace and happiness in this life,  and at the same time gives me something to DO that turns the tables and makes my “enemy” think  AND takes away his power as an aggressor to some extent, then, instead of inciting him to more anger where we both lose, we  start on the common ground of respect.

This takes a degree of self-control and willingness to see other options besides hostility, violence, or giving up completely. It also takes a calmness of spirit that knows that the stirrings of anger in the heart are a signal to stop, assess the situation, and search for understanding.

Sometimes we might be the only ones invested in understanding and communicating better to reach a peaceful resolution.

But that’s okay because the first war we want to stop is the war inside of us. Right?

What If Today…You Gave All That You Have?

“Everyone wants more than anything to be allowed into someone else’s most secret self. Everyone wants to allow someone into their most secret self. Everyone feels so alone inside that their deepest wish is for someone to know their secret being, because then they are alone no longer. Don’t we all long for this? ”~ Aiden Chambers, This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn 

“I have something for you in my pocket,” Kenny said as he dug deep to pull something out of his pant’s pocket. With the start of a grin he tentatively approached me. I imagined a rock or a seashell or maybe a toy car of his was hidden in his clenched fist. He stopped inches from me, smiled a smile that melted my heart, and threw his arms around me as he whispered, “It’s a hug for you.” And off he ran, very happy with himself.

He started that tradition about a month ago. I don’t know where he got the idea, but every day now, sometimes a few times in one day, he says, “I have something in my pocket for you, Mommy.”

Kenny treasures his feelings and the good ones are the ones he wants to share the most.

But what’s really interesting is that he has been so misunderstood and his tender feelings have been hurt so much in the past year that sharing love for him has been difficult. But he found a way to give what he had in a way that he could.

Reminds me of a similar event that Christ witnessed almost 2,000 years ago at the temple in Jerusalem where offerings were being made:

“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

“And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they who cast into the treasury:

“For all they did cast of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” ~Mark 12:42

Kenny has taught me a lot lately:

  • We must give what we want most with no expectation of the gift being returned.
  • We should dig deep and give gifts of value, the ones buried in our hearts –  the ones that last.
  • It’s hard to make the first move, but the humble and meek will always be the ones who lead out.
  • Become as a child.

Christmas and Hanukkah are upon us.

Just some thoughts about giving for you.

Do you have any?