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Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Monk and the Bees


THE MONK and the BEES


I recently read an interesting article* about Brother Blaise Heuke. He served as a Benedictine monk at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California for more than forty-five years.

His story caught my attention because I’ve vacationed in Oceanside. On one of our trips, my husband and I even took time to drive to the abbey. Quietness and peace were memorable take-aways for me.

The article was based on an interview with Brother Heuke by author Brent Crane. One of the first quotes said, “We join the monastery to give praise to God. That’s our primary work in the church.” But description of monastic life didn’t stop there.

Brother Heuke also mentioned the sharing of chores. “My thing,” he said, “is plumbing. Constant drippy faucets . . . Of course, I also have a lot of hobbies to keep me out of mischief.”

One of his hobbies was caring for eighty-five various fruit trees. It was the need for pollination that caused him to start collecting swarms of bees. This resulted in about fifty hives and sales from the consistent output of honey.

I was intrigued by this comment about bees:

“When they take all this nectar from the tree, does that deprive the tree of anything? No, it enhances it. And when you give your time and energy to helping someone, does it deplete your skills? No, it gives you something to be proud of. There are many, many parallels.”

His was a life well-lived. He loved God and served others in practical ways. 

Philippians 2:3-4 describes it this way: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

When you are inspired to help someone besides yourself, do it. You’ll be following the excellent example of the monk and the bees.



*The Beauty of a Bee: Brother Blaise Heuke finds wisdom and hope in apiculture, as told to Brent Crane, AARP - The Magazine, August/September 2018, p. 65, Personal Best/My Hives. (The article had a footnote: Brother Heuke died, at age 80, shortly before this article was published.)


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Whatever!


WHATEVER!


When said with a shrug, whatever means a subject or decision has just been dismissed. No more thought will be given to it. 

Doris Day made the phrase whatever will be, will be famous, but it sounded so much catchier when sung as Que Sera, Sera.

There’s one verse in the Bible where whatever appears six times! The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

The practicality of that verse has always intrigued me. Our minds wander easily from thought to thought, but they can be controlled.

I was fortunate to know a lady who lived to be ninety-four, and even in her declining years she determined to take charge of her mind. She was the mother of my best friend.

Though her life was not easy, she had a sense of humor, practiced kindness and patience, read her Bible and could be counted on to pray for people. She told her daughter, “I refuse to be a grumpy old lady.”

As she entered her nineties, she worked daily to memorize Philippians 4:8. She quoted it to herself frequently. This intelligent lady was not unaware of current events, but you can see how her choice of focus left no room for negativity.

It was a pleasure to know her; she was an inspiring example. But there’s an old saying that “you have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandpa was.” In this case it was grandma, but she would say, “Each whatever is by choice, not chance.”

In thinking about our marvelous brain power, I wrote this poem. I hope it encourages you to activate your mind and take charge of your thoughts.

BRAINY MACHINE
By Darlis Sailors
  Copyright 2016
There’s a silent machine going ‘round in my head,
Like cogs on a wheel in a wheel,
Or a curious cat darting this way and that,
Inspecting whatever appeals.

This little machine is powered by senses,
Five keep it turning quite well.
It prefers action to calm meditation,
But I can take charge at will.

Without thoughts in a jumble, just purpose and focus,
Its power comes under control.
What a marvelous thing, this brainy machine,
I use it and life becomes whole.

Whatever! The choice is yours.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Con vs. Confidence


CON vs. CONFIDENCE


Do you ever wonder where common phrases get their start? 

Whenever I have time for a quick read, I pull this book off my shelf: Common Phrases and Where They Come From, by Myron Korach.

Con man is a common phrase. It generally means winning a person's confidence through a bogus claim that captures interest. Most often it involves money, along with a promise to multiply it in your favor.

Many of our common phrases have aged European histories. But Mr. Korach says America gets credit for the con man phrase. 

Picture this:

You are a New Yorker approached by a well-dressed, well-mannered gentleman. He looks you in the eye and says, “Have you enough confidence in me to lend me five dollars for an hour or two?”

Judging by outward appearances and thinking you could spare a five, you become one of many New Yorkers with a positive response.

Then, when the man fails to return the money at the time and place he promised, you join the number of people who report him to the police.

The New York police, after hearing the same story several times, titled the man in question the “Confidence Man.” It was popularized into the short version: Con man.

Confidence is a good thing. It’s the con that’s the problem. Confidence means having faith, trust, and assurance that something good will happen.

To be conned means to be cheated by someone posing as honest and trustworthy. It’s up to us whether we decide to trust them, or not.

Being duped by an impostor is very disappointing, to say the least. Not only are we upset at putting our faith in the wrong person, but we’re hard on ourselves for doing so.

I always find Numbers 23:19 interesting because it says, “God is not human, that he should lie.” Support for that statement appears in Psalm 145:13: “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises.”

Confidence is ours to give. Who or what will we choose to trust? Will we judge by outward appearances or make a much wiser/deeper decision?

Proverbs 2:1-6 makes some good points about the moral benefits of wisdom. I think a person would have a hard time conning anyone with these characteristics:

     1) They carry the commands of God within them
     2) They desire wisdom and ask God for insight
     3) They consider such understanding to be a valuable treasure

Next time you’re faced with a decision on where to place your confidence, don’t be easily swayed by what you see or hear.  

Proverbs 2:11-15 says, “Discretion will protect you, understanding will guard you, and wisdom will save you from men who are devious in their ways.”

Take time to place your confidence wisely, and avoid the con.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hang in There


HANG IN THERE


The creativity in art galleries always amazes me. Who would think to take a service worker’s red shirt and shred it by punching out star shapes? Ann Morton, that’s who.

Her creative piece, titled Losing Our Shirt (2009), was in the Mesa, Arizona Contemporary Arts Center when I saw it.

I toured the gallery completely, but returned to Ann’s piece several times. My thoughts were inspired as I stared at the red shirt. 

There it hung, full of star-shaped holes with all the star pieces scattered on the floor beneath it.

You could recognize the shirt for what it had been, but there was inspiring beauty in its altered condition. By keeping all the pieces, instead of discarding them, I saw a new and challenging message.

To me, it meant hanging in there even when my faith feels tattered and shredded. Faith carries with it a spiritual beauty.  

God, the author and finisher of our faith, cares about all the pieces of our life. No matter how shredded we may feel, an active faith in God can empower us.

To fight the good fight of faith is to hang on to what we believe, even when our life feels like it’s hanging in shreds.

Hebrews 11:1, in the King James Version, says faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The contemporary language of The Message Bible describes faith as trust in God which gives us a firm foundation, a handle on what we can’t see.

Faith helps us hang in there. It’s an everyday thing.

For example, we feed our body, believing it will sort and retain nutrients and eliminate the waste.

We pursue marriage, believing it a worthwhile endeavor though filled with unknown challenges.

Faith also shows up as we pursue college degrees and technical certifications. We believe they will be worth the physical, mental and financial challenges along the way.

Perhaps the psalmist’s faith felt a little shredded when he wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

The beauty of that verse is the balance. He was not afraid to be realistic about his life, but he was not giving up either. By faith he declared God would be in his life forever. That’s a long, long time.

When my life begins to feel like that tattered shirt, I’m tempted to disregard the shredded pieces. Then I think of Ann’s art.

Both the shredded shirt and the pieces scattered below were required to create a thing of beauty.

Circumstances of life may leave us feeling shredded, but, by faith, we can choose to hang in there.

How much time are we willing to give God to work the pieces of our life into a thing of beauty?



Sunday, September 2, 2018

Personal Power


PERSONAL POWER


It’s been said, “Some people know how to make a living, but don’t know how to make a life.” I’m wondering if that’s me?

I enjoyed forty years of active and fulfilling ministry in a variety of churches. I have happy memories of many wonderful people. I even hear satisfying reports of continuing ministries that I put in place years ago.

So, what’s the problem?

Perhaps it’s retirement. Instead of fulfilling my dreams, it brought major challenges. First as a caregiver for my father, and now for my husband.  

But there’s hope! 

The power of my will. It’s a God-given gift and I’ve always been grateful for it. In fact, here’s a letter I wrote to “Will” a few years ago:

Dear Will,

What a pleasure to write this letter. I want you to know how much I appreciate having you in my life.

Thanks to you, I can make thoughtful decisions and not rush blindly into dangerous situations. You are the one who enables me to choose what to do, where to go, and what to say.

I appreciate the freedom you give me. You quietly wait while I search things out, review information, and make my choice.

Because of you I am captain of my own ship in many ways. Though the storms of life cause grief and troubled times, I don’t have to bob along on unsettled waves. I can decide which life-saving actions to pursue.

I have learned that you can be quite flexible. If I need strength and boldness, you rise to the occasion and people call me “strong-willed.”
   
If I choose to shrink back and let circumstances and other’s choices control me, I get labeled “weak-willed.” Either way, you stick with me.

I appreciate your respect. Others may try to pressure me into doing their will by threatening to affect my life in uncomfortable ways. Not you.            

You wait quietly for my decision. Once it’s made, you support me while I follow through.  

I thank God for you, Will. You have helped make me who I am today. And you will continue to impact my life right to the end.

You accompany me as a companion, not a dictator. My wrong choices cause discomfort, but you remain loyal, hoping I will see the error of my ways.

Know this: I consider you an invaluable friend.

What a great reminder of personal power to better my life. I can choose to remain down and discouraged with daily challenges. Or, not!

My dictionary says, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Here’s why: (1) Will is the power of making a reasoned choice, and (2) it shows up in deliberate action(s) resulting from that power.

I cannot control the length of my life, but I can apply personal power to improve my days. The same privilege is yours.