Rise Up Reflections February 2017

Well there goes another month! Hopefully, and I pray, that it was one lived with purpose and appreciation for those in my life and for my life as well. A friend asked me awhile ago if I had to choose, say five of my “top” questions answered for the month, which questions would they be? That itself was a great question! So, having given it some thought, the five questions that moved me the most in Rise Up Reflections February 2017 are as follows: (If you’re interested in why, just scroll down the page to my responses.)

My five top answered questions this month:

Feb 1: Pick one of your five senses to focus on right here, right now. What gifts is this sense giving to you?
Feb 9: What has surpassed my expectations in life?
Feb 14: Quick! Without too much thinking, what are 10 things you love about yourself?
Feb 17: Who puts “honey” in my heart?
Feb 26: How can I question myself and my daily patterns more skillfully?

Aren’t these wonderful questions? They all come from the Daily Questions segment at gratefulness.org. I encourage others to visit their great site.

Rise Up Reflections February 2017

Feb 1: Pick one of your five senses to focus on right here, right now. What gifts is this sense giving to you?

The gift of sight is strong with me this hour. I could see the water boiling for tea and I could see it swirling around the teabag in my cup as I poured it. Looking outside in the predawn light, I could see that the trees and roadway were covered with several inches of new fallen snow—a beautiful and thus far unsullied feast for the eyes. But morning rituals beckon, and with boots on feet and broom in hand I cleaned the cars and turned their engines on to melt away one slice of winter.

Now back inside, the steam still rises from my tea. I sit and awaken the screen that holds a question, asking, what I’ve seen.

Feb 2: What is the purpose of my day?

An off-the-cuff response to this question is very tempting, yet far too easy. I had to sit with it for ten or fifteen minutes before being able to write. Now that’s what I call a good question!

This day, praise be, is but one gift of twenty-four hours that will not come again. My hope, indeed my plan, is to live every square inch of it, through darkness into light, from precious sleep to action, sitting, sharing and listening to life both near and far, known and unknown, loved and yet loved. That is my plan at least. And I hope to have another day tomorrow so I can look back and see how I have done today.

Feb 3: How am I listening today? How could I listen more fully?

We have had a few Daily Questions lately that have dealt with listening in one way or the other. And because of that, I have been paying closer attention to the many ways that I listen, and do not listen. Suffice to say today that I am “minding my listening” for ‘what’ and ‘how’ I hear!

Feb 4: How can I more consistently honor the beauty in others?

Such a cleverly crafted question! In this instance it works best for me to consider it from the viewpoint of a photographer.

There is the beauty of physical form itself, how the body moves, how it rests and how it accelerates, be it a child of nine or an adult at ninety. Seeing and knowing this kind of beauty comes wrapped in the gift of life itself, a daily wonder that costs nothing and is available everywhere.

And of course there is another form of beauty too, primal and amorous that calls one to the other, that dance of centuries, packing its own energy, felt and unspoken, heated and charged and then satisfied. This is a beauty we can see from afar or can hold as our own.

The beauty I honor the most in others, however, is experiencing that of the divine, of God, in the person before me. That miracle of life itself in the other, exquisite, grand and purposeful, whom I can see and connect to in one of hundred ways is a beauty I find the most thrilling of all. It is what I wake up for and why I pick up my camera. (And from here I will conclude with an image in the Gratefulness Lounge, because adding an image here is not yet possible.)

Feb 5: What constantly challenges my expectations, in a good way?

Here in the US, we have a new president, and I am guessing that even folks hailing from other countries, who are a part of the Gratefulness community, have heard of him! Perhaps to a fault, I have very low expectations of our new national leader and I have braced myself to be disappointed with, embarrassed by and outraged by many of his actions and pugnacious public behavior. Sadly, my country’s new president has already met this low threshold.

Ever so slowly, however, I am seeing groups of all stripes and backgrounds, rise up to take a new stand and be heard and to challenge, with rhetoric, action and by sheer numbers, many of the new policies of the new US president. For sure I had expected the “usual” and well-known organizations that are known to challenge and protest leap into action, but I had not expected the new-comers, the legions of once dormant citizens, to rally and mobilize so quickly in the ways that they have. And that, in my mind and opinion, has been a good thing that I had not expected to happen so soon.

Feb 6: What within you do you need to love?

What within myself do I need to love? Every wrinkled, aging, still chugging onward fiber of my being. Why not?

Feb 7: What do I wish to cultivate more of in my life?

I would like to cultivate wider options for traveling long distances, to see new places, without the intense back pain I experience from sitting from long periods of time in either automobiles or planes and even trains. A selfish desire, perhaps, but it is a reality that keeps me, and subsequently my wife also, from traveling more which we could do now that we’re both retired and healthy in every other respect. Where is “Scotty,” when I need him, to “beam” me up?”

Feb 8: What have I done recently that has required courage?

What have I done recently that has required courage? Recently?  To be honest, most likely nothing.

That said, I find today’s question puzzling. It may be just me, but I don’t go around thinking how I can be courageous today, or, was I courageous yesterday? I am more concerned with doing things with intention, purpose and commitment. And it may, or may not be that having courage had anything to do with what I did. For example, having created and ran a retreat program for Quaker children many years ago, or agreeing to being on call as a member of a pastoral care response team, may well have required courage. But that’s something one tends to look back on after the fact. It is also usually an observation made by others and not me. Just my take on it I guess.

Feb 9: What has surpassed my expectations in life?

On one hand nothing has surpassed my expectations in life because I have had to work and plan for the things that I do have since I was young. Yet, on the other hand I feel enormously grateful too, for my own life and health at age 66, for my family, my faith community and all the amenities in life that I currently enjoy.

The age of computers that we live in is truly amazing and has certainly surpassed my earliest expectations. I remember as a kid looking at a prototype of a computer at the Museum of Science in Boston. It was encased in Plexiglas and filled an entire room and the display told visitors that this was our future! Today, the cell phone I hold holds as much RAM as my first home pc had, and today I can use my phone to text instantly back and forth with my friend half a world away! How can that not exceed my expectations?

Feb 10: What excitement is alive, deep in my belly? 

To get deeper into my photography so that it more clearly and with more intensity reflects my view of the world spiritually and my passion for focusing on the wonder of our shared humanity.

Feb 11: What one quote most often gives me the perspective I am seeking?

“Have thy tools ready, God will send thee work.” – Charles Kingsley

Feb 12: Where is peace present right now? How can I welcome it?

Peace is present, in the form of spiritual, emotional, and physical peace, in our Quaker meetinghouse. And in a few hours we will gather there for our weekly meeting for worship as Friends have done in that very place since 1716. But the purpose of finding and being at peace among one another is not to bathe in it for its own sake but to carry it outside and onward as lead to places where peace isn’t known.

Feb 13: What unexpected things have brought me gratitude recently?

My wife and I spent a few days away to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary over the weekend. While walking from our car to the inn we were staying at I slipped on ice and took a hard fall and landed on my back, setting off a painful episode with my back. It was the same part of my lower back that experiences on going chronic pain. Now home, I’m grateful that I am retired and can take the time to allow my back to recover from the fall without worrying about getting to work and doing a job, etc.

In addition to today’s question that prompted me to express what I am most grateful for at the moment, today’s Word for the Day on patience was also perfect for me to receive. So thank you, to the folks at Gratefulness.org for this too!

Feb 14: Quick! Without too much thinking, what are 10 things you love about yourself?

  1. That I am not inclined to do things quickly!
  2. That I am irresistibly handsome.
  3. That whatever words I utter hold people in awe
  4. That restaurants call me to make reservations.
  5. That I have mirrors in every room of our house.
  6. That roses are red, violets are purple, sugar is sweet and so’s maple ‘surple.’
  7. That I am an esteemed poet.
  8. That I was born to be loved.
  9. That between me, myself and I, I like myself best.
  10. That I know how to amuse myself with silly responses.

Feb 15: If I take full responsibility for my part in any difficulties, how would this change my experience of the day?

I must have missed the memo that excused me from being responsible for what happens in my day. Honestly, I didn’t know that I had a choice? To be sure, about 98% of whatever daily difficulties I encounter are of my own doing. The other two percent I reserve for whining and feeling sorry for myself. I think that it’s good to leave room for improvement.

Feb 16: Who needs my compassion right now? How can I show it?

Today’s question reminds me that I need to reach out to two people who attend our Quaker meeting from time to time. One, shall we are say, is not the “warm and fuzzy” personality type of individual. The other person more often than not appears gruff and at times contrary when engaged in brief conversation with people around him. It is human nature, perhaps, to easily overlook certain people like this, when in fact we know that they likely have needs unmet also and just might be happy that I called just to say hello. So these are two calls that I will make later this morning as a result of today’s question. (Thank you, Gratefulness team!)

Feb 17: Who puts “honey” in my heart?

Who puts “honey” in my heart? My wife, first and foremost, followed by my family, which includes our dog Gracie; folks near and far within my faith community; my rowing companions; and people in the community at Gratefulness.org.

Feb 18: How can I have my whole heart behind the words I speak?

Not sure why, but as soon as I read today’s question the words of Psalm 19:14 sprang to mind, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,…”. For me, this seems like a good place to begin before saying anything to anyone. There’s a refrain sung in one of the songs by the a Capella group “Sweet Honey in the Rock” where they sing the words of Palm 19:14 over and over again, almost as a mantra. There have been times in the past when I was about to walk into a potentially contentious setting as a part of my work, and I was aware that whatever I said would impact the outcome. As a way of calming myself, I’d hum that particular refrain over and over again. It always seemed to work.

Feb 19: In my life, what brings about a beaming smile? Rise Up Reflections February 2017

Observing a sunrise, seeing a newborn baby for the first time, watching the antics of young children, and anytime my grandchildren beat me at Foosball! Any of these everyday life-events have me smiling ear-to-ear.

Feb 20: In what ways do I try to have my actions genuinely reflect my values?

As a practicing Quaker, most, if not all of my values exist within the manner of Friends. A list of “queries” within our book of “Faith and Practice” help to guide Friends so that our actions are in right order with our professed faith and inner spiritual experience. Of course in my heart-of-hearts I know that I never bat 100% in following the tenants of my faith but I’m reasonably content with trying to every day.

Feb 21: Can I commit a random act of kindness today? What will it be?

Every time I hear this question I try to reframe it slightly within my mind to; how can I commit a ‘routine’ act of kindness today? Random, to me, means I may be overlooking this person or that opportunity while waiting for the “random” recipient of my expression of kindness to appear. I am truer to myself to just be kind from the beginning to the end of my day and in so doing the ‘act’ will take care of itself.  (And from day-to-day, I admit, my overall score does vary.)

Either way we approach this question I am reminded of the quote by the Rev. John Watson, “Be kind, everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”

Feb 22: How is my body a gateway to gratefulness?

Because my body has been tolerant, even forgiving at times; for having been used by a kid of fifteen who jumped out of hay mows onto concrete floors; who held down two and three jobs making ends meet when his own kids were little; who today no longer jumps or reports to work and instead —thus far—finds wonder in family, in words and whaleboats, in a shutter’s “click” and deep reverence for the gift of this new day.

Feb 23: What moves me and breaks my heart? How does this vulnerability motivate me?

For some strange reason we had two questions posted for today’s date. I chose to answer, “What moves me and breaks my heart? How does this vulnerability motivate me?”

My heart breaks anytime I see or I am made aware of children who are either homeless or have been abused in any number of ways. That may have led me to be a Youth Advocate in my community for 31 years before retiring in 2015. Some of this work I continue in smaller ways still whenever I can. My wife and I also contribute to programs locally and globally, as finances allow, that assist families and/or individual children who have been victimized by poverty and abuse. I can only wish that my motivation and finances were enough to meet the enormous need out there.

Feb 24: For whom has my love made a difference?

I believe I can say, because I can feel it, that my love expressed to each member of my family has made a difference to them and to me. And that’s the thing about love given and love expressed honestly and freely, it’s circular, it comes back in more ways than I can count.

And let’s not stop with humans. Love expressed and love exercised makes a difference to our pets, to our plants and our planet. My sense is that whenever love is at the center of any action or work undertaken, from academics to artists, and from clerics to carpenters, the fruits of the work can be nothing short of tremendous.

Feb 25: What is it you plan to do with this precious day?

To live it fully end to end! My hope and prayer is that good people on this site will also have a safe and life-affirming day as well.

Feb 26: How can I question myself and my daily patterns more skillfully?

Today was another “double header,” with two questions to choose from. The second question, “Where can I find humor in my life right now?” actually can fit right into the first question!

Personally, as a fairly recent retiree I try to assess how I do things and what my typical daily patterns are fairly often. (I know, some folks who are in the career mode might say, why, you’re retired? But when the demands and daily routines of the typical workplace cease with retirement, so does a huge amount of built-in structure in one’s daily life, which is, a mixed blessing at times.)

Here’s my little daily list that I ask myself (that is, when I’m truly focused and remember to look at it!)

. The night before, list three things I want/need to do tomorrow.
.  In the AM, carefully select what I view online and for how long.
.  Visit this site, do Daily Question, consider daily quote, read an article.
.  Write something, anything.
.  Decide on gym or rowing, and go do it early!
.  Looking at my daily agenda, how much of it is mine, how much of it is someone else’s?
. Remember (!) to look at my own list for the day! (I use an app called “Trello” for this…it’s great!)

Feb 27: What does my doubt teach me about my faith?

What does my doubt teach me about my faith? Everything! Having faith, that is, an awareness of the Spirit at work in my life, and being a part of a wider faith community convinces me that exploring one’s faith is a life process with ebbs and flows along the way. There are days when I have the nagging thought that the world might be better off with no experience of faith and religion anywhere in any country. Then, a second later, I’m swept up in that sweet embrace of feeling that God does exist, does attend, no matter how others name their deity and practice their faith, it matters very much and I and the rest of the world are better for it. F

Feb 28: What is sufficient in my life?

What is sufficient in my life? Everything. And that is a blessing and a responsibility to attend to the unmet needs of others around me.

Answers to questions and image by K. Lee. Thank you for visiting my Rise Up Reflections February 2017.