The Next Step

The Next Step

Easter 2019

 

The past sixteen days have been quite emotional.  First we had the anniversary of a college campus shooting that killed thirty-two students.  Then we had the anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred E Murrah building that killed eighty-two people.  In-between those two dates the Cathedral of Notre Dame caught fire and suffered disastrous destruction.  Then yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the school shootings at Columbine that took the lives of eleven victims and the two shooters.

 

Living in the moment can be uneasy.  It is, however, vital, if we are to fully live and participate, even in something as simple as a sip of coffee.  Let’s say you have really thought about the last hour and fully been in the moments of each of those sixty minutes.  You fully experienced that sip of beverage and felt is as it entered and then followed its course through your throat.  You smelled that bite of food before partaking it and then thought about the texture and taste instead of gulping it down in a hurry.  You felt that air on your skin as you walked outside and heard the ambient sounds around you.  What comes next?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist, who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. His books include “Being Peace”.  Nhat Hanh describes the process as being mindful as much more than just thinking about things.  “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

 

“Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

 

“The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

 

Nhat Hanh believes we are all entitled to being happy.  Many people do not.  They would rather wallow in their self-pity because it seems comfortable to them.  The next step after you have been mindful for an hour is to be brave and practice mindfulness for a day. 

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking – not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking – of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

 

The next step is to believe you deserve the right to be happy and let the silence teach you.  Listen to the advice of this monk.  We need to honor the past and learn from it but we also need to experience the joy of living. 

“Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breathe in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it,” Nhat Hanh advises.  “The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. –  Effortlessness; Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.”  When you achieve that, then your step will be one of joy.

 

Easter is a celebration of joy, of not letting death defeat us all.  It is about taking that next step mindfully and with joyful expectations.

Hope Floats Us All

Hope Floats Us All

Day 39 – Palm Sunday*

Lent 2019

 

I remember reading a biography of a military strategist.  “The outcome [of a particular military campaign] was inevitable.  There was no hope at all of a victory.”  I stopped and reread the previous several pages because I thought I must have missed something.  I had expected this man to be on the side that ultimately won but here he was saying that this major battle was doomed for failure.  I actually reread the pages three times and finally on the fourth time, read them aloud.  I had missed nothing and so I continued forward.  Then I read the last sentence of the chapter.  “Fortunately, the leaders were better at encouraging their men then in military rational.  They had hope and their hope won the battle, a battle that, on paper, was never theirs to win.  Hope that day was the best strategy.”

 

As I remarked yesterday, I do not presume to know what was in the speaker’s mind when he uttered the words we now call the Beatitudes.  I do think their purpose and his intention was to offer hope.  The goodness offered within the text speaks of the expectation of not great times but also the optimism those times can ultimately create.

 

Hope is not the same as optimism.  Optimism is a feeling that sees the good and its approach is quite positive.  Hope is an emotion that often arises in the midst of turmoil, of despair, of grief.  Hope is a choice.  We can choose fear or we can choose hope.

 

Barbara Fredrickson describes hope this way.  “Hope literally opens us up. It removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture. We become creative, unleashing our dreams for the future.  This is because deep within the core of hope is the belief that things can change. No matter how awful or uncertain they are at the moment, things can turn out for the better. Possibilities exist. Belief in this better future sustains us. It keeps us from collapsing in despair. It infuses our bodies with the healing rhythms of positivity. It motivates us to tap into our signature capabilities and inventiveness to turn things around. It inspires us to build a better future.”

 

Psychologist C. S. Snyder, in his book “The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There from Here” defined hope as a “motivational construct” that allows one to believe in positive outcomes, conceive of goals, develop strategies, and muster the motivation to implement them.  While not actively studied until the last twentieth century, it has become apparent that we need hope not only in times of chaos and turmoil but all the time.

 

I believe the Beatitudes to be a commentary of life.  We all will face despair, grief, will feel meek, will hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We also, hopefully, will strive to be peacemakers, be merciful, and pure in heart.  At some point in our lives, we all feel the thorns of persecution.  Hope is the antidote to all of those negative feelings and the motivation for the positive ones.   Perhaps poet Emily Dickinson describes it best:  “Hope is the thing with feathers; that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

*In case you are wondering how Lent can have forty days and Palm Sunday means there are still seven days left in Lent, yet I am at day 39…. In this counting, because many readers are of different faiths, I count each day straightforward.  In the “forty” days of Lent, Sundays are not included in the count.

The Basis of Belief – All Lives Matter

The Basis of Belief – All Lives Matter

Days 37-38

Lent 2019

 

Religious freedom is not just something discussed and guaranteed in the United States Constitution, although that document was one of the first to include it in a government’s laws and stated human rights.  It has been the goal of mankind since beliefs became diverse and openly discussed.  Clearly the first deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage in Egypt was not a cure-all.  In the mid twentieth century Adolf Hitler sought to not only enslave them but to eradicate them, even though he himself was of Jewish descent.   “We were redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women of that generation.”  This sentence is found in the Talmud, the Jewish holy book.   

 

Today many people are seeking freedoms, both for religious purposes but also for just basic living.  Sarah Aaronsohn was born at the end of the nineteenth century and spent her life trying to obtain freedom for Palestine from Turkish rule.  She was tortured for her efforts but remained strong and determined, faithful to her religion.  Lina Abarbanell was an opera singer of high acclaim.  She retired from singing but not from the stage and became a worldwide director of such wonderful operas as “Porgy and Bess”.  Born in Germany immediately after the end of World War I, Rosalie Silberman Abella took her experience as a refugee and used it as motivation to help others.  She became the first Jewish woman elected to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Ruth Abrams became the first woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, championing both women and minorities through her legal career.  Ruth Ginsberg is a vigilant and powerful presence in the United States Supreme Court today.

 

Lithuanian Dina Abramowicz was a Holocaust survivor from World War II.  While many hold that librarians are quiet, dull people, usually female, Dina proved them wrong.  As the head librarian of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, she helped recreate the rich heritage of the Jewish culture and people after WWII.  Bella Abzug was a New Yorker who also proved the strength of the Jewish woman.  Throughout her three terms as a U.S. Congresswoman, she advocated for and helped pass ground-breaking legislation for equal rights and particularly the right of women to play intramural sports in schools.

 

More recently Jill Abramson was the first female executive editor of the New York Times and promoted women within the organization as well as featuring stories regarding gender equality and racial injustice.  Rachel Adler sought to achieve gender equality within her own faith and was a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement.  Born fifty years earlier, Paula Ackerman had taken over leadership of her rabbi husband’s congregation upon his death, a move that was met with support from the members of their synagogue.   Amy Alcott is a fantastic golfer who was recognized in the World Golf Hall of Fame.  Sue Alexander is a founding member of the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

 

The Beatitudes offer us a reason to continue to believe, in spite of what life throws at us.  They also have, for many, provided a foundation for which to live.  With no mission board to support or guide her and less than ten dollars in her pocket, Gladys Aylward left her home in England to answer God’s call to take the message of the gospel to China.  Amy Carmichael is an Irish missionary who spent fifty-three years in South India without a break.  Both women believed that their Creator would provide for their needs.

 

Dr. Helen Roseveare graduated in medicine from University of Cambridge in the late 1940′s. A well-known missionary doctor and author, with several of her works still in print, she worked in the north-eastern province of the Belgian Congo with the Heart of Africa Mission in the 1950′s & 60′s.  Art critic John Ruskin enthusiastically proclaimed her potential as one of the best artists of the nineteenth century, but Lilias Trotter’s devotion to Christ compelled her to surrender her life of art, privilege, and leisure. Leaving the home of her wealthy parents for a humble dwelling in Algeria, Lilias defied stereotypes and taboos that should have deterred any European woman from ministering in a Muslim country. Yet she stayed for nearly forty years, befriending Algerian Muslims with her appreciation for literature and art and winning them to Christ through her life of love.

 

Khadīja Khuwaylid Even was an important figure in her own right even before her famous marriage to the Prophet Muhammad, since she was a successful merchant and one of the elite figures of Mecca. She played a central role in supporting and propagating the new faith of Islam and has the distinction of being the first Muslim. 

 

One of the most important mystics (or Sufis) in the Muslim tradition, Rābi‘a al-‘Adawīyya spent much of her early life as a slave in southern Iraq before attaining her freedom. She is considered to be one the founders of the Sufi school of “Divine Love,” which emphasizes the loving of God for His own sake, rather than out of fear of punishment or desire for reward. She lays this out in one of her poems:

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,

and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.

But if I worship You for Your Own sake,

grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

 

Throughout history women have been prevented from participating in a great many things, including religion.  Throughout history women have lived and fought for their religious beliefs and freedoms, finding strength in the cause and effects echoed in the Beatitudes.  These named represent a small minority of the thousands of thousands of brave and spiritual women who have lived according to their beliefs.  The list just goes on and on as these women have found purpose and strength from their faith. 

 

A news story today chronicles a suggested answer to the high number of people illegally entering the United States was to “dump them” in various locations across the country.  It should be noted that attorneys within involved agencies rejected this offer.  Throughout history women have been prevented from attaining an education and were considered good only as slaves, much like these immigrants have become – slaves and prisoners to an inept and ineffective system.  The fact is that all lives matter and we need to address issues as if we ourselves were the victims of the problems.  After all, whyat affects one really will, at some point, affect us all.  We truly and effectively need to treat others as we would want to be treated if we are to have success in living.

 

The women mentioned here today, as well as those in education, health care, and politics, live their belief that all lives matter.  After all, why do we believe and go through our daily living if it is not to help us live better and leave the world a better place?

 

 

 

 

 

Caution: Life is Habit-Forming

Caution: Life is Habit-Forming

Days 33-36

Lent 2019

 

In this series entitled Lent 2019 we have been discussing self-knowledge.  Knowledge that is not used serves no purpose so what should we do with our knowledge?  The best answer I know is to use our knowledge of the world and ourselves to form good and positive habits. 

 

The American Journal of Psychology (1903) defines a habit as “A habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”  Yikes!  That definition doesn’t leave much room for growth of thought.

 

Habits are simply those behaviors that we do routinely, often without conscious thought.  They are not responses we necessarily were born with but they have by virtue of repetition become automatic responses to repetitive stimuli.  Habits can be either good or not helpful.  Many people automatically smoke a cigarette after eating a meal.  They certainly were not born doing that.  An example of a good habit is washing one’s hands after using the restroom or before preparing food or eating.

 

Writer Charles Duhigg published a book several years ago entitled “The Power of Habit”.  In it he explored the science of habits and how marketing specialists use the steps in acquiring a habit to advertise and convince us to make purchases of their products.

 

While I might not like the above-mentioned definition of a habit in American Journal of Psychology, one cannot deny the psychology of forming habits.   Each habit we have begins with what is called the “habit loop”.  This is a three-step process and every habit we have developed went through all three steps.

 

 

First there is the cue or trigger.  Then there is the actual behavior or habit itself.  Then there is the reward which is how our brains remember the behavior.   Habits are formed in the basal ganglia, that section of our brain that also handles and controls emotions, memories, and – no surprise – pattern recognition.  A habit is a pattern we create because of the reward we receive.

 

Decisions are from a different part of our brains, the prefrontal cortex.  Whenever a behavior becomes a habit, we no longer need a decision to make it and the prefrontal cortex decision-making section can take it easy.  “In fact, the brain starts working less and less,” says Duhigg. “The brain can almost completely shut down. … And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else.”

 

The modern way of describing this is to say you are able to “multitask”.  In other words, because frying eggs is a habit, you can talk while cooking; you can open a door or water your garden while dialing your phone.  “You can do these complex behaviors without being mentally aware of it at all,” Duhigg writes. “And that’s because of the capacity of our basal ganglia: to take a behavior and turn it into an automatic routine.”

 

A change of scenery can change that behavior, however.  People might park a certain way every day at the office but when they go on vacation, how they park will change because their location and environment is different.

 

Even what we hear can make a difference in our habits.  Sometimes we fail to realize that improving our self-knowledge might be a phrase often heard in real estate – location, location, location.  The people with which we associate as well as the environment in which “hang out” does and will have a great impact on our habits.

 

Conor Neill, an instructor at the University of Navarre in Barcelona, Spain, developed a list of personal habits he felt were necessary for personal success.  They included Goal Setting (Dreams to Goals to Actions); Time Management; Fit Mind and Body; Personal Vision (What on Earth am I here for?); ; Integrity – build trust; Personal Finances – getting them in order; Good Social Life; Strong Relationships (with partner, family and kids); Resilience (head in the sky, feet on the ground); Self-Motivation; Self-Acceptance ; Fun; Attracting and Using Mentors and Advisors; Being Open to and Seeking Coaching; Giving with Intention; Inspiring Others – gets others to do stuff; Reflection – setting aside time for reflection.

 

Some of these are things we have spent time discussing in this blog while growing a better self, a garden of spirit and soul through past Lenten seasons.  They are worth noting and discussing again because habits help define who we are.  Most of us can remember an adult that was influential throughout our lives and probably one of the characteristics we really remember about this person was a habit of theirs. 

 

The great thing about habits is that when one becomes unsuccessful for us, we can change it.  They are not cast in stone.  Life is about adapting because no two days are going to be exactly the same.  Too often we expect perfection of ourselves and we expect in instantly.  Life is a process.  When we allow ourselves time to develop and determine what works for us and what should become a habit, then we reap the harvest and reward of a life lived with intention, a life well-lived.

 

Living Lent with Purpose

Living Lent with Purpose

Days 30-32

Lent 2019

 

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.  Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word “lencten”, which means “spring”.  Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.

 

Spring is the period of time between the vernal equinox, which falls around March 21 each year, and the summer solstice, which takes place every year on or around June 21.  Spring is one of the four temperate seasons, following winter and preceding summer. There are various technical definitions of spring, but local usage of the term varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. When it is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. At the spring equinox, days and nights are approximately twelve hours long, with day length increasing and night length decreasing as the season progresses. 

 

Two methods are most commonly used to define the dates of the seasons: the astronomical definition and the meteorological definition.  According to the meteorological definition, the seasons begin on the first day of the months that include the equinoxes and solstices: spring runs from March 1 to May 31; summer runs from June 1 to August 31; fall (autumn) runs from September 1 to November 30; and winter runs from December 1 to February 28 (February 29 in a leap year). 

 

The question which definition to use divides countries and regions around the world. For example, Australia and New Zealand use the meteorological definition, so spring begins on September 1 each year. In many other countries, both definitions are used, depending on the context.  Ireland uses an ancient Celtic calendar system to determine the seasons, so spring begins on St Brigid’s Day on February 1st. Some cultures, especially those in South Asia have calendars that divide the year into six seasons, instead of the four that most of us are familiar with.  In Finland and Sweden, the dates of the seasons are not based on the calendar at all, but on temperatures. Here, spring officially begins when the average temperature rises above 0 °C (32 °F). This means that the seasons within each county start and end on different dates, depending on the regions and their climate.

 

Seth Adam Smith wrote “Our lives are a journey. As we move forward, we will not only figuratively experience the geography of life: the exhilaration of high mountains, the tranquility of calm meadows, the isolation of treacherous canyons, but we will also experience the seasons of life: the hope of spring, the abundance of summer, the harvest of autumn, and yes, the darkness and depression of winter.”

 

In the book “Voyage to happiness”, Sanchita Pandey penned “Even nature has hidden lessons for mankind underneath its silent saga. The trees teach us to give without discrimination, the seasons proclaim that time keeps changing for the better and the vastness of the sky bears the amount of love we should hold in our hearts for everyone we come across throughout the day.”

 

In “The Seasons of Life” by Jim Rohn , the author parallels life and the changing seasons speaking of the importance in realizing that the seasons will change without fail and in what we can do to utilize each seasons to get the greatest rewards. It is basically based on the parable of the sower and the reaper: What to do in one season, to ensure success in another season; great for those who are going thru difficult times personally or financially, because it helps them see that this “winter” in their life will eventually give way to “”spring”.

 

Lent is often considered a time to sacrifice and it can be when that which is sacrificed has true meaning.  Others see it as a time for improvement.  Spring is a time of rebirth while, in the southern hemisphere it is a time for putting things to rest.  Perhaps the Lenten season is really both of those things – a time for new beginnings and a time of saying goodbye to things no longer needed.  Most of us hang on to beliefs and griefs far too long and are hesitant to try new things.  Perhaps Lent is the time for laying to rest the past and embracing the future.

 

If you are reading this, then you awoke this morning.  That is a simple fact but sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  We are present in today and we need to honor that with purpose.  We need to wake ourselves up and live the next twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes with intention, making those minutes and hours have a purpose.  Then our faith will have meaning, our living will bear fruit, and our Lenten season will bear witness to a brighter tomorrow.  When we truly live the purpose of Lent we will experience an Easter within our soul. 

 

Somewhere on Easter Sunday a small child will find a hidden egg and open it, marveling at the mystery of life and the joy of discovery.  May we all experience such a magical introduction to tomorrow.  That, perhaps, is the true meaning of Lent – not a time of sacrifice or self-denial but the first step on the true adventure of living a life of faith, joyfully and with confidence and intention in tomorrow.

That “E” Word

That “E” Word

Day 28

Lent  2019

 

I once went to a training seminar and the speaker introduced the next discussion topic by saying “Next we will discuss that hated “E” word.”  Most people guessed he meant education but the topic was evangelism.  “Whoa” everyone reacted.  We were not there to pass out tracts on some street corner nor walk around proclaiming the world’s end was near.  You might be thinking the exact thing right now.

 

I know what you’re thinking…Evangelism?  What does that have to do with mindfulness, better living (for those not interested in evangelical beliefs) 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 today, in this context, 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, a different 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.  We are discussing evangelism today because 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.

 

Each day we live we “grow” our self-worth.  Every hour we live we should “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.  After all, it takes hope and faith in the future when planting a garden.  A successful gardener learns from past years and evaluates 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 evidence of survival and provides 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. 

 

 

Monitor or Guard

Monitor or Guard?

Day 26-27

Lent 2019

 

When it comes to our self-control or self-discipline, which are we – monitor or guard?  There is a popular television commercial that sets the scene in a bank.  Suddenly two bank robbers appear and order everyone to the floor.  Two customers are seen lying prone on the floor when one looks up at a uniformed gentleman standing by a customer desk.  “Aren’t you going to do anything?” the customer queries.  “Oh, I’m just a monitor” is the response.  “I just give alerts; I am not a guard.” 

 

When it comes to our own habits and those that are not particularly healthy or productive, which are we – monitors or guards?  After all, one seldom needs to tell an obese person that they are overweight.  Neither does one need to point out to someone who has just slipped that they did in fact fall down.  And yet, all too often that is just what we do.

 

Most of us know that if we smoke, we are harming our lungs, circulatory system, and heart.  Diabetics know that they should refuse that piece of pie, especially if it follows a fast food meal of burgers and fries.  An alcoholic knows that going to a cocktail party might just be a recipe for disaster if they have not taken measures to forego having only alcoholic beverages available. 

 

Still…the rate of diabetes continues to rise and while some statistics show a decrease in the number of people smoking, teenagers and young adults are still taking on this habit and older adults are not taking steps to stop smoking.  The number of people killed in alcohol-related incidents continues to be greater than those killed by violence or AIDS worldwide.  Over eighty-six percent of all people under the age of thirty admit to “being drunk”.

 

When it comes to developing self-discipline we must be truthfully and brutally honest with ourselves.  Are we simply monitoring our habits or are we really making an effort to guard against those which can harm, injure, or kill us. 

 

In a report released two years ago, research published in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showed that states with laws requiring drivers who have been convicted of drunk driving to pass a breathalyzer-type test before starting their cars saved an estimated 915 lives between 2007 and 2013. The findings represent a 15 percent reduction in alcohol influenced, driving-related deaths compared to states without legislation requiring DUI offenders to use “mandatory ignition interlock.”

 

If such preventions are possible, then why are we not using them?  Many feel such devices infringe on their personal freedoms.  Much like the pro-gun lobby, they claim they have personal rights to possess deadly agents of harm.  I do not want to debate today the issue of such rights.  What I do want to discuss is your right to live, and that same right that everyone else has.  Living tied to an oxygen tank or dependent on insulin is an impaired lifestyle.  There are enough chances to be hurt forever that we really do not need to make things more difficult for ourselves by drinking or eating to excess.  When that happens, not just the impaired person is affected; so are their families.

 

If I had a garden and in watering that garden, I deprived everyone else on my block their water, people would be in an uproar.  I do not have any personal privilege to something like water or staying alive that others do not also share.  We are in this thing called living together.

 

Together we create the world in which we live.  Together we must not only be honest monitors, aware of our actions and honestly owning them but we also must be on guard against those habits or inherited traits that can be a pathway to destruction. 

 

A monitor simply notices things.  A guard takes action.  It’s your life.  Which are you going to do – watch it pass by or become engaged in living it?