Free yourself…

August 21, 2021

I saw this quote recently in a daily email of inspirational quotes that I somehow got on the mailing list to receive.  

“Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.” – (Byron Katie}

One may be excused for not immediately associating freedom with forgiveness. However, if you think about it for a while, the inability to forgive, whether it be forgiving someone who has wronged us in some way or forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes, holds us captive to the bitterness and pain from which we cannot free ourselves.

If, or once, we find it in our hearts to forgive, we are free to go on with life, unencumbered by the baggage of past transgressions, whether by us or against us.

We can find the advice to forgive others in the Lord’s Prayer, where we are admonished to forgive the transgressions (sins or trespasses are terms also used)  of others as God forgives our transgressions. It is in accepting that God forgives us that we also find the reason to forgive ourselves and free ourselves to move on in life.

Forgiving others is sometimes not easy, especially if it is still close in time to whatever the incident was that needs to be forgiven. Sometimes there is an initial reaction of shock to some slight, rejection or wrong that we perceive has been done to us. That is usually quickly replaced by anger. We get mad at someone or maybe at ourselves. We seek someone to blame for what has happened. Hopefully those reactions dissipate quickly, and we can start to think rationally.

There is no way forward along the paths of hate or disappointment that does not lead to further hate or even to depression.  The only way forward that leads to a better life is to forgive. The forgiveness path replaces hate with love. Forgiving does not equate to forgetting, it just means putting the incident in proper perspective and making the choice not to continue down the paths of hate or disappointment. If God can forgive you for your mistakes, surely you can forgive others for theirs or yourself for those same mistakes. If you can reach that point, it is a short journey down that path to get to love for those same people or for yourself.

I know of no greater example of this than the forgiveness that the survivors of the racial massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. After the initial shock of the heinous act by Dylann Roof wore off, the survivors found it in their hearts to forgive him and even to pray for him. They freed themselves from the fears and hate of that incident and found a way to share God’s love.

Let us hope that none of us are involved in anything so horrific. Let us also strive to put whatever smaller incidents have taken place in our lives into perspective and move as quickly as we can to forgiveness, so that we, too, can be free.

Forgive…Free yourself.

Glue your life back together…

August 20, 2021

In his blog (Jack’s Winning Words) this morning, Pastor Freed used this quote – “God is the ‘Goodness Glue,’ the love that holds the dark and light of things together.” (Fr.  Richard Rohr)

We sometimes hear the term “shattered life” or maybe that someone was “broken up” by events in their life. The fact is that we all experience things that overwhelm us and seem to shatter the world that we live in and us with it. It is in those times that we really need the “Goodness Glue” to put things back together.

Pastor Freed wrote about Gorilla Glue being touted as the most powerful glue on the planet earth. It is relatively easy to use; just unscrew the cap and put some on the pieces that need to be reconnected. Fortunately, God’s Goodness Glue is also easy to use. Just start to pray and let God use his love to put your life back together.

The things that tend to disrupt and shatter our lives tend to be losses and fear. We may lose a loved one or suffer a breakup in a relationship. Maybe we lose a job or a home. Then the fear sets in. Fear for the future. The “what will I do now”, kind of fear. Some of that fear is caused by the feeling of being alone in the circumstances in which one finds themselves. However, we are never alone. God is always there with us, and we have but to call upon him to begin experiencing his Goodness Glue. Uncap God’s Goodness Glue with the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

With worldly glue, like Gorilla Glue, you can feel the stickiness of the glue on your fingers (don’t feel it too long or you’ll end up in the ER with fingers stuck together). With God’s Goodness glue, what you feel is the sense of calm (God’s peace) that comes over you once you accept his help in your life. Somewhere in the back of your mind you can hear God whisper, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

So, when life deals you a shattering moment, just get out the Goodness Glue from God and glue your life back together. Let the peace that comes with God’s Goodness Glue settle over you. Gorilla Glue advertises that it is for the toughest jobs on planet Earth, but when you need something tougher for problems that seem Earth shattering, call on God and his Goodness Glue.

Let God’s Goodness Glue put your life back together.

Dream bigger…

August 17, 2021

I saw this little quote from Laird Hamilton, a world class surfer, in a series of quotes from athletes – “Never let your memories be bigger than your dreams.”

Athletes seem to always be focused upon doing better, running faster, scoring more, achieving greater. That focus on doing better in the future is what keeps them going and training.

As one gets older, it becomes more difficult to keep one’s dreams ahead of one’s memories, especially if one has lived a full and satisfying life. However, I think it is important to continue to have dreams and goals that you strive to achieve. Perhaps those dreams are a little less ambitious than they once were and maybe they are more focused upon doing things for others, but they still provide a purpose in life and one can still strive towards achieving a new personal best in whatever they are trying to do.

The physical limitations that creep in with age can seem to put a cap on the things that we can dream of personally doing, but we may just need to dream of achieving them in a different way. Many top-level athletes become coaches when their playing days are over. They use the knowledge and wisdom that they collected when they participated to teach others how to do it even better than they did.

There are opportunities like that in the non-athletic world, where there is a constant need for teachers, mentors, tutors, and coaches. There is something very rewarding about seeing someone whom you have taught or mentored being successful and being able to think, “I taught him/her how to do that.”  Your dream may shift from thoughts about yourself to hopes for your protégée.

Of course, one never completely stops thinking about one’s own future and dreaming about what that may hold. Thoughts and dreams may shift towards what comes next. It is then that the reassurance that there is a “next” can bring the most comfort. There are many passages in the Bible that talk about Jesus’ promise that those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life. Perhaps that is the biggest dream of all. I can’t imagine any of my memories of life here on earth rivalling what is in store in that dream – what is next.

But, while I’m still here, I choose to continue to dream – to have work to do, unfulfilled goals to pursue and personal bests for which to strive. I have lots of great memories, but I also have lots of new memories to make, new friends to meet and new goals to achieve.

Never stop dreaming; in fact, dream bigger.

Start anew today…

August 16, 2021

It’s Monday, the start of a new week. Why not make it the start of your new life, too?

Many people wake up each day already dissatisfied with their lot in life. Maybe they are in an abusive relationship or marriage. Maybe they feel like they are trapped in a dead-end job. Perhaps they are living in a dangerous place (think of all of those people currently facing the reality of a Taliban return to power in Afghanistan).  For many it may just be the uneasy feeling that they are not living up to their potential in life.

Whatever the reason that makes you unhappy with your life, today is the day to take the first step to change it. It can be a small step, but it is important that you take it.

Yes, it is scary; but, at the same time, it is exciting. For many the prospect of leaving whatever environment that are in to begin a journey to an uncertain future is overwhelming. Yet they know that they must. It is the prospect of being alone on that journey that holds many back. But we need never alone. If you believe in God and call upon him to guide you, we are told in the Bible – “Be strong. Be brave. Be fearless. You are never alone.” – Joshua 1:9

The quickest and easiest way to call on God to be by your side as you start anew is that little prayer that I have used a few times here – “Not my will., but thy will be done.” Believing that will mean that you are never alone.

That simple surrender to the will of God empowers you to begin your journey to a new life and sustains you through the trials that you may encounter. Moving your thinking from the macho phrase “I’ve got this” to “We’ve got this” allows you to accept setbacks and forgive yourself for failures while still making progress.

Where you are at today is not where you need be tomorrow. So, take that first step to a new life today. Call upon God to be with your and guide you on your journey.

Welcome to your new life. Remember – You are never alone.

Wait for it…

August 14, 2021

I spotted this little quote in a daily email I get about inspiring quotes – “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

I am not sure that patience is always bitter, but it is always hard. We have become an immediate gratification society and usually don’t have to wait (to have patience) for anything that we want. We get annoyed if it takes more than a day or two to get what we just ordered on-line and whole industries have developed drive-thru service to cater to our need for speed.

Many things, however, can’t be rushed. They require patience. Having a baby still takes almost nine months (sometimes a little more). And then there is the patience required as the child grows up. Building a house is usually a long process, sometimes taking years if the house is big and elegant. Buying a house these days may require a lot of patience and quite a few bids before you actually win one.

Very few people, even ardent believers, get impatient to get on to eternal life. After all, one has first to die to take that next step. However, waiting for eternal life does not have to be bitter either. Life needs to be enjoyed, like a tailgate party before the big game. Life is for meeting people and interacting with them. Viewing life not as an endless wait; but, rather, as a precursor to an eternal life that we cannot yet comprehend just adds to the excitement and anticipation of the wait.

In order to get into that frame of mind, one really has to believe in the outcome, the thing that we are waiting for. Not believing is like encountering a line that you get into without knowing where the line is leading you. All you have is questions about what it is that you are waiting for and that is not very satisfying.  In the case of believers, we are in line awaiting “the last day”, the day in which all who believed in Christ are raised from the dead. That is the “Big Game” that we are tailgating for here on earth.

The fruit of your patience will be sweet beyond your understanding.  Believe and patiently wait for it.

Forgive yourself…

August 12, 2021

Every now and then I stumble across a web site with a bunch of quotes on a topic that I feel is important to write about in my blog. Today is such a case. I was looking for a quote to use on self-forgiveness and happened upon a site that had the quotes that I’ve used below. I’ve tried to arrange them is an order that makes sense as a progression of thoughts about self-forgiveness. The first three sort of set up the problem that self-forgiveness allows us resolve.

Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior. – Mark Victor Hansen

You don’t want to beat yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that it will somehow make you stop beating yourself up. – Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. – Louise L. Hay

Self-forgiveness is really part of a healing process that help us recover from mistakes or failures in or lives. Forgiveness usually starts with recognition of the problem, admitting that it happened, instead of continuing the denial process. Once we accept that something happened or that we made a mistake, we can begin the healing process.

In order to heal, we must first forgive … and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourselves. – Mila Bron

It’s not about worthiness, it’s about willingness. – R. Alan Woods

It helps to start the process of forgiving ourselves to think about the fact that God forgives us. After all there is no greater authority than God.

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him. – C. S. Lewis

Once we get into it, we can have compassion for ourselves and move on into forgiveness and love for ourselves. It is only when you can love yourself that you can love others.

Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves. – Pema Chodron

Forgive yourself. The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows. — Miguel Ángel Ruiz Macías

So, stop looking for someone else to give you love until you first give yourself love.

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. – Buddha

The Aretha Franklin film RESPECT opens this week in theaters. To have the respect of others you must first respect yourself. I think a big part of respecting yourself is forgiving yourself and loving yourself. Forgive yourself and earn that respect.

Be brave and be at peace…

August 10, 2021

I saw this quote recently and knew that it was worthy of a blog post – Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. (Amelia Earhart)

Think about it. Can you be at peace if you are consumed by the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’s? We get those thoughts about things that we didn’t do because we didn’t have the courage to try at the time they occurred.

One can find peace, even in failure, if you tried your best, but just fell short of achieving your goal. Many athletes find solace in a losing effort if they achieved their personal best in the effort. For others, just the fact that they tried and didn’t quit gives them peace.

We can learn from efforts that were not successful, but we get nothing but regrets for attempts not made due to a lack of courage. The road to mediocrity and unhappiness branches off from the road not taken due to fears, uncertainties and doubts.

Perhaps you can add to your prayers this thought – “God grant me peace by giving me the courage to try.” At the end of each day, if you can look back without regrets for not even trying new things or having the courage to meet new people, you will find yourself at peace.

There is much to learn from the motto of the athletes that compete in Special Olympics events – “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

If you can live your life with that motto in mind you will find yourself at peace with yourself and the world.  Be brave and be at peace…

Size doesn’t matter…

August 7, 2021

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “The size of your audience doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that your audience is listening.”  (Randy Pausch)

Pastor Freed went on to write about a funeral at which he had been called upon to deliver the eulogy. When he got there, there was no one in attendance so he ended up delivering the eulogy to an empty room. He found comfort in knowing that God was listening that day.

I think blogging is somewhat like that. I never know who is out there reading this blog or how big the audience is on any particular day. I have a few followers who let me know almost every day that they read what I wrote and that they liked it. I am also astounded (although I suppose one should not be astounded by anything these days) by where many of the comments or likes come from. Much of my audience seems to be in Eastern Europe or the Middle and Far East.

Some bloggers go to great lengths to attract and measure their audience, many because they have monetized their blogs. I investigated taking that step but decided against it. I just don’t want to feel any sense of obligation to write for reasons of earning money. I watched several early blogging sites for real estate decline into uselessness because the members became more concerned about their ratings than what they were actually saying. Any time you set up measurements of success based upon things like the number of followers there will be many who will “game the system” in order to “win”.  

So, to me, the size of my audience doesn’t matter. What matters is that occasionally I will get a like or a comment from someone who found the remarks that I made helpful in their life. I try to stay positive in my writing and although I present it as a faith-based blog, I do not try to shove my faith in the face of the readers. One must, I believe, also provide the basis for whatever advice or life experiences are being shared. The basis for many of my comments and advice has been and will continue to be the impact of my faith on my life and the decisions (and mistakes) that I’ve made.

So, if you are out there, somewhere in the world and enjoy reading this blog or find it to be helpful in your life, let me know with a like or a comment every now and then. Even if you don’t, I’ll be like Pastor Freed at that funeral; I’ll know that God is listening.

Have a great weekend.

Don’t be selfish with your time

August 4, 2021

A recent quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog caught my attention this morning – “There are many kinds of selfishness in this world, but the most selfish is hoarding time, because none of us know how much we have, and it is an affront to God to assume there will be more.”  (Mitch Albom)

Jack went on to write that the Jim Croce song “Time in a Bottle” is a favorite of his. I suppose that we all wish there were moments that we could capture and put in a bottle, to be enjoyed again and again as we wish.  Maybe the bottle is our mind, and those moments are stored there as memories.

What Mitch Albom was alluding to is not wasting or hoarding our time here on earth by assuming that we’ll always have more time to do the things that we are putting off sharing with others. The “I’ll see them tomorrow” mentality was put to a big test over the last year when too many people realized too late that there would be no tomorrow. Now instead of memories of that last visit with someone who has passed, they have only regrets that it never took place.  

Even if we have nothing else, we all have time that we can give to others. In some cases, it may be time in service to them, but in many cases it is just sharing time, acknowledging them and engaging with them.  As humans, we may have fond memories of event that occurred when we were alone, but our strongest and fondest memories always involve time and events that we shared with others. Search back through your memories and see if that isn’t true.

So time that you hoard to yourself actually ends up being blank spots in your memories, sort of like those times when on TV some commercial message is missed and the screen is just blank for s few seconds – no picture, no sound, no nothing, just a blank screen. Did you ever notice how long that seems to last to you?

It’s not that we all don’t need some breaks, some time to ourselves; but that is what sleep is for. Spending time by yourself while awake is just lost or wasted time when you could be interacting with others. Now, there are forms of interaction that may not involve spending face-to-face time with another person. Reading is one such form of interaction. Whether you realize it or not, you are interacting with the author while reading. You are trying to figure out what it is that they were saying when they wrote that story or article. You may carry out a complete mental dialogue with them in your mind while reading what they wrote. The same may be true when viewing a work of art – what were they thinking when they did this piece?

So, never assume that there will always be a tomorrow. Don’t be selfish with your time.  Make the best that you can of today. Interact with as many people as you can, get to know as many people as you can, help as many people as you can.  Give of yourself by sharing your time and you will receive some of their time back. Now that’s a good use of your time. God will be happy with you. Maybe He will give you more time to spend tomorrow. Don’t be selfish with it.

Don’t blow air kisses…

August 3, 2021

Pastor Freed used a quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, that made me think this morning – “Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.”  (Toni Morrison) 

Actually, his daily quotes always make me think and I suspect that this is what Jack has in mind when he posts them. Freed used the example of thinning out soup by adding more water during the Great Depression and talked about spreading one’s love to thin or over too many people.

My thoughts turned to people who blow air kisses your way when they meet you or exchange those faux kisses to both cheeks. They are going through the motions of expressing love, but that is all that it is – just going through the motions. Don’t blow air kisses…

Many people blow air-kisses our way, but it is thin love that they are expressing, meaningless love at best. I think that is the important distinction. One can, in fact spread real love around to many people, but it is critical that it is real, heartfelt love and not just air kisses. I believe God gives us an infinite amount of that kind of love to share, just as He shares His infinite love for us. However, we will not have that feeling about everyone that we encounter. Why is that? Don’t blow air kisses…

Maybe the answer lies in thinking about love as an unconditional sharing of ourselves with others. The things that keep us from sharing our love unconditionally are our fears, pre-conceived notions, and prejudices. We allow these things build barriers around us that prevent our love from being shared. We blow air kisses to those people for whom we cannot seem to feel real love. Sometimes that may make us feel uncomfortable, but far too often we feel self-righteous about not sharing ourselves with “those people”.  Don’t blow air kisses…

We may rationalize our inability to share our love with certain people s a defensive mechanism to keep us safe. In fact, it is not so much keeping us safe from them as it is keeping us from sharing ourselves with them and experiencing the love that they have to share in return. We may feel safer for having withdrawn from them, but we are also poorer for having missed the experience of sharing love with them. Don’t blow air kisses…

Perhaps we can make a better effort to overcome our fears and prejudices by asking God to take away those fears and allow us to experience with others the unconditional love that He shares with us. We may never get to that level of unfettered love with all other people, but our lives will be so much richer if we can get a few more of those prejudices out of the way and allow ourselves to experience the sharing of love with more people. Don’t worry, you won’t run out of love the more you share it. God has lots more for you where that came from. Just remember – Don’t blow air kisses…