Just get up and dance…

December 15, 2021

I got this quote in an email of inspirational quotes that I get each day –

“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.”  – Martha Graham

People often use dance as a placeholder for life, especially in quotes. The advice in this quote holds quite well for life. Too many people get hung up on perfection or get too concerned about what other will think of their efforts, to even try things in life. They allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear of failure or ridicule from others, so they don’t even try. Just get up and dance.

Martha Graham believed that you should just let go of your inhibition and experience the joy of moving to the music. In life we must learn to let go of the fear of failure and experience the joy of doing and trying. There is often more pleasure to be found in striving towards a goal than in finally achieving it. World-class athletes often report after having set a record or achieved a significant win in competition that it is often a letdown compared to the pleasure that they found in the focused and intense training leading up to that moment. Just get up and dance.

So, rather than sit and watch life go bye out of your own doubts or fears, get in the game. Let go of your inhibitions and fears. Stick out your hand and meet new people. Try new things, find new adventures, savor new tastes. Don’t be worried about what others may think of you or your efforts. Just get up and dance.

Maybe this advice from the 1987 song “Come from the Heart” by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh sums it up well –

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money

Love like you’ll never get hurt

You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’

It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

The important message in all of this is that nothing happens until you – Just get up and dance.

Be thankful for home…

December 14, 2021

Most of us probably have an idealized view of home, much as presented in this picture above. Home is belonging and safety. Home is warm and comfortable. Home is a happy place.

But lest we forget, not everyone has a home to retreat to and for far too many homeless people, home is just a memory or maybe a dream.

It is OK during this Holiday season to curl up by the fire with a cup of cocoa and appreciate the warmth and love of your home, but don’t forget to share what you can to help those who do not have a place to call home.

Thank God for your home and then thank God for the opportunity to help those who don’t have a home.

Be the difference…

December 11, 2021

You can add to the message of the graphic that it not what you say but what you do that makes a difference. Knowing that something is wrong and even saying that something is wrong does little to change things. Taking action to bring about those changes is the only thing that counts.

Very often the things that may bother us as being wrong are much larger than just something that we can personally fix or right, and there is a tendency to let that put us off doing anything at all. Your actions may take the form of joining a protest march or writing a letter to authorities or maybe to your local paper. Change is often brough about through educational efforts to point out the wrong and making suggestions for fixing them.

The important things is not to let the size of the problem overwhelm your inclination to help. Food insecurity (we used to call it hunger) and homelessness are big, widespread problems, but they manifest themselves locally in smaller groups that you can impact by your own actions. Volunteering at your local food bank or at a local shelter helps with the problem in your neighborhood. If every neighborhood had groups and volunteers working on the problem, it would certainly be less than it is. At least you can be a part of the solution instead of just knowing or talking about the problem.

The next time you find yourself thinking about (or talking about) something that need attention or help, ask yourself, “So, what can I do about that?” Then don’t let yourself be put off by the size or pervasiveness of the problem. Keep thinking smaller and smaller until you think of something that you can do and do it. When you see a person in need, take action, not pity.

Be the difference…

Achieving peace in your time…

December 8, 2021

“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.” (Jack Kornfield) Jack Kornfield is an author, Buddhist practitioner, Spirit Rock Meditation Center founding teacher, and one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West.

I love Kornfield’s quote because it so simply and straightforwardly expresses the truth. The belief that we can control things that happen in life is a futile illusion that we allow to drive us to frustration and, in some cases, to despair. It is only through letting go of that illusion of control and focusing instead on how we react to, or recover from, the things that happen to and around us that we can truly be at peace.

Some people don’t like the use of the word surrender. They equate it to giving up, to quitting, to being a loser. There is an old comedy routine where a man goes to his doctor and, twisting his arm back and forth, says,” Doc it hurts when I do this, what can I do?” The Doctor looks at him and says, “Stop doing that.”

Well, if your attempts to control things in life have continually failed, stop doing that. It was all an illusion anyway. If instead you surrender to God’s will by saying the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, you are only surrendering the illusion that you were in control. You will find an immediate sense of relief and calm if you surrender your life to God’s will and God’s peace will descend upon you.

But, you may say, “I feel like I’m giving up and failing somehow.” Well, you are giving up a futile effort, but you should feel good about that. Plus, it is not really a failure if you did not achieve something that was not possible to begin with; however, you may need to forgive yourself for taking so long to come to the right conclusion to put your trust in God.

Surrender the illusion. Let God be in control. Achieve peace in your time.

Grabbing at the cloud…

December 4, 2021

I don’t remember where I saw this quote, but I saved it because it is so true – “Creativity is just one of those strange, elusive things.  It’s like trying to grab a cloud.”  (Danny Elfman)

Being a blogger means being creative, or at least trying to be, on a fairly regular basis. Some days the thoughts and the words come easily, but some days I just sit here grabbing at the cloud and coming up empty.

Many times, I will write for awhile and then erase everything that I’ve written because the train of thought that I was following went nowhere. On other days I will realize at the end of a spurt of writing that what I was writing made no sense or came to a conclusion that I can’t support. Those get erased, too. In those instances, the creativity turned out to be more like cotton candy – I took a big bite that dissolved away when I tried to chew on it.

I like this quote from Steve Jobs because it sums up a lot of what I do when I’m in my creative mode –

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

It is that ability to take a few things (or ideas) that may already exist and put them together in a way that no one else has seen that can end up creating something new or solving that intractable problem. On those days that I struggle with the creative process, I might end up making no sense at all. Those are the days that I hit the erase button.

Yet, even on my good days of creativity the words of Julia Cameron ring true – “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.”

Pursuing a creative outlet, like writing or painting or other creative things, can be a satisfying activity. In the end one gets to look upon something that they have created that didn’t exist before. So, let your creative side out. Find that creative activity that you can pour your passion into and take that leap of faith.

Grab for that cloud.

Where did your traditions start?

December 3, 2021

While the graphic points to a quaint belief about traditions starting at home, many traditions start somewhere else, usually Mom’s house or maybe even Grandma’s house. I remember that the first 5-10 years of our married life my wife and I (and eventually our kids) traveled back “home” to our parents houses for Christmas.

We had our own home, of course, whether it was an apartment or a house, but “home” for Christmas always meant going back to our parents’ houses. This was not a casual day trip since we lived several states away most of that time. So it was a multi-day stay, usually at my wife’s parent’s house.

Fortunately, our parents lived fairly close to each other, so we could celebrate with both sets of parents on that one trip. Also fortunate was that they had two different sets of Christmas traditions, at least in terms of the timing of things. My wife’s parents always celebrated on Christmas Eve bye going to a Christmas Eve church service during which time Santa would magically come and put presents under the tree. The kids didn’t figure out until later why Grandpa was always late getting to the car to leave for church. My family celebrated on Christmas morning, which gave Santa the rest of the night to get from my wife’s family home to my folk’s house and put out the presents.

It really wasn’t until the kids were of Middle School age that we started celebrating Christmas at our own home and adopted the Christmas Eve tradition. Once the kids were out on their own, we still observed the Christmas Eve tradition, with a Christmas Eve church service, dinner at a restaurant or at our house and opening of presents. That makes for a peaceful and quiet Christmas morning.

Sadly, but inevitably, the Christmas Eve tradition has morphed from lots of excitement and noise as toys were unwrapped into the more subdued enjoyment of seeing how much money is in the cards. Now that all the grandchildren are in Middle or High School clothes and money have become the de jure gifts. This year, for the first time, one of our children is hosting the Christmas Eve get together, so the tradition shifts again, as it should. We’re looking forward to again being guests at the celebration.

What are your Christmas traditions and how and where did they start? How have they shifted over time? What memories will your children have of your holiday traditions?

What will you change today?

November 29, 2021

You woke up this morning. Great. Now what? It is a new day and a new chance to make changes in your life. It is a chance to forgive yourself for some past mistake and heed the advice of that great philosopher Alice Cooper, who said – “Mistakes are part of the game. It’s how well you recover from them, that’s the mark of a great player.”

The changes that you make each day don’t have to be big ones. In fact, trying to make huge changes in your life often leads to failure. However, making small incremental changes each day can alter the course of your life over time. Even seemingly inconsequential things like changing your route to get to work can have an impact by providing you with a different perspective on things. Wearing different clothes than you would “normally” wear puts you in a different frame of mind. Talking with someone that you would usually just walk by without acknowledgement may provide new insights into the seemingly ordinary things in life.

You do not need to just be focused upon correcting mistakes in your life. Many times, just finally acknowledging that you made a mistake and taking ownership of it is a difference maker. Sometimes, when you think about a mistake that you made in the past, you realize the impact that it had on the course of your life and can consciously decide if you want to get back on that original course. Career decisions are sometimes made that way.

Aside from dealing with mistakes, giving some thought to what you might need to change in your life is a positive thing. No one is perfect, so there may be little things that you can pay attention to, in order to improve. For many people, it is just resolving to make the effort to be more open and friendly to strangers that can open up their lives to a richer and more satisfying existence. For some is might be heeding the advice of Martin Fraquhar Tupper – “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”  

The point is to make the decision to change something in your life today and see where that decision takes you. It is bound to be somewhere you would not have ended up if you had not made that change. If it turns out to be a mistake; well, that’s what tomorrow’s change can address. That is what makes life interesting.

What will you change today?

What’s around the corner for you?

November 25, 2021

There is certainly the possibility of something different around every corner or over every hill. The optimist sees exciting opportunities ahead while the pessimist sees nothing but danger. What do you “see” when you are approaching a corner or a hill in your life?

All visions of the future are formed in our imaginations. You can imagine great and wonderful things to come, or you can foresee painful disasters, and both can come true. If you could choose, which would you prefer? The thing is that you can choose, at least for the imagining part.

Optimists aren’t necessarily born with a smile on their face. They develop a positive outlook on life as they mature by making positive choices and consciously deciding to live with a positive attitude. A big part of arriving at a positive state of mind is having a strong faith upon which to base that optimism. People without faith have nothing upon which to stand in the face of opposition or hardship; however, those with faith turn to God for strength and reassurance.

Not everything may be going right just now, but there is another bend or hill ahead and those with faith know that God will be waiting on the other side, and everything will be alright when you get there. Even if the curve or hill ahead is death, people of faith know that there is something wonderful on the other side for them.

What’s around the corner or over the hill for you? You can approach those changes with confidence when you have faith in God.

Gratitude or entitlement, which are you teaching?

November 24, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Fred shared this Thanksgiving prayer sent to him by one of his followers –

“Put gratitude in your attitude!”  (Sent by Carol Retan)

A suggested Thanksgiving Table Prayer for you to use:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger,

For faith in a world where many walk in fear,

For friends in a world where many walk alone,

We offer our humble gratitude, O Lord.  AMEN

In our society, many seem to have moved away from being thankful for what they have to a selfish attitude of entitlement. Perhaps much of that results from our tendency to try to give our children all of the things that we might not have had. While that seems like a worthy goal on the surface, it may actually be an attempt to enjoy life through our children and it teaches them the wrong lesson. There is very little “value” associated with things that we don’t have to work for to achieve, and that is true for our children, too.

A recent survey found that the majority of parents say that their children are not thankful for all of the things that they’ve been given. Well, DUH! If they didn’t have to do anything to get those things, how are they supposed to assign a value to them and be thankful for them. We have created generations of young people who feel entitled to everything, rather than grateful for what they have.

So, what are we to do? It’s never to late to start teaching the right things and gratitude is certainly one of those things. Insisting that children write a letter/card or call those who give them things to say Thank You, is a start. Don’t allow just a text message or a post on Instagram to suffice. When children achieve a goal or have a major accomplishment, they should be encouraged to thankful to any and all who may have helped them, and they should thank God for giving them the patience and perseverance to prevail.

Gratitude is based upon humility, whereas entitlement is based upon hubris. Which are you teaching your children?

Just beyond reason and logic…

November 22, 2021
Portrait of U.S. statesman, inventor, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin as he looks on one hundred dollar bill obverse. Clipping path included.

I seldom see quotes from Ben Franklin that I disagree with, but this is one – “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

Perhaps Franklin meant to advise us not to let reason get in the way of faith. Many great scientists and thinkers, including Albert Einstein, have resolved any conflict that they might have had between faith and reason.

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” (Einstein)

I prefer to think of it this way. Faith lies just beyond the boundaries within which reason and logic try to constrain our imagination. Hope also lives in that nether land that is, by definition, beyond our ability to comprehend using logic and reason. In fact, it is hope that brings faith into focus and allows us to see what we do not need to understand to believe.

I think that one can use reason and will logically arrive at Faith as the only answer to the great questions of life – the Why’s and How’s and What happens next questions. At some point one accepts that there are no earthly answers to those questions and realizes that all logical paths lead back to the same place – faith in something that we cannot comprehend but which must exist in order for us to exist.

At the beginning of each episode of the TV show The Twilight Zone the narrator said – “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” Faith goes well beyond the twilight zone because takes us beyond the limits of our imaginations.

So what Franklin might have said, instead, is, “The way to see by faith is to look beyond what we can see with the eyes of logic and reason and to use hope as your lens to focus upon what is important.”

Open your eyes to faith. See your future through the lens of hope.