Sighs, Growls, and Yields

Sighs and Growls and Yields

Detours in Life

Pentecost 4

 

Most of us tend to either sigh or growl when our smooth path in life is certainly diverted to a detour.  Look up synonyms for the word “detour” and those sighs and growls are easily understood.  A detour is the long way around, a deviation, roundabout or indirect route,  a pain in the … well, you know.  Very few of us encounter a detour and go “Yippee!”  Maybe we should.

 

We like to begin our day with an agenda, a plan for getting done all that needs to be done.  We might have a to-do list; we certainly have obligations to meet.  We develop a course of action and then we proceed on it.  Life, however, has other ideas and turns our well-ordered day planning into chaos.  In short, we have to take a detour.

 

We all too often think of detours as stop signs.  We need to recognize that detours are really opportunities, diversions to look at life more fully.  When I began this series, I had it all planned out.  The series will encompass over one hundred and eighty articles but I had it all worked out.  Whew!  Then a family member’s surgery, the death of a close friend, some technical issues (Updates are really exercises in patience, I’ve decided!), and weather delays made mush out of my carefully calculated series.  In short, I found myself on a detour.  And I did not like it.

 

Detours are diversion, not stop signs and yet, we tend to treat them as if they were.  Stop signs are not the end of everything, either.  A stop sign means you got from point A to point B and need to take a moment to look around before proceeding to point C.  Nothing more, nothing less is indicated by a stop sign.  It is not failure but rather a sign of progression.  A dead end street does not need a stop sign; it simply ends.

 

Another sign one encounters on the road is a yield sign.  Usually we are happy when we come upon a yield sign because it means we don’t have to come to a complete stop every time.  We can simply merge into the traffic, providing the path is clear.  I live in a town with a great many yield signs and I cannot think of one that has not been the scene of at least one traffic accident. 

 

All too often we simply merge into the mainstream of flow without really looking at where we are going.  We “go with the flow” but do we really know or care where the flow is headed?  Life is too important to simply merge into the masses.  We need to take the time to stop and discover who we really are and what we really want.  My detour with this series did just that for me.

 

My first detour sign was realizing my own aggravation and frustration that was a bit excessive.  I needed to relax and take a break.  I decided to color, a long favorite activity that has become a great stress reliever.  However, IO began to pressure myself to create a perfect picture.  I copied a picture to color and, instead of trying to make it perfect, I attempted to make it creative.    Jeff and Joan Stanford run a retreat and Joan has some great thoughts about our need for taking a detour and exploring play.  “Connecting to creativity is essential to our health… Coloring within the lines is relaxing but the power lies in creating, in discovering and expressing inner imagery.”  In short, there is power when we take a detour.

 

Sylvia Boorstein was recently interviewed by Michael McConnell for an article entitled “What to Do When Your Mind Starts to Growl” in the most recent issue of Spirituality and Health Magazine.  I purchased the issue for a peace on praying, and then discovered an article on mindfulness.  Life interrupted my reading until my sudden detour for this series had me cleaning up.  In this article Boorstein comments:  “People can get tunnel vision and get very clear about what will or won’t work in a given situation…It’s actually good to have a mind that growls so you can figure out what needs to be done.”

 

My detour had me growling and sighing and then I began to think, ponder and relax.  Within that relaxation I found the beauty of my detour and began enjoying the diversion.  The detour sign was leading me to new experiences and new pathways.  It was not a sign of failure but one of change.  That is what detours are, after all.  They represent growth.  My growling and sighing are sign of growth, not failure. 

 

It important to remember is that our lives are too important to live them merging into the masses.  We are unique and wonderfully created individuals.  We need to explore and celebrate our detours for what they are – an opening for better living, necessary growth, and brighter prospects for the future.

Value versus Worth

Value versus Worth – Journaling

Easter 25-30

 

“The world seems to think I have no worth.  It seems to think that some people are worth more, that their substance means more, that their very being should give them certain privileges because they will contribute more.  The person who seems to be content is often overlooked.  If one feels one’s life is full enough, then one lacks value.  Living has become a race to the top of the mountain of possessions.  I quit.  I refuse to run that race.  My faith tells me I have value even if the world believes me to be insignificant.”

 

The above journal entry might seem to be an argument against mindfulness but actually, it is a great defense for being mindful.  Worth is often used as a synonym for the word value and sometimes, vice versa.  They are, however, two very different words, at least for our context of mindfulness.

 

The term value denotes importance while the word worth refers to the price or cost of an item or its usage.   “The word ‘value’ is used in the sense of ‘importance’. On the other hand, the word ‘worth’ is used in the sense of ‘the cost of production’ of a particular thing or the ‘greatness’ of a particular person. This is the main difference between value and worth.”  This quote from differencebetween.com, written by the author Aron, is an interesting explanation but I am not certain I agree.  Do you?  I would really like to hear your ideas on this.

 

For our purposes with this post and our series on mindfulness, value will be defined as the intrinsic amount of feeling an item/person brings to us while worth I’m defining as the effect it has on us, whether in terms of actual cost or perceived price.  Keeping a mindfulness journal helps us delineate between the two.

 

I have mentioned keeping a mindfulness journal before and someone asked I explain the difference between it and a diary or regular journal.  Just as the terms worth and value can be used interchangeably, journals can also serve various purposes.  A diary is both a calendar of events and a listing of hopes and desires.  A regular journal is often a tracking of a day’s events or thoughts.  The mindfulness journal helps us focus on specific moments and includes not only the event but our reactions, visceral and consequential.

 

The manner in which you keep your journal can be as varied as there are different riding a city bus.  In other words, you need to do what is best for you.  Before we discuss methods of journaling, though, let’s discuss why we would do such.  Keeping a daily log of your thoughts and feelings based on each event or creating lists that you can add to over time, such as the happiest moments of your life, the people that make you happiest, what motivates you, and what you love most about yourself will help you take action towards making your dreams a reality.  It can illustrate the difference in the worth of an activity and the value it holds in your life and help eliminate what is not productive in your living.

 

The best way to accomplish something is to set goals and a mindfulness journal will help you set achievable goals.  It can also verify that what you have set as a goal is rely something you want to accomplish.  Often we end up striving for something that someone else has decided we need.  Because our own heart is not in this quest, it will take forever and most likely not be successful.  A mindfulness journal can also help identify those things that are hindrances or annoyances.  By keeping track of such, they can be eliminated and dealt with before they become larger, more stressful issues.

 

Life is, as I have said before, messy.  No one lives without encountering frustrations and most of us face them on a daily basis.  Sometimes they seem to overwhelm us.  If you are constantly losing things, important things like bills to pay, a mindfulness journal can help identify this and with some forethought, help correct the problem.  Maybe you need to clear off a shelf and designate a certain basket or box for those bills.  By placing a table by the door I most often use and putting a bowl specifically for my keys, I stopped needing to search for them when I was leaving the house.  That one small thing saved me five minutes or more each morning.  That added up to me gaining over an hour each week and I left the house less hurried and harried.

 

A mindfulness journal is a great motivator and often can serve as the catalyst for necessary change.  Many think of mindfulness as a first cousin to meditation and I agree with that.  However, one of my favorite mindfulness writers is a financial analyst, not a yoga or spiritual teacher.  Andrea Cannon recommends mindfulness journal for this reason:  “Once you begin to realize a trend in your journal entries, you’ll want to make a list of the problems you’ve noticed and what actions you’re going to take to correct them. Fixing items around your home, workspace, and vehicle can help change your day-to-day life and can save you time and frustration. In most cases, people tend to wonder why they waited so long to make the repairs in the first place.  Procrastination is likely what made these small daily frustrations a larger problem over time. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what needs to be changed and what steps you’re taking towards achieving these goals in a timely manner.”

 

When we journal, we put a spotlight on our day and become more aware of it.  yes it does take time but how we journal can help with just how much time.  As I said before, there are a variety of ways to journal.  One of my favorite is to get a family day planner, with columns for various family members.  Instead of using the column for each family member, though, use them for different categories.  For instance, one column is for the actual activity or scheduled event.  The next is for whether it was successful or not – no explanations, just a yes or no to the success of the incident.  The next column is for how I felt approaching it, the next for how I felt doing it, the next for the results and my feelings about that.  Then the next column is a quick, briefly worded assessment about hindrances and finally, a column for new goal(s). 

 

Here is an example of this type of journaling:

Column A/Event: Doctor’s appointment

Column B/Successful: Yes; kept the appointment

Column C/Feelings leading up to event: Bit of trepidation

Column D/Feelings during event: Informed

Column E/Feelings after event: Hopeful; positive

Column F/Hindrances: Diet changes bothersome

Column G/Goals: Eliminate eating an entire pizza, eating one slice and a small salad instead.

 

Your journal does not have to be formal.  If you would rather have an informal journal, then any blank or lined notebook will suffice.  There are a few brief formalities that precede any entry – the date, the name of the meditation practice, and how long you meditated for. Then you can write more generally about how the practice went – what distractions you had, what you did about them; what positive factors (like calmness, patience, concentration, etc.) that were present and what you did to strengthen them. You can write about factors in your life that had an effect on your practice – things like lack of sleep, or a particularly busy day, or that you felt refreshed after a day’s hiking with a friend. 

 

Mindfulness is about knowing where we are (being in the moment) and also about maintaining an awareness of where we have been (reflection) and where we are going (having goals).  A journal can help us with all of those areas of awareness, helping us to have a more unified awareness of ourselves.  An example of an informal journal might look like this: “Mindfulness of Breathing. 25 minutes. Had a hard time staying focused. Nodded off to sleep a few times — hadn’t had enough sleep. Felt a bit despondent. 

 

Psychotherapist Dr. Ronald Alexander offers these tips of journaling. 

• Schedule your time to write when you sit quietly in a peaceful, restful place, perhaps in a room surrounded by books and pictures that inspire you. You may also want to sit on a meditation chair or cushion with peaceful music playing, wrap yourself in a meditation shawl or blanket, and light a candle or incense.

• Categorize what your mind churns up. Our minds create a mix of emotions, thoughts, and sensations, all of which influence each other. The thought, “My boss is so insensitive; I can’t believe he was so abrupt with me today,” might not surface in your mind until you sit and begin meditating, and might appear not as a fully formed thought but as a headache or an overall sense of vulnerability and defensiveness.

• In meditation, it’s important not to go wherever those sensations and feelings take you but to simply sit with them, allowing them to reveal themselves. Afterward, as you write in your journal about your experience, work with a therapist, or ponder where that feeling or sensation came from, you might discover that it has deeper roots.

• Recognizing that your experience bears a powerful emotional resemblance to a past experience can be a helpful and freeing insight, but in the end, the story of its origin is just a story that can distract you from healing. If you come to realize that your defensiveness around your gruff boss reminds you of the way you reacted to your highly critical father, the value in that insight is acknowledging how deeply your mind has been programmed to respond to criticism or abruptness with fear and defensiveness. It’s easier to be patient with yourself when you recognize that your mind has actually created an elaborate neural network to support this reaction, because clearly, it will take time, patience, and repetition to change that instantaneous response.

• Don’t give too much weight to such a revelation as you can reinforce that reality. You reinforce your habitual thinking and feeling patterns when you subscribe to a narrative of suffering such as, “I can’t help being the way I am. My defensiveness goes way back to my childhood.” I call this the “big story.” It has the potential to shut you off from the art of creative transformation.

• Once you’ve identified the big story, categorize it as “old stuff” and set it aside whenever it comes up. The major healing work most people need to do is to transform and move beyond their “big story” whether it deals with their parents, lack of abundance, insecurities or fears. There’s no benefit in retelling it to yourself over and over again.

• It’s also important to let go of the “new stuff”: each “small story,” or rationalization for why your present life is the way it is. The small stories are worth examining to discover what lessons they hold, but if you hang on to them, repeating them to yourself, they become “old stuff” and part of the big story as well.

“As long as you remain in these stories, you create suffering for yourself. To change your life, you have to see the story for what it is: a way of framing events that doesn’t contribute to your happiness and holds you back from positive change. Holding on to your story, big or small, giving it life in retelling and embellishing it endlessly, will cause you pain. The point isn’t whether or not you’re justified in telling that particular story, or its veracity, but whether you’re suffering because of it. This takes practice but the more you meditate the more it will feel as if you’re simply sorting the laundry as you observe what your mind generates.”

 

Andrea Cannon explains the benefits of a mindfulness journal.  “A mindfulness journal can help you focus on the things in life that make you happy so you live with an attitude of gratitude. Rather than focusing on a crowded train, you can instead focus on the song you’re listening to and how it makes you feel, your posture while you sit and wait for your next stop, and what you’re looking forward to in your day. Over time, this will become natural so you can turn negative moments into positive experiences no matter what the day may bring.”

 

With a mindfulness journal we can begin to understand the difference between value and worth.  The opening paragraph was taken from a journal of someone who had contemplated suicide.  Fortunately, the writer realized that their value exceeded the world’s perception of their worth.  We all are valuable to this planet and no one has the right to diminish your feelings of self-worth.  Mindfulness reminds us of our own purpose and right to a prosperous living.  Start journaling and find your joy!

 

 

 

Mindful

Mindful

Lent 34

 

Every so often a new word seems to capture our attention.  Recently the term “mindfulness” has become trendy.  It is, however, an integral part of our growing and always has been ever since the first time we fell as babies trying to walk.  During the fifty days of Easter we will discuss this topic more thoroughly but today, the Beatitudes are calling us to be mindful and aware of the events in our own lives and how our response determines the chart we course in our being.

 

Throughout this series we have discussed cause and effect and attitude.  We have compared our living to following a treasure map.  We all are truly adventures on a quest for a better life, hopefully not only for ourselves but for all humanity.  The paths we walk are not always the path we anticipated. 

 

Born Deirdre Blomfield and later adding Brown to her name, the American Buddhist nun Ani Pema Chodron practices the Tibetan tradition through the Kagyu school and Shambhala tradition.  She grew up in Connecticut and graduated from college at UC Berkley.  She became a mother(and grandmother) and taught elementary school in California and New Mexico.  On a trip in her later thirtie’s to France, she encountered

 

While in her mid-thirties, Deirdre traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years.   Soon her path led to her becoming a novice nun and then receiving full ordination with the name Ani Pema Chodron.  Ani Pema served as the director of the Karma Dzong, in Boulder, CO, until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey.

 

I think this Western nun’s philosophy towards finding mindfulness in our own living is best summed up in her book titles:  “Start Where You Are”; “Comfortable with Uncertainty”; “The Wisdom of No Escape – How to Love Yourself and Your World”; “Living Beautifully”.  Her philosophy is simple, direct, and true:  “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

 

To be mindful is simply, quite simply, to be aware.  I referenced a baby learning to walk.  The child will fall several times and yet, the wisdom in getting up and trying again is the key.  We learn to walk not because of any first time success but because when we fall, we get back up and try again.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we gain knowledge.  We become aware.  We learn to be mindful of how to balance and then take that first successful step.  Blessed are the children who fall because they learn to get back up.

 

Nun and spiritual teacher Pema Chodron encourages us to view our world, being mindful of the lessons found in it.  “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. … If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”  Then and truly then, will we become mindful in our own living.

Sanctuary

Refugees and Sanctuary

 

Strictly speaking we are all refugees in that the word quite simply means “displaced person”.  At some point, we all have felt out of place, or at least, out of step.  It is when I am most out of step that faith gives me strength and greater understanding, the chaos helping me realize the sanctuary faith affords.

 

It was on my twentieth birthday that the rector stuck his head in the choir room after the service to tell me I had volunteered to be the youth minister. I walked from the university to church but he had found me rides and so, as a most reluctant college junior, I found myself preparing for our first event – a refugee supper.  In the 1970’s the national church had a campaign to assist those coming from Vietnam.  We were to prepare a typical meal for these refugees – rice and soybeans.   Each plate consisted of one cup of rice and soybeans – a dull plate of white, rather tasteless food.  We served five hundred and made more than expected but what really affected the kids was the blandness and lack of color of the meal.  These kids who never ate their vegetables all brought vegetables to our next pot luck.  I can still hear the clown of the group:  “Thank you Lord for this food, this colorful rainbow of blessings, we are about to eat.”

 

In the 1990’s I was the director of a professional children’s choir in York, PA and we were asked to sing a sidewalk concert outside the prison for a group of illegal detainees from China.  Known as the men of the Golden Venture, these men were held for over four years and became famous for the 3-D origami art they created while there.  These refugees showed me an example of finding sanctuary in their faith and hopes.  Eight years later while working for a state agency I walked into a home of what seemed like a strange group of refugees.  It turned out I had walked into a human trafficking ring and this time faith gave me strength to help disband it.

 

The Beatitudes for me speak of sanctuary in that they provide hope and clarity in understanding what life throws at us.  My experience with refugees, both legal and illegal, is that all are seeking sanctuary.  I am at times a displaced person, someone trying to find their way in life.  Because of that, Jesus came and lived and died – all to provide me and you a sanctuary.  There are sixty-eight Bible verses about “sanctuary” but it really hits home to me when we sing it.  “Lord, prepare me to be sanctuary – pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”  Sometimes we seek the sanctuary and sometimes it is up to us to be it.

 

Life Relatable

Life Relatable

Lent 10

 

Not having been there at the time the Beatitudes were originally said, I do not know for sure why they were ever spoken.  However, I think it safe to surmise that they were felt to be pertinent and important for the audience to hear.  While they were uttered almost two thousand years ago, I do think they are still relatable.  Today, I am featuring a guest post, written by a college student several years ago.  In it this student explains why the Beatitudes are just as pertinent today as when they were first spoken.  Life was messy then.  Life is messy now, regardless of who we are.

 

“Sometimes I just can’t relate to the Bible. To be clear, I like the Bible. The stories are engaging, scandalous, and funny (well, if you can decipher 1st century humor), with good morals and memorable characters. So while I do like the Bible, I don’t always feel like I can relate to it. I have little in common with the authors: kings and prophets sent to inspire the masses with divine intervention when things got rough. I don’t know about you, but I’m no prophet. I’m barely a king.

 

“So while I do like the Bible, often when I read it I do so as though I would read a novel about Afghanistan or an article about outer space: a interesting story about a different world that I will never see. The story may be real, but it is very far away, the people are not like me, and the surroundings are not familiar—while I may have sympathy, I cannot have empathy. It is like a news report that I read, murmur a judgment on, and discard, already forgotten, as I move on to the next. However, in today’s passage from Psalm 44, the saints and martyrs with whom I have nothing in common are gone. In their place is a scared, lonely, confused individual, someone who is struggling to understand why God is so silent while they are suffering. This is a very human passage written by a very vulnerable human. This is a passage I can relate to.

 

“Lent is a funny time, but it is necessary. We spend so much of our lives pretending that everything’s okay, masking our pain and confusion, thinking that everyone else seems to have life figured out, so we should, too. However, I believe that it is in being truly vulnerable that we find our greatest strength. It is in letting others see just how scared, lonely, and confused we really are that we allow them to do the same. Once we let each other in behind the walls of confidence and brave faces only then can we truly begin to build each other up, to rely on each other. If you get a chance these next 40 days of Lent, be vulnerable. It’s scary, and uncomfortable, and takes far more faith than you would imagine. It’s what Lent is all about. Be vulnerable. After all, isn’t that something we can all relate to?”

 

I think the Beatitudes are pertinent because they are words we can all relate to and understand.  They speak of misery, of pain, of unfulfilled goals and yet, within each of those things, there is hope and a reason to forge ahead through life’s messes.  Few of us are kings and even fewer prophets and yet, we all get scared, lonely, discouraged.  By keeping our faith, we can find the strength to carry on with our living and discover success.  More on the treasure hunt of life in the next post.  Until then, be vulnerable.  It is something we all find relatable.

 

Stuff Happens

Stuff Happens

Lent 9

 

IN the movie “Forrest Gump”, the lead character runs across the United States.  The reaction to run was born out of a childhood spent being bullied and the advice of a neighborhood friend to “Run, Forrest, Run!”  The cross country trek is undertaken after the death of his beloved mother.  The feeling of being lost overwhelms the character Forrest and so he undertakes a journey to find himself.  During a moment of rest another traveler approaches him, stepping in a pile of manure as he does so.  The character Forrest then says an iconic phrase:  “Shit happens.”

 

Our trajectory of life is not a smooth course.  While each generation is convinced theirs is the most difficult, the fact is that life has never been an easy uphill climb.  The history of the world bears out the fact that stiff happens, shit happens, and we need to deal with it.  One such example is grief.  Queen Elizabeth II is reported to have once said “Grief is the luxury and result of having loved.”  It is.  Blessed are those who grieve because they had something they loved and have now lost.

 

Benjamin Disraeli once remarked that “grief is the agony of an instant, the indulgence of grief the blunder of a life.”  This is why we have the Beatitudes.  They remind us of this very fact.  Life has its moments of unpleasantness but it is only when we roll around in them and become comfortable in them that they become our life.   When we give them the correct attention, they are simply steps along our journey, not the destination.

 

The goodness of grieving is found in the essence of why we grieve – love and goodness.  I myself am horrible at goodbyes so grief is something I could easily become lost in, a destination instead of a moment.  Moving on does not mean we no longer love.  It simply means that we have valued the love and now are using it to live.

 

“Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.”  It may not seem like a blessing to mourn but the blessing comes from having something to mourn, for realizing what we had that is now different.  True love never dies but it does change.  When life happens and we no longer have what we once had in the same form, we learn to move on and find comfort in realizing that whatever it is for which we grieve, we really still have it.  The goodness of love is that it never dies, just takes on a new form.

 

Stuff happens and sometimes life gets icky, sticky messy.  When we grieve properly, we find ourselves moving on in our tears.  The knowledge that love improves our living is not new but using it to grieve and then move forward might be.  The same motivation love provided is still there.  IT is never good to indulge in anything that does not strengthen us.  Blessed are those who view love for the eternal beauty it offers and then move one to spread it and recreate it in the new day.

Too Old?

Too Old?

Lent 3

 

I admit that I expected some backlash for basin an entire series on a set of Scriptures.  I take great pride in that this blog is not directed toward one particular culture, belief system, gender, or age group.  However, I did not expect criticism for using words that several feel are simply “too old”.  It begs the question:  Can real wisdom ever be out-of-date?

 

In 2011 the Rev Bob Burton, rector at the parish All Saints of the Desert in the Diocese of Arizona addressed the topic of true wisdom.  “True wisdom has nothing to do with being nice.  There, is however, an element of foolishness in being wise.  Paul addresses this issue … “Do not deceive your selves.  If you think you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.”  What does Paul mean by this statement?  Being a Christian today one may be considered to be a fool in the eyes of the world.  In reality, however, being a fool for Jesus one may gain spiritual insight which is true wisdom.

 

“For example, true wisdom is responding to the challenge Jesus presents to us in today’s gospel of loving our enemies.  Loving our enemies may be considered to be a foolish notion in the eyes of the world.  However, as Christians, it is what Jesus calls us to do.  Loving one’s enemies is characterized in the story about two monks living in China, one elderly and the other a young novice to their particular monastic order.  The younger monk had recently visited a nearby city where he had been the victim of hurtful comments.  These comments greatly offended the younger monk as he struggled to regain the peace and serenity that is supposed to characterize a person with such a holy vocation.

 

“Shortly after, the monks were walking through the jungle one day when they were suddenly chased by a ferocious man eating tiger.  They managed to escape by climbing up a tree.  When at last there were out of harms way, the older monk asked his younger companion, “Are you angry at that tiger?  Are you offended by him?  Do you feel moral outrage at his behavior?  Do you feel dishonored by the tiger because he wants to eat you?  “Of course not,” the younger monk replied.  “The tiger is merely being true to its own nature.  I mean, why should I be offended by a tiger wanting to eat me when it is the nature of the tiger to do so?  All I wish at this time is to get completely out of its way.”  “Then why,” the older monk concluded, “do you take offense at the behavior of certain people who, like the tiger, are merely being true to their own nature when they say hurtful things about you?”

 

“The older monk was exhibiting true wisdom.  He was teaching patient restraint of a practical type.  The type of restraint helps us keep our heads cool to diffuse emotionally charged situations.  Had the younger monk been offended by the tiger that had tried to eat him, he might have felt compelled to seek the tiger out and let him know exactly what he thought about him.  That would have gotten the younger monk absolutely no where, the tiger would have gotten a meal, which would have only increased the tiger’s appetite for human confrontation.  As Christians, one way of exhibiting true wisdom in responding to the challenge to love our enemies is to practice patient restraint in the name of Jesus and like the younger monk when faced with potential adversaries get completely out of their way.

 

“True wisdom, from a Christian perspective, is also thanking God when we are feeling uncomfortable, angry, tearful and foolish?  Such feelings may enable us to be proactive in responding to human needs.  Taking the liberty to paraphrase Ward Ewing, Dean of General Theological Seminary, “True wisdom is thanking God for the feeling of discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within our heart.  True wisdom is thanking God for getting angry at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.  True wisdom is thanking God for shedding tears for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.”  “And finally, true wisdom,” Ewing concludes, “is thanking God for the foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.” 

 

I don’t think real wisdom ever goes out of date although how we apply it may and should change.  Life is a series of evolutions.  That is true regardless of which Creation story you believe or whether one is spiritual, atheist, or religious.  The worth and value of the words known as the beatitudes is as real today as when they were first shared.  I hope you join me on the journey of learning to be grateful for the goodness in our lives during this series.  Goodness is ever present, I believe, even in the worst of times.  It is simply up to us to take on the challenge, follow the life experiences, engage in welcoming the lessons the life offers.  Sometimes our worse days are merely steps along our journey to decode the meaning of our life.  That is a quest that never goes out of date and we are never too old to appreciate living.