Walk/March

Walk/March

Epiphany 18

 

This past weekend over two million women worldwide walked.  Called the Women’s March, many felt moved to participate because of conflicting ideals with a new administration.  Many marched because they feared the loss of freedoms and rights.  Others marched as a show of solidarity for women.  Some walked simply because they could.  They donned pink hats and walked, marched, or simple gathered to support women, wearing pink hats and carrying signs.

 

“In the end, our success in resolving conflict and affecting deep change is not made by focusing on the leading figure of our discontent, but rather on the much less visible number of women and men who form his or her base of support. While it may be tempting to focus our attention on the leader, waiting for and pouncing on his every misstep and falter, in the long run our most effective response will be in how well we do at the hard work of creating a new solidarity with those who see the situation so differently than we. A good reminder of this fact is in considering how we came to this crossroads in the first place; the responsibility is not the Russians alone, but our own: we got in this situation partly by overlooking the need to reassure some of our good neighbors that they were needed and valued. Taking human hearts for granted can be a costly mistake and not one to be made twice. So while we may be mesmerized by what goes on in Washington, D.C., it would do us well to be even more active in communities farther afield. Building bridges there could be the ethical and political infrastructure we need for winning the next series of crucial elections. The question is not how many in the inner circle are hearing us shout, since they will be largely deaf to our appeal, but instead how many of those who put them there are hearing us in quieter conversations all across America. Success will be measured not by how many of our own we can put in the streets, but even more importantly, by how many women and men in the rust belt will be willing to wear a pink hat the next time around.”  These words by retired Episcopal bishop Steven Charleston bring us to my point and our verbs for today.

 

What comes after we have walked?  What comes after we take a stand for a cause or ideal?  The answer is life, that forward progression of steps we make each day that, eventually, will comprise the journey of a lifetime.  You see, getting your dander up for a good cause is great but that can only last for a certain amount of time.  How do we live those ideals for which we marched?

 

Sometimes the conflict is not so much about the other guy but about our response and the manner in which we respond.  It is so much more fun and easy to get mad and stay mad but seriously, unless you do jumping jacks or some other exercise in your anger, getting mad really accomplishes very little.  Real, long-lasting action requires thought and – gulp – reconciliation. 

 

Reconciliation starts with understanding.  First we need to admit and understand that there are other points of view.  No matter how wrong or ill-conceived we may judge them to be, they do exist.  Generally speaking, many have as valid a right to be felt as do our own.  Those incorrect beliefs that are wrong, as in harmful or illegal, need to be understood and explained.  Appeasement does not always mean acceptance and that is something to remember. 

 

No one person is a god or even a demi-god.  We all are human beings and deserve equal respect and opportunity to survive and thrive.  Some of our steps need to be toward building bridges to carry us all into a productive and efficient future.  That is the best march of all.

 

Color

Color

Epiphany 17

 

The page was blank and the possibilities endless.  What would be created when the color was applied to the page?  Would a flower slowly appear?  Perhaps it would be the profile of a loved one?  Maybe splotches of color would reflect the vibrancy of life.

 

“I will have me a symphony of coloring. I will enmesh me in the noon sun’s gold and wind about me the moonlight’s silver sheen. I will dream in a gown made of the haze of a summer evening twilight, and I will have robe on robe of the sky’s deep blue, and I will line them with clouds of ermine, and from their trailing folds red stars will gleam. I will pluck the green from the treetops, where wild birds nest and sing, and in the weaving I will ensnare a song. And when Sorrow is my guest, I will wear a gown made of the cold, gray mist.”  Muriel Strode Lieberman certainly saw the vibrancy of life as she related life experiences to colors.

 

Robert Fulghum also used colors in speaking of living.  “Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. – a happiness weapon;   a Beauty Bomb.  It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air.  Floating down to earth – boxes of crayons. … And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one… And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.”

 

Writer, poet, and artist Jay (nickname for Julia) Woodman also knows the value of coloring.  “Colour outside the lines, live outside the box. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do, or not. Don’t be afraid, listen to your heart.  Heaven is a state of being – of one-ness, and Hell is a state of being – lost. We simply need to live as we best define ourselves, find our own ways of being who we are in our world.

 

“There is no requirement – only freedom of choice. We should not be judged if we are doing what we think best according to our perceptions at any given time.  Guilt should be discarded, moved beyond – what matters is who we choose to be in the next moment, given what we might have learned. We continually create ourselves anew.  “Forgiving someone is a great way to show love, and forgive yourself too for the hurt you held onto far too long.  Take back the energy you have wasted on these things and reclaim your power to be your next best self.  Honor the past but refresh.”

 

When we color, we are building on the past in order to create something new, something for the future.  We begin with a blank page or possibly an outline.  We can color within the lines but also outside of them.  Maybe we do this by ignoring the set path or by using imaginative colors.    The fact is the future is ours to create.  Beauty without color should not exist in your world.  Crayons, paints, pastels…These are all magical dream sticks.  Pick one up today and begin to color your future.  It will be a masterpiece!

Believing in the Impossible

Believing in the Impossible

Epiphany 16

 

“There is no man living that cannot do more than he thinks he can.”  Henry Ford was living proof of his quote and yesterday a man was elected to the presidency of the United States who proved that as well.  This will not be a political post.  It is about encouraging us all to stop outside of any box someone or we have placed ourselves in and try.  Attempt the impossible… because it just might happen.

 

There is really only way one to make the impossible happen and that is to believe it can.  You must believe in the possibility of the impossible becoming possible.  And no, I have not gone crazy or am trying to win a bet using the word possible or its variations as many times as I can in one sentence.  Lewis Carrol wrote of this in his “Alice in Wonderland.” 

 

“Alice laughed.  ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’  ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

 

In his autobiography “The Crack-Up”, F. Scott Fitzgerald speaks of this.  “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

 

Ah but the book is titled “The Crack-Up” you might be thinking.  Isn’t is crazy to believe the impossible to be possible?  After all, they are contradictory terms.  Yes they are.  Perhaps the true question of value is “Are those terms factual?”  In fact, is it even possible to define something as impossible?

 

Sigmund Freud once said “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”  We might inquire of Dr. Freud by what standard of measurement would he define the impossible.

 

History is full of impossible things becoming possible.  Last year during this season of Epiphany we discussed people who had their own great epiphanies and invented new things, some of which would have been deemed impossible at one time.  They were people who attempted the impossible or unknown and not only made it possible but also known and popular, used in everyday life.

 

Believe that you are weak and you will be.  Believe that you are forever handicapped and you will never thrive.  Lee Wise wrote a really powerful sentence about this.  “Belief in what matters most holds the power of creating legacies that matter most in the long run.”  I believe in you and your power to live a life of intention, a life that will better the world … for you, for me, and for tomorrow. 

Change

Change

Epiphany 15

 

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.”  Today, as the United States of America prepares to swear in its 45th President, change is in the air.  After eighteen months of a heated and often contentious debate, a man most felt least likely to win will swear an oath that will change the rest of his life and his family’s. 

 

Today, as in no other, the Constitution of the United States will take center stage.  It is perhaps one of only a handful of legal and governing documents to encourage change.  While most eyes will be on President-Elect Donald Trump and his entourage, no living person is really in the spotlight as the Constitution is.  The whole purpose of change, who can participate, how such change happens, and how such change is tallied and then made to happen is all dependent upon this one document, two hundred and thirty-nine years old with only twenty-seven amendments.

 

Tony Robbins once said “Change is inevitable; progress is optional.”  That single quote describes the feeling of many today.  Politics aside, what comes next will be dependent upon many people, people who in spite of all the pomp and circumstance will have the same power as the man being sworn in today, his cronies, and followers as those who opposed his campaign. 

 

One of the hallmarks of the US Constitution is the recognition it affords change.  Winston Churchill believed “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. “  It is something we all tend to resist, however.  Nothing in creation remains the same.  Nature is one large and unending cycle of change.  Anatole France recognized this.  “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

 

It seems contradictory to say we must die in order to live but there is a great deal of truth in that.  No one ever moved forward by constantly looking backwards.  We cannot embrace the future is we are stuck living in the past.  You will never see where the ocean might take you if you remain firmly planted on the shore.

 

It is not just those within the boundaries of the United States that will be watching this great change today.  Leaders all around the world will be watching, waiting, and wondering what will come next.  Often attributed to “anonymous”, our closing paragraph today actually comes from Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Reinhold Niebuhr.  It not only sums up the inauguration today o f a new world leader but offers a great roadmap as we encounter the inevitable changes of our own lives.

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen. ”

Get

Get

Epiphany 14

 

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”  Mark twain said that and it applies to a great many things.  We are in the first twenty days of a new year and it is a good time to ask yourself what do you want or need to get?  What do you realistically think you can obtain and/or accomplish?  Would it make your world a better place or just make you feel better?

 

Those are tough questions.  I know I am not sure how to answer.  What I am certain of is that probably most of what I want would be a benefit to only me and not perhaps the world at large or even my neighbors close by.  We all have to start, though.  The clock is ticking and time waits for no one.  We need to get busy living and that means getting busy getting.

 

The above quote from Mark Twain is not complete.  The rest of the quote goes like this:  “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  Known for his many books, Mark Twain began each one the same way – with a word, then a page.  A chapter was soon written and later the entire book.  We need to approach our life like that.

 

Pablo Picasso once said “I’m always doing things I can’t do.  That is how I get to do them.”  Too often we consider our success/fail ratio and decide the fail pendulum is too heavy and we give up before we even try.  We need to determine a goal and then go for it.  Recently I considered a new course of action.  I instantly thought of all the reasons I could not be successful in this venture rather then decide on why I could.  Picasso would have been very disappointed in me.

 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”  Steve Jobs encountered a great amount of resistance but he persevered and helped change the world of technology.

 

Gandhi once remarked that “My life is my message.”  What will you get today that will be the first page of your life this year?  What will you get that will benefit the world?  We need to make our life our mission, not simply live it as though it is an intermission.  I wish you well in your living today and hope that whatever you get becomes your first step towards a better tomorrow.

Ask

Ask

Epiphany 13

 

“Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.”

 

It may seem strange that I am opening with a quote from Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Lestat”.  After all, this is not what most would consider a “dark blog”.  It is more along the lines of “peace, love, and all things nurturing”.  And yet ………

 

The most succinct summary of Rice’s second book in her vampire series says this about the book from which I took my opening quote:  “When the vampire Lestat becomes a rock superstar, he finds himself in serious conflict with the ancients whose powers are beyond his imagining.”  If you are really honest with yourself, could this not be a description of your life?

 

All too often we do not ask question because we are simply too afraid of the answers.  Life Lestat, we do not want to open the door of more or greater knowledge.  And so, we remain within our comfort zone, a place, as I have stated before, is not really a place at all.  There actually is no address for our comfort zone except in our mind.  The most accurate location for anyone’s comfort zone is simply “that place in which we feel less fear.”

 

Karen Hackel is one writer who talks a great deal about the verb “ask”.  “The way is yours for the asking – the way is yours for the taking. The way is as it should be.”  The way to enlightenment is there for us; all we have to do is have the courage to ask for it. 

 

Faith Baldwin is another writer who speaks of this.  “In asking for it, we ask for a sufficiency of strength, courage, hope and light. Enough courage for the step ahead–not for the further miles. Enough strength for the immediate task or ordeal. Enough material gain to enable us to meet our daily obligations. Enough light to see the path–right before our feet.”

 

Why am I only using female authors today?  Truth is, I could not find a lot of male writers on this subject.  I suppose this would be a good place to insert a joke about men asking for directions, or rather the lack thereof of men asking for directions.  Perhaps, though, we do not allow them the space to admit they need to ask.  Most of us hesitate because the world seems to expect us to know, not admit we need to ask.

 

In his book, “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life”, Brian Grazer encourages us all to ask.  “Curiosity—asking questions—isn’t just a way of understanding the world. It’s a way of changing it.”  Don’t we all want a bigger life?  Is that not really our reason for being?  Perhaps the reason behind creation itself is for us to question and then, having asked, use both our questions and our answers to change the world for a better tomorrow.

 

There is an old Chinese proverb that gives us the right to take the plunge and ask.  “He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.”  I will close with a quote from another woman, Oprah Winfrey:  “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”.  Today I hope you ask because that will be the first step towards a better tomorrow.

 

Help

Help

Epiphany 12

 

“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself.  It’s what you do for others.”  This might just be the most difficult post I will ever write for some of you to read.  I completely agree with actor/comedian Danny Thomas in the opening quote.  I also realize that very little in today’s world agrees with his words.

 

Danny Thomas was a struggling actor with a family to support when he said a prayer one day.  Praying to St Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, he asked for work.  He promised that if he got a job that he would do something for others.  He got a job and kept his promise.  The result was St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A hospital devoted to the treatment and curing of multiple childhood diseases once considered incurable.  Because of St Jude’s, children with these illnesses such as cancer are no longer considered lost causes.  They now have a chance at living and many of them are doing just that.

 

This post might be difficult to read because it is asking you to look away from the mirror and think of someone else.  I am telling you that all you have accomplished for yourself is nice but only that.  Your focus on yourself needs to be broadened to include others.  What’s more, you need to do for others what you want done for yourself.

 

I am going to again quote Ralph Waldo Emerson because he eloquently spoke of this topic.  “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”  Read that again because it really says quite a lot.  “The purpose of life is not to be happy.”  Really?  Then where does happy come into play?

 

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”  Gordon B Hinckley realized that in order to be happy we have to stop trying to be happy.  We cannot make being happy our life’s goal because we will never reach it if it is.

 

The purpose of life needs to be helping others.  Then and only then will we find true happiness and feel complete.  It is easy, in today’s world, to fall into despair and become frightened.  It is fitting that we find the answer to such negative feelings in the words of the man who is spending his last few days as President of the United States.  “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” 

 

Charles Dickens succinctly said “No one is useless who lightens the burdens of another.”  I hope that today you see that your purpose is in helping someone else.  The best way to lighten your own load is to lighten that of another.  Then we not only help our neighbors, we help ourselves and, quite possibly, discover our purpose in life.