It’s Been Awhile, Or….Just Thinkin’

•March 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had to make some changes, set some priorities, move some stuff on back and some other stuff up front. My body keeps acting like it’s old. I gotta give it some space.

On the other hand, my coworkers thought I was a decade younger than I am. The preservatives must be working. Pass the bottle on down one more time.

My mom shocked me recently by getting her truck stuck in the mud while she was trying to chase down the end of a rainbow. I guess it is genetic.

Will my kids know that I am a person who also chases rainbows? Do they realize that I am impulsive and fun and silly and a little mystical under my responsible mommy-me?

It’s hard to write for fun when you write for a living.

NaNoWriMo – missed it.

I’m glad I don’t have ADD. This post would REALLY be all over the place if I did.

I’ve adopted two puppies this year. They have added a whole new layer of peace to my life. Four dogs now. When I walk across the room and pet each one that looks up and wags at me, I feel like a priest bestowing blessings on excited children. Sometimes, when no one is around, I say, “Bless you, my doggy” as I pet each one.

 

9/11 Memorial Ceremony – Nash Community College

•September 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

9/11 Memorial Ceremony – Nash Community College.

 

I am honored to have graduated from Nash Community College.

Poem for Dr. Watson, Or….Remember

•July 31, 2013 • 2 Comments

A poem for Dr. Watson, my Lit teacher at Nash Community College, who is retiring…

Yes, I will remember you,
And in my prayers will keep you,
For I know the gifts you ardently shared
In knowledge, care, and learned discourse,
Launched my drifting craft onto a different course,
Than any channel, on my own, I would have dared…

And when our prayers meld in the ears of heaven,
May our joys be increased, and our hardships be leavened.
-Jenny Braswell

(In response to a stanza from a poem written by her great-uncle John Charles McNeill, first Poet Laureate of North Carolina. The poem is called “Sunburnt Boys” and the stanza is:

You will not, will you, soon forget
When I was one of you
Nor love me less that time
Has borne my craft to currents new
Nor shall I ever cease to share
Your hardships and your joys. . .)

“North Carolina, In the Morning Rise Up,” Or….Rocky Mount’s Rise blog

•July 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Because Lori, one of my favorite bloggers (http://loriharris.me/), is one of those people who gets off her butt and actually does something instead of waiting for someone else to do it first and then invite her in on the action…..

And because too many people in Rocky Mount are looking for something to love about this town….but don’t know where to find the people who do love it…

And because you get what you expect, and if you expect nastiness that’s all you’ll notice, but if you expect beauty and out-of-the-ordinariness you’ll find it everywhere…

And because I love this crazy place where I live, and the crazy people in it, and all the craziness I’ve done and experienced while I was here…

I’ve been honored to kick off the new Rise blog about Rocky Mount, started by the absolutely amazing Lori, and open for everyone to write for and send photos to, with this post: http://rockymountstories.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/rocky-mount/ 

An excerpt: “It’s the railroad tracks. It’s sitting on the deck at Chico’s, staring at the river, talking about all the things that matter in life and feeding tortilla chips to the turtles. It’s watching people fish at City Lake. It’s Charlie, the homeless man who stops in the parking lot at Good Shepherd to ask for a prayer and a snack and to tell me that God loves me and he does, too, and he won’t let nobody bother me when I walk down the street.”

Read it. And Rise Up. And Share.

Modeling Morality, Or….Get Off Your Butt, Or Don’t, and Do Something, Or Don’t

•February 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“Moral” is not a stand-alone adjective. It is not a badge that you can wear. It is not a self-diagnosis, not a self-portrait that you can pull down from the wall and show off to the world, saying “Oh, here, look at me – this is what a good person I am!”  And it is definitely not a cloak and hood that you get to wear just because you happen to belong to a group claiming to offer virtue as a perk of membership.

The state of being a “moral” person requires constant self-reinvention, self-reflection. It is shifting; to be moral requires taking action. Or not taking action. It always, always, involves making choices. You don’t become a moral person at the age of 14 and remain so until you are 72 without working at it. You don’t automatically attain the adjective as a result of some ritual, and you can’t use another person’s morality and claim it as your own. Being a good person, a moral person, requires conscious decision on your part, a sense of what is right and the self-discipline to work for it – every single moment of every single day.

Being a good person is so simple. Being a good person is so complicated. It is simple because all it requires is for you to do what you can, when you should, with what you’ve got – to make the world a better place for someone, somewhere, every single moment of every single day. It is complicated because being moral often conflicts with our basest human emotions – pride, selfishness, greed, self-righteousness, prejudice, and snobbery.

Make the world a better place for someone, somewhere, every single moment of every single day

Someone, somewhere – not everyone, everywhere. Not all of us have the scope of influence to make a difference on a large scale, but that’s okay. Because we don’t have to if we haven’t been placed in a place where we can. All that is required is that we work within the parameters we’ve been given, not rail against the powers that be because we can’t do more.

How prideful is it, how pompous, to say, “I should be doing more, so I won’t do anything for now.” God might not have given you power, but if he gave you a mouth to smile at a stranger with, you’d better do it. It might not bring you acclaim in the world, but it will bring a moment of peace to a fellow traveler on this planet.

Every single moment, of every single day – You have a choice, every single moment, to make the world a better place or not, because every single moment, the world is brand new. You choose to smile or not to smile. You choose to get out of bed early or to cuddle with your dog a little longer. You choose to flick off the idiot that cut you off or to let it go. You choose to tip 15% or 20%. You choose to get up off your a— and pick the trash up from the side of the road or to stay home and generate more trash.

 Each time a similar scenario presents itself, the choice that does the most good might be different. Smiling when someone you don’t like fails is not going to make the day better for her, after all, and sometimes letting someone go blithely along without correction sets up someone else down the road for danger. It is good sometimes to jump out of bed and rake your neighbor’s yard; other days it is good to be still and give your pet the extra love and attention he craves.

I can’t think of an example right now of when staying home and generating trash would be a better choice, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one – and that’s the crux of the whole morality thing right there…

It is the honest attempt to make the best choice of reactions at any moment, with the intent of making that millisecond that you are sharing with that person or animal or place the best possible millisecond ever, that counts for good. Morality isn’t a set of rules that govern every interaction and dictate your response. Morality is having a broad mission of making the world better, and then targeting every action or inaction, every moment, to reach that goal. Morality is flexible in action but specific in result – responding to the pain of the moment, trying to make it better for one person at a time, despite the dictates of those who claim authority. Even Jesus showed us that, over and over in the stories passed down about his ministry – no matter what your church or parents, social circle or political party, have tried to tell you.

Morality springs from the goodness inside, and lack of it cannot be rectified from the outside. Morality requires work, sweat, discernment, and decisions. You can’t be a good person by following others and doing what they do and saying what they say. To be a good person, you have to get off your butt, or don’t, or do something, or don’t – fully, intentionally, and reverently.

It’s Been Awhile, Or…What I Think I Know

•January 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“When we know something and rest in that knowing we limit our vision. We will only see what our knowing will allow us to see. In this way experience can be our enemy.” – Zoketsu Norman Fischer (I found this quote at Brad Warner’s Hardore Zen blog.)

I hadn’t realized it has been six months since I posted here. Might be six months before I do it again. But this quote above caught me, because, as you may know if you once read my blog pretty regularly, I am pretty skeptical of claiming knowledge. Why I am is a very long and convoluted explanation (yes, I realize might be classified as a pun….purely unintentional), so I’m not going to go there. 

However…..I thought it might be a good time to think about some of the things I think I know. Then I can start considering whether any of these points of knowledge are limiting me…while hoping I am not limited in my consideration by other things I think I know….this is getting more ridiculously complicated the more I think about it…

Anyway, here are some things I think I know (and hope they’re so):

  • Nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it will be.
  • Horse grooming can be a Tea Ceremony.
  • Dreading the future makes you miss the present.
  • If you don’t know where you’re going, you will end up in some fascinating places.
  • Give every chance you get.
  • Love every chance you get.
  • Help every chance you get.
  • Do what you have to do to get the sleep you need, unless sleeping will stop you from doing the three points above.
  • Civilization sucks. But we gotta be a part of it, so we have to do our part to make it suck less.
  • It doesn’t matter if there is or is not a meaning of life. What matters is that we have to get through it, so we ought to make it easier for everyone we know.
  • Children don’t let you get away with sloppy thinking.
  • Horses don’t let you get away with sloppy body awareness.
  • Parents don’t let you get away with sloppy houses.
  • Trust is a gift. It’s the most expensive and fragile gift you will ever receive. It’s breakable, and you can’t just go out and buy a new one.
  • The sky is blue. Except for when it is black. Or orange. Or pink.
  • God is in the trees.
  • Petting a dog releases endorphins that can block pain.
  • Life isn’t just bigger…it’s HUGE!
  • When you don’t know much, the world is a wide-open, exciting, exhilarating place to be.
  • The true impact of anything can’t be judged in less than a century. The ripples have to reach the end of the pond before we can look back and say, “Oh…that’s what ended up different.”
  • I spell much worse now than I did when I was younger.
  • You only ever have as much power as a person, or a horse, or a dog allows you to have. Cats will never even consider allowing you to have any.
  •  The ride depends on the balance and the balance depends on the seat.

That’s all I’ve got right now.

There But For The Grace of God, Or….There Go I Again

•July 25, 2012 • 1 Comment

When I wrote the post Economic Distress and Religion, Rural View (click on it to check it out) back in June 2009, I was doing pretty well. I had finally gotten it all together in life – a good paying job at a nonprofit helping people, strong marriage, wonderful kids, buying a home, financially secure.

I still have wonderful kids, thank God.

And thank God that when I read that post today, when it seems that everything I worked so hard for is slipping away, I can read it and still agree with it, and that I am still proud of what I wrote back then. I was very sympathetic and empathetic to my future self, the me that is me now, even though I didn’t really think it would be me one day. Not this time.

Wonderful kids, I tell myself. I love my wonderful kids.

Back in high school I had to memorize the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Although I despise the last line and think it makes all of the powerful things he said before it seem trite, I more and more often find my mind drifting back to that poem as a reminder of how to be strong….

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!””

And so I remind myself that I shall not complain today. I will not rehash the losses, will not mourn for the unfairness, will not dwell in the drama that is the consequence for really, truly, expansively living life.

I instead will thank the Lord that he has given me the friends, the community, the church, and the family that He has. I will thank Him for giving me strength when I don’t feel like I have any. I will thank Him that I live with the rural view of life. I will thank Him that I still have tools to build with, worn out though they might seem right now.

What is faith for me? Faith is acting as if what I believe is true, even when I can’t see or feel it.

What do I believe? I believe that the most important of these is love, and that love is one gift that I have in abundance. Even for myself, which is sometimes the hardest person in the world for me to extend that gift to.

Life is bigger. Life is grace. Life is love.

 
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