We are they that go, that go,
Plunging before the hidden blow.
We run the byways of the earth,
For we are fugitive from birth,
Blindfolded, with wide hands abroad
That sow, that sow the sullen sod.
We cannot wait, we cannot stop
For flushing field or quickened crop;
The orange bow of dusky dawn
Glimmers our smoking swath upon;
blindfolded still we hurry on.
How do we know the ways we run
That are blindfolded from the sun?
We stagger swiftly to the call,
Our wide hands feeling for the wall.
Oh, ye who climb to some clear heaven,
By grace of day and leisure given,
Pity us, fugitive and driven --
The flexible whip curling on our track,
The headlong haste that looks not back!
~ Florence Wilkinson
Do you ever feel that life is just one long routine day after another? You wake up, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, head off to work, and blah, blah, blah,. Well, if one more day of the "same ol' stuff" makes you feel cranky, it might be time for a spontaneity break.
Now I know that the idea of scheduling a spontaneity break sounds like a contradiction in terms, but when you consider how our society lives and thrives by the clock, it makes sense. Too often we fall into the trap of believing that life will become easier and more meaningful when we get really good at living and acting efficiently. But schedules, clocks, and well-planned time can squash our creative spirit--the part of us that thrives on spontaneous, open-ended time.
As creative beings, we all need periods of time to live spontaneously without commitments or distractions. By creating the space to live in the moment, we strengthen the connection to our inner wisdom and give ourselves a much-needed rest from the routine of day-to-day living.
Take an afternoon or evening and give yourself the gift of time free from appointments or obligations. Do whatever comes to mind in the moment.
~ Cheryl Richardson
Moods are part of the human condition. When you're in a high mood, life looks good. You have perspective and common sense. In high moods, things don't feel so hard, problems seem less formidable and easier to solve. In a high mood, relationships flow easily and communication is easy and graceful.
In low moods, life looks unbearably serious and hard. You have little perspective; it seems as if people are out to get you. Life seems to be all about you and your feelings. You take things personally and often misinterpret the people around you.
Rather than staying stuck in a low mood, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment when you're in this state. When you are in a low mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time, if you leave it alone and avoid giving it too much attention.
With an understanding of moods, we can learn to be appreciative of our highs and graceful in our lows. When we understand the power that our moods have on our perspective, we will no longer need to react to them or be victims of them. Things will eventually appear to us very differently if we just let them be, for now.
~ Richard Carlson
When Robert Morrison set out in 1807 as the first Protestant missionary to China he had to travel by way of America as the East India Company, which had the monopoly of the trade with India and the East, refused to allow missionaries to travel to India or China in any British vessel.
His American host records this incident when they visited the captain of the ship on which he was to sail…
‘We set out together to the counting house of the ship owner previous to his embarkation. I cannot forget the air of suppressed ridicule on the merchant’s face and in his speech and manner towards Morrison, whom he appeared to pity as a deluded enthusiast, while he could not but secretly respect his self-denial, devotion, courage and enterprise.
When all business matters were arranged, he turned about from his desk and with a sardonic grin addressing Morrison said, “And do, Mr. Morrison, you really expect that you will make an impression on the idolatry of the great Chinese Empire?” “No sir,” said Morrison, with more than his usual sternness, “I expect God will.”’
Compiled from Phyllis Garlick, Pioneers of the Kingdom
The story of how the Great Plague of London reached the village of Eyam in Derbyshire:
‘This is a lovely place between Buxton and Chatsworth, perched high on a hill-side, and shut in by another high mountain…At that time lead works were in operation in the mountains, and the village was thickly inhabited. Great was the dismay of the villagers when the family of a tailor, who had received some patterns of cloth from London, showed symptoms of the plague in its most virulent form, sickening and dying in one day.
The rector of the parish, the Rev. William Mompesson, was still a young man, and had been married for only a few years… (He) wrote to London for the most approved medicines and prescriptions; and he likewise sent a letter to the Earl of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, to engage that his parishioners should exclude themselves from the whole neighborhood, and thus confine the contagion within their own boundaries, provided the Earl would undertake that food, medicines, and other necessaries, should be placed at certain appointed spots, at regular times, upon the hills around, where the Eyamites might come, leave payment for them, and take them up, without holding any communication with the bringers, except by letters, which could be placed on a stone, and then fumigated, or passed through vinegar, before they were touched with the hand. To this the Earl consented, and for seven whole months the engagement was kept.
Mr. Mompesson represented to his people that, with the plague once among them, it would be so unlikely that they should not carry infection about with them, that it would be selfish cruelty to other places to try to escape amongst them, and thus spread the danger. So rocky and wild was the ground around them, that, had they striven to escape, a regiment of soldiers could not have prevented them. But of their own free will they attended to their rector’s remonstrance, and it was not known that one parishioner of Eyam passed the boundary all that time, nor was there a single case of plague in any of the villages around…
Day and night the rector and his wife were among the sick, nursing, feeding, and tending them with all that care and skill could do; but in spite of all their endeavors’…259 people, among them the Rector’s wife, died of the plague but the infection did not spread to any other parish.
Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), from A Book of Golden Deeds
Someone asked me once why I paint so many houses and cottages with warm, glowing windows. At first I didn't know what to say. After all, how does an artist explain why he paints what he does?
I've thought a lot about that question, though, and now I think I have an answer. I paint glowing windows because glowing windows say home to me. Glowing windows say welcome. They say all is well. They say that someone's waiting, someone cares enough to turn a light on.
For a person like me, who grew up in a single-parent household and often had to come home to an empty house, that "someone's home" glow is irresistible. It draws the eye like a brightly wrapped present, a promise of wonderful secrets inside. Can you see a brightly lit window without even the smallest urge to go peek in, to see what the people are doing and what their lives are like? I can't either.
~ Thomas Kinkade
Abraham Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg: Lincoln was president of the United States of America during the Civil War. As a Christian statesman he hated war but believed it necessary to defeat the Southern States which had left the Union. He made this speech at the dedication of a cemetery where those killed in the battle of Gettysburg were buried.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far and above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work they have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain, that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Dedicatory Address at Gettysburg Cemetery, 19 November 1863.
Kindness should not stop with us—we can extend it outward from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our family, friends, and loved ones. This is relatively natural and effortless. But for loving kindness to be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know and even do not like. This includes people we may be having a hard time with, someone with whom communication is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger, resentment, or dislike.
When we are affected by someone being dismissive, critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a hook in us for that tension to grab hold of, a place where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate. However, when we extend kindness toward others outside our usual circle, an extraordinary thing happens: the landing place, or the hook within, begins to dissolve.
As a Burmese teacher once told author Andrew Harvey, "Out of compassion for myself, let me let go of all these feelings of anger and resentment toward others."
Prejudice can go very deep. It is only healed when we end the war within and accept those parts of ourselves we find so unacceptable. Then we will have the courage to accept those who are different from us, who have different beliefs, who are a different color, or who live differently. When we can tolerate ourselves, then we can be tolerable toward others and extend kindness to all... equally.
As Gandhi said, "We must widen the circle of our love until it embraces the whole village...until the scope of our love encompasses the whole world."
~ Ed and Deb Shapiro
One of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself is, "Do I want to be "right"—or do I want to be happy?" Many times, the two are mutually exclusive.
Being right, defending our positions, takes an enormous amount of mental energy and often alienates us from the people in our lives. Needing to be right—or needing someone else to be wrong--encourages others to become defensive, and puts pressure on us to keep defending. Yet, many of us (me, too, at times) spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to prove (or point out) that we are right—and/or others are wrong. Many people, consciously or unconsciously, believe that it's somehow their job to show others how their positions, statements, and points of view are incorrect, and that in doing so, the person they are correcting is going to somehow appreciate it, or at least learn something. Wrong!
The truth is, all of us hate to be corrected. We all want our positions to be respected and understood by others. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. And those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.
It's not that it's never appropriate to be right—sometimes you genuinely need to be or want to be. Perhaps there are certain philosophical positions that you don't want to budge on such as when you hear a racist comment. Here, it's important to speak your mind. Usually, however, it's just your ego creeping in and ruining an otherwise peaceful encounter—a habit of wanting or needing to be right.
A wonderful, heartfelt strategy for becoming more peaceful and loving is to practice allowing others the joy of being right—give them the glory. Stop correcting. As hard as it may be to change this habit, it's worth any effort and practice it takes.
When someone says, "I really feel it's important to. . . " rather than jumping in and saying, "No, it's more important to. . . " or any of the hundreds of other forms of conversational editing, simply let it go and allow their statement to stand. You'll discover the joy of participating in and witnessing other people's happiness, which is far more rewarding than a battle of egos.
~ Richard Carlson
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
What were the "trials" that James's readers were enduring? Poverty must certainly have been among them. James's letter is filled with references to poverty and wealth, and he makes clear that at least the majority of his readers are poor. James 2:6-7 makes pretty clear that unfair persecution was one of the causes of the poverty that the early Christians were experiencing. Rich people, who were "slandering" the name of Christ, were "exploiting" the Christians and "dragging them into court." See also 5:1-6, where James accuses rich people of "hoarding wealth in the last days" and "killing" the "innocent" by withholding wages from them.
By stressing that the trials were of "many kinds," James deliberately casts his net widely, including the many kinds of suffering that Christians undergo in this fallen world: sickness, loneliness, disappointment, mourning, uncertainty. Why can believers react to trials with so strange and unexpected a response as joy? Because we know that trials perfect our faith and make us stronger.
I like what Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament scholar and historian of early Christianity, points out about the trials we face: "The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith—heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord." The "testing of faith" here, then, is not intended to determine whether a person has faith or not—it is intended to purify faith that already exists.
Testing produces, first of all, perseverance (also interpreted "patient endurance"). The picture of the Greek word here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time; eventually steering
them in the right direction. Like a muscle that becomes strong when it faces resistance, so Christians learn to remain faithful to God over the long haul when they face trials of many kinds.
James believes we should rejoice because trials give us an opportunity to develop the virtue of "patient endurance," which will in turn lead to a mature and complete Christian character. This is how Christians are to live. This is not to say that we cannot call pain, pain; difficulty, difficulty. Paul makes it very clear that he could recognize pain, call it what it is, and experience it with the full depth of human anguish (1 Cor. 4:9-13). He also left us the example of fleeing from persecution when it was appropriate (Acts 17:10-14). Yet even in such situations he, with James, could look beyond them to "an eternal glory that far outweighs them all—reminding us to fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Coronavirus: Responding in Prayer:
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.
Heal us from our opinions, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, firmly hold our hand in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your comfort.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Christ Jesus our Lord, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your calming peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.
In all areas of life there seems to be pressure to accept the current edition, the newest thing-a-ma-jig as the superior. The argument of “newer-is-better” assumes that a modern idea should be preferred to an ancient one simply because it is modern. This way of thinking has a long history, going back at least to the Athenians of the Apostle Paul’s day who “liked to spend all their time telling and hearing the latest new thing” (Acts 17:21).
The peer pressure to keep up-to-date is powerful in our society. The results of this pressure can be seen all around us. Take the clothing industry for example. The stores today do not sell clothes (they do, I know, but stick with me). From a broader perspective what they are selling is fashion. Back when companies first started selling clothes, the fabric was extremely durable and designed to last for years (Levi jeans, for example). Clothing does not change; shirts, pants, coats, socks, etc. Fashion, however, changes from year to year and from season to season.
One resource I find myself still using on a regular basis is John Bartlett’s book of Familiar Quotations, first published in 1855. All of the quotes in the book you can probably find online, but what you won’t find is the underlined, smudged, paper smelling pages of my old companion. There is something beautiful about that book; timeworn with dignity.
I imagine every person will come face to face with this hard reality at some point in their lives—that newer doesn’t always mean better. Especially after years have gone by and we gift to one of our friends or relatives something of value. Whatever that item of value is, at one time, it meant a lot to us. And now, as we give it a new home, we hope it isn't just put on a shelf to collect dust. And why would someone do something like that? Well… it isn't new anymore.
It has been said, "We choose for marriage to be an expression of the grandest and highest love of which humans are capable." Then we proceed to construct a marriage institution and a marriage experience which produces exactly the opposite of that--virtually the lowest form of love of which humans are capable. A love that possesses rather than releases. A love that limits rather than expands. A love that owns rather than disowns. A love that makes virtually everything around it smaller rather than making everything around it larger.
We've created an experience of marriage that has nothing to do with love in far too many instances. We've created a holder, a shell, some kind of encasement. And that's what we want marriage to be. We want it to be an encasement that holds everything exactly where it was the moment we said, "I love you," and that holds us all exactly where we were in that first moment. But people and events move around. They change. Life is an evolution. And so marriage, as we have constructed it, works against the very process of life itself, because it provides very little breathing room in the way many societies and religions and family traditions have constructed it.
And so what we have to do is reconstruct marriage, if we're going to have marriage at all, in a way that says: "I do not limit you. A marriage that says, "I recognize ideas will change, tastes will change, desires will change."
~ Neale Donald Walsch
It's fine to work toward future goals, but don't forget that today will never come again. You have only twenty-four hours to enjoy it. Some people put life on hold while striving for their dreams. At first their theme song is, "After I attain this, or that, then I'll be happy." Then, later, after ambition pales, the regrets are felt. "Why didn't I make time to _____________?"
Instead of waiting for retirement to live in a beautiful place, consider finding a way to get there now. When we live our lives in accordance with our dreams, it becomes easy to cheer for other people doing so. When we don't, it's easy to be sour grapes, unsupportive, or jealous when others break free and follow their heart's desire. If you feel as if your life is somewhere out there as opposed to right here, stop and ask yourself:
What is missing in my life?
What have I put on hold?
What am I waiting for?
What would really fill my heart and make me happy?
What would I regret if I died tomorrow?
Though you may not die tomorrow, the saddest death is walking through life like a robot, cut off from the beauty of enjoying today.
~ Charlotte Sophia Kasl
When we were born, we were programmed perfect. We had a natural tendency to focus on love. Our imaginations were creative and flourishing, and we knew how to use them. We were connected to a world much richer than the one we connect to now, a world full of fascination and a sense of the miraculous. So what happened? Why is it that we reached a certain age, looked around, and the charm was gone?
Because we were taught to focus elsewhere. We were taught to focus elsewhere. We were taught to think unnaturally. We were taught a very bad philosophy, a way of looking at the world that contradicts who we are.
We were taught to think thoughts like competition, struggle, sickness, finite resources, limitation, guilt, bad, death, scarcity, and loss. We began to think these things, and so we began to know them. We were taught that things like grades, being good enough, money, and doing things the right way, are more important than love. We were taught that we're separate from other people, that we have to compete to get ahead, that we're not quite good enough the way we are. We were taught to see the world the way that others had come to see it. It's as though, as soon as we got here, we were given a sleeping pill.
The thinking of the world, which is not based on love, began pounding in our ears the moment we hit shore. Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts. Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.
~ Marianne Williamson
Some people do things completely differently from the way you would do them. It does not mean that they are one hundred percent right or that you are one hundred percent wrong. It means that people are different. There are things that people say which you would probably say in a different way, at a different time. It does not mean that people are wrong to speak up, to speak out, or to speak their minds. Nor does it mean that you are totally wrong for choosing not to do so. It means that people are different. Different is a reality. Differences become problems only when we choose to measure ourselves by our difference in an effort to determine who is good and who is bad; who is totally right and who is totally wrong.
It is not loving, healthy or necessary to make people wrong for what they do, what they say, or the way in which they do it or say it. Nor is it self-affirming to feel wrong when you see things differently, do things in a different way or express a difference of opinion. Our different points of view shape our vantage point and our vision. Where we sit is a function of where we have sat. What we can see is a function of what we have seen. Our differences can sometimes make agreement difficult to achieve, but they should never make us feel bad. Nor should they lead us to believe that what others believe is totally wrong.
Until today, you may have questioned, opposed, resisted or even detested differences. Just for today, open your heart. Be willing to embrace different points of view, different points of view, different habits, different responses, different opinions and the differences that exist between yourself and others.
~ Iyanla Vanzant
Often one of the stumbling blocks to living a simpler life is our inability or unwillingness to change how we play some of the games that got us into these complicated lives in the first place. If you've spent a lot of years not knowing what you really want to do, either in terms of your career or in terms of your personal, social, civic, or family life, it can seem like an impossible task to stop what you've been doing—or at least slow down for a bit—and figure it out. It often seems easier to keep on doing things we don't want to do. We continue doing things we almost want to do, or we continue doing things the way they have always been done simply because it is convenient.
So our lives get dissipated away by a social engagement here, a luncheon there, an evening of television here, or the habit of working evenings or weekends or both on projects that we don't have all that much interest in. And the things we really want to do, in our heart of hearts, get put on the back burner. One of the things simplifying your life will do is free up time for you to figure out what really matters to you, and then enable you to arrange your time so you can do it.
~ Elaine St. James
There is an important factor that causes us to be obsessed with our limitations: the tendency to compare ourselves with others. There is probably no other habit that chips away at our self-confidence so effectively as the habit of scanning the people around us to see how we compare. It is as if we have a radar dish on our foreheads, constantly searching to see if someone else is quicker, tanner, or brighter. And when we find that at times someone is, we are devastated.
The folly of basing our self-estimate on comparisons is that it puts us on a roller-coaster. Perhaps we are feeling fairly good about our appearance one day, and we find ourselves in the company of someone with stunningly good looks. Suddenly we feel ugly and want to disappear. Or perhaps we know we have above-average intelligence, but we happen to be at lunch with people who are even smarter. Then every word that comes out of our mouths sounds like intellectual sludge.
The Bible teaches us that we have worth quite apart from the existence of any other person. We have worth because we are God's unique creation.
~ Alan Loy McGinnis
Our lives are characterized by transitions and transformations, by necessary losses and unexpected gifts, by an unending series of passages. Life is change. All our lives we are confronted by letting go. Western culture teaches us how to hold on to things, not how to let them go, but letting go is one of the encompassing themes of life. Nothing in the material world is forever. Throughout the many stages of our lives we experience myriad transitions and what we might call loss: We are forced to leave the warmth and security of our mother's womb, give up her breasts, her lap, our innocence, many of our childhood dreams, our youth. Critical to our growth and happiness is learning how to live with loss; we simply cannot have everything as we wish it. Parents, children, lovers and friends part, and sometimes it is we who must part.
Our lives are full of separations that shake us up, force us to attend to our emotional selves and to learn new ways of being in the world. Although many of our losses are painful, they encourage our gains. The lesson life is trying to teach us is that, regardless of the challenges and changes in the physical world, we will abide in peace by aligning ourselves with our inner changelessness. The power of God in us is more than equal to any moment—no matter what it brings.
~ Susan L. Taylor, Lessons in Living
The past decade has been a most exciting one. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of our age something profoundly meaningful has begun. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away and new systems of justice and equality are being born. In a real sense ours is a great time in which to be alive.
Therefore I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that we face a world crisis which often leaves us standing amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark, confused world the spirit of God may yet reign supreme.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., "A Testament of Hope"
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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