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I was thinking this morning about the differences between an optimistic view and a pessimistic view. On a cold and cloudy day like today, it is very easy to lean much more toward the pessimistic side of thought. As I walked outside this morning, I was thinking, “Not another day of this cold wind and freezing temperatures!” I know that I have been complaining to anyone who will listen (and even those who fake listening) about how tired I am of winter. So I would have to say that my viewpoint this morning has definitely been on the “half empty glass” side of things.
Yet, my thoughts betrayed me as I sat at my desk this morning. I began to think about how close we are to the month of March. I began thinking about the fact that March 20 is the “official” day of spring. Even though the weather does not always reflect this spring date, we are leaning much closer to warmer weather, thawing, greening grass and more sunshine. When I looked at this in comparison to November 20, I realized that the end of winter is close at hand.
Once my thoughts shifted toward the more optimistic or positive side, I found my attitude and spirit lifting. I realized that whenever I am dwelling on the negative aspects of life, I lose energy, focus, and feel very weighed down. When I am able to shift towards the positive side, all of that goes in the opposite direction.
So I would like to challenge each of you to spend the day monitoring if you are looking at things from a half-full glass approach or a half-empty glass approach. If you find yourself on the half-empty side, work at moving over to the half-full side. I would suspect that you will find yourself much more energized if you do so.
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Yesterday I was reminded of the call to come home. The focus of the Ash Wednesday service was “return”. This focus led to the concept of the Lord calling to us to come home. We even sang the hymn “Softly and Tenderly” which contains these lyrics:
Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling
Calling, O sinner, come home!
I can just picture Jesus standing there with arms extended out and saying these words. What a great way to start a Lenten journey!
As I have continued to give this message some thought, I realize that now that my parents are dead and the home which I grew up in is sold, I really do not have a physical home from my youth to return to any more. However, that does not mean that I do not have a home which can be my destination. If you believe the saying, “Home is where your heart is,” then as long as you know where your heart is, you know where home is for you.
While preparing to write this post, I looked up at my collection of mugs which sits on the top of my built-in bookshelves of my office. One mug caught my eye. It is the mug which I purchased when I went out to Newport Beach, OR for the wedding of a very dear and close friend. While I was there, I had the great joy of touring some lighthouses in the area. The mug has the drawings of those lighthouses and a few from the Oregon cost. The lighthouse image also connected with my thoughts of returning home. The place where my heart is stands as a beacon, much like a lighthouse, reminding me of the way back home.
As I continue to journey through this season of Lent, I will remember that it started with a call to come home. My true and permanent home is with the Lord. So I continue my journey to that home. In the meantime, the Lord has provided me a home in this portion of life, it is where my heart is, and I will always strive to return home.
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Today, as I sit at my desk, words of a chorus from an older hymn continue to creep into my thoughts. Have you ever had a day, or maybe a week, when all of a sudden you seem to hit a brick wall? A point where your energy seems to be waning and as you look at your to-do list you begin to wonder how you ever are going to accomplish it all? Well, this morning seems to be one of those mornings for me. Yet, the Lord shared a message with me as I sat and pondered what I would write about today. So let me pass the message on to you. You can use it today or save it for one of those days in which you hit a brick wall.
“Fill my cup, Lord. I lift it up, Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul; Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.” (Chorus written by Richard Blanchard, 1959.)
I know that I needed to hear that today.
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I am finding that in many aspects of my life, I am being called upon to do some redesigning. I am wondering how much of this is happening throughout the world. As I think about this concept, I keep bumping into others in different situations that are having to redesign aspects of the world around them. I have not done any in-depth research into this phenomenon but I am starting to come to believe that we are in a period of time when redesigning and redefining is within the fiber of our society. I would venture to guess that throughout history, there are periods of redesigning and redefining which occur.
I happen to be a fan of the PBS Show, Downton Abbey. As I watch the show which is set in the early 1900’s in England, I see that they are experience a period of redesigning and redefining. I see parallels in the types of conversations and the challenges which arise during the period of time in the show and my own period of time. I am struck by the reality that I am a product of that redesigning that took place in the early 20th century. Since a majority of my ancestry comes from England, this point is even more evident for me.
This type of activity brings about anxiety and also great enthusiasm. As shifts occur, there is fear but there also takes place a sense of release. It becomes very common for people to identify “winners” and “losers” in these situations. I would challenge myself and all of us to not adopt such an attitude but instead to look at this period of time as a series of opportunities for all people. What we do with these opportunities will define who we are during this time.
One of the most difficult things for an organization to do if it has been in existence for a relatively long time is to break out of its patterns of behavior. I encounter this on a fairly regular basis and I think it is due in large part to the fact that most people find it difficult to change their patterns of behavior unless they are forced to do so. So it is only logical that if individuals struggle with this, organizations which consists of individuals would struggle to break the mold of their behaviors.
I have been working with a group which has a role in an upcoming event. The group contains some very committed and knowledgeable individuals. They have worked hard to prepare their portion of the event. One of their charges is to introduce new ways of doing something that is at the core of the member’s reason for existing. As I have worked with this group, I find that they consistently fall into the same modes of behavior and approaches each and every time the organization meets. So I have pushed the envelope of their work for the next upcoming event. The group has shown little resistance, which is not always the case in similar situations, and seems to have embraced some new approaches. I am causing them to break the mold.
I am not advocating that a person should be running around and breaking molds every opportunity which exists. Instead, I am advocating that people should be encouraged to break the mold when there is possibility for growth to occur; especially if you have a charge to introduce different ways and approaches to benefit individuals and organizations. If an organization continues to do the same activity in the same way ad nauseam, then new discoveries will not occur. Opportunities for growth can easily slip away. Energy and enthusiasm may wane.
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So go ahead….. break the mold. Who knows? You may create a masterpiece in the process.
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During my morning devotions today, I explored the question of how I can be blind to Christ? The discovery that occurred was that the most frequent way to be blind to Christ is by being inward focus. I know that this is a problem which I have from time to time (probably more frequently than I care to admit). I would venture a guess that others struggle with this problem. I would say without any uncertainty that this problem prevails in the Church.
There are many reasons which lead to an inward focus. Besides the obvious view that “if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will,” there is the reality of greed and self-centeredness. I find it very easy to isolate myself as a mode of survival. My view of the world and others becomes very narrow. I exist in a small area of awareness with me in the middle. Anyone or anything that attempts to invade that space or to pull me out of that space meets violent resistance. I might lob an attempt of a kind gesture out of my box of existence but that is more to make me feel good about myself than it is about making someone else a little better.
Whenever I behave in a manner of inward focus, I cannot be looking at Christ. I am blind to Christ because it becomes all about me. Christ set an example of an outward focus. He often sacrificed his own physical health to meet the demands of the people around him. He called upon his disciples to follow this example and to see beyond themselves. Christ continues to call us to do the same in many different circumstances and many different ways.
How are you looking beyond yourself? You will be surprised when you do so, you will see Christ.