Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thankfully Thankful!

I know that when I am tired and life has delivered a few curves, I am not always aware of the wonders around me.  It seems as if the smallest slight is exaggerated; the simplest remark is misconstrued.

In those moments, am I thankful for the Life Unfolding and the Lessons Revealed?

Are there times when I forget to be thankful?
(Photo Credit:  Family Circus, November 24, 2016, Bill Keane)

In an old church in Amsterdam, I came across a wooden spiral staircase that had no visible support but the walls it was braced against.  There was only one way up and one way down.  The graceful curves and the simplicity of its construction drew me back to it several times.

Sometimes life can be very simple as well: how we view those curves -- or changes -- in our path; whether we feel an upward or downward trend in the challenges we encounter; or where we experience our support.

Where do I find my support?
(Oude Kerk - wooden spiral staircase, Amsterdam)

Maybe, when we feel less thankful for what life offers, we might want to get back to the basics.  That is:
  • Life is a gift. 
  • Support is where we see it. 
  • We have a choice on how we respond.

How do I respond when I feel adrift?

When we find that we are adrift in an ocean of possibilities, the invitation is to breathe in, enjoy the view, and return to a heart thankful for the Freedom to Respond.  Rather than going up or down in our mood-filled reactions, we are called to see wider vistas  which encourage us to go in many different directions.

As we continue this season of thanksgiving, let us remember the support and possibilities that are ever present:  we can change our outlook; we can never be done being thankful!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Coming Together: Fires that Destroy; Calling Us to Rebuild

Relationships can be wonderful and life-giving... and... sometimes, prickly and difficult to navigate!  It seems that we need the highs and the lows to appreciate people who have traveled with us throughout life.

I wonder then why I worry when friendships are blocked or there is no visible pathway ahead?  Do I expect that everything will be okay all of the time?  What do I fear when difficult conversations need to happen?

When are my relationships thorny?

In those moments of conflict and uncertainty, what would happen if we took a longer look at the expansiveness of our lives: past challenges and accomplishments; the failures and the successes; people we don't understand and those who accept us?  Rather than solely focusing on the current crisis of friendship and its uncharted territory, The Long View might allow us a moment to re-balance our thoughts and emotions:  the immediate anger, fear, and sadness may be seen through renewed optics of past love, peace, and joy.

How might I look broadly at a situation?

As I watched and listened to the stories of this week's California wildfires, I was overwhelmed with the tragedy of the moment... and the triumph of the human spirit.  Stories of narrow escapes and deaths were heart-wrenching.  Heroic efforts to save lives brought tears.  Glimpses of people opening their homes, offering clothes and food, donating blood and money brought hope.  Neighbors and strangers were coming together to rebuild lives shattered.

Can I come together in times of difficulty?

Much has been written and reported about ongoing divisions in our communities: current fears stoked by political and ideological differences, diverse cultural backgrounds, and people escaping violence and abuse.  Maybe we need to migrate to a new way of thinking, shifting from reactions based in anxiety to responses emanating from human empathy and concern.

Questions to consider:
  • Who needs assistance and support? 
  • How can we come together and rebuild?
  • What can we offer freely to create bridges of healing?

May this week invite moments for giving thanks:  for what we have; for what we can offer; and for ways to come together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sacrifices: What are You Willing to Give?

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918: the end of World War I.  One hundred years ago, but still remembered and celebrated.  British author H. G. Wells described World War I as the "war to end all wars."  Yet, we know that this hasn't been true.  We continue to struggle with other nations and peoples... because of ideology, cultures, misunderstandings, resources... and anger, fear, or history.  It seems that we have a difficult time letting go!

I wonder:  what is my Eleventh Hour when I will eventually stop warring against those around me?

What memorials have we created to the past?
(Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial - World War II)
During the jury selection process several years ago, I was surprised at how similar many of our responses were to the judge's pre-trial questions.  The lives of almost every prospective juror -- or someone close to them -- had been touched or shattered by abuse, alcoholism, harassment, or other forms of violence.  Listening to some of the answers, I noticed that some people spoke of the event in a matter-of-fact tone.  Others were visibly taken back to that emotional event in their past.

The judge's follow-up question for each person was whether or not we could set aside our own experience and listen -- without judging -- to the testimony of this trial.

I wonder:  how often do I set aside my own life story to listen to another person without judging?

What has shattered our trust in others?
Though we may have experienced hardships, prejudice, and other obstacles in our lives, I believe that we can overcome these events... not alone and by ourselves, but together and with the support of non-judging family, friends, and work colleagues.  How?

 By looking beyond the shattered glass of that moment.  By sharing our stories and trusting others again.  By the presence and caring that we bring into each relationship.

I wonder:  do I really care about the other person who is willing to answer my sometimes trite "How are you doing?" greeting?

How might we see beyond the dark clouds?
Dialogue invites us into new ways of being: our Quality of Presence and Quality of Engagement challenge us to notice the past but remain in the present.

Questions to consider:
  • How can I set aside my judgments to listen openly to another person?
  • In what ways might I learn to trust those who remind me of past hurts?
  • What am I willing to give in order to stay in relationship?

May we honor and respect the sacrifices of the past, but may we also move toward a future where peace will prevail.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Building Bridges of Understanding: From One Heart to Another

Election Day.  A day of individual and collective decisions... candidates, vision, leadership, promises, referendums.  People seeking direction for their communities, states, and country.  A time to reflect on what is important in our lives, and moments to adjust course.

What is important to you?  What is important to those around you?  Are in you agreement?  How do you know? 

Bridges to Discovery
(Portland Japanese Garden: Portland Oregon)

Bridges allow us to cross-over gaps that separate us.  It seems that in these decision-making moments, we are invited to notice bridges... being built, repaired, tested... or destroyed

Are we willing to see or imagine what is on the other side of the bridge?  Can we ask questions: to seek continuity of what we know; to discover new possibilities; or to begin anew with our relationships.

In other words, do we elect to stay separated by the gaps that separate or to build bridges across these divisions?

Bridges to New Understanding and Ideas
(Charles de Gaulle Bridge: Dinant, Belgium;
Birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone)
Traveling through Dinant, Belgium a few years ago, we came across an old bridge that was alive with national flags and gigantic saxophones decorated in the colors and images of countries paying tribute to Adolphe Saxe, inventor of the saxophone.

As I walked across this bridge -- moving from the older to the newer sections of the town, I reflected on how one person impacted so many others throughout the world.  Each of us has this ability to move from old to new, influencing others as we reinvent who we are and want to become.

Bridges from One Heart to Another

I would suggest that when our minds and hearts become hardened or trapped into ideological corners, rather than throwing stones at others who don't think and believe as we do, a better course of action might be to rediscover ways to build bridges of understanding, one heart at a time.

Questions to consider:
  • Am I open to asking questions where I don't know the answer?
    Examples: I don't understand...   Can you help me understand your decision about...?  What is your primary concern about...?
  • Can I listen to the responses without judging?
    Examples: When I hear a response I disagree with, can I ask additional questions to seek a deeper understanding?  Could I test my assumptions about what I heard and how my own values might be getting in the way?
  • May I stay present to the other person by not checking out mentally or walking away?
    Examples:  When I feel uncomfortable, can I ask myself why?  Can I share my discomfort with the other person in a neutral way?

I would suggest that staying in relationship when we differ in our values, judgments, and decisions is one way to build bridges and repair hurts or misunderstandings.  Seeking a middle ground moves us out of our corners, and invites others across the gaps that separate.  Bridges of discovery and new understanding allow us to move from old to new.

May the election decisions we have made individually and collectively this week bring us into meaningful discussions, one open heart to another.  Peace... and happy bridge building!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)