With the beginning of October 2016, I begin my second year of retirement, and also start my second year of participating in the Daily Reflections at Gratefulness .org. I hope that you will ponder some of the Daily Questions below for yourself in addition to reading my responses. In any event, thanks for stopping by to read my “Rise Up Reflections October 2016.”
October 1: What fears are getting in the way of fully appreciating the fact that I am alive today?
Not one, actually. In fact, I’m rather excited about being here today!
October 2: Take a deep breath. Now take another. How does slowing down make you feel?
For sure, being mindful of one’s breathing and knowing when to “make it work” for a particular situation is very useful. But since I just woke up a short while ago, if I slow down any more right now I’ll just fall back to sleep!
October 3: Every morsel of food is a gift from this planet. What can I do to remember this more fully?
Generally, I become much more aware of this fact when I pause for a moment of grace, usually in silence, before I begin to eat.
October 4: For what relationships am I thankful right now?
My family, first and foremost; my faith community second; and thirdly the people on my rowing team, as we have been together now for 17 years and counting.
October 5: Who needs my patience today? Can I offer it graciously?
In about four hours I have an appointment with my retina specialist to have an eye injection. (I have a retinal occlusion in my right eye, and get an injection of Avastin every 15 weeks or so to reduce swelling and improve vision.) The procedure isn’t fun, but it’s also not as painful as one might think as they numb the eye up very well beforehand. The more specialized techs who attend to me during the procedure with the doc are skilled, patient and terrific. The lesser trained techs who do the initial prep work, however, sometimes seem rushed and act robotic, which annoys me greatly. And more than once I’ve told them so and once asked them to slow down. These are my eyes they’re working with but I also know that they’re trying to do their work and I also need to be patient with them, too. So they will get my extra dose of patience today…I hope!
October 6: Deep in the depths of your being there is a motivating force, what is it?
I made a commitment to do “no new thing” for one year following my retirement. Now that I have arrived at the month marking my first year of retirement, I am eager for the Spirit to lead me onward to a new area of being of use to others. My head has ideas, but to date the Spirit has not provided the way.
October 7: The ground beneath you, the air around you – what is one other thing that is always there that you may have forgotten to be grateful for?
Sight and Light! My blind dog has been teaching me to pay attention to my wonderful world of sight, of being able to see, even with a few vision challenges of my own. But I can see, see faces, see the sun rise, see the leaves turning colors and see the sentences that I type this very instant. It’s amazing!
And then there’s light itself, in all its shades, hues and unbridled intensity that streams across our earth day and night, day and night. And I see it coming and going, and soak it in and push the terrifying thought from my mind of what if it one day just stopped?
And speaking of being grateful and gratitude, check out my page of quotes called Gratitude Expressed. I think that you’ll find some nuggets there.
October 8: For which voices in your life are you most grateful?
The “voice” and call of the Spirit at work within me would always come first, followed by the teachings, words and life of the following:
Mother Teresa (now formally named Saint Teresa of Calcutta)
Thich Nhat Hanh
October 9: What is enough? How do you “know” it?
For twenty years and counting I have kept a little piece of intricately folded origami paper, given to me by a healer, with the words written on it saying, “There is always enough.” That little piece of paper has been a reminder that “having enough” is oftentimes a choice we make, or can make, depending on how we approach life itself. Though I stop far short of ever thinking that “there is always enough” for many disadvantaged, underserved and displaced persons who are struggling for survival around the world, it is precisely my knowledge of the plight of many others who suffer untold hardships that should be asking myself what is enough, and I darn well ought to “know it,” and be grateful for all that I do have.
Today’s question can be approached psychologically, spiritually or metaphorically. And how lucky am I to have the luxury to decide how I might like to consider a response. You bet I have enough, even in my worst moments.
October 10: Who has inspired me to live my most inspired life?
I don’t think that I strive to live an inspired life. I strive to live a life that is in right order with my faith and with whatever measure of God is at work within me. From this I pray that my vocations, recreations and passions for life are rooted and will hopefully blossom. It’s from this, a practice really, when “right order” is truly in place that my life and particular action feels energized, directed and inspired.
October 11: How can I make a difference with anything I have that others might need?
Okay, the little wizard at Gratefulness needs to stop reading my mind! I am, in fact, holding this very question close to my heart and in prayer these days. I’ll issue a full report, in drips and drabs, when the revelation appears!
That said, others have named my ability to provide pastoral care to persons in various ways, which also includes writing and photography, as making “a difference” to others. But after intentionally doing “no new thing” for one year following retirement now a year ago, I am entering a period of spiritual discernment to see what I may be lead to do that is different, or perhaps focus with more intentionality and prayer on doing the same.
This reflection leaves me remembering and appreciating anew a quote by Brother Lawrence, “The ministry of pots and pans.”
October 12: What dream lives on in me?
That my Web site could grow to become an increasing source of support and comfort to those who visit. It has many visitors already, but I still hope that its usefulness to others will grow as time moves on. (Note: I don’t name the site here because I want to avoid the appearance of promoting it in this space) But that is the dream that lives on in me.)
October 13: When has someone given me the right kind of help just when I needed it?
Most often, and on too many occasions to remember, it has been my wife Betty Ann. I sometimes feel the need to sit on a situation that I am dealing with, or a decision that I need to make for a period of time before taking action. All that is fine. But sometimes I get stuck in the thinking of it—I think it to death—and along comes my wife with the perfect solution!
October 14: How can I stretch my heart to love bigger? To love more of the world?
Honestly, I’m not looking to “love bigger,” I’m looking to pay attention to each person in my life currently, and to be present to them in all the little ways that matter most with care, with friendship and with love.
October 15: Who has gone before you in your work for whom you are grateful?
John Woolman: An early Quaker and abolitionist whose life and ministry was concerned for the well-being of disadvantaged people, including Native Americans.
John Calvi: A mentor and Quaker healer from Vermont who has taught me over the years what real ministry is, period.
October 16: To what color would you love to write an ode? What might it say?
Rather than write what I might write about, here’s one I did write that speaks to me in ways that matter. Unfortunately, the Daily Questions don’t allow photos (wish they’d fix that!) so viewers cannot see the girl gloriously sitting on a branch eight feet above the ground.
WHERE WORDS COME FROM
Somewhere between the breath
and pause, then running full-tilt
across the field it hit me,
this child where words come from
alive, seizing every nugget
life would offer,
beside and up the grand old tree
swinging without fear
then sitting silent
until the two were one
in dappled fading light,
until dinner called
and in she came, the dirt of day
in perfect ringlets round her legs and feet.
October 17: What do I have in abundance? What part of this abundance is longing to be shared?
Great Question! Overall, I’d say that I have my (reasonably) good physical health, modest economic stability and time to share with other people or with worthy causes. Slowly, it seems, way has been opening so that requests for my help or use of my skill sets have been coming my way without announcement on my part. Now, I just need to live into those new horizons.
October 18: What really matters to me?
My life, and the lives of those I love around me.
October 19: What are some of the places I have called home, and truly felt at home?
My Quaker meetinghouse at 938 Main Road, Westport, MA. A truly special place, first built in 1713.
A second place that I truly feel at home, literally “in,” is in a whaleboat rowing with my teammates over the past 15 years.
October 20: For what is my heart yearning?
Oh gosh—“this” question again—the yearning heart, just asked a bit differently. And it’s a good question too for me because my heart does indeed still yearn to continue seeking ways to be helpful to and be supportive of others. In some ways I have learned that I am doing that already, even when I don’t seem to realize it. It’s clear I am seeking still and waiting for the weight and “lift” of the Spirit to guide me with more clarity. We will see. But for sure, I find much to appreciate in my yearning.
October 21: Who have I known for a very short time who has had a big impact on me?
Truthfully, no one person comes to mind.
Honestly, what intrigued me most upon reading this question for the first time was this thought: Compared to my short life, the presence and awareness of what we call Spirit or Holy Spirit, which is infinite, has had a tremendous impact on my life. I know that this may not have been the intended meaning of the question but it’s where my head and heart took it.
October 22: What does generosity mean to me and how do I practice it?
I don’t necessarily go around intentionally looking for ways to be demonstratively generous. Some people do this and it clearly works just fine. I am most comfortable being generous by practicing it in heart and spirit, to see what it is that I might have quietly, be it in skills, resources, even presence, that could be of use to others or helps to make the load they carry somewhat lighter.
October 23: What are the most basic things, which I rarely think about, for which I am truly grateful at this very moment?
Air, water, touch, sound and the ever-present experience of love that surrounds me.
October 24: If I could give up the need to be right, how would I be happier?
Frankly, I don’t feel the need to be right. I feel the need to be engaged in right action. Right action is generally a process that in one way or another involves input from others. Besides, with “need” being the operative word here, if I needed to be right personally on things, my test scores would not be impressive!
October 25: What if I asked each person I encounter how they truly are? And listened?
My initial playful response to this question is that if I did ask each person I encounter how they truly are, two things would likely happen; first, I wouldn’t make it fifty-feet down the road from my house on any given day before it got dark! And secondly, I’m guessing that a sizable percentage of these folks might be put-off to be put on the spot like that. Unfortunately, many people, at least in American society in which I live, many people are just not that comfortable going “that deep” in random conversation with others.
But I get the message here for myself. While I think that I do a fairly good job at being fully present and engaged with most people with whom I interact with in the course of a day, I find that I need to remind myself sometimes to pause and ask how the other person is doing—and be fully present and invested in the other person’s response. And yes, it does take time and it is still important. The reminder is appreciated. Thank you.
October 26: What splendor could I appreciate more fully today?
Yesterday I spent the bulk of the day overseeing a funeral and burial services of a 101 year-old matriarch. Today, my thoughts linger on the beauty and grace of how a far-flung family, geographically, came together and drew that circle of love and loss even closer to attend to the business of life ending. It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does, attending to a family as it grieves is a humbling human experience. Today, I feel grateful for having witnessed the splendor of one family in action.
October 27: What is it that I no longer need now?
Oh—it would do me well to sit with this one for a bit. I’m pretty good at thinking about what I no longer need but not so good at actually releasing myself from it! (That’s what they make garages and attics for right? I even have stuff of the head and heart stored there. It’s getting crowded.)
October 28: Who are the 2 – 3 people with whom you spend the most time? How do they support you to be your best self?
Of course my wife would be first in line, as she knows me well, inside and out and supports me 100% and is thoroughly honest with me, even when I don’t enjoy hearing it! The rest of my family, who are all nearby, which is a wonderful gift, just completes me as a dad, grandfather and overall person. After that, come people from within my faith community, and of course the merry band of people I row with three times a week! I am blessed.
October 29: What am I waiting for?
I ask myself this question everyday about six times. I think that I’m waiting for divine intervention or for the phone to ring!
October 30: What is a cultural/family tradition that I cherish?
Nothing fancy, but at least twice monthly, our entire family (6 grandkids, 3 daughters, 3 son-in-laws) gathers at our house outside around the fire pit, or inside near the fireplace when it’s cold, for family chatter over take-out food. It’s a great whirl of conversation, noise and commotion with no dishes to do!
October 31: If I were not afraid, what would I do?
I realize that most of the time the Daily Questions are intentionally crafted to be “broad and open” to have the broadest appeal and usefulness to us as readers. For me at least, every now and then I find a particular question just too vague to wrap my head around it in a serious way. And today’s question feels that way to me. So perhaps a light-hearted response will work better for me here:
If I were not afraid of breaking my bones I might try bull riding at age 66.
If I were not afraid of getting seriously burned I might try walking barefoot on hot coals, which always seemed like a stupid idea to me.
If I were not afraid of at least some things, I might not be human.
Text and image by K. Lee