Welcome to Rise Up Reflections, January 2016. As we begin a brand new year I find myself also reflecting on my personal goal upon my retirement this past October first; that for one year at least I would dedicate my new-found time to my photography and writing and try my best to undertake no new thing during that time.
At first blush those goals might seem self-centered in nature, but my hope and prayer is that they are not. Writing, through my blog at Rise This Day.com, and its accompanying images, I hope will be a source of support, comfort and affirmation of the human spirit, as way opens and as the Holy Spirit may lead.
The other day a woman commented on my most recent story on my site. She said, “Thank you for feeding my soul today.” Little did she know that with her brief comment she fed my soul too, and fortified my commitment to continue with Rise This Day, hoping that it will contribute in some small way to the fullness, wonder and goodness of the world around us.
You will note that my Rise Up Reflections for January (and every month) are in reverse order, which is intentional. After completing each day’s reflection, I add it to the top of the page, not the bottom, feeling that today and the “now” is most important. Thank you.
January 31, 2016: What one quote most often gives me the perspective I am seeking?
“Have thy tools ready, God will find thee work.” – Reverend David to Kingsley, 1856.
January 30, 2016: What excitement is alive, deep in my belly?
Hopefully to share a measure of the power of the Spirit using image and word with others around me by whatever way opens.
JANUARY 29, 2015: What has surpassed my expectations in life?
Almost everything. As a kid growing up in the projects in Boston I didn’t even possess the vocabulary of awareness of what I might achieve in life. I was the first on both sides of my family to go to college, let alone receive a master’s degree. Back then aiming high meant that you got through high school with a diploma, that got you a decent company job nearby and when you left your parents for your own place it meant moving into a nearby apartment in the same projects. Today, along with my wife Betty Ann, we have raised three accomplished daughters, we have a nice home, and at last count, our lives have been blessed with six grandchildren. Thus far, moving into retirement after a long and fruitful career, I am enjoying being alive and expressing the wonder of it all through my photography and writing as way opens to me. I am indeed grateful for the life given me.
JANUARY 28, 2016: What have I done recently that has required courage?
If I can stretch “recently” to include this past fall, I’d say that I retired after working with children and parents for the last 31 years. Though many people who wish that they could retire would say that they’d do it in a heartbeat, I enjoyed my professional work greatly right up to the day I left. The process of retiring is exciting and scary too, a bit like stepping off of a cliff and having faith that your head and heart will successfully make the adjustment to the next phase of life.
JANUARY 27, 2016: What do I wish to cultivate more of in my life?
A greater sense of patience and acceptance with doing some of the mundane things in my life that I sometimes don’t enjoy doing.
JANUARY 26, 2016: What within you do you need to love?
Perhaps the impact of time upon my body: I have had and I continue to have a very good life, and praise God for that. And at age 65 and recently retired, I have the gift of time and decent health on my side to continue being creative in ways that bring me joy. But the aging process has also brought mobility challenges and eye health issues that I had not planned on “hosting.” Add in the little reminders of reduced quickness, the need to write important things down and slower driving (so says my wife!), I realize that I have not made honest peace within myself on these emerging realities.
In short, one could say that I have not found a way to love this part of my ever developing (now there’s a word!) personhood. Perhaps if I did I would be more like a few of my elders who seem to smile with grace, humility and clear acceptance of what is and is not possible for them to be doing at this point in their lives. I need to stop fighting and start loving and be a better “host” of what is.
JANUARY 25. 2016: What constantly challenges my expectations, in a good way?
From a personal perspective, living with the realities of having what we commonly call a “bad back,” there are, sadly a number of things that I can no longer do. And there are a handful of other things, as in yard work, sitting through meetings, etc, that I generally expect that I cannot do very well without leaving me in a fair amount of pain. But, I’ve managed to come up with some decent work-arounds, so that I can do many of these things after all. I just have to find other ways, other tools, or sometimes ask for help with some things. So my own expectations of thinking I can’t do something, then finding out that I can, ends up being a good thing after all.
JANUARY 24, 2016: How can I more consistently honor the beauty in others?
By listening to them fully without a readiness to be shaping a reply in my own head while they are still talking. By simply seeing and being fully aware of the presence of others who are around me. (And today…I’ll have lots of opportunity to do this, with 20 people headed to our house for a grandchild’s birthday and to watch a playoff football game on TV! And since I’m not a football fan myself, I’ll have lots of opportunities to observe others!)
JANUARY 23, 2016: How am I listening today? How could I listen more fully?
There is a phrase in John Woolman’s Journal, attributed to a Native American elder who said to Woolman, “I love to feel where words come from.” That phrase I carry with me often, especially when I’m aware that I need to listening more and speaking less in a given situation.
JANUARY 22, 2016: What is the purpose of my day?
Another fantastic question! This one I’m going to post on my home office door! Answer for today: To be truly alive and present to the beauty around me, be it within loved ones, other people or objects or feelings that may find their way into my writing or photography. In some small way I hope also that the purpose of my day might be of value to someone else, too, in ways that I may not know of just yet. We will see.
JANUARY 21, 2016: Pick one of your five senses to focus on right here, right now. What gifts is this sense giving to you?
Oh, this is such a great question! I would say my eyes…that I can see reasonably well. I have glaucoma in both eyes and a serious retinal occlusion in my right eye that requires ongoing treatment. So every time I complete frequent visits to the eye doctors I come away very grateful indeed for my vision. Sight, of course, allows me to do photography and to see what I’ve written, both very important things to me. (See my related post “Snip-Stitch-Patch-And Go”)
Certain kinds of music, from blues to spiritual to folk and classical. Water; being on the water, sometimes in the water and always looking out upon any body of water. Children; of any age and in whatever setting. Gazing upon a certain scene or image, even if I won’t be able to photograph it.
JANUARY 19, 2016: In what way can I offer my gifts to the world and be of service today?
By being mindful that my images and words at Rise This Day need to be of usefulness to others, to bring some measure of comfort and lightness into a think and heavy world of people known and unknown to me. That’s what I hope for today.
JANUARY 18, 2016: Listen to the silence. What is it saying to your heart?
Oh how I love the silence, be it in Quaker Meeting, or between my camera and subject or between the last word written and next one taking shape.
JANUARY 17, 2016: Can I open my heart to someone to whom I have had it closed? How can I let them know?
I have had a few, and fortunately only a few instances where I have known that my heart was intentionally closed to a particular person. And it was closed for good reason. When a person intentionally violates my trust or sullies my reputation because of their own inner crisis, dysfunction or reckless need to advance their social standing on the backs of others, the heart does indeed close to safe-guard the core and its treasure. I have a responsibility to protect the inner heart, not with a sense of possession, but with respect to honor the work and love of others, and Spirit, who have planted their good seeds their too since the day I was born.
Instead of throwing the heart-door wide open, I’ll work on forgiveness. Without it I remain captive to hurt and the old wounds. Once I have forgiven, the welcome mat is set for the long-lost visitor to find.
JANUARY 16, 2016: Who is deserving of your thanks right now?
Answering this question feels counterintuitive to me. Doing so makes me feel that I am sitting around waiting for the praise to roll in. Fortunately, I receive more than enough expressions of love and appreciation from others around me. There’s enough ‘thank you’s’ in that!
JANUARY 15, 2016: What special gifts from your childhood have you brought to this moment?
That I am alive, still. And that I seek, hopefully always, the goodness in others and the living Spirit that flows within and between our beings.
JANUARY 14, 2016: How can I stretch myself to learn from someone different from me?
This is something that I think about regularly, to find ways to be among others who are precisely not like me in almost every way. Even though I am taking the first year of my retirement to better my writing and photography skills, eventually I hope to find new ways to plant myself among others who may not be like me.
JANUARY 13, 2016: What opportunity beckons in this moment?
To create something brand new using either my camera or my words, then releasing what comes into the world and see what happens.
JANUARY 12, 2016: If I could embody the qualities of someone I truly admire, who would that be? What qualities would I embody?
I was going to be impish and say that the person just had to be me. But I was afraid someone would actually believe me! But honestly, I know several people who I truly admire, but each too has attributes that I would not especially want for myself either. I admire people who are at peace with themselves, who, when they walk into a room, people just naturally pay attention to what they say or might be getting ready to say. I admire people who are good at thinking “on their feet,” especially when there’s a difficult or adversarial situation afoot, and they manage to measure their words and their tonal responses. I consider myself a student of these kinds of people.
JANUARY 11, 2016: How would I describe something “miraculous”?
Something that appeared, came about or happened that didn’t have a logical and tidy explanation for. For me, the daily ebbs and flows of the tide along our beaches and the amazing shapes and shadows that take place, is a miraculous and repeating wonder every day.
JANUARY 10, 2016: What am I passionate about?
Nurturing the spiritual lives of others around me through my photography and writing at Rise This Day.com . Having recently retired, I’m devoting one full year to not taking anything new on so that I can devote as much time to this as possible. After a year has passed I plan to volunteer with under-served young people in my area. (Working with youth has been a life-long passion which I hope to continue in some way.)
JANUARY 9. 2016: How does being in a community enrich my life?
Being in a community is my life. And being in a community allows me to be fantastically, happy, alone, and at peace, too.
JANUARY 8, 2016: What might be the gift in a chronically challenging situation I am facing?
At the moment, praise God, I’m not dealing with any “chronically challenging situations.” And that by itself is a gift for sure. My ongoing chronic back pain though is my personal challenge….and I’ve yet to receive any “gift” from this ongoing reality.
JANUARY 7, 2016: Reflect on one of your most meaningful experiences of “receiving” from someone. What makes it stand out?
Having spent the lion’s share of my life, personally and professionally caring for others in social work and ministry, it is always a humbling experience when I am allowed to “receive” and know the deep hurts of others within my care. This never grows old, this receiving from another person, be they child, teenager or adult. This floodgate, opening up in my direction, to be the boat in the storm, or to swim alongside and point towards calmer waters, is always a gift and arrives without warning.
JANUARY 6, 2016: As I go about my daily life, what small kindnesses can I offer to others?
First and foremost, to be present; I’m embarrassed to recall the many times when awash in my own thoughts, I missed the reach, the voice and the face of another, be they stranger or friend. You don’t get that back. There’s no rewind. It just plays as an empty memory of what did not happen.
JANUARY 5, 2015: Our core values are among our greatest assets. What are some of my values?
My faith as a Quaker, my belief that there is that of God and the Holy Spirit in all people, and that life itself is a precious gift to hold and share.
JANUARY 4, 2016: How do I show others that I care?
By being present to them and offering help whenever I can. By looking into their eyes when we meet, and when appropriate, saying “I love you.”
JANUARY 3, 2016: What habits of mind need to shift in order for me to see more roses and fewer thorns?
I hold with wonder and admiration the people in my life that I have known who live with great pain and discomfort day and night, yet who somehow managed to radiate joy and a sense of optimism among people around them. On days when my pain levels are high enough to impact how I see and move, I struggle to keep things positive within myself. Surely the mind is a part of whatever attitude and affect I project, so shifting that boulder out of my path would help me to see more roses for sure. There should be an app for that!
JANUARY 2, 2016: What stories have I heard that most inspire me to treasure life?
Anything ever written by Helen Keller, Ann Frank, Sojourner Truth, John Woolman, or said to be uttered by Jesus Christ for starters. When I read of the harrowing accounts of these trailblazers and how they still managed to lead the way forward to a better place I cannot help but see and feel the world differently too.
January 1, 2016: How can I contribute to the “great fullness” of life?