Food for Thought

Our thoughts judge us more than they judge others. Most people never hear our verbal judgments, they go unsaid but not unthought. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we yell at them, give them a good scolding. A piece of our mind.

All we really did was aggravate our own minds and condemn our own thoughts. We self judged.

The more important discovery is why our thoughts have so much control over our words and actions. That’s where we need to do some thinking.

Food for thought.

On Judging

To judge is to cross a line. Consider the lines in the road used to motor vehicles along safely. One line is white dashes.cross that line and you are in danger of hurting someone and your self. Your chances of recovery are high.

The solid white line means you’re about to take your vehicle where it should never be, off the road.

And the yellow lines; well you get the idea.

Our judgment of people is similar. We have never liked being judged and never will. Yet so many cross that line everyday. If it’s a brief and small crossing, then the relationship may recover, even grow.

Yet most judgments are not to build a relationship but to vent anger and displeasure, even fear.

Judging  others does little or no good for anyone and does a lot of harm.

Stay in your lane, get to where you are going and others will too.

 

The Truth

Truth. Now there’s a mouthful. I can’t find much respect for those that claim to have it, or preach it. It’s like they have the truth all bottled up in a can or jar, can open the lid at will, and out comes this mysterious gas, the truth. You and I can’t see it, we can’t smell it, but it’s in there according to our truth tellers.

The more I hear someone tell others they have the truth, the more obnoxious and dismissive I find them. It’s always been a bit arrogant to claim the truth can be owned or controlled., as if to say I have it and you don’t.

We have a saying in my church, “They can blacken your reputation but never stain your character.”

The truth is, the greatest truth that is, is that the truth is revealed in our character. When you can backup your claim to having the truth with a life lived in the shape of truth, then you might have something to crow about.

Unfortunately, some of the folks who claim to have the truth seem the least likely to know how to apply the truth to them selves and others. A life informed by the truth is the best spoke person for the truth. Want to preach the truth, let me see it working in you.

Life and/or Death

I wonder how often I have used that phrase, as in “It’s not a life or death matter”, is it? Now that I am so close to the dying everyday, so much more feels like a life or death matter. I mean, it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?

Part of it is black and white for me, cut and dried. You are either alive or dead. No argument there. My interest is about life mostly. What makes you alive, breath, blood, mind, feelings, sights, sounds?

I’m thinking more and more about my claim to be alive. I know my body functions, my mind thinks, my tastebuds react, my hopes are real. But all that is not a guarantee that I am really living, fully leaning into life.

Spending time this past week in Colorado gave me a chance to slow down a bit and rethink life.

My conviction of late is that I am most alive when I am serving someone, empowering them to live their fullest life. When I put more of me into giving than taking. I still have to take in, but I will get more when I give. And so will others.

Let’s call this the Giver’s Life. This is truly a matter of life and death.

Some Stuff Sucks But

I scooped up the domain a while back with those words in it. I’ve seen a lot of sucky stuff over the years. My daughter likes to say that “that sucks”, when referring to something that I would say “rots”. But I’m thinking she’s more hip than me with todays lingo, so Sucks it is.

I think about stuff that sucks a lot because I’m around people. People tend to complain about the sucky stuff a lot. And I don’t much care for all the complaining. So I added the “but” on the end. stuffthatsucksbut. See the but there.

Yea, I know life sucks, and you can talk to me about it for a while, before I toss you out the door. For many years I listened to suck stories. Still do. And I’m not gonna stop anytime soon, but I’ve got a couple of new policies.

If I listen to your “suck” story, then you have to listen to my “but” story. OK? Otherwise, go away.

And if I feel you are cheating and not really listening to my positive views, then yes, go away again.

So let’s get started, got a “suck” story?

Loss in our Family --Turk Schonert

My wife lost a brother last week, Turk Schonert.

His mother and brother feel that loss deeply as well.

I do too, as do my son and daughter and Craig’s family, his brother.

I wonder about loss like this. It affects us in painful ways of course. How much, how deeply, how long, how recoverable? Turk left a lot of fun and glitter behind him. Quite a few people remember him kindly and playfully and dearly. Do the amount of memories we have of someone factor into the depth of our grieving? Does knowing someone more deeply mean we grieve more deeply?

“Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”

I think so. I can’t measure it of course, but I see it in his family, the ones closest to him feel the deepest loss. That makes sense. But loss is not like a product that can be marketed, parceled out to different stores and sold to different consumers.

It’s more of a current in the air, a zephyr, a breeze that chills, an electricity that shocks, a glare that blinds. It’s unavoidable, but not containable, painful but hard to observe.

Turk was a great guy, fun filled, positive, thoughtful, generous and stoic in the best sense. My family had many good experiences with him, mostly revolving around football games and players. He invited us into his world, more identified with sports celebrities, and made us feel like we belonged there, always did in fact.

Celebrities seem to struggle with the divide they are a part of. They are often in another class, on a pedestal as it were because of their fame. I never saw that with Turk. To be sure, he is not that famous, unless you are in Cincinnati I imagine. Sounds like he’s pretty famous there. But I don’t think any of it made him much different than you or I .

He was often the life of the party when he was around my family, that’s true. But it was effortless for him and he really didn’t need to be or seek to be, he just was. I appreciated the way he included my wife, his sister in his life over the years, everything from Christmas gifts to sports talk to Super Bowl ticket’s in Miami on the 50 yard line for Deb and me. He knew how to include us and made us feel special. And he was good to my son and daughter as well. I would have liked to see him around for another decade or two, nobody will take his place in my family. The memories help and they heal and they hurt, I’m very glad we have so many good ones of Turk.

Who is responsible for me?

My son gave me two books for my birthday. Both have challenged me to rediscover Accountability for my life, ownership as it were. One of the challenges is simple; I can only get so far in life as I transfer blame to others for my current state of life.

Blaming others, whether they deserve it or not, all too often allows me to diminish my responsibility for my life. If it’s someone else’s fault that my life sucks today, then I’ll never really dig out of that suck hole. In fact, I will only dig it bigger and deeper.

I may not be totally responsible for everything that happens in my life, but I am totally responsible for my response to those happenings. Notice the word Response in relation to the word Responsibility.

One word for what threatens Responsibility is Reactionary.

Responding is a healthy Reaction. Most reaction is not healthy though, it is emotional reactionism or the improper use of reflexive empathy. It almost always includes blaming and shaming in order to regain balance and control of my life. Bitter, resentful, entitled reactions unsettle our balance, not stabilizing our footing.

Blaming may have its purpose, yet it is among the most destructive reactions in our lives.

Is there a better way? Yes. I’m responsible for me and where I will be. I’m not OK where I’m at. I can be better. And I’m responsible alone for my betterment. Just as you are for yours.

Thank you Michael for the books. I’m better because of your gift.

Anniversary This Sunday

Wow. Loving someone for 41 years amazes and thrills me. I visit with couples with 50, 60, 70 years of togetherness every week. Wow Wow. 

I’m so glad God gave us Twoness. Two people that join together and unite to become a powerful change in the world. 

My wife is using her beauty and power in many ways to make life better for others and she is awesome at it.  And me, wow, she makes me much more than I could have imagined. 

She loves me and I love her. Wow! 

Happy 41 Dear! 

Vacation Black Hills

Yes, we went to the Black Hills, Custer State Park exactly. Now, I'm a Yellowstone fan. Black Hills, they're OK, but Yellowstone is one of the top 3 in the lower 48. We've been to Yellowstone more times than I can count and it always rocks. But something happened this time. I tried the Black Hills and I liked it, yep, I liked it, maybe even loved it.

Why the change, you ask? Closer, easier to get to. Nice 8 hour drive from Lincoln. But all that shows is that I'm getting older and wimpier. I used to be able to do the longer drive in my sleep. Now I think, shorter, maybe I'll get more sleep.

So that's not a really great reason for me to say I loved the Black Hills. Here's another. My girls loved it. Nuff said. Actually, they loved the campground, the pine air, the scenery, the views, the animals(not near as many as you know, Yellowstone, but still quite a bit), but here is the clincher, the hiking trails. They came back very satisfied with the hiking. And that's a big deal at my house. Well, nuff said again.

For me, I think at this time in my life, anything that takes the stress level down is pretty important. And the Black Hills did that for me. Easy to get to, took some beautiful roads through some beautiful parts of Nebraska, and arrived at a beautiful place.

Probably do it again.

The Church Is...

They say the church is a hospital
I say it is a garden
They say it is for sinners
I say it is for plants
They say for the sick
I say for the growing

I wrote this some where back in the early 80's. Even then, my ideas about church were not mainstream. I guess I've always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I couldn't agree with what I thought was a simplistic view of church. And the hospital metaphor didn't work in many churches anyhow.It might have been a goal for some in leadership to bring healing to the members, but all too often, more hurt was brought than healing. How surprised was I when I found a church that was more healing than anything else. Not many of them. No, for me it was a place to grow. It took me a while to see that and connect it with discipleship, but disciples grow, victims may be healed but then what. I think the hospital metaphor falls short of what church is unless there is a growth metaphor to go with it. Psalm 1 is my inspiration for such growth. Just cleaning out some old files, think I'll keep this one for another 30 years. See what I think about church then.

Do you feel that?

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These are untidy subjects to write about. Feelings, actions, reactions, responses, responsibilities, perspective. They are all tied together and affect each other. We act or react often based on our feelings. We may have very little accurate information, but we go ahead anyhow. That’s because our feelings of fear have more control over our actions than our feelings of peace or stasis.

A glance or a look from someone is enough to set our minds into overdrive about what they are thinking or what did they say about me. Like a pinball, thoughts zip back and forth in our mind. They usually run dark and they end up negative. It’s a sort of threat assessment. 

If we’ve been hurt enough in life, then we’ve learned that people are the source of most of that hurt. It’s a wonder that some people ever develop healthy relationships after all the suffering they have been through. Changing our feelings is a tough process. To believe that everyone is not out to hurt you requires a courage to be vulnerable. This does not come easy. Not after repeated hurts. 

How do we let our guard down? We must get better information. We must learn the difference between reality and perspective. We must understand why we feel what we feel. How do feelings shape our actions and reactions.  

We would like to be seen in a favorable light, to have people positively impressed when they see us. That’s fairly normal. What’s not normal is living in fear that we will be seen negatively most of the time. What’s not normal is giving excessive care and thought to our image. Image management can severely interfere with living authentically.   

What do you feel right now? Anger, frustration, anxiety, courage, innovative, risky, hungry, happy, elevated, miserly, bouncy, musical, boundless, energetic, disgusted, vengeful, determined, disciplined, euphoric, depressed, wild, balanced, smart, wise, churlish, peevish, delighted, tired, or raring to go.

Is that feeling based on perspective or tangible information? Many of our feelings invade our mind from unchecked sources. We can feel disgust at politicians just because they are politicians. Is that healthy or warranted? Police? Teachers? Animal control? Criminals?

Examining why we feel, what we feel, where those feelings came from and who they are directed at, will yield a gold mine of information about “FEELING” better. 

Think about these words, perspective, reality, thoughts, feelings, actions, reactions, responses, living, hiding, authentic, fear and courage, love. 

We all have a certain amount of time to devote to living fully. Those who live the fullest gain clarity over their feelings, the origin of those feelings, and managing those feelings for happier, healthier lives.   

What were the prominent feelings of this past week and what are you feeling right now?  

Feelings

This is a big topic and the science of feelings/emotions is growing. Here's an article to get us started.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/feeling-our-emotions/

Feelings have a lot of power in our lives. I'm exploring this subject a lot right now, partly because I have a large range of emotions in my work with the dying and partly because I see so many people who are led by the nose by some feeling and they have lost control of their behaviour. Sometimes the consequences of losing control because of our feelings is very serious. More importantly, how can we harness our feelings to improve our lives?

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See

Do you see enough to see it all? Of course not. You don’t even see all that you think you see. Much more than we like to admit, our witness is second or third hand. We did not see, they saw. Yet, we take what they saw as if we saw it ourselves. We transform third or second hand sightings into personal observations, allowing them to inform our words and actions. 

This sophistry is stupid and dangerous, larger than the loss of all the Lemmings lost to the sea.  

What do you see? What have you heard? Return to the first person, yourself, in person. Judge life from there. Even there, with first hand knowledge, you still are an imperfect judge, but a better judge presumably. 

News, fake or not, is vastly second hand. It is rarely good. The way it is dished up to us, it is instilling little more than anxiety and fear. When you think about how you feel after listening to the news, you might begin to wonder why you watch it anymore. Why does it have such mood swaying, depressing power over us?  

Resolve to See for yourself. 

 The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

John Berger

360

Life is all around us, but our eyes only look at part of it. Our ears capture a part. Our smell even more. These inputs are sense-able. Yet much goes unsensed. Growing up in a city made me more sympathetic to my senses. Survival in combat depends on our senses working alertly in all directions.

I wonder which is more joyful, a hyper sense, where gigabytes of data are taken in with a glance or a whiff of spring air, or a hypo sense, where little or nothing is noticed, our mind moving into hibernation? 

I usually prefer the more active sense at work and play. Yet, I feel more vulnerable to sensory overload these days. Empty space in my senses does not feel very productive but it may be the only way to lasting productivity.

What do you sense? Your feelings depend on your senses. Feel the sun, smell the breeze, pull out the thorn. Use your senses, make sense of the surroundings. Live 360. 

Ted Kooser Train

Ted Kooser wrote this over a decade ago but writings about time so easily become timeless. It's in his book Local Wonders. Take a read here at NPR. 

The Train Of Life and welcoming your next year, even after cancer which Ted had. Then being greeted with upturned glasses, you are still alive.

 

Ted still lives, about 30 minutes from my home. I will turn up my glasses if I see him. 

Right As Rain

The more people you see each day, the more you will be asked a version of "How are you Doing"? 

How's it going, how's it hanging, wassup, etc. Of course, it's what we do. I usually like it. Heaven knows, let someone walk by you without some sort of greeting and you'll ask yourself, "What's up with them? They might be having a bad day, or maybe their upset with you. And away your mind goes for 20 minutes thinking, "Now what did I do"? 

No, it's better off to just greet everybody and yes, ask them how they're doing. A few of us might even tell you the truth, skipping conventional responses, if we feel like whale scat, we'll tell you. If we feel like a million bucks, we'll tell you.  

My latest response has been "Mostly Sunny" Both true and descriptive, mildly engaging. I'm looking for a new one. It's been rainy of late. "Right as Rain."

When you ask me next time, How I'm doing? You probably already know the answer. 

Nature Cares Not

"Nature doesn't give a damn about us after we make our babies"  Nautilus March/April 2017

Well, I've got news for you. It didn't give a damn before you made your babies either. You see a spiritless nature after childbirth, you might as well be consistent, Nature in your understanding is Divineless. It has no soul.

The religious group, the Shakers preferred celibacy. There are 2 or 3 Shakers left. They were pretty bad at populating the earth. They seem to have missed the Be Fruitful part in Genesis, or having a full quiver of arrows, a house full of children.

They had their reasons, but their religion didn't give a damn about making babies either. 

I have two offspring. They are amazing; eyes, ears, fingers and all that stuff that comes in the package. where did the care that I have for the come from, why do I care so much about them? Why do I hurt when they hurt, help when they are in need, empower them to succeed, shell out all that cash for them to get a degree?

Unlike nature, I do give a damn. And I'll tell you this, I think nature does too. 

If You're Breathing

Most of us are born, live and die in what feels like one lifetime. When it comes time to hang it up, we surprise our younger selves and lay the spurs in the common pile for one last time. We wore them well, rode tall and now it's time to rest. A long rest. We're tired. I've looked into many eyes, tired but satisfied eyes. Green eyes, moist eyes, sparkled eyes, cloudy eyes. There are abundant memories in those eyes. 

 

Often, one story, a lifeline will lead you back into those memories like following a guide into a dark cave. A time in the military, a life changing event, a relationship that endured, some story that is linear and sustaining will lead you to any number of chambers in the mysterious cave of a human mind. Light may be shed in some rooms for the first time, other rooms passed by for ever. There is something in there worth rediscovering, reclaiming.

 

i often hear family gather together to tell stories of their departed, and some where in the story, someone will go, "Really, I never knew that." Their loved one is gone but still full of surprises, some fascinating, some puzzling, some a bit dodgy. 

 

I often ten think it might be better to tell these memories when we are still alive, still breathing.