Resilience versus Weakened

Resilience Vs Weakened

Detours in Life

Pentecost 46-65 Mega Post

 

Travel south in Interstate 65 between Birmingham and Montgomery and you pass through history.  It is a trail of civil rights and farmers and if you happen to get stuck in a repaving project, you might find yourself detoured through the town of Prattville. 

 

Most people have few positive thoughts regarding the state of Alabama unless you are talking football.  At first glance, it appear as if the detour would confirm those negative thoughts.  Prattville comes across as a sleepy little rural town where dust hangs in the air and farming is the mainstay of life.  Detours afford us a chance to rethink and Prattville is certainly much more than just cornfields.  This coming month, for example, there will be a fall pops concert, an art walk, and a community trick or treat opportunity for children to participate in centuries-old traditions safely. 

 

What might not be quite so evident as you follow your detour back to the mainstream of society if that Prattville, Alabama is a member of the International Association of Character Cities.  Each month a different character trait is emphasized.  Additionally, citizens are encouraged to recognize that character begins with the individual.  There is a pledge to take as well:  “I pledge to… to practice the character quality of the month; to take the high road, the higher thought, the kinder word, and the best action in my daily life; to uphold what is true, right and just; to be a model of good character for those around me to operate with honesty and integrity in my dealings with others, and; to do my part to make the Autauga County and all its communities, including Prattville and surrounding cities, communities of good character where individuals and families are strong; homes and streets are safe; education is effective; business is productive; and citizens care for one another.”

 

September’s trait is resilience and that is often needed as we confront life’s detours.  Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, the resilient person will find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and continue.  Resilient people do not see detours as a roadblock or dead end.  They dee detours as a lesson and move forward, equipped with the new knowledge their detour has offered them.

 

 Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell has written extensively on the topic of resiliency.  “Over 100 years ago, the great African American educator Booker T. Washington spoke about resilience when he said, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed.”  Research has since established resilience as essential for human thriving, an ability necessary for the development of healthy, adaptable young people. It’s what enables children to emerge from challenging experiences with a positive sense of themselves and their futures. Children who develop resilience are better able to face disappointment, learn from failure, cope with loss, and adapt to change. We recognize resilience in children when we observe their determination, grit, and perseverance to tackle problems and cope with the emotional challenges of school and life.

 

“Resilience is not a genetic trait. It is derived from the ways children learn to think and act when they are faced with obstacles, large and small. The road to resilience comes first and foremost from children’s supportive relationships with parents, teachers, and other caring adults. These relationships become sources of strength when children work through stressful situations and painful emotions. When we help young people cultivate an approach to life that views obstacles as a critical part of success, we help them develop resilience.  

 

“Many teachers are familiar with Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s important work with growth mindsets—a way of thinking that helps children connect growth with hard work and perseverance. Educator David Hochheiser wisely reminds us that developing growth mindsets is a paradigm for children’s life success rather than a pedagogical tool to improve grades or short-term goals. Simply put, it’s a way of helping children believe in themselves—often the greatest gift teachers give to their students.

 

“The ability to meet and overcome challenges in ways that maintain or promote well-being plays an essential role in how students learn to achieve academic and personal goals. Resilient young people feel a sense of control over their own destinies. They know they can reach out to others for support when needed, and they readily take initiative to solve problems. Teachers facilitate resilience by helping children think about and consider various paths through adversity. They also help by being resources, encouraging student decision-making, and modeling resilient competencies.”

 

Simply, we illustrate our own personal resiliency by learning from the detours in our lives.

 

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Really? You Seriously Expect Me to Believe That?

Really? You Expect Me to Believe That?

Detours in Life

Pentecost 44-45

 

Two years ago in the late fall, we delved into over twenty-five various religions and spiritualties.  Of recent years there has been much debate regarding religion and spiritual beliefs.  Usually it is in the form of an opposing debate: religion versus spirituality.  I always find this very interesting because the religious explanation(s) of the universe are derived from the philosophies of various spiritualties.  Today it would seem that religion and spirituality have both been detoured by politics.

 

The country of India was the beginning of many religious traditions.  The early civilizations of India all contributed their own versions interwoven with their specific cultures but most shared similar basic concepts.  Today we know these as forms of Hinduism which believes in reincarnation.  The samsara spoke of the cycles of life – birth, life, death, and rebirth.  A person’s rebirth was based upon their living a good life, our focus during Lent, and introduced moral philosophy as a basic part of religion.

 

Siddhartha Gautama was born in India during the sixth century BCE.  Better known by most of us as Buddha, he introduced the Four Noble Truths.  They included suffering, the origin of suffering, the end of suffering and the Eightfold Path to the end of suffering.  This Eightfold Path told one how to live a life of fulfillment and centered around the eight principles of right, mindfulness, right action, right intention, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right speech, and right understanding.

 

Then the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was born and after living approximately thirty years began to spread his own version of philosophy around.  He claimed no great title or crown but neither seemed confused about life – its origins, its purposes, its ending.  He spoke of many of the same things Greek philosophers had wondered about and eastern spiritualties referenced.  Thus it is no surprise that the teachings of Christianity dominated the philosophical world in Europe through the first ten or more decades ACE.

 

Questioning was not forgotten, though.  The first noted Christian philosopher is considered to be Augustine of Hippo.  Augustine’s mother was a proud Christian but he himself at first followed Manichaeism, a Persian religion.  Intense and careful study of classical philosophy led him to his Christian beliefs, however.  He saw no divisiveness between his faith and philosophy and wrote “The City of God”.  In this book Augustine explained how one could live on an earthly place and also live in the heavenly world of what he called the kingdom of God, an idea he adapted from Plato.

 

While Augustine encouraged open thinking, he also warned against ego in one’s thinking.  “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”  All too often, we believe until it makes us uncomfortable or we believe only what we want to believe.

 

It is easy to believe in something that benefits us.  Recently one very prominent politician has been noted for saying one thing and then within twenty-four hours professed to believe something else.  The earliest statements were then said to have been said in irony and that the general public simply was not clever enough to understand.  One’s belief should be constant and steadfast, not something that wavers like a dried up cornstalk on the Kansas plain in a windstorm.

 

The true test comes when we believe in something that might not give us everything we think we want or should have.  “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”  Augustine encouraged learning but lamented that many people saw this as an outward exercise, desiring only to learn about things and others, not themselves.  “And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”

 

Taking time to study one’s self or one’s life is tough.  It truly puts the test of learning through its paces.  We are often so busy navigating life’s detours that we do not appreciate the scenery or the lesson the journey can teach us.

 

It is always much easier to see the dirt on another than on ourselves.  I remember hearing a friend remark on her recent weight gain.  Having been ill, she stayed inside recuperating.  She knew rationally that her medications could result in weight gain but really had not given it much thought, that is until she needed to dress for an outing with friends.  “I stood in front of the mirror every day, brushing my hair and teeth, putting on a robe, etc.  Yet, I never noticed I had gained weight until my “going-out” clothes did not fit when I put them on!”  From her perspective, the added weight was invisible until she had her eyes opened by a zipper that would not close.

 

Most of us know right from wrong.  We know it is wrong to drive faster than the posted speed limit but sometimes feel our reasons warrant the infraction.  Many people feel they can tell when they are inebriated.  Sadly, the statistics on deaths from drunk driving prove most people cannot tell accurately.  “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”
Life is about growing and growth comes from knowledge.  Augustine himself explained life as a journey of hope.  “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”  We cannot allow anger in all its many forms such as grief and discomfort or fear keep us from taking courage to have hope and grow, learning with each day.  After all, to quote Augustine, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

 

Mapping the Deep

Mapping the Deep

Pentecost 43

 

French philosopher Gilles Deleuze once remarked that “Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.”  I love that quote because it speaks to the effects of what is written today on tomorrow.  I have mentioned in the past that these blog posts are a type of theological reflection with less emphasis on the theology and more on life itself.  The final step of such a reflection involves moving forward, living tomorrow based on how one has mapped out the reflection.

 

Maps have always been of interest to me and if I lived somewhere with enough wall space I would have a map in every room.   I marvel at the earliest cartographers, those explorers and artists that took the land they were standing on and turned it into a drawing with the highest importance and meaning. 

 

I marvel at their ability to take a path well known and walked and turn it into a one dimensional drawing that others can interpret and then travel.  Recently I threw in the recycle bin several paper maps,  They were out of date and yes, I have Google maps on several devices so I did not need them but still, tossing them out was difficult. 

 

I found the algorithms used by cosmologists and physicists fascinating in mapping outer space.  Their confidence in knowing what to be positive about and what to estimate (read guess) boggles my mind.  The most talented of cartographers, however, for me must be those that map out the ocean’s floor.  They not only tell us where we are but can also tell us where our world has been and what it looked like eons ago at the beginning.

 

When you read this, no matter where you are or when you read this, an earthquake will have occurred in the past twenty-four hours.  Hurricane Maria is still churning in the Atlantic while people in Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey and people in Florida and the Caribbean deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  The importance of these is understandable.  For people in the affected areas, it is an upheaval and often a matter of life and death.  For the rest of us, though, we tend to forget about them.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

 

Earthquakes are the world’s biggest makeover show, a reality program by every definition possible.  Earthquakes have created and changed and created again much of the world we know today.  And yet, the Teutonic plates and their movement which create the earthquakes was never fully mapped out until the mid-1900’s and yes, it was co-mapped by a woman.

 

Maria Tharp first earned degrees in music and English before getting graduate degrees in geology and mathematics.  She was hired as a geologist and typical to members of her gender, given mostly desk work.  Hired at the Lamont Geological Observatory at Columbia University, Maria could not go out on ships to obtain the necessary data used in attempts to locate downed aircraft.  She worked with coworker Bruce Heezen using photographic data.  For the next eighteen years, Heezen would go out on a ship while Tharp stayed in the office.  Women were not allowed on the Observatory’s ship so Heezen collected the data and then Tharp would map it out.  This was the first systematic attempt to map the ocean floor.

 

Tharp’s maps gave much credence to theories that North and South America were once connected to Europe and Africa.  The mapping of Teutonic plates and the puzzle pieces of the continents that became one big continent based upon such oceanographic data has helped to explain the similarities of flora and fauna as well as bacteria found in differing parts of the western and eastern hemispheres.

 

In 2009 Maria Tharp’s Historical Map layer became a part of Ocean in Google Earth so you can check out her cartographic ability yourself.  It is simply fascinating.  Maria Tharp knew the importance of maps.  They represent our living, our past, and our future destinations. 

 

Detours take us off the beaten path.  They create a sense of chaos and inner turmoil because we find ourselves suddenly without a map for our living.  Maria Tharp knew how to navigate the detours caused by gender discrimination.  She made the best of her situation and navigated the world, creating the maps that we still use today, maps that help us navigate not only the familiar paths but also the detours.

 

Life is about doing just that.  Each of us will at some point find our life shaken to its core, an earthquake not of geological proportions but one of emotional or professional disorder and/or confusion.  At some time the tides of life will flood us to the point we doubt our ability to continue.  Life is a puzzle at times but we all have the power to solve and carry on.  Life is a journey, full of detours.  Where will you go today? 

Slipping Outside the Comfort Zone

Slipping Outside the Comfort Zone

Detours in Life

Pentecost 42

 

You can find a survey about most anything.  Facebook is certainly proof about that.  Still, I never thought I’d come across a survey like this.  It was entitled simply “Your Best Insult”.  One of the things I like best about writing this blog (Your comments and our discussions are numbers one and two, of course!) is the research I do for it.  I certainly don’t know everything; I admitted I was not perfect in yesterday’s post.  In the name of research I have read books I probably would have just passed by and attended gatherings I would have not shown up for because… well, because I am just like everyone else and varying from the norm is not a habit of mine.

 

The term “comfort zone” is simply a collection of behaviors that we continue to repeat.  It is not a location nor should it be our destination.  For most of us, our “comfort zone” is where we live, where we feel most comfortable.  It is what we do and continue to do… over and over again.  Our comfort zone is made up of those things that are common to us, familiar in their repetition.

 

None of us are born with a comfort zone, by the way.  We come into this world making the biggest leap of faith possible.  We leave a safe and protected environment and are immediately thrust into a world in which we must fend for ourselves.  We also suddenly are dependent upon others for everything.  We have no chance to develop a comfort zone because we are too busy learning and developing, acquiring new skills and trying new things.  It is called growing, surviving and thriving.

 

At some point, though, we do cultivate a comfort zone and it is often without even realizing it.  We settle in and get cozy in our comfort zone and then suddenly – BAM! An insult comes along and shatters our sense of security we have found within that comfort zone home.  Most of us try to avoid insults so why on earth, I thought to myself, would some create a survey entitled “Your best insult”, especially in an article about bettering one’s self?

 

The survey questions numbered twenty and I am not going to list them all here.  A few did catch my attention, however, so let’s discuss those.  First, what insult was said to you that you actually consider a compliment?  I remember once having my name mentioned as being the chairperson of an upcoming event.  Another stood up and said: “Not her!  She thinks life is just a collection of learning opportunities.”  The statement was said in a room of almost one hundred people and two hundred eyes instantly turned and looked at me to see how I was reacting.  A few close friends began to say something but I stood up and replied:  “I was going to protest but you know what?  She is absolutely right.  Thank you for noticing.”  I had never really thought of myself or life in that connotation but the statement was absolutely correct.  It not only became a compliment, it helped me define my approach to life.

 

More recently I received another such “insult”.  It would certainly answer the above insult survey question as well as this next one:  What so-called “insult” will you adopt as a life mantra?  It is no secret that I attend a church and, like many churches, this one has educational and self-growth opportunities.  One such retreat was being discussed when one of those talking suddenly turned to me and asked why I was not contributing to the conversation.  I replied I had not ever been to the retreat.  Her response was immediate:  “Oh, of course not.  You wouldn’t fit in!”  She then continued to try to talk the woman sitting right next to me into attending.

 

Let’s ignore that the purpose of a church is to share the “good news” of the faith.  Let’s ignore the fact that one of the admonitions given to those that believe is kindness and charity to all.  Let’s even forego the obvious insult in saying I was too….well, exactly what I am not certain.  While I sat there in my instant “OUCH!” reaction, which is how most of us first respond to insults, I suddenly realized just what a great compliment I had been given.

 

It is my fervent and constant belief that any faith-based group that is exclusive is more a social club than a faith-based group.  Whether they are called synagogues or churches, temples or shrines, they have doors and those doors are supposedly open to all who wish to believe.  Please reread that last sentence.  I did not say the doors were open to a select few, or those who shopped at certain stores.  They are not open only to those who know everything.  The doors are an opening through which all who wish to learn and believe can pass.

 

We can either let insults grow ourselves or we can let them be a pesticide that sucks the life out of us.  The survey concluded with some very intense questions:  At the last event you attended that included people you consider friends. Who approached you and shared a handshake or hug?  Who asked about how you were doing?  Who just talked about themselves without inquiring about you?  How do you define friendship?  How do you define yourself?

 

We often let insults define us.  We give into the pain they generally cause and let them motivate us into crawling deeper into our comfort zone.  The most recent event I attended was one in which I knew almost everyone.  Less than one tenth said hello to me, two approached me but none offered a hug or handshake and no one asked how I was.  The paragraph at the end of the Best Insult Survey advised that we need to survey our situations, not just ourselves.  At this event, people congregated in clichés, staying within their own comfort zone.  Two joined my group that only vaguely knew the others.  As one said, “My eyes know you because I have seen you around.” 

 

Surveying the situation led me to realize that my group was not a cliché and people felt comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone and joining such a group.  During the exercise, the group of strangers became a group of acquaintances, realizing those things held in common and supporting each other in those things that made them different.  A group that began with people who did not seemingly “fit in” became a group of believers and sharing, a group practicing their faith instead of just talking about it.

 

Certainly if people shy away from us we need to take stock and ask if we are subconsciously sabotaging ourselves.  Sometimes, though, maybe we need to look at the situation and not just ourselves.  We can all recognize an insult when one is given or acted out.  However, maybe we need to do a quick survey of said insult and ask ourselves if it is really painful or something for which to be thankful.  Sometimes that insult might just be the best compliment you have ever received and lead us on the best detour we’ve ever taken.  Why? You ask.  Because, taking a few steps outside our comfort zone might just be the best turn you ever make in life, a turn necessary for us to grow and thrive in this living for a better tomorrow.

Me, Myself, and…Who?

Me, Myself, and…Who?

Pentecost 41 

 

Recently, a friend sent a picture of two different detour signs.  One had the word written all in capital letters while the other used both upper and lower case letters.  They asked why I thought two different states had the word on their signage written differently.  Does this evoke different response?  Is one less stressful than the other? 

 

My question to you is this:  When you think of who you are, do YOU use capital letters?  Most of us do not.  Why?   Generally speaking, the greater part of mankind is not that confident; we lack the self-love to think of ourselves in capital letters.

 

If you were around in the 1960’s, you probably were identified by the type of music you played.  Elvis Presley had brought hip grinding rock and roll to the masses but there were still those who enjoyed the last of the Big Band sound.  The end of the decade and Woodstock brought about a plethora of rock bands and in the next twenty years, they evolved into hard rock, heavy metal, and yes, even the teeny bop culture which then led to the pop culture and rap music.

 

One of those bands of the 1960’s began life as a group known as The Detours.  A group of school chums who considered themselves misfits, music gave them an identity.  Their band name was much too similar to another group, Johnny and the Detours, though, so a new identity was needed.  The new name illustrated one of their most popular songs and gave an entire generation their identity.  We have The Who to thank for the essential theme of today’s post – Who are you?

 

“There’s a place where I know you walked; the love falls from the trees.  My heart is like a broken cup; I only feel right on my knees.”  Pete Townsend’s lyrics speak to all of us and they ask the same question I am asking you today.  “Who are you?”  More importantly, is your answer written in capital letters?

 

Someone once told me to live so that each night, when I washed my face, I was neither ashamed nor afraid to look in the mirror.  In other words, I should live so that I liked the reflection I saw in the mirror.  That is not always as easy for us as it should be.  Personal accountability can be a hard thing.  Life is not easy.

 

One of my favorite comments from last year was someone who stated they were descended from the Sami.  I liked it because first, they obviously had read the post that day because it discussed heritage.  Secondly, I liked it because it taught me something; it taught me who the Sami were.  Like many people, I did not know the first families or tribes of the area we call Norway.  Each December I enjoy the representations of reindeer and the elves that attend to them.  This past December I went with family members to see some actual reindeer, animals that are not common where I live.  I AM

 

The Sami people are the first indigenous culture of northern Scandinavia.  Once oppressed and their culture in danger of dying out completely, the Sami (who have also been called the Lapps) are now the strongest of all aboriginal cultures in the world.  Their original habitat includes countries we call Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia although they never really had their own sovereign state.  Most of the world’s first families do not believe they own the land; they believe they are the caretakers of it.

 

Similarly, we do not own ourselves.  Much like the Sami, we are merely the caretakers of our bodies and regretfully, some of us do not do very well with that.  Nonetheless, we are the gardeners of our souls.  It is up to us to develop and determine who we are.  The really neat thing about gardens is that crops need to be rotated in order to reap the best harvests.  We are not locked into being just one thing; we are a beautiful tapestry of many things woven into one life.

 

“Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  I really wanna know.”  All too often we find ourselves detoured on our way to being that great adult we dreamed of as a child.  Suddenly we find ourselves living a life that is much different from that we had imagined. 

 

omewhere along the way, life threw us a detour.   Perhaps you changed your dreams to follow the path of the detour.  Perhaps you are simply waiting for the chance to get back on your way.  The best way to travel a detour is to go slowly but with determination.  In her book “The Single Woman: Life, Love and a Dash of Sass” Mandy Hale wrote: “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”

A Drop to Flood

A Drop to Flood

Pentecost 39-40

 

Two weeks ago the islands of the US and British Virgin islands were lush and green.  Many would have described them as paradise.  Today they look very different.  Hurricane Irma wreaked her havoc with excessive and prolonged wind speeds and torrents of rain.  Before and after pictures look like Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” in which paradise,   earth, and hell are depicted on one canvas.

 

Estimates for damage in the USA from Hurricane Irma are currently at eighteen billion and many consider that a lucky, conservative estimate.  Many who were living the good life suddenly are finding they must start over while living in poverty conditions.  Others in the northwest corner of the USA are starting over due to wildfires that ravaged several states.  The general public is somewhere in the middle with survivor’s guilt wondering how to help.

 

Born in Ghana, israelmore Ayivor knows something about poverty.  “True compassion does not sit on the laps of renovation; it dives with an approach to reconstruction. Don’t throw a coin at a beggar. Rather, destroy his source of poverty.”  I don’t know of anyone except perhaps some psychopathic, deranged power-hungry leader of a fanatical faction that would say poverty is a good thing.  Many of us, though, adopt a rather cynical attitude about it.

 

“There will be poor always pathetically starving.  Look at the good things you’ve got.”  The lines of the opening song shared by the characters of Judas and Jesus in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” are how most of us approach poverty.  It has always been; it will always be; I should still be able to enjoy what I have.

 

I am not about to advocate that you give everything away.  However, what if there was a way you could make a difference in the fight against poverty and still keep your lifestyle?  The Better Business Bureau can help with finding local and national as well as international charities with which to donate money.  It is imperative that one check out before contributing to a fund.  Not all charities are run efficiently with the victim in mind and some are just out and out scams.

 

In his book “The Midnight Palace” Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote: ““The fact is that nothing is more difficult to believe than the truth; conversely, nothing seduces like the power of lies, the greater the better. It’s only natural, and you will have to find the right balance. Having said that, let me add that this particular old woman hasn’t been collecting only years; she has also collected stories, and none sadder or more terrible than the one she’s about to tell you. You have been at the heart of this story without knowing it until today …”

 

Zafon’s book has little to do with poverty in the connotation we are speaking about but it brings up a very important fact.  We all collect things every day.  Sometimes we collect smiles and other times, headaches.  In this quote he writes of a woman who “hasn’t been collecting only years”.  Sometimes we simply collect days, hours full of things that really do not seem to be making the difference in the world that we’d like to have as our legacy.

 

Many of us have too much stuff but that stuff gives meaning and definition to our lives and we feel for those who are suddenly stuff-less.  Several years ago I mentioned that I collected memories.  Someone asked “How do you do that because that sounds interesting?”  We all collect memories, I hope because they are the one thing that can never be washed away or destroyed.

 

Most of us also collect change, coins given to pay for something with more coins being given back as , well, change.  American currency especially seems to almost demand that when someone pays cash, they will get back change in return.  The currency structure along with the number system used does not make for easy, even numbers, especially with varying tax bases for items that are sold.  At the end of the day, most of us have change.

 

In the third book of her Moomins series, Tove Jansson had one of her characters recite:  “You aren’t a collector anymore, you’re only an owner, and that isn’t nearly so much fun.”   This Finnish children’s author realized what many of us take years to understand.  Ownership is great but we need to also be collectors because if we aren’t, then what we own has very little value.

 

It is a common practice for men to empty their pockets of change at night before putting their slacks away.  Women, since they usually carry a wallet with a coin section, seldom do this.  What if we all started a change pot – a container in which to place our loose change at the end of each day?  We could then donate this change to a charitable organization.  By doing this, we would be collecting change, not just hours in a day, and taking ownership of the issue of poverty in the world.

 

“But I am on a budget” you might be thinking.  “I haven’t anything to spare.”  Let’s do thig.  Put a nickel in your change pot every day – just one nickel USD or $.05 (five cents).  At the end of the month you would have approximately one dollar in your change pot.  I say approximately because…well, we sometimes forget.

 

What can one dollar buy?  In Kenya two years ago you could purchase a pen (15 Ksh), an 80 page notebook (15 Ksh), a toothbrush (30 Ksh), and a little snack pack of spicy peanuts and mixed chips (25 Ksh, and full of carbs and protein) – all for one dollar.  Many children in Kenya do not have a pen or paper and so they stay home from school and become part of the ever going cycle of poverty and terrorism, not to mention violence and human trafficking.

 

Your one nickel a day could educate a child in Kenya.  One nickel a day can also provide a meal for a starving child around the world.  Each year, poverty directly impacts children and it is responsible for the death of five million each year due to malnutrition or starvation.  You one dollar a month can result in two hundred and fifty meals.  If you had ten friends or coworkers who had ten friends or coworkers, you could each raise one hundred dollars with your nickel a day change pots and provide over two thousand meals to hungry children in the world.

 

Many offices have football pools, or lottery funds.  Why not set up a change pot by the vending machines.  That candy bar or soda really isn’t going to help your own nutrition but you can help another’s by simply donating a nickel or more each time you use the vending machine or water fountain. Think of it as giving thanks for your good fortunes, regardless of how small it may seem.   Your five cents might seem like a drop in the vast ocean of world poverty but you know what –  It can be the only meal a child eats that day.

 

We cannot, as of today, change the course of a hurricane.  I wish we could because they are three others churching the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters right now.  We can stop those wildfires started by human negligence but over half are caused by natural effects light lightening and drought.

 

This series is about detours and many people over the past ten days found themselves evacuating their homes, making detours from storms and fires.   They simply were along for the ride in an effort to escape and save themselves.  Most detours are not that dramatic and yet, all affect us in one way or another.  The best we can hope to do for them is lessen the effects and help them rebuild.  We can each make a difference.  Reach inside yourself and find a way to help your neighbor on their detour to recover and start collecting good feelings.  None of us lives on the planet alone.  We can make the difference between paradise and hell for another human being.  We can turn our small drops of assistance into a flood of relief and make the detour less bumpy for someone.

Retreat, Detour or Both?

Retreat, Detour or Both?

Detours in Life

Pentecost 38

 

Someone asked if I “practiced” what I preached”.  In other words, they explained, did I pray?  The answer is a quick and resounding YES!!!  In fact, because I was engaged in a prayer retreat, this post is four days late and will be followed later today by two others… or possibly three.

 

The first definition of the word “retreat” is usually how it is used in a military setting.  By that I mean it is defined as a withdrawal or, to many, a running away.  Often such an action is seen as a sign of cowardice or a means of giving up.

 

Spiritual retreats decry that connotation.  Sometimes the most strategic moves we can make are those that require us to take a step back in order to gain a new perspective or to perhaps confirm and solidify what we already know. 

 

The musical retreat is played to alert troops that it is time to withdraw.  It is usually played once new information has been received and does not always signal a definite leaving or giving up.  It simply is an effective way to reach many and make them vigilant that conditions have changed which will require a new approach.

 

We often get such “alerts” ourselves.  Sometimes it is life that is preparing us for new things and sometimes it is our own body telling us to be vigilant to how we are responding to events we are encountering.  Often we ignore these but this time, I paid attention.  I try to plan a retreat during Advent because it is a very hectic time of year.  My purpose is not to withdraw from the festivities but to make certain I am celebrating for the right reasons in appropriate fashion.

 

A retreat in a spiritual sense means finding a place where one can get in touch with one’s inner being.  For the religious it is a way of affirming their faith and getting a chance for some stillness to listen.  In the midst of frivolity and the joyous noise of the season it can sometimes be hard to connect to our deity.  It is very easy to get caught up in the consumerism of the times rather than the spirit of benevolence that the holiday celebrates.

 

The University of Kansas includes steps for a group retreat on its online Community Tool Box page.  “Retreats can be useful for your staff, members, volunteers, or board of directors. Some of the benefits of retreats are that they can eliminate the outside distractions of your usual daily setting, build enthusiasm and commitment among your staff or members, cultivate an unceremonious, casual, unpressured mood, create a sense of shared experience and bonding to help people better work together, set aside some uninterrupted time to solve key problems, and allow you to step back and re-examine goals, objectives, and activities.”

 

These same goals can be achieved with an individual retreat.  Embarking on an individual retreat or taking part in such a retreat even with a group of friends can be very beneficial.  Generally, they involve a great deal of meditation.   With a major focus on intense meditation, mindfulness becomes the end result, a mindfulness that allows one to see without interruption how one responds to living.  By participating in such a retreat, we are able to realize how we respond and perhaps create difficulties in our living as well as experience a sense of freedom as we also celebrate our strengths and joys.

 

Franciscan Retreats are found worldwide and they have broken the practice of a retreat into several easy steps.  They have also made retreats an art form, simple and available to all.  Many retreat centers are free of charge, letting participants pay what they can as a donation.  No religious affiliation is necessary and all are welcome.

 

The Franciscan retreat format follows these basic steps.  The first is surrender, the surrendering of time, your busy life, and most of all, your own thoughts so that you are open to new revelations.  The next step is prayer.  It is this conversation of sorts that opens the door for everything that follows and so, the next step after prayer is silence.  After all, if we are doing all the talking, mentally and perhaps verbally, then we cannot fully listen.  The next two steps may seem unusual but they open the door for greater knowledge.  They are to read and then to write or journal your experiences.  The retreat centers also encourage the exploring of their grounds, communing with both nature and other people going through similar retreats.  The retreat concludes with a plan to return.  After all, life gives us each a new opportunity with the rising of each new day.  The knowledge we gained last year was important but the upcoming New Year will give us new chances for greater insight.  Making plans to return for another retreat is being prudent and planning for the future.

 

Sara Avant Stover is a female yogini who also teaches spiritual retreats.  On her website she explains how to do a personal retreat at home and you can reach that page with this link:   http://www.thewayofthehappywoman.com/my-journal/2014/07/stay-home-retreat.  Chances are, though, you might already have done a mini personal retreat at home without even knowing it.

 

Finding a special place or time for some personal time is important as we go through life.  We need to reconnect with ourselves, touch base with our own inner being.  Maybe you awaken a few minutes earlier than everyone and take that time for some relaxation before entering the hectic chaos of your busy day.  Many choose to read in the stillness of the night and then journal about their day.  Still others take a few minutes from their lunch hour to have a few minutes of prayer and meditation.

 

Quite a few years ago my day was scheduled down to the last second it seemed.  I was not only worn out, I was burned out.  Then a traffic snarl resulted in my taking a detour through a drive-in restaurant.  Realizing that none of us were going to get where we were going on time and that I was thirsty, I pulled into one of the ordering stalls and ordered some ice tea.  I spent fifteen minutes reading a paperback I found that had fallen out of my library book bag and was stuck partially under the passenger seat.  I finished the tea and the book’s chapter and realized I was much calmer.  I began to schedule fifteen minutes for going through the restaurant and having my tea as I read.  Life suddenly seemed much more manageable and I’m sure I was much more pleasant to be around.  I had thought I didn’t have a minute to spare but I found I did – fifteen minutes in fact every day.  Projects got done and were actually done easier and better.  Nothing was sacrificed and everything was gained.

 

If you have missed the blog posts the past four days, I do apologize.  Hopefully, we you reread some prior ones or maybe, you found your own fifteen minute retreat.  There is no point in having a season of good will if it makes us lose our own. 

 

I trained my puppy that whenever I am engaged in fiber arts, I will have to put things down before I can take him outside to do his business.  The code phrase to tell him I saw his signal but he needs to let me put my work down is this:  “Let me park my needle.”  Earlier this week I received an alert from my body telling me I was overworked and overstressed by life happenings.  So I gave myself permission to “park my post” and engage in a retreat of sorts. 

 

Today many are detouring their lives because of a natural disaster.  They are taking a nature- imposed retreat.  People have retreated to the homes of family or friends.  One group of friends is enjoying a reunion of sorts as a result of this detour called Hurricane Irma.  Several evacuated their home and accepted the hospitality of former college friends to visit.

 

All too often we think we having nothing else to give or time to take.  Just when we think we can’t spare anything, we can sometimes find everything.  All we have to do is retreat and then, in that retreat, we find that which we’ve been searching for and that which makes it all worth living.  Is a retreat a detour?  Yes it is, perhaps the most important type of detour we can ever take.  We think of detours as cumbersome and time-consuming.  Sometimes they show us what is really the most important aspects of our living.  After all, we need to enjoy the scenery as well as the destination in our living.