Spiritually Speaking Blog

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The “New Lent”

We are now in the Lenten season. For the Christian churches it is a time of retreat, renewal and rededication. Looking back at Lent when I was growing up, Lent was easy. Back when, this penitential season of Lent turned its focus from the “lesser material world”, the sins of the flesh, to concentrate on the “more valuable spiritual world” through prayer and fasting. The thinking being, that we had to deny ourselves the material delights to experience the higher calling of the spiritual world. Adults would not eat meat on Fridays, refrain from alcohol or give up cigarettes! Kids would give up candy, watching their favorite television program or refrain from fighting with their siblings. We denied ourselves these pleasures thinking that these deprivations were sure tickets to please our creator. In my Lenten readings and preparation, the intent of the Lenten season seems to be shifting.  We are shifting from deprivation to dedication, from the negative to a more positive approach. This is probably a good move since giving up the “delights” of this human world were not moving us closer to heaven. By the time we got there we would be hungry and grouchy anyway! Pope Francis has built upon the fasting of the past to bring us to the dedication of being the best version of ourselves. Here’s what he wrote: Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate... read more

Make a Difference

An old man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a little girl ahead of him picking up starfish that had been cast ashore by the storm the night before. The old man hurried to catch up to her, and asked what she was doing. “Rescuing starfish,” the young lady replied. “They’ll die if I leave them here when the sun comes out.” “But this beach goes on for miles,” argued the man, “ and there are millions of starfish stranded here. How can your effort make any difference?” The girl look intently at the starfish in her hand then threw it back to the safety of the sea and said, “It makes a difference for this one!” We would all like to make a difference. Usually we think that bigger is better but not necessarily. We are all called to make a difference no matter how small.  You are endowed with transformational powers. But using these transformative powers to take on the whole world may seem useless. But your divine love ripples throughout the world making a positive difference. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. “ – Mother Teresa What do you see when you throw a pebble in the water – waves moving out to make rings, very small at first and then expanding outward and increasing until spreading across the water’s surface. Just consider of how one piece of information can affect the stock market. Or one tweet can send thousands of people in a dizzy! Knowing the power of one incident,... read more

Afternoons of Life

“The majority of people perform well in a crisis and when the spotlight is on them; it’s on the Sunday afternoons of life, when nobody is looking, that the spirit falters.” (Alan Bennett’s autobiography) Don’t you agree that the “et cetera” parts of life, those flat places where there is noting of interest in sight and nothing exciting is on the horizon, brings a “why bother” and “what’s the use” attitude? Those are the times we have the least heart to pray, but those are the times when we need prayer the most.  Why? Because those are the days we are quiet, poised and in the “ready frame of mind” to see the world through God’s eyes. We “let go” and “let God.” That is where good prayer always starts, trusting God enough to let go and look through his yes – the eyes of a wise Father.  If we do that and if our hearts are open, we’ll begin to see what God sees and hope as God hopes. We will begin to want what God wants and do what God wants. That’s what praying in faith does inside us. It slowly reshapes our ideas and our perspectives to match God’s. Prayer slowly reshapes our values and our expectations of life to match God’s. God has so much to show us and teach us. We have so much to learn, so many new doors that need to be opened, and so many old ones that need to be closed permanently. If we are listening from the heart, we will change. Even the most gnarled parts of us will... read more

What, Married 50 Years?

The celebrating couple mingled among the guests at their 50th wedding anniversary. One of the guests pulled the “groom” aside and asked,  “You make marriage look easy. Has it always been this easy?” The celebrant replied, “No, I even considered divorce and my wife did also.” The inquisitor pressed to understand, “Then how did you make it 50 years?” The response, “We never considered it at the same time.” Yes, life is tough. Our lives are roads paved with life lessons to be LEARNED by trail, and error.  We struggle with marriage, children, loss, illness, doubt and darkness. We get depressed, tired, fed up, impatient and ready to throw the towel in. But never forget that we are social beings who, as the Beatles lyrics remind us, “…I get by with a little help from my friends”. We need others to lift our spirits, listen to our problems, reassure our doubts and remind us of the important things in life that we may have forgotten. We forget who we really are and what is really important, what really matters in life, who our real friends are, who loves us and what we were made for. We are not walking this journey alone.  Not only are our friends, there for us, but also we must remember that the Lord walks at our side. The Lord walks with us as a partner and mentor who wants to see us succeed and who understands that it’s going to take us awhile. What more could we ask? How can we not be confident and hopeful and put all fears behind us. After all,... read more

The Importance of the Insignificant

For the first time in 3 months I was able to put my underpants on standing up! (I usually don’t share this personal routine, but it happened to be an AHA moment. God does work in mysterious ways.) Before my hip surgery/recovery, I breezed through life, taking normal abilities for granted, not giving any thought to habitual actions. This healing process has given me a new understanding of just how important the little things are in life. I usually focus on new career goals, job responsibilities, projects, and big accomplishments, overlooking the insignificant. I’m off to write books and save the world. But life is like a kaleidoscope, as it twists and turns it brings new colors, shapes and designs into focus. This new awareness of the seemingly unimportant will serve me well as I mature physically and spiritually. As we age, the big goals morph into smaller intentions. Books become grocery lists and saving the world comes down to being kind to the ones I’m with! But don’t overlook the real importance of these smaller actions. You have an impact no matter how small and diminished your contribution seems. “You may think that you are completely insignificant in this world. But someone drinks coffee every morning from the favorite cup that you gave them. Someone heard a song on the radio that reminded them of you. Someone read the book you recommended, and plunged headfirst into it. Someone remembered your joke and smiled! Someone loves himself a little more, because you gave them a compliment. Never think that you have no influence whatsoever. Your trace, which you leave... read more

“I’ll leave the light on for you” – God

In a way, God is the Ultimate Hotelier! But Motel 6 and Tom Bodett took a page out of God’s playbook when they made the commercial for the roadside inn for weary travelers. Remember the TV commercial ending with the phrase, “We’ll  leave the light on for you.” This catchy jingle not only symbolizes the end of the road but also three messages that we need to remember for our earthly journey.   God, being the first to extend the welcome, says: I’ll be expecting you. “I’ll be watching for you and waiting for you with outstretched arms. You might be running late or run into detours along your journey, but sooner or later I know you will be arriving. I’ll be expecting you.” I’ll be welcoming all. “Not matter when you get here or in what condition in which you arrive, I will treasure you as the returning favorite child. When I look at you I see a much-cherished child, not a stranger. Ya’ll come –  seniors, young, old, pets, owners, children. No restrictions. No limits on my love”. I’ll leave this light on so you can find your way. “I know it can get dark out there and you may often lose your way, so I’ll give you signs along the way. Listen to your heart, your internal GPS, and follow that light. I am always with you, walking by your side. And your name is written on my hand, if you listen carefully you will hear me whispering to you. If you watch closely, you will see that I am here. So watch and listen.” Our... read more

Find Your Beach

It’s easy on an island vacation to “find your beach” as the Corona beer commercial urges us. The ability of disengage in our daily life is the real challenge. What a waste of time and energy we expend! Most of our stamina during the day is spent on things/activities that don’t really matter.  We are bombarded with pressures to accomplish this, acquire that and measure up to someone else’s standard. We go to bed at night with our minds racing of yet what we need to do, feeling that whatever we have accomplished is not enough. Our poor souls are flooded with the misguided notion we need to do “more”. Why don’t we remember who we really are and why we are really here? Besides the mental ambush, we are bombarded with “notifications”. Our peace and quiet is disturbed with beeps, ring tones, chimes, horns and a host of other alerting sounds calling us to more action. Sometimes we need to take a vacation to “get away”…get away from our normal routine to put things in bigger perspective. We need some “me time” some “alone time”.  When we can “get away”, all the items on the “to do” list seem a little less important. With a travel vacation we find new surroundings, different people, and diverse milieu, we are forced out of our rut and jolted into a new awareness, like a breath of fresh air. The pressures gripping us release, our shoulders may drop and we exhale experiencing true peace. But instead of waiting for a yearly getaway, I think we need to carve out “beach time” during EACH... read more

Let It Blow!

When in doubt….let it blow! It’s been over a year since hurricane Maria hit the islands in the Caribbean. The tropical paradise of St. John took it head-on being torn asunder. Survival and come back are now the main topics of conversation. Everyone has a genuine smile, happy to be alive. Everyone greets us with a sincere embrace, happy that we are there. Listening to the various stories of those hellish 24 hours of bombardment, I picked up on one man’s successful strategy. While other families were dragging refrigerators and any other heavy pieces of furniture to brace the doors from the onslaught of the ferocious winds, this one gentleman did not fight it. He opened his front door and let it blow. He went on to share that while others lost everything with the winds hurling refrigerators through their roofs, he did not lose his roof, or his house. He let it blow. Hopefully we won’t find ourselves struggling like this in a hurricane. But hurricanes come in many forms…loss of loved ones, illness, accidents, or merely difficult change. FEAR NOT: Stay in faith, knowing somehow through whatever is happening, that God’s plan is at work. Reach out to friends, take baby steps, and be brave and strong no matter what. We all are just a little afraid! RESIST NOT: Go with the flow. Whatever person or situation presents itself embrace it, knowing that you are RSVPing to God’s invitation. God would never forsake you, no matter how terrible things seem. Nothing happens for “no good reason”. We all are just a little out of control! Remember to... read more

How to Get the Most Out of Life

I think we have all read so many articles on how to live a longer healthier life, not to mention the anti-aging products flooding the market. Are there really ways to extent your earthly life? Sure, increasing exercise and eating more veggies certainly help. But in a recent article based on the book, “Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” by Eric Barker, I found a “spiritual purpose” that jumped out at me. The author maintained that knowing our life’s purpose would extend our lives. (I always knew that would bring meaning to my life, but it kind of surprised me that knowing my “why” would extend my longevity.) He explains that if you ask yourself, “Why do I wake up in the morning?” If it’s a good reason, you will probably have a lot more mornings ahead of you.The research reported that those individuals who expressed a clear goal in life – something to get up for in the morning, something that made a difference – lived longer and were sharper mentally than those who did not. Your purpose doesn’t have to be to save the world. It can be as simple as meaningful work or a hobby that you enjoy or just biding time until all the grandchildren walk down the aisle! Oscar Wilde wrote that the two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you realized “why”. We were not born into this world with instructions. We come here blind with respect to our mission, gifts and challenges. It’s up to us to stumble along determining our true purpose. Most... read more