November 16, 2010

Thought for the Day

"Dwell not on the past. Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onward you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed."

-- Eileen Caddy
1917-2006, Spiritual Teacher and Author

December 14, 2009

Wishing for "no more problems"?

Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

There was a time in my life when I was just sick and tired of all the challenges I had to face, and was on the verge of crying out for a life without problems when an image came into my mind. It was a mental picture of a white room, with padded walls, and a person sitting on a mattress on the floor, staring mindlessly at the wall.

I immediately recognized that the inhabitant of that room would be a person without any problems. Oh, they'd have problems all right, they just wouldn't be aware of them. They would be blissful in their ignorance, but that wasn't at all a condition to be wished for. Since then, I have seen every challenge in my life as something that lets me know I'm still "all there".

I was describing my life to someone and comparing it to the life of someone else I knew. "She has never had any problems I'm aware of," I said, and started drawing a line in the air with my finger. "Her life goes along straight with no ups and downs." Then I talked about my own life. And still drawing in the air I illustrated a jagged line with high peaks and deep valleys. "This is the way life is for me."

Another moment of illumination showed me that the line I had drawn for myself looked like the trace made by a heartbeat on a monitor. And the line for the other person was mostly a flatline. The epiphany there was that at least my interesting life demonstrated that I was very much alive.

Much better to be aware, even in pain, than to be blank and mindless with no problems.

Much better to be experiencing the roller coaster of life, than to be flatlined with no experiences at all.

When you tackle adversity, and you will, meet it head on. And be grateful for those problems, because the alternative is unthinkable.

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October 19, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

I guess it helps sometimes to remember that whatever you are going through now is only temporary. It may be something that has lasted a long time already, and it may be that you see no way out any time soon. Maybe it's something you thought you had dealt with, but it's come back to haunt you. But I can tell you with confidence, with the surety born of my personal knowledge, that this too shall pass.

The huge problems and monumental crises that we have to suffer through and deal with are indeed only temporary, no matter how long they last. They seem bigger because we're closer to them. Getting some distance, whether in time or space, can certainly help. But know that whatever you're going through is not really as big as it feels in the greater context of the universe, and it is not as long-standing as it seems to be when your entire life is taken into consideration.

Remember that the pain, the frustration, the depression, the hurt are all transitory. You have the power to make them change, the power to transition them from experiences and feelings that bring you down to opportunities to lift you up.

To do that, you have to let yourself off the hook. No matter what part you played in the situation that you are now suffering the consequences of, you must realize that most of the aspects of it are beyond your control. Timing, circumstance, the past or future actions of others -- none of that is anything you can do much about.

All you can do is get a grip on yourself and resolve to stride confidently into the future no matter how you are feeling right now. Today might be really lousy, but it too shall pass.

Tomorrow may not be much better, but it too shall pass.

Look forward to a future day when things just hurt less because you've built up enough stamina to withstand whatever comes at you.

I dare to say to you "This too shall pass" because I know that it will. The only people confident enough to embrace whatever life brings are those who know that this too shall pass.

Every day is a new chance...and if I can do it, you can do it. If anyone, anywhere, has EVER done it, you can do it. So take what life throws at you, pull yourself through it, and keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass.

This too, shall pass.

August 12, 2009

Thought for Today

“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.”

—Anais Nin, Author, 1903-1977

February 02, 2007

Thought for Today

"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose,
for this thing that we call 'failure'
is not the falling down, but the staying down."

- Mary Pickford (1892 - 1979)
Canadian, Actress, Co-founder of United Artists

June 19, 2006

Thought for Today

"Your living is determined not so much by what life brings you
as by the attitude you bring to life;
not so much by what happens to you
as by the way your mind looks at what happens."

-- Lewis L. Dunnington, Author

June 15, 2006

Thought for Today

"We make a living by what we get,
we make a life by what we give."

-- Winston Churchill

June 14, 2006

As a Man Thinketh - Part I

This is an old adage in the holy books: "As you think so shall you be." It means that what we think about expands, and we become what we think about. Dr. Wayne Dyer tells us that we get more of what we think about all day long. Other philosophers, both ancient and modern, have echoed these sentiments. And in the book of Proverbs is written "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."

Shakespeare's Hamlet said something similar "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

The power of our thoughts brings about our reality. If we think an event, an experience, or a situation is bad, we will react to it as if it is bad. Similarly, if we are consumed by thoughts of failure, pain, suffering, adversity, and lack, we will continue to dwell in those circumstances.

So the gurus tell us "change your thoughts". Think positively. Ah, yes. Easier said than done.

When you are immersed in a bad situation, perhaps you are physically, spiritually, emotionally, or financially bankrupt, it's hard to think of little else. You can "think good thoughts" -- up to the point that the phone rings and it's a creditor demanding payment, or another disheartening report from the hospital.

When you are consumed by the problem of making your rent, or buying enough food for your children, or digging out from beneath crushing debt, it's a little hard to think about how wonderful life is. What a cruel paradox! To change our circumstances we need to think positively, but to think positively we need to have a change in circumstances.

Changing one's thoughts is a simple matter of just doing it. If I told you right now to think of a green giraffe with purple polkadots, you could do it instantly. And you could instantly move from that thought to one of a golden acorn, then a rose, and even a plaid chameleon. That's not the problem.

The problem is maintaining this positive outlook when you are being bombarded by negative circumstances.

There are three things that will help you do this:
  • Prayer/Meditation
  • Service
  • Decision

First, whether or not you believe in God, pray or meditate for that happy circumstance which you desire. Ask the universe for it. Pour out your heart in prayer, your troubles, your fears, and your needs and wants. Make a connection with the infinite, no matter what you believe it to be. Personally, I like the idea of God my Heavenly Father being able to hear my prayers, even if I don't get the answers I want. No matter. It is the mechanism of prayer that can work in your life. That act of mentally (and emotionally) considering, and meditating, about workable solutions to your problems helps trigger the creative, problem-solving part of your subconscious. It also helps you feel better and gives you more peace. Note that the key here is to infuse your prayers with gratitude for the circumstances you DO have. See Attitude of Gratitude.

Next, forget yourself in service to others. When you are doing something for someone else, out of the goodness of your heart, you are focused on their problems, not yours. That relief from your own misery feels pretty good and stops the reinforcement of those things you don't want, if only for a time. You may even notice that your problems are not as great as those of whom you serve. Either way, it gives you a positive boost to do something generous for someone else. In a situation where you are depressed and your resources are exhausted you might think that you have nothing to give -- no time, no energy, and your heart's not in it. Do it anyway. Pick something manageable, or even stretch yourself. It will benefit you greatly. Do it with a charitable attitude, not a grumbling one. If all you can do is smile at someone else, or share a kind word with a harried salesperson, or pick up the phone and make one uplifting phone call, that is a valuable act of service.

Finally, make a decision within yourself that you will choose the higher road. If you are cut off in traffic, don't curse the other driver but bless them instead. If you are browbeaten by a creditor, say a prayer for them afterward. Choose love, not hate. Sure, you have every right to hate, or be resentful, or be discouraged. But shake it off. Make the supreme effort to choose the positive road. Be a transmitter of the highest and best emotions and attitude toward other people. This act alone, can begin to turn your life around. What you send out comes back to you.

You will have noticed that these three actions turn your thoughts toward the light rather than the darkness. These three things that you can do will keep your thinking in a more positive, service-oriented, prayerful, and faith-filled channel. As you think, so shall you be. As you think of ways to love and serve, you will become more able to do so.

And the universe will respond in kind.

April 18, 2006

Thought for Today

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous
and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers
sufficient reason for remaining ashore."

Vincent Van Gogh
1853-1890, Painter

January 09, 2006

Thought for Today

"Start by doing what's necessary,
then do what's possible, and
suddenly you are doing the impossible."

--Saint Francis of Assisi

January 07, 2006

What to Do With a Broken Heart

A dear friend just experienced a break-up with a companion of many years. This relationship seemed strong, caring, mutually supportive, and as solid as any you could imagine. But something happened to weaken those strong bonds, and finally the relationship ended.

My friend's heart is broken.

What do we mean by that term, "broken heart"? We mean that we wonder how we can even function when we have been hurt to our very core. The single thing that keeps us going has been injured, and it has brought everything to a stop. Just as the heart is necessary to keep the body alive, an intact heart made up of courage, hope, faith, love, self-esteem, and resilience is necessary to keep the personality alive.

When we "lose heart", we lose the ability to get up one more time after being knocked down. We hesitate to take action because we are fearful of the consequences. We don't think tomorrow can be better at all. We care nothing for ourselves or for other human beings. We are wounded, and we need desperately to heal.

The only remedies for a broken heart are time and comfort. With time, the heart can begin to strengthen itself. The pain lessens. Whatever holes we have in our heart get filled in so that the hollowness goes away. We eventually find other things to put into our hearts to take the place of those things that we have lost.

With comfort, we are able to nurture ourself or be nurtured by another person. A comforting word, a comforting touch, just having someone be there with you, and for you, allows the healing to begin. If you have no one in your life who can act as comfort, then you must comfort yourself. Be good to yourself. Ease up on your standards for a little bit, until you are back to normal. Lower the bar for a short time. Reduce your commitments, to save your precious energy for yourself. It is okay to be a little selfish when you're trying to heal a broken heart. Do those things that give you joy or that feed your soul. Seek out and be around beauty, in music, art, nature.

If you are able to do so, reach out to another person so they can offer you additional comfort. They may not understand completely what you are going through, but we all have basic human empathy so that we can mourn with those that mourn, and feel each other's pain when it is necessary to help each other.

While it is a natural reaction to shut out other people when you are wounded, and for self-preservation this might be required for a period of time, it must be only temporary. Cutting oneself off from others indefinitely does more harm than good. Like it or not, we need each other. We cannot do everything alone. But it is fair to carefully select those people who will buoy you up, instead of add to your pain. Beware the well-meaning person whose unthinking comments only amplify your pain. Far better to find those who can support and comfort you without needing to "fix" you.

All of us, at some point, will find we have a broken heart. It is one of the things that makes us human, and one of the things that happens to every person on the planet.

It may be hard to realize it at the time, but once you've put your broken heart back together, it will be much stronger for the repair. Let time and comfort be reinforcing bands that make a supple, elastic heart. Take care not to put it back together with the cement of bitterness. It may be natural to feel vengeful or vindictive, but brewing poison in your heart is not the answer either. Self-protection may prompt you to harden your heart against any future hurt. This does not serve your best interests. As risky as it may be to open our hearts again to others, it is the only way we can let in joy. Ultimately, joy is the perfect remedy for a broken heart.

Broken hearts do mend. Mine did.

December 10, 2005

Thought for Today

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. "

-- Walt Disney

October 26, 2005

Thought for Today

"When we can begin to take our failures seriously,
it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them.
It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves."

Katherine Mansfield
1888-1923, Author

August 03, 2005

Path of Least Resistance

When we are stressed, or feel as though we have run out of resources, including energy, we are often tempted to take the path of least resistance. We feel it takes too much of what we don't have, to go against the current, so we just go with the flow. This can be the right choice in some circumstances, but it can also draw you deeper into trouble.

Go with the Flow
When your personal resources are depleted, you may have to just go with the flow. If you don't have the time, money, energy, or emotional strength to resist where life is taking you, then it is important to allow yourself to be carried along while you rebuild your strength. Make no mistake, at some point you must begin to swim on your own. Simply letting life take you where it will, condemns you to the life circumstances make for you, and often that is a life someone else makes for you. But in times of great stress, doing nothing, and just waiting, may be the best course of action. It allows you to gather information while you gather strength. It rests your mind so that you can get out from under the oppression of thoughts of having to do something, and let a creative solution bubble to the surface of your consciousness.

Fight the Current
Turn against the current when you are in a rut, or things are not changing. The status quo may feel safe, but just sitting there is not going to move your circumstances in a positive direction. You can't get anywhere in a parked car. Fighting the current often means taking a risk. If the potential reward is greater than the outcome of doing nothing, then taking that risk is worthwhile. In that case, it becomes a calculated risk, or as I prefer to say, a considered risk.

Know the Difference
In a life-threatening situation, you must fight the current. Your survival is at stake, and perhaps also the survival of those you care about. This is the time to make your own pathway, no matter how difficult.

The important thing is to ACT, not REACT. There are many things in life over which we have no control. We feel powerless when things are so out of control that we cannot effect change on our own behalf. Determining when it is appropriate to fight the current, or just go with the flow, gives you some measure of control over your own destiny.

July 11, 2005

Attitude of Gratitude

The last thing you want to hear when you're having a hard time is "Be grateful for what you've got." A feeling of anger may rise up in you at being reminded to be grateful, when all you seem to have is trouble. Why would we want to be grateful for trouble? Maybe we've lived with lack so long, that being grateful for the very little we have only points out the insufficiency.

There are three reasons why gratitude should be part of your arsenal of weapons against adversity.

1. Two sides of the coin
As much as we hate to admit it, trouble always brings along with it something positive. You've heard the old adage "every cloud has a silver lining". When the storm is raging, we're not particularly looking for that silver lining. We're just trying to keep from getting beaned by the baseball-sized hail coming out of that dark cloud! Yet the benefit is there to be found, when we get a quiet moment for reflection.

  • Perhaps coping with this adversity has forced us to develop new skills.
  • Perhaps we have encountered caring people and made new friends.
  • Perhaps we have learned something about ourselves, our strength of character, our level of resilience, our capacity for love, and our faith in the future.
  • Perhaps we have been an example to someone else, and touched one or more lives in ways we may never know or comprehend.
  • Perhaps we have been catapulted out of our comfort zone into an arena where forward progression is now possible, and the opportunity for a greater achievement is before us.

2. Law of Attraction
A feeling of gratitude for anything in our lives focuses our attention on the positive, rather than the negative.

  • It illuminates the victories, even though they may be microscopic.
  • It forces our minds to consider that the universe can deliver good, and keeps us from dwelling on the bad.
  • We look at the positive points in time, rather than the gaps between them.

The Law of Attraction is based on the principle that you get more of what you focus on. What truly makes the law of attraction work is the degree of emotion surrounding the thing you hold in your mind. When you are consumed by thoughts of lack, of trouble, of despair, you are bound to get more of the same. It is attracted to you as surely as iron filings to a magnet.

To break that cycle, it is necessary to think about what you want instead of adversity, and to suffuse that desire with positive emotion. Gratitude is the pathway by which you can stop the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

3. Replace Fear with Faith
Fear is a powerful emotion. Unfortunately, it is a much stronger emotion than faith. Just look at the physical effects fear can have on your body: your breathing becomes more rapid, you sweat, your stomach feels sick, you feel weak, you have trouble thinking. There is no question that fear can take over our bodies and our minds.

Some people think that the opposite of fear, is courage. That is not true. You can be fearful and courageous at the same time. Courage is doing what needs to be done despite one's fear. The true opposite of fear, is faith. You cannot have faith and be fearful at the same time. If you are experiencing fear, it is because you do not have the faith that you can overcome in this situation.

The only way to combat fear is to summon gratitude. Gratitude reconnects you to what is possible in your life. It reminds you that you CAN achieve, obtain, and overcome. Gratitude opens the door for God to kindle your faith. Remember, all you need is faith even as small as a mustard seed, or about the size of the period in this sentence. Fear cannot remain when faith takes hold. In the depths of fear, we may not be able to immediately overturn the fear and feel faith. That may be a leap that is too great in our desperate situation. But even immersed in fear, we can find one thing to be grateful for. And then another. And another.

All it takes is gratitude.

Being grateful that you can breathe. Being grateful that you have a mind in reasonable working order. Being grateful that your limbs and digits still work. Being grateful that you exist for one more minute. And even when you think that THAT is nothing to be grateful for, be grateful that in that one minute, there is the possibility that life can change. It can change in an instant.

Gratitude leads to hope, and hope leads to faith. Faith leads to change.

Begin NOW

Start now to make a list of all the things you are grateful for. The more serious your situation, the longer your list needs to be, to put a stop to your continual fear. Don't just mechanically make a laundry list of this and that. Consider each item you write, and feel -- FEEL -- the gratitude.

Do this every day. Then watch how quickly you begin to see positive change, even if only in small increments. Consistent gratitude for small things, will bring great rewards.

June 11, 2005

Unquenchable Thirst?

Adversity comes to everyone, but sometimes it seems to be a continual state of existence for some of us. When the hard times persist, and we cannot seem to do much to change the situation, we begin to question everything we once knew to be true. We question our faith, our God, our decisions, ourselves. We doubt. We descend into depression, feeling that nothing we do makes a difference. We scream, cry, shout, curse, and plead for something, anything, to change.

It's like being in a prolonged drought. You can't seem to make it rain no matter how hard you dance. There is nothing to be done except to hang on and wait it out.

At times like that we crave relief. We thirst for answers. An unquenchable thirst drives us to find the lifegiving source. When our thirst cannot be satisfied by small improvements or temporary solutions we continue to seek, and we keep looking no matter what.

Without that extended period of suffering, we would not make the great changes that sometimes must be made. We would not be catapulted out of our comfort zone or discomfitted enough to do the hard things necessary to resolve the situation.

Having an unquenchable thirst that cannot easily be satisfied forces us to ask the deeper questions of life, and to ponder the great things of the universe. It forces us to look within ourselves, for our part in the trouble, as well as to reach out to others for whatever help they can give. Ultimately, it forces us to seek our creator, our higher power, our God, the source of all answers.

Be grateful for that unquenchable thirst, that leads to living water.

June 10, 2005

Thought for Today

"The problem with the refiner's fire, is not the heat, it's the humility."

Beth Agnew
Leader, Educator, and Consultant

June 09, 2005

Refiner's Fire

When we are experiencing adversity, it is often referred to as being "in the refiner's fire". This expression comes from the process of superheating precious metals in order to burn out the dross, or impurities, in the metal. The result is a pure metal, stronger for having been purged of its weaknesses, yet more malleable and able to be worked. Gold, silver and other precious metals were purified in this way.

When the gold was malleable, it was soft and pliable, ready to take the shape the creator wanted it to have, and capble of being worked into the most exquisite designs at the hand of the master.

In our lives, refining can be looked at as a period of divine testing. Our creator knew and expected that we would go through hard times, but he also knew that these difficult periods would literally "prove our mettle". By surviving the hard times and coming out the other side, we would be purified of our dross -- our bad habits, poor attitudes, incorrect behaviors, and other weaknesses -- and find in ourselves the courage and faith to continue onward.

Our hearts would become softened toward ourselves and toward others by the refining process. With a soft heart, we are teachable, and malleable, ready to allow the creator to mold us into the shape he wants us to have, designed and now fit for his purposes.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fire in you, the test that
comes face-to-face with you, as though some strange thing
were happening to you;"
-- 1 Peter 4:12
The heat of the refiner's fire will come to us all, and for some, more than once. Instead of being consumed by the fire, we must hold on and allow the fire to burn out of us anything that is impure or of little value to our mission on this planet. In so doing, we acquire the humility to learn from our experiences and change whatever is necessary in our lives to overcome our adversity.

June 08, 2005

Pride or Low Self-Esteem?

If you are an independent person, used to making your own way in the world, it may be difficult for you to accept help from other people when you are having a hard time. There may be a couple of causes for this:
  1. Pride -- It's not really that you are "too proud" to accept help, but that you feel ashamed to need the help in the first place. This plagues individuals who have always been the ones to take care of others; people who are decisive and capable, and who are accustomed to managing their own affairs. In many instances, they have HAD to be self-sufficient because the traditional supports of family or friends may have been denied them.
  2. Low Self-Esteem -- During our hard times our self-esteem can suffer, particularly if we feel that we are the cause of our own misery. In such times, we may want to reject the help others offer because we feel we aren't worthy of receiving it. We may interpret the need for assistance as yet more proof that we cannot do anything right, or that we haven't the power to fix this situation ourselves.

Pride and Low Self-Esteem are two sides of the same coin. Looking at them another way, they are either end of a continuum that ranges from "I don't need God" to "God doesn't need me". Neither case is true.

As mentioned in the June 1, 2005 post "Where is God when it hurts?", helping someone else gives you a positive boost. By rejecting help someone offers to give us, we are denying them the blessing of being able to reach out to someone else and make that connection. Similarly, if we take a few moments to help someone even though we are suffering ourselves, we can forget our troubles for a short time and get that boost ourselves.

The ideal is to be in the centre of the continuum, with you and God as equal partners in life, and having the understanding that helping others and being helped is a natural and vital part of our human identity.

June 07, 2005

Joy in Sorrow

That seems like a paradox, doesn't it? I used to say that anyone who can be joyful during hard times isn't fully aware of the facts. How can we be joyful when we are in the midst of sorrow?

Believe it or not, joy doesn't come from an assessment of our circumstances. Joy is completely and entirely created by our choice to be joyful.
  • That means looking for the cloud's silver lining or the hidden blessing in the situation.
  • It means refusing to be beaten down in your soul (mind, will and emotions) by what is happening.
  • It means allowing your spirit to soar in the knowledge that better days are ahead, even though the evidence may seem overwhelming to the contrary.
  • It means taking action to create good everywhere you go, and to fight back against the encroaching darkness by sowing light.
  • It means looking for and finding simple pleasures, such as a sunrise, a beautiful flower, a child's laugh, a happy puppy. We can be lifted up by these small miracles even though we are in the deepest trough of trouble.
  • It means making a conscious decision to seek joy in all of its forms -- happiness, contentment, pleasure, delight, appreciation, admiration, laughter, and hope.

Do what you can to create or find joy, and take pleasure in small victories.

June 06, 2005

Thought for Today

"If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, 'Here comes number seventy-one!' ''

Richard M. DeVos
Successful Business Owner

June 05, 2005

Balm of Gilead

One of the purposes of our suffering is to help us connect with other people. Suffering is our common bond. No matter where we live on this planet, we will inevitably experience suffering to a greater or lesser degree.

Times of collective suffering bring a community or group together as times of joy simply cannot do. A shared experience that is tragic or stressful forces us to reach out to others both to comfort and to seek comfort. It is human nature to want to integrate a monumental experience into our understanding by speaking about it with other people. In doing so, we come to a shared vision of the event and gain comfort by knowing we're not alone.

Individual suffering also prompts us to reach out for help. We want to know that someone else has experienced what we are going through, so that we can be certain we are not crazy or singled out. Having someone else who has "been there" is like having a guide as you navigate a rocky pathway along the face of a cliff. While you must make the journey alone, their experience can help you proceed more surely and avoid wasted effort or mis-steps.

One of the things we do as humans is cry together during times of adversity. It is my belief that our shared tears are the balm that helps us heal. Just knowing that someone else is trying to understand what you're going through, and that they care about you during your trials, can be enough to keep you in the fight, until you overcome your hard times.

June 04, 2005

The Good and Bad of Asking Why?

When we run into hard times, the first question that comes to mind is usually "Why?". By this we mean "Why me?" or even "Why, God, why?". We want to know why this is happening, and why is it happening to us.

The trouble is, the reason why hardly ever comes. It is almost guaranteed not to come while we are experiencing the adversity in our lives. If we immediately knew why, we would not need to explore the situation for its informative value. The uses of adversity include forcing us to grow, and broadening our knowledge and experience.

There are good and bad sides to asking "Why?"

If you ask "Why me?" the universe will likely answer "Why NOT you?". Hard times come to all of us, in different seasons of our lives, and from different causes. It is the common lot of Man (humankind) to experience tragedy, suffering, obstacles, frustration, disappointments, and failure. Our experiences of adversity, though different for each person, are a common bond among us all. Every person experiences adversity. It is a way for us to begin to understand each other. To expect that we will be free from adversity is unrealistic. It would be to our detriment never to have life problems to solve.

But sometimes it seems we're ALWAYS solving life problems. Many of us seem to have a greater share of adversity than others, and just as we overcome one obstacle, another comes along. Asking "Why is this happening repeatedly?" can be valuable in helping you make required changes in your life. If you always seem to have relationship issues, or money problems, or employment difficulties, asking "Why?" leads to an analysis of the activities you are undertaking in those areas. When you look at what is not working, you can take corrective action to change the situation.

If nothing you do seems to work, then "Why?" becomes two deeper questions: "What am I to learn from this experience?" and "What meaning can I find in what is happening to me?". It is our search for meaning, and learning from experiences, that matures us, and helps us grow into more compassionate and capable human beings.

It may take a painful experience to force you to change your attitudes, your behavior, or your thinking. Financial pain leads to better money management, and increased efforts to obtain work that eases the burdens. This may lead to improving your education, or taking a different job that ultimately has more opportunity for you to utilize your potential. Relationship problems force you to review the way you behave with other people, and prompt you to change habits that distance you from others.

Finding the meaning in adversity may take some time. It may not be until you are well out of the situation that any clarity comes as to what you have learned from it. While you are undergoing the difficult situation, maintaining your faith in God (or the good order of the universe) can be critical. Even though you may not be able to see it at the moment, there IS indeed meaning in the trials and tragedies we must face. Trusting in God allows us to press on, to keep getting up every time we fall, and keep working toward the time when this experience will be a memory. It is faith that fuels us, when all seems lost. Unless you give up, you will see the end of the tunnel.

For every adversity, there is an equal or greater blessing that comes from exploring the meaning behind the question "Why?".

June 03, 2005

Thought for Today

"Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like a toad, though ugly and
venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head."

William Shakespeare
Great English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1616)

June 02, 2005

Five Faces of Forgiveness

An integral component of our hard times is the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness can lessen or deepen our burden of pain throughout our trials, depending on how we are able to manage it.
There are 5 aspects to forgiveness:
  1. Forgiving those who wronged you;
  2. Forgiving yourself;
  3. Being forgiven by someone else;
  4. Forgiving God; and
  5. Being forgiven by God.

I used to be rather casual at preaching forgiveness to others until someone did something to me that was unforgiveable.

For a long time, the pain was extreme. That kind of pain, from being betrayed, assaulted, violated, abused, or forsaken by someone else, has been likened to a snake bite. Once bitten, the snake cannot take the bite back. But it is not the bite that kills you. It is the venom that travels through your body, poisoning your system, and destroying every part of you from within, that causes the greatest damage.

When you have been hurt by someone else, their action has no further effect on them. It's like the bite being completely inconsequential to the snake; he bites you and he moves on. You are the one to suffer. And you will continue to suffer until you can get rid of the poison of that event. As painful and difficult as it may be, forgiveness is the only thing that can stop that poison from eating you up inside.

Forgiveness has to include letting go of the hurt, deciding that it will not torture you any longer, and refraining from wishing harm on the one who hurt you. Ask only for justice. Then do whatever it takes for you to recover.

"'Vengeance is mine', saith the Lord." That phrase means that GOD will take care of avenging the wrong that was done to you. We must leave vengeance up to him. It is not your responsibility. Of course, if it becomes a matter for the courts, then you must do your part to ensure the criminal justice system works the way it is supposed to. But ultimately, what happens to your enemy is in God's hands, and it should indeed be that way. Otherwise, the poison of the wrong would continue to work on you.

I know it is easier to say "Let go, and let God" than it is to do it. I have been in that position. But I also know that the more my mind dwelled upon the wrong and the one who did it, the more tortured I became internally. The only way to get peace of mind and to begin healing is to consciously, and with whatever effort it takes, forgive your enemy. The old saying "Forgive and forget" means that only once you can forgive the hurt, can you ever begin to forget about it. Forgiveness allows your mind to stop gnawing on that bone.

At the same time, you also need to forgive yourself. You may be blaming yourself for whatever part you played in the wrong that was done to you. Perhaps you feel you should have seen the warning signs, or that you invited the disaster in some way, or that you didn't take action when you felt impending harm. Maybe you were too trusting, or had your own agenda that turned out horribly wrong. No matter what the reason, unless you also forgive yourself you will never achieve that peace of mind and healing that time can bring.

If you are experiencing any guilt about your situation, perhaps you need to ask for forgiveness from someone else. If you have wronged another, it is better to apologize, make amends where you can, and seek that person's forgiveness. Getting the forgiveness is not as important as being receptive to asking for it. If another person will not forgive you, there's not much you can do about it, except resolve to act more honourably in future. If your sincere efforts to make amends or apologize are rebuffed, then just let it go. You've done what you can, and it is no longer your problem.

Finally, your relationship with God (the universe, the creator, whatever you want to call the divine force) is also subject to forgiveness on both sides. If you have been blaming God for what has happened to you, I assure you that's a monumental waste of energy and not likely to be very fruitful. God doesn't DO things to us. Our hard times occur for various reasons, as mentioned in the May 27 2005 post entitled "Who's in Charge?".

Similarly, we need to ask God for forgiveness if we have done anything that prompts feelings of guilt in us. Or even if things just aren't going well in our lives. Maybe there is some unresolved energy resulting from some wrong choices that we made in the past. Asking God to forgive you can't hurt, and it might just be what you need to eliminate whatever is blocking your progress.

Getting forgiveness from God is really easy, and the best way to put your mind at ease. Whether you are seeking forgiveness for yourself, or asking God to take over responsibility for dealing with the one who hurt you, it can be accomplished with a simple prayer. Your heart must be sincere, or the prayer will have no effect.

It doesn't matter what words you use, but I'd recommend something like this:

"Heavenly Father, I am sincerely sorry for anything I have done that has displeased you or hurt someone else. Please forgive me. Show me how I can do better."

It will astonish you how such a simple prayer, when said with a belief that you will receive the forgiveness for which you ask, will ease your mind.

Forgiveness is not easy to accomplish, especially if the wrong has been severe or prolonged. But if you don't make the attempt, the poison of hatred will consume you, while the one who wronged you walks around with no ill effects whatsoever. The only way to overcome the hurtful event is to employ forgiveness as a tool to achieve peace of mind. Be prepared for it to take some time. Instant forgiveness can only come from God, when asked for yourself.

By enlisting God's help in your process of forgiveness, you will see results faster than without him. "Let go, and let God."

June 01, 2005

Where is God when it hurts?

"How can there be a God, if we have to suffer so?"
"How can God let this happen?"
"Where is God when it hurts?"

Sometimes it's hard to believe in God, and that he loves us, when we see so much suffering. Not just the major events such as wars, earthquakes, floods, and fires, but issues that are personal to us, such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, having a car accident, or getting sick.

There are two problems here: one is understanding the nature of God, and the other is having correct expectations about what God can and will do for us.

Like a perfect parent, God wants us to be able to look after ourselves and grow to be responsible adults. If he rescued us every time we got into trouble, we would soon become completely dependent upon him and we would not be able to live our own lives. God has given us the freedom to make our own choices in life, and we need to experience the consequences of those actions so that we learn to make better choices in future.

Simple error correction is much different than profound pain, of course. It would be much better to just have the light go on so that we'd say "Okay, should have done that differently." Instead, we truly suffer. We experience ongoing pain, and emotional torment, as well as deep grief, sadness, guilt, despair and hopelessness.

Far from being pointless, our darkest emotions reflect our humanity and connect us to each other. Because we all experience the pain and trials of life, we can empathize with each other. God wants US to help each other during our times of hardship. That's why, in most cases, he doesn't step in immediately to rescue us from our problems.

Being able to help someone else is a blessing that we all can experience. No matter how low you feel, you will get a positive boost if you reach out to help someone else. That act of kindness benefits you as much, or more, than it benefits the person you helped. A study by Stephanie Brown of University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found that people who helped others were healthier and lived longer than those who were not as inclined to assist someone else.

When we do an act of kindness for someone else, we are fulfilling the mission God gave us, and he is indeed present in that act. He is also present, even in our darkest hours, as spiritual comfort if we just seek that solace in prayer. When we ask God to help us during our hard times, he does hear that plea. He may send someone else to assist us; he may give us comfort so that we can bear up under our burdens somewhat better; or we may feel the burdens lessen because we have turned over some of that responsibility to God.

We may be tempted to blame God for our troubles or for not being there to help us when we are hurting. Instead of wasting energy on that, do an act of kindness for someone else. It will help you forget your own problems for a short time, and raise your spirits. Accept the help someone else may want to give you. Turn your troubles over to God and ask for his help as well. Then, just keep pushing forward, doing what you can do with faith that this, too, shall pass. Ultimately, you will find that God isn't that far away at all.

May 31, 2005

Value of Sustained Effort - a Story

Once there was a young man who had a deep desire to please God and perform diligently his life mission, no matter what that might be. So he asked God what he should do to give his life meaning. God showed him a huge rock in a field, and said "Push the rock."

The young man began to push the rock, as God had told him. He got up early in the morning and pushed the rock. He stayed up late at night and pushed the rock. Every day he continued to push the rock, no matter how exhausted he became.

If the weather was dreary, he still pushed the rock. Through storms and snow, and dark of night, and all his life events, the man pushed the rock. He made many sacrifices so that he could push the rock. Day after day, month after month, he pushed the rock.

After many years of pushing the rock, the evil one came to him and whispered in his ear, "What good have you done all these years? You have spent your life pushing this rock, and for what? The rock hasn't moved one tiny bit."

The man thought about all his effort, and realized it was true. No matter how long, and how hard he had pushed the rock, still it hadn't budged from where it had been when he started. All those years of effort had not resulted in the rock being displaced even the smallest bit.

Immediately the man was discouraged. He began to sorrow, and be angry. He felt his life had been wasted, pushing the rock. All of his hard work had been for nothing. He had made no difference at all. The rock had not moved. He had failed in carrying out his mission. He had accomplished nothing.

He desperately cried out to God, "All these years I have been pushing this rock, and it has not moved a bit. Why did you ask me to do this, when I have made no difference at all?"

God looked with compassion on the man and said, "I didn't tell you to move the rock, I told you to push the rock.

“Look at yourself. Your legs, which had been weak and skinny, are now strong and able to go long distances. Your arms, which had been thin, are now powerful and able to carry heavy loads. Your shoulders, once narrow, have become broad and able to bear large burdens. Your mind, once so immature and easily distracted, is focused, and able to solve difficult problems. Your heart has been seasoned by patience, and softened by hardship."

"Your mission," said God, "Is not in what you do, but in what you become as you do it."

Have faith, and push the rock.

[based on a story told by Dr. Robert Schuller Sr.]

May 30, 2005

Thought for Today

"My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose - somehow we win out."

Ronald Reagan,
Fortieth President of the United States

May 29, 2005

Putting Things in Perspective

When you're in a deep rut, all you can see is dirt on every side. To put things into perspective, sometimes we need to be reminded not just that there's a big wide world out there, but that there's a really big wide universe out there as well.

Click this link to go to the Hubble Telescope site and see a photo which represents a sliver of the universe. Remember, what you are looking at are not stars, they're galaxies. That's an awful lot of potential.

In the great scheme of things, even our most horrendous problems and hardships are just a speck of time and space compared to the whole. Still, we are as precious to our Creator as if we were the only living thing in that great space.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that as small a footprint as we have in the universe, we can still create an eternal and widespread ripple from the good that we do, and the potential we achieve.

When overwhelmed by pain and despair, remember that there is indeed a grand plan for the universe. The myriad planets and stars, and all of its people, live and move in one eternal round that has nothing but good and prosperity as its goal.

The net effect of the universe is for life and growth, not for pain and destruction. Tap into that greater good by connecting with someone or something that uplifts your faith.

May 28, 2005

Thought for Today

"There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control."

Leo Buscaglia
Author and Speaker

May 27, 2005

Who's in Charge?

Hard times come about for three reasons:
  1. The result of choices we make;
  2. The result of choices others make; and
  3. The result of day-to-day circumstances.

Let's deal with those in reverse order. Day-to-day life generates events that can be considered the common lot of man (of humankind). Bad weather, geophysical events, traffic jams, tax hikes, product shortages, job shortages, high housing prices, and many other problems happen to all of us as part of simply living. Occasionally there are things you can do personally to minimize their effects, but largely those events are uncontrollable. We must learn to live with the vagaries of life, and deal with things as they occur.

When other people make choices that affect us, the results can be much more severe and far-reaching. We cannot control other people, and it is futile to try. While we'd all like some degree of control in our lives to reduce our levels of stress, we are foolish if we believe we can control the actions of anyone else.

We all have our freedom of choice. That is our God-given right as human beings. Some people choose to use this precious gift to achieve their own ends regardless of the effect on others. When people make choices that hurt us, we have to deal with the consequences. As much as we would like to remove their ability to make such choices, that is not realistic. The only thing we can do is control how we react to their choices and actions.

When we suffer hardships that result from our own choices, we have only ourselves to blame. It is important to recognize that we've caused our own misery and take responsibility for it. That doesn't mean we beat ourselves up about it. Only that we shoulder the responsibility and take steps to deal with the situation, not fob it off as someone else's fault, or deny our part in it.

Maybe it isn't clear how or why your hard times came upon you. In the end, it doesn't really matter how you got into the situation, only how you deal with it, and how you get yourself out. We learn and grow from making mistakes and from failing at things we attempt. Without those setbacks, we would not develop the strength of character that allows us to overcome problems and move forward in our lives. The only true failure is in giving up.

Sometimes our circumstances are so restricted that we feel we do not have any choice at all about what happens to us. It is a wrong perception. We always have some choice, even if it's not a very attractive choice. We can't hope to get into a state of having good choices, if we've been following a path of bad choices for a long time. It will take time and effort to overcome those bad results and work toward better choices.

Ultimately, we are in charge of our own destinies. As philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said "What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us."

Resolve to take responsibility for your own life and be in charge of your future. Once you commit to being the one in charge of you, you will have the power and resources to make improvements in your life and overcome your hard times.

May 26, 2005

Personal Triage

During wartime and periods of disaster, medical staff perform triage ("tree'-ajjjj) on the multitude of patients they must treat. Triage is derived from the French trier, meaning "to sort." Triage is a method of decision-making that gives critically-injured patients the best chance for survival. In concept, the doctors treat the most severely injured first, and those whose injuries are less severe, and therefore who have more time, are treated later.

When you are deep in a period of personal disaster, with many problems occurring at once, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the multitude of serious items that need your attention. Your stress level is extremely high, and your resources extremely low. In such a state, you need immediate personal triage.

The most life-threatening conditions need to be dealt with first. Sort out for yourself which problems can have the most serious consequences, and try to deal with them first. High on the list would be your personal safety. If you are in danger of bodily harm, to yourself or those you care for, that needs to be solved immediately. GET OUT! You might think that you have nowhere to go, or that leaving your situation would cause more problems than it solves. I know that feeling of despair. We think that we can manage the status quo, and that if we make any kind of change, we are opening ourselves up to even more danger, or perhaps personal ruin, humiliation, or ridicule. Make no mistake about this, if you are already living in a climate of threat, sooner or later that threat will come to pass, and your ability to make any decisions about the situation will be gone completely. Those other consequences can be dealt with, but bodily harm is much harder to overcome.

Taking action opens up more choices. Think of it as applying dynamite to a log jam. It may seem like a drastic step, but in serious situations you don't have time to finesse the logs apart one by one without disturbing anything else. Once the jam is cleared, you can deal with the more manageable debris.

If getting to safety is your most important task, contact a helping agency in your community to assist you. Two good ones are the United Way, and the Salvation Army. They will have people to help you sort out what to do next. If the threat of harm is reduced and removed, you will have more resources left to apply to other decisions that must be made.

Personal triage can help you out of all types of disastrous situations. Focus on what is most urgent or impotant, and deal with that. In other words, put out the biggest fires first. Pretty soon the rest of life will seem a lot more manageable.

May 25, 2005

Thought for Today

"You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it."

Albert Schweitzer
1875-1965, Medical Missionary, Theologian and Philosopher

May 24, 2005

The Final Answer

"To be, or not to be -- that is the question," asked Shakespeare's Hamlet. "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?"

In those immortal words the character of Hamlet contemplates suicide. This speech is not very different from the internal dialogue that many of us go through when we consider our sorrowful circumstances. Many times our minds are harrowed up, tormented day and night, with thoughts of ongoing misery and how to end -- simply END -- that torment.

But it is a final step, from which no recovery is possible. Suicide is never, ever the answer to that great and final question, echoed by Hamlet.

"To die, to sleep -- no more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. "

As Hamlet says, an eternal sleep could put an end to our ongoing heartache. But in trading a known today, for an unknown tomorrow, we may be prematurely cutting off the prosperous and positive future that is in store for us.

"Ay, there's the rub."

Most of us who believe in God also believe that there is a better place awaiting us when we die to this Earth. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, some version of heaven or spiritual oneness with a supreme being, where we live in a state of perfection, peace and joy, is held up for us as our potential destination when our current life ends.

When you are in emotional, physical and spiritual pain, that may seem to be a very attractive option.

But I firmly believe we are on Earth for a purpose. Our Creator placed us here for a reason, -- not for his benefit, but for ours. For our education, our growth, our spiritual evolution.

I know how hard it is to believe that now. In the deep pit of your despair, it is almost impossible to be able to see any light above. The pain seems never-ending. And if you have suffered tragic circumstances for years, and years, you may have decided that if God cares so little for you that he subjects you to this misery, then you don't much care what he's promising.

I believe God does love us. Just as the perfect parent would do, he lets us stumble and fall, learning how to pick ourselves up. He doesn't immediately rescue us from any difficulties because we would then not learn how to help ourselves or rely on each other. We would not become stronger from the challenges that were placed before us, if we were always saved from them.

We wouldn't want to imprison our children in a bubble, where they would indeed be protected but not able to experience the highs, and yes, the soul-crushing lows, of life.

As crummy as life can be, it can also be beautiful and rewarding. There are many stories of miracles, of people surmounting the most horrendous odds to succeed. If anyone else on the planet has been able to overcome what you are experiencing, YOU CAN TOO.

You may not be able to do it instantly. You may not be able to do it today. But as long as you keep going, one day or even minute at a time, you will be able to get through that tunnel and see something better happening in your life.

The important thing is to decide to keep going. Many years ago, I felt that I had absolutely no choices in life, and there was no way anything was going to get better. But deep within me I knew that I had something the world needed, even if I didn't know what that was or how to use it to benefit anyone else.

I knew that ending my life would solve nothing. Quitting has never been my style. Even though it would have been a lot less painful to just quit on life, I carried on. And I decided -- I made a conscious decision as an operating principle of my life -- that that's what I do -- I GO ON.

Make a decision now, that you will continue to strive. That you will never resort to taking your own life in an attempt to stop your pain.

Once you have made that decision, if you ever are faced with the ultimate question again, you don't even have to think about it. You don't even have to consider your response -- you already know your answer. You will go on.

I guarantee you that the rewards for continuing to exist are worthwhile, and yes, even worth any ongoing or future pain. Where there is life, there is hope. It's an old saying, but it's true. As long as you are alive, you can muster up enough hope to keep fighting. You can hope that tomorrow will be a better day. That just around the corner there may be many wonderful blessings awaiting you. And if you personally have no hope, then lean on the hope that others have for you. Let me help you have that hope.

Sometimes just making that decision will ignite a spark of light in your darkness. You begin to know who you are. I decided long ago that for me, suicide is not an option. EVER. It is not who I am. It is not what I do. That is not the kind of person I am or want to be.

Therefore I rather "bear the ills I have, the whips and scorns of time, the weary life", in the faint hope that indeed, a better day will come. And in the meantime I will grow stronger with the trying, and be valiant in the attempt.

I'd love to be able to tell you that from the moment I made that positive no-going-back decision, everything got better. It didn't. In fact, since that time, I have experienced even worse circumstances, and for longer duration. Sometimes life just goes like that. If nothing else, it has given me the wisdom and experience to be able to share these thoughts with you today. If just one person is positively affected by what I write, then it's all been worth it.

Answer the final question for yourself today. Make it a life-affirming answer. And I promise you that there will be a better day, if you just go on.

May 23, 2005

Thought for Today

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere
and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

Christopher Reeve
Actor who became an Inspirational Speaker after being paralyzed

May 22, 2005


It happens to all of us. No matter how successful we may be, at times things happen to bring us down, make us doubt ourselves and our sanity, or add to our stress. When adversity hits, the only way out is through. This weblog is designed to help get you through the hard times.

I'm an expert at surviving tough times and overcoming obstacles, because I've had more than my share. Maybe the information you find here can be a light in your darkness, or just the word you need to encourage you when you think there's no hope at all.

When we're struggling with hard times, we just want it to GO AWAY. Unfortunately, things just don't go away. We're very rarely "delivered" out of our problems. Things usually don't magically happen to take the bad stuff away. Only time and persistence get us past the difficulties into a new phase.

Still, there are some ways to handle adversity that I'd like to share with you. I know these work, because I'm still here.

You might say I've been:

  • Burned out, kicked out, cussed out, and worn out;
  • Locked up, trussed up, pent up, and fed up;
  • Smashed down, broken down, pulled down, and kept down;
  • Pushed over, looked over, thrown over, and held over;
  • Forsaken, mistaken;
  • Cheated, and mistreated...

You can overcome adversity by getting up more times than you've been knocked down. I personally know how hard it is to keep getting up. Boxers take a pounding, and when they're hit hard enough, they go down. The fight isn't over yet -- if they get up again. Let me tell you, in my life, I've been flattened a bunch of times, and taken a whole lot of standing eight counts, but I've never been knocked out completely. I've always managed to get up, somehow, -- one more time.

All you need to do is hang in there one more day. And then another. And then another. If trying to take it one day at a time is too much, then take it one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time. "For just this minute, I am going to keep going. "

Quitting on life isn't the answer. It's only a short term solution that takes away forever your ability to come up with any other solutions. So don't even think about it. EVER.

Where there is life, there is hope. That's all you need to do -- keep hoping things will get better, because they will. Over time (and sometimes it seems like it's a LONG time...) things will indeed get better. I'm not promising you that things will suddenly become perfect. That is unlikely. But as long as you keep striving, no matter how broken down and tired you are, there is a chance for improvement in your situation. There's always a chance. Every new day brings new possibilities.

Time + Perseverence = Success. Enough time, enough perseverence, eventually there will be some success. And you'd be surprised -- sometimes there are even miracles!

Stick with me, and I'll prove it to you.

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