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11 April 2012 · 4:32 am

Tune Into God

“Prayer is believing in something bigger than yourself, or anything you’ve ever touched or known. It’s telling a river or an open field that you need a little help.” ~ Ashley Rice … 

Wow! Such beautiful words describing the endless power of prayer to reach, touch, and affect things that are beyond our comprehension and understanding. Prayer unites us in oneness with all of creation–the spiritual and eternal beings, all living creatures of this Earth, and things that have been, are, and will be. Of course, this is something most of us do not associate with prayer, for we are too caught up in the basics–how we pray, where we pray, when we pray, what we pray. But when we look at prayer in such a way, what purpose is there to telling a river or an open field that we need a little help?

Prayer does not have to be complicated. It is a simple, personal experience, in which our soul connects with all of life on a much deeper level. Perhaps this is why it is best experienced in the solitude of mind, body, and heart, for at such times, we have far fewer distractions and voices in our heads, and we can be fully in the presence of creation. When we escape to nature and serenity, we have the opportunity to feel the immensity and grandiosity of our world, and to sense our smallness, and yet importance and belonging, within it. And it is here, that we feel a closeness to the divinity within us; where our doubts and questions about our Father are answered, and our understanding of our purpose and meaning in life is reinforced.

And for those who might hold reservations about seeking through prayer, or asking God for help, realize that no force exists that has more concern for our well-being than our Creator, and no time is better to ask than when we are closest to Him, for we hear and sense His voice answering. After all, to whom do we ask for help more often in our daily lives… those who are close to us, or those who are further away? It goes to follow that the closer we feel to God, the more positive the effects of our prayers feel to us; and since prayer is as much about ourselves as it is about God, how we enter prayer, and how we feel about our prayer, goes a long way towards determining the effectiveness of our prayers.

Prayer is how our inner souls speak; the communication we share with all of creation. And since God is omnipresent–with everything and in everything, it makes perfect sense to speak to a lake when our intention is to speak to God, for the lake is just as much a part of creation as anything else, and its beauty and peacefulness provide a very appropriate backdrop for the prayers we send forth. All that is necessary for effective communication is a sender, a receiver, and a medium–and nature is perhaps one of the most majestic and beautiful mediums in which to contact our Creator.

Take some peaceful time in prayer outdoors.

Questions to consider:

Why do we get locked into certain prayer rituals or methods?

Where do you pray the best? Where do you feel that your prayers are most effective?

How can we teach ourselves to look for new ways to pray?

For further thought:

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~ George Washington Carver, In His Own Words

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A Leader

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” ~ John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States … 

I really love this definition of being a leader, for it brings the ability to do so into the realm of possibility for all of us. And why not? We all have that ability to inspire others to dream big, to learn and to grow into something greater than they were yesterday, and to step into the shoes they were destined to fill. It is quite inspiring to think that through my everyday actions–simple ones that I am often not even aware of–I have the potential to be a great leader to those around me.

And yet, there are many among us who are amazing role models of honesty and integrity, courtesy and friendship, love and compassion, humility and gentleness, charity and mercy, patience and kindness, and so much more, who are not even aware of the impact they have on the lives of others. I know parents, who through their encouragement and support offer real strength and nourishment to the impressionable hearts of their children, and yet fail to see how wonderful of leaders they are. And teachers and coaches who inspire countless children each day to dream big and to seek to achieve those dreams, yet do not notice the leadership qualities they are exhibiting. You see, many of us place our leaders upon pedestals that we feel we could never climb, and we relegate ourselves to be only followers. We often think that leaders have special gifts, talents, and abilities that we lack or could never possess, and therefore, are unable to envision ourselves being a leader to anyone else.

The beauty is that we all have this incredible potential about us–whether that be sharing our unique perspectives, ideas, and talents with others, helping others to do things differently by teaching them how to act more effectively, providing our positive examples and guidance for others, or even by simply lifting the hearts and minds of those around us. But we must first be willing to ask ourselves who we will lead? I led a team of my peers in high school football for a season as the starting quarterback; now I lead my children through learning, self-discovery, and lessons on how to deal with others and how to help and be compassionate. And then, we must be ready to act with courage, integrity, determination, fortitude, selflessness, and love–to inspire, share, and teach others by our example; for leaders do not necessarily tell people what to do, they show people what to do.

What a beautiful way to live our lives and contribute to the beauty of this world… inspiring others to “dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.”

Take a moment to reflect upon some of the leadership qualities you possess and demonstrate to those around you.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few of us actually see ourselves as leaders?

In which situations do you actually have to exercise leadership skills?

How might you strengthen your ability to lead others in subtle ways that may be very valuable to them?

For further thought:

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch, Winning

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Be Willing To Accept Some Mistakes

“When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, Vol. 2 … 

Failure is not permanent unless we allow it to be. For much of my life, I used to see failure as the outcome that must be avoided at all costs. I felt that if I failed, it meant that I was somehow less of a man–that others would trust me less, that they would see me as a failure, and that they would judge me harshly and avoid me. Of course, this is not at all true: failure is simply trying something and not being successful at it in that specific instance; an outcome that offers us lessons to help us grow, understand, and become stronger, so that at some point in the future, we might succeed.

Fear of failure has the power to control much of our lives–our outlooks, our decisions, our actions. If we are driven by it because we seek to avoid the judgment of others, then we do so at the expense of all, for we deny ourselves the ability to be driven by the much needed wholesome forces in life–love and compassion, purpose and meaning, the desire to learn and to grow, and the desire to help others and to add to the sum of beauty in this world. We essentially hold ourselves back from reaching our full potentials and from living our lives to the fullest, because instead of striving to reach our potential, we are striving to avoid failure. But when we begin to shine the positive light of growth, understanding, and selflessness onto our fear of failure, it becomes a powerful, positive driving force in our lives.

It is important to note that in some instances, however, failure is not an option, like when others are depending on us and we are doing something that we are more than capable of doing, or when we have made promises to others and fail to live up to those promises, or when our failure puts others health, lives, or safety at grave risk.

In truth, some of my biggest failures have turned out to be some of my greatest learning experiences, and I do not regret them a bit. In fact, I have come to recognize the importance that they have played in my life… and are still playing. I would like to think of my relationship with failure as that of a friend who says, “You have tried this and it did not work, and so next time, try something else and try it a bit harder.” This ability to be on open terms with failure allows me to learn from it and grow as a person, and it teaches me ways in which I can help others to deal with their failures in healthy ways. Not to mention that our ability to get along with the failures in our lives directly correlates to our stress, happiness, peace of body and mind, and the serenity within our souls.

Do not be afraid to share with others your some of your recent failures.

Questions to consider:

How do we learn that failure is such a drastic thing?

Why are we so willing to judge ourselves harshly for failing to do something, even if it is something we have never done before and have had no preparation for?

What is your most recent failure? How drastic was it really? Was it life-changing, or just something you did or did not do? If it was life-changing, how might you avoid repeating it?

For further thought:

“You need the ability to fail. I’m amazed at the number of organizations that set up an environment where they do not permit their people to be wrong. You cannot innovate unless you are willing to accept some mistakes.” ~ Charles Knight

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Show Gratitude

“The Ordinary, simply by being so ordinary, tends to make us ignorant or neglectful; when something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren’t grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” ~ Cynthia Ozick, in her homily titled “The Riddle of the Ordinary” … 

It is easy for us to take the ordinary for granted–after all, it is so commonplace and expected in our lives. And yet, just like a car that never breaks down, or the child who is never out of line, when we neglect or take for granted the ordinary and expected things in life, they tend to deteriorate and fall apart or feel neglected and lonely. Such things and people deserve our gratitude and attention, yet the truth is that we often do indeed take them for granted instead.

Many times in life, it is these “lack of attention-grabbing things” that have the greatest impact in our lives and thus should truly be the most important to us. The close friend who is always there, the toilet that flushes smoothly and does not clog, the dishwasher that does not break down, the computer that lasts for several years, the co-worker that is always dependable and reliable–these individuals and things are deserving of our utmost gratitude and appreciation, for they help our day-to-day lives run smoothly which keeps our stress levels and obstacles at a minimum. But when we are constantly focused on the problems and the negatives, we forget to be thankful for everything that is positive and going well in our lives.

So much of life tends to work this way–our child’s birthday party that goes without a hitch, the family vacation we had planned for summer that fits into the calendar and our budget, the drive to work or school we make each morning, the meals we eat each day. We do not have to be anxious or worried about any of these things because they do not require our attention like the party that has problems, or the vacation that overlaps work, or the commute to work or school where our car breaks down and we are late, or the meal that is ruined because we burnt it or added too much of some ingredient.

When we expect things… rarely do we see them as the gifts that they truly are. Yet when we let gratitude be the center of our lives–developing it, growing it, and strengthening it–we start to recognize the things in our lives that really do deserve our appreciation and thanks, and we come to understand how blessed our lives truly are.

Take notice of everyone and everything that has gone right today, and show gratitude and thanks to them.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to be more thankful for some things than for others?

Think about the last few times you have felt deep gratitude. Does it tend to happen after some sort of trying event, or on a daily basis with the ordinary things that you have and go through?

Name two strategies for actively developing our sense of gratitude.

For further thought:

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner

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Take Good Care Of Yourself

“Remember that the body is the temple of the soul. Those who mistreat the body tend to mistreat the soul within. Observe vital health laws, such as exercise, healthy diet, and self-control.” ~ Susan Santucci, Pathways to the Spirit 

I think it is safe to say that the majority of us tend to mistreat our bodies in many ways–through neglect, disrespect, overuse, overconsumption, covering them with chemicals, filling them with chemicals, and all other sorts of abuse and activities that do not treat our bodies as if they are the temple for our souls. And yet they are the very temple that houses our souls in this life; they are truly amazing creations and wonderful gifts. But if we abuse them or fail to take proper care of them, they will begin to cease functioning properly and fail us, thereby diminishing the quality of our time here on Earth.

And yet we seldom think about the effects our unhealthy habits have on our bodies or souls. It is easy for me to drink five sodas in a day and never consider the effects the caffeine and additives have on my body. And it is easy to consume unhealthy foods, or even more food than I need, without keeping in mind that for every pound of fat I put on my body, my heart must work all the harder, and my muscles have to work harder to compensate for that extra pound of weight, and my joints become all the more strained.

Far more concerning, is the fact that our bodies are the physical, outward manifestations of our being, and thus, it should be much easier for us to see the ways in which we are treating them. But if we have difficulty with that, what about the much more hidden internal part of our being–our souls? The good news, as Susan points out, is that we need not look much further than how we treat our bodies, for they house our souls. And the ways in which we treat our bodies are usually an accurate reflection of how we treat our spiritual selves as well–if we neglect our bodies, then there is a high likelihood that we neglect our souls as well. And if we mistreat our bodies by indulging in harmful chemicals such as drugs and unhealthy foods, then we probably mistreat our spiritual selves, too, by exposing them to unhealthy thoughts, images, and ideas.

How much time and care do I put into taking care of my body? Do I neglect it, not giving it enough healthy food or exercise? Do I keep my body clean and functional? Do I use my body in a disrespectful manner? Do I allow my body the opportunity to rest and recuperate? Am I constantly aware of all that I am doing and not doing? We must take care of our bodies, for they are our soul’s vessel upon the oceans of life.

Think of your body today as a ship that needs tending to.

Questions to consider:

How does it become so easy for us to neglect our bodies over long periods of time?

What kinds of things do you do that keep your body from being the best that it can be? Why do you do them?

What does it mean for our bodies to be the “temples of our souls?” Do we normally treat them as we would temples when we visit them?

For further thought:

“The body is the soul’s house. Shouldn’t we therefore take care of our house so that it doesn’t fall into ruin?” ~ Philo Judaeus, The Worse Attacks the Better, Section 10

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Worry Never Fixes Anything

“Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.” ~ Mary Hemingway, I Won’t Worry … 

Worrying is essentially a waste of our time. It has absolutely no effect at all on any situation and causes us unnecessary stress and health issues, for not only do we still have to deal with whatever it is that has us anxious or troubled later, worrying makes us deal with it now as well. And if it is not bad enough that we are sabotaging our own happiness by worrying, we are also making it difficult for others to sympathize with us, as they tend to understand that we are the cause of our misery.

The focus is clear here: time spent worrying is wasted time that we can never get back. And since our time in this life is already limited, why would we ever want to take a chance at wasting any of it–especially a couple of years. It is important to note that Mary also tells us to try to fix those things that are wrong in our lives, and if we cannot, well then accept that and move on–worrying will not change this fact.

You may be running out of money, but worrying will not provide you with more–only getting out there and actively working may do so. And there may be a hurricane, tornado, typhoon, or terrible storm heading my way, but worrying about it will not provide you with safety–but taking the necessary precautions and preparing yourself for whatever might happen can.

The positive in this message is that worrying is a negative choice that we make. Thus, if we find ourselves worrying too much, we can train ourselves to stop. And the more we learn to recognize when we exhibit such behavior, the easier it becomes to end it and prevent it in the future. And not only will doing so improve our experience in life and our outlook on life, but it will also help to keep our body, mind, and spirit healthy and at peace.

If you find yourself worrying today, let it go.

Questions to consider:

What has worry ever accomplished in your life? How did worry accomplish it?

What are some strategies you can use to train yourself not to worry?

Do you know anyone who doesn’t worry? How do they do it? What effects does the lack of worry have on their lives?

For further thought:

“Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all?” ~ Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

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Slow Down And Enjoy Life

“Walking takes longer … than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus, it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.” ~ Edward Abbey, Walking … 

Life, for a lot of us, is a busy endeavor; it is a hurried journey from awakening to slumber in which we often accomplish much, but experience very little. And how can we blame ourselves? Society, after all, ingrains into our line of thought the notion that doing things quickly allows us to achieve more. But speed can be a damaging element in our lives when there is no need for it. And our efforts to live in such a state can have serious negative repercussions on our lives and the lives of those around us, whether that be a doctor, nurse, architect, construction worker, soldier, teacher, pastor. Suffice it to say that any individual in a profession in which people depend on them, who makes speed their priority, does so by putting others’ lives at grave risk.

When we are fully aware and in control of the moments in our lives, we allow ourselves the opportunity to experience a deep repose for our body, mind, and soul. There we can discover that we do not need to run, jog, or even speed-walk to burn calories or simply enjoy the outdoors. In fact, for many of us, a casual walk can be just as calming, relaxing, and fulfilling as meditation, for it allows us to think things through more clearly, finding a sense of clarity much more quickly and accurately than when we rush ourselves.

Of course, this does not mean that we should live all of our life at a snail’s pace, as there are times when speed is of the essence. For instance, the medical staff and doctors in an emergency room often have to make quick decisions, and it is much the same for air traffic controllers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs. Then there are factory workers often have hourly quotas to meet, and reporters and journalists who generally have very concrete timelines to stick to and deadlines to meet. And yet there are always going to be times and situations in each of our lives in which we would benefit greatly from slowing down, thinking things through more clearly, and reflecting upon life more deeply.

Do not neglect those moments in your life that call for walking. The more time spent taking life easy and going with the flow, the more we get to experience internal peace and tranquility in our lives and the better we begin to feel about ourselves and what we are doing. After all, life truly is too short to waste on speed, and our mind, body, and soul all need to experience the calm serenity that comes from slowing down.

Take a walk today.

Questions to consider:

Why do so few people make or take the time for walking?

How could you fit more walking into your daily schedule?

What benefits does speed really have for most of our activities? Are those benefits worth the trade-off of losing time to slow down?

For further thought:

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast–you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ~ Eddie Cantor

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