Rise Up Reflections August 2017

Welcome to Rise Up Reflections August 2017! At thirteen weeks post-op my ol’ rack of bones are continuing to make good progress towards what I hope will be a full recovery. But who really knows what that is! Though I am fully back steering for my rowing team and back at the gym too, I know that I still tire easily and the SI joint pain is still present, though far less so than before. So time will tell.

August 1: Who has “made” my day lately? How can I let them know?

Many people over as many days “make” my day actually. Some days it’s one of our grandchildren, or all of them too at other days. Other days my wife, Betty Ann, will make my day in the simplest of ways with loving gestures or actions. Even our dog, Gracie, will make my day, and often, especially when I pause to return her affection, remembering that she’s blind and that she still follows me all around the house and yard.

How do I let others know that they have made my day? By loving them in return, or, depending on the circumstances, by being fully present, making eye contact and being kind to those I meet.

August 2: Lift up the corners of your mouth into a smile. Now, how do you feel when you hold it for a while?

If I had to lift up the corners of my mouth for a while I think that my fingers would get tired! Ha! But I get it!

August 3: How can I balance inner work with social action, ever grateful for opportunities to do both?

This question actually speaks directly to the practice of my faith as a Quaker. For us, any social action undertaken ought to have come as a result of doing inner reflection and prayer, individually, and among a body of Friends (Quakers) in worship. From this practice a spiritual “leading” may rise, and when it does it provides the vision and stamina to stay the course and do the work.

August 4: Taking a look back over the last few years, which friends have been truly meaningful to you?

I first want to say that ALL of my friends have been truly meaningful to me. That said, I am aware that as I age, I hold especially close those friends whom I have known for decades and as such have lived through many of the challenges that living a long life brings. At the opposite end of spectrum, there are several young adults too whom I have known and nurtured along the way whom I hold dear to my heart also. With all of my friends and of whatever age, however, it means less that they are meaningful to me and more important that I love them.

August 5: in what creative ways can I show the ones I love that I am grateful for them today?

This is a perfect question for this moment at this time for me! Today is the first day of a week long conference of 700 to 800 Quakers in New England, And my role is to serve as their pastoral counselor for the entire week. As I approach this ministry for today and the days to come and if I do so with love, that should serve as my answer to today’s

August 6: When conflict appears in my life how do I respond appropriately?

By making sure that I have heard the root of the issue correctly and understanding who truly owns the problem, then sitting with it for a bit. After that, I try to remember to ask for spiritual guidance, then address the matter head on.

August 7: what leads me to a sense of wonder?

What leads me to a sense of wonder? Watching children grow and adapt into the world in which they are born.

August 8: how can I live today more gratefully than yesterday? 

Rise Up Reflections August 2017
Hand in Hand

Honestly, That’s a goal I would not worry about because in my mind it turns the topic of being grateful and living a life of gratitude into some kind of a race for perfection. Instead, I would rather strive for being kind, honest, and considerate of other people as I move throughout my day and be fully present to all that unfolds hour by hour.

August 9: When we are grateful, we can unleash our resources for the benefit of the world. What resources do I have to unleash?

These days I now have more time to devote to others who may have unmet needs that I can help to address. Resources at my disposal are my ability to use my photography and writing for worthy causes that benefit people in some way. I am actually in what might be called the planning or development stage that utilizes these resources coupled in a spiritual context. Time will tell!

August 10: Where do I find joy in the simple things?

I find joy in the simplicity of:
in my morning cup of tea;
in the certainty of sunrises;
in my dog’s howling when the phone rings;
in the familiar tone of my wife’s voice;
in oatmeal;
in the ocean’s roar and the seagulls cry;
in a day lived well and the hope of tomorrow.

August 11: What have I learned about cherishing solitude?

Love this question! Having opportunities to experience solitude, and to practice it frequently, frankly helps to keep me sane! In many ways I experience a measure of solidtude while writing or when using my camera on photography outings. Beach and trail walks, with occasional weekend retreats round out my personal needs for solitude. The rest of the time, I love being among people whether a few in number or a hundred.

August 12: What new perspectives have opened up for me recently?

I am healing faster than expected after having had major back surgery almost twelve weeks ago. These days I am beginning to envision the possibility, with time, of returning to doing some of the things that I was forced to abandon due to chronic back pain.

August 13: What do you most appreciate about people who are really different than you?

That they are always interesting to listen to and learn from.

August 14: How can I add beauty to life today?

This is a lovely question just to read. Avoiding the use of shop-worn platitudes in my response is, however, more challenging. For me personally, today’s question has me thinking about my response to the Daily Question on August 9, in which we were asked how we might unleash our resources that would benefit the world.

I think that I will just hold today’s question, “how can I add beauty to life today,” in my heart as I move throughout the day. For me, that’s a good place to start and we will see what comes.

August 15: What does the dark allow me to see?

I have fond memories from my farming days of walking down into the pasture at 4 AM to bring the cows up to the barn for milking. The waning night sounds slowly giving way to daybreak still on the distant horizon; the rising mist; an owl’s mournful far-off hoot; the smell of hay curing in a nearby field. Every sound and smell fills in what cannot yet be seen, assisting the eyes that wait for daylight.

August 16: How do I show my respect for others? How is it a mutually fulfilling gift?

By listening, making eye contact and being fully present when engaged with people. This, I have found, usually goes full-circle.

August 17: The best things in life are free. How can I savor them more?

I try to savor moments, any moments as they come whether they are free or not. While I get the point of today’s question I find myself asking just what do we mean by “free?” And it’s too early to dive back into philosophy 101!

August 18: How have I been surprised by joy?

Personally, I look for joy, hope for joy and even count on joy to arrive here and there. So for me it’s fairly rare when joy surprises me. If anything, in today’s world and especially in my country’s current political climate, I find myself needing to seek joy out and be mindful of when I am in the mist of what is joyful and then to savor it.

August 19: I woke up this morning. How can I say thank you?

By making good use of this brand new beautiful day.

August 20: What do you know for sure?

Very little, actually! But I’m here right now, so that’s a start.

August 21: How do I want to be remembered?

How I may want to be remembered is not important to me. How others may want to remember me is up to them. Now back to what I was doing…

August 22: What keeps me from the simplicity of a given moment?

By over thinking it. I am reminded of this over and over again whenever I am with children. And fortunately for me I am rescued by children quite often.

August 23: What kindnesses have I experienced?

Many, and probably too many to even remember them all. Most seem to come in the flow of a two way exchange. Whenever my actions are deemed kind by another, kindness flows back in return. Now and then when a kind act or word comes from another person unexpectedly, I make a point of replying, “You are very kind. Thank you.” It’s important that Kindnesses like these be named.

August 24: Who are the people who have had the greatest impact on my life? Why?

It would take hours to answer this question fully! But the standouts in my life are:

Marcel Rondeau: Farmer and teacher who taught me how to work.
Jim Toothaker: Quaker minister and elder who guided me in ministry long ago.
Ruth Martucci: Quaker elder who by her presence embodied grace and love.
Betty Ann: My wife of 45 years. I don’t need to explain why.
John Calvi: Friend, Quaker, and extraordinary healer and teacher.

That’s a start. How blessed I am for having these good people, past and present, in my life.

August 25: What is grace?

I do not know what grace is. I only know how grace feels as it gently arrives, passes through, opening doors and smoothing every way forward.

Auguest 26: What is my body asking for or needing right now?

Coffee…and maybe a cranberry-orange muffin, too. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Auguest 27: Are there things we can let go of in order to be open to what is actually unfolding?

This is an excellent question for me. Generally, as a retired person for almost two years now, I have already let go of many things, and willingly, that related to my previous work. So I’ve got the “letting go” thing down fairly well.

Today, I set daily goals for myself that range from mundane chores to more creative things involving service, photography, rowing or writing, etc. Yet now and then moments of spontaneous opportunity come along when I have to remind myself that it’s okay to set aside what I had planned to do, and just say “yes,” let’s do it or “let’s go” and not look back, knowing that there’s always another day to do what I had planned for that hour or even the whole day. I’ve had to be mindful of this and practice it, actually, in order to truly “let go” with a measure of ease and honest acceptance.

August 28: In what ways can I “pay kindness forward?”

In the course of a day I try to look for opportunities to do a useful act or deed that benefits another person and, when possible, for it to happen without fanfare or mention. For me, it’s not about paying things, kindness or whatever forward, it’s about paying attention to where help or action may be needed. I think that the whole “pay it forward” cultural phenomenon, though worthy on its surface, can also get frantic at times to the point where paying whatever forward becomes more important than the “why” and the reason for it.

August 29: What is my wish for the world?

My wish is to wake up to a world where children have all the shelter and food that they need and are safe in their homes. I wish to wake up to a world where countries provide for the health of their citizens, where militaries need to hold bake sales to raise money to buy bombs. That’s the kind of world I’d like to wake up to.

August 30: What are some experiences that have shaped my spiritual life?

So many experiences, from subtle to profound, have shaped my spiritual life over the years that it’s hard to know where to begin. But here’s a worthy starter list:

An experience of Christ (not the Church) at work in my life,
followed by other powerful spiritual revelations of sources beyond the judeo-Christian traditions.
Being a Quaker.
Farming.
Photography.
Working with children.
Witnessing the birth of a child.
Having a family.
The spirit of music.
Being on and near the ocean.
Receiving and sharing the gift of healing.

August 31: How can I respond to a current challenge utilizing the wisdom and abilities of my “higher self”?

Seems to me that I can respond to a particular challenge without utilizing my “higher self” and, though it may not be pretty, I just might get lucky and succeed. This happens rarely, thank goodness and it’s nothing to be proud of. Conversely, when I respond to a challenge and employ the best of who and what I am as a person, emotionally and spiritually, my odds of succeeding and finishing “well” certainly increase. However, if I am fortified with my higher self in play and I still fail, then I have permission to walk away and to let it go knowing that I gave it my all.