Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If you ever . . .

 “..Threats cannot provide a solution to a problem.  They only exacerbate feeling and make a clash inevitable.”  -  Stafford Cripps 

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”  -  Marcus Aurelius 

     Recently a man confided some of his fears about his marriage to me.  He and his wife have raised their children and are now that that fifty-something stage of catching a breath.  The last two years they have gone to counseling, and he shared an exchange during a recent session that caught my attention.

     It seems that for the last couple of years his wife has taken to sleeping away her days and eating lots of food.  Any attempts at rousing herself are short-lived, and when the subject comes up she resorts to wailing and self-flagellation.  This has caused significant problems and come up numerous times with the counselor.  But regardless of what conversation is had or agreements are reached or actions he takes, the behavior persists.  In the last counseling session he stated that this is unacceptable.  “Well, what are you going to do about it?” inquired the counselor, mirrored shortly thereafter by his wife. 

     The man’s response is what gave me pause.  He told the counselor and his wife that once anyone crosses the threshold of making threats in a relationship, there is no going back to a mutuality.  He didn’t get married to be a father figure or someone’s “boss.”  He married to enter into a partnership and regardless of how much goading his wife or the counselor do he is unwilling to make threats and thus put the relationship and himself on treacherous footing. 

     The first thing that struck me is the man’s wisdom about relationships.  Having an illusion that we can control other people is just as na├»ve as buying into the illusion of ownership in the material realm.  The more we are the “boss” of someone the more we tie ourselves down with responsibility for them and the less self-reliant they become.  Any short term “results” won through intimidation boomerang as the person finds a way to “get even” with us.  Being a “king” or even a “boss” is not something a spiritually mature person aspires to.

     So when we are letting someone know that we don’t approve of their actions, what are our options?  We can leave, but if and when we return the problem is still there.  That leaves just a few options.  We can point out the natural consequences of one’s behavior, we can draw boundaries in the relationship or we can make threats.  Is there ever a circumstance that making a threat is the most effective tool?  Perhaps Webster’s will be helpful. 

     A boundary is a line that marks the limit of a subject or a sphere of activity.  A consequence is something that logically or naturally follows from an action or a condition.  A threat is a statement of intent to inflict pain, injury, damage or other hostile action on another as retribution for something done or not done. 

     To threaten then is simply to menace someone with a promise of revenge.  Yes, a promise – a promise that given the right set of circumstances we will engage in some action with the motive of retaliation.  We thus put ourselves in a box – even if the action we ultimately take is the correct action, we have created a negative motive for doing it.  And “living in a threatening environment” is sure to give the other party plenty of justification for the self-pity they need to CONTINUE their negativity.  At best threats are a crude tool, and strong arguments can be made that they are NEVER the most effective option.

     That leaves us the options of pointing out natural consequences, drawing boundaries and removing ourselves from the situation.  If our intent is to be of maximum service to God and our fellows our answers will eventually become clear.  And we can remember that no matter how bad our situation, there is no circumstance that a kind word won’t improve and a hostile attitude make worse.

Today, may I be choose my words carefully. 

Have a great day !!

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Friday, August 7, 2015

So, you want to fly?

"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."  -  Helen Keller

"The moment you doubt you can fly you cease to be able to do it."  -  Peter Pan

     We have a guest author for today's reflection - Rico Byam.  I met Rico aboard the Schooner Heritage out of Rockland Maine.  The lessons in his story are self explanatory.


     In over fifteen years of flying and taking people for rides, no one, other than an examiner, has ever asked to see my airman’s certificate . . .until now. There in front of me stood this petite, blonde, ten-year-old deaf girl asking me, through her interpreter, if I had a license. Her name was Ashley.

     I was working as a volunteer for Challenge Air, a non-profit organization that makes aviation experiences available to physically challenged individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to fly in a small plane. The local coordinator, John Lawson, had asked me to teach ground school on this beautiful, sunny, summer day in July 2000, and I agreed.  However, I was caught off guard, after one ground session, when Ashley asked if I would fly with her. I told her I would be happy to and started making the necessary preparations to leave my station and fly. But, before we headed out to the plane, she had a few questions. 

     Now, most people would be satisfied with an affirmative answer, concerning whether or not I had a license, but Ashley was thorough. She asked if she could see it. Obligingly, I pulled my airman’s certificate and flight instructor’s certificate from my wallet and showed them to her. She seemed satisfied; however, she had one more question. She signed to her interpreter, very quickly and quite intensely, something that made no sense to me, whatsoever. I looked at her interpreter and asked what Ashley wanted now. 

   “She wants to know if we can fly upside down.” 

     That was an easy one. I looked directly at Ashley and shook my head a definite “NO!” 

     She stared at me for a moment and then signed “OK.” I took that to be the end of negotiations, and we were off. 

     Ashley’s interpreter climbed into the back seat, good sport that she was, and I strapped Ashley into the right seat of John’s Cardinal. Although she could barely see over the panel in front of her, Ashley strained to see where we were and where we were going. There was no fear, just an intense desire to have the experience of flying an airplane. I was impressed with her curiosity and willingness to try something new. 

     During the takeoff roll, I motioned to Ashley to start pulling back on the yoke, as I crossed my arms over my chest. She looked at me with ever widening eyes, pointed at herself questioning, “Me?” I shook my head yes and made a gesture with my hands to show her how. She pulled timidly at first, but I kept making my signs of pulling on the yoke until she had enough force to get the airplane off the ground. I made a sign for her to look out of her side window. She seemed to stare out that window for the longest time, but when she looked back in my direction, the grin on her face would have put a Cheshire cat to shame. Ashley was flying!

     We climbed and turned and descended. I kept making signs for Ashley to push or pull or turn one way or another, all the time keeping my arms crossed over my chest, helping her with my feet. In her mind, she was doing it all, and that’s the way I wanted her to remember it. Her inability to hear was in no way an inhibition to see the world as eagles do. It made my heart soar to bring this experience to someone like her. I almost said “yes” when she asked again if we could fly upside down. I was enjoying myself as much as she was. After landing, the three of us had our pictures taken together in the plane, and then I went on to fly a couple of more folks who spend most of their time in wheelchairs. 

     With the day’s activities wrapping up, I was securing John’s plane when Ashley and her interpreter came over to say goodbye. I shook the woman’s hand and then looked at Ashley, expecting some sign language to express her gratitude. No hand signals this time. Ashley walked right up to me, grabbed me around the legs, and gave me the biggest hug she could. I didn’t need an interpreter for that one.

     For any pilot who has flown someone for the first time, there is no need to explain the feeling that goes with it. But for me, this went a step further. This child lacked the ability to hear and experience the roar of the airplane’s engine, the wind blowing past the windscreen, and the constant chatter on the radio that makes the experience complete for the hearing passenger. However, what I saw was a desire to experience

something new and not be limited by one missing sense. Her enthusiasm and joy were written all over her face and in her body language. Even her signs to her interpreter showed excitement and enthusiasm. I was thoroughly impressed with all of it, so much so that I took classes in American Sign Language. I wanted to tell more people like Ashley what it is like to fly above the earth . . . then, I wanted to show them.

Thanks Rico !!

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Make it a great day !!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Think you got it figured out?

“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.”  -  Meister Eckhart

“Our actions – and inaction – touch people we may never know and never meet all across the globe.”  -  Jacqueline Novogratz  
  Living an awakened life is not unlike weaving a tapestry. Turn a tapestry over sometime.  The reverse side, the side where all the work is done, resembles little more than a tangled maze of knots.  If we are following the path and trusting God to show us the next right thing to do, God will use us.  But we never get to see the full picture - we will go to our grave having little idea of the full implications of the actions we took in this realm.  But sometimes we do see a part of the picture – sometimes more clearly than we would like.

     I recently stopped in a town close to where I had just written a story, and found a quiet spot to sit for a few minutes.  I was convinced that I would be moving on down the road in search of another story momentarily.  A spiritually connected local man intuitively knew there was someone he was supposed to meet and sought me out.  Two weeks of remarkable experiences (and thus stories) resulted from him having put forth the effort to find and meet me.  He later said that he almost hadn’t listened – he almost hadn’t “shown up and sought me out.”  I wondered what it was that made him so willing to follow God’s intuitive nudges.  Later he told me a story that is quite instructive.

     Twenty five years ago this man had gotten a nudge that he refused to follow.  He has been involved for years in the prison ministry and has helped numerous men get on their feet after release, including many that he allowed to live with him in his own home.  One evening several people were getting together to play some music, one of them being a man that had been released not so long before.  After the man didn’t show up at the appointed hour, he felt a strong urge to go to the man’s house and check on him.  In spite of the notion being strong and recurring, he wanted to be with the guys that were playing music.  So he let it go.

     Later that night it bothered him, and was still troubling him the next day.  While he was at work, news came over the radio that there had been a murder-suicide in the town.  The radio did not release any names or details, but he knew in his heart it was that man.  He called the coroner, who he was friends with, and got the confirmation.  Late the night before the man had shot his wife and committed suicide.

     The next weekend he went to a spiritual retreat at a Christian camp.  On a wall hung a painting of Jesus.  He was struck to the core as he looked into the eyes of the image.  There was no margin of error in the message that shook him – God said “You need to listen to me and heed what I say when I ask you to take action.”

     Later, after the couple was buried, the man’s son came to visit and gave him a painting his father had done.  Written below the man’s name on the back of the painting are the simple words: “Died 7/10/1990” followed by the name of the town.  (The painting and the text on the rear are the image at the beginning of this reflection.)

     That painting hangs prominently on a wall that this man cannot avoid seeing as he leaves his house each day.  On another wall is a saying that in part says “I will never again have the opportunity to live this day.  What price will I pay for it?”  Every day since he has decided that he will follow that voice, and indeed, had he not, he and I would never have met.

     Being of the Christian bent, some of the words of the bible speak clearly to him.  Be hot or be cold, but don’t be lukewarm or I will spew thee out of my mouth. 

     The message for me in this was clear.  I work hard to hear the voice clearly – in fact I put myself in hazardous life situations with perfect peace and comfort because I have found that what God leads me to he will lead me through.  I talk often of the serenity and joy that come from the journey.  I talk about all of the marvelous things that come into my life as a result of following the intuitive voice and the guidance of others who are connected.  But I don’t talk about the things I miss or the negative consequences that result from the times I choose to ignore the voice.  I have been blissfully unaware of them, but it might not always be so.  If I am going to offer myself as a channel to God I had better remain willing, because it might not be just me who pays the consequences when I choose to ignore the call.

Today may I be reliable. 
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Let's be where our feet are today !!