And yet it remains.

 

hiddenClouds, night, and eclipses can hide the sun, and yet it remains. Lies, denial, and ignorance can obscure the truth, and yet it remains. We are foolish to believe that things change because we lie about them.

The truth will out.

It always does.

August high.

August

August marks the end of summer and the beginning of another school year. It is as good a time as any to ask yourself–

Where are you going?

Are you progressing?

What vision do you have for the months to come?

Months turn into years turn into decades turn into a lifetime. Pausing periodically to make sure you’re on the right path is always a good idea.

Love them anyway.

anyway

People are complex. They can be hateful, vile, untrustworthy, destructive, and yet God loves them. The people doing the worst things in the world challenge us to reach into ever deeper places in our hearts to pull out compassion and love. Yes, even for them. Even for those acting in the most depraved ways, for don’t they need love the most? Haven’t they, perhaps, been the most starved for love in their lives?

The quote above is similar to this one attributed to Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

It is different, though, in some interesting ways that seem particularly applicable to the world these days:

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

The point in both, of course, is that we each have an inner compass. We each are called to be different from the crowd. To be trustworthy and loving, patient and peaceful, kind and helpful. It doesn’t matter what everyone else might be doing,

Give the world the best you have anyway.

Knock out punch.

wantittobe

There is one opponent who will beat you every time: reality. No matter how you might want to characterize, ignore, explain away, deny, or pretend, reality won’t be the one to budge.

You must bend.

We waste our time longing for realities that don’t exist or pretending things are somehow different than they are. This is true whether we’re talking about relationships, our past, or the weather.

When we can look at our circumstances clear-eyed, then we can figure out how best to proceed.

Is it I, Lord?

isiti

In tumultuous times, who will speak for peace, for love, for our common humanity? Who will seek to soothe rather than rile? Who will hold people close rather than shove them away? Who will model a better way? Is it you?

Please watch this lovely video and ponder in your heart how you might sow kindness where there is division, love where there is hate, hope where there is despair.

 

Here I am Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

What difference can you make?

streetsweeper

Are you making a difference in other people’s lives? Sometimes we feel that our lives, jobs, gifts, opportunities are too small to make a big difference. But consider the amazing difference made by this school bus driver who crocheted a personalized toy for each of her kids.

We all can make a difference. We don’t need tons of money or an impressive job or skill.

We just need caring hearts.

What’s the right question?

complicated

Figuring out the right question to ask is well more than half of the struggle. Sometimes it helps when we start with our foundational principles–honesty, integrity, loyalty, peacefulness–and work backwards. Wanting to stay true to the morals we value in ourselves thins out the herd of available questions to ask in a given scenario. Then, the right question to ask becomes more apparent.

Opening to gratitude.

joyroot

What can take us out of our gloom and melancholy? Sometimes the veil is pulled back and we can glimpse a larger picture, a connection between all things, an appreciation for the here and now, and we are grateful.

Brother David Steindl-Rast explains how these jolts into a different reality can change a day, and, perhaps, even a world:

My vision of the world? My hope for the future? This topic sounds a bit big. Allow me to start small—say, with crows. They are my special friends. Just as I am writing these lines, one of them, the shy one among my three regular guests, is gobbling up the Kitty Fritters I put out for them. This brings to mind a short poem by Robert Frost that might provide a stepping-stone for our deliberations about world-vision and hope for the future—if any.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Surely you will remember a similar experience of your own: some quirky little incident made you smile, changed your mood, and suddenly the world looked brighter. If this ever happened to you, the key for understanding a causal chain of great consequence is in your hand:  any change in attitude changes the way one sees the world, and this in turn changes the way one acts. When Robert Frost claims that the crow’s little trick “saved” part of a day he had rued, or of which he repented, he means this in the full sense of a redeeming change of heart. When he got home, I’m sure he greeted Mrs. Frost in a better mood than he would have been able to do without the crow’s nudge. And there is no telling what this did to her—and to the way she treated the dog afterwards, or talked more kindly to her neighbor.

He continues to suggest five small, easily adopted ways to bring this gratitude into your life and, consequently, into the world:

1.  Say one word today that will give a fearful person courage.

All gratitude expresses trust. Suspicion will not even recognize a gift as gift: who can prove that it isn’t a lure, a bribe, a trap? Gratefulness has the courage to trust and so overcomes fear. The very air has been electrified by fearfulness these days, a fearfulness fostered and manipulated by politicians and the media. There lies our greatest danger: fear perpetuates violence. Mobilize the courage of your heart. Say one word today that will give a fearful person courage.

2. Make a firm resolution never to repeat stories and rumors that spread fear.

Because gratitude expresses courage, it spreads calm. Calm of this kind is quite compatible with deep emotions. In fact, mass hysteria fostered by the media betrays a morbid curiosity rather than deep feeling—superficial agitation rather than a deep current of compassion. The truly compassionate ones are calm and strong. Make a firm resolution never to repeat stories and rumors that spread fear. From the stillness of your heart’s core reach out. Be calm and spread calm.

3. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore

When you are grateful, your heart is open—open towards others, open for surprise. When disasters hit we often see remarkable examples of this openness: strangers helping strangers sometimes in heroic ways. Others turn away, isolate themselves, dare even less than at other times to look at each other. Violence begins with isolation. Break this pattern. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore—eye-contact at least—with the cashier at the supermarket, someone on the elevator, a beggar. Look a stranger in the eyes today and realize that there are no strangers.

4. Give someone an unexpected smile today

You can feel either grateful or alienated, but never both at the same time. Gratefulness drives out alienation; there is not room for both in the same heart. When you are grateful you know that you belong to a network of give-and-take and you say “yes” to that belonging. This “yes” is the essence of love. You need no words to express it; a smile will do to put your “yes” into action. Don’t let it matter to you whether or not the other one smiles back. Give someone an unexpected smile today and so contribute your share to peace on earth.

5.  Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

What your gratefulness does for yourself is as important as what it does for others. Gratefulness boosts your sense of belonging; your sense of belonging in turn boosts your Common Sense—not the conventional mind set which we often confuse with it. The common sense that springs from gratefulness is incompatible with a set mind. It is just another name for thinking wedded to cosmic intelligence. Your “yes” to belonging attunes you to the common concerns shared by all human beings—all beings for that matter. In a world we hold in common, nothing else makes sense but Common Sense. We have only one enemy: Our common enemy is violence. Common Sense tells us: we can stop violence only by stopping to act violently; war is no way to peace. Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

The five steps I am suggesting here are small, but they work. It helps that they are small: anyone can take them. Imagine a country whose citizens—maybe even its leaders—are brave, calm, and open towards each other; a country whose people realize that all human beings belong together as one family and must act accordingly; a country guided by Common Sense. To the extent to which we show ourselves not hateful but grateful this becomes reality.

Who would have thought that a prankish crow shaking down snow from a hemlock tree could inspire this vision of a sane world? Well, if we leave it to the crows, there is still hope.

Small steps; big pay-off. And, to remember, keep your eyes open for the birds. They are there, singing songs of hope.

 

The complicated mirror.

reflection

Who really bugs you? Like get-under-your-skin and keep-you-up-at-night bugs you? There’s a reason, perhaps, and it’s not pretty.

In this insightful article, “I Am the Reason My Husband Infuriates Me”, Christine Carter tackles an annoying problem–projection:

We project, psychologically speaking, when we unconsciously and unknowingly attribute our judgments about ourselves to other people.

See, the thing that drives me most crazy about myself is that I often make big elaborate behavioral plans and then I don’t follow through on them. For example, I’ve recently stopped meditating (again) after making a plan to meditate more over the summer. The perfectionist in me has been a mess of guilt and anxiety over this, something I didn’t consciously realize until I found myself dressing Mark down for not following through on our picky eater protocol.

We humans have blind spots. It is often hard for us to see our own failings, but it can be very easy for us to see what’s wrong with other people. The people around us, particularly our spouses, are like mirrors. We see clearly what we don’t like, but we get it backwards.

It’s not them, it’s us.

Martha Beck cleverly calls this charming human propensity “You spot it, you got it.”

But there is good news. If we stop and realize we are projecting, we can take our own advice–you know, the advice you spontaneously give that annoying person:

That doesn’t mean that we are always projecting when we see other people’s flaws, or when we see the ways that others can learn and improve. But when we feel particularly emotional about a situation? When we feel hooked and irrational or harshly judgmental about someone else’s shortcomings, rather than empathetic or compassionate? We are probably projecting.

Projection is an undeniable human tendency, and I think it is pretty wonderful, actually, because it allows us to see ourselves more clearly, to better understand what is causing us anxiety and stress.

The greatest thing about projection, to me, is that it comes with a set of instructions for our own growth and happiness. We’ll usually do well to do whatever it is we wish otherpeople would do (or stop doing).

So if you catch yourself unusually wound up and emotional about something, pause, and take a good look in the mirror. Is it possible that the infuriating behavior is something you do, too?

 

Fear as motivation?

fearwilson

What should we make of fear? Of course, fear is often what helps us exercise caution and keeps us whole. But what of the fear that makes us give up before we try? Fear of failure, or success, or looking like an idiot, or putting ourselves out there just to be rejected–what of these?

Perhaps those types of fear should just be viewed as motivation for the next life stage to enter, another step on the journey. Perhaps, even if our ultimate fear is realized, it won’t be half as bad as not stepping out and trying.