Posts Tagged ‘thrive’

Today I wrote a few proverbial thoughts that came to mind about listening. I love short pithy truth. Hope you like a few of them too.

Listen before you leap.

All things talk; very few things listen.

Listen to words; act on body language.

Listening is not a art; it’s a choice.

Listen to those who disagree with you.

Invite criticism; edit yourself.

The most important thing to listen for is what’s not said.

Listen to them with your eyes; watch them with your ears; touch them with your heart.

Be wise; listen to silence.

About each moment, movement and memory your body speaks to you — listen.

Don’t let your listening stop your thinking.

Hang on words; swing on sentences; beware long speeches.

More like this at http://www.modernproverbs.net

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

John 5:6

This sick man had endured his condition a long time, but he was full of excuses as to why he couldn’t get treatment. 

So Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 

John 5:8

Jesus was spot on.

To get better, we often need to do something.

Many times it is simply the the next thing the doctor, therapist, friend or family member tells us to do.

We have to get up from somewhere we have been lying a long time. Or we have to pick up something that we haven’t picked up before, or we have to go do something we haven’t done before that we may not want to do. This is relevant to social, financial, relational and medical problems.

Recently, I’ve taken medicines I didn’t want to take, had medical procedures I didn’t want to have, trusted doctors and nurses I had never met before, found myself submitting to experiences I had never imagined possible.

It hasn’t been easy, risking, trusting, making  decisions about problems I still don’t fully understand. Paralysis tends to set in quickly, apathy, excuses, denial. “I won’t go now. Someone else is ahead of me. This probably won’t work.”

But we must, we must embrace the here and now, make friends with the present no matter how hard, advocate for ourselves, ask that we be helped. And we are always responsible to stay in the game, that is choose between options, to say “yes” or “no” because no one else can or should fully decide for us.

Lots of us want attention, friends, guides, helpers, cures.

We best speak up.

We best get up.

We probably have to do something.  

We probably have to stop making excuses for not getting help. 

We may need to pick up an old mat.

Lately I’ve had to let go of some things, things in the past, and I’ve been thinking about how we do this.

My mom passed away a few years ago so I had to let go of my mom. My oldest daughter recently moved out of the house to a perfect place for her, so I needed to let go of her. My youngest daughter got married a year ago and so there was a new letting go of her and also an including of my new son-in-law.

It’s not that I’m not still connected to the girls anymore, or even my mom, but that I’m okay with these relationships being different. I think what helps me is to realize that everything changes over time, nothing stays the same, relationships morph with the different stages of life and that the best thing to do is to accept that, and to flow with that.

I find the need for this in other areas of my life too. This year I let go of my career; I let go of the bigger house — we sold it — I let go of being a public figure. I’ve even let go of having a normal routine because of some chronic pain.

I think that moving forward in a healthy way involves simply being realistic. We have to make friends with new realities. It isn’t like it was. It’s different. And wishing it were back to what it was tends to forget the things that we didn’t like about the way it was. Reality is reality. Not accepting changes increases pain. Flowing with what is real is the only sane and safe way to proceed.

All this relates to old conflicts, old hurts, old broken relationships too. It’s not like we just get over old relational drama, but we find different places to put it. We put it in perspective. We put it in more gentle places of non-judgment. And by doing so we heal, realize that we’re going to be okay, realize how much we have learned from our mistakes — and from the mistakes of others.

Bob Dylan is now passé; he’s part of history, but his good lines and honest truths aren’t. The “times — they are [still] a changin’.” Wise ones change with them.

There is a sense of “moving on“ for all of us, and a healthy perspective of “gettin’ on down the road.” But I’ve certainly realized that I never move on without bringing everything from the past with me. Really, it all comes along, but the thing is how do I pack it to go with us on the ride? I’m thinking I pack it, we pack it, and we repack it gently. I’m thinking that it works best if we are willing to rearrange our views of the past as needed in light of new information and new realities, and that we always need to keep learning from the past because the past is such an excellent teacher, and the past just keeps on giving; its lessons are ever-giving, like a good orange tree.

Finally, there’s so much present and future still to live, to motivate us, to invest in that this best becomes our healthy focus. Really, moving on means embracing the possibilities with in the present and future in an excited, energized, hopeful way. Letting go means engaging the present, trained by the past, but energized by the next great adventure.

I’m currently finishing my third novel. How? Why? Because I quit doing a bunch of stuff that was taking up all my time, and I’ve started doing something that’s taking up all my heart. It is something that’s always been mine to do. But to do it I had it stop doing a bunch of other things.

Moving on means not being stuck, afraid of change, overly atavistic, traditional, all status quo and old school, predictable and safe. Moving on means being adventurous, free, modern, hip, avant-garde, steezy, cool and with it.

So get over it — by getting with it!

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.

Genesis 25:5

For Isaac, everything was given. He was given all his father’s wealth; he was provided with a home, a bride, a relationship with God, a place in history — all he had to do was receive.

This is so God! We are all Isaac.

Every good thing on earth and in the far flung universe is from God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Einstein, his intelligence, come from God.

Mark Chagall, his brilliant and magical creativity, from God.

Bill gates, his generosity, from God.

Elon musk, his innovative spirit, from God.

Abraham Lincoln, his masterful leadership and brilliant use of language, from God.

Your good things — all God. We do play a part in acting out these things, and so sometimes we think that they come from us. Even the life and body and strength to act them out is from him.

Many complain about not seeing God’s goodness. It’s everywhere. If God were to remove his goodness from the universe, all matter and all civilization would collapse into a black hole.

Never doubt that God is alive and present in our world. Every single good thing in your life is straight from him.

Praise him!

Upward!

I’ve seen it in the rainforest north of Juneau, where the fluffy moss puffs up like thick cat fur on the rotting logs, growing toward the sun, and I’ve seen it in Sequoia where the dark, thick redwoods just keep flinging their massive trunks upward. I love how the great ancient forests all leap upwards.

A raft of our greatest artists noted this — Van Gogh, Burchfield, Carr, Chagall.

In my office, a Van Gogh — one of his Olive trees — churns, surges and tendrils up above my desk. Likewise, the Northern symbolist Charles Burchfield paid attention to such movement with his cathedral forests, where all the branches and leaves coil and curl skyward in church-window like arches — the energy of up, the vibrating sky, as in  September Wind and Rain. Chagall took this tack too, and his donkeys, his angels, his lovers all leave the ground to float and drift in the sky, or wherever, as in Over the Town or I and The Village

Emily Carr, the Canadian arboreal savant saw it too. I like how with Emily her sacred trees are all rushing upward, for instance her Among the Firs and Sombreness Sunlight.

Carr respects the trees; her’s twirl and whorl and shout and shoot to the sky. She graces them with dark rich blues and greens — yellows and oranges and whites peaking through them — black trunk and limb pushing heavenward through fire.

I love how Emily’s paint, her broad brush strokes move up, the sweeping branches, the upsweeping skies, except for this — those gorgeous lateral slashes of paint and wind rushing through her trees. Burchfield did this too in Oncoming Spring.

This is the motion of life. Life is heliotropic — with the occasional slash —  it is ascendant, for me it is praise.

It’s interesting what we make of the living creatures that inhabit the planet with us, the finches, alligator lizards, the daddy longlegs, pandas, whales, each other. As I sit in my condo on San Juan Island on a rainy day, here in the great American Northwest, I find myself looking at jumping Orcas on a colored whale watching tour brochure.

What? This is what it has come to for us and the whale, chasing them around in motor boats?

Consider the great Megaptera — the hump backed whales of the oceans with their forty ton bodies and fifteen foot wing-fins, those lumpy, bumpy, barnacled behemoths who swim through the sea filtering their food and who occasionally hurtle themselves from the waters in great, beautiful bulking arcs.

They are great ones; they are the mighty ones among us.

But instead of honoring the whale’s place, we have instead spotted, hunted, chased, killed, captured, specced and displayed them so that we can gawk over them, put them in marine parks, post them on Facebook and brag back home. Yesterday at the Whale Museum I saw a harpoon tip. It had the distinct look look of the history of cruelty to me.

Even today, we think of whales as being among a kind of ecotouristic cast of natural entertainers — something like Yosemite park deer, Yellowstone buffalo or San Diego zoo elephants. To us the whales are a vacation business, a natural road show, at best a science project. To many of us they have become merely logo, post card, poster or cute emoji on our phones.

But the whales are much more than that. Whales are not nature’s burlesque show for vacationers, the world’s lab experiment for scientists. The Megaptera are our mysticetes — the great ones who live by filtering the small ones. They are the gentle kings of the sea, wave-masters of wide waters, a society, fellow creature, communicants, like us — just different. They breathe air through lungs, are warm-blooded, give birth to young who drink milk, they have hair, they communicate with each other.

Consider the Odontoceti, the gorgeous black and white whales with shiny skin. They are best known to us for their infamous teeth and for stories of their killing prowess. We think of what we have seen of them on YouTube videos, killing their trainers, hunting down Tiger sharks or dragging flopping sea lions off the beach.

But perhaps here too we mistake them. Whales don’t have egos, hatreds or evil intentions. They never kill themselves, or wage massive wars — none of the animals do — like we do. They mainly seek food and shelter and companionship.

I want a different relationship with the creatures than perhaps I’ve had. I want to better preserve their dignity, to not harass them, to enjoy them, to nurture them. Yes, there is a food chain; and yes, there is sometimes the need for protection from each other, but yes there is yet the potential for more respect.

The other day one of the therapists in my office asked me to remove a daddy longlegs from the corner. A widespread myth holds that daddy longlegs, also known as granddaddy longlegs or harvestmen, are the most venomous spiders in the world. It has been rumored that we are only safe from their bite because their fangs are too small and weak to break through our skin. Both these things have been proven to be false.

As for the grandaddy we found in our office, I carefully caught it in a paper cup and released it unharmed into our flower garden. For just a moment, I was the great bulking, powerful creature being gentle with the small, fragile vulnerable creature. I liked myself like that, on common ground with the spider, not caught in fear and myth, inhabiting the same planet, crossing paths, both hoping for safety, in contact for a moment, not harming each other, then going our separate ways.

I love it when they cut, stab, drill and peer into me with their cruel machines. I literally exult. I consider myself among the most privileged persons on the planet. Later I remember their tortures with the greatest fondnesses.

She pulls my mouth open with her fingers, slides the needle into my jaw gently and says, “Relax.” Then she starts humming in the way that I like.

He takes the top of my head with both his hands, firmly rotates it, and then with his right hand he cuts me. “Excellent,” he says. I agree, as I always do regarding his work. It’s why I keep coming back.

“Put you hands here,” she says, “side-by-side on the machine. Then place your eye against the rubber until you see the bright green circle.”

I love them. I love their machines. Each instrument does for me what I can’t do for myself. Each one achieves a goal, and yet it is not consumed in the process. Each one — masterfully manipulated — and I am better. Dig, scrape, lift, hammer, screw, compute — good, better, best me and you

Instrument, utensil, implement, machine, device, and apparatus — tools and the people who skillfully manipulate them — these greatly improve our lives.

We who are resourced, we who have multiple, modern armamentariums at our disposal, we who can hire dentists, surgeons, hair stylists, mechanics and  optometrists, we live so well, better than any ancient royalty.

Healthy care, beauty care, eye care, car care, soul care  — if you have it, suffer it gladly, you proviledged elite, you resourced rich, you spoiled pampered. Complain not that you have to go to the doctor or dentist; that’s unenlightened. It’s ungrateful.

For every time they stick a needle or drill or scrapple into you, for every time you get your hair cut, for every pedicure and pill and partial panacea that blesses you — be thankful.

What is the kindest thing you have ever seen?

One of the kindest act I ever experienced involved diapers. My wife and I used to take turns changing them. Then one day she did two poopy diapers in a row. So kind!

Another time, I backed our beautiful Lexus SUV into a telephone pole. She only said one thing: “That’s why we have insurance.” It was one of the best silent kindness I have ever experienced.

Last Friday, I was kind to her. We had a guest over for dinner. I came home from work late. That way I didn’t get in her way while she made dinner. I think of myself as growing in kindness.

In politics these days, in the Presidential race, there isn’t much kindness. Instead there is a lot of harshness, name calling, bullying, attacking and shaming.

This is quite unfortunate, because now ridiculing others is thought to be a sign of strength. It’s a bad model for all of us. True strength does not lie in the preschool behavior of name calling.

Authentic power reveals itself with a gentler demeanor.One of the most reliable indicators of healthy, mature leadership is the quiet but famous behavior, kindness.

Our God — the strongest being in the Universe — is fundamentally kind. Some folks mistakenly see God as harsh, judgmental, even cruel. But that is wrong. God is not mean. God is fundamentally and intrinsically kind.

Psalm 145:17-18

The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

Kindness, in the Bible, is a word that is not well distinguished from similar words and this has perhaps led to its neglect. For instance, Psalm 63, pairs kindness with love, as in God’s “lovingkindness.”

In fact, the word kindness overlaps in meaning with many other words, like goodness, mercy, love, grace, favor, compassion and gentleness and so translators often use these words somewhat interchangeably.

But it would be helpful to us, to clarify the meaning of kindness, to distill its essence, to win back its place, because it is a concept — or rather a behavior — that mature, powerful people practice with great specificity.

In Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” kindness is defined as follows: It is “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”.

This ancient meaning is in alignment with the NT meaning of kindness which perhaps has one of its richest connotations in the NT word chrestotes, kindness that has a usefulness to it.

Once when my wife and I were vacationing in England, in the Cotswolds, we walked through cow pastures and past sheep and stone walls up to the tiny town of Clapton on the Hill. Our plan was to take the bus back to meet a friend in Burton on the Water.

But when we got to Clapton, a sign said the bus only came through town like once a week.

So we started walking back, when a nice BMW or Audi came by, and stopped and a elderly couple asked, “Do you want a ride?”

We did and so we hopped in with muddy feet saying, “Thank you, thank you but we are so sorry to muddy your beautiful car.”

They shot right back. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a rental.” It was kind anyway. For all they knew, we were dope smoking serial killers from California.

Kindness is a specific altruistic action, a powerful usefulness, (a ride in the rain), not simply politeness, nice talk or warm, fuzzy sentiments.

Studies show that kind behaviors, helping others, brings better health, better relationships, longer life and even more success in workplaces.

Kindness is powerful. Kindness rescues people, it causes openness, improvement, growth because it gives safe space for change. Think of the power of kindness in everyday life.

A police officer in Florida buys groceries for a poor woman’s caught shoplifting.

A church in Dallas finds foster homes for stray dogs in winter.

People in Chicago raise money for a car for a man who is walking to work.

A restaurant in Chula Vista, Panera Bread, opens its doors to feed homeless people on Thanksgiving Day. The REFINERY Church provides the food.

Kindnesses!

And there are greater than these.

Through kindness thousands of Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Through kindness Mother Teresa set up homes for the dying. And through kindness Bill and Linda Gates are giving away billions of dollars to stop disease.

Kindness is powerful. It is a catalyst for change. It saves lives. The Bible tells us that God’s kindness is like that. Romans 2:4. God’s kindness is meant to lead [us] to repentance.

In his kindness, God holds back judgment, gives us time, to give us a chance to repent, to get right. God’s Kindness makes space for us to change.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that kindness is one of the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse”.

Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford is a much-loved First Lady for her honesty, her kindness and her care for others. In 1974, Mrs. Ford discovered she had breast cancer. As a result, she had a radical mastectomy. She went public with this, (not common) and within days, 10,000 letters, 500 telephone calls, 200 telegrams and tons of floral arrangements poured into the White House and her suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

How kind!

Betty’s openness about her cancer showed care for others and that is what made others care for her.

In the months that followed Betty’s revelation about her cancer, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by her forthrightness and courage, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.

Kindness embraced difficulty … and changed what was acceptable in society.

Later in life, because of loneliness and stress Betty Ford ended up suffering from alcoholism and a pill addiction, but again she had the courage to face her problem, and recover, and in 1982, she helped found the Betty Ford Center, based on AA, and it became one of the best-known rehab programs in the nation.

Kindness is kind, even to it’s own mistakes, and in that way can lead to healing to ourselves and those around us.

What do we do with all this?

It’s simple. Be kind.

 

One of our church families is buying new flooring for one of our most used rooms. It’s $1800. How kind!

Another of our church members, a doctor, recently on his time off, came to the church and put new glazing in the windows of our classroom building. How humble — and kind.

One of our worship leaders, shows up at special surfer day in La Jolla each summer to help disabled adults try their hand as surfing.

How kind!

Micah 6:8. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

“Three things in human life are important,” said novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

“In the front room her chair is now by the door,”  said Marilyn. “That big wood piece is at an angle in the corner. It is so much better!”

I looked down at the pictures of Elizabeth’s apartment that Marilyn was flipping through on her phone.

“In her bedroom, her dresser tops are all clear. You’ll love it. Here I can show you the picture.”

And there it was, a shot of the dresser, the one with the heart-shaped cut-outs in each drawer — the hearts that work as pulls — the dresser we had just recently bought for Elizabeth at a thrift store, the one Tasia had picked it out with a, “This one is Elizabeth! She’ll love the hearts.”

There it was now, as a small bright image on a glossy phone screen — the salient, physical, incontrovertible evidence of a stunningly gorgeous, transformative act of pure love — a perfectly arranged dresser top, a warm glowing lamp, a picture of Elizabeth and her mom and a perfectly placed nick-knack.

“Maria did that! She got it,” enthused Marilyn, gushing about the professional cleaner she had hired. “She understood what we were tying to do with Elizabeth, and she is teaching her how to do this herself.”

We both gawked. We dallied in time, we astonishicated. We dawdled, we puddled, we shamelessly muckified through the splashy shallows of the pervasively miraculous.

Elizabeth’s mom had died just a few years back, when Elizabeth was fifty. Then Elizabeth was alone, truly alone in an apartment that she and her mom had lived in for 30 years. There she was, for the first time in her life, left with all her mom’s stuff, left with piles of pack-ratted junk, left with a broken heart and a profound level of inexperience due to her own significant disabilities, her mom’s life-long, over-protective love and now her own, new grieving, depressive, suicidal outlook.

Elizabeth’s mom had been her everything — friend, confidant, protector and now she was gone. And what was left — the old medicine bottles, the faded bills, the cheap jewelry, the out-of fashion clothes, the dusty piles of junk on the dressers, the soft, sifting scent of memory, the scree at the bottom of the familial slope, the Sisyphean skein and the suffocating sadness of silence.

But now, now, now — totally different. Doctors had been consulted, brothers connected, counselor’s hired and friends found. People had been brought into play by the REFINERY Church — the church that found and was found by Elizabeth — and this found-community literally saved her life.

Medications, therapy sessions, Bible studies, lunches with friends, support groups, pastors, an adopted kitten, and finally, the professional cleaning and reordering of her apartment by her adoring church buddy Marilyn and one of her compadres, Brenda. By this and more, Elizabeth had been transformed.

Marilyn told us recently. “It’s like she is growing up” — in her fifties — “for the first time! She is finally becoming mature, a single woman who for the first time in her life, can actually care for herself.”

“Look at her kitchen,” said Marilyn pointing again at the screen again. The counters shone, they glowed — renewed, restored.

They look a like a lot like Elizabeth.

Gillian hit the ball with her father’s arms wrapped around her. Then she ran with his legs. Then she bounced in his arms, and then she ambulated according to his eyes.

It was all done with help, but when Gilly arrived at first base she smiled and laughed with her own face. For the moment she was the star of the REFINERY Church’s picnic baseball game. She had slugged a rubber ball with a rubber princess Anna and Elsa bat, she was on first base and she was absolutely delighted with it all.

I have noticed lately — by means of a couple of small observations of miniature people — that one of the best things we can do in life is to help a child get to first base.

Last week I walked into the REFINERY Church courtyard to find a bunch of gorgeous little children kicking balls, blowing bubbles, and running after each other. Their teenage moms and dads were their with them. I strolled on into the adjacent gallery, a large oak-floored room with pictures of beautiful orange, red and blue Mediterranean scenes. There I found more children and more parents, all around some tables doing crafts together. They were more stunningly gorgeous than the pictures.

What was it? It was the Incredible Families program from the San Diego County Department of Mental Health offering young parents who had lost their children an opportunity to reunite with them through supervised visitation, shared meals and prescribed parenting classes. If the parents follow the program, they get their kids back!

I was looking at nothing less than the restoration of the American family in a safe, sacred space. And I knew this counted. If you get somone back to first base, after they have lost first base, then they have more of a chance of getting to second base — and back home.

This matters. When we help a child, we save the future. When we help a parent we save a child.

Nothing much beats this — loving children, protecting children, empowering children, empowering their parents.

Love a child, save a child; create opportunity for others to love a child, save the world.