Evangelistic Soil

Evangelistic Soil

Lent  19

 

I know what you’re thinking…Evangelism?  What does that have to do with gardening and growing a better self?  In a word – harvest.  That which we reap from our being is our evangelism to the world.  Recently I heard a talk in which the speaker accurately portrayed the shunning many have for this word “evangelism”.  Evangel is the root of the word evangelism and while, like many words, it has had its metamorphoses throughout time, it means to “announce”.  For us it means how we are seen and heard.

 

Evangelism became the property of Christians when they began to define the word to mean the good news or gospel.  This occurred sometime in the mid 1600’s and still relates to the original meaning.  The speaker I heard said we needed a new word, synonym for the word “evangelism” that was less frightening and less denomination specific.  Some suggested “practice” while others simply wanted to forget the word existed at all.  It is a word that ranks in the lower forty percent of all words so clearly others would like to ignore it as well.

 

The problem is that we cannot ignore our personal evangelism.  It is how others see us and hear us and it is not based just on our appearance but more importantly on our actions.  This blog is not just for Christians nor is it devoid of spirituality.  However, I firmly believe that evangelism is not the property of the faithful, any faithful.  I believe evangelism is dialogue and we all have that every day.

 

Adam S. McHugh wrote a book about introverts in today’s culture of extroverts.  “The verbal tool… is not confrontation or preaching but dialogue.  We subject ourselves to the same questions we pose to others, and as we traverse them together, we may arrive at surprising conclusions we could never have reached when simply trying to defeat one another’s logic.  The process is more important than an immediate decision.”  When we engage in dialogue, whether of the voice or of actions, we are participating in evangelism and sharing who and what we are.

 

This past week we “grew” our self-worth.  This week we will “water” that self-worth by increasing our knowledge, gaining understanding of self as well as wisdom for encouraging dialogue with others.   The biggest stop sign we have in our communion with others is fear.  We may think of it as hesitancy but it is fear, fear that we don’t really know how to proceed.

 

I really wish I could give you an owner’s manual for life but there just is not one.  Hindsight is definitely easier than trying to predict the future.  I have a notepad that states “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”  How do we create the future?  That is also not a certainty but we can have a better chance at creating a good future if we live what we seek.  If we want a more peaceful world, we have to live peacefully.  If we want a better environment, we have to be better stewards of our natural resources.  We have to learn from the past, practice in the present, and believe in the future.

 

Gardeners do just that when planting their gardens.  They learn from past years and evaluate what worked and brought about a better yield.  They then apply those lessons to the current crop, believing in the potential of future harvests.  We should do that with ourselves and yet…we seldom do.

 

We need to plant our feet firmly in evangelistic soil,the territory of good news and positive thinking.  We all have had those “oops!” moments.  We all have had a time we stumbled or bumbled our way through something.  What we need to do is remember we are growing each and every day in the soil of those goofs.  Our very being here on earth is a story of hope.  We are the living embodiment of potential and survival.  That minute of great embarrassment or failure or even grief has already become history.  It is now a evidence of survival and provided the seed for tomorrow’s success.

 

The best knowledge we can remember is that we are always growing.  For me the best synonym for evangelism is presence.  We need to always be present in our living, practicing what we believe and remembering that life is a learning experience.  When we are truly present in our living, then we will share the good news of our beliefs and our being, the presence of life itself.

What I Am

What I Am

Lent 18

 

This might not be the post I am most comfortable writing but I received several requests for it so … This is my answer to requests for explaining who I am, what I am.  During Lent we are planting a garden of sorts, growing ourselves and, hopefully, a better world.  I have had some requests that I share a bit about who I am.  I have tried very diligently not to make this blog all about me.  I do not discuss what I am wearing, where I have been, or what I am eating.  These posts are reflections about living and the diversity and sameness we all share.

 

I have asked you to undertake journeys in your mind, of the soul, and perhaps outside your own comfort zone.  I have encouraged you to reach out and touch another, help those in need, and realize that we are no different from anyone else.  Some feel it is time I share a little of myself in that cause.  As I wrote in the first post on Ash Wednesday: “The purpose of this blog is to explore the connections we have with others and for the past two years we have done just that.  We’ve woven stories, explored through literature, exchanged recipes, and traveled the world seeking sacred places and artifacts.  However, it is time to look inward and undertake the hardest thing of all – a look at ourselves.”  So I guess it is time to take at look at me.

 

I am a writer.  You might be thinking…”well, duh!”  I am also a human being, a musician, a writer, a reader, and a creative soul.  I believe I am uniquely made and consider myself to be a child of God, although how I define God is probably not like how many might define that Supreme Being. (We’ll save that definition for another time.) 

 

I am a descendant from the immigrants considered to be the first indigenous people on the continent of my home.  My appearance is very normal; hair color, eye color, and even skin color being among the “normal” range of humans, nothing considered a mutation or genetic anomaly.  In short, I am average; some might and have deemed me dull.  I like who I am.  To me, all of those descriptions are true but unnecessary.  You might notice that I did not tell you I breathe.  I am alive and as a human being, I breathe.  To me, telling you I write or read or create is very much like breathing.

 

I could tell you I have the most adorable toes on earth.  I happen to believe that is also a truth, although I realize that my toes are simply that – five digits on the end of my feet, nothing more or less than anyone else has.  There are those that have categorized me as handicapped, even though I can do things they cannot, like write with both hands and sign my name exactly the same with both hands.  I see no point in having bad dreams so I usually wake myself up and move on to more pleasant dreams.  To some this is weird; to me it is expedient.  I love order but am not obsessive about it.  I wish I was; then my living quarters would much cleaner.

 

In short, what I am is a human being and I am of the female variety.  There are contradictions and sameness, joys and tears, attempts and… the occasional success colored by failures that were wonderful life lessons.  I live with faith guiding each step I take and when I stray, I chastise myself and then seek what can be learned.

 

I am a unique creature and yet, just like everyone else.  To me, mankind is like a box of crayons.  We all have the same basic recipe and needs and yet, our differences not only make us special, they brighten our world and reflect the beauty and potential of living.

 

There is a danger in overthinking to the point in which we fail to live, only think.  As we go through this series this Lent, I hope you remember that the most crucial point of gardening is the enjoyment of the garden.  Most of all, I enjoy life.  I am that strange lady in the store softly singing to herself or that woman walking down the sidewalk dancing in time to a melody only I hear.  What I am… is alive.

Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told

Lent 17

 

It may seem like we have already discussed this, like three days ago with the post about being authentic.  Truth and authenticity are often synonyms for each other… with one exception.  We expect others to be honest and consider that when they are, they are being honest.  It becomes a different story when we apply that to ourselves.  I haven’t checked every list of synonyms but you seldom see integrity as a synonym for authenticity.  When we live honestly, we live with integrity and yet, somehow, that isn’t considered being authentic.  I wonder why.

 

We can grow nothing within ourselves if we are not truthful with ourselves.  My plants in my garden outside have no chance to thrive and survive if I am not honest about their needs and my response to that.  Our selves need the same thing.  Here is where our gardening to grow a better self can get a bit uncomfortable.

 

You may be surprised to learn that so-called experts do not agree on what truth is.  Even the words that mean truth have varied meanings, everything from unconcealment to steadfast, faith to agreement, trust to pact.  Throughout history, truth has meant that which was revealed but also that which a majority of those present agreed to consent.  In real life terms, truth might be discovering the sun will rise on the horizon at dawn but it could also mean that if those present on the shore agreed that the sun was not really the sun but the moon, then the new day would become the beginning of the night, a pact with one accord having been made.

 

Confused?  Me, too.  Truth is risky and tricky.  It is also absolutely essential when we are dealing with ourselves.  The Greek sage or wise man Chilo lived somewhere around 560 BCE.  He advised us to “Prefer a loss to dishonest gain; one brings pain for the moment, the other for all time.”

 

American president and writer Thomas Jefferson once claimed “Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”  This is especially true in writing our own stories.  Yesterday I asked you to dream of a better self.  We cannot expect to turn those dreams into reality without being honest with ourselves.

 

I will not presume to know what you have been hiding from yourself.  You know it all too well.  Ripping off that veil of dishonesty can be painful.  Trust me, I know.  I am still in the process so please do not assume I think I know it all or have achieved it all.  I am, as my bio states, a simple traveler on life’s road.

 

Take some time and review your best moments.  Then think about what you really want the world to remember you as long after today.  Do you only want to be seen as dressing in the current fad or do you want to have a legacy that lives on after our earthly visits are done?

 

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman of ancient times and favorite of mine, has some great words of truth we should all remember as we strive to better ourselves.  “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

 

Only you can determine your truth.  Only you can write your story.  We all have those supporting cast members in our lives and sometimes we seem to lose control, unsure of our next moves or lines to say.  Truth must have trust.  I believe in you.  I hope you believe in yourself enough to be honest with yourself.  I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr:  “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

 

Maybe today was not your best day.  I have had an entire week like that, quite honestly.  I stumbled and bumbled; was embarrassed and dejected.  Through it all, though, I kept going.  I learned and laughed and today, I am better for having lived my worst week in a long time.  There will be another “worst week”; life is like that.  However, with honesty of self, I live a life of integrity.  That is what I call winning.

Envisioning the Self

Envisioning the Self

Lent 16

 

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”  It may seem strange to begin an essay/blog post about dreaming of a better you or me with words from the American feminist Gloria Steinem but really, the feminist movement was all about empowerment.  Some would claim it was designed to destroy the fabric of a nation and indeed, in some areas of the world, equality is seen as that – a destructive tool.  Empowerment is about strength and two strong people are much better than one – unless that one is too scared to have another strong person beside them.

 

The characters of comic books and sci-fi movies are delightfully entertaining but alas. We have no people with the ability to neither soar through the atmosphere unaided nor leap skyscrapers in a single bound.  No one person can turn themselves into a super strong block of ice nor cloak themselves in invisibility.  In short, we have no Superman.  What we do have is the potential for super men and women.

 

It is imperative that we dream about a better tomorrow and more specifically, a better self.  Nothing else can move forward until we do.  The comic book characters and movie representations of those characters enthrall us and also offer some wonderful life lessons.  They give us hope and, at the same time, serve as reflections of our fears and dreams.

 

At some point, most of us have felt invisible.  It seems thrilling for someone in a story but to walk among the crowds and feel invisible is actually very painful.  We want to belong, not be ostracized.  The character Wolverine is seen as handsome and strong.  Having become a mutated human through a tragic accident, his claws are as steel and he can rip his enemies apart.  We often feel ripped apart by the words of others and have probably been tempted to respond in like fashion.  I ask you this, though:  Have you ever seen Wolverine smile?

 

The first step to a better life is a better being.  It is a process and it takes time but first we must envision it, envision a better self.  The journey can be rough and tough-going, as J.R. R. Tolkien eloquently described.  “All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost.  The old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

 

Two of my favorite quotes about this come not from writers but from scientists.  It may seem strange but what after all is science but the envisioning of a better world, based upon the past and the present?  Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  We often forget to apply that in our lives.  We may go to bed at night not having accomplished our goals for that day but we did not fail.  We simply learned other lessons, some of which were things not to repeat again.

 

The other quote is something Albert Einstein once said.  “A human being is part of the whole called by us [the] Universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself; his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by weaning our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

 

We need to embrace ourselves as part of nature’s beauty, envisioning a more positive self-image and believing we can be better than we are.  In short, we need to dream a better self.  Harriet Tubman was born a slave and spent her life seeking a better self, difficult since she lived under laws that sought to suppress her becoming that.  “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

 

When we dream and believe we can be more than we are, we open the door and take the first step towards making it a reality.  Once accomplished, even in small increments, the better you will lead to a better world.

 

 

Engagement and Touch

Engagement and Touch

Lent 15

 

I am a reader and as such, I connect with some of my favorite authors via social media.  I have always found the struggle they discuss to name a book interesting.  I never really understood the struggle they faced to find a title; that is, I never understood it until now.

 

I usually begin with a title and then elaborate on that title in the body of my work.  For example:  This post is part of a subset within a series.  It comes during the week we are discussing self-worth.  Its subject matter is supposed to illustrate how we use our perceived self-worth.  In other words, how we feel about ourselves determines how we act, how we engage others in our lives and the “touch” we make and leave on another.

 

The most important things we will ever do in our lives are primarily centered around how we treat people.  What we do is based on what we believe we can do.  Before we attempt anything, we must first believe it is possible and that we can achieve it. 

 

The title above, “Engagement and Touch” seemed both timely and on topic as well as self-explanatory.  It met all of the criteria of a title and yet, I did not really like it.  Why?  I guess because I thought a better title would be that which describes what stops us from engaging with others and making a difference, touching others with our own self-worth.

 

When we feel good about ourselves, we feel powerful and capable.  The explorer is willing to begin the journey because he/she feels capable of surviving whatever may come.  A scientist is willing to work the experiment because he/she understands the process and the value in both success and unexpected results.  The carpenter understands the wood and his/her tools and that confidence builds and transforms a block of wood into a work of artistry.

 

We must reach out to “touch” our neighbors on this planet.  Sometimes that “touch” is a figurative touch that offers support and sometimes it is a literal touch that provides comfort.  It should never be a harmful or painful touch.  We do not fully live until we are engaged in living.

 

The Reverend Russell H. Conwell was once the minister at Grace Baptist Temple in Philadelphia, PA over a century ago.  The church at that time met in a cramped building and often more people came than could fit in the space available.  There were always more children who wanted to attend the Sunday School than the space could accommodate. 

 

One of the children who often was left in the crowd outside was Hattie May Wiatt.  The Rev Conwell visited Hattie and her family at their home one day as a means of apology for their being unable to gain admittance to services.  During the visit he described his hope for raising funds to construct a building large enough for everyone.

 

Hattie May applauded this dream of a place where children could go to learn, the future Temple Sunday School.  She secretly began saving what pennies she could and looked forward to seeing the minister’s vision become reality.  Unfortunately, Hattie became ill and passed away.  The family gave the Rev Conwell a handmade purse they found among Hattie’s things.  Inside were fifty-seven pennies and a note: “To help build Temple Sunday School so more children can go.”

 

Rev Conwell showed his congregation Hattie’s fifty-seven pennies and asked them to believe as Hattie had.  Touched by the little girls’ endeavors, the congregation became engaged in the vision of a new building.  Hattie’s original fifty-seven pennies were sold.  Her fifty-seven cents became two hundred and fifty dollars.  The congregation took that money, converted it into pennies, and sold them.  They purchased land next door and the subsequent engagement of the congregation became not only a new church but the seed money for Temple University’s Hospital and School of Medicine.  Hattie believed in her own self-worth and that of Rev Conwell.  Look at what that positive self-worth accomplished and continues to accomplish today!

 

So why don’t we all make such great efforts?  Why my dilemma with the title of this post?  The answers are just one word…Doubt.  Doubt is our over-thinking; our enemy that manifests itself as worry.  Doubt is not a new human condition.  Buddha offered advice about it between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.  “There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt.  Doubt separates people.  It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations.  It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

 

Take five minutes and list your most pleasant memory and then your happiest activity.  Each of those required skills.  Focus on those skills and talents and realize that they are things you have.  Celebrate that, please.  I am pretty certain you probably have another great memory or activity with even more skills.  Recognizing those increases and helps build your own self-worth.

 

You have much to offer and the world is waiting for you to offer.  We need you!  Turn your back on doubt.  It serves no purpose.  Focus on the positive and let your self-worth be the seed currency for a better you.  Engaging in life and touching the lives of others helps us grow and flourish.

Best Gift Ever

Best Gift Ever – Authenticity

Lent 14

 

As someone who has written her fair share of thank you notes, I know that the simplest and hardest gift to offer and/or give is the gift of self.  It is scary.  It is risky.  It is one thing if someone doesn’t like a sweater you have given to them.  It is another thing entirely if you offer them yourself and they reject that.  After all, rejection hurts.

 

Google has defined this blog as “inspirational” so it may surprise you when I write/say this:  Someone doesn’t like you.  Yes, it is true.  Someone out there does not like you and possibly, they have even rejected you.  Guess what?  You are still alive.  You survived that rejection.  They did not like you and – surprise, surprise, you survived.  It is not only okay that they did not like you; it might just be the very best compliment you have ever received.

 

Authenticity of self is much like authenticity of a priceless piece of art.  Like that piece of art, you are a creation, valuable in your uniqueness.  Earlier in this series we discussed our “inner voice”.  Meredith Monk explains one purpose of our inner voice in helping us strive to be authentic in our lives:  “That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity.  So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.”

 

It is unfortunate that many people view one end result of being authentic is an accompanying vulnerability.  Unfortunately, we often view such vulnerability as wrong.  It is almost as though we have left something valuable unattended.  If we are vulnerable, then we must be doing something wrong.

 

Bah humbug.  Admittedly not the most eloquent sentence I have ever “borrowed” from a classical writer but it fits.  Let me repeat it:  Bah humbug!  We are human beings, not walking fortresses or safes needing to be secured against an invading army or crew of robbers.  We are works of art but our purpose is to share and be shared.  Otherwise we are living visionless and without purpose.

 

No one currently walking on this earth ever learned to walk without falling down.  It is part of the growth process.  I personally don’t remember the first time I stumbled.  I am fairly certain I probably cried out when it happened, though.  Falling down hurts, but how marvelous that I got up and kept trying.  Now I can walk, dance, and take myself any number of places….and it’s all because I first fell down.  I was first was vulnerable but that vulnerability led to being independent and strong.  I grew into being mobile and that took me into the world.

 

When we are true to ourselves, living an authentic life, we are really living.  More importantly, we are increasing our self-worth, growing a better being.  In the play “Hamlet”, William Shakespeare offered a bit of great advice:  “This above all: To thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

 

When we are authentic, we are vulnerable.  Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the bestselling book “Simple Abundance”, described it as “The authentic self is soul made visible.”  Take a second and reread that last sentence, please.  The vulnerability comes not from our being weak or deficit but by being visible.  When we are present, truly and honestly present in our own life, then we are our authentic self.

 

“To be nobody but myself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.”  The poet E. E. Cummings just described the difficulty in being authentic.

 

To be authentic is to be honest.  People often shy away from honesty but you need to be honest in spite of their fears.  Carl Jung once said that it was ‘the privilege of a lifetime…to become who you truly are.”  It is the best gift you can give, not only to the world but to yourself. 

Acceptance and Denial

Acceptance and Denial

Lent 13

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Most of us, after a certain age, start to see our parents or grandparents.  We realize that we have Grandma’s nose or Dad’s ears.  Perhaps we’ve always known about the family stature and delighted in either reaching it or passing it.  For some, their vocation is also a matter of family tradition.  There has been an on-going debate about what skills and talents might be genetic since man first realized inheritance applied to more than just land holdings and revenue.

 

Recently one of my own progeny said they heard my words coming out of their mouth.  I should in complete honesty add that they did not seem overjoyed at this event but they did admit the wisdom of the words they’d had spoken to them as a child.  A parent has to take their compliments whenever and however they can!

 

I had an acquaintance once that looked very much like her mother.  She was not very happy about this and I could understand why.  It is to be hoped that all parents nurture and support their children but the truth is that some people never really mature in their roles as parents.  In short, some people bear children without having a clue as to how to nurture them.  My acquaintance’s mother was not a supportive person to her daughter and often was a hindrance.

 

Having known this person for several decades and upon a chance meeting, I inquired about her mother.  I was being more polite than expressing any real interest but was very surprised nonetheless when my acquaintance smiled and said her mother was doing well, having outlived most of her contemporaries.  I asked if their relationship had improved.  My friend smiled and said that it had not.  She then casually said that while one might grow older, one did not always mature with age.

 

I had seen this acquaintance through several crying bouts when we were younger because of the pain and neglect of her mother so her offhanded remarks caught me by surprise and I told her so.  She replied that she still looked like her mother but now had accepted the resemblance.  “Just imagine,” she asked, “what the woman would have done if my looks were not proof I was her own child!”  While her mother’s behavior had not grown with age into a more loving relationship, my friend’s acceptance of her familiarity of physical appearance had brought her comfort.

 

All too often our value as a person is based upon anything and everything except who we are inside.  Regardless of which creation story you believe, we are uniquely made and individuals in our own right.  When we allow the behaviors of others to be the currency of our souls, we are denying our right to self-worth. 

 

I hope this week you are looking into your mirror and seeing past your reflection.  Our true value is found not only in physical appearance but in our actions and our words, our compassion and treatment of others.  At some point we are all alone with ourselves. We should strive to get to know ourselves and then become a person we can like, a person we feel as value. 

 

We create our own currency.  No one else can do that.   No one else can be us.  When we allow someone else to deny us the right to be ourselves, we are abdicating our own presence and bankrupting our self-worth.   “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”  Harvey Fierstein’s advice is pure gold.

 

What Are You?

What Are You?

Lent 12

 

If you are a somewhat regular reader of this blog, then you know my penchant for coffeehouses and children.  Although I usually order tea and not coffee, the throng of humanity found at a coffeehouse is delightful.  Add children to that and you have a writer’s mall for thoughts and conversations.  In short, at a recent visit, I found myself in a compositional heaven.

 

The grandparents were at their regular Bible Study/Social meeting and the young boy had accompanied them.  His delight at the large-sized orange juice his grandfather had ordered for him was heart-warming.  “I’m gonna grow big and strong with this!” he exclaimed.  His grandmother offered him a spoonful of her coffee upon his request and the expression on his face made everyone laugh.  “That cannot be good for you.” He advised his grandmother.  “You need to drink more orange juice.”  Somewhere the Minute Maid company had just loss a great commercial idea.

 

Introductions were made to the young lad as others joined their group.  I was impressed with the “adult” way they introduced themselves to him.  After all introductions were made, he then asked if he could repeat their names.  It was clear no one expected him to do so but he did.  Upon saying the name of the last person, his grandfather began to open their meeting.  The young boy politely told the grandfather he was not finished talking.  Chuckles were heard and the grandfather pointed out he had named everyone, correctly. 

 

The young boy looked around the coffeehouse and then leaned over to his grandfather.  “I just learned their names,” he explained.  Now I need to ask them something.”  The group seemed amenable so the grandfather sat back and encouraged his grandson to continue.  The wide young person then looked at the first he had named and asked:  “What are you?”  The gentleman began to say he was s retired teacher when the boy interrupted him.  “No, that is what you did.  What are YOU?”

 

That is the question I hope you ask yourself this week.  What are you?  Last week we delved into the question “Who are you?” in our attempt to improve and grow some self-love.  This week we cannot improve our self-worth without knowing what we are.  More importantly, what do you want to be?

 

Any good gardener knows there are various things that need to be done in the process of growing a garden.  There is the cultivating and tilling of the soil, preparing the soil, nurturing the soil with water and perhaps fertilizer and plant food.  The list might seem endless to a non-gardener but to those who believe in growing things, the list is simply a part of daily life.  Essential to gardening, though, is knowing what one is planting.

 

I have stated here that I do not have a “green thumb”; that is to say, my talents do not include being a master gardener.  The truth is that I can grow a nice garden, whether it be flowers or vegetables.  What hinders my success in gardening is my lack of interest in learning about the plants themselves.  I can bore you to no end about the difference between a xylophone and a marimba because I am interested in those things.  The nutritional needs and their differences between a cauliflower and a bell pepper hold no interest for me at all.  For one thing, I am allergic to bell peppers and mildly so to cauliflower.  Ask me about tomatoes, though, and I am right there with answers.  You see, I adore tomatoes. 

 

Life cannot be lived just eating tomatoes, though.  While they hold great nutritional value for our bodies, we do need other things.  I have come to learn how to grow carrots and cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and kale, and attempt to grow beans, although pole beans and legumes are still at the “getting to know you” stage with my gardening skills.  Corn and I have an on-again-off-again relationship and I have never attempted fruit trees although I do love to eat their bounty. 

 

Clearly, if I had to grow my own food I could survive but I would have to alter my eating habits and pray for good health and weather.  I rely a great deal on the convenience of shopping at local markets and stores.  I can grow an avocado plant but cannot get it to bear fruit.  Life for me without avocadoes is unthinkable and I am grateful for imports from other states and neighboring countries.  The same is true for olives.  I am something of a cheese-a-holic and yet, having a herd of cattle and goats would not yield me any cheese homemade.  Again, I am grateful for those for whom making cheese is a talent they share.

 

When it comes to growing my soul, I also rely on others.  I myself can only do so much based upon my skills and knowledge.  I reference many things and listen to many people.  Just as with an actual gardening, there needs to be some weeding out of the information we have available.  Not everything is beneficial and unfortunately some people are more interested in creating followers than helping people grow.  I hope this week you find your own sources of nurturing to help you grow and the week’s posts assist you in this endeavor.  More importantly, I hope you find and increase your self-worth and are then able to answer to the question:  What am I?

Reflections

Reflections

Lent 11

 

This past week we started out by discussing self-worth and then morphed into self-love.  For many there is no difference between the two.  In reality, unless we first love ourselves, we have no true self-worth.  Yesterday I gave you a quote from Harper Lee about the value of reading:  “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.”

 

Breathing is an essential part of our living.  Without it, we have no life.  Harper Lee was correct, though, because we often overlook it.  It is so much a part of our living that we forget its importance.  Self-worth is much the same way.  Until we love ourselves, we do not allow ourselves value.

 

  1. Joybell C. is an author, writer, and community developer.  She also sits on the board of the Scientific Journal editorial board.  A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she also is excellent at keeping the focus off of herself and very much on her work.  She is, I believe, a great example of someone who values herself and her work and knows the difference between the two.  “Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you.  What’s important to me is not others’ opinions of me, but what’s important to me is my opinion of myself.”

 

This coming week we are going back to our roots, so to speak.  This series is about cultivating a better self, growing a better being.  In the coming week we are going to focus on our self-worth and how we implement the self-love we hopefully planted this past week.  One of the best writers on this subject is Shannon Adler.

 

Shannon Adler is not some great scholar or a cosmopolitan literaturist from a distant continent.  She is a regular woman with the same challenges in life we all face.  What is so great about her is her ability to make lemonade from life’s lemons.  She knows her self-worth and that gives her the courage to see beyond the hurdle and stay on track.

 

What I have described as self-worth, Adler would probably call dignity.  She has quite a few definitions for this:  “1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.  2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes.  3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.  4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.   5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.  6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.   7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.  8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.  9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.  10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.”

 

Self-worth is not something we can purchase, no matter how many times we try.  It is not the latest fashion or snazziest vehicle.  It is neither the biggest house nor the most friends on Facebook.  It is not even guaranteed if you repost that blurb on Facebook or Twitter or share your latest and best snaps on Instagram.  It is, as Adler says, “the moment you realize that you were always the right person”, that “happiness was never about getting a person”, and that “no one is your enemy, except yourself”.

 

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  I did not ask what do you think you should see but what DO you see?  I think selfies are so popular because we are striving to see ourselves from the eyes of another.  We seek to see what the objective eye of the camera sees.  Of course, we are interpreting that vision through our own eyes so it still is blurred but we continue to try, taking picture after picture.

 

I recently came across a picture of our family pet when said pet was just a tiny baby.  It was his first day with our family and the picture was taken at the pet store as we purchased the necessary items to become his caregivers.  “Goodness!” I thought.  “If I had known I looked like that, I never would have walked out of the house!”  Needless to say, I thought I looked less than desirable.  Yet, we had been approached by an animal rescue group, an international group, to adopt said pet.  Clearly, regardless how horrible I thought I looked, someone thought I looked caring and responsible.

 

Perception is everything when we view a reflection of ourselves.  “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away.”  C. Joybell C. speaks a great truth in these statements.  “It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”

 

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert makes an important point that we often forget:  “never forget that, once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you saw yourself as a friend.”  For most of us that time was when we were children.  Children have this undoubting talent for embracing life, embracing passion, and finding joy.  We need to tap into that part of ourselves we think we have outgrown and embrace it, reflecting a zest for life and ourselves.

 

“Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.”  This advice, written by Maya Angelou in her “Letter to My Daughter”, is right on track but very hard to do.

 

Value yourself to live honestly and realize that if someone doesn’t share the value you bring to the world, you probably do not need them in your orbit.  Be yourself – honestly and joyously.  You have value.  You are worth having value.  Most importantly, in the words of Malcolm X, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”

 

Embracing the Passion

Embracing the Passion

Lent 10

 

Yesterday we learned of the passing of a great American writer, Harper Lee.  Harper Lee was a daughter of the Deep South, that part of the United States of America that was explored a century before the Pilgrims began their epic ocean crossing.  Born in Alabama, Harper Lee died in the small town she wrote about in her ground-breaking novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

 

Another writer’s death was also reported yesterday, that of Umberto Eco.  While Ms. Lee sought to show the world its true reflection, Mr. Eco looked for the same in symbols and signs.  Umberto Eco was a scholar but sought to see how the world viewed itself through not only words but also music, religious icons, signs, symbols, and graphic artwork such as cartoons.

 

Several days ago we talked about the image people sometimes set for us – the restrained studied indifference that is seen as being socially correct.  Neither of these writers wasted time with any of that.  They both embraced their beings and their worlds and sought to make both a little better while keeping their eyes wide open.  In short, they both embraced their living with passion, great passion.

 

Both writers also had legions of critics.  Harper Lee’s critics were usually rather silent, that is until her second book was published last year, “Go Set a Watchman”.  Her first book gave us a distinct hero and was written as a commentary seen through the eyes of a child.  People were comfortable with that because it gave them an excuse for their living.  It recognized that we all live each day with the experience for that day the same as a child’s first time as doing anything.  In her second novel, however, Lee expected her readers to have grown a bit and gives them an adult story that is complete with raw, unapologetic truth.  No one wanted to be held accountable and the book was met with great negativity.

 

Eco’s biggest critique was that he saw nothing as being too menial and looked for meaning in everything.  The writer Salman Rushdie who would later have to live in hiding because of a death contract on his head placed there by Islamic Extremists once described a novel of Eco’s as ““humorless, devoid of character, entirely free of anything resembling a credible spoken word, and mind-numbingly full of gobbledygook of all sorts.”

 

Umberto Eco spoke at least five languages and never apologized for his passion about what he saw in the world.  He once explained his viewpoint to the London newspaper “The Guardian” in 2002: “I’m not a fundamentalist, saying there’s no difference between Homer and Walt Disney… but Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the sense that a Japanese haiku is.”

 

Harper Lee, though looking very different from the stereotypical Southern damsel yet always reminiscent of the grown-up version of her character “Scout”, explained her lack of hurt feelings this way:  “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing.”  She also explained her title”  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy….they don’t do one thing except sing their hearts out for us.  That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

 

Both writers sought meaning and encouraged their readers to find the passion in their living.  Sadly many people are frightened when confronted with someone doing just that.  Do we really fear passion or do we fear what their passion requires of us – a true and honest look at ourselves?

 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” brought the inequities of racism into focus and gave meaning to the daily struggles of its victims.  Umberto Eco’s novels are a bit more involved, his most successful being “The Name of the Rose”. but they do much the same thing.  In spite of having once won a literary competition for young Fascists as a lad growing up in Italy and later a member of the Roman Catholic Church, Eco was considered a liberal.  As a girl growing up in a small town in Alabama, Lee walked among the tides of racism every day and brought a liberal, humanist approach.

 

Both of these writers embraced life and humanity in their passion for writing.  They saw the need for greater humanity in the world and encouraged people, by their example, to embrace the passion of living.  Sometimes the truths about which they wrote were discomforting.  Passion is not always wine and roses and warm sweaty embraces.  Passions can sometimes hurt.

 

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for,” said Harper Lee during a ceremony in 2007 when she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom.  She had lived in New York City for decades but returned to her Alabama small town home that same year.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

 

I invite you to crawl inside your own skin and walk around in it.  Not the skin the world wants you to wear but the skin that makes you feel alive, that gives you a passion for living.  Embrace your own passion and then make it your identity.