Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So, you wanna help me?

Myrtle Beach, SC

“Doing the will of God allows no time for disputing his plan.”  -  George MacDonald

“The only expenditure, and all its outworkings, for which God can be held to be responsible is that which he directs.”  -  Amy Carmichael

      I am learning that there are distinctly different modes of being helpful to my fellow man.  There are niceties, service and then there is following God’s will.

     We all perform niceties.  I define a nicety as doing something for someone else that they are fully capable of doing for themselves, but I am making a conscious decision to do it as an act of kindness.  This may be mowing someone’s yard when we know they are busy, taking care of their pets when they are away or any of thousands of others.  The thing with niceties is that if I have expectations of some payback or if I have the subconscious notion that somehow the person is going to be indebted to me or think I am a hero, the end result of having done it is that I feel worse than if I had never done it at all.  Niceties are great for building relationships, but they must be expectation free.

     Then there is being of service to others.  I define service as doing for someone else what they are incapable of doing for themselves.  Service may range from something as mundane as teaching someone how to garden to performing hospice and allowing them to die in their own home with dignity.  With service, I have developed expectations, but they are not anything like they used to be.  When I perform service for others, I always gain the benefit of clearing space in my own head and attaining perspectives that were previously out of reach to me.  So my expectation of service is that it will create a gap large enough in my thinking that I can hear the intuitive voice or that I will distance myself enough from my current circumstance that I will gain perspective.

     Although I am convinced that it is “God’s Will” in an overall sense that I perform both niceties and service, there are other times that I get the clear intuitive message to help a specific person.  For some reason I am usually reluctant when the situation presents itself to me as I already have an agenda going that I am convinced is “God’s Will.”  But every time I follow that prodding, God replaces whatever I thought I had with something much better.  Examples abound; here is a specific one.

     I had myself lined up to do a story on the airplane pilots who tow the advertisement banners along the coast.  I wanted some aerial photos of Myrtle Beach to go with a story, and although the planes fly out of my equipment’s range when they are towing, I could get some shots as we headed out and came back.

     I was lined up to fly with a fellow at ten am one morning.  That morning I got up and went to a meeting at a local church I had heard about.  At the meeting I met a fellow visiting from out of town who was there trying to help his mother out of a fix she was in.  It was clear I was supposed to take some time with the fellow and talk to him, but this meant losing my chance to go up in the plane.

     I reluctantly went ahead and spent the time with the fellow.  We walked on the beach and I listened to him for an hour or so, and was able to share a bit of experience I have had with similar situations.  At 9:30 the banner company guy called and said there was a problem with the plane and he wasn’t going up.  The fellow I was with caught on to the conversation, and asked me about it.  I explained it to him, and he said “My uncle flies helicopters out of here – right up the street.  Want to see if he can get you up?”  45 minutes later I am up in a helicopter getting the close up shots of the main drag that I wanted.

     Now, we can say this is coincidence, but when it happens every time and time after time at some point we exceed the mathematical bounds of what we call “coincidence.”  When God calls me to do something specific and I follow through, he gives me a much better outcome than what I thought I was missing out on.  So I guess I have developed the expectation that when I am called on to do something, God knows my needs better than I do and will more than take care of them.  Am I setting myself up for disappointment?  Well, I have not been disappointed yet, and that makes me even more eager to do God’s work.  Maybe, just maybe, expectations are not always a dangerous thing.

Today, may I be willing.

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Make it a great day !!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

When running in circles is a good thing . . .

 "You cannot outgive God." - unknown

 "Skepticism is the beginning of faith."  -  Oscar Wilde

     A big revelation came to me a few years back when I was sitting in an intensive care unit with a critically injured friend.  I had been told he was not going to live through the night, so there I sat in a room utterly quiet but for the clicks and beeps of the large array of life support equipment.  In the middle of the night it dawned on me that at this stage of the game all this fellow had was what he had given to others.  It also struck me that he had not given very much.  So I resolved that from that point forward I we merely a steward of the things that came into my life and that from then on I would give freely of whatever is in my possession.  What I have found, time after time, is that you cannot out-give God.  

     Since that occasion, I have done much work to clear the noise out of my head so I can hear that intuitive voice and be of service in the ways that God wants me to.  I give a recent illustration of the circles of giving that result when we realize these things and take action on the intuitions we are given.

    I drove past a restaurant in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and had that intuitive feeling that I was supposed to stop there.  I turned around, drove back, went in and asked if I could use the Wifi. They gave me the password and let me use the end of the bar.  Before I was done writing that days article they closed, but told me they would leave on the Wifi and let me use the upper deck.  (Which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Croatan Sound on the other.)

     The next day I felt moved to do an article on what it take to run a restaurant in a summer vacation area, as the area I was in gets very little traffic besides the three summer months.  So I returned and interviewed the owners, which actually turned into a long conversation about how their spirituality has evolved, their relationship with God and all the things they are grateful for.

     In the process of this conversation a woman with a small child in her arms hesitantly approached us.  It turns out it was a waitress who was supposed to be coming in later that day for her first day on the job.  She said that she had a conflict with care for the child, and she would be fifteen minutes late, that she hated that but would it be ok?  The owners said it was fine, the woman looked relieved and left.

     Later, as I sat editing photos a couple visiting from Pennsylvania sat down beside me. The were upset because they had to return the next day and couldn't see the lighthouses because of the rain.  I asked them if they would like to see every lighthouse from Nags Head to Florida, and then showed them each one along with photos of the people who care for them and old stories about them.  They asked about my work, so I showed them what I am doing.  When they left the woman hugged me and gave me ten dollars.  "It isn't much," she said, "but I want you to have it."  I only had a couple of dollars and needed both cigarettes and gas, but as soon as she handed it to me I knew I was supposed to give the $10 to the new waitress.

    That evening I was interviewing a local vacation rental property business owner on the upper deck, and the new waitress asked if she could get us anything.  It was still raining and we were her only customers.  We got an iced tea, and after our meeting concluded I got up to go to another meeting I was attending.  It gave me the chance to give the new waitress the $10.

     Late that evening I returned to edit that days photos and write.  I sat up on the upper deck and as I got ready to start working, the woman who owns the restaurant brought me a huge plate of food, a pitcher of water and a greeting card. 

     On the inside of the card it says:  "Please use us as your "homebase" while here in the Outer Banks  - Rest and let us fill your water and cook for you."  Inside the card was a $100 bill.

    I want to make it clear that this story is not about money. I share this circumstance because it illustrates the bigger picture so clearly - when God asks us to give and we listen, we are repaid ten times over.  In this case because it is money it is easy to quantify the repayment. When we are following God's will, what is asked of us doesn't usually involve money.  We are asked to give kindness, an empathetic ear, understanding, solace, encouragement or more often assistance of one form or another, and were are given back the same many times over.   Usually, the circle doesn't close this quickly or apparently.  But the circle always closes.

    The important thing is that we follow the intuitive nudges with action and without using the occasion to put conditions on things or develop expectations. Then we watch the long term outcome of our decision with a discerning eye and and see if what others have told us about the spiritual path is true.  And for me, constant skeptic and previously staunch atheist, consistent demonstrations of that power at work over a long period of time have been the only path there could have been for me to attain the trust and faith I enjoy today.

Today, may I follow the nudges.

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Have an awesome day !!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where are you off to?

"Stay off the Buses !!"  -  Unknown

"If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts."  -  Alan Cohen

     A few weeks back I sat listening to a fellow talking about how he finds quiet within.  He envisions that he is sitting at a bus station at an oasis in the desert with buses coming and buses going.  (Buses represent trains of thought.)   He explained that a bus will come into the station and before he knows it he is ten miles down the road out in the middle of nowhere.  

     I have a friend that laughed about a train of thought that a pain in his knee that come on suddenly a while back.  He was walking across the kitchen and felt a sharp stabbing pain in his knee.  Between the kitchen table and the refrigerator, his thought process went from awareness of the pain to his uncle who had a knee go bad at about his age to the fact that his uncle died shortly thereafter to the notion that this all meant that he too was going to die soon.  You may think that example is extreme, but is it?

     On the road I find myself drifting and having to pull myself back all the time.  It can be as simple as trying to have a conversation with someone.  I find myself planning what I am going to ask or say next instead of really focusing on the person and the ideas they are trying to impart to me.  I can get stuck in the sand in the van and within five minutes have myself so worked up that I am doubting myself, doubting God and doubting that this life has any value.  

     I can get on whimsical buses too.  I can smell, see or hear something that reminds me of childhood circumstance, but after a few fond memories I am soon thinking about how I shouldn't have done this or should have done that - stuff 45 years ago !!  Meanwhile there are birds flitting about, flowers blooming, people interacting - a while world of opportunity that fades into obscurity while my neurons belch out sagas of negativity.

     It seems that every bus, regardless of what direction it seems to be starting off in, ends up taking us out into desolation - grandiosity, self pity, yearning desire, remorse, obsession - or any one of the other destinations that our heads take us to when we are not living in this moment.  The buses that run into the past seem to arrive at destinations like false pride or remorse.  Buses that run to future destinations seem to always end up in places with names like fantasy or anxiety.  

     Yeah, thinking can be of  value.  But have I ever had an original thought - one no one else has ever had?  When I look at my thoughts critically, I find that they are not the quests of abstraction that I fantasize they are.  Detached examination reveals that for the most part they are merely excursions into distraction.  For the most part, thinking is overrated.  I think.

     So, maybe - just maybe we can spend today sitting at the bus station without feeling the need to climb on any buses.  And when we realize that we have unwittingly climbed on one bus or another and find ourselves out in the middle of the wasteland, we don't have to try to analyze how or why we got on the bus.  We can just make the conscious decision to debark and get back to the only destination that is real - right here and right now.  And in the quietude of that space we just might find the clarity and the guidance we crave.

Today, may we be present.

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Carpe Diem !!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Who's got your goat?

      (If you do not get the daily articles I write, go to www.captureamerica.co or email me and I will add you to the mailing list.)

"Every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.  If someone hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also."  - William Wilson

"I refuse to give others rent-free space in my head."  Debbie DeJong

     A while back I stopped into a fish packing plant to take photos and gather information for an article.  I arrived shortly after daybreak - besides the owner and the manager, none of the other workers were there.  They had two boats to unload that day, and prospects were good for getting photos that accurately depicted what the work was all about.  About eight o'clock the workers arrived and started getting ready to unload the ship and pack the fish for shipment to auction.  Work soon commenced, and I was able to capture each step of the way.

     Within an hour it was clear that they were short handed.  Baskets of fish that needed packed in boxes were backing up, and I heard the owner ask a local crab fisherman if he felt like working in the packing house for a day.  The fisherman told him no way - his work was hard enough.  I asked if he wanted me to help, and with a relieved look he asked if I would start shoveling ice.

     There were over 7 tons of fish that had to make their way into big cardboard boxes, and I started shoveling a layer of ice into each empty box, then putting a layer of ice atop the fish after they went in, then packing down the ice and putting lids on the boxes.  We finished that ship about noon, and right on its heels another pulled up to the dock.  This one was finished about four pm - so I had shoveled ice steadily for at least six hours.

     About four thirty I sat down - a good bit worn out.  After a few minutes the ice delivery truck came and I walked over to get a few shots.  "We have work to do around here" said the owner.  "Haven't you gotten what pictures you need yet?  Its time to move down the road" he said to me.

     I was initially a bit surprised, but maintained my composure and merely replied that I just needed a few more shots.  I hung around for another five minutes or so, took a few photos of the delivery truck and went on my way.

     Now, I had not asked for money, and even though it is always in short supply on the road I felt more like I was just doing the right thing by helping than expecting to be compensated.  But as soon as he said that the thoughts started - I could have easily fired off my mouth and developed a long term resentment against this man.  And my resentment would not have hurt him a bit - he would have laughed about how he got over on me for some free labor and then booted me down the road.

     Yes, people do and say things that can get our goat - and we can feel fully justified in our resulting anger.  But we have choices.  I choose to believe that others are doing the best they can with what they have.  I believe we are spirits having a human experience - each with our own path.  Yes, our paths cross, but our journeys ultimately are solitary affairs.  And when someone "wrongs me" like this I can look at the underlying spiritual laws and feel empathy for them rather than anger.  You see, if I give freely, you cannot steal from me.  And even if you could, everything comes full circle like a boomerang and you will pay your own price for your deceit - whether you ever become aware of it or not.  On the other side of the coin, I find that I cannot outgive God, and when I give freely of myself I always receive more than I gave.

     And so I bear no grudge for this man, and I don't have any thoughts that I wish I hadn't helped him or hopes that somehow he is retaliated against.  I am free to move down the road, and in fact later that very evening a man asked me if I wanted some work repairing a dock.  He paid me well, in cash, and several times over the next few days people went out of their way to buy me meals with no prompting from me.  I am free, but if my experience from my days of spiritual sickness are any indicator, he is still convinced that he has to do unto others before they do to him.  I don't wish that on him - it is a lonely and miserable way to live.

      Each of us is capable of and responsible for maintaining our own peace of mind.  We each alone - as an individual and fully by ourselves - determine if we live in peace or chaos.  Let's do ourselves a favor and choose to live today in freedom.

Today, may I opt for peace.  

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