Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Breakdowns don't have to be nervous

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”  -  G. K. Chesterton

“Miracles happen every day.  Change your perception of what a miracle is and you will see them all around you.”  -  Jon Bon Jovi

     So many amazing things happen on the road - if I told all the stories folks would think I am making things up.  I keep a running log of events that exceed the bounds of coincidence for myself, but sometimes one happens that I just feel compelled to share.

     After finishing a five month series in New England, I swung west through Ohio and then headed south from Columbus OH to visit my grandson in Greenville SC.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning in October and I enjoyed the foliage as I headed into the Appalachian Mountains.  

     As I crested a hill heading south on Rt. 75 through the Kentucky traffic came to a dead halt.  I mean completely stopped – and it stretched to the far horizon.  A couple of minutes later steam came pouring out from under my hood.  I pulled into the center median and raised the hood.

     Coolant was gushing out of the thermostat housing – a metal part that bolts to the engine and couples with the upper radiator hose.  I looked at the clock – it was 2:45 on a Saturday and I am in the mountains.  I figured I was stuck there for the weekend - this was a specialty part and this was not a good place for this to happen.

     I quieted myself and then decided to drive back to the last exit – one for a little town called London Kentucky.  The car cooled down, I added a bit of water and talked folks into letting me cut across to the berm.  I then drove the wrong way along the berm and up the entrance ramp.  I pulled into a service station at a little after 3:00.

     I told the fellow at the service station what was wrong, and he agreed with me that the part was something you could only get from a junkyard or a dealership.  There was no dealership for many miles and the junkyard was closed until Monday.  But we called the parts store on the off chance – and guess what.  They had this specialty part.

     With a comment about me having a charmed life, the manager of the station said if I could get to the parts store and back he would put the part on for free.

     The manager of the parts store told me the part had been specially ordered for someone who had not picked it up. Soon I was back at the garage and the men were putting the housing on for me.  They put in several gallons of new antifreeze and topped off all my fluids.  I insisted the manager take a few dollars to get the guys some hamburgers or beer or whatever they wanted.  

     An ambulance driver happened by and said the highway would be backed up at least another hour or so – the mortician had been called to the scene of a fatal accident.  Suddenly my issues didn’t seem all that big.

     The garage closed at 5:00 – I pulled out at 4:57.  They gave me directions on how to cut through some back roads to get to the next highway exit.  I did so, and when I pulled on the highway there were no cars in my lane – they were all still at a standstill behind the accident.

    Now understand this is the mountains – exits are few and far between – in fact it seemed it was at least sixty miles until I saw another town that MIGHT have a parts store.  And yet here I found myself – once again – with a problem that was solved before I even knew I had a problem. 

     I have been operating under the theory that God is on the journey too – that the future is unwritten and he gives us the one next right thing to do as that is the most effective system.  But this incident throws a monkey wrench into that theory.  Stay posted – I am back searching for a new operational model on that whole God thing.  I am sure he is deeply humored with my attempts to figure stuff out.

     See, if I figure it out, then I might just be qualified to be God myself.  But on second thought, being God sounds like an awful lot of work.  Just arranging for auto parts would be a full time job.  Maybe I will just go back to not thinking.

Today, I am grateful.

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It is a great day !!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Think you got it made?

“Faith doesn’t make sense.  That’s why it makes miracles.”  -  John Di Lemme

“Faith means trusting in advance what only makes sense in reverse.”  -  Phillip Yancey

     I love following the stories of those who have truly turned all areas of their life over to God.  Today we are taking just a glimpse of one of those.  It is a story of a man who finally connected and continued to follow the path even though it seemed clear that it wouldn't take him to the destination he desired.

     This man was a talented mechanic and machinist – he was the head maintenance man at a newspaper, a job approaching six figures back in the 90’s.  He had a problem with alcohol, and ended up going to a treatment center.  When his time as a patient was done, he felt moved to stay on as the maintenance man.

     The treatment center is male only, and has been around for many years. Of course this man longed for female companionship, and of all the things he wanted most he desired to have some acreage in the rolling hills of Ohio.

     Maintenance man at the treatment center gave him a bed to sleep in, three meals a day and a wage of about $3.00 per hour.  This made no sense with the goals he had in mind, but in prayer and contemplation the answer was to stay working at the mission. 

     As the head maintenance man at the mission, all the clients would gather at his shop to chat.  In many ways he did more counseling than any of the counselors did.  His willingness to remain a calm and steady voice of reason at the mission saved many men’s lives.

     After eight years there he met a woman who had no material assets to speak of and who had gone back to college to get a degree in clinical counseling.  She had been praying for ten years to have her life mate revealed, and although she had been given a vision of his face she had no idea where to meet him.  But meet they did, and marry they did.

     So now they lived in the basement of a house on the mission grounds.  He continued to work maintenance and she continued to work on her degree.  She worked part time doing social work and he worked part time fixing people’s lawn mowers and cars. Anyone can tell you – if you want to buy some acreage in the country this is no way to go about it.  It just isn’t happening.

     I have known of the date of his sobriety for some years, and I try to call him every year on that date.  This year he had completely forgotten that it was the twelfth anniversary.  He and his wife had just closed on better than 12 acres of land in the rolling hills of Ohio – that very day.  It is the property in the photo at the beginning of this article.

     When asked how they managed it they both say they have no idea.  They prayed and were led to look at the property, and then they just followed the guidance they were given.  Within a month the property was theirs.

     She now has a master’s degree and works to help people rehabilitate their lives.  With their move out into the country, Brent has a new job also.  He now collaborates with employers and people with disabilities  to find matches that allow those with disabilities to find and keep gainful employment.  He works with them their first few weeks on the job to help them grasp and master their responsibilities.  And both Brent and Michelle are active in their church community.

     This photo was taken while I visited Brent for a few days on my return to the Carolinas last week.  The second day I was there, he knocked on the bedroom door about nine o’clock in the morning.  “Dave, you got a minute?”  “Sure Brent, what’s up?”  I replied.  “I broke my arm.” “You bleeding?”  “Nope.  But I fell off the roof and need to get it set.”  

     As we are bouncing down country roads on the way to the hospital he says “You know, I think I have a little shock going on.  I bet this is going to start to really hurt in a while.”

     After the hospital does x-rays, they tell him his wrist is shattered in so many pieces that they can’t set it.  He has to be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.  No big deal - Brent says how grateful he is that he didn’t land on his back.  And now he is learning to perform tasks with his other hand.

      And that is what life is like when you are living in the spirit – nothing makes sense but everything fits just fine.  You find gratitude in everything that presents itself.  You don’t sweat the small stuff – and you realize that it is all small stuff. 

      These are the people I love most to be around.  They are quiet and stay in action, but make no mistake.  In my book they are rock stars that shine with a far greater light than anything Hollywood has begun to dream of.

     A footnote – the photo of Brent with his cast?  I sure hope he gets mobility of that finger back – it might be tough getting taken seriously if it atrophies in that position.

Today, I am grateful for true friends. 

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

You don't count !!

“Feed a cold to starve a fever, but never argue with a ‘true believer.’” – Phyllis McGinley

“Tyrants cannot live with truth and survivors cannot live without it.”  -  Chrystine Oksana

     It is hurtful when we are rejected by someone we are close to.  Regardless of how we decide to view it -and even when we forgive the person we are left with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomach and a bad taste in our mouth.

     Recently I was having one of those “catching up on each other’s lives” conversations with someone close.  I asked them in detail about their work and was fascinated with their observations about some of the projects they are involved with.  After a while they in turn inquired about my life.

     I explained how incredible this journey has been – how God has turned up at every spot when I needed help.  I expressed how amazing it is to live on the intuitive and inspirational plane – and how much I appreciated God’s guidance.  They asked how I discerned what God’s guidance was.  I explained that I look to do the “next right thing,” and on those occasions that I do not have intuitive nudges I get the answers from others that I rely on.  

     They replied – with anger in their voice - that now I had forced their hand – that I had pushed them into responding with all this “God” talk.  There is no valid relationship with God unless – and next came the lines of rhetoric so common to the particular religion this individual is a devotee of.  For a second I thought they were joking, but it was quickly clear they weren’t.  The best I could do was to state that in no way did I question the validity of their relationship with God and steer the conversation to the welfare of their children.

      But to no avail - as far as they were concerned the conversation was over.  If I didn’t toe the line with their dogma and profess that their brand is the only valid one there was nothing to discuss.  Nothing valid could come from me.  The conversation ended, and although I had not said anything I regretted, I was unsettled enough that I sought counsel with several folks that I trust.

    One pointed out that no one can validate or invalidate my relationship with God besides God – nor can I anyone else’s.  Another pointed out what might be root causes of the fear behind this reaction and championed empathy.  So I was soon past the chagrin and able to examine the situation in more detail.

     I have learned that when someone else’s behavior disturbs me, it is some fear in me that is driving the disturbance.  Further, I have found that I am often secretly guilty of the same offense that has angered me.  So I have pondered further this notion of “invalidating” others.   I find it in the Carolina’s – when you want to ignore someone you just presume they are a “Yankee.”  If you are from New England and want to dismiss someone, you just say “Well, they are from ‘away.’”  On the North Carolina coast other people are “dingbatters.”  I am sure I will find more along the way.

     I heard another one the other day – it was about researchers invalidating the work of another person because they did not study at MIT, Stanford or Berkeley.  This is without even considering the work done or the results.  The list of things we use to discredit others is endless.

     Myself, when I see the young kid with the pants below his buttocks I think “street thug” and walk right by.  That person might be the one who a bit of friendship would help most.  The guy with the mirrored sunglasses in the Mercedes?  I can’t get away fast enough.  How about the Muslim dressed in their garb?  The Asian with the camera?  The street preacher, bible in hand searching for a convert?  Yep, right on by I go.

     This behavior says much about me and nothing about the one I would dismiss.  It says that I am afraid and that I am going to allow my fears to dictate my actions.  Maybe I fear that considering another point of view will in some way invalidate a pet belief of my own.  Perhaps I have been conditioned to see a particular group in a certain way.  Maybe I judge that they have nothing to offer one as great as me.  But whatever it is, I am the ultimate loser.  I miss chances to connect with my fellows, to learn, to grow and to help others on this same journey. 

     So I will speak kindly to the next street punk, to the next Muslim and Oriental photographer.  And I will continue to love the ones who seek to invalidate me.  But the Mercedes and the preacher?  Maybe next year.

Today, may I be genuine.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Do you see what I see?

“Wrapped up in our thoughts, we can’t hear love or beauty’s song.”  -  Marty Ruben   

"Distractions and detours dig our grave."  -  Kishore Bansal

  Every day life affords us opportunities to enjoy great beauty.  But they are fleeting and so easy to miss.

     Heading back to South Carolina from the New England leg of my project, I wanted to spend a bit of time with family in Ohio.  I left Cape Cod and was quickly on the turnpike that would carry me through Massachusetts and upstate New York.  Being October, the foliage was on full display and I was relieved that I didn’t feel I had to stop and take photographs for an article.  For once I could just relax and enjoy the natural beauty.  Colorful hills rimming green valleys revealed how the leaves changed more quickly at altitude.  A brilliant red maple had vines with yellow leaves interspersed, looking more beautiful than any Christmas tree I have ever seen.  New England is world renowned for the brilliance of its fall foliage.

     I passed through a toll booth.  Another few miles was another toll booth.  A half an hour and another toll booth.  Then I had to get gas.  I pulled in and the gas was $2.39 a gallon on the turnpike – it had been $1.99 everywhere else.  Another toll booth.  And the roads were not in nearly as good of shape as they were in places that had no tolls.  Next I am thinking about the companies that choose to take financial advantage of a “captive audience.”  I am thinking about how the interstate highway system was designed to make this country great – not line the pockets of greedy politicians and their cohorts.  The foliage hadn’t changed – my plans hadn’t changed – and yet here I am in a confrontational mood while driving through one of the most beautiful spots on earth. In the span of an hour I went from feeling amazement and deep gratitude to anger.   

     It took me about fifteen minutes to catch myself.  Then I had to laugh.  I left on this journey two years ago with a tank of gas and $190.  God has shown up at every turn – countless times I have been down to my last couple of dollars and have chosen to put it in an offering basket, bought a homeless person a sandwich or put it in a Ronald McDonald house collection basket.  Long ago I made the decision that I no longer place my trust in money – I trust God.  And God shows up every time, in ways that never cease to amaze me.  If God wanted me to visit family on my way back to the Carolinas, it doesn’t matter what it cost.  It would have been provided – and indeed I had the monies I needed for the trip.  So why do I get upset?  Why do I even begin to care about something so trivial when my needs are always met?

     We are all capable of “righteous indignation,” and we are all capable of using it as a blunt instrument to bludgeon others with if we have the opportunity.  But who does the club strike first?  And last?  And every time in between?  It is me that suffers most.  And here I was – for the first and perhaps only time in my life passing through the most beautiful spot on the planet this time of year blinded by ingratitude.  I am glad I have matured enough to catch it quickly and was able to enjoy the rest of the scenery. 

Today, may I be present.

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Enjoy today!!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wanna know what I think of you?

Land's End, Maine

“You cannot un-ring a bell.”  -  David Wallace

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  -  Abraham Lincoln

     One of the writing techniques I have developed is to move on to a new town before I write about the one I have just gathered information on.  This seems to give me a degree of detachment that helps with perspective.  I usually choose a quiet corner in a local restaurant and spend two or three days editing photos and putting articles together.  This also gives me a chance to sit and listen to the conversations of the locals, which often gives a bit of the flavor of the new area I am going to be working on.

      I arrived in a fairly impoverished mid-sized town and found a McDonalds that is heavily frequented during the breakfast hours.  The restaurant is also situated close to the projects, the local high school and the homeless shelter, so quite a cross section of life comes through its door.

     A number of the area's homeless congregate around the outside of the restaurant in the morning, and those that have managed to put together a little money buy and share breakfast with the others.  I got to know a dozen or so of them and had been having conversations with them for three days running.  I met a woman and her 15 year old son who have been spending their nights in the shelter for the last 8 months since she had left her abusive spouse.  She has a part time job as a cashier at a convenience store but it is not enough to pay for an apartment and they are on a waiting list for a place in the projects.  I met a couple who are mentally challenged – folks that would have been institutionalized before we shut down the mental health facilities in the early 1980’s.  I met several who refuse to stay at the shelter or go to the soup kitchens – their pride keeps them from taking any handouts.  In the cold months they “live in snow banks” and find odd jobs when they can and eat out of dumpsters when no work is available.  I met several Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who were shuffled out of the military after their service and cannot find work.  I did my best to share love and hope with each one – and they all responded warmly to someone who not only didn’t judge them, but treated them as equals.

     After one of these conversations I sat back down in the dining room and went back to work.  I was aghast at the conversations of the men gathered there.  They were bitterly complaining that “their tax dollars” were going to support these worthless bums.  They lewdly speculated about the sex life of the woman I had just talked to.  After more ridicule and profanity, the conversation moved on to immigration, how our president is a communist and how much of a burden it is to be as intelligent as they are and have to deal with being able to see life’s problems so clearly.  Then they moved on to the female broadcasters on their favorite “news station” and speculated about their sex lives.  It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut – I bit my tongue several times.

      Later I asked the manager about the several dozen men who come in each morning.  He told me they are all boat captains who went out of business when the fishing industry died.  I asked him what they were living on, and he said the government made big settlements to boat captains a few years back.  I asked what happened to all the fishermen and he said those that couldn’t find other work are homeless.  Armed with this new information I felt I now had an edge on the fisherman and could pridefully avoid commenting on their conversations in the future.

     The point here is not about the fishermen whose deep fears of inadequacy cripple their brains.  It is not whether or not the homeless could perhaps find a way out – or in - if they applied themselves.  It is about why I feel I need to get judgmental about those who are being judgmental.  Does this not put me on their same level?  Can’t I find the same compassion for the spiritual illness of the coffee crowd as I do for the homeless?  Or even a small degree of it?

     The answer is no – not yet.  But I have matured enough to be able to keep my mouth shut when I cannot speak from love and compassion.  Usually.  Perhaps one day I will be able to accept each and every person as being the best they know how to be.  Maybe in time I will come to a point that my detachment will allow me to say kind things that motivate everyone I encounter.  And maybe I won't ever achieve that.  In the meanwhile I can at least keep my mouth shut when opening it will do more harm than good.

Today may I be prudent.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wanna make me mad?

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

“People rarely succeed unless they enjoy what they are doing.”  -  Dale Carnegie

“It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes life worth living.”   -  Oliver Wendell Holmes

      I was working on a story on shipbuilding, and was given a contact at a local company that builds boats.  I called the woman at the company and we agreed to meet at 8:00 the next morning.  I arrived a half hour early to get some sunrise photos, and as I was taking some photos of the harbor and the outside of the building, an older man walked out of the shop and approached me.   “Who might you be?” he inquired.  I explained that I was working on a story on ship building, told him who I had the appointment with and gave him one of my cards.  Given his comportment, I asked him “Are you one of the names on the sign?” and pointed to the business’s sign post.  “You might say that” he harrumphed, handed me back my business card and stalked off.   Later the woman appeared and we spent a couple of hours together touring the operation.  She later asked me if her dad had been rude to me – I hadn’t known she was one of the owner’s daughters.  I replied “no” and she glanced at me skeptically.  But it was let go there - nothing more was said on the topic.

     I got to thinking about it later – you could definitely say the man was rude to me.  But I was totally unaware of it at the time – it took reflecting back on it later to see that I could have felt slighted.  And had I engaged in his negativity with him, where would that have gone?  At a minimum I would have talked bad about him to his daughter - at worst I would have gotten in his face and not had to worry about an article on modern ship building.

     But I had taken the time to pray and meditate that morning and was enthusiastic about the sunrise and the prospect of writing about another topic I know little about.  It wasn’t until hours later when I reflected back on the encounter that I realized I could have been offended if I had chosen to be.

     Once we mature enough to start living in reality, we come to accept things as they are.  Fully accepting each moment and what it brings is the only path to awareness and serenity.  But this is just the first step out of negativity – there are a couple more steps to take and they come with many benefits.

     When we choose to accept things and make the conscious decision that we are going to get engaged and enjoy them we find a whole new level of being – enthusiasm.  The root of the word itself is “en theos” – meaning “in the spirit.”  It is defined as an intense level of enjoyment, so we can look at it as building upon the base we have established by learning to live in the moment.  And one thing is for sure – when we are enthusiastic we are firmly rooted in this current moment.  So what does it take to have enthusiasm?

     For me the basic component is gratitude.  I mean gratitude in the sense of a state of being – not just thankfulness.  For me it happens when I am intuitively connected with God, fully aware of my path and of the mindset that the world I find myself in isn’t just grounds for enjoyment, it is an amazing and fascinating thing.  It is the mindset that drives me to show up for life, knowing that if I am following the path God will provide me with much richer experiences than I can cook up on my own.  And for me this brings about the additional state of curiosity – I want to see and experience as much of this incredible life that I can.

     There is a big side effect to taking the actions necessary to reach this state of mind.  My negativity doesn’t just seem to subside – it seems to vanish.  And, most incredibly, the negativity of those around me vanishes as well.  Well, I say their negativity vanishes – either it vanishes or they vanish.  It seems a person who is stubbornly clinging to their negativity cannot stand to be in the presence of one who is “in the spirit.” 

     And so I feel empathy for the man.  For whatever reason, at that moment on that day he was entirely missing life and the opportunities each moment presents. He could not see the blaze of color in the sky that was welcoming the morning sun.  He could not see the man in front of him who was willing to connect and be a true friend for life.  He could not see anything – he was blinded by whatever part of his ego had determined that he needed to be afraid today.  So I can say a little prayer that he finds the experiences necessary to bring him to the point of letting go of it all and move on.   And I can hope that one day he too realizes that enthusiasm is the best antidote to negativity – in all its forms.

Today may I engage.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

What are you gonna fix?

Kennebunkport Maine
"When one realizes that one is asleep - at that moment one becomes halfway awake."  P.D. Uspensky

"Your greatest awakening comes when you become aware of your infinite nature."  -  Amit Ray

     I have encountered addiction and its effects in many ways on this journey.  I walked in on a drunken man in an expensive suit snorting cocaine in the bathroom of the multimillion dollar clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass and I helped a couple of hippies who had been drinking mushroom tea find their campsite in the Ocala National Forest.  A man who let me stay with him a few days woke up in the night from a drunk to pee in the corner of the living room as I sat editing photos.  I cried for a woman who had spread her son’s ashes over a favorite waterfall.  There are countless more – some tragic and some a bit humorous.  We are all aware of them if we choose to see.  The thing that they all have in common is that the user seeks to feel in harmony - to somehow feel that life makes sense and that they are living in the moment comfortable in their own skin.  But there are no shortcuts to spiritual awakening.

   From the spiritual perspective, is addiction to a substance really any different than excessive reliance on food, power, money, sex, politics, television, high risk or excessive athletic pursuits, religion, video games or anything else used as a distraction from or a shortcut to living in the present moment?   If the purpose of this life is to spiritually awaken and come to develop a relationship with our creator, can we really say that any of these are more or less harmful than any of the others?   Every distraction provides some short term relief from ourselves but when abused they all carry a price tag far greater than the benefit they give.  Granted, drugs and alcohol come with side effects that are easier to recognize and seemingly more devastating.  But if awakening as a spirit is our true job in this life, does it really matter which distraction we allow to block us?

    Our particular society often glamorizes the greedy, the power hungry and those that push themselves to and beyond the limits of their physical capabilities.  We are led to believe that these are the role models we should aspire to emulate.  It would be tempting to stand in judgment, but who among us is in the position to do so?  Would we have been motivated to pursue the spiritual path had we not discovered the vanity of such pursuits first hand?  But how are we to find a way to function in this madness without being judgmental?  

     As we continue to mature spiritually we find a number of things to be true.  Unsolicited advice never works and being judgmental of others only points out our own spiritual weakness.  We have compassion and empathy but if we allow ourselves to be drawn too far into other’s negativity we end up being pulled down rather than elevating anyone.  So we learn to honor and respect others for who and what they are, and to truly comprehend that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.  We learn that although it seems uncomfortable at the time, drawing clear boundaries saves much misery in the long run.  

     If we are indeed spirits having a human experience then this world is exactly as it should be.  Growth only comes from pain and strife – without it none of us are motivated to sustained growth.  We are saddened by the endless varieties of self-inflicted misery mankind indulges in but we realize that this is the fuel that stokes the flames of awakening and enlightenment.  We stand ready to be of service to anyone genuinely in need or sincerely seeking spiritual growth but we realize that we do a huge disservice if we stand in the way of another’s spiritual bottom.  We quit “playing God” and convincing ourselves that we know what is best for this world or anyone in it.  And we come to deeply appreciate and count among our most precious assets those few we meet along the path who have awakened from the slumber. 

Today, may I be realistic.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tell me all about you . . .

“Every time you victimized someone you were victimizing yourself.  Every act of kindness you have done, you have done to yourself.”  -  Andy Weir (The Egg)

“We don’t see things as they are – we see them as WE are.”  Anais Nin

“Sooner or later in life, we will all take our turn being in the position we once had someone else in.”  -  Ashly Lorenzana

     I read a short story by Andy Weir, the above quote having come from that piece.  In his story a man dies in an accident and finds himself confused with his surroundings.  He sees another man who explains things a bit to him.  I don’t do the tale justice, but in short he told him that the life he had just had was just another in a long string.  In fact, this universe had been made solely for him to awaken, and every person who ever lived or will live in this world were all just different versions of himself.  In life, he interacted with himself continually without having a clue that this was the case, and each different person was but a different manifestation of him.  He would have to keep at this until he achieved enough perfection to move to the next level as a spirit.  And, promptly, he was sent to live as an impoverished Chinese peasant girl.

     Now, at first blush this runs counter to all kinds of logical thought.  But a sign of a mature mind is being able to consider and weigh points of view without necessarily taking them on. 

     What was Jesus’s rule?  Do unto others - as you would have them – do unto you.  God is everything or God is nothing comes from the scientific point of view, and if he is indeed everything then by definition we are all different manifestations of the same entity.  Eastern thought says that the law of Karma dictates that whatever we give we will receive – mirrored by the St. Francis Prayer and other Judeo-Christian lines of thought.

     So, without accepting or rejecting the view-point, what would life look like if I were fully “awakened” and realized that every other person on this earth is just me experiencing a different lifetime?  How harshly judgmental would I remain?  How would I treat me as a confused teen in puberty who is acting out with body piercings and tattoos?  How would I treat me as the religious and political zealot who craves publicity for self-validation?  How would I treat me with Alzheimer’s and how would I treat me with AIDS?  How would I treat me as the manipulative boss and how would I treat me as a sniveling employee?  How would I treat me as a drug fueled prostitute and how would I treat me as a power mad police officer?  Would I then be able to see the underlying fears that were driving me and thus treat the other “myself” with gentleness and compassion?
      Perhaps the question is, how do I treat me as I am right now?  When I am at peace with myself and thus in the “zone” I can see the spirit in others and know that spirit intimately.  When I am in conflict with myself I see and judge the outward appearances and actions.  Whatever the truth is, isn’t it true that how I treat me is how I treat the world?  When I mistreat others isn’t it due to my own internal conflict that I am acting out on?  Isn’t what I criticize others for just a reflection of what I fear my own faults are?

     I wonder if I could spend one full day truly “doing unto others AS THOUGH THEY ARE ME.”  And I wonder what the outcome of that day would be?  Maybe I can just try it with the next person I interact with.  And in doing so, just maybe I will learn to be kind to me.

Today may I know oneness.

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Make it a great day !!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You stink !!

“I would rather be happy than dignified.”  -  Jane Eyre

“Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you.”  -  Andrew Murray

     I arrived in a New Hampshire town looking to find an aspect of the local community that is unique.  I had been working my way down the last stretch of the Maine coast the two days prior, and during my first two days in the town I had not been able to find a shower.  Usually there is a YMCA, a truck stop, a marina or a campground around, but even with some searching nothing was showing up.  I asked one fellow about it and he said you can get showers at the Salvation Army.  He said you have to be there between 7 and 9 am, sign in on a sheet and you get 15 minutes to use the bathroom.  So I woke up Monday morning with the intentions of going there, but found myself procrastinating.

     I let it pass – and now I find myself five days without a shower.  I am getting a bit ripe.  Later in the day I stopped in to a fitness center to see if I could use their showers for a couple of bucks, but they wanted $10.  I didn’t have that much money so I find myself heading into my sixth day without bathing.

    So I wake this morning and am going to head over to the Salvation Army, but again find myself coming up with excuses not to do it.  I dismissed whatever was bothering me and headed across town.

     When I arrived there was a check-in sheet, and as the Salvation Army’s mission is to feed and bathe people before they try to help them further, there were some of those “street people” about.  But that shouldn’t bother me – on the road I interact with street people all the time.  It wasn’t until I actually went to sign the sheet that I realized what was bothering me – I didn’t want to be seen as “one of those people.”  It shocked me – I thought I was beyond such notions.  And here I was ready to pay several dollars for a shower when one was to be had for free.

     I got my shower and hung around to interact with “those people” for a while.  One of the guys tells me that this area is renowned for its pottery makers and there is a show this week.  He gives me the name and number of a fellow who he claims is one of the best potters in New Hampshire, if not the nation.  Talking with someone else it turns out that this morning there is a meeting for local folks trying to broaden their horizons and improve themselves.  They find out my background and the next thing I know I am invited to be the speaker at this meeting. 

     After the meeting I find myself spending an hour talking with the Captain of this Salvation Army branch.  It turns out she is a fourth generation “soldier” in this work -  her great-grandmother, her grand-mother, her mother and now she all have committed themselves to helping the least fortunate in their communities.   I further learn that her sister and brother-in-law are involved in several great new Salvation Army projects in Boston, where I intend to be in two weeks.  Once again, the doors open up to new contacts, I meet some new friends and I am directed toward two new subjects to learn about.
     In the process of all of this I am handed a few slices of pizza and given a whole apple pie.  I am eating that pie as I write this.  So I guess the moral of this story is: 

     Judging people and being prideful stinks, but getting over my fears is sweet.

Today, may I be who I am.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So you made a big decision?

Sculpture named "unpack" by Andy Rosen in Portland, Maine

"Addiction isn't about substance - you aren't addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood the substance brings."  -  Susan Cheever

"Silence is foolish if we are wise, but wise if we are foolish."  -  Epectetus

     I learned that a woman who had put me up for a couple of days some weeks a couple of months prior was having trouble closing on a house.  I have worked both as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent in the past, so I thought I might be of some assistance.  As we got talking on the phone she confided that she was having a terrible time getting off of a drug called Lexapro.  She had prescribed it ten years ago, and had been stepping down her doses.  A couple of weeks before she had come off of it entirely.

     She had an out of town conference to attend so I agreed to watch her dogs for a few days.  I hadn't really known the depths of her struggle until she returned and we had a chance to talk.  One of the side effects of withdrawing is a short-term depression so severe that suicidal ideations are the norm.  Horrible feelings of inadequacy and a deep craving for something - anything - had had her in its grips.  

    Ten years ago she had sought medical help for a deep lethargy and occasional hand tremors.  After some tests a Dr. had diagnosed her with Parkinson's disease.  She and her husband had just recently bought their dream house on a lake in Maine.  He had always been a heavy drinker, heavy enough that she had sought help in Al-Anon, the program for spouses and children of alcoholics.  He couldn't deal with having to live with someone who was going to deteriorate from a debilitating disease, so he left and they divorced.  She couldn't afford the house by herself so the dream home went too.
     For ten years she had been on these heavy medications that wipe out all of the finer human emotions.  Oddly her Parkinson's didn't progress, so late last year she sought help from another Doctor. New tests came back positive - for a tick borne condition called Lyme's disease.  It was subsequent to this finding that she decided she had to get herself off of the meds that were making keeping her all bottled up, and with the help of the new doctor was weaning herself off of them.

     The next day we went to look at the house she was trying to buy.  There was a situation with the down payment monies - she had given them $20,000 down that she had borrowed from a friend in anticipation of an inheritance she had coming later this year.  The mortgage broker was asking for another $1,800 down payment, which she wouldn't have for another month.  I knew that even if the seller wouldn't make a concession for the monies there was more than enough commission between the agent and the broker to easily cover the shortage.  They wouldn't let the deal go if she just stuck to her guns.

     That night we sat talking with an old friend of hers - a fellow that genuinely cares about her welfare.  He was concerned that she was acting out of character of late and questioned her hard on her decision to buy this house.  He said it ran completely counter to everything she had been saying for the last few years.  It soon became apparent that her decision making had been severely compromised by the withdrawals.  She had gotten herself into something that would be an anchor around her neck for many years to come.  And she had done it from a position of despair - she had been feeling so bad that she wanted something - anything to make her feel better.  At the time buying a house seemed like a good way to fill the void, and of course sales-people make quick friends when one is spending money.

     So, in a complete reversal, the next day we set about unwinding the mortgage deal.  We wrote a couple of emails, and although we had ample grounds to blame the mortgage broker we decided that she would take full responsibility for backing out of the deal.  In no time the real estate agent was back in touch saying that they could overcome that $1,800.  But the mortgage broker sent her a note back thanking her for her candor - grateful I am sure that she had not thrown them under the bus.

     The next week and a half saw her feeling better and better as she moved further away from the worst withdrawal symptoms of the drug.  She also got relief from the anxiety associated with buying a house and moving.  She later confided in me that her despair was such that if she hadn't had the al-anon program she is sure that she would have taken her own life.  

     There are a bunch of lessons in this experience.  First and most obvious is the horrible grip that drugs get on us.  It doesn't matter if your drug comes from a Harvard trained doctor or a street corner junkie.  A drug is a drug and they have profound effects on all of us.  I am not saying that we should not trust doctors, but it is our health and it is our body.  Before we take anything we need to educate ourselves about what it is, why we are taking it and what unanticipated baggage it brings along.  

     Second, when we are severely compromised emotionally we have to find a way to avoid making major decisions.  In fact that should be something we resolve and are diligent about.   

     Third is the friend that was concerned enough that he set a time to meet with her and express his concern.  How often do we see someone doing something we think is foolish and just let it pass by?  And if someone else questions our decision making, aren't we quick to view it as an attack on ourselves and become more even more resolved to move forward with our bad decision?  Without his willingness to confront and his gentle nature in doing so she would have acted completely against her self-interest - and I would have been her accomplice !!  But it is the friendships she had cultivated that provided the means to pull her through a potentially disastrous situation.  

     For me personally the biggest lesson is that when God nudges us into service we often don't truly know God's will until the situation unfolds.  If we decide to be a crusader and charge in on a white horse we can do irreparable harm in someone's life - fully convinced we are some kind of savior.  In this case the pathway became apparent and no harm was done, but that may not always be the case.  

Today, may I know prudence.

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Make it a great day !!