Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

That Spark That Helps Others

November 25, 2016

Who is it who has helped you grow in your career and as a person? Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time.

I was pretty clueless about working with other people when I started out in my career. But there were John and Jack and Alex who saw something and put me in positions where I could contribute and grow. Of course I am grateful to them.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Then there are teachers who taught more than their subject matter–Mr. Johnson who taught logical thinking that I still use, Mr. McCarty who pushed me to go to science and engineering summer camps, Mrs. Maxwell who taught literature and writing (she’d probably be shocked to see me doing all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years!), Mrs. McGowan who told my parents I was smart and ruined my next six years (every time report cards came out, I got “the lecture” from dad about how my grades didn’t reflect my intellect–I don’t know, maybe they did 😉 but actually when someone compliments you that can be the spark.

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

So, I hoped I sparked some good memories for you. And a sense of gratitude for what others have done.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

The challenge before us is to try to get even with those people. Many are gone now. But you can still get even by passing the torch. Who can I help today?

Gratitude is Attitude

November 23, 2016

Tomorrow is a US national holiday–Thanksgiving. It is national “go home to be with family” day. Or in my case, go to the Chicago ‘burbs to be with family.

We have a somewhat romanticized recollection of the first English settlers in Massachusetts who came over here totally unprepared. They were helped by the natives who already lived here (and whom they would subsequently kill off) to survive that first winter. They had a banquet in gratitude for the help.

So, I’ve been turning to a collection of gratitude quotes to end my Yoga class.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

I was quite a shy kid and often was afraid to speak up. Yes, that was a long time ago. I’ve made up for it. But I think back on those times when someone did something for me and I didn’t speak up to thank them. So now, I try to thank everyone for everything.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G. K. Chesterton

That is a lot to say from one of the leading thinkers of his time–or any time. Many people are lost in search for happiness. That is the wrong way around. Happiness finds us when we are most focused on gratitude for what others have done.

“‘Enough’ is a feast.” Buddhist proverb

We traditionally have a Thanksgiving meal that is way too much to eat. We feel so miserable that we sleep through the football game. We call it a feast. I had a bad experience with poultry early in life, so I don’t stuff myself with turkey and stuffing. Even so, the temptation to over indulge is great. This saying implies much more than just Thanksgiving dinner. Are we on a quest for ‘more’, or are we content with ‘enough’?

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

And President Kennedy dove right to the core. Gratitude is not a one time expression of “thank you.” Rather, gratitude is the attitude with which we orient our daily lives.

Remembering And Running

May 30, 2016

Today is a holiday in the US named Memorial Day. No, I don’t think it was devised to celebrate the running of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race. For the past 29 years for me it meant being out at a park somewhere around Dayton, Ohio at the country’s largest 3-day soccer tournament.

I think “Memorial” springs from “remember”, as in remembering those who went before us. In many cases they paved a trail that led us to where we are.

My great-grandmother called it “Decoration” Day, and her tradition was to decorate the graves of family.

As a kid, I participated in the Midwest America tradition of a formal ceremony to place flowers on the graves of local military veterans.

There are people today who use it as an “in-your-face” political statement. But then, some people use every excuse to get in your face.

How great a cloud of witnesses…

Let us consider the thought from the letter to the Hebrews. “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” The writer describes many leaders of the faith who have gone before. Then he continues, “so let us run the race that is set before us.”

We don’t remember just to sit in sentimental reverie. We remember what those before us have done as a guide and motivator for what we are to do with our time on earth.

Remember and run.

I imagine that every society has some version of Memorial Day. That’s good.

Remember, looking for inspiration so that we can run the race set before us and leave a legacy for the future.

Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015

They set up camp in a new location not really knowing what to expect. The winter was unbelievably harsh. Many of the community did not live through it. Their neighbors showed them how to  plant crops and shared their bounty to help them. The people gathered for a celebration dinner to remember their blessings.

Thanksgiving

A time of commercial hype. “Black Friday” when the retailers begin to show a profit for the year resulting from early Christmas shopping. A time of overindulging in unhealthy foods. Sitting around. And not only in America. I just finished listening to a podcast featuring two Polish guys talking technology–and  Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

We can pause and check out how many things we can be grateful for. Mine:

  • Skills that can be used to educate and help people
  • A ministry that serves people
  • Friends who encourage
  • Family (well, most of them 😉  )
  • Living where I live, even if I don’t agree with the politics of those around me, we can differ without shooting each other as is happening in much of the world
  • Good health (well mostly)
  • Prosperity

Happy Thanksgiving. What are your blessings?

Disciplines For The Emotions

March 19, 2015

“She is a drama about to  explode.”

“Yes, and her friend is a walking drama.”

Talking about a couple of teenaged girls we know. And I thought, the mother of one is also a walking drama. Emotions worn on the outside. Voice always tinged with anxiety and, er, well, drama.

A friend recently wrote about fear being the source of anger. That is true. Especially fear born of insecurity.

On the other hand, Jesus showed anger. He made a mess of the Temple market. His anger came from a deep sense of what the Temple should be (a place of devout worship of the Father) versus what it had become (a sort of market system for selling animals to be sacrificed to pilgrims needing animals to sacrifice–probably with a comfortable profit margin).

We all have emotions. At least I hope we have not completely buried them. In that case, a trip to a shrink is in order. But the key is–how to we handle those feelings that seem to arise from our gut in a mature and helpful way?

I once had a lot of anger within. Mostly I dealt with it conquered it. The few times it bubbled up to the top over the past 20 years or more I remember with sorrow and repentance.

Remember, we are what we habitually do.

How can we change our habits to help put our emotions in their proper, healthy place?

One suggestion is to develop the habit of practicing gratitude.

I have now put it in my task manager software (I use Nozbe, you could use an outliner, or your calendar) to pop up once a week to sit in the morning and write those things for which I’m grateful.

This places things in perspective. One of my favorite sayings to remind me of perspective is, “In the scheme of life, just how important is this? Not so.” And then I’m reminded of the things in life that are worthy of my attention.

Thankful With An Undivided Heart

November 25, 2014

“11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

–Psalm 86

Jesus was always concerned with the status of our heart. No wonder. That theme runs throughout his entire Scriptures.

Here, the Psalmist asks God to teach him the ways of God. Why? So he could have an undivided heart. Why have an undivided heart? So that he can give thanks to God.

Many Christ-followers find themselves with divided hearts.

We are attracted to this thing, or that attitude. We watch TV and see the “good life”. People are attractive. Having fun. Drinking beer–all the time. Thanksgiving is all about eating turkey. Christmas, which we’ve already begun preparing for, is all about the joys of buying.

Behind the scenes of all that TV goodness are people with torn hearts. We don’t see the recovery groups, the torn relationships from self-centered indulgence, the wreck of our financial life.

We can ask God to teach us His ways so that we can enter this season with a whole heart. Thankful to God for healing us from all the wrecks we’ve had or keeping us from a certain train-wreck in the future that would result from our indulgent behaviour.

As we center on God through Jesus, by study, meditation, prayer, listening, celebrating with others, we heal the heart.

True thanksgiving comes from a healed, undivided heart.

Take Time To Be Grateful

November 21, 2014

This week I had a birthday while I was away at a conference. Some people knew and said something. I just said, well it’s just another day where I am thankful to be up and breathing.

Then I thought, well that is something to be grateful for. Maybe I should just pause right there and say a little prayer of gratitude for being alive, mobile, and alert.

Being grateful begins with that attention and reflection. Something good happened. I paused to recognize it and place my attention there–even if only for a few minutes. Then I reflect upon the thing for which I’m grateful.

I have a “to-do list” manager. Permanently on the task list is the note–practice being grateful. Every day when I scan my list of things to do, there it is. It forces me to stop in the midst of my hurry and think of something for which I’m grateful.

Sometimes it’s just for social interaction. Sometimes I wonder if I was born with some level of autism or Aspergers or something. I was pretty socially isolated as a youth and young adult. Studies show that being socially isolated is not good for your health.

Through business I know literally thousands of people (there are more than 6,000 people in my contact database, more than 1,000–I think–on LinkedIn. We’re not “friends” in a close way, but when I see them at conferences, it’s a good interaction. This week I saw more than 100 people I knew and could talk with for a while. It is energizing. I’m grateful to know so many interesting people.

If you have trouble with pausing from focusing on what you want or your cares and worries, maybe a permanent line item on your to-do list is the prescription. It reminds you several times a day to pause and think of something good.

Three Steps To Happiness

November 12, 2014

We are fascinated, even driven, to find what makes us happy. Even though we “know” (see my last post about the difference between knowing and doing) that happiness comes from the state of our heart, we keep seeking happiness outside. We fall into abusing alcohol and “friends” or even worse drugs. A mild form lies in buying things. Gee, if only I could have this new thing, then finally I’ll be happy. (Yes, for about five minutes when you need to buy the next new thing to make you happy.)

I subscribe to a Website called Big Think where the editors bring in writers to discuss big ideas. This post about happiness makes a good point.

It starts with one of Google’s first engineering employees, Chade-Meng Tan. He noticed his co-workers were often unsatisfied with life. He studied the situation and developed a three step process to happiness–sounds just like an engineer.

  • Step one is to quiet the mind through mindfulness meditation.
  • Step two is to track moments of joy.
  • Step three is to wish others happiness.

Meditation is slowing the mind and body down so that we achieve a state of relaxation. In this state especially if we have been focusing on a story or saying from Scripture, we can also allow God opportunity to whisper to us things He wants us to do or say.

We call the second step gratitude. Write down in a journal or piece of paper or an iPad daily or several times a week the things for which you’re grateful.

Tan’s third step is crucial. You now switch your attention to others. Steps one and two you do in your 15 minutes in the chair every morning. Step three is what you do for the rest of the day. You focus on how you can help other people. Even if it’s just opening a door or offering to carry part of a load.

In this way, happiness is not sought. Happiness is found. It is a fruit of the Spirit. It comes from within us–the state of our heart. A grateful heart whose attention is on service to others brings happiness and joy to its owner.

Life With God Is Life Grounded In Gratitude

July 14, 2014

Gratitude, the attitude of being grateful for something, is a way of life. It’s also something to pause occasionally to focus on. It’s been on my mind lately.

I’ve had many life changes over my adult years. Three in the last 18 months. Well, maybe four.

People could look and say how bad it is. Twice I’ve walked away from jobs that paid a very good salary. I undertook a ministry that was far from my mind at the time.

Yet, I’m sitting here in the early morning on my patio with the birds and squirrels (well, yes, even the ants) and feel grateful for all the experiences I’ve had. They have all formed me, and they’ve afforded opportunities that still amaze me.

On occasion I’ll be so enthused that I’m sure someone else may think that I’m conceited or something. But I live in amazement that a country boy with less education than I should have had has the opportunities that I have.

And, I live in gratitude.

Searching my Bible this morning (isn’t digital great!) I found a passage discussing the solitary life of David revealed in the Psalms and how he was close to God and lived in gratitude for all he had.

I’m using the Life With God Study Bible from the Renovare Institute. In the discussion, the writer quotes Richard Foster and Thomas Merton. In this case, Merton said, “Gratitude is the heart of the solitary life as it is the heart of the Christian life.”

Jesus was always interested in the state of our hearts. Where is our heart? Lately for me, basking in gratitude.

Finding Energy Amidst Dysfunction

May 27, 2014

For reasons I fail to fathom, God has placed a number of dysfunctional people into my life over the past few years. I’m not sure what’s going on there. One thing is true–relating with dysfunctional people drain my energy.

The essence of our being is energy. We need to keep our energy up to function effectively.

What to do when our energy sags? For sure, our practice of Spiritual Disciplines is deeply affected by our energy level.

The first thing is to be aware of our energy level. Do you feel the ebb and flow of your energy level?

Notice what you eat. When I eat a heavy meal in the evening, my evening studies or work are shot. Too much fat in the morning breakfast can bog you down for the entire day. There is a saying in German that is a play on words that translates to English, “Man is what he eats.”

When you notice energy lagging during the day, get up. Take a short walk. Get outside. The best way to work if you do thought work is to work in 25-45 minute bursts of concentration followed by a short break.

Meditation is a good energy booster. Sit back, close your eyes, focus on breathing. It’s a great way to refocus.

Many famous people have sworn by afternoon naps. A few years ago the concept of “power napping” became popular.

Keeping the body fit and healthy is a foundation for generating energy.

Thinking about things we are grateful about refocuses our mind and generates energy.

Then watch our attitudes. As we think, so we become. Where are our thoughts? Change our thoughts and attitudes, change our energy level.