Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christmas planning and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 23.

That's right - October 23. So quickly.
We are already being bombarded by Christmas commercials and merchandise. UGH

Remember when you knew you would just DIE if you didn't get that toy, game, electronic gadget?
Remember when you knew you would just DIE if someone in the office gave you a gift and you didn't have one to give in return?
Remember when you knew you would just DIE if you didn't have the right clothes for the Christmas Dance, the Christmas office bash, the party at the wealthy church family's home?  

Yeah, I remember too...silly thoughts

But here is what I know to be true: No matter where we live, we all pass people every single day who have desperate needs. We learn to look through people, to steel ourselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves they are lazy, comfortable in their "entitlements" and beyond help.

And know this: behind every adult we scorn for not pulling his or her own weight, there are almost always kids.
Innocent kids. With no voice.
Maybe they don't attend your child's school. But they exist somewhere within your reach.
Do you really see them? 
Do you have any idea how desperate life can be when one or both of your parents is a substance abuser, or a child abuser?
Do you ever stop to imagine how hard life is when your single-parent works two jobs, still can't put food on the table, and is never around just to be Mom or Dad?
Do you have any idea how much you wouldn't care about spelling or algebra when you didn't have a blanket on your bed, or a coat to wear, or breakfast?

No matter what your feelings about "entitlements" are, NO child deserves to have a lousy life.

Think about it. 
What would happen if every one of us redirected 25% of our Christmas spending?
What if we choose not to buy for the relative who has everything?
What if we choose not to participate in Secret Santa, choose not to buy a co-worker another coffee mug or Starbucks gift card?
What if we choose to limit what our kids found under the tree (is it REALLY necessary to have every device Apple makes??) and, as a family, shopped for a kid who may not even get an apple.

You're right...some people spend their assistance money unwisely.
THAT ISN'T THE FAULT OF THEIR CHILDREN. Yes, I am yelling about that.

Kids need coats. They need decent clothes - more than one pair of jeans, more than 2 shirts. They need shoes that fit and don't have holes.
Mostly, they need to know someone - anyone - cares.    

Are you foolish enough to not consider the societal impact of a kid with no coat, insufficient shoes, nothing but junk food? 
Those kids become teenagers who learn how to take what they don't have. Those teenagers become adults lacking in education and job skills...and the cycle repeats.

Opportunities abound. Coat drives, mittens/gloves/hat trees, Angel trees with all the information you need - sizes, favorite color, coveted toy.
You won't need to look far. It won't be hard work...in fact, it may be the most fun you have during this Christmas season!

What if we all decided to be grateful, then be generous?
What if we teach our kids to understand how blessed they are, then SHOW them how to be generous?

What if you changed ONE kid's life? And your co-worker changed ONE kid's life? And your church changed 200 kids' lives?

What if we start a revolution of kindness and caring in our towns?

You say, what if it doesn't matter? 
But what if it does?

Will you join me?

I would love to hear your ideas!

We will talk again soon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hibiscus, Road Blocks and 31 Days to being a Real Writer

Day 16

I moved my plants indoors last week.  Now the hibiscus is dropping its leaves.
The first year I had the tree, the dropping alarmed me. Hibiscus is temperamental anyway, and I thought  it surely must be dying. Now I know better - so the leaf shedding is simply annoying as I attempt to get them off the floor before the cat eats them or the dog crumbles them trying to decide if they are a new toy.  

The leaves will continue to drop until the tree is completely bare. Think Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. It will stay that way for a month or so, then slowly...slowly...the leaves start to come back.

I also separated and transplanted some African Violets. A bit concerned about those because they were my Grandma's. She died in 1984, so these plants are at least 30 years old.

So when I started writing this piece, the focus was a bit melancholy. Boo hoo that's me, feel like I am dropping all my leaves and being stuck in new places waaa waaa.
I generally form ideas in my head, roll them around awhile, then start to write. But somewhere between walking past the plants on my way out to do errands and returning to my computer two hours later, the focus changed.

Maybe, just maybe, leaf dropping is what I need. New soil inspiring new root growth is what I need.

I feel like the Grinch when he discovered Christmas doesn't come from a store!  

There are dreams running through my head constantly. Big dreams. Visions I have for my life. Changes I am determined to make.
How about you? Have you thought about your dreams lately?

There has always been something that I can put in my own way. Long ago I acquired a skill for putting junk in the way to block my path. Then I can point to the block and say, "See, that's why I do or do not _____."  Blame the junk in the way. Easier than correcting the problem.

You probably don't do that, do you? Didn't think so.

It feels like the storm I have been navigating for three years has killed every leaf I have. Maybe it has. Maybe my branches are soon to be bare. Maybe I have been uprooted and dropped in new soil.
Maybe SO WHAT??

Maybe I need to stop  worrying about the leaves that are dropping and think about the new leaves.  Stop worrying about moving out of the old pot and grow some new roots
A new level of fitness.
New business ventures.
New eating habits.
New levels of spiritual maturity.
New ways to help others.
Lots of new roots seeking different nourishment.
Lots of new leaves which I will never see as long as I am focused on keeping the old ones.
I am not like a tree. I can choose to hang on to the dead leaves.   
So can you.

So what will we do? Hang on to the leaves? Mourn their falling?
What if we gather and dispose of them? Not worry about whywhywhy they are falling or how we can stop it or what happens next?

Let's do that. Are you in? Will you join me?

We will talk again tomorrow...after more leaves fall
BP :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Father Hopfko, My Dog's Faith and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 14

If you have been tracking with me for any amount of time, you know I have been working through Father Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims for Christian Living. The project began because it occurs to me that what non-believers or unchurched believers see in those of us who regularly attend church has a lot to do with their choice to stay away.
So I am traveling through Fr Hopko's list, looking at my life and at what I see in others.

Today we look at #4: Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is warning against grandiose prayers which attempt to draw attention to the pray-er. He gives his Disciples a simple verse to use instead.
It is truly a perfect prayer. Covers all the bases beautifully.

But when was the last time you recited it slowly, really listened to the words?

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy name
Hallowed is an uncommon word. Jesus is telling us that the One to whom we pray is sacred and unlike any other, not to be trivialized or used for any purpose we contrive.  God and our belief in Him are not tools we can use against others.
Excellent word for current times.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
Pastor Rob spoke this morning about the Kingdom of God being a state in which God's will is carried out as it should be, in the way God plans. He went on to mention that every part of creation lives within the Kingdom of God, except human beings. Everywhere else in the Universe, every other species of plant and animal, bows to the authority of God, except humans.
Think about it.

Give us this day our daily bread
I am watching my dog sleep beside me right now. She has no concern about not eating tomorrow. Her belly is full, she is ready for bed, and thoughts about tomorrow will not ruin her sleep.
Wouldn't that be a great way to live?

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Okay, this is a tough one. What we should read in these words is "forgive me in the very same way I forgive others"...and that seems harsh. We like grudges. We cling to hurts people have put on us. We want forgiveness but don't want to forgive.
Except it doesn't work that way.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Pretty much sums up my cry each day. Keep me out of trouble, rescue me when I wander off the trail.
Seems that Father Hopko is on to something here.
I am making a commitment to reciting this prayer at least three times every day for the rest of October.
And listening to the words as I say them, either in my head or aloud
Will you join me?
Who knows...we might start a revolution as a result!

We will talk again tomorrow...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pruning, Perspective and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 13
Beautiful Saturday. Great day to do yard work.
I am grateful to have a lovely yard and the physical ability to maintain it. That is a huge blessing and I know it.
Yard work is a pleasant way for me to enjoy the sun, play in the dirt, enjoy having the dogs running around me.
Spring clean-up is nice because it signals the beginning of nice weather. Summer maintenance is tolerable because the gardens look so nice when they are clean and weed-free.
October chores are different. Pruning, separating perennials, moving some plants inside...none of that says "FUN" to me.

Perhaps it is because the season is ending. Cutting the gardens down to nothing and knowing they will soon be covered with snow gives me no satisfaction. Necessary change of seasons blah blah. It still isn't fun.

That is the mindset I had when I headed out today.
Somewhere in the sun and clippings and barking, my perspective changed.

Certainly the clean, albeit bare, gardens look better than they did filled with brown leaves and dead stems.
So maybe I am like that too? No maybes about it. I need to be pruned and I look better when it is done.
How about you?

Isn't it interesting that when plants are growing wild, we prune them to get the growth under control - and when plants aren't growing, we prune them to encourage new growth.
Pruning - the all around cure.

It works the same way for me.
Sometimes I get out of control. I know, it's hard to believe! My plans, thoughts, energies become scattered.
Pruning is necessary, lest I become like the vinca in my back flower garden - spreading in every direction but producing no flowers, growing in places I don't belong.

Sometimes I get lackadaisical, content with mediocrity...or worse, full of myself, counting on my own strength.
Pruning is necessary, lest I become like my Wandering Jew - stems that hang down and look healthy, but are thin and nearly dead at the root.

How about you? Do you need pruning to stimulate or control?

I am diligent about weeding. It is one of my favorite activities when I am having a blank moment while writing. So imagine my surprise when today's pruning revealed weeds. Big ones that have been there for some time.    
The past three years have been a period of tremendous pruning for me. I often ask God (or demand or scream about) what else I possibly need to give up or learn.
Then another branch comes off and I see a weed.

How about you? Do you learn more in periods of loss? Yeah, most of us do.

I still don't like pruning. There are thorn pricks in two fingers and one thumb is sore because a hard stem shoved itself under the nail. OUCH.
But, at least I have a better perspective. Which is good because I am only half done.
And it seems likely God has more pruning to do on me. Seasonally, just like my flower gardens.

You too, maybe?

We will talk again tomorrow...

During the month of October I am participating in the 31 Days Challenge hosted by the Nester.
And if you want to be sure not to miss any of my posts this month,
you can subscribe to get them emailed to you daily for free!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Missing Grandma and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 12

On this date 28 years ago, I awoke and prepared for work. The day was much like this one...sunny and crisp.
I was living with my grandmother, as she had congestive heart failure and had suffered a stroke several months earlier.
Thursday had been an unusual one. Grandma wanted to make City Chicken and an apple pie. She called my cousin Kathy and my Mom to invite them for supper. She hadn't wanted to cook for months. The meal was delightful, and she enjoyed the company.
Friday morning I checked on her before getting in the shower. She seemed fine.
By the time I was done showering, she was congested, not breathing well at all. If you have been in the presence of someone with CHF, you know the distinctive sound that is made when the patient can't breath...like a frantic hiccup...gurgling...a sound I can still hear. I started for the phone to call 9-1-1. She shook her head and motioned for me to come to her side.
I called my aunt who lived across the street. She called for the ambulance, then came to be with us.
For the next few minutes we held her hands, watching her slip from this world to the next.

I was nearly 25, and she had been one of the most significant people in my life. I had lived with her for five months, knowing this would happen at some point, but not really accepting it.
What I had no way of knowing is that 28 years later I would still think of her daily, still hear her voice, still seek her help, still miss her every time I watched the Pirates.

"The Surge" - that's what medical professionals call a day like we had on Thursday. In hindsight, it made sense. October 10 is my grandfather's birthday. In 1984, he had been gone for 31 years, and I'm sure Grandma missed him terribly. I will always believe that as Wednesday Oct 10 passed, she willed herself to have one more good day. On Thursday she cooked, baked, saw several members of her family. And on Friday, she gave up. She was ready to be done with sickness, ready to be with her beloved Joe, just ready.

Grandma despised the condition of her body after the stroke. Unable to walk well, little use of her right/dominant side, spending much of her time attached to an oxygen tank. She wasn't silent about her unhappiness. At the  age of 24, I sometimes took that personally, felt she didn't appreciate my help. Now I understand that it must be difficult to depend on a person whose diapers you once changed.

I didn't take advantage of that time to ask her questions about her life, questions about Grandpa, questions only she could answer. I didn't sit with her as much as I could have.

But there was a lot of sweetness. Listening to her visit with friends. Turning to see her smiling as she listened to me sing old hymns while I cleaned or cooked. Saying, "I love you, Gram" before I went upstairs to bed and hearing her say, "I love you, too, Honey."

Hard to believe it has been 28 years. Seems like a minute...and a lifetime.
It's like that when we miss someone, isn't it?

I think about the depth of my grief at that time. I think about how my perspective has changed.
Death no longer frightens me.
You might read that and think death doesn't faze me, doesn't alter me. Of course it does. I don't want people I love to die. Passing of loved ones rips at my heart, but it doesn't shake my foundation. 
Death is not the end that I thought it was in 1984. Do I wish I could sit down to a meal with Grandma, Patty-Jo, Christopher, and other loved ones who have passed? Yes, of course. Would give anything for that chance.
They aren't here to touch, but they aren't gone either.

And what I know for sure is that as we stood at Grandma's bedside watching her go, my grandfather was on the other side waiting with glee.
As we stood at the funeral home, as we wept at the graveside, she was at the banquet table of God, celebrating as she never had before.

In the past three years, as I have traveled through a dark abyss, I have often felt my grandmother very near. I have heard her voice telling me to take another step. I hear her saying everything will be fine.
I know all this will pass...this valley, this difficulty, indeed this life. I know I will see her again. I do know.
Until then, I will continue to miss her.
And each night I will say, "Goodnight, Gram" and I will hear, "I love you too, honey."

We will talk again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thoughts of Leaving and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 9

I am thinking today of a conversation from a couple months ago. Like me, the friend with whom I was speaking has been going through a drawn-out, difficult issue.
We spoke of how it feels to have every part of our lives affected, either directly or indirectly. Of how everyone in our lives has paid a price, even if they are unaware of the situation.

She told me about days when she truly felt as if she could not go one any longer. I feel compelled to share what she said because it struck me hard, and made me wonder how many others feel this way.

My friend spoke of waking on certain mornings and thinking it might be her last day. She goes about her business, doing what is required of her, but with an ongoing thought that she would never repeat that action.
She looks at trees and a beautiful sky with renewed appreciation.
She watches people play with their children or walk their dogs, and she wants to stop and tell them how precious those moments are.
She talks to people, but is secretly wondering how each of them would feel if they found out tomorrow that she was gone. Her family. Her friends. Her coworkers. Will they be surprised? Angry? Disappointed?

My friend knows she can call her therapist at any time...and sometimes she does. But there are days when she simply wants to be gone.
What struck me is how often she thinks about it, all the while putting one foot in front of the other, getting through a day.
She never makes a concrete plan for going, although there are times when she tells herself if she can just make it a couple more days, if she can just fulfill a couple commitments, then maybe she will leave.

Two things struck me about this conversation. First is the incredible strength my friend has. The pressure of her situation is so great that she is often in tears when she lays down at night and again five minutes after waking.
Yet she successfully maneuvers through her day. She maintains a home, shops, cares for an aging parent, volunteers, works - all the time dragging around a stone that is threatening her existence.

The second thing that strikes me is how little we know about the people around us. My friend doesn't wear her struggle like a badge. She rarely tells anyone she thinks about being gone.
She smiles at store clerks, leaves great tips, is friendly in traffic. She is affable and hard-working. She loves to make people laugh.
But underneath, she carries this heavy thought. And no one knows.

How many folks are there in her shoes?
Are we open to seeing people's pain?
Do we look in their eyes?
Do we judge without knowing the circumstance?

This world is full of hurting people. My friend is one of them.
And often we don't have any idea the depth of that pain.

I am not naive enough to say we should be sweet, hold hands and sing Kumbaya, and the world would be better.
Given what my friend told me, she would no doubt be singing loudly, all the while in pain.

I don't have a solution...didn't expect to have one when I started the piece.
I simply felt the need to share.
Maybe you are like my friend - amazingly strong, very susceptible. Blessings to you and prayers for continued strength to hold on until the resolution comes.

If you aren't that person, there is a reason you are still reading this post.
I would ask you to open your mind and heart, pray, about if there is someone in your life that needs an encouraging word.

People are close to the edge. We may not always see it clearly, but they are there, hanging on...not knowing if they have the strength or desire to continue.

Will you join me in being open to peoples' hurts? I hope so.

We will talk tomorrow...
BP :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cramming, Excellence and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 6...and 7...and 8

Wow. Very busy long weekend. A friend is visiting from out of state and we have run run run since Thursday, which has left me three blogs behind.
And today I got a new phone...another BIG distraction.
So today I am thinking about  maintaining a schedule, choosing to abide by it,  and dealing with guilt if the schedule goes awry.

It happens to all of us, doesn't it? We begin a project/diet/exercise program/behavior modification, and for the first few days we do well. The life comes harder and faster than we thought.
I suppose this is a great test for my commitment to "31 Days to being a Real Writer." Can I make time each day to do some writing, put aside at least an hour to put some thoughts to paper? And if I don't, does it sidetrack me so much that I don't continue?

That has been my story in the past. Big start, good run until something interrupts, then fizzle.
I haven't always had confidence in my abilities, and when a glitch appeared, when something didn't go as planned, it would be an out, a justification for "See, I knew I couldn't do it!"

Have you ever done that? Given yourself an excuse for failure. Dropped a commitment at the first stumble. Decided it was easier to quit than press on.
Yeah, me too. More than once. And it has cost me.
But it has taught great lessons.

Now, I ask myself this question at least once a day: Am I being excellent?
Sometimes I don't ask, but it comes as a still, small voice: "This is not what excellence looks like."
It is similar to the nudge God gives me when I am about to be disobedient or do something dumb.
Do you know that nudge?

So I have missed a few days. And I feel conviction when I think about my friends who have not missed any.
But it's fine. Tomorrow is a new day to start again.

Maybe you have something you would like to start again.
Join me. We can climb past the schedule monster who is chasing us, and the guilt monster who sees others NOT failing EVER, and the "I told you so" monster who wants us to quit.
We'll show them...and ourselves!!

We will  talk tomorrow...

BP :) 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Excellence, Greek philosophers and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 5

This has been a challenge the past few days as I have been away from my laptop and unable to post directly to Hubpages or Blogger from my ipad. Perhaps I am remedial? So forgive my Friday, Day 5 delay.

I am thinking today about excellence.

No doubt we each have our own ideas about what it means to be excellent.
Should we strive to be excellent in everything we do or pick and choose so as not to become obsessive/compulsive?
Is there a grading curve for excellence with ability as a consideration?
Should we expect excellence from others or better yet, is there a time we should not demand excellence?

All great questions for which I have no answers.

I once heard my friend Linda Kalafatis challenge her softball players to "be excellent. EXCELLENT. Today and every day."
As one of the 50 best coaches in NCAA, Linda knows excellence. Linda's fellow Greek philosopher, Aristotle said excellence is not an act, but a habit.
Those words ring true for me because I believe excellence is not a way to DO anything, but rather, a way to BE.
Excellence is an attitude.
Excellence is a condition of the heart.
Excellence is a choice - daily, hourly.

I haven't always chosen excellence. Haven't even always understood it.
Part of being excellent is knowing what you want to be, what vision you have for life, and being able to steadily move forward even on the worst days.
Until a few years ago, I didn't have a plan. I hoped things in my life would be get better, wanted them to get better, was sometimes angry when they didn't - even though I had no plan.
It is hard to make a bulls-eye when there is no target, isn't it?

Now I have a plan, and the pursuit of excellence is important to me. And exciting.

Excellence, for me, isn't a competition with others, only with myself.
It is an effort to go to bed a better person than I was when I got up.
It is complaining less, praising more.
It is judging less, encouraging more.
Excellence, for me, is defying the "I don't feel like it" voices and doing _____ anyway. (Insert cleaning, laundry, exercise, good food choices, etc)
It is turning off mindless television and opening a good book (THE Good Book?)
It is keeping commitments when I am tired or feeling weighed down. If you have been tracking with me for any amount of time, you know I am waiting for resolution to a long-standing issues. The footprint it has left on my life is long and broad. Many days I feel like being excellent a anything would take far more energy than I can muster.
Admittedly, I have not won every battle. Some days simply being willing to make an attempt equals excellence for me. But I press on.

How about you? Maybe you have some of wisdom about maintaining excellence in the toughest moments and circumstances. I would love to hear them.

We will talk again soon.
Until then...be excellent!

BP :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Minute Friday: WELCOME

Here are the rules for 5 Minute Friday:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in. http://lisajobaker.com/2012/10/31-days-write-story-day-5-five-minute-friday-welcome/
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
Today's word is WELCOME

Interesting that today's word is WELCOME because I had recently run across the etymology of the word.
It's good to explore the meaning of words and phrases. Sometimes we find a meaning we had not anticipated or considered.

We often see "Welcome" on door mats. This is appropriate, as the origin of the word is from an Old English word wilcuma, which means "one whose coming is in accordance with another's will" or "one whose coming brings pleasure."

I certainly would hope to be welcome in the homes and lives of others. So I ask myself, "Is my coming pleasurable?"
I have a nightshirt that says' "I am one big freakin' ray of sun!" Is it true? Am I a ray of warming sunshine or a thundercloud?

How about you?

And does my home and the personal area in which I walk through my day a welcoming one? Is it comforting or caustic?

How about yours?

We get to choose.
What? Circumstances, you say? Others' behavior, you say?
WRONG, I say.
We get to choose. Every hour, every day, every encounter.

Today I choose wilcuma. I choose to be one big freakin' ray of sun.
Will you join me?

Power of Words, French Toast, and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 4. Written late on 10/4...unable to post until now

Busy day. I have been working on a piece,but clearly, at this point, it is not going to be done today.

Right now (10:45pm) I am sitting in Eat N' Park (for non-Pittsburghers, it is a 24 hour restaurant chain), drinking coffee and waiting to pick up a friend at the airport. 11:30pm arrival. What kind of nonsense is that?

So I am thinking about the power of words. It is an important topic which will be discussed at length sometime during this October project. But today I just want to plant a seed.

You know how you sometimes want something little to eat, just a snack, not sure what, aren't really hungry just want a nibble? You get it. I wanted coffee - the airport is an hour from home - and a bite. Just couldn't put a finger on what. When Anthony, my very nice waiter brought coffee, he offered to answer any questions I had about the menu. I told him the only question I had was, "What do I want to eat?"

Without hesitation, he said, "French Toast Smile with bacon!" then walked away to give me more time.
I looked over the menu, but all I could hear in my head was "French Toast Smile" - which, by the way, I have never ordered.
Anthony laughed when I placed my French Toast Smile order. But once he said it, especially with such conviction, it was all I could see on the menu.

Obviously, this was not a life altering decision. And you might discount the importance of a late night meal choice. But here is the truth - words are powerful, and that power cannot distinguish between important decisions and unimportant ones.
Words you say stick in people's heads, affect their thought processes, may alter decisions they make.
Words you allow into your head affect you in the same way.

Will you do this with me...will you think about this for the next few days?
Think about the words you choose and the tone you use.  How may those words affect people?

Think about the words you allow in. The television shows you watch, the conversations you join, the thoughts you entertain. Notice how much you complain or bean your circumstances. How may those words affect you?

I will do the same.
We will talk again about this soon.

Back to my French Toast...
BP :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Coinkydinks and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer, Day 3

Day 3

In late September I began marking an October calendar with ideas for this project. Apparently concerned that my idea well might be dry on a given day.  As I told my friend  and fellow blogger Amy,  
( thepentriloquist.blogspot.com ) when I looked at my note for Oct 1,  all it said was, "pasta noodles"
If you see a post this month about pasta noodles, you'll know I remembered what that note meant.

I like to let ideas simmer a little in my head before the writing begins.  So while this one was rolling around, I jumped on Facebook. The very first post I saw was an e-card that stated my idea, only with a nice font and pretty colors.

That's cool for a couple reasons. First, because it just is. Don't you agree? Fun coinkydink, right?
Second, because that is my topic today. Coincidence. Randomness. My lack of belief in either.

The e-card said, "We do not meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason."
Not sure how you feel about that, but I fully agree. Just like I do not believe anything is a surprise to God, I also do not believe in coincidence.

This post is not going to delve into theological or physics theories. The topic is not whether I believe in coincidence and why or why not?
The topic is how I live in response to that.

So I will say this again - I believe there is a reason for every person/situation/circumstance which enters my life.
I wish I could say that purpose is always abundantly clear.
I wish I could say I am present enough to be aware if the purpose is clear.

Presence. I need to work on it.
Openness to new experiences. I need to work on that as well.
Acceptance of the present circumstances as, perhaps, a lesson that will benefit me. OUCH. Big work needed.

Do you need any work in these areas? No? Just me?

It has been said that if you think about a dream, a desire, a person every day, it is safe to say that person or dream has a place in your life.
The dreams I had when I was 10, the ones I played out when I was alone, are essentially the same dreams I have today.
Well, not the one about being a Major League baseball player.
So why do I downplay those dreams that were put on my heart so many years ago?
Why do you?

We aren't given dreams and desires in a whim, with no hope of them coming true. It doesn't work that way.

It's the same with people.
I wrote a piece last November when the Sandusky scandal broke open. 20,000 people read it. A few of them have become friends.
Sure, we share a love of Penn State. So do 600,000 other alumni. But I believe there is a reason for meeting every single one of these folks. I don't know what it is, and I don't sit around pondering or being gooey about it. I simply know it is true. No coincidence.

How often have you started to dial a number, and the person calls you at the same time? Or you get on the computer to send an email and find an email waiting for you from that person? Not a coincidence.

Life tells us things and, very often, we are too busy to listen. Or we cast them off as coincidence or random events.
 Life brings people across our path and, very often, we are too busy or too closed to embrace them.
Are we so adept at knowing how life operates and what we need that we discount the unexpected as a coincidence?
Are we so sure we already have enough friends - the right friends - that we pass over people?

I have been guilty of this.
How about you? Do you think you might have missed something or someone because you weren't present or open to something new.

Let's try an experiment. Let's be present and open to what the moment is saying, without judgment. Let's be open to people who cross our path, without judgment.

Maybe we will be surprised by dreams that have been right in front of us, waiting to be reached.
Maybe we will be surprised by someone we had discounted or kept out of our life.
Maybe we will be surprised by the relief of accepting present circumstances and seeking lessons.

Will you join me? I hope so.

See you tomorrow - Day 4. Maybe we will talk about pasta noodles!

BP :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Change of plans, Mr Sparks, and 31 Days to Being a "Real' Writer

Day 2 in my October adventure. 31 Days to Being a "Real" Writer.
Today is also my beloved friend's birthday. So, in honor of Greg Sparks, I am changing the plans I had for this post. If you know Greg, you know the change of plans is apropos!

Here is Greg's Facebook status update: If you would, instead of just saying Happy Birthday, which I welcome, mention some memory you have that we either shared, or you have of me. Only because my mind can't contain all the wonderful events of 54 years, and I need reminders of what, when, where, and who.

Who is Greg Sparks to me? He and his beautiful wife Rebecca are the worship leaders at Crossfire and I am blessed to sing with them.  Their music and ministry has touched my heart since I first saw them in concert 15 years ago.

But those words are insufficient.
To know Greg Sparks as a Christian brother is to be blessed and challenged and humored in the same instance.
Greg is at once beautifully simple (in the best way) and astoundingly complex (in the best way).  
His musical abilities are nothing short of genius. He can arrange harmonies and instrumental parts for the entire band on a whim...and in the next moment forget what song we are working on.
On Sunday morning, he drives 50 minutes, creates a whirlwind rehearsing 5 songs with the band, working on the lights and sound board, rushing rushing rushing right up to 9:45am. But when the service starts, when he is worshiping God, Greg can sing a song or speak a word that penetrates cold hearts and brings people to the throne of the Almighty.

Greg is firm in his beliefs, but never a tyrant. I love that about him.
Greg has the fire of God's love in his heart, and he always uses it for good. I don't know anyone more willing to help a person in need, more willing to reach out to those who have been marginalized by society. He doesn't (like many other Christians) use the fire to burn people, but to create warmth that draws them into God's family.  I love that about him.
No one could ever question how much Greg Sparks loves his wife and adores his children. He talks openly about it . More importantly, he lives it. He extends that love, loyalty, and protection to his friends. I love that about him.
Greg seems to exist in a place where people's idiosyncrasies are non-existent. He isn't bothered by things that irritate most of us. I am astounded by that. And when I want him to share irritation and he doesn't, I am frustrated by it. But in the end, I love that about him.

Is living with him a piece of cake? I doubt it. Rebecca will probably confirm that a musical genius with ADD who wants to stop and help everyone in need but can't ever find his glasses is not, in fact, a piece of cake.
More like a banana split...some hot stuff, some cold stuff, lots of flavor, a little fruit.
Greg Sparks is self-effacing, funny, supremely comfortable in his own skin, funny when he doesn't mean to be, a loving husband/father/grandfather/brother/friend.
And I love that about him.

Happy Birthday, Greg!
May God bless us all by giving you many more years.

And thanks for challenging me by changing my writing plan today. "Real" writers can adept to new topics quickly!

To my 31 readers...we will talk again soon.

BP :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Father Hopko and an October of Discipline

I play this game at night - maybe you do too. I say I am going to get out of bed the first time I feel awake. Not when I turn over to see the clock at 1:34, but really awake enough to put my feet on the floor.
Then it happens, like it did this morning at 4:41, and I'm all "WHOA too early!" 

Have you been there?

If you have been tracking with me, you know I am walking through Father Thomas Hopko's 50 Maxims For Christian Living. Sauntering might be more appropriate.

The third maxim is: Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline.
Simple enough, isn't it?

Except for the discipline part. I struggle with discipline. Always have. Don't like it.

That lack of discipline is insidious...and slowly, steadily destructive.
I start out the day with excellent intentions, but other stuff jumps in the way.
Does that happen to you?
Today becomes tomorrow, next week, next year...and I haven't lost the weight, written the book, sold the junk, blah blah blah.
I know I have missed opportunities because of this lack of discipline. Maybe you have as well?

Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline.
Okay, Father Hopko, I will take that challenge.
October - 31 Days of Writing...31 Days of Disciplined Prayer.
I am believing that other disciplines will fall in place as a result.

Join me on this journey, won't you?
We will talk tomorrow!

BP :)

31 Days to Being a "Real" Writer - Introduction

When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I am a writer. And I am.

But sometimes I have trouble convincing the doubting voice in my head.
"You might write, but you are not a writer"

You may have heard this voice saying something besides "writer" in your head?

When I came across The Nester (thenester.com) and a challenge to write every day in October, it felt like a test, a way to morph into a place where I am writing and posting every day. Because that's what writers do - they write.
Not sit and stare until the "perfect" words come. Just write it out and find the perfect words somewhere in the pile.

So I am committed. Perhaps something in my words this month will inspire you to recommit to your dreams.
First installment to follow shortly.

BP :)