New

Times of reflection at some point come to a crux.  Even if the “same” person emerges it is with expanded memories, deeper values, and strengthened priorities.  Given the present tragedies, New Year emerging, and holidays just past, it has been a time of reflection for everyone.  I wonder what will come.  Will we like the “new”?  Will the new reflect the values and priorities we say we hold dear?  Could this be the window we long for?
 
I wish I could say with certainty I knew the outcome.  I am hopeful yet not confident.  There are three observations that come to mind.
 
First, the world is more uncertain about the present and the future than at any time in recent history.  We have lived with wars, conflicts, and economic uncertainty for most of my life.  Yet the reality of a natural disaster which moved islands, probably changed the tilt of the world axis, and in the matter of minutes touched millions of lives is new.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  I am not sure what the best thing to do in the present is!
 
Second, it is hard to understand what has and is happening.  So much has gone on in the past year.  I am having a tough time coming to grips with the last four weeks!  Yet life has and is going on.  The phone rings, emails come, and people extend a hand of friendship.  Life is being played out in front of me; am I willing to engage?  Can I reflect enough to attempt to take an intelligent next step? 
 
Third, it is time to step out.  You will know when it is right for you.  The key is being open to sense the time to act.  I feel as if I am “a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face.”  (John 11.44a)  The good news is that you and I have Divinity’s call to let us know the time is right; “unwrap him and let him loose.”  (John 11.44b)
 
Now is the time.  read more

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Subtlety

Paraphrasing an old clich?, “there is a time for subtlety and there is a time to just bag it.”
 
For all our bravado, living on the edge, and taking chances as if we were young again, we live in constraints.  Etiquette, proper decorum, and pride often keep us from expressing the thoughts, feelings, and values our hearts hold most dear.  Enough is enough!  It is time others knew the true you living within our hearts and we began to deal with our true selves.  However obvious this point might be it isn’t the heart of my thoughts.  I am struck by the lost opportunities we have to communicate because of living within a predefined shell of being normal, acceptable, or reasonable.
 
I believe the primary reasons are fear and pride.  It’s risky to express one’s true feelings when they might be rejected.  It can be difficult to grapple with whoever we are instead of just living with the simple painting we present to others.  Guilt often turns to the evil side and turns reasonable reflection into a living nightmare!  There is no subtlety about what is going on within us, just lost windows of opportunity in reaching out to others who need our touch, love, and friendship.
 
As Jesus responded in active compassion to a situation he was less than subtle.  The record says “he shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’”  (John 11.43) 
 
My simple advice to you and to myself today is the following.
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Certainty

In an age where nothing is certain, trust appear soft and watery, and consistency is a rare event, being confident about what is going to happen in the future is difficult.  One doesn’t know if the people you depend on are going to be there.  It isn’t always to work with confidence in a space where everything around you is in flux.  Even the processes and successes of yesterday may not be there in the future.  Life seems to be in flux and getting more so by the day.
 
Something makes a difference.  It is difficult to describe yet the source is clear; relationships.  When one has a relationship filled with trust, especially experiential trust, then one can be confident, certain, and hopeful.  Each time the relationship is given an opportunity to work and it does, confidence, hope, and certainty grows exponentially. 
 
Yet this often seems illusive.  How does one get this confidence?  Is it possible to know and experience hope?  Will things ever be certain?
 
The answer comes through in many stories.  One lies in a simple record.  “To the others, ‘Go ahead, take away the stone.’
 
They removed the stone.  Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, ‘Father, I'm grateful that you have listened to me.  I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I've spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.’”  (John 11.41, 42) 
 
Here is one with absolute confidence, complete certainty, and hope.  I know others have made phone calls in times of distress to discover those who will always be there for them no matter what the issue, challenge, or situation.  They carry with them a certainty many of us long for!
 
Certainty comes with experience.  Giving Divinity and those in our lives the opportunity to act is the first step of hope filled with confidence.  Responding to those who give us windows to act is the first step.  Today will have many windows in it.  I am committed to being there.  I look forward to seeing you along the way. read more

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Faith

In times of distress important barriers between people, cultures, and countries quietly dissolve into nothingness.  It is as if the obstacles of yesterday are consumed by the tragedy and needs to this moment.  Nothing else matters!  It is hard to imagine anything more important than compassion, mercy, and helping each other.  I wonder how the faith in humanity and humanity’s ability to respond can thrive and grow when only yesterday we were, at least metaphorically, attacking each others throats.
 
In the midst of the tragedies around me, some close whiles others are far away, I see opportunities to restore faith.  It is as if there was a question being posed by a woman standing next to me and in response, “Jesus looked her in the eye.  ‘Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’”  (John 11.40)  People from all over the world are reaching out to those in need without conditions or demands.
 
The real challenge is not the crisis at hand but rather tomorrow.  With the lights and action fades, the cameras and reporters have gone home, and the newspaper headlines return to yesterday’s conflicts, then we will face the real opportunities to show our true potential as members of humanity.  People the world over are dying, some due to the crisis at hand others due to the evil present in the world at large.  Many are being exploited in ways that mock basic human rights.  Injustice rains down on those unable to defend themselves.  Starvation reaches out to those who cannot do anything about the present or the future. 
 
In the midst of all this, where do we stand?  Will we stand up for those who cannot champion their cause?  Will we strive to change our own habits that exploit, manipulate, or in any way hurt those around us?  Will we become living paradigms of compassion, mercy, and love?  It is in the realization of the dream of seeing people in action that I discover reasons for faith; God’s action for us, our actions for each other. read more

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Natural

As one struggles against the odds in traffic it is easy to follow one’s natural reaction; it won’t get you there any faster yet we want to do something!  When someone comes up to you asking for the impossible, stinking, or in any way pushing you in a way you are not comfortable with, one has a reaction.  It’s natural but it is far from ideal.  Just when our fears and doubts get the best of us, we should stop and reflect on the link between our natural instinct and our priorities and values.  Is there one?  Could we make it stronger?  What would we ideally like to be able to do?
 
In the midst of a terrible tragedy there are a group of people who have my admiration and respect.  People by the hundreds and thousands have died.  For anyone involved with caring for the dead, especially in times when there is heat and humidity, the senses can easily be overwhelmed.  Having experienced this once I find myself overwhelmed just watching the scenes being played out on the television.  I am twenty something and eager to be strong.  Yet I found myself overwhelmed by smells, textures, and tragedy of it all.
 
I look now and find myself overwhelmed.  I read about the past and relive the moment again.  “Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb.  It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.  Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’
 
The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, ‘Master, by this time there's a stench.  He's been dead four days!’”  (John 11.38, 39)
 
It is only natural to rebel against compassion, taken care of human needs, and mercy, yet there is a call for those who will act.  We will not usually face challenges of a world tragedy yet our natural instincts may not be the best guide on how to react to the people around us.  Take care, look for windows to give, and think of what Divinity’s has given us to share. read more

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Why?

To look outside, one would never know there is a problem.  The sky is filled with a bright winter sun, the sky is a pale blue, and there is a hard frost coating the grass.  Everywhere you look everything is still; almost as if in anticipation.  Nothing indicates the trauma people are facing elsewhere.  The uncertainty of the life status of loves ones they just talked to yesterday.  The trauma of the eighty thousand people admitted to Accident and Emergency across England yesterday.  The reality of devastation is playing out on televisions, web sites, and though text messages.  Why?  Could we have done anything about it?  When are we going to get some answers?
 
The words I write will not solve the problems of the world or condemn those who could have taken actions which would have reduced the suffering.  My intent is not focused on those areas though I am sure thousands of words will be spoken, written, and captured over the next few days along these lines.  My focus is two-fold.  The first is to acknowledge that the questions are not new.  We have questioned for decades, centuries, and probably from the beginning of time.  When Jesus was confronted with the reality of a good friend dying there were “others among them [who] said, ‘Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying?  After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.’”  (John 11.37)  And the questions continue right through this morning.
 
The second is to raise the question of response.  There is no way of predicting some tragic events.  They are, at least for most of us, beyond our control or influence.  Yet we are not powerless.  The question of what happens once we are aware is one we cannot ignore.  Not acting is a response.  Acting with compassion is an alternative.  You and I have a unique opportunity to give of ourselves when nothing else could be more important.  We may not know why yet we do know why we act; in love. read more

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Messages

We hear stories of how much communication occurs through non-verbal communication, yet most of us don’t really believe the facts in our hearts.  It is easy to express the views of others when applied to others, yet when it comes to looking critically in the mirror, the story unravels.  Combine these two statements of reality and you have an interesting conundrum.  I find myself not believing what I communicate and then not accepting the results after the fact!  Denial playing itself out in a difficult paradox I do not easily or willingly accept.
 
The denial becomes problematic when I see the reaction of those around me.  The heart smile of a girl who realizes she is loved cannot be denied.  When compassion is expressed through a look it is originally authentic.  Being touched at the soul’s level is a way of saying and giving a priceless thank-you.  This is as real as life gets!  There were words which came along with the unspoken expressions and body language yet they seemed to be mere texture on an already rich canvas.
 
Far too often we forget how our sub-conscious actions and reactions tell a story.  I know that there are times when we are misread however far too often what is observed is the final reality.  When “the Jews said, ‘Look how deeply he [Jesus] loved him,’” (John 11.36) it wasn’t words telling the story.  Simply put, his heart expressed his feeling.
 
Today is a special day for gifts.  Gifts of the heart are ones that last forever.  They cannot be purchased at any price.  Authenticity comes without any effort.  It is hard to express what cannot be said so my suggestion is to let you heart complement your words.  The combination is absolutely magical.  In our house it was best seen in two bookends; one a photo-album filled hand picked of the givers, the other simple heart thanks.
 
Given my experience today I can only imagine what it would be like if everyone received as much as I did.  Now is the opportunity to begin finding out. read more

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Timing

Its odd how the same sentiment can be expressed on one occasion, perfectly acceptable, yet in another time and place it might be taken as corny, strange, bizarre, out of place, and even inappropriate.  Expression of love can take on a life cycle of their own, especially around Valentines, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  When these make the public forum one often wonders what the two parties thought was going to happen as what actually passed into memories.
 
I wonder what the success rate is of those asking for a hand in marriage at a baseball or football game via the public announcer.  Is the acceptance rate higher?  Do the chances of long term success increase?  What about ten years later?  When one looks at other expression, grief, concern, and fear, the same type of wonder emerges.  Grief expressed at a funeral or a graveside is accepted a appropriate.  Nobody was particularly bothered or even took notice when “Jesus wept” (John 11.35) at the graveside of a close friend.  Yet profound emotional expressions are frowned on when things are not in a crisis.
 
What about leaving on trip?  Is there a difference when one is going to be separated for a long period of time?  What constitutes “long”? 
 
I would like to suggest the following.
 
It is never inappropriate to express love and compassion.  “How” may be a matter of custom and culture, yet the expression in and of itself is an integral part of life and living.
 
Fears and concerns are often personal demons.  By expressing them to another do we understand what we are trying to say as well as what we actually said?  Great care is needed.  Our fears, our concerns often heard as doubt and distrust.
 
Compassion and mercy know no season.  Listening with heart mercy is a priceless gift in short supply.  Giving living compassion through listening and engaged living should be the number one priority on our “to-do” list!
 
Today is the perfect day to begin giving real gifts to those around us.  Life changes with the reality of love in action.
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Experiential

There is something that changes with experience.  In my own journey it is as if the sum of the parts comes together in a way defying logic and understanding.  The formula of combining an open mind with a series of relationship interactions in a variety of different situations would seem simple enough to understand.  In reality the outcome is as complex as anything I have ever tried to understand.  It is as if the reality of relationships creates its own understanding.  This understanding has a power beyond description.  Among the results include the following.  My soul values shift in ways I didn’t expect.  My understanding and grip on hope grows or shrinks in disproportionate measure.  Even the relational trust quotient which exists between every human being and each other grows stronger or becomes weaker. 
 
It isn’t enough to know the steps.  Seeing the process played out in animation or simulation will not suffice.  Reading about what has, is, or will occur is no substitute.  Experience is the only answer to the formula. 
 
Nobody is immune.  Age doesn’t matter.  Even those who came before us faced the same unknown.  Even with the knowledge of a friend’s death the act of seeing the site made a difference.  The conversation capturing the gateway was as simple as a question and answer.
 
“‘Where did you put him?’  ‘Master, come and see.’”  (John 11.34)
 
Today is a new day, full of the unknown.  There should be no question of the baggage each of us carries into it but this doesn’t need to be the determinate of what will happen.  There will be those out to exploit and control but letting our fear of evil control us is not the answer.  We have a unique window in which to experience God and others touching us with compassion, love, and sympathy.  We can experience and in turn give others the experience of Divinity living within.  A new day is here, ready and waiting.  What happens next is your choice and mine.  Everything is possible.  Anything can happen.  The power to experience is ours. read more

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Empathy

People in power and authority are not often recognized for they ability to show compassion, understanding, and empathy.  It is as if the very fact they have position and or status come with an inability to access these types of emotions.  We are told politicians have souls and a connection with the person on the street, but the cynic inside sees this as a self serving statement.  How can they feel my pain?  How is it possible for them to really know my situation?  How could they understand the anguish and loneliness?
 
On one level the accusation is right.  It is impossible for one to fully and completely understand another’s situation.  It was only in becoming a parent that I understood the emotions flooding my parent’s souls.  I can now see the empathy through my memories of their body language even as words failed them.  I understand “when Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.”  (John 11.33)  These are the natural feelings arising when someone deeply cares.
 
I’m not suggesting politicians have thought beyond a tool of manipulation.  I would gently suggest for anyone in pain that there are many around him/her who care deeply, passionately, and intensely about what is going on in his/her life.  Are they empathetic?  Yes, beyond anyone’s ability to imagine!  Parents, lovers, and friends would gladly take on any and everything if they could to ease the pain of the immediate and replace it with hope.  I know as I examine the intensity of my emotions on the subject.  There is nothing that I would not be willing to do in order to assist.  Sacrifices, life changes, and even things more intense would gladly be put on the table if they could help.
 
Yet I cannot fix the big stuff, but I can bring hope, love, and compassion to the table.  Today is your and my opportunity to ease the pain in another’s life, to plant and nurture hope.  Be on the alert; chances like this are rare.  Seize the day!
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