Choices: It is all about Choices

What influences Your Choices?

Early this morning, I tweeted two thoughts:

“Choices Not Chances control our Destiny
and

“Life is not about the chances we take or what by chance comes our way, but the way we respond to the sorrow or happiness that comes our way”

Afterward I went for my usual hour swim.  As I was swimming, I realized that these are more true than I first thought.

Think of the first couple on the planet (whether you believe in that account or not,, humor me and think about the first couple however they got here).  They made a “choice” to defy the creator’s rule and eat of a forbidden tree with its fruit.  They knew God was a friendly creative and compassionate God (I mean he came into the garden every morning to just chit chat and remain connected).  They took a chance and ate the fruit.  Not sure why or what they were thinking.  We are sure they instantly felt shame inside and resorted to blaming each other, the serpent and even God.  Later when God did come into the garden not with anger toward them or fear for them but with compassion toward them, he called out in a loving voice and tone, “Where are you all?”  Everything that happened afterward expresses the love and care of God.  I will blog tomorrow about the 7 acts of grace from the creation record.

God made a choice, to create people with independence and self determination.  God could not take that back but love them to a second choice.  God chose to be the first to shed innocent blood as he made a covering for them, a garment of grace to cover over the act of their defiance of rule.  The couple now made the choice to put on those provided clothes and feel the comfort of their covering them in grace and gratitude.  God’s second choice created a second chance with the accompanying responsibility to make a second choice.

For God and humanity it is never about chance always about choice.

Ending the year on a Good Note

A Merry heart does a Good think to the soul

The Best way to celebrate the end of 2016 is to do something generous, not-necessary, just kind and compassionate to whoever for whatever.

 

One of our traditions around Christmas and New year is to make and give some pretty elaborate but genuinely just nice Gingerbread Houses.  This year we are making and delivering tomorrow a “Phelps Memorial Hospital” Ginger Bread House to say a huge thank you to all the staff and workers in that hospital and particularly 2 Center where I was a patient for 15 days back in July following my accident when i was hit by a motorist not paying attention to the road therefore hit me while I was walking to get into my car!  My pelvis was severed and the pelvic ring fractured as was my sacrum. 5 and a half months later I will walk i=onto the floor unassisted by a cane or walking stick to say thank you for providing care, hope, and confidence.

img_0952Thank You are two small words but mean a lot.

Jesus healed 10 lepers one day but only one returned to give thanks.  We have all learned as a sad reality that few actually say thank you and fewer yet go out of their way to say thank you.

 

After decorating the above Ginger Bread House complete with the Ambulance (delivering me lower right), I drove to Phelps and delivered it to the 2c where I was a patient.  Once I removed my santa’s hat they recognized me and were thrilled to see me walking.  PT, OT, Nurses Staff et al gathered around to marvel at the Ginger Bread House and also such a unique way to say think you to them.  The Director of Nursing came to the floor to witness it and said it was the first time she ever heard of anything like this happening.  Smiles all around what an honor to be part of this moment with them.  HIPPA says I cannot take a picture of them but they took one of me. We will see if it shows up anywhere on media!

So end the year thanking someone for something and enter the new year with a cheerful heart and soul.

Children are our future, God is our Eternal Grandfather

Grandchildren the future for real......they are truly the upcoming generation

5grandkids

I had three children who are now all grown adults now and they have and are parenting my five grand children. On christmas eve we had all of them together in one place which was quintessential, cosmic, chaos of such a delightful kind there are no words for it.

I began to think that God is probably better thought of as a “Grand Father or Grand Mother!  Parents seem to be so caught up in many things (I was).  Making their mark in the world by excelling in a career notably to provide for the child they were in charge of raising. As young parents they are often filled with anxieties about their capacity to be a good parent, about safety, about doing a good job.  Pressures abound financially, new family connections, everybody giving in put, books a plenty from specialist abound, and the growing child that from the crying and sleepless ness of infancy to the adolescent identity formation and crisis.  I tis surprising that parents and child survive this era but they do unless tragedy interrupts.

Grandparents and in my case, Grandfathers, are in a different space, place, and full of grace.  The journey of life has taught us that everything is not as critically important as we think it is when we are young (under 45).  What church we go to and even what we believe becomes less important than how we behave.  How much money and property we have is not as important as how much peace is in our minds and how much love is in and flows out of our hearts.

My accident this past summer nearly fatal has changed a lot in me and around me.  I had asked for one thing for Christmas from my children back when I was still in the hospital maybe before: “a picture of all five of my grandchildren”.  MY children never asked me why and it was never mentioned so I was pleasantly surprised when On Christmas Eve as we were all together and exchanging presents that the above picture nicely framed was my present.

As a grandfather I see the beauty of life in the screaming 1 year old, the courage of life in the defiant 3 year old, the discipline of life in the competitive 8 year old, and compassion in the creatively cleverly deceptive 11 year old.  In short I see the best in each of them no matter how good or bad they are being in any given moment.  I think God is like that.  I know he is not anxious about what people think of him/her and their parenting skills, or of how much wealth or health he can maintain,or how much security or provisions he can give to his/her creation.  As a Grandfather he just watches and waits until their grandchildren learn, grow and develop in wisdom and stature both with God and humanity.  The grandfather never disciplines out of frustration but of faith to belief in the riches of what this child will become.  He never flexes his eternal power to subdue or subjugate his grandchild but in love and grace encourages and builds him/her up into the adult they can and will be come.  He sees all with eyes of hope, peace, love and joy all be anticipatory joy at times.  As John noted well of Jesus who was a reflective example of his father in heaven was from day one, and eternity, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  This couplet was also presented years later by Paul as the two sine quo non of Christian community and the family: “speaking truth with grace (love) (Ephesians 4:15) causes all people to grow up and mature in their faith and living.

So I look at these five beautiful, connected to me (through the roots, experiences and linkages of love) over the years and place in them by their loving parents.  I can be equally honest about their foibles and futures with truth and grace as God is with all their children.

They are the youngest generation alive and they are adults of the future, and the parents of the next generation.

So I also wanted a picture of my five (may be more in time) grandchildren because they along with my wife and my grown children gave me reason to fight so hard to be back among the living to promote the life force, determination, discipline, courage and compassion in me and at the same time model and propel the same in each of them.

God the grand Father and Greatest Grandfather of all generations is simply and profoundly full of grace and truth toward all in the hope that we will all grow up to be all that he/she wants us to be and let that be the heritage we leave the next generation. Amen

A Message from Nature and the Aspen Tree

What if our feet that walk the earth were literally connected through to all others through the roots of connectedness of Earth

Two weeks ago while sitting in Church listening to our splendid church choir Sing “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” (you can listen at www.stockbridgeucc.org/december18, 2016).  It inspired me to work on another affirmation form nature of the message of Christ in and through nature:

Jesus Christ, The Aspen Tree

 

The tree of life my soul has seen,

Laden with fruit always green:

The leaves of the tree are for healing,

Of nations fighting, selfish dealing,

 

The trees of nature fruitful are

But their leaves and fruit not on par

With God’s vast desire for all to be one

No matter how small or tall we are one.

 

Christ’s beauty doth all things excel:

By faith I know, but ne’er can tell.

The glory which I now can see

Is Jesus Christ the Aspen Tree.

 

Connecting all people underground

What an idea, all differences embraced

For Jesus is the light, the root of David

We are all connected, as one we are rooted.

 

The Aspen Tree has roots all connecting

For peace on earth, always wanting

Now I see the message in nature so free

We are all one, as Jesus is the Aspen Tree.

 

 

*The Aspen Tree grows in rows all connected by roots beneath the surface. A good image in nature that which we cannot see it we are all one connected by our roots in humanity and in the maker of heaven and earth. Jesus is the “root of David” and in whom we are all grafted.

CHRISTMAS DAY -What made it happen

Why then, why now?

It is Christmas Day and I am Thankful for so much.

There are four expressions I have become more keenly aware of in my journey:  They are I Can’t, I am going to, I can, I did.

I can’t imagine there is anything that God cannot do then I am reminded that the scripture even tells us “God cannot lie”.  When God created the world He clearly said, “I am gonna send my son in to the world to save the world from themselves (they will learn to believe that all there is is their physical world and I will have to reconnect them to their spiritual roots.  They will have to learn that they are not “physical beings in search of a spiritual experience as they are spiritual beings having a physical experience”.

There were days when God said “I can’t” send my son into the world so didn’t but as the scripture reminds us in the “fullness of time God sent his Son”.  What made it the “right time”? I am not sure that is important though many have speculated on it.  What I think is important is that whenever we as human beings say “I cna’t” our brains hear us and we indeed can’t.  It also seems to be human nature somehow programed into our DNA to say, “I can’t” even though that expression itself is disabling and dis-enabling.

After my accident in June, I asked my surgeon, who had just put a plate and crews in me to hold together my pelvis and sacrum which had suffered multiple fractures, “So will I be able to do the Marathon in November?”  He said, “sure”.  Today I think he was actually saying you have to be kidding me but I will say yes even though it si a “no”.  4.5 months later I did the marathon.  Well not exactly.  I did not run 26.2 miles.  I did walk 5 boroughs 5 miles each day for 4 days then 6.2 in Central Park crossing the finish line 24 hours ahead of everyone else.  I did it (in the Frank Sinatra tradition) “my way” though approved by the marathon committee.

I went from unable to move in bed to walking on this Christmas Day without aide and with thanks be to God and a lot of praying and caring family and friends.

I learned that “I can’t” is debilitating to the mind as it hears the lips ay it. “I am gonna” is empowering to the mind and spirit.  “I can” is the solid affirmation of hope in action. “I did it” is the celebration of achievement and affirmation of empowerment and enabling.

God said “I can’t”  but only for a time.  “I can” are words of hope, light, love, and joy.  “I am going to” are words of determination.  They were all present in God and became the joy to the World of Christmas morning.

There is a reason why Paul admonished and affirms that inner power form God when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  (Philippians 4:13)

I did.

I thank God.

In the Darkness a Light Shines

Think of it, Amazing

We just passed “Winter Solstice” the longest and darkest of nights for us in this part of the world.

While we like to think that December 25th is the Birthday of the Christ.  None of us really knows.  I can easly imagine that the reason that Star over Bethlehem shone so bright for so long is that it was Winter Solstice Eve that Jesus was born so more like December 21st.

I also, through my own personal time of darkness, have concluded something different about the “darkness thing”. Darkness is not evil.  Yes deeds done in the cloak of a dark night will come to light, true enough.  But I also can easily imagine that when John penned the words “the darkness does not comprehend the light” he did not mean what we traditionally think he meant.  Traditionally we think he was talking about the fact that the darkness cannot comprehend the power of the light to dispel or eradicate all darkness, all deeds of darkness, and the very existence of darkness as if “darkness is bad”.

I think darkness is good.  What darkness could not comprehend is that light does not want to get rid of darkness as if it is bad but wants to share equal space, value and use of darkness.  If darkness could comprehend the “sharing of space” idea it would be at peace.  Maybe this is the message of that first darkest night with the brightest of Stars.  In all relationships there needs to be equally shared space for healthiness, holiness, and peace to be pervasively, perennially, and powerfully present.

Imagine, Palestine and Israel learning to share space valuing each other equally, all people regardless of religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, sexual preference, gender or gender identification learning to share space without prejudice, bias or elitism.  Peace on Earth Good will toward all.

Lest I have lost you might I remind you of a few things.  In the beginning all there was was darkness.  Light was created as the source of giving life to the world.  When Moses approached the thick darkness in Exodus 21:20 we read “and he found God there”! While there is what we call on earth winter solstice and Summer Solstice which are of the longest and darkest night and longest and lightest days, they represent an qual balancing of light and dark.  In fact while there are gradations of the amount of daylight and darkness on each day of the year at the end of the year there is total equity between and equal value in both light and darkness.  the clue of nature is when all things live cooperatively, collaboratively, and compassionately in and for each other what is comprehended is that it is not about competitive, combative, or conflictual at all.

What darkness does not understand is that light is present not to overtake or dispell darkness but help darkness to learn the cooperative nature of all things.  Perhaps in our relationships as people whether as a community or family if we could learn that it is nto about competition but about cooperation we could also learn to live in peace,within  and with peace toward all outside of us.  The world without end is a world of balance and harmony, maturity and respectfulness, community and individuality, and love and peace.

The Message of the dark night in which the light shone is the message of Christmas.

A Christmas Prayer for Peace in families and in the world

Peace begins inside

Eternal God creator of heaven and earth, everlasting father of the eternal son: We come before you this day on the night before you would give the precious, preeminent, perennial gift of your son to your earth to give you thanks for the gift of your son the everlasting father, the prince of peace.

 

We give you thanks for the natural and supernatural family that we are as we gather this day in remembrance of your gift of love on that night, on earth there is nothing and no one more precious, more present, more preeminent, and more powerful on earth or in heaven.

 

No event in our world goes without your notice. Your heart is grieved with all those whose Christmas is marred by tragedy, disappointments, and difficulties that might cause them to lose the true spirit of Christmas. The true spirit of Christmas is hope. For them we pray.

 

We notice your hand in all events in our personal lives, in our country in our world: in disappointments and blessings alike. For they cause us to remember you and the true spirit of Christmas Joy. Help us to spread the joy in our hearts, beyond our borders, and to the ends of the earth.  For this we pray.

 

You notice the chaos of our world and the confusion of governments in our world. We notice that Isaiah reminds us that “the government will one day be upon your shoulders. So for the peace that passes human understanding because it’s of your wisdom this peace is the true spirit of Christmas. Give us on the Christmas gift of peace on Earth goodwill to men and women and children for whom we pray.

 

For every person present here today and for all those persons who have gone before us in heaven and for those of us who remain on earth, the true gift of Christmas is love. Love is the greatest of all the gifts of God the most eternal of all things the most commanded of anything, and the most transformational of all gifts.

 

We are to love, as you do, all people of earth no matter what, no matter who, and no matter anything. The God of heaven loves all people: this is our secret Christmas prayer for this hour and all of the inhabitants of earth

 

As God’s expansive and diverse people we pray that all people will experience the power of love, hope, Peace and Joy the true gifts of Christmas

 

For those struggling with difficulties and disappoints grant them wisdom to look up and see you hand of love extended with care and compassion for them. “Give us the wisdom to focus on the things in us that we can change not on the things in others where we have no control. Help us to let go of trying to change what we cannot and the wisdom to know the difference”. All events provide opportunities for your hand of love and grace to be experienced holding us up and covering us with the gifts of hope, joy, peace, and love.

We pray

 

God grant us the wisdom of the wise men who saw the star, and the humility of the shepherds who listened to God, and glory that comes when we lift God to the highest place in out lives. God grant us the discipline of always returning thanks in everything to the one who is the gift of love, life, hope, peace and joy.

 

Help us to see the difficulties and disappointments of life as an avenue for deepening our faith and our trust. Help us to see the good times and the blessings as an avenue to never forget to thank the maker of heaven and earth for all things, for everything works together for our good if we have good eyes, good hearts, and a good mind.

 

For ourselves and all the people of earth this Christmas we pray for good eyes of faith, good hearts of love, and good minds that think the best always of everyone. Receive the Christ of Christmas who is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love into your heart, mind and vision.

 

Amen

A View of the Christmas Story: Joseph and Mary Crazy or Courageous

Imagine a World without judgment, fear, or reprisal

Joseph and Mary were just a couple normal teenagers.  They probably had trouble in their dating and especially on betrothal.  In those days an engagement was a vow to intend to marry and it was seen as  done deal.  Today in some elaborate and for some confusing marriage ceremonies the service of intention to Wed This was a church service months before the wedding and as much a seal of a covenant as marriage is today, in fact more.  If you have been to a wedding which began with what we clergy officiato’s call a “Statement of Intention” in which the couple is asked if they “will” to marry which is followed by “Who gives this man to be married to this woman, or person to be married to this person”. There is, after all a difference in our day between saying “I will” do something implying a future fulfillment and “I do” implying a present reality.

The reality for Jos and Mary was that the story they were given at different times form a different messenger asked both of them to believe the unbelievable or even inconceivable. To Mary in Luke’s Gospel it was the angel Gabriel who said to her, “the holy spirit will come upon you and you will conceive a son, when he is born you shall call his name Jesus for He shall save his people form their sin”.  To quote Rev Nadia as a way  out there yet real practical preacher, “Mary said what the f___”>  Later Joseph (who loved her so much he had a mind to put her away privately to save face for both of them and not being public shame on either of them) was visited in a dream and was to to fear not (let see: don’t fear what people will say, don’t fear what family will say, don’t fear what the rabbi and congregation of El Shaddai will say, don’t fear how history will judge you, don’t fear the social isolation just trust it will all be okay because that which will be born of Mary is the “son of the Living God”.  Oh and if it were our day one would add, “do not fear the diagnosis of both of you as suffering from delusions of grandeur and a messianic complex not to mention ego dystonic hypo mania.  So get the hell out of Dodge or in this case Nazareth where the orthodox judgment of family and friends will itself be humiliating and go to Bethlehem.  So these two teenagers set off on a long journey totally alone but equally and totally empowered by a belief that this was of God regardless of what anyone else thought.  I can see Joseph trying to explain this to his friends at the pub or synagogue and can only imagine the responses:  “Joseph you are kidding yourself, she’s been with another man!”.   On and on could go the internal debate.  Today a psychiatrist would label them both suffering form “delusions of grandeur of a messianic complex”.  A prophet of God who believes that God speaks would say they are both blessed with “confessions of gracedeur”.

Because they knew that God had spoken they did not fear anything or anyone for their journey was a classic journey of faith:”one step at a time obedient and opulent by God’s standard which is th egold standard of faith.”

 

Perspective creates Perseverance creates Power

Courage and Compassion coupled together overcomes anything

I recall waking up after surgery to put screws and a plate in my pelvis and sacrum to put me back together again.  I recall among other things asking the surgeon if he thought I could do the marathon 4 months away.  He said “sure”.  I am not sure if he answered humorously or thoughtfully.  I recall thinking “Yes I can”.  I just have to take one day at a time, adding to each day the progress of yesterday and the hope for progress tomorrow.  If I focused on the moment with its pain and difficulty to even get out of bed I would have been overcome by negativity.

 

I recall one day thinking about how unfair and wrong all this was.  I had right oriented my life after begin upended by depression.  I had celebrated with family and friends my 67th birthday in March as a way of affirming getting my life back.  I had begun swimming, walking, and generally getting my body back into shape for the marathon in the fall.  On the day of the accident I was feeling good.  Had worked out at the gym, swam in the pool, and lost 34 pounds in three months.  Life was good.  Then a tragic unplanned accident threw me from a training schedule into a recovery schedule. My perspective was to heal and it was helping me persevere through pain to the pleasure of taking my first steps, putting a sneaker on my foot for the first time, bathing myself without assistance, to walking with a cane.  I can do this was my perspective and it was causing me to persevere.  Nearly 4 months later, I was told I could not do the marathon.  At the same time I was given the opportunity to do the marathon the Frank Sinatra way, “my way”: 5 miles a day for 4 days (some in each of the four boroughs) then 6.2 in Central Park (the fifth borough) on Saturday.Which I did then rode in the lead car for the top women’s runner!

With courage facing the challenge and with compassion toward the person and event of my accident I found a way to stay focused.  The “sure” from the surgeon became a realistic, are you kidding me or yourself?  Yet the sure with an adjustment about the “way of it” became a self perpetuating prophecy.  I did it not he way I envisioned in March but the way of perseverance through and preservation of a goal.

Perspective shifts and perseverance propels to achieve what the surety of faith can see and make a reality.

I celebrate.  I know it was God in me strengthening me, giving me hope, and that is for “sure”.

 

It is Christmas Time

Miracles of Love are produced by acts of goodness and kindness

I was listening to Christmas Songs and heard the ever popular, “It is Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas”.  The song focuses on decorations in stores, Christmas trees, family gatherings, snow, lights aglow….but what is Christmas?  What is its essence?  Here’s my thought and I invite you to add your thoughts as a response to this blog.

God who before time had a heart of love that was a couplet to God’s creative power.  The same God who created the heavens and the earth also planned in advance to git the creation not only with physical life but with spiritual vitality. In the fullness of time (what made it “now time” I am not sure. God gave their only begotten son, full of grace and truth, to lead us into living life full of grace and truth. When I live my life with grace toward all and with honesty from inside out, I reenact the true Christmas Spirit!

When God looked at humanity 2,000+ years ago, I imagine he said two things.  They are so caught up in things that just do not matter like rules and ruling over others.  What matters is not power over others but the ability to gift the power of living life abundantly which is lettign go of power and becoming a humble honest servant to and for others.  So on the night that God chose to send his Son I imagine two truths:  “They really need some help they think it is about power over and I need to demonstrate that it is about power under, not power that disables but that enables in a good way life most abundantly.  So this is Christmas: giving in grace and in truth that which promotes life and love.

5 months ago to the day, I laid in the middle of the road having been hit by a motorist who was doing anything but paying attention.  I was an innocent victim of carelessness.  I was simply walking to my car a thing that we all do everyday.  Why me? I am not sure.  Why not me? I am sure this is a better question as it suggests that which is true.  Why should I or anyone be spared injury, hurt and pain in the physical realm if that pain can lead us to a greater sense of the spiritual realm.  A good friend’s words remain in my mind in a new way today: “Some think we are physical beings in search of spiritual reality, I think we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”  This is Jesus, Christmas.  A reminder that God who is Spirit became a physical reality to teach us through words and modeling what being human really is.  For the past 5 months I have fought through physical pain by feeling the spiritual presence of grace and truth. The truth: this happened to me and while I cannot change anything about what happened that Father’s Day I can change my focus from anger and fear, from questioning and complaining to a focus on positive presence and a portal of optimism.  Christmas is looking into the portal of pain, suffering, darkness, and hopelessness and in it the gift of a portal of love, peace, hope and joy. Now this is Christmas.

I am full of thankfulness for all family and friends who offered word and acts of faith, goodness and kindness who helped me to discover the power of letting go of what you cannot control and embracing what is within your control.  The choice of being at peace in your heart regardless of anything that happens to you. Christmas is about choices.  Not the choice of what gift to get and put under the Christmas tree:  The choice of being hopeful regardless of the crippling of your body. The choice to choose joy rather than being upset over and with people and their humanness which in tragedy can be remarkably present, hurtful and its negative energy overwhelming if you let it.  The choice to be at peace with whatever happens not because it is fair or right but because it is about the power of peace that promotes good will. The choice to choose love not revenge distancing or declaring truth as I see it.

This Christmas is special this year not because i am alive though I am glad to be able to sit by a warm fire with my loving wife, welcome my grown children and the grandchildren that fill my life with love to our home on Christmas Eve, to love all of them into their living and loving as the maker of heaven and earth would gift them.  This Christmas is special because I see the power of the spiritual reality that wants to and has for me burst into the physical realities of life with ever enriching and empowering glory.  That is what the Angels were singing about that first Christmas:

“Glory to the God (who is in the highest heaven who has gifted love to the lowest earth) in the highest and on earth peace (of troubled, hurting, disillusioned humanity) of heart and mind and acts of goodness and kindness toward all people (even those who hurt us).”  This is the glory of Christmas.  The spiritual reality bursting the bubble of human preoccupations, prejudices, and precursors and inflating in us the Spirit of peace, hope, joy, and peace the gifts of the maker of heaven and earth to those on earth who would live on earth as life is in heaven.  Amen

Responses welcome to this blog as a comment or to me at parakalein@me.com

God Bless Everyone on Earth this Christmas.  IT IS CHRISTMAS TIME!