Friday, July 23, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
The Four Agreements are based on ancient Toltec wisdom as shared by Don Miguel Ruiz. As I have become aware of and tried to begin to embrace these agreements, I have discovered their potent, life changing power. I've outlined the basic concepts from his writing on the Four Agreements. This is a short book, and while it can be a quick read, it is not necessarily an easy one if you really think about the personal application as you are reading. I have now read the book and listened to the book and know that I have only begun to scratch the surface of the truth and wisdom contained in this idea.
The idea, simply put, is that we have agreed to many false, destructive beliefs about ourselves and others that rob us of the joy we were meant to experience. For example, we may believe that when someone pulls out in front of us and we have to slam on our brakes to avoid a collision, that that person did that to us, and we get angry and we swear or honk or let negative energy and emotion fill us. In the Four Agreement's Ruiz tells us over and over that nothing anyone else does is because of you, so don't take it personally. Imagine how differently that driver pulling out in front of you would feel if you truly didn't take anything about it personally or make any assumptions about their motives. If you felt anything at all, it would be gratitude that you avoided the collision. No negative, no poison.
Emotional poison is what damages us and keeps us from being fully alive. The Four Agreements teaches us that if we can transform our thinking by following the agreements we can eliminate the emotional poison from our lives. This is a challenge, as we have spent our whole life conditioned to do the opposite of most of this kind of thinking. However, each interaction is an opportunity to practice making new agreements, and each time you break free from old negative thought patterns and practice, practice, practice the four agreements, you will get stronger and it will become easier. The only way to improve is practice. And while I'm not sure practice makes perfect (because perfect is unrealistic as a healthy goal), I do believe that we are meant to be joyfully alive, and the four agreements gives us the direction we need to live a new life.
Everything we do is based on agreements we have made. In these agreements we tell ourselves:
who we are
what everyone else is
how to act
what is possible
what is impossible
What we have agreed to believe creates what we experience.
Be Impeccable with Your Word
Speak with integrity.
Say only what you mean.
Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you.
What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.
Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This kind of glass-is-half-full attitude toward giving thanks was shared by the pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Remember, those folks had had an exceedingly difficult time.
For starters, they had begun their journey full of hope for a new life of religious freedom in a warm and welcoming land - Virginia. Instead they landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620, not the best time of year in Massachusetts. Until such time as they could build houses and establish themselves on the land, they made their home on board their ship the Mayflower. The men went ashore every morning to work, returning to the little ship at night. They built a "common house" to which the sick and dying were transferred, placed their four little cannon in a fort, which they built on a hill close by, built two rows of houses with a wide street between and finally landed their stores and provisions. Then the whole company came ashore toward the last of March, and in April the Mayflower sailed away.
That winter before the Mayflower left was hard and bitter. At one time all but six or seven of the Pilgrims were sick. Eighteen women denied themselves food so that their children could eat. Thirteen of those mothers died. Half of the 102 Pilgrims died of malnourishment, disease, and exposure. Only about 30 of those who survived were over the age of 16. Those who died were buried in unmarked graves because the pilgrims did not want the natives to know how small their numbers had become.
In the spring they planted three crops: English Peas, Barley, and Indian Corn. The peas were planted too late - though they came up beautifully, the hot sun parched the blossoms and the plants died. Apparently the barley did not do well and was not worth harvesting either. Only the corn survived. Of course, not the corn we are used to with big, plump yellow kernels; this was "Indian Corn" with ears only two to three inches long and kernels of different colors. The Pilgrims harvested only twenty acres. And to top it all off, a second shipload of thirty-five settlers arrived without any provisions because they expected to live off the crops the first settlers had raised. By the end of their second winter in Plymouth, food had to be rationed again: five kernels of corn for each person per day.
A hard life. In fact, some proposed a Day of Mourning to honor all those who had perished. But the others said no, a Day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate. After all, even though half had died, half had NOT. Reason enough to give thanks. Again, the glass is half full.
But is that really why people give thanks during hard times, simply to be grateful that things aren’t worse than they already are?
Try saying that to a mother who is facing an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table because her soldier son or daughter has just been killed in the war in Afghanistan.
Try saying that to a father who has just lost his job and is wondering how he’s going to pay the mortgage and feed his family.
Try saying that to a retiree who can’t afford his blood pressure medication because his pension has shrunk so badly during the recession.
Try saying that to a woman whose insurance company refuses to pay for her ovarian cancer treatments.
There are times when life’s pain and troubles are so enormous that they overwhelm our blessings and make it nearly impossible to feel gratitude or give thanks. When that happens, Jesus’ words about not worrying about our lives can seem irrelevant, even off-putting.
Yet he hits us hard over the head with his message in the gospel passage we just heard. Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry, over and over again. In fact, the word worry appears four (six) times in the passage. And why should we not worry? Because God is present and active in our lives. Because God loves us like a parent and knows what we need. Because God can be trusted not to abandon us.
Jesus’ words echo those of the prophet Joel. “Do not fear, O soil,” Joel says. “Do not fear, you animals.” Why not? Because God has done great things. Because God is in the midst of us.
For people of faith, the whole point of giving thanks is to remind us of the past, that God has done great things for us. It is about the present, that God is still very much alive and active, that God is at the center of all that we are. And it is about the future.
As people of faith, when we give thanks we are not denying that the world can be really awful sometimes. Rather we are giving thanks that we know in our heart of hearts that awfulness is not the end of the story. Presbyterian theologian Al Winn noted that at the heart of biblical faith we do not find air-tight arguments sealed with a "therefore"—we do not say all is right with the world, therefore, let us have faith; therefore, let us praise God; therefore, let us give thanks. On the contrary, at the heart of biblical faith we find things that do not logically follow at all, sealed with a "nevertheless." Much is wrong with the world, the mystery of evil is great, terrible accidents happen, NEVERTHELESS let us have faith, NEVERTHELESS let us praise God, NEVERTHELESS, let us give thanks. Perhaps we can better deal with the miseries of life if we remember that word, NEVERTHELESS.
Thanksgiving is about the future because we know that God has done great things and will do so again. It is about the future because he is present with us now, loving us now, and will continue to do so.
In one of his sermons, preacher J. Wallace Hamilton wrote that not only do we overestimate the length of our lives when we act as if we'll live forever. We also underestimate their length. He points out that people are wrong who say, "A hundred years from now, what's the difference? We'll all be dead." Actually, a hundred years from now we will all be alive, somehow, somewhere, with God in Christ. And what we have been and done will make a difference.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us see life in three tenses of past, present, and future:
God has loved us and gave us his Son. Christ walks with us today. Christ awaits us in all our tomorrows. Thanks be to God!"