On Inspiration

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I received a copy of Simon Sinek’s book – Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action yesterday from my son. I had recently sent it to him at the recommendation of many I respect but he was ahead of the curve and had already read it so I said send me a copy since I haven’t read it yet. I only knew Simon via his excellent Ted Talk.

In the beginning of his book and talk Simon shares several stories of great leaders from the Wright brothers to Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak to Martin Luther King Jr. He shares how people came to buy into the message they were sharing. Thousands upon thousands said yes when Dr. King said “I have a dream”. They said, we have dreams too.

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Sinek emphasizes that leaders are those who lead. Many may have positions of authority, but they may not be true leaders. Leaders inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.

I’ve shared for years that there  are those in “Positional Leadership” i.e. those who hold the title perhaps of CEO, Vice-President or even manager/director… and then there are those who are influencers, with or without the title. The influencers/ true leaders are the ones who have the ear of those around them. People listen to what they have to say, both in and out of meetings. When they speak no one is rolling their eyes in contempt. When they speak, people take to heart their wisdom, because those listening also buy into their message. That message may not be the party line, but it’s almost always truth.What they say counts because people believe in them, and the ideas they are sharing. I believe we can all be influencers, those who inspire others to bigger things, often outside of ourselves or even our current system. 

For years I have spoken with friends about the need for leadership, not just management. Managers often seems to entail herding cats, they are often short-sighted, perhaps only concerned about the current budget or staffing or this quarters profits. Leaders get the big picture. It’s not only about today or even tomorrow, what we are doing, The decisions we make today are about the future and even the future of our children and grandchildren.

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Leadership thinks long term vs. short term.

Which leads us to Inspiration.

Wayne Dyer wrote these words in his book Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling:

I think of the word inspiration as meaning “being in-Spirit.” When we’re in-Spirit, we’re inspired…and when we’re inspired, it’s because we’re back in-Spirit,fully awake to Spirit within us. Being inspired is an experience of joy: we feel completely connected to our Source and totally on purpose; our creative juices flow, and we bring exceptionally high energy to our daily life. We’re not judging others or ourselves—we’re uncritical and unbothered by behaviors or attitudes that in uninspired moments are frustrating. Our heart sings in appreciation for every breath; and we’re tolerant, joyful, and loving.
What a nice word.

And you know this truth, there are times when you are in the presence of others and you basically catch their spirit. In many ways their spirit is contagious. You feel their energy, their enthusiasm, and it reassures you that there is much more out there than the daily doldrums we often endure.

The word enthusiasm come from Latin and Greek roots which meant En (in) Theos (God)  in us. When we are enthusiastic it is often the work of the spirit within to connect us to our creator, the giver of all life. When we lose our enthusiasm it is often because we are so deeply entrenched in the issues of our daily lives, we have failed to be connected adequately to our true source of life, Spirit.

Spirit is also an interesting word. In Greek it is Pneuma, the word we use for Pneumatic, as in air tools; you know the tools they use to put on your lug nuts when removing and replacing your tires at Pep Boys or some other tire store.  For many of you that whirring sound of their air wrench is familiar. It sounds powerful in a way, because it is, it’s using the power of the wind in a compressed form.

Which is the essence of Spirit. Spirit is wind or breath. Without spirit we stop breathing. To inspire others is to help them catch their breath.

Gordon MacDonald wrote a wonderful book years ago entitled Renewing Your Spiritual Passion.  

In it he share these truths:

There are leaders out there who inspire us, we actually catch our spirit from them. They inspire (put spirit in) us.

There are colleagues and friends who actually share our spirit. We are often iron sharpening iron upon each other.

There are those we have the opportunity to mentor and speak into their lives, they actually catch our spirit.

And then there are two other types of folks- Nice people and Draining people.

Nice people like us, but they never actually get our spirit. They want to be around us but they never quite get it. No matter how much time we spend with them.

Draining people probably need no introduction. I’m sure as you read those words your mind immediately went to those who drain you of your energy, your life force, your spirit. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff actually calls them Energy Vampires. They will suck you dry if you let them. And they also want to be with us more than anyone else on the list. They often knock on your door at inopportune moments, and because you are kind you respond. And they drain you once again. Because while they like us and respect us, they never quite catch our spirit.

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MacDonald says our struggle is that usually we only spend about 20% of our time with those who inspire us, or share our spirit or catch our spirit. He says we end up giving up to 80% of our time to those who never get it.

I believe we should re-evaluate how we are spending our time.

Are you living an inspired life?

Who is breathing life into you?

Who has your ear, who speaks life into you?

Who are you speaking life into?

I believe answering these simple questions can help each of live an inspired life, hopefully inspiring those around us.

BD 4/28/2017

The Ministry of Words

During my recent physical recovery I was deeply touched by how many shared words of grace, hope, and comfort with me. I find it a bit intriguing how easy it is at times to have faith for others, but so much harder to have faith for ourselves. I have been assured over and over that this will work out, God is in control, the universe is conspiring to bless us even in the midst of struggle.

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I’m good with all that.

Those are generally thoughts I have and share with others in their time of need. In many ways my role this past decade as Chaplain has been that of offering encouragement to others in their hour of need , and of course a great portion of that has been verbal encouragement.

Many years ago when I began seeking about transitioning from full time ministry to full time professional counseling I recalled this verse from the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18- “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” As I mulled that thought over and over, prayerfully considering what that might mean to me, I was amazed at the simplicity.

To en-courage is to put courage in.

 

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The above quote is attributed to several, but no matter where it originated, the sentiment is the same. Those surrounding us each day in our daily lives are often fighting bigger battles that we may ever know. Some are physical, some are relational, some are emotional. Some are work related, hope related, or just the never ending daily struggle of life.

For many years I worked as  chronic pain management counselor. I worked with hundreds to thousands who suffered ongoing chronic intractable pain, often related to failed back surgery but also related to crush injuries, amputations, and a variety of other diseases including sacroiliac pain, fibromyalgia and a litany of others. Generally when they were written a prescription to come to the counselors office, they initially protested. They would say, I hurt! How are you going to help me as shrink? Through the course of our treatment time together I would share how my goal was to help them see things differently and hopefully find some tools that might help them better manage their negative emotions( anger, depression, etc) when they were going trough their most painful episodes. Almost to a person over the years they came to enjoy our time together. I was able to validate their struggles but also to offer them some thoughts on both physical and emotional management of their issues. Simply said, we spent time together and in a good number of ways, they were encouraged. They left feeling empowered. They knew they had limitations. They couldn’t exactly CONTROL their pain, but they were armed with a variety of tools that helped them get over those tough days. And that made their life just a bit better. It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t some incantation. It was simply someone coming alongside saying I sincerely care and I will help walk with you through this.

One of the things they all had in common is no one could see their pain. No one knew their back or head or heart was hurting without them sharing that. I believe we may be surrounded by people in pain but we miss their suffering because they conceal their tenderness. Many believe that showing their vulnerabilities is an act of weakness, rather than how I see it as an act of authenticity. When we open ourselves up to others we are revealing our true self. We become more authentic, more real, more relate-able.

Thankfully as we have walked through this last month of bypass recovery we have been extraordinarily blessed with many who have both said and done just that. They have come alongside and walked with us.  The truth is of course we aren’t done, our journey isn’t complete. We are experiencing a new normal and in some ways life may be forever different but that’s o.k. Living and breathing and thinking and counting my blessings remind me just how precious and valuable. each day is.

Words Matter.

What people say in front of others and behind their backs matters. All of us have the opportunity and privilege of speaking blessing or curses into the lives around us. Proverbs 18 reminds us the power of life and death is in the tongue. James tells us  “out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. this should’t be.” Most of us remember our mothers admonition, “if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything.” Common sense wisdom about caring for others.

Doing therapy groups over the years I have often quoted the childhood saying ” sticks and bones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Then I’ve asked if this is true and virtually 100% have said of course not! Words do hurt. Unkind words can hurt deeply. Mean words can damage us for life. As you read this many of you are recalling powerfully bad words spoken while you were young. I have one friend who says he grew up believing his name was “dumb-ass” because that’s the only name his father used for him; and yet another close friend who said virtually the same thing- he grew up believing his name was shithead.

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I find it amazing that we can imprint such thoughts on others. Rather than using words to discourage, I believe everyone has the ability to encourage. Recently I had someone share that they have a hard time being around a friend of theirs because that friend is so negative. Out of their mouth comes pessimism, the glass is always half empty. Truth is no one wants to be around a negative Nilly.

It’s just bad energy.

You want to be attractive? You want people to like you? Be nice. Say kind words. Encourage others. Look for the good rather than the bad and speak that into being.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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Start today.

Easter Thoughts

Happy Easter everyone.                                                                                                                   My Facebook is filled with many sweet messages of He Is Risen and the like.

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They were nice images to awaken to.

In my personal story Easter has overall been a bigger Holiday to me than even Christmas. For years I sent out Easter cards more than Christmas cards because I valued this day so very much. Of course in the Christian faith, Christmas is all about God become man – the incarnation. Without this there would be no Easter. So of course I get the significance. But in my thinking , as awesome as the incarnation is, without the hope of the resurrection God just dies. Resurrection is where our hope lies, whether that be in this life or the next.

Now of course I have many friends of other faiths. Some are agnostic, some are atheist, some are skeptics, some have been burned by the church and maybe have thrown out the baby (Jesus- as in Talladega Nights) with the bath water. Others have been raised in other faiths whether that be Judaism or another system of belief.

That’s fine with me. My job is no longer to cajole and persuade, I now see my mission as simply to be honest, share sincerely, and LOVE. For far too long we have fought wars over our limited perceptions of the TRUTH, instead of trying to live as our master did,  a life of love and inclusion and acceptance. One of the problem’s I have with many of today’s churches is that they champion their exclusivity. Unless you adhere to their specific tenets of  doctrine, believe and espouse their creeds, express their exact brand of faith, you cannot be a part of them.

I call BS on that!

Jesus was extremely intentional in hanging with outsiders. The only people he had issues with were the religious, who rejected his message. They eventually killed Him. I know he went as a lamb to slaughter and didn’t resist as his life offering was to be the redemption of the whole cosmos, but nonetheless he didn’t start the Rotary club, or the Elks club, or the Lions. Church was never intended to be an exclusive club where you pay dues and memorize the same words and incantations. It was be the ekklesia; the Assembly, the called out ones; the ones who were to model a different kind of love that up to that time the world had not known. I believe the further we move away from the simplicity of love, the more we are having theological adventures in missing the point.

God is Love.

Period.

Drop the mike.

If you are expressing some other brand of faith, based upon truth as you (know?) it, I believe you may be missing the whole point in the coming of Christ.

I’m sure some of my unbelieving friends think this in some ways is all hooey. And I’m also sure many of my believing friends are wrestling with the question as they read this, aren’t some beliefs essential? Aren’t there some things that are not negotiable?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Jesus specifically said ” if they are not against us they are for us.  (Luke 9)

Jesus said- Chill- If they’re not against us they’re for us.

Jesus spent thirty three years on earth and never once did he stop people and tell them to drop to their knees and ask him into their hearts to be Lord and Savior. If that is as essential as many of us have been taught, why didn’t he lead the way in doing just that?What he did do is say come and follow me. Come, all who are weary I will give you rest. Believe

Have Faith.

Love God

Love Others.

I don’t think it has to be so complicated.

A few weeks ago I was blessedly given a new lease on life, via my heart surgery it looks like I may yet live many more years.

Because my parents both died early (at age 42) I have lived as an only child with a focus that every day is precious but there’s no guarantee how many of these precious days each of us will get. As I approach my 60th birthday later this year, I have thought often that I have already outlived my parents by almost an early adult lifetime. They of course thought they would live much longer, as apparently we all do.

Because of their illnesses I’ve often thought I would live much shorter.

But not this Easter.

In many ways all things seem new.

Hopefully according to my multiplicity of doctors, I may get many more years out of this heart of mine now that the plumbing is cleaned up. My intent is to eat better, exercise more, and try to live these next years in some ways healthier than I have the last ten. Sounds cool, eh?

But, truth is no one knows.

But, I’m a believer.

And I choose to believe in the resurrection.

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The’s no proving it- there is only having faith- which is always a matter of choice.

I am thankful to the many who have introduced me to my faith (Rose Coker), Those who have shared my faith (Moke, Kenton,  and countless others) and those who have buttressed my faith throughout the years (Glen Harding, Danny Mack and again countless others.

The life of faith isn’t easy. It’s actually tough as Hell. Read the Bible. Those great heroes (and heroines) of faith went through all kinds of crap. Most came out on the other side but many despaired at times. Read some of the Psalms by King David where he anguished about God abandoning him.

Most people of faith traverse a dark night of the soul at least once, if not several times.

That’s o.k. We just keep walking, putting one foot after the other.

Someone once asked a man how he was. He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!” Many have attributed this saying to Winston Churchill but I’m not sure it originated with him.  Nonetheless, the sentiment is correct. Keep on moving. Believe for a better day.

It may be Friday but Sunday’s coming.

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I believe God’s grace through faith will sustain us. I don’t know the conclusion of the matter. I don’t know if everything will turn out as we hope. I know for sure sometimes life takes unexpected twists and turns.

But I do know the disciples were freaking out after three and half years walking with Jesus, seeing the miracles and then watching him die.  Peter said, screw it I’m going fishing. Thomas said unless I put my hand in the crucifixion holes myself, I’m not gonna believe. Judas apparently killed himself as his plan to press Jesus into taking power over the Roman government failed miserably. Many of the others cowered in the upper room, seeking solace and safety, hoping they wouldn’t be the next to die such a gruesome death.

Then – Sunday Changed Everything.

The world as they knew it was turned upside down.

Many of Jesus’ own followers were skeptical at first but given the preponderance of evidence they relented their doubts and came back to the master.

But they still hoped to overthrow the government. Okay, so he died; at least now they could win after all.

The Jesus left again, only ten days later. Before their very eyes he was gone. And all they were left with was a memory. His words. His message.

Of Love.

Of Peace.

Of Hope.

And because they embraced and sacrificed all to share that message, many of us today call ourselves believers.

I love Easter.

I love the hope of resurrection.  I love the idea that no matter how bad things are, we can still choose to believe. No matter how dismal we can still cling to hope.

That’s what I’m doing today.

I hope you are too.

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BD

4/16/17

Healing My Heart

Graciously,  eleven days ago my life was extended (hopefully for decades to come) through the grace of skilled physicians, loving family and friends, confidence in my faithful God, and the minor inconvenience of quintuple bypass surgery.

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Eight days later I walked my first uninterrupted mile.

 

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It only took 30 minutes.

 

Overall, I feel amazingly blessed. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I feel healthy although my reserves are pretty low so after walking 20-30 minutes I need about two hours before I’m ready for more; but in the grand scheme of things that seems a pittance to pay to be alive and well.

I am sincerely grateful to the Many Many who cared for me and the family during this time. Thank you more than I can express. I began a list naming all one by one, but due to ten days of hospitalization under the influence of morphine and other assorted drugs, my memory is still a bit cloudy. Each day I remember something that I had not remembered the day before. I’m afraid I might accidentally leave someone out who deserves honor and recognition, so in the interest of trying to not miss a single contributor I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. The outpouring of love and amazing acts of kindness will forever live with me. I am humbled by your grace in my life.

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Prior to this most recent adventure I never imagined ever having heart issues… (other than from emotional tenderness). In the last few weeks when my symptoms emerged I received previously unknown family history which alerted me to a long line of  heart disease on my fathers’ side of the family. Several were stricken in their fifties and died from their first heart attack. I was told in the hospital that for 20% of the population the first symptom of heart disease is death.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Armed with my family history I reached out to friends who practice medicine and it appears in every practical matter they saved my life. I was encouraged to get a stress test ASAP, which I failed in under three minutes.  I was sent directly to the hospital for a heart catheterization which I also failed. They discovered seven significant blockages. Surgery had to wait several days to allow some of the medicines used for the heart catheterization to dissipate. Because of the wisdom and kindness of friends and medical professionals I am sitting here less than two weeks after surgery, pouring out my heart  – in only a metaphoric way.

So, surviving this mid-life health crisis I naturally find myself seeking to make sense of it all. I believe we are all trying to make sense of the daily-ness of life on a regular basis,  but in these big LIFE moments the  questions get sharper and deeper and perhaps more profound.

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How did this happen?

So God knew this all along?

Why didn’t he alert me sooner?

Am I asking crazy questions?

Do other people feel this way.

Where was God in this?

Where is God in this?

The truth is for me I was amazingly at peace. I had some sense of melancholy and a tiny amount of foreboding sadness, concerned about possibly leaving this life and Kelli and Geoff and Taylor… and many others I love. But overall I was at peace. Kelli and I shared a small sense of  pre-surgical worry… Has God set all this up for me to come on home to Him? Just a little worry. Virtually No Fear.

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Blessedly, due to the grace of God and highly skilled physicians and caregivers, I came out of surgery much healthier than when I went in. I walked the first day, came home the fourth day and walked a mile within a week.

So I find myself, amazingly healthier than I could have imagined. Happy. At Peace. Thankful. Counting my Blessings. Deeply appreciative of so many who have expressed such love and support.

I don’t have all my questions answered.

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I still exist with much mystery. I still wonder about the traditional why me, why this, why now questions. But that’s OK. I actually have believed for a long time we need to be OK living with uncertainty and be at peace with our questions. Maybe someday they will be answered, maybe not. But either way we can choose this day to live at peace, with gratitude and hope.

 

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I’m excited about this new chapter in my life. Sadly, both of my parents died early at age 42. As an only child, orphaned in my teens and twenties, I have lived most of my adult life with an expectation of perhaps not living long past mid-life. I’ve already had 17 years more than each of my parents. Now, with this new plumbing inside me, it appears by faith there should be many more years to come. Because of my parents early deaths I have always lived with an aggressive sense of enjoying every moment. I’ve shared about that with many related to my love of Mardi Gras.On the Daily-Ness of Life & The Joy of Mardi Gras

The sense of living fully each day has overall served me well. I feel as if I have made the most out of my life thus far. I’ve lived in many great and beautiful places: Florida, San Diego, Maui, New Orleans, Dallas and many others. It has been my extraordinary  privilege to offer care to countless lives through my call to ministry and via counseling. As manifested through this crisis, many have graciously validated my heart to care for them over the years.

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I think we’ve weathered the storm.

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I’m excited about the days ahead. It is my desire to encourage you and all those I come in contact with, either face to face, verbally or through my writing.

I choose to Believe.

I believe God is active in the story of our lives.

I posted this great word by Frederick Buechner on My FB page this week:

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I took that photo over ten years ago when living in Maui, out on an evening boat ride.

My life has been blessed.

My life is Blessed.

Much of it due to the grace that has been poured into my life by so many.

Please join me on this exciting ride of life as I live with a healthy heart full of gratitude not only now but in the days and years to come.

Living Thankfully,

Buddy Duncan

4/2/2017

 

 

Why Men’s hearts really fail them…

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In my childhood in southern Alabama I regularly heard sermons about the end times and how terrible those days would be. Preachers sharing their fire and brimstone message waxed long and loud about the perils to come to the unworthy. They quoted familiar passages from the Bible from Revelation to Daniel to the Gospels.
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They quoted Jesus from Luke chapter 21 when he says the day is coming when men’s hearts will fail them due to fear.  I’m concerned currently that with so much uproar in our nation about all things political, there seems to be a similar apocalyptic narrative.

Once again the end times are upon us….

Somewhat related to this sense of impending doom were those younger days when after a late evening church service we would come home, get ready for bed and the last thing to do was to get on our knees and say our prayers. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the same goodnight prayer I recited which began like this:

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.

No wonder people grow up afraid of the dark!

Recently I saw a clip of Jimmy Fallon with James Hetfield and  Metallica. Jimmy accused Metallica of making him afraid to go to bed at night with their song and creepy video Enter Sandman where that very nighttime prayer is recited by a young boy.

How on earth are you supposed to rest well after that?!

As a cognitive behavioral counselor I often say “We create our own reality”.

We are what we think.

If we think the sky is falling, we’ll be afraid to go outside.

If we believe, Life can still be blessed in the midst of difficulties; we will live in gratitude even in the hard times.

Milton said “The mind is a terrible thing, a hell it can make of heaven, a heaven it can make of hell.”

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We create the reality we live in based upon what we focus on.

The reality is this: There are always bad things happening.

While we read this – war is raging, death is occurring, injustices abound.

The reality is also this: At the very same moment when bad things are happening, Life is bursting forth and there are joys unspeakable.

The very world we live in is experiencing both truths at the same time.

Each and every day.

Beauty, or Ugly, is in the eye of the beholder.

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This painting is Pollock #5.                                                                                                                             In November, 2006, Steven A. Cohen purchased it for 140 MILLION Dollars.                               I happen to like it, not quite $140,000,000.00 worth though.

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Jeff Koons Balloon Dog sold for over 58 million DOLLARS.  Hmm…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Carl Sandburg said long ago – A child is proof God wants the world to go on.

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Life goes on.

Always.

Sometimes to our joy, sometimes to our dismay.

There are never-ending ups and downs.

That said, I believe we don’t have to live in fear and dread.

Dr. Marc Siegel has written FALSE ALARM: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear.

In the preface he says this book was conceived unexpectedly on the morning of September 11, 2001 as he was driving in New York City. He noticed ambulances from all over the city exiting at Bellevue Hospital so he also stopped and volunteered his services to that emergency center. He shares that as he volunteered as an MD to the Red Cross over the next several months he noticed a world that seemed to blow each health care concern out of proportion to the real danger. He says  “We all personalized 9/11, and it made us feel more at risk, whether we were really at risk or not. We grew afraid more easily than before, misinformed by our leaders and provoked by the news media.”  I’m amazed that he wrote those prescient words well over ten years ago as they seem so timely today.

 Over the years I have counseled many: widows, single moms, others suffering from significant physical losses including amputation and paralysis. In every case, each had lost significant portions of their personal power. In some cases it was physical loss due to accident or injury. In other cases it was the loss of a life partner, their daily support in the struggle of life, lost to either death or divorce. In every case, each person felt weaker, less strong, less capable, less able. They didn’t feel as equipped as they once were to take on the challenges of the world, the ones thrown at all of us every day. Some of the women were worried about violent break ins, they felt less safe in their homes and neighborhoods related to the nightly news and perhaps even the overuse of the words Home Invasion.  Some were terrified of bad weather. I had a sweet elderly client in Dallas petrified during tornado season. She would sit glued in front of her TV for hours watching the weather channel with it’s never ending inflammatory language. If you ever watch their reporters as they prep for a storm it always sounds like impending doom for the whole state. Recently we had friends calling us because of the national reporting of storms in Florida that were literally hundreds of miles from us, but the weather channel made it sound like the whole state was underwater, when in actuality it was only a few low-lying areas in a few counties. Some of my clients were fearful of driving in heavy traffic. They may have had a previous accident or traumatizing event and their vigilance to prevent another occurrence actually kept them off all freeways, which in Dallas becomes a severe hardship.

Sadly, what they all had in common was a disproportionate fear to what was really happening.

Part of their fear was reasonable.                                                                                                                 We should seek shelter from storms.                                                                                                         We should drive defensively, especially in metropolitan areas.                                                   We should lock our doors at night.                                                                                                   There’s nothing wrong with common sense and reasonable caution.                                              The issue is more about fear controlling your life.

The dread of impending doom, when in reality we generally recover from our various misfortunes and move on. Nietzsche may not be absolutely correct, but what his oft quoted maxim is at least a partial truth “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

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We can discuss statistical probabilities all we want about lightning strikes or shark attacks or whatever scares us but the data usually doesn’t dissuade us. If we have had one personal encounter with something we dread it causes us to often defend against that ever more vigorously in the future. Personal pain traumatizes us to our core in some ways, and while our fears may be disproportional to the actual threat recurring, we still feel the negative emotions of fear and dread.

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Truth: Your odds of being struck by lightning this year are 1 in 960,000.                                     Your odds of being struck by lightning twice in your lifetime are 1 in 9 million.                       Yet, I know a guy personally that has been struck by lightning multiple times –                   Six times I think!!

We can dialogue about getting snake bit, or coming in contact with the elusive brown recluse spider. I can show you the odds for and against. And in many ways the data doesn’t matter. If you’re worried about rattlesnakes under your house, you’ll probably stay worried.rattlesigncsp

Generally, that’s because fears and phobias aren’t rational; or proportional to the actual risk.  And crazy enough, people can actually be scared to death!

Men’s hearts really do fail them from fear!

Dr. Martin A. Samuels Chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was asked: medically speaking, can someone actually be frightened to death? Is it possible to literally be scared to death? 

He answered, Absolutely, no question about it!

He goes on in that interview to share this: “For about seven days after the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon there was an increase of sudden cardiac death among New Yorkers.” When people get distressed, their bodies talk back to them. Lot’s of times people have upset stomachs because of bad news. They feel weak or nauseated.

All because of what they are thinking.

I was talking with a friend, a fellow counselor, about someone struggling with negative emotions, along the lines of fear and anxiety. My friend and colleague said the only problem they are having are bad thoughts. When looking at their issues objectively: no health crisis, positive relationships, pleasurable interactions with others, moderate economic security… just some long-term concerns about economic viability of retirement  (we all have that don’t we?)…

The real issue is at hand is what are they thinking?

Self help guru Byron Katie (who I really like) teaches a simple method to deal with issues such as these. She tells you to ask yourself some basic questions.

She offers these 4 questions:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Our thoughts create our emotional experience.

We feel whatever we think about.

I come from a family of worriers. During summer thunderstorms, which occur with almost daily frequency in Mobile Alabama,  my beloved grandmother would crawl into bed and pull a sheet up over her head.  Sometime around age twelve I was emboldened to assure her that the sheet wouldn’t be very effective should lightning actually strike. She assured me she was aware, but she also said “it just makes me feel better.” I think there are plenty of folks out there who relate, who’d just like to crawl back into bed some days and pull their blankies back over their heads.

Thanks to my family of origin, I’m sure I inherited a disproportionate sense of anxiety. I have spent my whole life choosing to focus on spiritual peace over my natural inclination to worry.

I read Leo Babauta and his blog Zen Habits because it reminds me to be in the here and now and to intentionally practice mindfulness.

I believe we all need these reminders.

Men’s hearts fail them because of fear.

Jesus’ message was Fear Not.

We can believe once again, that God and the Universe are conspiring to bless us.

If we can ever grasp the depth of that truth I believe we can live in peace.

Till next time.

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The Universe is conspiring to Bless you!

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I was channel surfing late the other night, as is my habit, and I came across Anthony Anderson of Blackish appearing on Conan.

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While being interviewed he shared of recently losing his wallet in Los Angeles….

There’s only 13 million people or so there.

He tells the story much better than I can (Watch the two minute video!)

He shares how he was downtown buying something. He got home, realized his wallet was missing, returned to the store to retrieve it only to find the store was already closed.                Shortly thereafter  He then receives a text from his friend, Chris Williams, brother of singer Vanessa Williams, former Miss America.

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Small world huh?

Chris proceeds to ask Anthony if he’s lost his wallet. Anthony says yes of course, incredulous that Chris could know that?! Chris goes on to tell Anthony how his friend’s husband was riding his bike downtown, saw a wallet, picked it up, took it home, and then proceeded to show it to his wife  who opened it up and realized who it was. Amazingly she knew Anthony and Chris Williams were friends.

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She immediately sent Anthony a Facebook message ( apparently they are Facebook friend.. Want to friend me?- someday it might come in handy…you might get your wallet back!), Chris a Facebook message, also tweeted another friend of Anthony’s and then sent Anthony a tweet; all in attempts to return his wallet to him.

Anthony got his wallet back that night, everything intact of course.

How cool- What a Blessing!

If you’ve ever lost your wallet or credit card or phone or anything of significant value like this you know the distress you can feel in such moments. Kelli and I will be back in the Big easy with friends for Mardi Gras as is our regular custom.

During previous trips remarkably  we have found an American Express Gold Card  on the ground on Bourbon Street.

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After using it to purchase a few rounds for EVERYONE in Pat O’ Brien’s

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JUST KIDDING…. we were at least able to notify AMEX and let them know the Card was found so they could contact the owner.

On another occasion (we go as often as we can!) we also found a lost I-Phone and we were able to connect with the owner via the contacts list! She happily came to our hotel room to reclaim her phone.

Cool Eh?!

For Anthony to lose his wallet in a city in a city the size of LA, just how unlikely are the odds of it being found by someone who knows him in some way?

I know we’re all familiar with six degrees of  Kevin Bacon – Yes?- But it still is amazing to have something like this happen in a city of multiple millions – and to have it found by someone within your circle.

But of course when the Universe is conspiring to bless you the story doesn’t end there.

Anthony continues to tell Conan the other part of the story.

A short while later, he is heading downtown to an NBA Clippers game.He spies a wallet in the street, it is being run over by cars, cards are flipping out. remembering his own story he says he feels a responsibility to pick it up.

He gets it out of the street, heads on into the basketball game and does a Google search for the owner. His address comes up matching the drivers license with a phone number. He calls the number and an UCLA students mother answers the phone. he identifies himself as Anthony Davis, tells her he’s found her sons wallet and she says she’ll contact her son.

Two days later he calls, the wallet is returned to him and he tells Anthony: I was at the Clippers game and I actually saw you and thought Hey that’s Anthony Davis, maybe I’ll go say hi…. but decided not to bother him.

Anthony said to Conan: How cool would that have been if he had come on over to say hi and Anthony could have said, hey dude I have your wallet here!

The next time you lose something, take a breath.

The Universe is conspiring to Bless you.

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I used to share a wonderful story. There was a young Jewish man from a very devout family. He went off to college, became intrigued with Eastern Philosophy and religion and eventually renounced his faith. His Father, being the custom of the time(the sixties) was so offended that he became enraged and disowned him. This continues for years. The son and his girlfriend eventually take a pilgrimage to India to explore their new found faith.

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They travel for months, enjoying their adventure when inexplicably the son tells her, I feel like I must go to Israel  and re-look at the faith of my childhood. She is adamantly opposed. H leaves her and goes alone. Many weeks later he is walking along and out of nowhere comes and old childhood friend. The friend immediately says ” I’m sorry about your Father.” The sons looks quizzically and is told his Father has died.

Moved to tears, shaken, he later finds his way to the Wailing wall.

Orthodox Jewish men praying in the  men's section, Western Wall (Wailing Wall), Old City, Jerusalem, Israel.

While there he is told of the custom of writing prayers on small bits of paper and placing it into the cracks in the wall. He has brought nothing but in his tears a kind person offers him paper and pen. He pours out a prayer asking for forgiveness. Distressed he can find no empty crack in which to place his prayer. In trying to place it he accidentally dislodges a previously left piece of paper and it falls to the ground. He puts his prayer in the wall and picks up the one that has fallen to restore it. Suddenly heavy with curiosity he unfolds the dislodged prayer. There, he finds a prayer- SIGNED BY HIS FATHER – asking for forgiveness for how he has treated his son, stating his only desire is to let his son somehow know how much he loves him.

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Circumstances in your life may be happening that make it hard to find all the connecting dots.

Hang in there.

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BD 2/23/17

Persevering -When the Struggle is Real

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The Struggle is Real is heard in conversations quite often these days…

Somewhat along the same lines of Just Living the Dream. 

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Both phrases are probably way overused,

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but that doesn’t stop us from hearing them a lot….

The Urban Dictionary lists two definitions for the phrase The Struggle is Real:

  1. A (generally) ironic saying often used in place of the saying, “first world problems“. It denotes a situation where the user wishes to express that they are encountering some sort of undesirable difficulty, but dealing with it. With irony, it has a comical effect of dramatizing a non-critical, yet undesirable situation.

Tom: I had to walk to class today because my bike got a flat tire.
Adam: Must’ve been real hard, man.
Tom: Yeah. The struggle is real.

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Years ago I heard Louis CK share some funny thoughts about how spoiled we’ve become nowadays….

You might want to start at 1:25 to get to the best of what he offers…

The second Urban Dictionary definition says this about The Struggle is Real:

2.  Used to describe trying times or an unpleasant situation that is hard to get through.

For Example

Friend 1: I missed the bus, Have a ton of homework, and i didn’t get to eat lunch because the line was too long. 
Friend 2: The Struggle Is Real 
Friend 1: I Know!

So,

the struggle is,

The Struggle is Real.

I feel like I understand a bit about gratitude.                                                                                           I live sincerely thankful for all I have in life.                                                                                             I feel truly blessed in a litany of ways.                                                                                                         I believe we should count our blessings and that living with an attitude of gratitude makes our life better.                                                                                                                                                    I’m a proponent of optimism.

All that said,

The Struggle is Real.

I have spent my whole adult life working in either the arenas of faith and spirituality or psychology and medicine or some combination therein.

In Pastoral ministry my life has been spent with a focus on encouraging those in their time of need. This can be as significant as the existential struggle with the personal search for meaning  or  as common as struggling with illness, economy, grief and loss or just the dailyness of life.

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I believe in change.

I believe others can change- for the better.

Nonetheless, therein once again lies the struggle.

Change occurs in proportion to the effort expended to make change happen.

Nothing hard comes easy. Just try losing  a few pounds. Easy, eh?

Newton’s laws of motion come to mind. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

People can change, but change ain’t always easy.

Once again, The Struggle is Real.

Scott Peck began his seminal book The Road Less Traveled with these words:

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I love this idea. I have shared these words with others for over twenty-five years.

Yet, as I share them here today, as I read them,  I have some doubts.

Yes, Life is Difficult.

This is a great Truth.

One of the greatest.

I also agree that at times yielding to the reality that life has its fair share of trials and tribulations and coming as rapidly as we can to a place of acceptance can be beneficial for us. I believe if we live long enough we will experience pain and sometimes even suffering. We need to come to terms with this reality rather than always fighting against it.

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That said, I’m not as sure about the second part of Peck’s statement that once we truly understand that life is difficult, we transcend it.

Really?

I’m just not so sure.

Just the past few weeks I have experienced the following either personally or vicariously :

Close friends battling through Divorce

Economic Uncertainties

Sudden Death of a Loved One

Possible  Cancer Diagnosis

Funeral for a Friend

Employment Struggles

Testing of Faith

Anger

Disappointment

Mood Struggles

Job Loss

Political upheaval

Depression

False Accusations

Co-worker Crap

and Rain

So life is Difficult.

Just accept it and we’ll transcend it?

I’m not so sure.

The Struggle is Real.

Acceptance can be difficult. I have often shared, it took a while to get here, it’ll take a while to get where we’re going.

So, where do we go from here?

We persevere.

We press on.

We catch our breath.

We take deep breaths. We keep on breathing. We take the next step. We believe in a better day. We do the best we can as long as  we can. We get a good night’s sleep. We awaken to a new day. We survive the season.We do unto others as we’d have them do unto us. We love. We care. We share. We Give. We pray. We hope. We live to see another day. Hopefully a better one. For sure, we don’t give up.

Jim Valvano in one of the world’s greatest speeches implored us to never give up.

In my life as a pastor and counselor I’ve sadly experienced the pain of witnessing people giving up. I longed desperately to encourage them, to support them, to help them any way I could.

Sadly, they lost their hope and their way.

Because,  The Struggle is Real.

Life is difficult. But I still believe in the midst of the struggle we can find life.

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We may have to persevere far more than we’d prefer. We may experience a disproportionate share of human suffering and tragedy. But trust me on this, we are not alone. We are but one of many fellow strugglers.

Each in our own way pressing on toward the mark.

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Press on.

Persevere.

Don’t Give Up.

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Till Tomorrow….

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BD 2/22/17

On Fame – Kardashians – And Doing Art for Art’s Sake

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Watching Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl and at The Grammy’s last week was intriguing to me. I thought back to many times earlier in my life when I’ve watched both shows. We’ve witnessed timeless performances by greats like Prince, Elton John, Adele, Garth Brooks and many others like Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, U2, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Eric Clapton, not to mention kisses by Madonna and Britney or wardrobe malfunctions by Janet and Justin.  quote-of-janet-jackson-s-embarrassing-clothing-incident-in-which-she-had-her-breast-exposed-i-am-sorry-justin-timberlake-311210

The list could go on and on.

Not to mention many one hit wonders who have performed and disappeared into oblivion, or perhaps top some cottage industry where they still travel making a living performing night after night the one song we still remembered.

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http://wxrt.cbslocal.com/2014/12/19/where-are-they-now-one-hit-wonders-of-the-90s/

Andy Warhol said everyone gets 15 minutes of fame.images-1

That may be true…. But I’m not so sure. I actually think there are many greats out there that functionally go undeserved. There have always been starving artists. There are lists of those who never achieved discernible appreciation in their lifetime for their contributions to their craft. There are so many out there who produce great art that primarily goes unnoticed or at the very least is under the radar and definitely underappreciated.

Or fifteen minutes that not everybody gets

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/10-famous-people-who-died-before-they-were-household-names

The newest film version of The Great Gatsby was on the other night and I got caught up in watching it. The grandeur and simplicity vs. complexity drew me in.hero_gatsbywide-1

I was struck by it and as is my nature, I had my I-Pad in hand and began reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his novel. According to Wikipedia, my normally reliable source for all information: “In 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a third and final heart attack, and died believing his work forgotten. His obituary in The New York Times mentioned Gatsby as evidence of great potential that was never reached.”

I find it fascinating that so many who we now place on the pedestal of all-time greatness died feeling unappreciated for their craft. How can that be?

It seems that an element of fame is popularity and part of popularity is in some way reputation. This single element also travels by word of mouth. When local restaurants become the coolest new thing, even with today’s social media and Yelp and Foursquare and Facebook, much of the local enthusiasm is fueled by word of mouth. You share with your friends and they share with their friends and so on it goes.

The same is true regarding music, writing, theatre or any other artistic endeavor.

People follow what’s hot. I know that over the years after the Grammy’s have been awarded sales of the winning artist rise in proportion to the number of awards they win. Of course in some ways it’s just free advertising, millions of viewers have just been exposed to their art. But it’s also a matter of others saying, hey this is great stuff, buy their art!.

In contrast to this I am dismayed by our current celebrity fascination by so many that appear to contribute so very little to the world as we know it.

Think about it.

Paris Hilton.

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Kim Kardashian?

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Any Kardashian?!

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Perez Hilton?  ( same guy- body make-over)

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Are you kidding me? Paris was famous because of her birth line, her great- grandfather created the Hilton Hotel chain.

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Other than his greatness and the family legacy-  she became most famous for her sex tape… which apparently  paved the way for Kim Kardashian’s sex tape release a few years later since Kim began her climb to fame as Paris’ stylist.

Kim Kardashian? As one recently said she is famous for posting different pictures of her ass. vxresu-l-610x610-underwear-kimkardashian-socks-pretty-popularselfie-booty-ass-whiteswimwear-whitesocks-anklesocks-selfie

                                                                                 

That’s all.   

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/25/kim-kardashian-teens-book-celebrity-social-media-american-girls

Back to art… and fame. Apparently fame is not always connected to talent. Or at least talent and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

Recently I was privileged to view the fascinating movie Hidden Figures about the amazing contribution of three women to NASA in the early days of the Space Program.

Sadly, were it not for this movie I’m sure most of the world would bnever have heard the names of Katherine Coleman Goble, Johnson Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, and   Mary Winston Jackson. Because of the book by the same name written by Margot Lee Shetterly and the film version; young women everywhere can witness the mesmerizing story of overcoming seemingly impossible odds of male dominated professions and institutionalized racism.

 Instead there are 50 million viewers for Kim’s big butt.

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                                                          What a crazy world we live in.

Nancy Jo Sales says this in her book American Girls about the Kardashians:

“A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 51% of 18-to-25 year olds said their most or second-most important life goal was to become famous. 64% said their first or second goal was to become rich.

A girl waiting in line for Kim said, “I want her life.”

Behind the Kardashian’s lifestyle, there was a mother, but it wasn’t Kim; it was Kris Jenner, Kim’s own mother and tireless manager, who took 10% of all her daughters’ incomes. “My job is to take my family’s 15 minutes of fame and turn it into 30,” Kris once declared. That her family’s 15 minutes had begun with a leaked sex tape of her daughter and the singer Ray J didn’t seem to give her pause; in fact, it was just after the release of the tape that Kris started shopping her family’s reality show, a move she likened to turning “lemons into lemonade”.

Wow.

And somewhere out there worlds beyond this popular culture of Bling for the sake of Bling there are artists struggling to create… Art for the sake of Art.

Elizabeth Gilbert achieved fame with her book Eat Pray Love which sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 30 languages.

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In her  TED Talk about creative genius she opens with these words:

I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it’s more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. And I don’t expect that that’s ever going to change. But, that said, something kind of peculiar has happened recently in my life and in my career, which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with this work. And the peculiar thing is that I recently wrote this book, this memoir called “Eat, Pray, Love” which, decidedly unlike any of my previous books, went out in the world for some reason, and became this big, mega-sensation, international bestseller thing. The result of which is that everywhere I go now, people treat me like I’m doomed. Seriously — doomed, doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, “Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?”

How’s that for encouraging friends? Ha!

The list of artists who produced masterpieces early in their lives is long.

Orson Welles produced his classic film Citizen Kane at age 25.

Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 at 30.

Harper Lee functionally only published To Kill a Mockingbird in her lifetime.  J.D. Salinger wrote Catcher in the Rye but never came close to the initial acclaim he gained with Catcher.

Some might say they never recaptured their early greatness for a variety of reasons: Fear of failure, difficulty living up to the fame and expectations, or perhaps just a dry well.

While some never appear to recapture the glory of youth, there are many who began at an early age and continue to grow in excellence with age.

Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Picasso, Cezanne, and Pablo Casals come to mind.

Michelangelo produced The Pieta and David before age 30 and was the architect for St. Peter’s Basilica at 74.

At 22 Ben Franklin began publishing The Pennsylvania gazette and at age and among his many numerous accomplishments he is credited with inventing bi-focals in his seventies.

I don’t know what the truth is but I like Elizabeth in her latest book Big Magic encouraging people to Do Art For Art’s Sake.

Do it because it’s in you.

She says:

“This, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

“Through the mere act of creating something—anything—you might inadvertently produce work that is magnificent, eternal, or important.”

What if you only write that one children’s book that you’ve often dreamt of? Who Knows? Maybe that one book will have positive impact on the life of some young person. You may never know about it. But the chances of that positive impact is lost if you don’t write it.

Wayne Dyer often said “Don’t die with your music still in you.”

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https://vimeo.com/19672457

Sadly, some have achieved various levels of fame while contributing little.

Equally as sad, many have achieved no recognition until years have passed and they have been re-discovered as voices needed to be heard.

I’m in agreement with Wayne.

Sing Your Song.

Tell Your Story.

Offer Your Gifts.

Create.

I’m with Elizabeth; we need more art for art’s sake.

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BD 2-17-17

On the Daily-Ness of Life & The Joy of Mardi Gras

 

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Full disclosure – I originally penned this two years ago.                                                             It popped up on my Facebook page this morning.                                                                           I updated it just a tad.              

                                                                                   

Yesterday I officiated a Funeral. On the way to the funeral home I stopped and made a visit to pray for a friend who collapsed yesterday morning with a major brain bleed. He passed away late last night.

James 4:14NKJV

 Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

In just ten we leave for Mardi Gras for our annual spree…

There is a reason why we do this each year…

The fickleness of life and the lessening of our days.

Long ago Solomon (considered the wisest man in the world) wrote these words:

There’s a Right Time for Everything

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

 Whatever was, is.
Whatever will be, is.
That’s how it always is with God.

Words to ponder and perhaps live by.

Recently I had the unfortunate honor to offer care for a family who lost a loved one to suicide. As is often the case this was an unexpected tragedy. The International Association for Suicide Prevention says worldwide each year almost 800,000 people die from suicide. This exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined. I find this hard to comprehend.
Later that same day I read these words from Zig Ziglar “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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Those words seem prescient for so many today. The never ending news regularly informs (or distresses) us about all things political, economic struggles, employment pressures, the growing gap between the rich and working class, and so on. Bad news gets so overwhelming at times many people actually give up. This week I read of a couple in Utah who actually took their lives and the lives of their children because they believed the world was moving toward disaster and they no longer had any hope. This couple was only in their 30’s, their children ages 11-14. I wondered aloud how things can seem so bleak, yet each day I see folks who struggle with similar darkness, or at least major loss of hope.
Remarkably Henry David Thoreau wrote challenging words about struggle over 100 years ago when he penned Walden and said “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Unfortunately as depressing as this sounds, the oft left out second part of this famous quote may be even more disheartening. He goes on to say “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Wow, how encouraging! Ha!
So the question arises: How do we live fully when we are beset by so many issues in our world today, so much difficulty and for some perhaps even a sense of despair?
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One of the ways I have found to help deal with the challenges of life is to celebrate more. Growing up In Mobile Alabama and later living in New Orleans; Fat Tuesday and the whole Mardi Gras season were part of my upbringing and cultural heritage. I learned at an early age to enjoy all things from Moon Pies to plastic beads. The celebration and festivity of the season always brought a nice break from the previous winter days. For more than a decade my family and friends have converged together in New Orleans on the weekend before Fat Tuesday to enjoy time celebrating life, laughing with (and sometimes at) each other, and counting our blessings.
I recently saw a YouTube video by ZeFrank where he displays 28, 835 Jelly Beans – each one representing the average number of days of our lives, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He says “You might have more beans in your life, or maybe less, but on average this is the time we have.”
Then he goes about demonstrating how most of our jelly beans are spent: 8477 for sleeping, 3202 for working, 1635 for eating or drinking, 1,099 spent in a car and even 2676 for watching TV. OUCH!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOksW_NabEk

He goes on until he ends with a few less than 3000. These are the ones we get to do whatever we want with. As for me and my family, our next five beans will be enjoying life at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. My goal is to make Thoreau eat his words – For us there will be no living in Quiet Desperation; there will only be loud shouts of joyful exclamation. And surely we will not be dying with our song unsung; we plan to be singing way too loudly! Thoreau also says “I want to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

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Sounds like he knew a thing or two about enjoying each jelly bean…

In the Big Easy they often repeat the phrase: Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Translated this means Let the Good Times Roll

Ray Charles later made it famous with this song.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk4iOmb-osk

I encourage you today to:

Listen.

Sing.

Dance.

Live!

Fully!!

Happy Mardi Gras!

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Buddy Duncan

2/10/15

2/11/17

On Momentum… Or Keeping the Ball Rolling…

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Last Sunday the New England Patriots made history, winning their fifth Super Bowl. When fans look back on Super Bowl 51, they’ll remember it as one of the best Super Bowls ever, containing the biggest comeback ever. Also, without a doubt, it will be remembered as one of the most painful collapses in sports history. The Atlanta Falcons were ahead by the score of  28-3 with just a smidge over 6 minutes left in the game. At that point their statistical probability of winning was computed as 99.5%. The Falcons owner Arthur Blank made his way down to the field from his luxury box to begin the victory celebration.

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As owner of the team he personally paid for Super Bowl tickets for every employee, 269 in all, at a cost estimated at $988,575 for tickets alone. Nice Guy. Sadly, his celebration was not to come.

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Tom Brady and the Patriots orchestrated a comeback of epic proportions winning 34-28 in the first sudden death overtime in Super Bowl history.

What happened?

Many say the Falcons choked.

Maybe.

Others say Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

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Maybe.

Or maybe Momentum played a role.

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We’ve witnessed great moments like this before. When Championship teams mount such powerful comebacks it seems that somewhere during the game something shifts, something changes. In this Super Bowl game Atlanta was almost completely dominant for most of the first three quarters. They led by 25 points. That’s a lot for the opposing team overcome; especially with time ticking away. Yet, momentum shifted and suddenly everything New England was unable to do earlier in the game seemingly appeared virtually effortless late in the game.

Receivers who dropped passes early made catches late. hqdefault

Defenders who earlier couldn’t stop Atlanta suddenly made game changing plays.

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In the sports world we’ve seen things like this before. This year alone has seen epic comebacks by several other teams. Alabama lost to Clemson just weeks ago with only one second remaining as Clemson made play after play to come back and win the game.

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In the NBA Lebron James seemed to virtually will his Cleveland Cavaliers to victory in the final moments of their  seven game Championship series against the Golden State Warriors. Down three games to one in the best of seven series, Golden state only had to win one more game to become back to back NBA champions. Yet, despite their powerful lead they were unable to stop what appeared to be another prevailing shift in momentum that allowed Lebron and his teammates to come out victorious.download-8

Better yet let’s not miss the remarkable story of the Chicago Cubs this year as they won the 2016 World Series, which ended a 71-year National League pennant drought and a 108-year World Series championship drought, both of which are record droughts in Major League Baseball.

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They completed their remarkable journey after also being down three games to one in a best of seven series meaning they had to win three in a row. The odds were stacked against them but momentum changed and they changed history. In each of these cases players on the winning side never gave up. Players on the losing side said they could feel their seasons slipping away.

Sports has many powerful stories such as this. Boston Red Sox fans will forever tell stories of the end of the so called “Curse of the Bambino” when they vanquished  the  New York Yankees in 2004  as they came back  from a 0–3 best-of-seven deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS) by winning the next four games in a row and then continued to ride the momentum by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals with another four straight victories to win the 2004 World Series.

Many believe this may be the greatest all time baseball comeback victory.

Cub fans might disagree.

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Joe Montana of Super Bowl fame actually began his legend as “Joe Cool” and “The Comeback Kid”  as a college quarterback with Notre Dame. Years before his great NFL career he forged his own legend of greatness in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Texas. During the second quarter, as his team battled the University of Houston Montana had to fight off hypothermia as his body temperature dropped to 96 degrees. When the second half began and Houston leading 20–12, Joe stayed in the locker room, where Notre Dame medical staff gave him warmed intravenous fluids, covered him in blankets, and most famously, fed him chicken soup. He gamely returned to the field late in the third quarter with Houston leading 34-12.  Montana led the Irish to three touchdowns in the last eight minutes of the game, the final one coming as time expired, and Notre Dame won the game 35–34.

Some players have it and some don’t.

There are as many stories of people choking under pressure as there are tales of heroism in the hour of need.

The question arises, why and how does momentum shift?

Many of us have experienced moments such as these, where things are rolling along and suddenly take a turn for the worst.

Or just the opposite, things may have been going terribly wrong and suddenly we get on a roll and life just gets easier.

Athletic contests and games are simply illustrations of what we all witness on a regular basis. Momentum occurs each day in our lives. It seems like sometimes things are just flowing our way.  We can do no wrong. Life is out to bless us. Then, something happens and it seems like momentum has shifted and whatever we touch goes wrong.

Or turns to poo.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZJA9KsixpI

Momentum of course isn’t just for ballgames, ballplayers and sporting events. Again, we all experience momentum, both daily and in some cases seasonally.

Blessedly, in my neck of the woods,  it has been a rather mild winter.

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Our weather has been unseasonably warm, even by our standards.. That said, it’s still winter, of sorts. I see real winter images for many throughout other parts of the country though.

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Many would say winter is a more difficult season. It’s a harder time to be energized. Some relate that to the days being shorter, less sunlight, and being indoors more. Some people are diagnosed with SAD a specific type of depression related to the winter season.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

People have connected seasons and spoken of winter and momentum for many years.

Camus is famous for his quote on winter.

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Henry David Thoreau tested his own mettle while writing Walden and in it he speaks of the struggle of surviving the harsh New England winter. His words “Most men live lives of quiet desperation” seem apropos during the cold dark days of winter. He writes of the seasons and particularly how Spring breaks anew after the difficult and trying cold winter season; how it appears that the earth is filled with new energy, awakening, alive and anew.

Last week we celebrated Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and according to legend, that means six more weeks of winter are ahead. In honor of this event one TV station played the movie Groundhog Day as a loop, all day long. As I  channel surfed I caught several moments of Bill Murray’s performance as he played Phil Connors. In the movie Phil is an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism to no avail and attempting to get out of the loop by committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities. For a while it’s same stuff, different day.

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Eventually he attains a level of enlightenment and begins to appreciate the life he has. Ted Slowick actually argues that it’s the greatest movie ever made, closing his column with these thoughts: “Life is a gift, the movie says. You can choose to use it selfishly for personal gain, or you can use it to help others. The choice is up to you.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-slowik-groundhog-day-st-0201-20170131-story.html

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I have friends during this season who say they are just putting one foot after another, just making it through until the new season arrives and life may be energized again.

In my local community, we have many who have served overseas during our long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They sometimes have referred to their tours of duty as Groundhog Day. In his Iraq War memoir Victory Denied, MAJ Roger Aeschliman describes guarding assorted visiting dignitaries as his “Groundhog Day”:

“The dignitary changes but everything else is exactly the same. The same airplanes drop them off at the same places. The same helicopters take us to the same meetings with the same presenters covering the same topics using the same slides. We visit the same troops at the same mess halls and send them away from the same airport pads to find our own way home late at night. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until we are redeemed and allowed to go home to Kansas. Amen.”

Antithetically, some folks love the winter.

They see it as a time of rest and regeneration. A time of renewal. For those of us who prefer the warmer seasons and summer, there is a yearning for this season to pass.

I look outside and see my jet ski on its trailer, not where it belongs, in the water. It sits until warmer days will emerge and it is returned to its rightful place, afloat and ready for action. In a matter of weeks the seasons will change. The weather will warm. On Sunday March 12th we will happily have a time change and the days will suddenly, magically get longer. And with that seasonal change we all are impacted.

For many that means renewed momentum.

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As we slog through the winter days I’m reminded of the mythological story of Greek legend of Sisyphus.  He was punished for his deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity.

Surviving winter sometimes feels like pushing a big rock uphill.

Blessedly seasons change.

And momentum shifts.

As with the tide there is always ebb and flow.

Whatever your current season, things change. If it is a season of adversity and conflict, this too will pass. If it is a season of blessing, pay attention to the joys of momentum and stay alert to keep the ball rolling.

We are not eternally punished like Sisyphus.

Our day will come.

We will reach the peak and rolling the boulder down the other side will be worth the effort.

Camus also said this: The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Byron Katie says “When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.”  Her point is sometimes to realize what season we are in and just yield a bit. This too shall pass.

We can’t always control our circumstances but we can control our thinking.

For many years I have kept the following words of Chuck Swindoll posted prominently in my office. I first read this some thirty years ago. It hasn’t failed me yet.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Even in the winter season. 

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BD 2/9/17