I remember once being at a party at a friend's apartment when I noticed, in the middle of the room, a woman of about eighty who had the most beautiful face. More than that, a beautiful light shone through, making her appear even more beautiful. I had to find out who this woman was. I eventually inched my way close enough to her to talk to her. We chatted for a while, and in the course of the conversation she told me about a game she and her husband played every day, and what a difference it made in their lives. She called it the Lift Game.
I have been bothered of late by something I saw on a recent CBS 60 Minutes broadcast. Two lawyers from the Midwest were defending a position they had taken. The more they were pressed on their position the more they tried to say they had done the right thing.
Tim Russert, of NBC News, wrote a book about his father, whom he called Big Russ. The book is about his relationship with his father, who was quite representative of blue-collar workers in an era of a generation ago.
The other morning, while riding down on the elevator (I am always amazed how much conversation can happen on an elevator ride), a woman who always has a happy countenance got on. To match her upbeat manner, whenever I see her I greet her with a hearty, “Good morning. It’s good to see you. You lift my spirits.”
The other morning while I was eating breakfast my wife was scanning the lead stories in the newspaper. She uttered an “oh no!” “What did you read?” I asked. Patrick Swayze, a favorite actor and a man that she had met on several occasions, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Then she said, “Arthur, life is so very fragile, isn’t it?” And it is. We don’t know what a day will bring—what tragedy, what loss, or what hurt.
The pigeon seems to be everywhere in the city. I have yet to hear someone say how wonderful is the pigeon. People will talk about even a sparrow in better terms. Pigeons seems to be regarded as a necessary nuisance.
For many years I have spent my summer vacation on a small Maine island. I became good friends with Charlotte, the original owner of the cottage. She was a bright, alert, witty and with-it woman, a fun person to be with. We developed an early summer ritual. When she would see a light in my cottage, meaning that my family and I were there, she would drop in and we would get caught up on each other’s lives.
Mark Twain had a unique perspective on doing good. He said, “Always do right. Some people will be gratified, and the others will be astonished.” Doing good – with no expectation of reward – can revolutionize your life. You will be transformed.
I am saddened whenever I hear someone display little interest in learning more about life and about himself or herself. To attempt the difficult and sometimes painful task of answering life’s tough questions is a burden which some people would rather avoid. However, the person who shuns that task is usually a problem to himself as well as to others. He is turned inward instead of outward to life.
There’s a common malady running rampant in the 21st century that might be called the “rushing syndrome.” We rush to work…we rush home…we even rush to stop rushing. But we don’t stop until we have a full-blown case of physical and mental exhaustion – the rushing syndrome. Something is wrong and we know it. The symptoms are a sense of futility and dissatisfaction, worry and fatigue due to overwork in trying to get somewhere fast without a clear set of directions. The person who has the malady knows he wants to go somewhere, to make a constructive contribution to life, but he’s so busy rushing that he doesn’t take the time to evaluate his progress.
“I want to simplify my life.” How many of us have said those very words? Most of us would do well to work at uncomplicating, throwing things out, discarding parts of us that need to be discarded.
There is a request I frequently receive that goes like this, "Arthur, I have an important meeting tomorrow morning at 10:00. It’s a big one, and I’m worried about it. Will you pray for me?"
Do you remember your New Year’s resolution from last year? If so, have you declared victory? Can you say, “I did it, I succeeded”? My sense is that about one percent of us can say that we succeeded in keeping last year’s resolution. With that percentage of success, is the New Year’s resolution a worthwhile effort?
When I was a young boy, my father used a repetitive phrase which, after a time, lodged itself in the basement of my consciousness and has been an integral part of who I am. “Pass it on,” my father would say when someone did me a kindness. Or when he gave me something, lest I’d feel the need to repay him, he would say, “Pass it on to your children.”
I love Thanksgiving (and not because it gives me an excuse to eat too much). It gets me centered and reminds me to stop my busyness to think more broadly about life and its blessings – to realize how dependent I am on God and others. Whenever I do this, my life has more balance. By acknowledging how very dependent I am on God and on the people in my life, I strengthen those connections.
It was an extraordinary experience for me. It’s been on my mind a lot lately and when I think of it, I feel awe. And so I should because what I describe was a surprise visit from heaven.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, my predecessor, has just retired and I was in the midst of the biggest challenge of my life, when an even greater struggle confronted me. Four weeks after I had assumed my role as senior minister at Marble, I was hospitalized for major surgery.
I have several stories that I call signature stories. They describe ideas that represent my basic understanding of life and my core beliefs. Each time I tell one, I am again centered in truth and reality. Such is the account of an Emperor butterfly.
Here's a question I have heard from many people over the years: what do you do when you are a mature adult working in a profession at which you are performing well, are liked and respected, yet at which you feel incomplete, and even misplaced? Deep down you just know you are supposed to be doing something else, and you sense your life will be fulfilled only when that intuition is acted upon.
There are two words in the vocabulary of living that ennoble and ease all human interaction. Without them, the world would be a cold and harsh place. They are “thank you.”
Every time the words thank you are spoken, at least two people benefit: the person who expresses thanks, and the one who is thanked.
I once heard the story of a tourist visiting a cathedral where an artisan was working on a huge mosaic. A vast empty wall was before the artist, and the tourist asked, “Aren’t you worried about all that space that you need to fill up and how you will ever finish it?”
From time to time, we will feature a guest blogger from our community, perhaps a staff member, minister or even congregant. They will share unique perspectives and illuminate aspects of our church that we hope you will find interesting and compelling.
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