I Am Enough
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically
liberates others." ~ Marianne Williamson
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
This weekend David and I headed to Springfield, IL for a memorial service. It was good to see family, even under such circumstances. My brothers-in-laws from Korea and Nova Scotia came in and there was great fun going through family pictures and reliving their childhood. I inherited some vintage jewelry: A couple of brooches and antique stick pins.
On the way back home, we stopped at the Arch in St. Louis and went through the museum. Take a virtual vacation.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Leaders in Faith: Do you want to get well?
By Jon McClarnon
Have you ever considered how many questions you are asked in a day? When you think about it, many of those questions aren’t very important. Every once in a while a question comes your way that has the potential and power to change your life: for example, “Will you marry me?” or “Do you want to start a church?”
Questions are much more powerful than statements. To say, “I love you,” is very powerful, but it tells you nothing about how the other person actually feels about you. If you wanted to know what they thought, you would say, “Do you love me?” or “Why do you love me?”
Jesus asked a lot of questions of people for the same reason. He wanted people to wrestle with what they believed. He wanted people to verbalize what they were thinking. He wanted people to declare and choose where they stood.
The Gospels record Jesus’ asking more than 300 questions. Today those life-changing questions Jesus posed in his lifetime still hang in the air and beg to be answered.
One of the most life-changing questions Jesus asks is found in a story in John 5. Jesus walks into a pool area filled with disabled people, all of whom are counting on a local urban legend that says an angel will visit the pool and, with a tip of its wing, stir the water. The belief was that the first person into the water after it began to move would be healed.
Jesus comes upon a man who has been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus walks into a virtual sick ward, picks out one guy and asks him a seemingly ridiculous question: “Do you want to get well?”
Imagine what it’s like to be this man in the first century. The majority of his life has been lived on a mat that is 3 feet by 6 feet. He is dependent on everyone else to feed him, carry him, clothe him, clean him and help him get to the pool area. With no job and no friends, he lies by the pool day after day, so close to what he believes is the solution to being well and not being able to do anything about it.
And he’s suffering from a social stigma in the ancient world where people believed that he brought this condition upon himself though his own sin.
I think the emphasis of Jesus’ question should be understood to read, “Do you really want to get well?”
Believe it or not, some people would rather be sick. It’s not an ideal life for this man, but considering it’s been 38 years, it’s a comfortable life. Other people, after long periods of sickness, seem to lose the will to get better or believe that things can ever change. Not every sick person wants to get well.
When Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?” the lame man offers excuses. In his opinion, he’s tried, but he can’t. This is the moment in the story that, while I’m reading it, I want the character to hear me yelling at the pages, “Stop making excuses about why you can’t get well and look in front of you! You’re talking to the son of God who has the power to heal you. Just say it: ‘If you can heal me, do it!’”
Jesus seems to have had enough of his excuses and simply commands him to pick up his stuff and walk away. This healing is not accompanied by the normal celebration. He doesn’t run, jump or shout. He just walks away, healed. He doesn’t seem to exhibit much faith. He doesn’t even know Jesus’ name.
It seems that there is something bigger going here than just the magical power of Jesus. It seems that Jesus heals this man just to prove that he can. To prove that he alone, as the son of God, has the power to make him well.
I think in a sense we’re all invalids. We are all sick in some way. Whether that sickness is being blind to God, struggling with years of baggage because of abuse, addiction or fear, our sickness has a way of paralyzing us. We’re all invalids, but the question still deserves to be answered: Do you want to get well?
Some people will choose to stay sick, not because they can’t get well but because they don’t want to be well. Some will choose to stay sick because it seems like things can never change and the sickness is too big.
But for those who want to be well and be healed and be free, God can do the miraculous. When we realize our sickness and believe God can make us well, we can, like the lame man, stand up and walk.
I sat in my seat, as my new grade six classmates found theirs. At the front of the
class our new math teacher stood watching us,
“Come on, class. We don’t have all day. Get settled please.”
Mr. Stevens was the strangest teacher we ever encountered. At the beginning of the
school year, he rented the basement of a house on the other side of the cove from our school. He
drove a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, but usually jogged to school – a rare and strange thing in
the early 1970’s in Nova Scotia. There were rumors that he flossed daily, which was later witnessed in class after he ate his healthy lunch
of vegetables and fruit. All of these habits were things we
were not used to in our small fishing village.
The bell rang.
“Ok, class. Welcome to a new school year. I’m Mr. Stevens and I’m sure I’ll learn all
your names in no time.” He walked around the class handing out math books. When he was
done, he returned to the front of the class and looked at us. We stared back. “What are you
waiting for? Get started?” He said.
We looked at him – confused. Wasn’t he going to teach us?
“Is there something wrong with your ears? You’re not all deaf are you?”
One brave soul at the back of the class asked what we all wanted to know. “Mr. Stevens,
aren’t you going to teach us?”
“Rubbish!” Mr. Stevens replied. “You’re smart kids. Open your books and get to it. If
you have any trouble or any questions raise your hand, and I’ll come help you.”
My friend Paul and I exchanged glances and opened our books to the first chapter. A
competition began. Paul and I spent all our free time at home working through the lessons. Mr.
Stevens, true to his word, helped anyone who was stuck on a problem. It was his clue a lesson
was needed. He’d stop us from what we were doing to teach all the students what one struggled
with. It was a strange method of teaching, but it was very effective. He only had to push a few of
the less disciplined students to work through the book. Not Paul and I. We worked like dogs and
finished two and one half math books that first year.
It was a turning point in my life. Mr. Stevens made me realized I was good at math and
also able to reach the top of any class I attended. In our small elementary school, I studied under
his guidance for two years.
Mr. Stevens was a strange man, but I loved him. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a
popular television show back then. The actors brought the best and most warped of British
humor into our Canadian lives. Mr. Stevens would often act out one of their skits in front of the
class. He mimicked John Cleese walking the German goose step and often recited line-for-line a
skit for the latest show. Some thought he was strange, and I guess he was, but he knew how to
make a math lesson interesting.
When I reached grade eight, a new junior high school was built. They call it a middle
school now. Our old school, which taught grades one through nine, would only go to grade six.
All the older students, including Paul and me, where bussed to the new school. To our delight,
Mr. Stevens took a new position as a math teacher there as well. I had the privilege of learning
from him for two more years and working my way through many math books.
In the spring of our ninth grade year, we were told to chose the classes we would take in
our first year of high school. There were three choices for every subject: general, academic, and
advanced. Mr. Stevens made it quite clear, general classes were for the students who were going
no where. Academic classes were middle of the road and would get you to university. The
advanced classes were college prep classes. You studied the same topics but were given more
work and harder challenges. Paul and I looked at our choices. General classes sounded easy.
“Rubbish!” Mr. Steven’s scolded us. “You will take the advanced class in math. You’re too
smart not to.”
We compromised and took the academic class. During my second week of high school
math I raised my hand. My new teacher, Mr. West, also known as wild, wild West because of his
temper, came to my desk. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I’m not sure what they want me to do in this chapter. Can you explain it to me?”
He stared at my book. “We’re not doing that chapter yet? Good gosh! You’re six chapters
ahead of the class.”
“I’m sorry, Sir. I’ve always done my math this way.”
“Don’t be sorry, young man.” He leaned closer to me. The garlic he had for lunch made
my eyes tear. “Look, Mike. Do you have fifth period free? If you do, I have an advanced class
then. You need to be in that class.”
“I do, but …” I began to protest.
He cut me off. “Mike, this is not the class for you. You need to be in the advance class.
I’ll work it out with the guidance teacher. Be here tomorrow at the new time. You’re through in
I thrived in my new environment. I finally had classmates with the same passion for math
as I did. It was all because of whacky Mr. Stevens, the man who gave us a book and said, “Get
I’ve carried his lesson with me all my life. Whenever I am faced with a new challenge, I
think of my first day in grade six math. Instead of sitting and staring at the challenge, I just get
started. Before I know, it the challenge has been overcome.
I just get started.
“Successful people follow a plan for liking people. They don’t discuss it much but you would be surprised to find how many really big people have a clear, definite, even a written plan for liking people,” states David J. Schwartz, author of The Magic Of Thinking Big.
President Lyndon B. Johnson developed his own 10 Point Formula for success in personal persuasion:
1. Learn to remember names.
2. Be a comfortable person to be around.
3. Aspire to be easy-going so that things do not “ruffle your feathers”.
4. Do not be egotistical.
5. Strive to be of quality, someone whom others gain value from being around.
6. Study yourself in order to refine yourself. Work to improve even the elements of your personality which you may be unconscious.
7. Sincerely attempt to heal, on an honest basis, every misunderstanding you have had or now have. Drain off your grievances.
8. Practice liking people until you learn to do so genuinely.
9. Never miss an opportunity to congratulate someone on their achievement, or express sympathy in sorrow or disappointment.
10. Give spiritual strength to people, and they will give genuine affection to you.
Notice there is no “get even” philosophy here. It says nothing about letting the other person seek you out, nor does it state that you are a no it all. Successful people specialize in being likable. Where do you fit in?
Monday, March 8, 2010
I would like to thank the Academy for this award: It represents hard work, and the hopes, dreams, love and encouragement of a great many people who have held me up along the way.
I've long said I'm not a human being, I'm a human becoming. There is an old Spanish proverb that says: In our lives, we have two or three opportunities to be a hero, but almost every day, we have the opportunity not to be a coward.
This life is a hero's journey. Anyone who sticks it out and gives it their best shot is heroic, in my estimation. What we call normal is so often extraordinary. Just overcoming the weight of the world, and making a genuine effort to identify and honor our true-path is profound. Kudos to anyone who is making a genuine effort to get through this life with originality,awareness and authenticity. ~Jeff Brown
Sunday, March 7, 2010
by Joseph Walker
It was the simplest of gestures, really.
But something about it was terribly poignant and profound -- and instructive to anyone looking for solutions in today's complex world.
Sixteen-year-old Brian had been asked to participate in a program at church. Never much one for public speaking, he accepted the invitation apprehensively. His younger sister, Gretchen, knew of his anxiety, and tried to soothe him with some good-natured teasing.
"Don't worry about it, Brian," she reminded him more than once. "You can't really disappoint anyone because nobody is expecting much."
You know -- the sort of thing you'd expect from a little sister.
On the appointed day Brian was in his place wearing his best clothes, a fresh haircut and the most strained smile this side of Miss First Runner-Up. Blame part of that on pre-speech jitters. Blame a little more on the car accident Brian was involved in on the way to church -- not to mention the broken rib he sustained in the collision.
"Look at it this way," I whispered to him as the meeting got underway. "The worst thing that could possibly happen has already happened. It's clear sailing from here on in."
Well, not quite.
When Brian rose to speak, the pocket on his jacket somehow became tangled with the armrest of his chair. The unmistakable ripping sound elicited an audible gasp from the congregation, and brought a pained expression to Brian's mother's face. As Brian turned to see what the ripping was, he lost control of the book he was holding, and it fell on the foot of the woman sitting next to him.
The congregation was beginning to titter, and he hadn't said a word.
I saw him glance at the door. I'm sure he considered running, and I doubt any would have blamed him. But he bravely made his way to the podium and began to present his message. He was doing a pretty good job, all things considered, when I noticed something unusual -- blood. Dripping from Brian's nose. And not just a little.
At first Brian was unaware of what was happening, even though it was painfully obvious to those in the congregation. Then he absently rubbed his nose, and stopped speaking in mid-sentence when he saw the bright crimson fluid that stained his hand.
To his credit, he plunged ahead with his remarks, as if he hoped no one would notice the blood running down his face. He tried to disguise his feeble attempts at wiping the blood with his hand, but unfortunately, he only succeeded at making the mess worse.
Most in the congregation were transfixed. It was sort of like driving by an accident on the freeway. You didn't want to see it, but you couldn't keep yourself from looking. Then one person decided to stop being a spectator.
It wasn't until she had almost made her way to the front of the chapel that I noticed Gretchen. You might expect that a little sister would be taking secret delight in her brother's humiliation, but not this 12-year-old.
As Brian continued speaking she walked purposefully up the aisle and directly to his side, a look of sincere concern on her face. She handed him the handkerchief she was carrying and stood there with him, her arm around his waist as he quickly mopped his nose, mouth and chin.
When he finished he handed the hankie back to her. She smiled at him, gave him a quick squeeze and returned to her seat.
Brian finished his talk, and I'm not the only one in the congregation who thought his performance after the incident was more confident than before. Nor was I alone in feeling that the day's greatest sermon had been preached -- wordlessly -- by his sister.
Like I said, Gretchen's gesture wasn't exactly overwhelming. Still, it was heroic in my view, in part because of its simplicity. Gretchen didn't worry about whether or not taking a hankie to her brother in the middle of a church service was appropriate. She didn't form a committee to study her options. She just saw someone who needed help, and she provided it.
You don't have to look hard to find everyday parallels, do you?
We stumble upon similar situations all the time -- the disoriented tourist on the street, the elderly woman struggling to reach that first step on the bus, the lost child in the department store. Usually it doesn't take much to ease the trauma of the moment -- some pocket change, an outstretched hand, a few kind words or a couple of minutes of time. But too often we choose not to get involved, assuming that others will come along to offer the kindness we keep to ourselves.
And usually, others do. It seems there's always a Gretchen around who is willing to step outside herself and do what needs to be done. But the world can always use a few more.
Yeah, I know -- there's the risk that our helpful zeal will lead us to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. But the way I see it, that risk is worth it -- especially when you consider the prospect of someday being the one who is up there with a bloody nose.
And without a Gretchen in sight.
-- Joseph Walker