Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On The Science and Art of  Caregiving
     For several years, in varying degrees, I have found myself becoming a caregiver to my heart’s love, and for expediency’s safe and our purposes today, I have decided to designate this love…and all our loves…as George, which will get away from the need for using mixed, p.c. pronouns so that no one feels left out.  For now, the ubiquitous George will cover all the bases.  I am calling care giving both a science and an art, a science because we are dealing with acquired wisdoms about what we can and cannot do, an art because of the love behind the willingness to give care, whether for a personal George or as a professional caregiver.  Let me share some practical observations on when to give care and when not to.  (Do we have choices here?  We do, and it is important to know them.)  We can give care when it is a gift of love we want to give another.  We should not give care if we and the one who has needs despise each other.  (Yes, it is not always love that binds people together. I once buried a congregant who was taking care of a dragon named mother and whose only way out…as she saw it…was to die, and she did.  This is not as uncommon as one might think.)  There are some considerations I have thought about in giving care, which I hope you will find valuable.

a)      You can only do the best you can do, and you will not be perfect.  You will fail according to your own measurements time and time again, even if George makes no complaints.  You may even get frustrated enough to do a little yelling, so get over it quickly and get on with things.  George won’t hold it against you.  Neither should you.
b)      Be very careful about doing physical things.  Above all, do not hurt yourself or there will be two of you with problems.  If you need helpers in lifting and moving, be sure to use them.
c)      Absolutely take times out , every day if possible.  Even a couple of hours in an unconstricted environment will keep your sights fresh and allow you to come back to George with more love and smiles.  Trust me, if you do not do this, even your best efforts will eventually become a slog.
d)      Get used to being a bad guy at times.  Unless you really are a miserable sod, you definitely are doing good things for George.  It’s just that he gets frustrated too and will push back at the one on the job, which is you.  Don’t take it personally.
e)      Learn as much as you can about doing more with less.  If you can shorten up some tasks and learn from people who know, you will end the day with less weariness.
f)       Let people love you.  Whether you know it or not, in some ways your needs are as great as George’s.
g)      Hardest of all perhaps…Recognize when you can no longer give care as you have done, and let that go to others.  You will be much more available to love.  Remember that this is where we are right now in life, and it can become a blessings or a curse.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On the Comfort of the Familiar


We all know that much is said about being forward thinking and welcoming the new, all well and good because, God forbid, we should get entrenched in the narrow ridges that life can take. We want to be stimulated and stimulating; we want to be modern and up to date; we want to be able to welcome the change that is always coming. Yes indeed, but isn’t there also something to be said for the warmth and stability of the familiar?

Current and prescient...

I want to be current and prescient to what is forming before me, but I also do not want every day to be up for grabs with the instability of the unknown knocking at my door. There is comfort and restfulness in the familiar. The neighborhood restaurant where people we know congregate for breakfast and the waitresses know your name…this is a place to land in a sea of fulminating vitriol, especially during election years. I can count on the “kite guys” and their magnificent, 30-foot streaming kites decorating the skies most weekends at our nearby waterfront park. I live in the San Francisco bay area where our little cities are ringed about with marshlands and changing tides that always await us as we drive up. A stay in these well-known vistas lends a quiet opportunity to let the mind settle its differences.

New and invasive...

Of course the new and invasive unknown will always be coming about, especially in urban areas that thrive on change. But I think we also need the quiet pockets of the familiar so that we can lay back and catch our breaths during the day. A favorite place or a trusted hand can never be replaced. What lies before us can shine splendid and monumental in its excesses…and it still stands on the shoulders of what is already here.

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You might also like "On Princes, Palaces and Parking Places

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On "OMG! They won!"

In the sports world of the San Francisco bay area, the Golden State Warriors have now set the standard of most wins for a regular basketball season with their 73rd victory while playing the Memphis Grizzlies. This, now, will be the untouchable winning number for some time…until the next set of mega players come along to up the level of winning games and seasons.

And now the fun begins…

Golden Gods...

The Golden Gods’ moves will be examined at every level, from the T-shirts and tube sox they wear to what they eat for breakfast. Steph Curry’s little daughters will be aped by little girls (and their parents) everywhere, and there are probably already those who hope to get into their garbage looking for souvenirs. Basketball coaches are reporting that their basketball kids are not interested in learning to dribble; they want to shoot three-pointers!

Political Correctness...

Now the magnificent players must learn to become even better at political correctness. When asked about North Carolina’s law aimed at codifying discrimination against LGBT people, Curry, a Christian Pentecostal, replied that “no one should be discriminated against.” Blasted by some for his “tepid” comments, it should be noted that Curry belongs to a Pentecostal church whose minister decries “the homosexual lifestyle.” In a tension between Pentecostals and sexual liberals, who is he going to offend the most…or the least?

Scrutinized, sanitized, criticized...

Which now begs the question…Whatever happened to simply winning for the sake of winning a good game? Is it not enough anymore to just be a group of superb athletes winning a fabulous record and then moving on to what’s next? Must every player, every coach, every detail be scrutinized, sanitized, criticized, legitimized and brutalized until all the joy of accomplishing a great victory is torn to pieces through discourse which ultimately destroys real meanings?

We can only hope for some return to sanity.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On the Soft Edges of Love


No matter how spiritually skillful we may be or how practiced we are at thinking clearly, there are simply going to be times when it is hard to love someone. I’m not thinking of the complexities of love either; I am just thinking of everyday extensions of ourselves to others as brothers and sisters in life. Sometimes we just can’t manage to gather our thoughts affirmatively about another, whatever the reason. I had a wonderful, ministerial colleague many years ago who had a great solution to times like these. Her connection to the Infinite was deeply personal and she used terms that, to her, were very connective. She would say, “Father (her favorite term for God), I just can’t love this person, so you love her through me.” For her, it worked like a charm. All the constrictions melted away, and she was able to deal with equanimity in all situations.

Very old-timey...

For some of us this kind of postulation is going to seem very old-timey, and I suppose it is. For others, who understand the soft edges of love, it will be well understood. For those of us who have lived long enough to know that logic and reason will not always get us where we want to go, we will know by now that there is no need to resist the turns that love will take. There are many ways to love, and sometimes the best way is to give it over to the greater part of ourselves that knows how to let go and let the soft side take over.

No disease that enough love will not heal...

Love has a capacity for healing that nothing else has, and this doesn’t always lend itself to good sense. But, then, it doesn’t have to. Emmet Fox once wrote that there is “no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down.”

...Sometimes so softly we might not even notice for a while…

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You might also enjoy "On Marriage and Families"

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

One Day at a Time

Not for nothing do the wise counsel us to take one day at a time. Yes, we make plans for the future of course, but some days are so fraught with trouble and unknowing that to look past them can just be too frightening to contemplate. There is a clever little Bible verse from Matthew which says “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In other words, let’s handle what is in front of us to do and not seek any more trouble. Yes, there are plans for the long haul, and then again there is simply putting one foot in front of the other to pass through a knotty situation. The wisdom lies in knowing the difference.

Complexities can arise...

Life can be a bit simpler for the very young and the very old, but even this is not a given. Complexities can arise at any time, and some of the best-laid plans must give way under exigent circumstances. It would appear that in these complicated times anything can appear when we are involved in other things. Therefore we could ask: What can I count on? Where is my support? Others who love us will do what they can. This is the reward, we might say, for extending ourselves to others. But sometimes even those closest may not have necessary answers or solutions. What remains…always…is ourselves, and what we know of ourselves. If we know we can count on ourselves in the long run, we can count on ourselves in the short run also. When the best course is to pick our ways carefully through a sudden breakdown, we can do it, one day, one hour at a time.

Life teaches us...

If we will learn, life teaches us about ourselves. We know our strengths, and we know where our help lies as well…in our practices, in our prayer work, in our endurance, in simply letting go. One day at a time, one step at a time, one prayer, one pause.

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You might also enjoy "On Doing More Than you Think You Can"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Yesterday and Today


In the 1960’s the Beatles recorded a haunting song entitled “Yesterday,” in which the singer longed for a day past when all seemed wonderful and trouble free. Interesting, isn’t it, what we are wishing for. Today we are just as inclined to drag a troubled yesterday into a brand, new today, marring it immediately with a problem which did not begin in the new day.

Messing up a new dawn...

In other words, we could say that we are either wishing for another, better time, or we are messing up a new dawn with an old worry. It’s no wonder, is it, that we are seldom willing to let an old problem go and let a new possibility unfold? Does it ask too much to let ourselves be uncoupled from what was so that we can take full advantage of what is now? Maybe so.

What can never be...

When the days of our lives get shorter, we begin to notice how much time and energy we are spending on what was, what wasn’t and perhaps what can never be. This kind of thinking can never bring anything but sorrow, regret and disappointment. Yet we continue to do it, perhaps because it has become a habit.

A child's new day...

The Infinite Mind is always new, which means that, since we use the Infinite Mind as our own, we are always new as well. What might it be like it we remembered this every morning we awoke? What if we decided to give this day before us a try before we overrode it with yesterday’s memories? The very young do this all the time until they become subjected to the erosion of memory. When the Master, Jesus, instructed his followers to become as little children, do you suppose he was thinking of the freshness of a child’s new day? Worth a revisit, I’d say.

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You may also enjoy "On Time Passages"

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bite-Sized Wisdom (6)

The final practice under consideration in this series of mental/spiritual activities is Forgiveness, which without a doubt is one of the most life-changing of all practices. In fact its impact is undeniably huge on anyone who chooses to forgive…often others, but sometimes the self as well. We can recount the instances where the need for forgiveness comes into play. Perhaps we have dealt with an abusive parent, an unjust situation or a bitter outcome, for instance. Sometimes it is we ourselves who carry shame over something we have done in the past that we now regret. The forgiveness mode is always about something in the past, something that clings to us like dull ache or maybe a raging memory that keeps the instance before us as if it happened yesterday.

Forgiveness equals freedom...

I have created a personal rubric about the use of forgiveness, to wit: Forgiveness equals freedom; unforgiveness equals bondage. In the forgiveness practice there is release…of whatever person, place or thing that caused wounds…so that we and whatever the other might be are free to live our lives in the uplift of a free estate, even if it takes a while to fully forgive. On the other hand, that which remains unforgiven attaches to us in memory as a place we can never go, not in mind nor in physical circumstance.

Forgiving can be difficult...

There is no question that forgiving can be difficult, which is why it is a practice. It does not always happen all at once and can take repeated efforts. This is the nature of practice, and it may be a surprise to discover that some of the most difficult of forgiveness practices involves ourselves. To forgive is to choose to be whole again, to love more completely rather remain in a state of brokenness, and it is worth every effort to regain the spiritual light that the freedom of forgiveness brings.

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You might also enjoy reading "On Pain."