Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quality of Life

Because I am one of those “right-brain-dominant” people who process life’s input in a conceptual way … I have learned (from many, many combined years and experiences) to back away from things … allow my funky brain to process the elements of what has been observed … permit my mind to form a perceptual image that comes together in a coherent form … and only then … respond. Here is an example.

I was raised in an environment regulated by a set of standards that demanded perpetual self-deprecation and denial of worth. This system is based (to some twisted degree) in the fundamentalist, religious teachings that would have us see ourselves not as loved and wondrously created individuals … but as innately flawed and unworthy. That was the climate of my earlier life … no more! There is, in that still-thriving-world, a prevailing demand for dismissal of recognition and declination of compliment. And all in the name of “humility.” I now offer what I have learned … to the contrary.

My memory of that sphere of stifling dictates was recently stirred by a dear friend’s response to my public mentioning of his act of loving expression. His comment (after reading my acknowledgement of his thoughtfulness) was,
“the personal recognition was not necessary, but appreciated nonetheless.” Kinda leaves you chilled, doesn’t it? I was left with a feeling that has taken me a while of contemplation and consideration to sort through (in my INFP, right-brain sort of way.) Here is what I have concluded from that thought process.

Contrary to his statement, my expression of my heart’s sentiment is, most assuredly, necessary. Absolutely necessary and elementally required … for the sustenance of the quality of life that I am committed to being individually responsible for. For, My Dear Reader, I am not satisfied with the idea of living some cadaverous form of life, maintained at the rudimentary level that would be reflected in that image of one who is bound to existence by the barest of “life support” mechanisms. Indeed not! Each breath of my life is invested in knowing the highest “quality of life” that can be realized in whatever circumstance presented. And I have committed myself to the same for all whose lives I am given an opportunity to affect. I intend the highest possible quality of life for us all.

I know that I can enhance the most barren of surroundings with a kind word. The most stark of settings can be transformed with a smile. A song lightens the darkest of moments and the beauty of even the most childish of artistic efforts serves to elevate any setting. And, I ask you, are any of these “necessary?” Of course they are! They are necessary to a finer quality of life lived in that moment. They are the necessary response to any moment’s option for betterment or diminishment. Necessity is the presiding rule when considering whether or not to enhance any situation with our offering of our better self … if we want to make our world an ever better one.

So when you offer that kindness … demonstrate that loving sentiment (in whatever form you are comfortable with in that moment) … say that generous word … or give that gift that is the expression of your heart’s desire … I will acknowledge your spirit of willingness to make my world better … with a simple “Thank you.” And I will thank Life for your contribution to my life’s betterment. I will be happily grateful for your enrichment of my present-moment world. And I will lift the spirits and hopes of others with my telling of your willingness to contribute to our world’s beauty and enjoy-ability. This is a worthy “lens” through which to view our time together … and I am committed to polishing and offering that lens for your viewing … as frequently and in as many ways as possible.

So I ask that you … STOP … before responding to the word or behavior of another. And … consider … if what you are about to say or do is going to validate, or cast a veil of doubt, over their offering. Are you at the brink of dashing their expression with a cold splash of self-deprecation borne of less-than-uplifting habits learned in your past? Please allow me to urge you to make the choice to, instead, encourage, support, and contribute your part to that person’s willingness to improve your world … with a loving … “Thanks.” Then lean back … and bask in a world made better … in whatever small way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Responsive Spirits

I was in dire need of a touch today. And Life knew that. So there they were … messages from two of my loving Friends. One from Carole, who has been a cherished element of my world for nearly forty years and whose life-stories I know many of. The other from Debra-Ann, a far more recent Friend whom I know very little about. Carole (knowing me as she does) sent a story that she knows is in tune with my Spirit, whilst Debra-Ann sent a brief note of encouragement and endearment. Both were received by a thirsty soul and each ministered to a painfully aching need in my present day. I share, with you, the story forwarded by Carole. The note from Debra-Ann I keep private. To them both, I extend my sincere “Thank You!”

The Story from Carole (source unknown)

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. She dictated and I wrote:

“Dear God,

Will you please take special care of our dog, Abbey? She died yesterday and is in heaven. We miss her very much. We are happy that you let us have her as our dog even though she got sick. I hope that you will play with her. She liked to play with balls and swim before she got sick. I am sending some pictures of her so that when you see her in heaven you will know she is our special dog. But I really do miss her.

Meredith Claire

P S: Mommy wrote the words after Meredith told them to her.”

We put that in an envelope with two pictures of Abbey, and addressed it to “God in Heaven.” We put our return address on it. Then Meredith stuck some stamps on the front (because, as she said, it may take lots of stamps to get a letter all the way to heaven) and that afternoon I let her drop it into the letter box at the post office.
For a few days, she would ask if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch. Curious, I went to look at it. It had a gold star card on the front and said "To Meredith" in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith took it in and opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers, "When a Pet Dies".

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God, in its opened
envelope (which was marked “Return to Sender: Insufficient address” ). On the opposite page, one of the pictures of Abbey was taped under the words "For Meredith" We turned to the back cover, and there was the other picture of Abbey, and this handwritten note on pink paper:

"Dear Meredith,

I know that you will be happy to know that Abbey arrived safely and soundly in Heaven! Having the pictures you sent to me was such a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. You know, Meredith, she isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me--just like she stays in your heart--young and running and playing. Abbey loved being your dog, you know.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets! -- so I can't keep your beautiful letter. I am sending it to you with the pictures so that you will have this book to keep and remember Abbey. One of my angels is taking care of this for me. I hope the little book helps. Thank you for the beautiful letter. Thank your mother for sending it. What a wonderful mother you have! I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I am in heaven but wherever there is love, I am there also.

God and the special angel who wrote this after God told her the words."

As a parent and a pet lover, this is one of the kindest things that I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is some very kind soul working in the dead letter office. Just wanted to share this act of compassion.

And here, My Dear Reader, you have a lovely story that illustrates what I have benefited from today. That is … two caring souls responding to that impulse to reach out and demonstrate a loving spirit. Such has been my gift today. And I am happy to share my joy with you as I thank both of my Friends for their willingness to follow the leading of their hearts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Your Voice

You have, within you, a Voice … a whispering Messenger awaiting your attention. It’s constant desire is to give utterance to your Soul’s higher aspirations. But, alas, the cacophony, of your life’s daily requirements, drowns out that Voice’s requests for attention.

It is into this place that I step. It is in this place that I have chosen to respond to my heart's calling. For, you see, I am compelled to devote my energies to the provision of a receptive and advantageous stage for your inner Voice. A stage that will feature your Spirit’s finer motivations. This is the reason for this blog. And, in this blog, I offer whatever staging; whatever “orchestration”; whatever environmental enhancements I can provide … to support your appreciation of … your respect for … your celebration of … your own individual finer instincts.

For, My Dear Reader, I am aware of those finer potentials held within you. I relish those nobler thoughts and choices available to you. And I will do whatever I can to allow you the same awareness.

And, all the while, I thank you for your willingness to invest a moment of yourself in visiting this site and opening your heart to my entreaties. For, I remain, as always, Your constant Friend and loving Servant.

IMAGES through the extraordinary talents and gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Sunday, August 12, 2007


We are in a season of electioneering and campaign rhetoric ad nauseam. I find myself wanting to hear some report, some testimonial of any act of caring, generous, and selfless living, demonstrating a humble involvement by any candidate for public service. There seem to be countless methods of evaluation and analysis for selection of a person deemed to be worthy of a vote … all based on political blarney and self-serving resume building. Here I offer, as a simple and direct method of evaluation, an alternative means of measurement for us all to reflect on … At Set of Sun.

At Set of Sun
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went…
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay…
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face…
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost…
Then count that day as worse than lost.


If, At Set of Sun, you find your day accordingly “well spent”… you get my vote! Serve happily.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Experience of the Bee

When here … at the center of this miracle of artistic, geometric, chromatic, and physical wonder … there is: no world conflict … no political discord … absence of theological dispute ... no clamour of individual dissention … neither expectation nor disappointment … only the mesmerizing invitation to ever-deeper enfolding of myself in the delicious delicacy of these tantalizing petals.

In this moment, I understand and envy the experience of the bee.

IMAGE (from Chelsea Flower Show), BBC News/Getty Images

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just ... because!

Without theme, moral, lesson, insight, or method ... It's My blog and I can share something of uplifting beauty and splendor with you ..."Just ... BECAUSE!"

This magnificent IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Under the "Take a Moment Tree"

It was on 7 May, of last year, when we last visited this thought. And today, I am drawn to the subject, yet again. So, come … please join me, here, under the “Take a Moment Tree” … and I will tell you what this matter of “Accountability” means to me.

I am accountable to Life for the answer to THE big question… namely “How good a job did you do and/or are you doing at BEing John-Michael?” Not “what titles did you hold?” nor “what roles did you play?” nor “what offices did you hold?” Not “how much?” of anything will determine the success of my short while on this earth, but “How did you respond to and use that unique treasure and gift of your very own individual design by which you were created?” That is the scale upon which I will be weighed day by day and through eternity. So I am compelled to respond, without reservation, to each opportunity served to me each day in the knowledge that all things are under the control of the Creator of it all and my opportunities each have a purpose. And I do not want to disappoint myself … deprive that other person … or lessen the value of that experience by withholding any part of ME from each moment.

For example, there was the moment when I pulled over to the curb and exchanged salutations with the lady who was walking her dog in the early-morning, before-preparation-for-work, pre-dawn stillness. (This is the time that folks are accustomed to seeing the newspaper delivery guy [me] who has been there every day for the past fifteen years.) We shared comments about now-forgotten things, and then (in response to the urging of my “Still, Small, Inner Voice“) I said something like “Please forgive my intrusion, but I detect in your tone, an obvious lack of enthusiasm for the job that you are engaged in.”

This is the moment when LIFE rewards my exercise in courage with an affirmation that I have ventured onto “prepared soil“. The lady began to unreservedly reveal her unhappiness with both of the presently-engaged-in jobs that she felt trapped into. Like so many today, her economic requirements necessitated her working more than one job and, like many, if not most, she found no satisfaction in either of hers. I then revealed to her the possibilities available through career counseling and gave her some examples of successes that I have known personally. I explained the functions of some of the testing tools and illustrated the ways in which the test results can be translated into a satisfying and even enjoyable career.

Some months later, in response to my passing wave, she stopped me and told me that she had decided to follow through on researching options for herself. Still many months later, I saw a ‘U-Haul’ trailer in the street with several people engaged in the never-enviable task of moving-day labor. To my surprise, the lady flagged me down (I didn’t even know that she lived there) and announced “I took your advice. As a result of the testing and counseling that I pursued, I am (as you can plainly see) moving to a new location to begin a new career that is the fulfillment of my dreams. Thank you for your advice.”

I went my way and she hers without even knowing each other’s names. All that matters is that I gave Life an opportunity to let that young lady know that there was a waiting and ready potential for something special for her individual, unique life. And all that was required of me was the willingness to allow Life to use the experience and knowledge acquired over my personal walk and offer it to this person who was ready for it and receptive to it. Her life was transformed… and I am forever blessed.

So, you see, My Dear Friend, willingness, availability, and receptiveness are the only requirements for us to be of immediate and tangible service to that world that is all around each of us… moment by moment, through each day that is given to us. And in the participation in these opportunities, we can make our world a bit better… person by person, experience by experience… you and I , living in love, can change life for the better.

I invite you to be bold, open, and alive in the moments of your life. And, as we look into each of our personal, intimate, and private “mirrors” of reflection, we can know that we have responded appropriately to those gifts presented to us by Life… those fleeting opportunities that were given to us… that we responded to Life’s summons to BE that unique individual that was needed in that fleeting moment. And that we embraced our personal calling for or own Accountability … to ourselves… to that other soul … and to Life.

Please trust me… it’s great fun!

IMAGE is through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunshine and Rain

Today ... I am enjoying a beautiful recollection ...

Life causes the sun to rise on the Evil and on the Good ...

and sends rain ... on the Just and on the Unjust

I am so very pleased that I have these references to be recalled ... and shared with you.

TEXT: the 5th chapter of the book of Matthew, verse 45 (my own version)
IMAGES: Through the talents and gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Friday, August 03, 2007

War ... Truth

In war, Truth is the first casualty.

(525 BC - 456 BC)

IMAGE: Neil Jones (viewer) BBC NEWS

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"What a Wonderful World"

The sound (and feel) of rolling thunder greeted me this morning as I prepared my first cup of “getting ready to go to work” coffee. “Going to be a morning of delivering the newspaper in the rain” I said to myself. I enjoyed the drive to the warehouse in the absence of the usual summer humidity that was the gift of the slow drizzling rain, and appreciated the cooler air brought in with the weather ‘front’ that passed through yesterday.

Then, I turned the radio on to set a mood and tempo for the morning’s work. Static and noise was all that greeted me. “Well, I guess that the antenna has finally given way to allowing rain to soak into it, or its cable, or connections, or all of the above” I surmised. “Can’t expect much more from it when it has performed so well for seventeen years.” I then turned the radio off, and decided to choose an “internal soundtrack” for reflection as I went about accomplishing my tasks. The one that I chose was the one that played on the radio yesterday … prompting me to shut the radio off at the final note of the song, in order to preserve, and allow me to dwell on, the echoing of the melody … the image of the singer (the incomparable Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong)… and the sweetness and rich profundity of the lyrics … for the balance of that day. So, this morning, I resurrected that song from my mind’s archive … and accepted it as the soundtrack for my morning. I share it with you now … and will comment on it after …


(George Weiss / Bob Thiele)

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Oh yeah

Ahhhhhhh … how sweet it is! And there you have it, My Dear Friend and kind Reader … the power of choice of soundtrack. For, you see, I can do nothing about the rain (which is responded to, by most [if not all] of those whose job is to deliver newspapers in it, as a misery and an inconvenient complication to life.) I have no ability to correct or undo the effects of rain water seeping into some hidden part of my poor old van’s radio antenna. But I, and I alone, have infinite control over … as well as absolute responsibility for … my personal choice of a spiritual, mental, and attitudinal “soundtrack” to accompany the given “lyrical” details of my life.

And I am here to tell you that my choice, this morning, resulted in a lovely and rewarding symphony of circumstances. As I played that song in my soul, I stopped at the entrance to one of the cul-de-sacs, that I make deliveries into, and responded to Life’s whisper within, by turning right where I always turn left. This brought me into another cul-de-sac as one of my customers was carrying out trash cans for this morning’s pick-up. Whereas this reclusive and shyly solitary person and I do greet each other with distant smiles and enthusiastic waves … this morning’s exchange (while brief and fleeting) was one of eye-to eye gladness of presence accompanied by a very few words of sincere well-wishing. A wonderful rarity that would not have been possible absent the accompaniment of the spirit of that song in my heart … and my openness to the quiet whisper of Life’s “still, small, voice” responded to. I proceeded from there with a grateful “Thank you Life” whispered within.

Then, as I progressed further along, I saw another who (had I not chosen to alter my usual pattern) I would not normally see. She was also carrying the accumulation of cans, boxes, and ’stuff’ that were destined for pick-up by the trash haulers. She was attired in a ’frumpy’ house-coat, or bath-robe (whichever may be the case … I am not much for awareness of appropriate names for such), her hair wrapped in some sort of bandana or kerchief … altogether fitting in a drizzling rain, and the requisite slippers. She looked up at my approach … I reached out of the van’s window with the newspaper extended to her (to save her having to pick it up … wet … from the driveway) … and playfully commented (with appropriate theatrical emphasis) … “I just LOVE the fashion statement!! … No, No, I REALLY do!” (Big smile) I then bade her a good day and drove along my way.

But wait!! There is more. I have never … in all of these nearly-twenty years that I have been delivering her paper … had an opportunity to tell her what has always been on my mind, and in my heart, each time I have seen her. (Song playing in my spirit and me willingly giving myself to it) … I put the van in reverse … she stopped what she was doing and looked up … “I was willing to take a moment to be a wise guy … now I am willing to take a moment to be truthful … Since the very first time that I saw you … I have been smitten with you! So there! There you have the other side of the coin.” I waved. She said a quiet “Thanks” accompanied by a lovely smile. I drove away once again and continued my work.

Simple little “Life Things.” Uncomplicated and unscripted human exercises. Unplanned responses to opportunities. All made possible because I was willing to employ an enabling background to the factual, elemental, concrete “lyrics” of my life’s pathway today. I made the conscious choice to place the “paints” of my life’s details on a “canvass” of beauty. The “stuff” of life is handed to us through the circumstances and details of our environment and our responsibilities within that environment. We can, quite often, do nothing about that “stuff.” But, My Darling Reader, we have, as the gift of Life’s beautiful providence, all power over our election of accompanying soundtracks for our individual “dance of life.” Whilst I thank you for your patient consideration of mine … I lovingly bid you … give yourself the gift of a magnificent symphony … today.
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