Thanks for visiting Rise Up Reflections November 2017. I hope that you find some of the questions worthy of your own reflection and response, too. Visit Gratefulness.org, it’s a great resource of inspiration run by wonderful people.
Rise Up Reflections November 2017
November 1: What matters most to me?
What matters most to me? My family, my faith, my life and my fellow human beings.
Nov 2: What opportunity is calling me to be fearless?
Nov 3: What would love do?
If given the chance, love brightens dark places, opens heavy doors and makes softens our journey through life.
Nov 4: How can I enter my encounters and experiences with fewer assumptions or expectations?
Well, it depends on which encounters and experiences we’re talking about. Oftentimes having a general sense of what to expect when we find ourselves in certain situations is necessary in order to arrive at a desired outcome. Otherwise, why would we bother to engage in the first place? For example, today I will meet with a man whom I have never met who refinishes tile floors. I am assuming he will be professional and courteous and I expect to receive a reasonable estimate from him to refinish the tile floors in our Quaker community house.
When it comes to entering emotional and personal experiences, however, my practice is simple: I keep my expectations low and my hopes high. This has always served me well.
Nov 5: How can grateful living become more of a daily practice in my life?
Honestly, I feel that I am currently practicing a healthy level of gratitude hour-by-hour in my life. There are moments when I am humbled and astonished by the everyday richness of my own life; which compels me to create and give of my time for the benefit of others. It seems to me that gratefulness, and to whatever degree, serves mainly the self. I want my own experience of gratefulness to have legs and feet that can travel to get things done that serve the common good in whatever way that opens.
Nov 6: What fears are getting in the way of fully appreciating the fact that I am alive today?
On the contrary! I appreciate fully, hour-by-hour, the fact that I am alive today! Besides, when you get to a certain age and realize that you’re taking all kinds of steps to protect the health that you have by taking care of your body, taking your medicine and taking care of your mind, it would be silly not to appreciate the fact that I, and you, are still here! Thus far, I have had the good fortune to be able to walk out of every funeral home that I’ve visited. Someday, I’ll have a long time to be dead, so for now, I’m liking it here and I appreciate fully the fact that I have this day to live.
Nov 7: Take a deep breath. Now take another. How does slowing down make you feel?
Staying with my breath like this makes me feel wonderful. Depending on what time of day I do this, it would also make me feel that it’s time to take a nap.
Nov 8: Every morsel of food is a gift from this planet. What can I do to remember this more fully?
When I think of it, which doesn’t happen often enough, I think about the food I am eating at any given moment, its texture, taste, where it came from, who worked to harvest it and how it arrived on my plate. That helps me to appreciate and be grateful for what I am eating and to receive it as a gift. And speaking of food, my wife, Betty Ann, is a terrific cook and I find myself saying “thank you” to her regularly for the meals that she creates for us both. Just saying “thank you” whenever and however food arrives, at home, in a restaurant, or receiving a slice from an apple from a friend, that act of being thankful in itself can serve as a prayer of thanksgiving.
Nov 9: What relationships am I thankful for right now?
First and foremost I am thankful for my relationships among my family members. Close behind would be my Quaker community followed by my rowing team and the wider rowing club beyond. In all this, I cannot forget the one who greets me first when I arrive home, with tail wagging, our dog Gracie. She may be blind, but she sees it all!
Nov 10: Who needs my patience today? Can I offer it graciously?
This is an intriguing question. It’s a bit early in my day for me to have any idea who may need my patience today. But the question, standing alone, is a good one for me to ponder. I might say to myself when interacting with others today, well of course I would offer them my patience, but do I really, and always? I know in my heart that it might depend on the situation, or the person and the issue at hand, which for me in light of today’s question begs the question, why?
Nov 11: Deep in the depths of your being there is a motivating force, what is it?
The deepest motivating force in my life is to be open to the promptings and call of the Holy Spirit.
Nov 12: The ground beneath me, the air around me – what is one other thing that is always here that I may have forgotten to be grateful for?
Nov 13: For which voices in your life are you most grateful?
Above all else I am most grateful for the “voice,” desire, or attraction I had to date a teenaged girl over fifty years ago who became my wife and continues still for forty-six years and counting. I am especially grateful to the mentors in my life who encouraged me to become a Quaker many years ago. And I am grateful that I pursued my own leading to seek a career in social work and ministry to children and families some four decades ago.
Nov 14: What is enough? How do you “know” it?
It depends on “what” is. For example:
I have enough love in my life so that I am able to share it with others.
I have enough material things so I don’t need to be cruising on Amazon.
When I have had enough pain in my back I stop and do my stretches.
When I have more than enough clothing I drop a box off at the shelter.
When I have had enough sitting I get up and head to the gym!
Nov 15: Who has inspired me to live my most authentic life?
For starters, a few historic Quaker luminaries, including a few present day elders have all helped me to live what I hope is an authentic life. Yet there are others too, people who have lived or are still living simple and unsung lives with integrity, purpose and conviction, who possess that spark in their eyes and who seem to walk with grace and quiet dignity that consistently inspire me the most on any given day.
Nov 16: How can I make a difference with anything I have that others might need?
I can only hope that I am making a difference when my wife and I give to charities that we feel need our support. Beyond that, I look for ways to support people around me who are struggling in various ways. I do what I can but admit that it bothers me to know that I am only scratching the surface of the unrelenting need of so many.
Nov 17: What dream lives on in me?
That my nation’s leaders will one day demonstrate, through their actions and behavior, the ideals of which they profess and seldom attain, for the benefit of my country and its people.
Nov 18: When has someone given me the right kind of help just when I needed it?
Now and then I find myself struggling with an approach to an issue I am dealing with. It rumbles around in my head until a moment arrives when my wife, after listening to me, says, “Maybe you should think of it like this…..” And presto, approach to the problem is solved!
Nov 19: How can I stretch my heart to love bigger? To love more of the world?
I am reasonably content with where my heart, spirit, actions and expressions of love are with respect to the world. It is my sense that it is less about “bigger” and “more,” about being present for each quiet and unseen moment where love is released to do its work.
Nov 20: Who has gone before you in your work for whom you are grateful?
Oh gosh, there are so many! Most significantly are the Quaker luminaries that, during their lifetime heeded a call of the Spirit to witness and work on behalf of the underserved and marginalized persons in whatever setting they found them. George Fox, John Woolman, Elizabeth Stanton, Carolyn Stevenson, each in their own way and time challenged their governments, endured being jailed, and forged new ways forward for worshipping God and living a noble life of service to others. And within my lifetime, Quakers who, in one way or another, helped to shape the person I am today were Jim Toothaker, David Douglas, Ruth Martucci and Ruth Howland. These Friends, who lived and died within my lifetime, have inspired me greatly.
Nov 21: To what color would you love to write an ode? What might it say?
I’ve got nothing “ode-wise” in my head, the most I’ve done is drag my bones from bed!
Nov 22: What do I have in abundance? What part of this abundance do I long to share?
Thus far, I have my life and I enjoy sharing much of it with those around me in various ways, including with family members and with friends while rowing, and doing photography that benefits others. I have the gift of reasonable financial security, compared to some, and I try to remain mindful of this each and every day. Though the experts say we shouldn’t give money to panhandlers at busy intersections, I almost always do. These days I keep $10-$20 dollars of rolled up $1 bills in my car and when the lights are right, I offer one dollar to people standing there. My logic is that they’re hungry, and I am not. They’re cold, and I certainly am not. Now and then I offer a $5 Dunkin Donuts card out the window, because I’m on my way home from rowing to breakfast, and these folks are standing out there in the freezing cold, and by some luck of the draw, I am not standing there with them.
Nov 23: What really matters to me?
My family, my life, my friends and neighbors, my faith community and my fellow human beings.
Nov 24: What are some of the places I have called home, and truly felt at home?
Some of the places that I routinely feel at home with, or in, are:
Our own home!
Our Quaker meetinghouse,
On West Island Beach,
In a whaleboat,
And in my bed.
Nov 25: For what is my heart yearning?
On at least two distinct occasions in my life I have experienced a very clear call of the Spirit to attend to a specific work that came with equal measures of clarity, energy and stamina. Even though I believe that things happen in God’s time and not my own, these days I find my heart yearning to hear such a call again.
Nov 26: Who have I known for a very short time who has had a big impact on me?
In terms of her age compared to mine, I’d have to say our dog Gracie!
Nov 27: What does generosity mean to me?
I experience generosity as both process and action. Process, when others share their talents, time or their knowledge and wisdom with me; and action, when I am moved to share the blessings and the bounty of my own life with others, especially among people who are struggling in some way.
Nov 28: What are the most basic things, which I rarely think about, for which I am truly grateful?
Water, air and my still beating heart.
Nov 29: If I could give up the need to be right, what might change?
I am not concerned in the least with needing to be right. That’s silly. I am interested in being part of a dialogue where opinions and viewpoints are expressed robustly and with conviction. Show me a person who works hard at scrubbing away any semblance of “being right” and I’ll show you the makings of a dull conversation.
Nov 30: What if I asked each person I encounter how they truly are? And listened?
For starters, it would take me longer to get from one place to another! And yet, the investment of time is well worth it. My professional training in applied listening many years ago taught me how important it was to truly here the other person, and avoid constructing my next statement in my head while the person is still speaking and making eye contact with me. However, in my private life I will confess that while out and about I have caught myself more than once realizing that I had no idea what a person had just said to me, and there were no other surrounding distractions happening either. That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.