Monday, July 11, 2011
I usually do my Sparking early in the morning. I have the house to myself, itís quiet and Iím in no big hurry. Yesterday morning as I huddled with one of my teams I noticed a blog title over to the left side of the page. It was titled ďLouise Hay: Forgive But Not Condone; Can It Work?Ē I read it. It was good. I was not convinced and as I told myself at the time, it gave me a lot to think about and really, seriously, do you think I wanted a lot to think about at 6 AM on a Sunday morning? I donít think so!
It hit a tender spot, a spot I didnít want to deal with. Iíve been very angry with the Catholic Church for a long, long time. I cannot in any way, shape or form condone the actions of an organization that lies and protects people who use their authority to molest children. Not only is it wrong, itís criminal. Six months ago a young man in our parish committed suicide in front of the church because he had been abused by two priest most of his life. Neither priest was at our parish. The hierarchy promised an investigation into the matter. That was in February. To date there is no news. Joan and I decided that we would continue to attend church weekly but would not contribute to the Church. We just increased our contributions to other charities. I enjoy going to church. It gives me an oasis of peace. I can sit, pray and sing and lose myself. What I didnít need to read was a blog on forgiveness, twenty minutes before I went to church!!!
Iíve come to realize that health, real health, is so much more than what goes into your mouth, or how quickly you can sprint or cycle. Real health is a balance, it is the fine art of learning to let go, to find reasons TO forgive and not hate. It hates the sin, not the sinner. It knows deep down inside of you that if John wants to GET healthy and STAY healthy, well John needs to deal with his issues. Iíve been really angry for a long time. That anger has slowly eaten away at my soul.
I got to Mass five minutes before it started. I slid into the back pew. Next to me was a young lady with a toddler. The little girl came over to me and smiled and waved and did what little kids do in church. Her mom looked wore out. She also looked like she was in need. Her clothes were worn and ripped in a few places and so were her daughters. If you have ever seen a look of despair on a personís face, well this young lady had it on hers. When it came time to take up the collection I did what I always do, I stare straight ahead. I wonít lie. The blog Iíd read sort of tugged at my heart and mind. If I really believed in the Gospel message, the message of love and forgiveness, then wasnít I simply exercising some self-satisfying form of control by not contributing? I didnít want to think about this.
The usher handed the basket to the young lady and at the same time her daughter ran to where I was sitting. As I looked up I saw her mom digging in her purse. She pulled out a dollar bill and about five coins. She put them in the basket and handed it to me. I just stared. As I handed the basket to the usher I started to shake a bit and then I covered my face so no one would see me cry. At that moment I saw all the things I was holding on to, the entire place in my heart and soul that was filled with unhealthy hatred, anger and judgment and not one of those things was doing anything to make me a better John. You see, I have all that anger because I know the things I direct it at I canít control and rather than concentrating on the things I can control, well, Iíd rather focus on the negative. Jesus told the story of the widow who gave her last dime to her church and he said this woman had so much more faith than someone who gave for what they had left over. She gave from her necessity. When that young woman dug into her purse and pulled out the dollar or so, I saw no hesitation, no doubt, just a tremendous amount of faith. She could have justified giving nothing, like me, but her actions spoke the knowledge that she would be taken care of and provided for. I spent the rest of Mass looking at the areas of my life I attempted to engineer and manipulate. I saw all the things I wasted energy on and where I needed to let go. Letting go of the things I cling to so tightly isnít easy. Between me, you and the rest of the universe, it scared me half to death.
Itís really not negotiable, at least not for me. If I want to live a balanced life then I have to clean out my closets and fill them with positive things. Iíll never condone what has happened in the church but I can forgive and when I do, Iím making ah healthy statement about my life. No revelations today, no really happy endings, just the knowledge I have a lot of work to do.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
How much time do I spend focusing on using my talent to make this a better place to live?
Friday, July 08, 2011
We have a long narrow flower bed that wraps around one corner of our privacy fence. For whatever reason, every weed known to man has decided to root in it. Yesterday morning I decided it was time to clear the bed out, once and for all.
I pulled the old flowers out; a quick tug at their base neatly removed them. Then came the weeds. I have a lot of strength in my arms but after five minutes of tugging and almost falling face first into the dirt I went to the garage looking for some garden tools. They worked on about eighty percent of the weeds. There were still these long tendrils of grass snaking past the border stones and I swear were actively resisting me as I pulled, dug and mildly cursed them. This meant war.
I removed all the border stones and stacked them in a wheel barrow. I went in the house and put on my work boots, the ones with the steel toes. Itís eighty degrees outside, Iím sweating my face, arms and legs are streaked with dirt and Joan is giving me one of those ďOh Lord, what are you doing nowĒ looks. I grabbed a spade from the garage and dug down deep in the flower bed. I suspect I had somewhat of a maniacal grin on my face believing I had out witted those snickering weeds once and for all. I chopped the dirt up and sifted through it yanking out the remaining weeds. I found the rake and smoothed the soil. Everything was neat and symmetrical. I was as proud as proud could be. I asked Joan to come see. She stood there for a minute or so and said ďOkay, what are you planning on putting in there?Ē
ďWell thatís not the point. All the weeds are gone.Ē
ďI know John but so is everything else. What are we going to put in there?Ē
Okay so maybe she was right. But, as I told her much later in the day, I had time to reflect on how my life is like that flower bed. So very often I let those marvelous flowers that are my talents and treasures become over run and crowded out by my own fears and doubts about my abilities. After a while all I see are the weeds and slowly my talents, the REAL John, get starved out. My doubts rob all the oxygen and sunlight and I lose sight of my goals!!! In other words Iím a mess.
Spark people and you my dear wonderful friends are those garden tools that ferret out the weeds and provide me the fertile soil to grow and make the life style changes that are necessary for the real John to flourish and reach his goals and dreams. Once cleared away, all those bad habits allow the sunlight of success to shine on my life.
Down deep are the things Iíd never seen, noticed or believed before. They were hidden by everything else. Those weeds, those tough tendrils of grass, hang on tight and fight my forward progress. They require a lot of perseverance and stamina and I have to dig deep. Itís often painful when you realize you are the real root of all your issues. When all is said and done there is new fertile soil for John to grow Itís mucho hard work!!!
I grinned proudly!
ďThatís nice John, but you still havenít told me what we are planting.Ē
And so goís the philosophy of my flower bed.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt on a forty year journey to the Promised Land. I found out recently that entire journey, the one that took over forty years to complete should have only taken three month by foot. Instead, Moses, the rock star of the Old Testament led a group of people around in circles for over forty years. They were lost. You have no idea how relieved I felt inside when I read that article. A month from today, Iíll have been wondering around looking for my own Promised Land for fifty eight years.
Where is your Promised Land and who lives there? When Moses left Egypt it was to escape tyranny and oppression. All that quickly changed when there was no food and water. People grumbled and complained and on more than one occasion Moses role as leader of this motley crew were in jeopardy. All of a sudden those mean old Egyptians werenít so bad. At least they had a full belly three times a day. So Moses had to detour and find food and water. Moses persevered and I think his faith, that eventually heíd complete his mission had solely to do with trust.
God picked Moses to lead this mission. He told him he was capable and competent. Moses trusted what he saw and felt. If you read the book of Exodus youíll see he made more than one mistake and had more than one false start along the way. He was applauded and reviled sometimes all on the same day. He kept moving forward. Sometimes moving forward meant looking over a hill or around a blind corner and Moses simply had to trust his feelings, his gut and his instincts. He believed he was doing the right thing.
How many times do we find ourselves searching for that Promised Land of health only to have the people around us second guess, ridicule or even make jokes about us? I have struggled the last few months. I have gained about fifteen pounds. Thatís all on me, no excuses. What startled me were the people who wisely nodded their heads and told me they knew I could never keep the weight off. (You think they would have had the courtesy to talk behind my back!!!) Joan told me to focus on what Iíd done, get back on track and not to worry. I did and do, LOL.
I think of Moses often. I think of him wandering through the hot desert and hearing all the criticism drift up towards him as he tried to figure a way home for his people. He got side tracked, he got lost, but he never gave up. I wonít either. It took forty years for him to get there and during that time I am sure he learned a lot about life and himself.
No matter who questions your motivation your abilities or your worth and desire, firmly put your hand on your own staff of life, trust your instincts and one day, maybe today, just over the next small rise is your Promised Land.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
One of my favorite Bible passages has to do with the apostle Peter walking on water or shall I say failing to walk on water. The story goes that after a long day of preaching, teaching and answering questions, Jesus went off by himself to pray and the apostles went out in the boat to fish. A storm comes up and Jesus heads back to the boat. The problem is the boat is in the middle of the lake. Jesus starts to walk on the water towards the boat. To use todayís vernacular the apostles freaked out. I can quite imagine the conversation in that boat. ďDo you think itís him?í ďI dunno you know him better than I do!Ē
Peter is my favorite apostl because we are so much alike. We are both people pleasers, over achievers and quite often engage our mouths and actions long before our brains have had time to mull things over. Anytime something needed to be done Peter would push his way to the front of the group and boldly say he could do it, would do it and BTW: would you like fries with that burger. Bearing all that in mind Peter comes up with a game plan of sorts. He yells out, ďHey if youíre REALLY Jesus youíll let me walk on water also!!Ē
Peter stands up and gets out of the boat and begins walking on water. ďHey it is you!Ē I can quite imagine, given what we know about Peterís personality, that he was styling and profiling, until the wind kicks up, it rains a bit harder and it dawns on Peter ďOh my gosh, Iím walking on water!!!Ē Realizing he is eons out of his comfort zone he starts to sink. If not for Jesus bailing him out Peter might be simply a soggy foot note in Bible history. Jesus tells Peter if he had faith he could have walked on water. He didnít yell, scream or berate. He didnít talk about everlasting salvation and the like. He told Peter if he believed he could do it.
Does any of this sound familiar? It does to me. Just about the time I racking up a string of successes in my life, this small voice reminds me that I am doing things Iíd never, ever dreamed of doing before and then asks me if I really think I belong sitting at the cool kids lunch table? Thatís when I start feeling the water on my ankles and calves. Can you say ďglub, glub?Ē Completely and totally out of my comfort zone, I give up and go back to the mediocrity I know and love so well.
When I sit down and think about it I find that itís in every aspect of my life. When I start becoming healthy and toned and actually resemble something other than a Rogaine add with frosty the snow man, I freak. Thatís not me!!! I do not belong here!!! Glub, glub. I once ran five miles, all at once, just a few months ago. Iíve never run that far again!!! Too far out of my comfort zone to do it again. Thatís not ME.
Every time I get close to being a complete and total success I suddenly realize ďOH MY GOSH, IíM WALKING ON WATER!!Ē The remedy is faith, faith in me and in my abilities. The saying goes that you canít help a drowning person who is struggling. The more I fight the notion that my Creator created me to be a complete and total success, the more comfortable Iíll be the next time I walk on water, or at least the puddle in my drive way.
I am worth it. I deserve it. I am what I believe I am, and I am who I hang around with, arenít I?
OH MY GOSH IíM WALKING ON WATER
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