Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

$1.5 Billion Worth of “What If’s”

The question of “what if” and the slim prospect of sudden riches drove people to spend a collective sum of almost $1.5 billion on lottery tickets. Three people will split the $640 million jackpot and upwards of one billion people have one or more worthless pieces of paper spent chasing a dream. Click here for the complete story on yahoo.com.

I have never bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket, and frankly I’m not sure how one goes about it. Because I am notoriously frugal, I don’t even like the idea of wasting money on a single ticket. My father is keen to remind me that you have to play to win, and he’s always saying “When I hit the jackpot…” Well, he’s in his mid-80s and has yet to collect the jackpot, much less any significant sum from his periodic ticket purchases.

On the other hand, I do have friends who won the lottery. They played very judiciously, and one week they got lucky. The exception rather than the rule, you’d never know it upon meeting them. They aren’t flashy with their money, and they are extremely generous. They have kept their perspective; the money didn’t change who they are as people. They serve, volunteer, give, and live just like they did before they won.

“What if” and a little piece of paper with a few numbers rarely change a life. You probably have a greater chance of dying in a plane crash or being struck by lightning than you do of winning the lottery. If you enjoy plunking down your hard-earned cash for a little hope and some dreams, more power to you. Go right ahead. Just don’t let it consume you or leave you disillusioned like many people are feeling right now because they weren’t one of the lucky three new mega-millionaires.

Go ahead and live your life, treasuring each precious minute. If you want to ask “what if’s,” consider these:

  • What if poverty could be eliminated in my lifetime?
  • What if everyone had access to clean water, shelter, and enough food to eat?
  • What if all children had the opportunity to go to school and learn?
  • What if all people had access to affordable healthcare and a job that paid a working wage?

Better yet, think up some of your own “what if” questions and then go out and do something to make them happen. Maybe it’s something in your own life.

  • What if you decided to start that business you’ve been dreaming about?
  • What if you finally started writing that novel?
  • What if you took a volunteer mission/service trip instead of a beach vacation this year?
  • What if you pledged to dedicate one night each week to quality time with your spouse, significant other, children, and/or parents?
  • What if you stepped out of your comfort zone and became a big brother or big sister to a child in need of mentoring?
  • What if you decided to find at least one thing for which to give thanks each day?
  • What if you gave up a meal out each week or month in order to give that money to an organization that would provide a scholarship to a child in Central America?

What if . . .?

You’ll never know if you don’t ask the questions. You’ll never realize the dream if you don’t do something about it. You’ll never make a difference if you don’t take action. Trust me–you have a much better chance of changing the world in your own small way than you do of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. Think about it.

What if . . .?

Photo by Swipp Inc. used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

The Big Gift of Little “i”

“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your ‘I’ is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary ‘I.’ No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.”   – Richard Rohr

What’s the difference between “I” and “i”? The answer pure and simple is the love of the Creator for all of creation. Once we accept that we are beloved children of the One who created everything from the chaos of nothing, then we are free to begin to really live. Instead of worrying about acquiring, possessing, and positioning, we are free to expand our horizons, interact with others, and celebrate every day.

The need to define oneself as a big “I”  is transformed into the gift of the little “i”–the you (or me) that is not consumed by self, not curved inward toward want and desire. The big “I” seeks to always become bigger. The little “i” constantly finds ways to give part oneself away. The funny thing is this: in the giving of self, one receives more than enough to be filled and fulfilled. In acknowledging the love and acceptance of God, there is no need to constantly try to fill oneself with the praise and acceptance of others. All are equal in the sight of the Maker. Ordinary  becomes extraordinary when the Spirit of God is allowed room to move and breathe in us. Small becomes enough.

The apostle Paul writing to the believers at Philippi said “. . . for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me ( Phil. 4:11b-13 NRSV).

Living as a little “i” is indeed a big gift that keeps on giving. It’s a gift that improves with age and experience, and it’s a gift that comes to us wrapped in grace. Open your big gift and start living small today. i promise you’ll live life larger in the end.

Peace and blessing to you and yours!

PS: For more information on Fr. Richard Rohr, click the link on his name to be connected to his website.

Photo by mRio used under Creative Commons License. This images shows a cornea transplant from an organ donor that gave new sight to the recipient–just one small example of the big gift of little “i”.

 

A Little Goes a Long Way

Happiness consists not in having much, but in being content with little.    –Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington

My youngest daughter and I have spent the past three days in New York City; it was her “senior trip.” We saw two plays and one musical: The Best Man, Newsies, and Seminar. We ate pizza and Cake Boss cupcakes. We walked between 40-50 blocks each day, and we did a lot of “window shopping.” All in all it was an outstanding trip.

One particular memory of this trip will stay with me for a long time. First of all, you have to understand that I LOATHE shopping. I have a difficult time making a decision that involves parting with my hard-earned cash, and I have absolutely no fashion sense. My dear daughter, however, has excellent fashion sense, absolutely no qualms about spending my money, and a keen love of shopping. The first day we took a little trip up Fifth Avenue. We stopped at a few of her favorite stores to gaze at the goods, and then we hit the motherlode–the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store. We took the escalator to every floor, stopping at the shoe department for a walk through. I don’t think I saw a pair of shoes in the place for under $300. It was a real eye-opener.

My take on shoes is that they are among the few things I prefer to buy new, I like good quality, and I want something that is basic and comfortable. I’ve been in the market for a new pair of black leather flats for awhile, as my current pair are decidedly ratty looking (after three re-heel visits to the cobbler and miles of wear). My dear daughter, on the other hand, could have given Imelda Marcos a run for her money for the shoe queen title.  Her philosophy is that the right shoe looks good on any body style. You don’t have to be an anorexic stick to look good in a pair of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins. Plus, she’s only 5’3″ so she can wear heels that would make the average person dizzy–and she does, and she looks doggone good in them. So cruising the Saks shoe department was for her something akin to dying and going to shoe heaven, albeit in her case it was more like being Lazarus at the gate of the rich man’s house calling out for even a lowly sale pair of Steve Maddens.

Of course we left empty-handed. On the ride back down she whispered to me, “I have never felt so poor in all my life.” I’ll admit I understood where she was coming from with this confession. It’s interesting to view life from another perspective, and since I’m usually so focused on issues of simplicity and justice the trip through Saks gave me plenty of food for thought. Our family ranks in the top 1% of the worlds richest people, according to the Global Rich List, and yet here I was feeling like Grannie Clampett in my eight year old black leather boots, resale shop jeans, secondhand pashmina scarf, and bargain outlet jacket.  Perspective is everything (or pretty close to it), I suppose.

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on the event, I am so thankful that I have reached a place in life where I am quite content with a little and have no desire to have more. More importantly, I’ve learned that my “little” is true abundance for most of the world’s population. The fact that I could even take my daughter on this trip reflects how fortunate we are–yes we got a great hotel deal, we got our tickets at the half-price booth for two of the three shows, and we didn’t eat at any fancy or even moderate restaurants–but this was still a trip that most children will never have, much less the opportunity to receive a free public education and graduate from high school. Yes, a little goes a long way, and that is good enough for me.

My hope and prayer is that my child will grow to see that she is not poor at all but among the luckiest people on earth. As for me, next time I need a reality check, I’ll just go on-line to Saks and take a cyber cruise through their shoe offerings. That should do nicely to remind me to give thanks for all of life’s blessings–particularly the intangibles ones.

P.S.: I did find a new pair of black flats. They were a little more than I had hoped to pay, but they’re all leather and have the daughter stamp of approval (meaning at least my feet won’t be fashion failures for awhile). Plus, by the time I get through with these shoes their cost will be mere pennies per wear. Oh, and dear daughter went home happy, too, with a fashionable (and mom-approved-value) pair of black boots.

Note: The Lent 40/40/40 Challenge will return once I’m back at home and unpacked. For now, suffice it to say I am thankful for precious time with my baby girl who will soon be off to college and thankful for a spouse who is supportive of my taking off with her on this Broadway lark/girl party. I’m also thankful to my oldest daughter for depositing us at the train station and retrieving us. This trip was truly a family affair.

Photos by William Hawkins,  and Jerine Lay used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

The Difference

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

 ― William James

You were created to live a life unlike no other person on this planet. You were gifted with unique skills, talents, and potentials to contribute much of value to your family, community, and world. What you do, what you think, how you act does make a difference.

Do you believe the statements written above? Are you living like you make a difference? Are you willing to, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”? A life of thanks-living is a life of intentionality, of recognizing, giving thanks for, and living out the gifts and blessings that are part and parcel of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the cares and concerns of daily living that we forget our intrinsic worth as human beings and our ability to make the earth (our home) a better place. Our hectic twenty-first century lifestyle simply does not encourage intentionality in thought, word, and deed.

We get so busy trying to manage the details of life that we forget to really live. We forget that we are created beings with a soul, a mind, and an innate desire to be in relationship and to make a difference.

How does one go about making a difference? Where to start? As a person of faith, I strive to uphold the “golden rule” or “ethic of reciprocity.” Specifically, as a Christian, I look to Jesus’ “Love Command” (Matt. 22:37-40) based on the Hebrew Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) for ultimate guidance. Of course, I fail mightily, so I am grateful for the grace that enables me to “fall down seven times, get up eight” (Japanese proverb). I find it interesting that many of the world’s religions have a similar teaching about how to treat others and how to make a difference. Click here for some examples.

We are all connected. Even the poet John Donne recognized that fact. Click here for an exploration of his Meditation XVII and the famous “no man (sic) is an island” quote. So then, our connections are only as good as our interactions and relationships one with the other. That’s why all that you say, do, and are matters and makes a difference. So, yes, act like it; better yet, live like it–each small moment of every precious day.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Charlie and Frances Rampp made a real difference in my life. As a struggling single mom and seminarian, Charlie nourished my soul with poetry, gifting me with the occasional treasured book or a sheaf of his poems (usually on recycled paper–nicely done, Charlie). Frances helped me laugh at life during some very dark days and showered me with kindness and hospitality. Charlie is gone now to life eternal, but his legacy lives on in my approach to ministry and attempts at writing poetry. Thank you, dear Frances and Charlie, for living lives that mattered and for being the difference.

Giving Possessions

Bye, bye blue fleece! I didn’t wear you all winter, so obviously you are needed elsewhere. I offered to return you to your previous owner, but she declined, so hopefully you will soon have a new owner to keep warm.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for trains. Mass transit is a great way to share life with others, save gas, and avoid the stress of driving.

Photos by Manoj Kengudelu used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Of Hoodies, Hurt, and Hope

Photo by juxtapose^esopatxuj

I guess you would have to be living under a rock–or at least without digital media–to not know about the tragedy that unfolded in Florida last week that left an innocent young man dead, a neighborhood and town in confusion, and people dismayed and hurting in all corners of this country. Trayvon Martin was on his way home from a convenience store with a bag of candy in his pocket, talking on his cell phone to another teen. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he didn’t “blend in with the scenery,” and it cost him his life at the hands of George Zimmerman, part of a neighborhood watch patrol.

As tragic as this unnecessary death was, even more horrifying is the state of affairs Trayvon’s murder points to: we are still held captive by fear and ignorance. One person uses stereotyping to size up another, and the result is a devastating chain of preventable events ending in loss of life, ruined lives, and increased tensions and hostilities. Click here to read a poem written about the subject.

We humans are fearful, or at least suspicious, of folks who don’t look like us, talk like us, dress like us, or think like us. Don’t think so? Have you ever crossed the street, or picked up your speed, or taken a different route, or looked away to avoid eye contact with a person who fits your own mental profile of someone who might potentially cause you harm?

A friend of mine once shared a “biker story” with me. A prominent business and civic leader, he and a group of friends (all highly respected leaders in their professions) took regular weekend road trips on their Harleys. One time they were out and saw an elderly couple stranded on the side of the highway. They stopped to help. My friend remembered clearly the frightened look incouple’s eyes when a half dozen men in leathers came toward them. Fear and ignorance had helped the couple concoct an impression they never would have dreamed had they seen the same men in their suits and lab coats during the week.

For Trayvon, the trigger was both the clothes (a hoodie) and the color of his skin that triggered the fear and ignorance. I’m wearing a hand-me-up-hoodie that used to belong to my daughter as I write this blog post, but because I’m a middle-aged white woman no one would think a second thought about me in the same situation.

In The House on Mango Street, author Sandra Cisneros chronicles the life of a Latina teen, Esperanza Cordero. Her story is told through a series of prose poems, and Trayvon’s story brought one to mind entitled “Those Who Don’t.” It begins “Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.”

Esperanza recounts how she and her friends feel safe in their own neighborhood, and she describes some of the people who live there. However, at the end, her tone changes when she contemplates the converse situation, saying “All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes (28).”

Will we continue to let this be “how it goes and goes,” or will we choose to give thanks for our neighbor and look for the good, for the common ground, in one another? When will we be good Samaritans instead of fearful, turf-tending folk?  How long, O Lord, before we stop stereotyping one another and hating that which we don’t know and understand?

What happened to Trayvon Martin is one more inexcusable death, and it will take time to process the pain, anger, grief, and disbelief. The hurt is real and must be honored. Yet even in the midst of our pain, we can reach out and take the time to look each other in the eye–whether we are old, young, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, straight, gay, Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or any other “human-defined” category–and see not a label or a stereotype but a beloved child of God. If we can do this one simple thing there is hope. And where there is hope, love may take root and grow.

May God be with and comfort all who are mourning this young man’s death, with those whose lives have been forever altered and whose decisions and choices have caused suffering, and indeed with all of us. Give us hope, Lord, so that we may love one another and You.

Today I give thanks for all people who seek to see others not as stereotypes but as fellow beings of worth, value, and potential. Thank you.

For further Consideration:

Click here to read a startling article about racism playing out in response to The Hunger Games, the blockbuster movie released last weekend that is based on the fantasy trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Every Life a Sermon

On March 24, 1980 (32 years ago) Bishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. His legacy lives on; the sermon of his life is as vivid today as it was during his lifetime.

If you are not familiar with Oscar Romero, he was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador who would later become the eighth bishop and fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He was an academic and a parish priest–not a politician. In fact, his appointment as archibishop, while greeted positively by the government, was a source of dismay to the radical priests who ascribed to liberation theology and a commitment to the poor and disenfranchised.

Less than one month after Romero’s appointment, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend, Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. The murder had a profound effect on the Archbishop, who began openly to campaign for justice and the rights of the people. Romero would later say of Grande’s assassination, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”. And indeed he did.

More than 250,000 mourners from all over the world gathered to pay their respects and attend his funeral mass. During the service, a bomb exploded on the cathedral square sending the crowd into a panic that resulted in between 30-50 casualties (depending on the source).

Óscar Romero’s life is a strong witness to the way of the cross and the life of the disciple of Christ. For more information about Romero, click here or here. Yes, every life is a sermon. This is a point I stress when it comes to funeral homilies; we all preach through our actions, words, and convictions. As St. Francis is attributed to saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

How is your life preaching?

PS: If you haven’t seen the movie Romero (1989), then by all means do so! It will be well worth your time.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

All too often we live lives of compromise and fear. We are afraid to alienate people for the sake of our beliefs and passions. We stand by silently when we wish to speak out. I am thankful for the people in my life who have shown great courage to be who they are and to work for justice for all people. Thank you Aileen, Charlie, Victor, and Clay. You inspire me.

Giving Possessions

More books gone! Yeehaw!

Thanksgiving

I am thankful that I woke up to the sound of a gentle rain on the porch roof outside my window. I am grateful for a slow day of cooking, writing, devotions, and resting.

Image courtesy bridgebuilding.com. Thank you.

Do Something!

Between a router dying on Sunday and being without DSL for two days and coming down with some seemingly spring-allergy related malady, it has been quite a week. I have alternated between frustration at not being able to meet deadlines due to the deceased router, exhaustion and swollen lymph glands from the malady, and sheer joy and delight at the beautiful (albeit unseasonably early) spring weather. I’ve also missed posting about my latest adventures in thanks-living.

“Thankfully” I’m back on board and still grateful for so very much, including the cup of Sleepytime Sinus Soother herb tea that’s right here by my laptop. I am so lucky to be able to have clean, abundant water readily available to make tea anytime I desire. Yesterday was World Water Day. If you are not familiar with the purpose of this day, I encourage you to visit African Water Log written by ELCA missionaries Dr. Joe and Rev. Deborah Troester. You might also enjoy this post by Virginia over at Roses in the Rubble. Finally, here’s the official UN World Water Day website.

Sometimes, when we take time to dedicate a day of our lives to awareness about and consideration of a particular issue, problem, or need, it can seem overwhelming. How can one little ‘ol person in the USA make a difference in alleviating a problem of global proportions? When thought of in those terms, it’s almost easier to ignore the problem or throw a few expendable dollars at it and be done. Not that I’m knocking financial support! Every penny counts, and a penny shared reflects a person who cared. So yes, do give generously to the causes that move your heart and spirit.

But don’t stop there; DO something. Active involvement engages us with one another in a way that simply firing off a check cannot. So what can you and I do about water? Here are 10 small steps each one of us can take.

  1. Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing your face.
  2. Don’t leave the water running while you wash the dishes.
  3. Install a rain barrel.
  4. Don’t water your lawn. Instead, consider edible plantings that add beauty and fill your belly. You can also share extra produce!
  5. Consider installing a greywater system. Here’s a link that provides some basic information.
  6. Fill the bathtub only halfway full, or cut your shower time down. (Many people of my parents’ generation remember washtubs and sharing the bath water.)
  7. Take a “military” shower at least once a week. This means getting wet, turning off the water, lathering up, and then turning it back on to rinse. This simple act will definitely help you appreciate the gift of adequate water.
  8. Keep track of how often you flush. Install water displacement devices in your traditional toilet tank (i.e. a plastic jug filled with water or bricks) or if you need a new toilet, consider one of the water-saving or composting options.
  9. Charge yourself a “water tax” for a week or month. Each time you use water for any purpose, put a set amount of money in a jar as a “luxury tax.” At the end of your designated time period, donate that amount to a charity that helps provide wells to people where water is needed.
  10. Finally, say a quick prayer of thanksgiving every time you use water for at least one day. Not only will your thanks-living capacity improve but so will your prayer life! In short, DO something. Practice may not make perfect, but it will have a lasting effect on your life.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

This week I have been giving thanks for aunts and uncles and cousins who have given me a sense of rootedness and connectedness. Our family is spread out all over the US and abroad, but a note or a Facebook post means so much. Thank you to Faye, Bev, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Louise, Uncle Oliver and Aunt Norma, and Uncle Mick. You are connected not only by blood, but by heart and memory and love. Thanks!

Giving Possessions

I have some catching up to do here. I have some unopened boxes upstairs and in the garage that need to be opened and sorted and disbursed. I also have more books to go. I’m enjoying the more minimalist wardrobe. Having space in the closet and trying to organize around one key color is great. Most of all, the simple act of giving and sharing is wonderful. Open hands, open heart, and open mind–not a bad mantra for thanks-living.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful to be reconnected with the world via high speed DSL and a new router. I will say that a forced media fast wasn’t all bad.

I hope you are all doing well and finding plenty of reasons to be thankful for your blessings, your abundance, and the relationships that matter more than any possessions. Peace and light!

Photos by osseous and likeablerodent used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Traveling Light

Why do we insist on journeying through life loaded down with baggage? Sure, we all carry within us the “baggage” of our experiences that makes us who we are, but why do we make it more difficult by hefting an extra load of cultural and consumer baggage? You wouldn’t try to hike the entire 2,179 miles of the Appalachian Trail hauling a pony cart full of “stuff” behind you, so why do you clutter your life with adiaphora?

I’m not going to delve into the emotional baggage we tote; that’s a topic for another day. What I suggest is that we journey through life overly burdened for two reasons: 1) we have short memories, and 2) we have a hole in our heart that our culture tells us can be filled by buying and possessing the right “stuff.”

From the time we are old enough to make sense of images and sound, the wonderful world of marketing begins competing for our allegiance. No wonder one study found that more children recognize the golden arches of McDonald’s than a picture of Jesus or the president! Ever consider why you probably buy the certain brands that your parents bought? Why you prefer one brand of paper towel over another one? Why you gravitate toward one soft drink in particular? Why you choose one brand of jeans instead of the competitor? You have been carefully taught by the purchases of others and by deliberately crafted advertising campaigns.

Marketers create a need in our minds, but it can’t be a long-term need because we must consume again and again. We are conditioned to want newer, bigger, better, and brighter. An iPod classic of the first generation is a dinosaur compared to the “new” iPod classic, for example. Who wants limited storage space when there is SO much music out there to purchase?

How do we stop the cycle of need and greed? It starts with awareness, it continues through constant reminders, and it takes practice. It’s a process. We need regular reminders about what really matters, what is “true” and “real,” and how to discern a need from want or desire.

When we moved from North Dakota to Tennessee, we sold or gave away almost all of our worldly possessions. What had taken us almost half a U-Pack It trailer to get to North Dakota ended up fitting into two sedans along with several boxes mailed ahead by parcel post. The two bedroom apartment we rented looked mighty big and empty. It was also, surprisingly, truly liberating.

We ended up bying a sofa and love seat, kitchen table and chairs, entertainment stand, two chairs for the patio, used washer and dryer, and two mattress/box spring sets. Everything else we needed was either given to us or found through freecyle or creative reclamation (i.e. dumpter diving when people moved out of the complex). Even after this major possession purge, the slow creep of acquisition returned with our short memory of freedom from attachment. By the time we moved to Pennsylvania, it took a small U-Haul truck to get us here. Now my spouse and I are parting with possessions once again. With each possession gone comes a little less weight and a little more freedom.

I realize traveling light is not for everyone. Some people can be content in a tent, while others require a Winnebago or a Holiday Inn. Some people need few things, while others collect and acquire much. What I urge you to do today is to consider what it might be like to limit your possessions to what you need and/or truly love. How might letting go enable you to live more fully in thanks-living and giving? Imagine what it would be like to put all that you own into a backpack, suitcase, or car. Could you do it? Could you even dream it? Do you dare?

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

I am thankful today for my cousin Doris. This strong yet gentle woman served for many years as a missionary in Honduras. She has given so much of herself to help so many people, and she exemplifies a lived faith. Thank you, Doris, for your light and for your life. You truly understand the value–and beauty–of traveling light!

Giving Possessions

I have a stash of extra greeting cards and envelopes–not all of which match. I have been keeping them thinking I would use them at some point, but the truth is I have not used them and likely never will. So they’ll be going to church with me for the box to donate to St. Jude’s Ranch. It’s a small thing to give/let go of, but it’s one more small lightening of the load.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful for sleep. I don’t always get enough of it, but I am grateful for a good night of it. Sleep is refreshing, necessary for good health, and a true blessing. Thank you, God, for the gift of sound sleep.

Photos by Timitrius and Quinn Anya used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, & Eat Some Humble Pie

Remember Fonzie from the 1970s television show Happy Days? He was the captain of cool, the sargeant of slick, and always, always right. Right? Well . . . almost. Click here to watch that famous click where he admits he made a mistake (and tries to say the word “wrong”) in order to keep Ralphie from joining the Marines. It’s priceless, a prime time memory that has stuck with me for years.

How easy is it for you to admit when you’re wrong? Are you secure enough in your self to fess up and say it, or do you rival the Fonz when it comes to avoiding the dreaded “W” word? When you open mouth and insert foot, are you able to eat humble pie without choking on it? The older I get, the easier it becomes to admit my foibles. But, perhaps it’s more than age at work here.

I think it has something to do with grace (see Romans 8) and realizing that nothing we can do or say or think can earn God’s love and acceptance. We can’t keep the law. In fact, the law drives us straight to our knees with the realization that no matter how hard we try, no matter how “good” we are, there’s no way we’ll ever achieve “perfection” under our own steam. All is gift–every single bit of it–our life, our intellect, our relationships, and our possessions. Sure, we may work for what we have, we may exert great amounts of honest effort and toil, but everything can be gone in a flash. Just ask the folks in Joplin, Missouri, or New Orleans, Louisiana, after natural disasters wiped their worldly goods off the face of the planet.

Yes, it is the gift of grace that sets us free to be the unique individuals we are all created to be. By grace alone through faith (sola fide) we are justified, and that’s incredibly good news. What’s a pity is how stingy we are sometimes in extending that grace to others. Our human nature is to scrabble for the pinnacle of rightness, to come out on top, even if that means breaking relationships and trampling on feelings.

Part of living into that grace, of growing into one’s potential as a child of God, is to extend to others what has been given to you. We’re all going to mess up, make mistakes, say stupid and hurtful things, and pretty much make idiots of ourselves at some point in life–maybe even at many points in life. If we can’t forgive ourselves, then how can we possibly expect to forgive others when they make mistakes?

So, if you suffer from the Fonz’s aversion to admitting wrong, keep working on it. Remember that God loves you dearly, in spite of your human shortcomings. God sees you are you will be, as you can be, as you are becoming. God sees others with those same eyes of love. When you open your mouth and firmly insert your foot, as you certainly will, just admit it and get on with it–life that is. Try to better, try to love more, and be sure not to take yourself too seriously. Oh, and be sure to cut others plenty of slack, too. Look for the good; trust me, if you look hard enough you’ll find it.

We are all works in progress, and when we work together life is so much better. A life of thanks-living includes amples sides of forgiveness and grace, seasoned with laughter and love. Whether you like it or not, be sure to order up a serving of humble pie once in a while and share it with a friend. Chances are you’ll be glad you did!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Today I am thankful for our Friday Morning Book Discussion group members. We gather at Christine’s Coffee Shop in Waynesboro twice a month to share some good brew and books. It’s a fun group of folks. Thanks for making my day brighter!

Giving Possessions

I finally parted with my Eddie Bauer Fair Isle zip up sweater, matching turtleneck, and thin wale cords. They’re all in various shades of brown, which doesn’t go with my current attempt to create a functional minimalist wardrobe based on black and colors that work well with black. Instead of keeping them in my closet because they’re “too good to get rid of,” I’m sending them to the rescue mission.

Thanksgivings

I am thankful for people who love and care about me in spite of myself. I am grateful for friends, parishioners and family members who are willing to trust, forgive, love, and laugh. I hope and pray I am capable of giving to you the same level of trust and transparency. You make life a rich and wonderful experience, and I am blessed to have all of you in my life.

Photos courtesy of saraandthegoonsquad.com and craftybmwife.blogspot.com. Thanks!

In Praise of Laughter and Silliness

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.  — Yiddish Proverb

Here’s a question for you: how much did you laugh today? If you said none at all, or that there’s nothing worth laughing about, then you need to find a way to tickle your funny bone, my friend. Laughter is good medicine; in fact, it might just help you stay healthier longer.

A recent study conducted by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughter, combined with a good sense of humor, may help to prevent heart disease. Click here to read the entire article. There’s even a type of yoga called, appropriately, laughter yoga, that uses breathing and laughter to promote good health. A variety of physiological benefits result from laughter, including a reduction in blood pressure and reduction in the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Laughter also helps boost the immune system by raising levels of immunoglobulin A and cytokine. For more information about the health benefits of laughter, click here.

If you find life is getting you down in the dumps, try a little laughter. Click here for a Youtube video that’s sure to give you a chuckle. Now, don’t you feel better? I know I do. We got a huge kick out of our Springer modeling a fuzzy purple hat. He’s a pretty good sport about humoring our silliness. If you don’t have a canine to provide much needed humor, consider these options: watch a good comedy, get together with friends who enjoy a good laugh, be silly with your children, or even make faces in the mirror. Don’t risk a diagnosis of “terminal seriousness” when a dose of “silliness” and a little laughter each day will lead you to better health.

PS: Don’t miss Krista Tippett’s interview with Kevin Kling about “The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into” this week on the American Public Media radio show On Being. Click here for more information.

Photos by AugieSchwer  and Elspeth Lucas used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Lent 40/40/40 Update

More than halfway to Easter and still going strong! Here’s the latest…

Honoring Relationships

My cousin, Melanie, is bright, articulate, compassionate, and FUNNY. Whenever I’m around her I laugh and laugh and laugh. She can take any story and give it a humorous twist, and she can find a silver lining in every cloud. Thanks, Mel, for being just who you are, and for sharing joy and laughter with so many people.

Giving Possessions

In praise of laughter, I’m giving away my copy of the hilarious book Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs. Isaacs writes with great honesty, passion, and humor about her quest to take God to couples therapy and reclaim a relationship with her creator. All you have to do is leave a comment telling something you find funny, or share a link to a funny video, or tell a joke. Laugh on! I’ll draw a random winner from responders on Saturday.

Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful for the gift of laughter and silliness. It’s good to laugh until your belly hurts. It’s fun to be silly. Thank you, God, for the gift of laughter!

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