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Posts tagged ‘Faith’

Look Back, Move Forward, Anchored in Today

“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

Sasha’s second birthday was on Thursday. Both Sasha and Abby were as happy as they were the day before. That’s the thing that dogs and kids have in common. The ability to be fully present in today and to achieve one thing – joy.

And in their process and pursuit of joy, we witness for ourselves the possibility that resides in each one of us and in each day. The capacity and the call to simply be present and aware without going too far back or reaching too far ahead.

The past has gotten to us to today so it serves to provide lessons, ground us in memories keeping those who have gone ahead of us on their journey in this world in our heart and builds our resilience. The future provides hope, fuels anticipation for new beginnings and comes slowly then quickly.

The present is the real gift hidden in ordinary moments, conversations and quiet reflection filled with gratitude, if we choose.

Be open to and seek joy and depth in today. The past is not the map to your future. Been there, done that. New, wonderful and abundant living lies ahead only to be discovered by you one day at a time. Today, that’s it.

Walk Into It

“And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk into it.” – Isaiah 30:21

So often we force things. We try to make the puzzle pieces fit where they just don’t fit. Square peg, round hole activities. There is value in allowing things to arrive rather than to always be in hot pursuit. When we allow God to do his work in us, we unfold. A good place to be and remain, a holy sacred ease.

Trust in the mystery. Don’t assume you know the final chapter before you write the first ones. The path appears as we walk into it and at the right time which is often not on our watch. And as the chapters weave the story together, we can find joy in each day, no matter the circumstances.

If you’re at a crossroads or you can’t quite find the road right now, it’s alright. Trust, listen and be open to that soft yet firm voice that whispers, “this is the way, walk into it.”

“A painting is not thought out and settled in advance. While it is being done, it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it’s finished, it goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it.” – Picasso

You are an unfinished beautiful work of art that is being revealed, finished and yet never done, unfolding as you should. Ease up and enjoy the walk.

Carrying Sunday into Monday

“Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.” – Billy Graham

For Lent, I decided to not give up something but to gain something – patience. To be more patient and not allow the little stuff, irritating people, busyness and interruptions to affect my attitude. And, of course, more patience will result in less swearing, even though studies show that people who swear are more intelligent. It’s easy to be positive and peaceful on Sundays. It’s the Monday-Thursday time frame that’s problematic.

We are not perfect and are not built to be. Perfect is God’s job, not ours. What I missed in my intention to be more patient was involving God in the process, allowing him to do his work rather than trying harder.

As soon as we set intentions, forces enter to block and tackle to ensure we are tested. On the way back to work on Thursday (note, the day after Ash Wednesday, within 24 hours of my intention setting), I was driving back to work after letting the dogs out at lunch and bringing three cups of coffee back to friends at work. Rushing to get back to the next meeting, I was three blocks away from the office and the idiot in front of me (note, no patience) stopped quickly for no apparent reason and I hit the brakes. Three large cups of Americano on the passenger side floor flew across the mat, opened up and spilled all over the place.

“My trust in God flows out of the experience of his loving me, day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I’m sick or in good health, whether I’m in a state of grace or disgrace. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am.” – Brennan Manning

Needless to say, swearing ensued. The construction workers at our building learned a few new words that day as I pulled out the cups and tray and stomped and kicked them. Within the first 24 hours of setting my intention, I blew it big time. Nowhere near the mark.

If we allow, time gives perspective and offers up lessons. If I want more patience or anything else, I need to allow God to do his work in me and be open to change. We think that if we work harder and faster and do more, we can find the shortcut to our best self.

When we do less, let go and listen more, we soon discover that where we are right now is for a purpose and when we fail, we need to get back up again and again and keep trying, accepting and offering grace and moving forward to learn and grow. To be better, not perfect.

When we are rooted in the peace and beauty of Sundays, steeped in God’s grace, we can transform Mondays and every other day into opportunities to be fully present, grow in our imperfection and enjoy each day.

“Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Between the Ashes

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – Genesis 3:19

Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent, the seed planted that over 40 days transforms our winters to springs. If we allow, we are called deep within to reflection, waiting, listening and reconnecting to our deepest self and God within. To search and find lasting value and meaningful joy that the world will never fulfill. A deep joy and contentment that remains and lingers through the roller coaster of life.

Like New Year’s Day, (without the hangover), Ash Wednesday is the first day of a journey of possibility and promise through reflection and repentance. A time in the desert of contemplation of how to become our best selves, to find that person hidden inside our impatient, busy and chaotic daily life of doing more and getting less.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust – from beginning to the end. What am I doing and who am I becoming between the ashes of birth and death? Seems worthy of 40 days of focus and reflection leading to the resurrection of Easter.

YOU Matter

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” – Ferdinand Foch

If you can be certain of one sure thing, let it be knowing that you matter. Despite what others say or do, you are here for a purpose and have your own special gifts to contribute.

In a world that has the attention span of a gnat, flittering from one empty promise to the next without regard, it is important for you to fully grasp that you matter.

Tune out the noise and enthusiastically dive into your life each day with abandon and joy. Do not be discarded. Be kind to yourself and others, with a side of gratitude. Get to work enjoying your life.

Insulate

“Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.” – William Alexander

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

As the snow continues to pile on and winter lingers, beneath the insulation of the snow lies the earth quietly preparing for spring. Preparation, waiting and anticipation are fundamental to the seasons in our life to unfold as they always do in due time.

We grow weary in the waiting and must insulate our minds and hearts from the blustery winds of negativity and fear. We know spring comes yet we get caught in a winter-mindset. A bad day turns into a “bad” life. A snapshot into the photo album. A scene into an entire movie. We turn temporary bumps into insurmountable mountains.

We long for change and then fight it when it arrives. There’s comfort and safety in the familiar to be sure. And yet that yearning inside incessantly whispers to us that we are made of more than we allow ourselves to be.

Insulation keeps the cold out but it also breaths so we don’t suffocate. In order to enjoy each day, no matter the circumstances, we need to be porous, letting the fresh air in and keeping the stale, cold air out. We need a Tigger mindset in an Eeyore world, with a spring in our step and spring in our heart.

Never let anyone’s opinion or narrow view define your life. Each of us is called and expected to define our own life, make our own way, help others along their journey and become our true self in the process. No matter where you are at or how old you are, you can always change your perspective, outlook and path.

“If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.” – Wendy Mass

7300 Days

On Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1999, I went to mass at the St. Paul Cathedral and came back to the office to a voicemail from the Doctor. The previous Friday, I went in to have a mole on my right arm checked because it was itchy and changing color. They took a biopsy. I had gone to the clinic in early January, but there was no Doctor available so the nurse measured it and I came back for in February for the biopsy. I called the clinic back asking for Jan who wasn’t available. The operator asked for my name and immediately said hold on and I’ll get Jan. At that point, I figured Jan and I weren’t about to exchange our favorite recipes. Jan came on the line and told me she made an appointment for me on Friday to come in for a wide excision (cut it out) – “you have melanoma.”

I sat quietly in my chair at my office for a few minutes and then started to make calls to my family – tough calls. Blew off work (still need to do more of that), went to the Mall of America to watch an afternoon movie and hang out with family to pass the next 48 hours.

Friday comes. I go in ready to get this thing done and move on only to be told that it wasn’t a in office procedure since in the month between appointments, it went from Stage 1 to 3 of 5. They needed to schedule a hospital visit to do a sentinel node where they put dye in the area of the mole and track it for a few hours to see if the cancer spread to the lymph nodes by putting a big metal door next to your face to take pictures for 10-minute stints. If it did, then the procedure is to be put fully under, dig deep into the arm and then take some lymph nodes.

This appointment was yet another month later in March. Waiting was fun. Sure enough, three lymph nodes came back suspicious so they cut deep into my armpit to remove and test those little buggers, which then determines the post-surgery treatment plan. My wake up requests were a diet Mountain Dew and Hot Tamales and my wish was granted as we waited for the results. Most excellent news – the lymph nodes came back negative so no chemo or radiation. Regular visits to the dermatologist and hold out for that 5 year mark which is a great anniversary in cancer land.

Fast forward 7300 days – two decades later – and I celebrate 20 years cancer free. My story was a lucky one. I have many friends and family who had to do chemo, radiation and experimental drugs in the past two decades. Some haven’t won the battle.

I’ve decided to frame the celebration in days rather than decades as a reminder to be live and be present in each day because they quickly add up to decades and we don’t know where they’ve gone when we don’t participated fully in each day.

The most valuable gift that cancer gave me is an acute awareness of the brevity and fragility of life. The result is a shift in perspective to lighten up and take all the chaos that life throws at us much less seriously and know that there’s more to the story than we know.

A few more lessons: Enjoy each day and laugh. Judge less and love more. Tune out negativity. Let go. Keep learning. Age is number, stay young by being active. Pray, a lot. Keep trying. Worry less. Ask for help. Offer help even when it’s not asked for. Be kind. Change the stories that you tell yourself that hold you back. Feed, cultivate and activate faith, hope and joy. Let God be God – He’s got it and doesn’t need my help to screw up the plan. I do forget all of this often, but always return when I get off track. Returning home to all that’s real and true, that which I know deep in my soul that quietly whispers to me – “come back home, keep unfolding”.

So how does all of this lead to the picture of a snow blower? We’ve been throttled with snow this winter. We now get to win the most snow in February award in Minnesota. Spike the football – we win! Last night, on my second round of snow blowing the dense pile of snow at the end of the driveway from the snow plow, the snow blower didn’t start. Damn it! We’re going to be getting more snow and buying a new snow plow now when they are in demand is not the best purchasing decision. Buying a lawn mower would be good now since it’s going to be 6 months for the snow to melt. I picked up the old shovel and started digging. That’s what we need to do when an obstacle pops up – shut up, stop complaining, dig in and keep moving.

As I shoveled in the quiet dark evening, it occurred to me that I bought that snowblower 20 years ago with my Dad after I had surgery and couldn’t move my right arm for a month while the incision healed. A few days after my surgery, we got dumped on with 12 inches of snow. My Dad and neighbor dug me out. At that point, it was time for the snowblower. I think about my Dad every time I start that snow blower and so I wanted to take a photo to capture and hold that memory if the snowblower is going to the snowblower cemetery.

Long story today, but short lesson – enjoy your days, all 7300 of them. Go deeper and be present today. Each day adds up to make up your life. No do overs. Keep going.

2nd Thought

“Gratitude is one of the strongest and most transformative states of being. It shifts your perspective from lack to abundance and allows you to focus on the good in your life, which in turn pulls more goodness into your reality.” – Jen Sincero

When I pulled into work this morning, my front tire was flat and a bit shredded. No patching this one. While a “what now” thought initially ran through my mind, I immediately went to my second thought of gratitude. Grateful for making it to work safely in below zero weather, for not being on the highway. I called a tow truck and at the end of day, I had four new tires since you can’t replace just one without causing alignment issues with the car. $850 later I have a new set of tires.

Inconveniences and irritations are a part of daily life but they need not define the quality of our days. When we give them too much power, we surrender our joy and diminish all of the blessings and gifts present to us each day. Loosen up, get a perspective and don’t allow pebbles in the road to become boulders on your back. Get past your initial reaction, take a breath and let a calm second thought in to put it all in perspective. A flat tire need not deflate your day. Move on to your second, third and fourth thoughts to go deeper to that well of gratitude.

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” – John Milton

Gifts AND Fruit

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

We are all given gifts, but we often fall short on producing fruit. When we don’t fully engage and release our gifts, we don’t fully produce fruit and bloom. Recognize, be grateful and accept your gifts and start producing some fruit to nourish and light the world.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, Fear of the Lord, Piety

There are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control

Imagine if we align with the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. A very worthwhile life. No small ball. Play it big, all out.

Gifts AND Fruit, a power combo.

Give Into It

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)”

― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver passed away last week on January 17th. Grateful for her beautiful words and observations that inspire reflection and attention to what is before us right now.

Read poetry, write poetry, live poetry. Give into daily joy. In this very moment.

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