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These days we must work harder than ever to do good, instead of adding to the growing divisiveness in our world.
And we must resolve to own our lives fully rather than be owned by what happens around us, and yes even to us.
I found two thoughts so encouraging and empowering to live a better life than my world is currently offering.
The late Father Henri Nouwen encourages us to ask a series of life altering questions:
Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
And then Dr Bessel van der Kolk says to traumatized people….
The big issue for traumatized people is that they don’t own themselves anymore. Any loud sound, anybody insulting them, hurting them,saying bad things,can hijack them away from themselves. And so what we have learned is that what makes you resilient to trauma is to own yourself fully.
There you go–go out and do good, and own yourself fully.
Fact is we all live within ‘walls’ we wake up within ‘walls’, we work within ‘walls’ , we go to school within ‘walls’, we go to bed within ‘walls.’. Anything else we do? Oh ya, we are protected by walls.
Another more politically correct word for walls is BOUNDARIES.
In my coaching I encourage people to have healthy boundaries, or you could say ‘walls’. To protect them from people or situations they see as dangerous and toxic. Anyone disagree with that?
Let’s redeem the word in spite of Trump’s harsh view of it and the media’s twisting of the concept.
And because I don’t march to the orders of Donald Trump or Justin Trudea but to King Jesus, the king and true benevolent Lord of my life, I did a quick survey of holy scriptures mention of walls.
This is not exhaustive but it helped me see that we need to give ‘Walls’ a high five and stop damning right kind of wall building.
Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.”
Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
“I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.
Next time I will address bridge building. We need walls and bridges.
Christmas is a time to remember Christmases past, and Christmases when loved ones were still with us.
I have been without my brother who passed away tragically at age 42 in 2000. Six months later my codependent Italian mamma died of lung cancer. I actually think she died of a broken heart at the tragic loss of her youngest.
Then in 2009, my dad passed away of natural causes, often reminding me that even though life had been hard, that ‘la vita e bella’–life is beautiful.
I never fully imunderstood my brother and the direction he chose to follow that inevitably led to an untimely death, nor my mamma who felt that she could never let my brother face consequences of his choices.
In all our lives we have people we can love completely although we may not have fully understood them.
In the movie, A River Run’s Through It, a dad, also preacher, is speaking at his son’s funeral, who suffered an untimely death due to a reckless life. In this end the father gives us all hope.
Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.
One of the ongoing challenges that I have and those I coach have is keeping perspective on what they are actually becoming and accomplishing. And especially in the arena of parenting.
It’s so easy to let the details of any day or any responsibility that has become routine, drag you down into the lands of Futility and Boredom and yes, Frustration.
On one of the early days of raising 3 boys under 10 in the 1980s, I was reading Gordon Macdonald’s The Effective Father.
Like many dads, I was really having a hard time managing my own life well, doing exceptional work at my career, and oh ya, raising three boys. Truth be told, I was raising my blood pressure more than raising my boys.
In Macdonald’s book he shared the parable of 3 ancient masons which was a parenting vision breakthrough for me. Over the last 40 years of marriage and parenting, I am still building, forever trying to keep a ‘cathedral’ view of my calling.
“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.
”A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”
Boom! I had a huge epiphany that day which I immediately applied to my calling as a dad.
Three dads, three different attitudes, all fulfilling the same role.
I am not just raising nice little boys, I am raising boys who will someday take their place in the world and be responsible, compassionate, visionaries and catalysts in their respective spheres. Having this vision of ‘I am building a cathedral’ has continued to inspire me to never lose sight of the big picture.
As you look at your various roles and responsibilities, especially if you are a mom or dad, how do you see your role?
What would you say you’re building?
On this second Sunday of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Babe in the Manger to show up mysteriously and gently into my life and the lives of my family and friends, I am encouraged by my favourite spiritual life guide, the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
Unlike many believers today who have capitulated to the secularizing of The Christian faith, I choose with Fr Henri to believe there is more than trying to make heaven on earth. There is another Reality I and millions of others long for as did Fr Henri and others who have departed this life.
Call me naive, call me a fool, call me whatever you want but I long for More than this life gives.
You On this second weekend of Advent I choose with Fr Henri to claim my identity as one of God’s beloved sons, and live fully today with a view to meeting Jesus face2face someday, and sharing the story of how my life and His worked themselves out over however long I am blessed to live.
Quoting Fr Henri on life after this life—
Even though I often give in to the many fears and warnings of my world, I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilirating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.’†
For any community to function there must be rules. Yes. Rules. We like to think we can function without them but unfortunately it seems to me the ‘rule of respecting one another’ is no longer, if it ever was, humans’ default in challenging relationship situations.
While at the Venice, Florida YMCA today I saw this photo.
As I read these I thought these would have been good for recent presidential election.
In a sermon a few weeks ago pastor Bill Hybels highlighted 10 rules he wanted to see restored in his community and our world.
In their community 1000s of people are engaging over these ’10 rules’ for treating each other with respect.
1. See People As Image-Bearers.
Every person who crosses your path bears the image of God. We have never locked eyes with someone for whom this is not true. All people matter to God. Furthermore, there is no person on earth for whom Christ didn’t die.
2. Differ without Demonizing.
Respectful people learn how to hold differences well. We must train ourselves to respect others while disagreeing rather than devaluing, diminishing, or demonizing them.
3. Believe the Best.
It is simple to judge people before ever meeting them. However, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:7, among other things, to believe the best of everyone. This requires an open mind and one without cynicism.
4. Don’t Interrupt or Dominate.
Respectful people genuinely want to hear the opinions and feelings of others and demonstrate this by listening rather than controlling the conversation. They are curious to know how others think so they might be sharpened themselves.
5. No Incendiary Words.
Those who show respect are very careful in choosing their words. Proverbs 15:1 states: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words make tempers flare.” It is the wise and respectful person who takes stock and decides to use words that will adequately reflect who they want to be. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only words that build up others.” Respectful people only use words that build up others, even when writing in the context of social media where it may be easy to be careless with words.
6. Courteous to Everyone.
Respectful people are kind and inordinately courteous to others. They demonstrate kindness in seemingly little ways like opening doors for others and noticing people that might otherwise be overlooked.
7. No Stereotyping.
A stereotype diminishes the value of a person by categorizing them, rather than valuing their God-given uniqueness. Learning to respect others means to absolutely refuse to stereotype a person or people group.
When we have wronged another person, the right thing to do is to apologize. Respect is demonstrated when we apologize quickly because we recognize the other person, as a fellow image-bearer that we have slighted or harmed.
9. Form Opinions Carefully.
Respectful people practice the discipline of considering many viewpoints as they form opinions. They also prayerfully revisit an issue and consider changing their mind when new information becomes available.
10.Prompt and Faithful.
Those who respect others show up on time and do what they say they’re going to do. If someone is late, the message given to others is: I am more important than you. Honoring others’ time and following through with what you promised to do is a tangible way of respecting others.
While in Venice, Florida for some work and vacation I, like many others, have become weary, even sick at the way people have ripped each other apart on various social media platforms, and to see the way the presidential candidates have not been able to rise above their inane accusations against one another, is also disheartening.
Can you imagine if Hillary and the Donald and all their surrogates and ‘handlers’ could be in a room together, graciously disagree, but still offer each other a blessing–to speak well of each other for only a moment.
As the adage says, speed of the leader, speed of the team.
I have relatives I am at odds with because of my inability and their inability to be gracious in our disagreement.
I need this soul medicine of blessing more than anybody. Our proclivity to insist on our rightness creates friction, factions, grudges and an overall incivility.
So how do we give a non religious but necessary blessing as a way of life? Listen to Fr Henri.
To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.
Who needs your blessing today?
Bless them with words, thoughts or deeds, or all of the preceding before the day is done.
The day after Valentine’s I got reflecting on nearly 40 years of marriage, sitting in our local Starbuck’s. I was reminded that marriage goes through many stages, but three stand out to me. I have been through the first two, and on occasion slip back, but strive for stage 3.
Thanks to some old sermon notes from Rick Warren, these were the ‘high points’.
The happy honeymoon stage–characterized by intensity, idealism, indulgence, infatuation, and yes, ignorance😁
The party’s over stage is characterized by dullness, disagreements, defensiveness, disapproval, and alas disappointment
The maturing love stage is beautifully characterized by tenderness, respect and responsibility, understanding, security, trust and raw honesty, and of course lots of fun.
Oh for more of 3 and less of 1 and 2 stages.
I find these few days just before and after New Year’s Eve slightly stressful. So much internal self imposed pressure to get my goals nailed down. I actually dread the process.
Don’t get me wrong. Setting goals you want to pursue and attain is a great exercise, but, ‘should’ing’ on yourself to do goals because you SHOULD is killing to one’s psyche. I do enjoy getting a cup of tea, sitting on my couch with my friend called Moleskin and writing away as I did today.
The feeling of ‘should’ing’ was alleviated by enlisting Brian Tracy’s “identify your #1 thing exercise’ exercise. This is something I enjoy. For me it’s always about the journey not just the result. I need to ‘enjoy’ goal setting, or ‘start and stop’ process. I can’t dread it or my creativity shuts down.
So here goes…..
- What’s the #1 thing I could start doing today, that if I did it consistently, would have the most positive impact in my life? (Then do it.)
- What’s the #1 thing I could stop doing right now, that, if I stopped doing would have the greatest positive impact on my life? (Then quit doing it.)
My # 1’s to start doing:
- Minimum 15 minute ‘chair time’ alone with God, reflecting, meditating, journaling, praying.
- Daily check in time with my best friend Rosetta, my wife.
- Be a positive influence on my adult kids and their kids on their terms.
- Keep sharpening my coaching capacity and competence with my mentor coach and joining CAM.
- Coach men to be life givers in their relational and work world’s.
- Keep focused on being an above average encourager and people builder.
- Keep growing margin financially, emotionally, and physically.
- Be ruthless with managing my weight and getting to 192Ibs
My # 1’s to stop doing include:
- Stop complaining and stop speaking critically of others when they aren’t around.
- Stop eating ‘fatty, crappy’ food and avoid starch like the plaque.
- Stop focusing on what I can’t do and focus on what I CAN do in regards to advancing my coaching practice.
And that’s it for now.
I plan to take football coach Jim Harbaugh to heart–to attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
God helping me, I will!!
Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van
Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.
My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea. Amen.