Live Your Moments: Get Found Part 2

A common classification for the world’s population is that there are two types of people in the world: people who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and people who enter a room and say, “There you are!”

In John 21, the risen Jesus comes to Peter and asks three times, “Do you love me?”

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

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Live Your Moments: Get Found

The Bible begins with a divine hide and seek. In Genesis 3, God is missing. God is not with the newly created couple in the Garden of Eden, but instead of looking for God, they talk about God. Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LordGod had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” God is not there. Is God nearby? The story doesn’t say. What is clear is that the couple doesn’t seek God, doesn’t look for God, they do however theologize. Instead of talking to God (prayer) they talk about God (theology). Talking about God leads them to seek to be without God, to have divine power, alone. The result is disaster. Fear overtakes faith. Hiding replaces finding. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve  go an hide from God. God takes the role of seeker. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

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Live Your Moments: Cut Your Stuff in Half.

What if you cut your stuff in half? Hannah Salwen did, by choice. Before I share her story, consider the king in this next story adapted from Heather Forrest’s collection Wisdom Tales

Once there was a prince who was so sad, his eyes seemed full of sadness and tears. The king was concerned about his son. He got cooks to prepare the best dishes, toymakers to make the best toys, and teachers to share their most stimulating ideas, but to no avail. No gift or treasure could free the prince from his sadness.
The king called his advisors who offered this solution, “For the prince to be happy, you must dress him in the shirt of a truly happy man. Then he will be cured of all his sorrow.”
So the king set out on a journey to find a truly happy man.
He went through the village to the church. The priest always seemed to him to be a happy man. “Your, majesty,” the priest said, “to what do I owe this honor?”
The king said, “You are known as a good and holy man. I would like to know, would you accept the position of bishop should it come to you?”
“Certainly,” replied the priest.
“Never mind,” the king said and left disappointed. If the priest were truly happy, he wouldn’t want to be bishop.
The king went to another kingdom and visited another monarch. “My friend,” asked the king, “are you happy?”
“Most of the time, but not always, there are many nights I am restless because I am worry about losing all that I have worked so hard to gain.”
The king left for he knew that this man’s shirt would not do.
On his way back to his own kingdom, he happened to be riding by a farm. He heard singing. He stopped his carriage and followed the sound of the song. There he found a poor farmer, singing at the top of his lungs. The farmer looked up to see the king approaching and said, “Good day, sir!”
“Good day to you,” said the king. “You seem so happy today.”
“I am happy every day for I am blessed with a wonderful life.”
The king said, “Come with me to the castle. You will be surrounded with luxury and never want for anything again.”
“Thank you your majesty, but I would not give up my life for all the castles in the world.”
The king could not contain his joy. “My son is saved! All I need do is take this man’s shirt back to the castle with me!”
It was then the king looked and realized… the man wasn’t wearing a shirt.[2]

Continue reading “Live Your Moments: Cut Your Stuff in Half.”

Live Your Moments: How Much Stuff Do You Need?

George Carlin is still one of my favorite philosophers. His reflections on STUFF inspired me when writing Enough.

As you reflection on your life and your stuff, perhaps you’ll find this first chapter from Enough – and Other Magic Words to Transform Your Life helpful on your life’s journey or at least as you clean out your garage. Continue reading “Live Your Moments: How Much Stuff Do You Need?”

Live Your Moments: Pray for Daily Bread

“The Lord’s Prayer” contains many phrases that can lead us into life more in tune with Jesus and his way. “Give us this day, our daily bread,” helps us to slow down and enter into each moment. To focus on our daily bread requires an ability to distinguish between what we need and what we want. The current global economy not only encourages no distinction, it is dependent, at least in the short run, on blurring the distinction so wants are treated with the same passion and urgency as needs. And since wants never satisfy when removed from needs, our desires become insatiable. Consider the buying practices and the changes a century has brought.

A hundred years ago, the common practice was:

a. figure out what you need.
b. shop to find out where you can get it and what it costs.
c. figure how you can pay for it.
d. buy it.

Today, there are stores around us and online where we can shop with no idea what we ‘need’, until of course we see it, then we know for certain. The current process is:

a. shop to figure out what you ‘need.’
b. buy it.
c. figure out how you can pay for it. (often because you have to in order to be able to buy anything else)
d. learn what it costs.

The practice of “Give us this day our daily bread” begins by noticing the difference between needs (your daily bread) and wants (your daily banana pudding). Wants feel like needs, and unless we know the difference, we may get everything we want and starve to death or die of loneliness. William Sloane Coffin offers this reminder,

The biblical reminder is clear: whatever our economic system, the enemy is excess, not possessions.
The battle cry is “Enough!” Not “Nothing.”
“Enough” so that we can all break bread together,
so that everyone’s prayer can be answered – “Give us this day our daily bread.”

To explore the idea of Enough, the following books may be helpful:

         

 

Live Your Moments: Accept Your Unchangeables and Enjoy the Strawberry

We often face unchangeable problems. How we face them can keep us from living our moments. We may try to relive the past as if doing so could get it right or prelive the future to solve our problems ahead of time. To come into any moment, especially a moment of worship, it is helpful to recognize where we have power and where we don’t as our path to peace can be found in The Serenity Prayer,

God grant me, the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

To enter into any moment requires not only recognizing what we can change and what we cannot change, but what we can or cannot change in any given moment. If you have a problem which no action is possible right at that time, then the wise choice in that moment is to recognize what you cannot do and be as fully present as possible. Consider Sophia in this crisis as a model for life,

Sophia was walking along one day when a tiger started to chase her. Running from the tiger, she hurried along the edge of a cliff and fell over. Part way down, she grabbed a vine stopping her fall.
She looked above and saw the tiger looking over the edge at her. She looked below, and there was another tiger at the bottom. The vine she was holding onto started to pull from the side of the cliff. She noticed a strawberry growing on the vine. She pulled it and ate. It tasted very sweet.
SOPHIA COVER 21
In this ancient story, Sophia hanging in peril can taste and enjoy a strawberry because for that moment, the tiger above, the tiger below, and the breaking vine were all out of her control. She could do nothing to change any of them. What she could do was focus on what she did have the ability to do in that particular moment, enjoy the strawberry.

For more wisdom stories, see For the Love of Sophia

Live Your Moments: Say, “Be still!” to Your Stormy Thinking.

Here or there does not matter.
We must be still and still moving.
T.S. Eliot

There are times when your thoughts and emotions can possess you, and you do need to respond. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” When anxiety takes over, or when any thoughts or emotions dominate, telling them to “Be still,” is a helpful practice. This isn’t an act of emotional condemnation telling them, “You’re a bad emotion,” or telling yourself, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” but just instructing the turbulence in your mind to, “Be still.” It is recognizing that your peace must begin within as Robert Allen described,

We can only help make our lives and our world more peaceful, when we ourselves feel peace. Peace already exists within each of us, if we only allow ourselves to feel its comfort. Peace of mind begins when we stop thinking about how far we have to go, or how hard the road has been, and just let ourselves feel peace. Peace of mind gives us the strength to keep trying and keep walking along the path that we know is right for our lives.

A great example of “Be still” in practice is Jesus with the disciples in a storm. The story is found in Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8. This is Mark’s version,

35 On that day, when evening had come, (Jesus) said to (the disciples), “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took (Jesus) with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Continue reading “Live Your Moments: Say, “Be still!” to Your Stormy Thinking.”

Live Your Moments: Let it Be

I have difficulty accepting the world around me and letting anything be. I am easily distracted and noise can shatter my focus. My motto is “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with everyone and everything else.” My attempt at gaining peace is by trying to change the world and avoid my inner turmoil altogether. Even though it doesn’t work, I keep trying the same thing hoping for different results.
For example, early one morning our house contained sleeping parents and children until a horn woke us up. Apparently, a neighbor was being picked up by his carpool. Instead of going to the door, the driver just sat in the car and blew his horn, again, and again.
I thought to myself, ‘I want to be Gandalf (the wizard from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings).’ I waved my hands in small circles and hummed. “What are you doing?” Carrie asked me.
“I am magically causing all the tires on their car to go flat,” I said.
“Oh,” she said.
The horn blew twice next door. I waved my hand again.
“What now?” she asked.
“I’m magically causing their horn to mute,” I said.
The horn blew again.
I swayed my whole body from side to side.
“What are you doing now?” Carrie asked.
“I’m causing the car to catch on fire so that the driver will run away, and all will be quiet,” I said.
“How’s that working for you?” she asked.
I then began waving my hands at her. “Shhhh,” I said.
I often catch myself wanting power to control the world, to end all my frustrations by magically and even prayerfully changing current reality to calm my inner rage, yet, with little results.
The Let it Be practice is aids our inner peace by letting the world around us be as is.

Live Your Moments: Be at Home Everywhere and Everywhen

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. Basho

Once, when a religious professional wanted to follow Jesus, he asked a simple question but found great disappointment in Jesus’ response in Matthew 8,

18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

I feel sympathy for the poor scribe, a dedicated religious professional who was trying to become one of Jesus’ disciples; he simply wanted to know where the rabbi was going. His dedication was to go anywhere with Jesus wherever that was. He could not imagine a rabbi without a location, a space, or an address.

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Live Your Moments: Let Go of Yesterday

Yesterday is but today’s memory
and tomorrow is today’s dream.
Kahlil Gibran

Yesterday is not real. It is only our memories. Tomorrow is not real. It is simply our imagination of what might be. All that is real is now. Anxiety is trying to prelive the future, which is impossible. Regret is trying to change the past, which is also impossible.

To live the present, we must let go of the past, which includes letting go of our past no matter how we used to live. If we try to relive it, we will only ruin the present. Nothing ruins the present like bringing the past to the current moment.

Sometimes, letting go of our past is so challenging, we need help. We need others to share their testimonials with such honesty that we might find enough courage to live our present.

Danny Flowers has been my role model as he honestly has shared his past to help others let go of regret, move past anxiety, and live the present. His song is, I Was a Burden.

 

Live Your Moments: Let it Go – Release to Receive

In the hero stories, the call to go on a journey takes the form of a loss, an error, a wound, an unexplainable longing, or a sense of a mission. When any of these happens to us, we are being summoned to make a transition. It will always mean leaving something behind,…The paradox here is that loss is a path to gain. David Richo

Moments require the art of breathing. To receive the next moment in life, we have to let go of
the previous ones. The lesson of the lungs is to master letting go in our lives in order to receive.

Imagine you are going to swim under water. You take a deep breath and dive downward. After feeling the weightlessness of swimming, your lungs start to ache. Your body needs air. Your muscles may even cramp a little. You stay under as long as you can, forcing your body to do your will. As you head to the surface, you realize you dove deeper than you thought so you reach and pull for the top swimming as fast as you can kicking your legs furiously.

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Live Your Moments: Live Like You Breathe

The most revealing lesson for me in developing our moment practices came when I began to focus on my breathing. I had a lot to learn from this simple process. Breathing shows us how to experience our moments instead of just marking time. While breathing has been something I’ve done all my life, it wasn’t until trying to be present and be still that I attended to my breathing and learned this valuable lesson of the lungs.

Breathing has two simple steps: inhaling and exhaling, receiving and letting go. So basic, so natural, but you can still mess it up. Let me show you. Try this.

Inhale.
Without exhaling, suck in a little more air.
Now, still without exhaling, suck in some more.
Hold it.
Feel like your suffocating?
Notice, you have more air than you can possibly use, yet, you feel like your body is starting to ache from lack of oxygen. Hold the air inside until these words start to look blurry. If you pass out, fall down. When you regain consciousness, from this point forward, don’t do everything someone tells you to do, but do pay attention to your breathing.

Breathing is simple, inhale and exhale, receive and release. Life is also simple. It has the same process as breathing, receiving and letting go. As long as we relax, and unless there is an illness or injury to the lungs, breathing will take care of itself, taking in the exact amount the body needs, distributing it through the blood stream, and then releasing so that it can inhale again. Simple.

The part of the process the body does naturally that we seem to find difficult in other areas of life is the exhaling, the releasing, the letting go. We don’t like to let go. If we don’t release, we can’t receive. The body knows just how crucial letting go is, yet, we seldom notice.

Live Your Moments: Feel Your Feet

OBSERVE! There are few things as important, as religious, as that. Frederick Buechner

In the Bible, there are some significant moments when feet play an important part. At the burning bush, Moses is told to, “Take off your shoes because you are standing on holy ground.” In the gospel of John, on the night of The Last Supper, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. As Moses approaches the presence of God at the burning bush, he must have been aware of his feet, the ground underneath, the heat of the shrub ablaze. As the disciples shared the Passover meal, they must have been conscious of the tingling of their freshly washed feet.

To journey toward stillness, be where you are. Occupy the space you’re in. Feel your body from your feet on upward. In the Zen tradition, part of meditation is to give attention to your body, what you’re feeling, often starting with your toes and moving to the top of your head, noticing where there is tension and giving it permission to relax. Notice also your holy ground, what’s beneath your feet, behind your back, and pay attention to the sounds, vibrations, even smells around you.

To pray this practice, I use the words of Clara Scott’s hymn, Open My Eyes,

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me.
Silently now I wait for Thee
Ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine.

 

Live Your Moments: Notice Your Nude Karaokes

Nude Karaoke was the first sign I saw as I walked up Printers’ Alley in Nashville on my way to a bar where Etta and Bob were playing. I was a little stunned by the sign having never imagined such a thing, until then.
“Don’t you want to come in?” said a slouched over man on a stool. He was wearing a once white t-shirt that also once fit. “This is a good place for a guy like you,” he said. I smiled wondering, ‘what did he mean, like me?’ He added his next sales pitch pointing to the door in case I was wondering how to go in, “We got nudes.” My uncontrollable imagination then gave me a brief image of a bar full of men identical to the man on the stool, naked and singing.

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Live Your Moments: Caretake Each Moment

In high school, perhaps my greatest deception was when attendance was called. The teacher would say my name, “David Jones,” and I would reply, “Here,” or “Present,” and I would be marked as attending. The lie was that though my body was in my desk, my heart, mind, and soul were often elsewhere. Showing up and being marked as present is far different from being present and attending each moment.

One of the greatest temptations in missing a moment is to try to capture it. One of the great ongoing battles at weddings is between pastors and photographers. People want to capture the moment in pictures and miss it. I recently did an outdoor wedding. The photographer was someone I had not worked with before. I made the mistake of assuming I didn’t need to tell her not to be a be a distraction during the wedding service. For her, the present was insignificant compared to capturing the moment for prosperity. She danced around, up the aisle, back down, in front of both families, even behind me. It took all my energy to focus on my purpose of guiding the couple through their vows while the photographer was behind me, low to the ground, clicking away. I almost hit her with my Bible. Had I not needed it later, I would have.
Our challenge in special moments like a wedding ceremony, a graduation, or a child’s birth is to try and capture the moment for prosperity instead of living each moment as Epictetus encouraged,

Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.

Live Your Moments: Leave Your Nets Behind

According to Alan Watts, “The great symbols of our culture are the rocket and the bulldozer.”
Each is a conqueror of space. Since we cannot go too much farther in outer space in our era, and there is little land left to explore below the stars and above the oceans, we turn back to time. We try to conquer time by transforming time into another space which we refer to as the calendar and the ‘to-do list and fill every minute with as much ‘stuff’ every day making our schedules as tightly packed as our closets and our attics. To encounter God, we are called out to a place beyond our understandings of both time and space. Here is my version of an ancient story I heard from Alan Watts,

Once there was a fisherman. He cast his net into the water. After fishing for a while, he held up his net and looked through the squares and into the horizon. Off in the distance, he saw the mountain. He had been there when he was younger but found the mountain too difficult to climb. Now that he was older, there was something comforting about looking through his net at the mountain in the distance. What he could not climb, he reduced to what he could count and measure The mountain was six spaces across and four high.
He took his net with him. Through the spaces, he measured and compared his hut to other huts. That night he had a disagreement with his son, he held up the net to see how many squares tall his son was.
Others adopted his way of measuring and made similar grids putting space on parchment and then paper. Even time was transformed to space as days were given formal boundaries on calendars. Moments gave way to minutes and lives transformed to lists.
In the midst of this objectifying of time and space walked a rabbi. He approached the shore and some fishermen casting their nets into the sea. “Follow me,” he called. They did. He had one initial requirement. They had to leave their nets behind.

What are your nets? Spaces you use to gain control of your life unaware they can become barriers to the call of God.

Live Your Moments: Pray, “Here I am.”

Challenged to be mindful of my moments, I found several role models who had been down this path before me. Throughout the scriptures, God speaks to people and the common response is, “Here I am.” God calls Abraham who responds, “Here I am.” To Moses at the burning bush, God calls him by name and Moses responds, “Here I am.” To the little boy Samuel in a dream, God calls, and Samuel responds, “Here I am. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” Seeking another servant years later, God cries out, “Whom shall I send,” and Isaiah says, “Here am I, send me.” The most celebrated response is teenage Mary, responds, “Here am I,” and then ends with, “May it be to me as you have said.”

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Be Somewhere and Avoid the “Neither Here Nor There Blues”

Actor, picker, singer, songwriter, and relatively decent example of a human being, Jeff Daniels, describes his big move in 1976,

In 1976, I bought a Guild D-40 from Herb David’s Guitar Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, threw it in the back of my old Buick, and moved to New York City. That guitar led me to a creative outlet, became a solace, my church, a road into the artist I didn’t know existed. I put every song I ever wrote into a big, black notebook. I will be dead in the ground before anyone sees or hears those attempts. And yet, like Lewis & Clark, I found my way to my version of the Pacific. Been on that beach ever since.

In this song, Jeff Daniels and Jonathan Hogan encourage those with ears to here, to be somewhere, live your moments fully, or else you’ll have the Neither Here Nor There Blues.

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