Loving Well: My Influential Women and Wal-Mart – John

Some time ago in Wal-Mart, a concept so simple, so authentic, and so unexpected appeared and reoriented my actions towards others. While standing in the check-out line with my mother, we took notice of an elderly women: she and her choice of hanging-plant were waiting behind us. Considering the number of our items, my mother insisted this women take our place in line, a courtesy to which the matriarch expressed her gratefulness. She proceeded to open her check book to purchase her hanging-plant, except she had misplaced her pen; once more, my mother extended a simple token of courtesy by offering a pen – again, a courtesy to which the matriarch expressed her gratefulness.

Both instances, this elderly women had an odd way of expressing her thankfulness: she was sincere. Despite my mother’s actions being relatively simple, this women responded with the most sincere “thank you.” I counted this as a lesson learned that younger generations have lost the art of gratefulness, or, at the least, expressing gratitude; my mother and I then checked out and returned to our vehicle – where we found the elderly women placing the hanging-plant into her trunk. My mother offered a third extension of grace by taking the women’s cart to the return. This elderly women put forth her most genuine thank you thus far and shared with my mother her experience with cancer: she, at that time, warred against the last stages and dreaded returning her cart. My mother’s simple, authentic, and unexpected actions relieved our new friend of unseen pain.

Le mama of me.

Le mama of me.

My mother actions spurred actions of simple grace within me – it is simple because the recipients neither appear to need it nor is the grace extravagant. My mother did nothing revolutionary or difficult, and she could have just as well held her place in line, let the cashier give the women a pen, and we would have left the parking lot first without ever knowing whom we were parked beside. My mother saved an old lady only five minutes and a scribble of ink, but it granted respite and a smile to someone who may not have even had the courage to express her pain.

Burdens plague everyone; some are positive and some are negative – but nonetheless we are a burdened people. A simple, encouraging gesture can lessen the burdens we share. As I noted, the women at Wal-Mart did not appear to be in great need: she was old, and the soon-to-be-her plant was probably mentally preparing to hang above the lady’s porch- no apparent struggle. Grace is non-discriminatory because it undeserved; simple is non-specialized because anyone can do it – our simple grace is doable and for everyone.

 

Living Well: My Personal Story – John

During my junior year of college, I initiated a venture that tested my patience, rung my motivation, and stretched my mind. I intended it to be for my own good; I assured myself it would benefit me long-term. I insisted, “When you are 40 years old, you will be thanking yourself.”

Me in the park with friends during my freshman year.

Me in the park with friends during my freshman year.

Physical training had yet to grace my 20 year old, junior collegiate limbs: I enrolled as a soft, skinny, 170 pound freshman who was ignorant to his less-than-average appearance and physical abilities. When I stepped on the scale for Lifetime Fitness, my sophomore fitness class, I noticed 25 extra pounds on my body; I was unaware of my weight gain – and the unawareness scared me. My stereotypical guy-overconfidence shrank and I started climbing at the local rock-climbing gym with my one of my best friends. The gym’s yoga classes and climbing dropped 15 pounds off my stomach, built some strength, and granted peace of mind.

The end of my sophomore year solidified my interest in rock-climbing, and I wanted to approach the hobby seriously. Health and fitness research filled my free summer hours to prepare me for my junior year weight training class – which I was certain would improve my climbing. My diet changed during the summer, taking away five more pounds; my perspective also changed, instilling a desire to change my 40 year old self – making climbing a secondary motive. I began making decisions meant to improve my quality of life 20 years later: I pressed through my homework as hard as I pressed the dumbbells.

My priorities as well as my body changed during my junior year. The gym’s yoga class and personal meditation built inner-strength; weight training built physical strength. Introspection introduced me to someone I had yet to meet – myself. People became my priority; learning and fitness opened a door to my immediate community. Schooling taught me how to learn, and weight training taught me how to apply what I learn – consistent physical fitness taught me discipline.

There were innumerable occasions in the weight room when I questioned myself and what I was doing: “If you think this is hard now, what will this be like in 50 years? Do you really believe this is a lifetime endeavor?” That doubtful question almost always appeared during the last repetition of a weight. There exists a brief moment in weight training during the last push when you are convinced that you cannot push once more; it is in that moment that you must push once more because that is when you will grow, when you will see progress. That weight training philosophy manifested outside the weight room: when I could not read another page or complete another assignment, that was when I knew I must push once more because that is when I will grow, when I will see progress. That life philosophy inculcated discipline: I became strong in body and mind.

In retrospect, this venture strengthened my patience, grew my motivation, and expanded my mind. It proved beneficial, and I am Senior Yearcertain it effected me long-term – I thank myself today. Prior to my experience, I lived in the shadow of my potential: I lived unaware of my capabilities. Many of us are capable of things greater than we perceive. It is as though our subconscious disrupts any inkling of motivation to experience our true potential. Unless one is perfect, he has room for improvement; I found room in my health – do you have any hidden space to fill?

Ontology Crisis: Do You Exist??

“Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within.” – Schopenhauer

SchopenhauerSchopenhauer, a German philosopher, walked this earth from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, and he came to adhere to a faith in transcendental identity. Currently, I am not deeply versed with his work or philosophies, but I understand that he was influenced by Eastern philosophy.

This German philosopher and I share the same personality according to the Enneagram test.  “Men need some kind of external activity, because they are inactive within.” is a quote attributed to Schopenhauer and appeared during my personality study. Now one of my favorite quotes, it represents an ideal with which we should be acquainted.

If you busy yourself with cumbersome things for a long enough period of time, you will find yourself wishing you could do something else. You want to do something else because you are not fulfilled in what you are doing; in other words, you are not being you.

I know a number of individuals who, at some time or another, discovered that they are uncomfortable being alone for long periods of time. I speculate that this phenomenon occurs, at least in part, not because no one is around; rather, it occurs because you are the only one around – and you may be uncomfortable with yourself. Generally, being uncomfortable with yourself happens because you either know yourself well enough to believe you are worth disliking, or you know yourself so little that you are a stranger to your very self. I tend to believe the former is more commonly believed, and that the latter is more commonly the case. Once you come to a true understanding, or nearly true understanding, of what and who you are, you will understand that you are valuable.

You may or may not have noticed that 99% of the last paragraph is written in 2nd person: I repeatedly talked about you. This means that my assumptions are entirely up for debate, because I am not you. My question for you is the one I ask myself frequently: “who are you?

Becoming active within is vital because you are involved when I ask:

  • What do you believe?
  • What/who do you love?
  • Why are you here?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • What is your dog(s)’/cat(s)’ name?

You can claim neither to have faith nor lack faith in anything without first knowing who you are to claim it.

Is faith, belief, religion, morality. etc. present without you first being present? No. If you are sleeping inside, your faith is a dream.

I do not suspect Schopenhauer holds any contention to external activity, but I suspect he would contend with external activity meant to distract from internal activity.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ: Is “ministry” your external activity? Or is it a surging from deep within that you can neither suppress nor escape?

To everyone: If you have not done so already, do a little “soul-searching”. It may just be worth it; after all, this is life you are living. You should live it as beautifully as you are.

Further Reading: I See Dead People: An Old Adage  is my response to You Are What You Love by Phill Easley; both deal more with personal identity and may be a helpful step in self-discovery.

 

 

 

 

3 Simple, Proven Ways to Start Your Day Off Better

“With something this disproportionate in their effects, how can we afford not to make time for them. You can do them in as little as three minutes each.” – Stephen Passman
Ladies and Gents, I cannot communicate the value of this advice; It is worth reading and applying.

3 Simple, Proven Ways to Start Your Day Off Better.

Water-Tight Tethers: Surviving Peace before the Storm

“Rain has always fascinated me, it is one of my favorite things in life. As a child I would watch the rain from my bedroom window and imagine the ocean, a storm, a ship, a lighthouse. A story would play out in my mind as the rain hit the window. I would imagine being a raindrop falling into a great river, I would travel to the sea and begin a grand adventure.” – Brittany, from Ramblings at Night: Water

Brittany, a friend whose friendship warms my heart, unhinged a door to my thoughts after writing the above. “One of [her] favorite things in life…” illustrates life itself simply and powerfully. In my mind, a raindrop falling into a great river resembles new birth, and the sea’s grand adventure mirrors our traversing through life. The ocean’s personality may, at times, prove tumultuous, harsh, and uncaring towards travelers (us); at other times, it may prove tranquil and peacefully harbor us in mare pacificum. However capriciously or idyllically life’s current moves us, we ought to scour the horizon for the lighthouse, fix our coordinates, and sail steadfastly.
Growing up, I loved to watch the rain pour outside and rarely failed to escape the house to play with full throttle. I explored the myriad of canals that only come to life when it rains, making leaf-boats to war with the waters ’til they reached the channel’s end. Having grown, when life thrusts me to and fro, I mentally remove myself from the storm and relocate inside the house, beside the window, and watch the storm.

Baltic Sea (Darlowo)Picturing life in moments, or as a story, reminds me that living is like writing a book that only a few select individuals will read – my family and dearest friends. Each chapter is new, displaying both tribulation and triumph. Characters come, go, and a few remain, but I, I am constant ’til the last period, death. I reflect on the question: “Am I writing a story worth reading?” When storms battered the ship deck and put the mast to the test, did I remember my anchor? The lighthouse? Or did I allow my attention to be diverted and locked on the dissonant churning of the waves?

Will I be able to proclaim:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost, from the Road Not Taken

Law-Avoiding Citizen: Workplace Conduct

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” – Paul, from Galatians 5:22-25 (ESV)

For the Christian living by the Spirit and thereby walking by the Spirit, a dichotomy between Christian-ethic and work-ethic cannot exist. The ethos of Christian faith epitomized in Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit, reveals the heart-condition of a believer. A Christian, like a tree, produces fruit according to its kind; if the fruit of the Spirit is absent from a believer’s spiritual limbs, that believer may be assumed to be a species of tree other than that of the Spirit. Living by the Spirit symbolizes the spiritual, life-giving blood of a believer; walking by the Spirit symbolizes the motion enacted by that spiritual, life-giving blood. Therefore, when an authentic Christian walks into the workplace, he will be walking in by the Spirit.

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The fruit of the Spirit stems from healthy, Spirit-filled roots; thence love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are neither guidelines nor rules: they are results. Thus, the fruit of the Spirit is not solely a mark of the perennial practice of virtue, which one can stop practicing; rather, the fruit of the Spirit is the hallmark of spiritual character, inundated by an idyllic cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, results of the Spirit are neither severable nor discretionary once one engages in the business setting. An authentic, Spirit-filled, working Christian will:

  • Value peace with co-workers
  • Seek joy in work
  • Love even the surliest manager and/or subordinate
  • Understand patience with deadlines, new employees, and frustrating employees
  • Display kindness to both customers and co-workers
  • Strive for goodness in quality of work
  • Demonstrate faithfulness behind closed doors, when filing documents, or dealing with money
  • Exist in gentleness during both serene and tumultuous atmospheres
  • Exercise self-control­ when tensions tighten or a customer is most assuredly not right

4267332510_7229a0a729“Against such things there is no law…” surmises Paul’s emphasis on freedom in Christ, which is the context of Galatians 5. Likewise, following after the Spirit’s leading frees us from striving toward a standard of business conduct; following the Spirit’s leading generates a new standard of business conduct. This phenomenon occurs because following the Spirit is not following; rather, following the Spirit is walking because of Him. So, the Christian, living and walking by the Spirit, cannot divorce Christian-ethic and work-ethic.

 

Buying Time: Giving Much with Nothing

While ritually perusing Facebook, I scrolled across a post shared by a friend via Astig FM’s Facebook page. In a classic viral Facebook-life-lesson format, the post depicted an interaction between a father and his son. The story began when the son inquired of his father’s hourly income; taken aback by his son’s intrusiveness, the father resisted the request, but did not withhold the desired information for long. The father revealed his $100 hourly wage; after which the son soberly asked for $50 from his father. Now appalled, the hardworking father directed his son to meditate on his childish, selfish petition. Nearly an hour later, the father’s fumes settled and he proceeded to apologize to his son for involving him in the stresses of the day (the roots underneath the father’s aggravation). He handed his son $50, knowing that his son never asked for much; post-haste, the son pilfered beneath his pillow and pulled out another $50 that he had collected. Slightly perplexed, his father curiously asked why his son wanted more money, since he already had some.

The son responded: “’Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do…’ ‘Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.’”

The hardworking, overworking father felt defeated and responded with a mending hug.

This everyday story extends to anyone who is distracted by anything, and priority assessment is the foundation. The father gave himself up to a money-making-mindset. Providing for his family, a worthy cause and the father’s heart-motive, underwent nearly fatal arrhythmia when provision garnered more attention than the very family receiving provision.

In the business setting, an industry’s resources become fully realized once tangible and intangible resources are both accounted for. Tangible resources (such as property, equipment, inventory, the building itself, etc.) are numerable, on the books, and may be dispensed of in accordance with the limited supply. Intangible resources (such as experience, leadership skills, time, etc.) are innumerable, off the books, and may be dispensed of in accordance with the flexible supply. Both tangible and intangible resources together constitute the whole of an industry’s resources; likewise, both tangible and intangible resources together constitute the whole of an individual’s resources.

Even when we have nothing, we have time; in giving someone our time, we become a benefactor. As long as we have breath, we have time – making us the owner of a resource rich in quantity and living value.

Time is everyone’s benefactor; as beneficiaries, we should expect to use our intangible resource wisely.

Unwrapping Time: Living Present

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“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” – Dalai Lama

Presence:

The culture in which I live interprets eye contact into various meanings: strength, care, respect, presence, etc., and each interpretation accompanies a degree of value. Presence occurs when two or more parties, engaged in discourse or the sublime company (or not so sublime company) of one another, come to an understanding of each person’s mental or spiritual presence. By U.S. sociocultural standards, little to no eye-contact in conversation translates as little to no attention/engagement/presence in the discussion. Making healthy doses of eye-contact during conversation tells the other party you are there – it tells the other party you are present.

Past and Future:

The past and the future belong to everyone; the past has helped and hurt most everyone, and the future has only yet to do so. Overly focusing on the past dwindles strength for today in that the strength used to perform yesterday is still in use as though the show never ended. Overly focusing on the future disrupts today in that the after-party is preemptively begun in the mind, confusing the immediate scene. Focusing on today rejuvenates the strength to satisfy today’s own needs and budgets the mind’s thoughts, mentally stabilizing for tomorrow.

Present Presence:

Focusing on today is making eye-contact with the present moment, being present in the present. The door leading to the past is locked; the threshold leading to the future is still being built – each of us exists in the same room of time – now. Shall we withhold love ‘til the future comes? The future never comes. Shall we falter in faith because experience (past) “taught” us better? Experience ought to redefine, renew, and fortify faith. Shall we put off “doing” today? If the past taught us anything about the future, it is that things change; today is the only opportunity to do. With the past behind me and the future before me, here I am betwixt and between alongside the present – now.

“…I looked in my rear view mirror to switch lanes. Then an idea formed in my mind. I have to use my mirror to look behind me in order to drive safely; however, I can’t continue to look back otherwise I will wreck. I believe this is like life; it’s important that we look back but if we continue looking back we sacrifice the life we’re living now.” – Brittany Echols, from Looking Back…

 

Cityscape Empire: Our Temporal Abodes

Stars halt my racing heart and Nashville’s city-lights catch my eyes on the yield. My mind ponders over the light emanating from the streets, towers, and Hustler Hollywood. All forms of socioeconomic class and ethnic group flock to the city of Nashville, and I wonder: to what end was such a city conjured? On an individual basis, a man understands that he is finite and his efforts will fade away; on a universal basis, mankind lives and acts as though it is immortal and its institutions will undoubtedly withstand the trial of ages.

Light’s mere existence renders me breathless, let alone a metropolitan night. Mankind raises constructions which simultaneously enamor and tear me inside. All that has been, is being, and will be built up will be torn down. Ceaselessly, mankind plays in its sandcastles without accounting for the coming tide.

Though we are frozen within our own time, we are warm just enough to move. Any success or lack thereof a man may consider himself to have accomplished has an end: it is simply and truthfully the nature of finite things to remain as such. Man may work to live or live to work; death closes both cases, and our cityscapes stand tall as ephemeral empires.

Words Whisper: Understanding People

Words tell; living speaks. Such is the limitation of tongue-based, material language. The life of a man speaks an unspoken language native to those of the living.

Created moments, memories, serve a purpose as reference: either for reminiscence or regret. Likewise, moments made in the moment and realized divert the course action that follows in lieu of knowing what one did right or wrong. Planned moments motivate the actions preceding them with the hope that they will come to fruition. Living creates moments: moments in action silently speak man’s unspoken language; time writes it down, publishing to each
man a personal novel titled Life.

People are not read: they are heard.

A desperately drunk man asked me for my lighter tonight; despairingly, I heard him.