As I began with the activity of Day 1, I was traveling from New York to Las Vegas. Consequently, I didn't have to look for opportunities in which to practice the activity. I was surrounded all day by people who were different from me, people I could easily be tempted to judge, people who were outside my usual circle. I wasn't feeling well, and was short on patience. I even said to myself out loud at one point, "I have no patience at all today!" Still, the Advent activity kept me tethered to God throughout the day. I somehow remembered to smile at everyone I was tempted to judge, and I was aware of doing it when I did. I wonder how my relationships with the whole human family might be altered, if I did this on a regular basis!
It seems that everywhere we turn these days we're hearing vitriol, anger, and hate. Yet, we are human beings sharing a common life on planet earth. We have, every single one of us, been made in the image of God. In other words, we are divine beings housed in an outer physical body. It's extremely sad when our focus is on anger rather than sharing that common humanity -- that common divinity.
A priest friend of mine, The Rev. John Harmon, changed my life forever when he said "kindness is holiness." It's so easy to think of holiness as something beyond us, or as some degree of moral perfection which only a very few can attain. But, if holiness can be as simple as kindness then we can all be holy.
Another teacher for me yesterday was my waiter at a restaurant in the Las Vegas airport. I made a mini-vid of what he said here: https://www.facebook.com/renee.miller.718/videos/10212702007521673/
With all that we are experiencing these days from news broadcasts to Washington, from our communities to our own lives, I just wonder what might happen if some of us just chose to be kind - today - and then, maybe again tomorrow and the day after. If you think we'd feel better and bring a little more peace into the world, type "Just be kind" in the comment section below!
I had returned to Vegas from Memphis after a week long trip and was headed straight to Boise to officiate at the wedding of my godson, Paul, and his fiancé Elissa. ( And, as a point of personal privilege, may I say how incredibly proud I am of these two young people? Both on their way to Yale - he to law school and she to work at Yale in bio-technology! And their spirits are as abundant as their smarts)!
In order to arrive in Boise with a fresh outfit, I decided to send a pair of pants, a t-shirt, sweater, and a pair of bright green Nike sport socks to the laundry at my Vegas hotel. When it was finished, a very polite Valet brought it to my room. Everything was hung in plastic with panache - the items looking more elegant than they ever had when I actually bought the items from the store! I thought, "Wow, what a great dry cleaning company!"
Also attached to the hanging clothes was a small white box. The kind of gift box you might use when giving someone a sweater for Christmas. I couldn't imagine why a box had arrived with my clothes. I took off the top and saw fresh white tissue paper carefully folded over what was inside. It was as pristine as if it had come straight from Saks Fifth Avenue. I was becoming more intrigued by the minute. I slowly unwrapped the beautiful tissue wondering what in the world could be in the box -- and found -- my one pair of bright green Nike sport socks! Only in Vegas!
For a moment I was catapulted back to the earlier glamour days of Vegas and remembered being amidst such elegance and 'class' when I was a young child. As I stared at my socks lying on soft tissue in a beautiful gift box, I realized that even a small pair of green sport socks could be treated with honor and respect. Even a small pair of green sport socks could have elegance and 'class.'
It made me wonder where all the 'class' has gone. Why have we become satisfied with messy stores, low quality goods, tawdry useless trinkets? Why are we content to sell ourselves and others short when it comes to excellence? Why are we willing to be so busy that we can't take the time to give respect and honor to the the least important things, and even more importantly, persons among us? Have beauty and the care of people and things taken a backseat to convenience, multi-tasking, and marketing dollars?
Every day we have the opportunity to witness excellence, elegance, and class. We have only to look at a stunning wildflower, or watch a sunrise, or hear an ocean wave, or see someone we love. God has placed us in a world of beauty and abundance -- in nature, in things, in work, in people. Yet, we squander that beauty when we settle for what is less than the best in ourselves, in our work, in our possessions, in our food, in our relationships. Imagine how different the world might be if we just treated everything and everyone with honor, respect and excellence!
I know that I felt differently about those bright green Nike sport socks when I pulled them out of the elegant tissue paper in the white gift box. And, I want to care more for that pair of socks now. Treat them more tenderly and with more gratitude. It may be only one pair of socks but they are more special to me now. This whole saga has made me want to craft a new 'Look Well Within' extended course on Simplicity - so be on the lookout! Maybe it will help us go for less and have more!
And, I just might watch again the 1964 movie starring Elvis Presley: "Viva Las Vegas" -- the town that reminded me of simplicity and the abundance of God!
There is both an anticipatory hope and a fearful uncertainty when we are preparing for a surgical procedure. We are usually preparing for surgery because we have been suffering from pain or an ailment that surgery is intended to relieve. Hence, the anticipatory hope. Yet, the very idea of full anesthesia creates a fearful uncertainty that things may not go well, or even, that we may die. As we see our family members or friends before being 'wheeled' into the surgical theater, we silently wonder if it will be for the last time. They, for their part, are wondering the same thing, though rarely do they actually say so.
We tell ourselves that there's no reason to worry. These surgeries are successfully done every day. Then, we remember the cautionary words of our doctor telling us of the risks of any surgery, and our fear mounts again!
So, here are three tips to help keep your heart and soul centered and calm in those hours before surgery.
First, stay conscious until you are unconscious. In other words, be attentive and present to each moment rather than projecting yourself forward into all the possible outcomes that may or may not occur. All you really have (surgery or not) is this moment. Right now. And, in this moment you are alive, breathing, seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing. Don't lose this moment.
Second, learn something new. Read a book, watch a movie or documentary, have a stimulating conversation with a friend, read a magazine you would not regularly purchase. Let your mind expand to take in something new. Thoughts of fear dissipate when your mind is engaged and new information is being experienced.
Finally, prepare to meet God. Go within your soul and find God's presence there. Affirm that in God's presence all is well. You are 'in good hands!' Come to a space of acceptance that whether you live or die, you are held in God's presence eternally.
Medical science is an awesome gift from God that gives life and relief from pain in astounding ways. As with everything in life, there are risks, but if we keep our focus on health rather than fear, we just might find our soul being settled in peace.
Come to think of it, these tips might be useful whether we're preparing for surgery or not!!
So, I was 20 minutes from home yesterday, and I was trying to decide whether to stop at the local department store to pick up a purse. You might wonder why I would need 20 minutes to decide whether or not I wanted to go to a store, but I am a person who actually hates to shop! I will do anything to avoid it. I was, therefore, trying to find every excuse why I didn’t need to stop. In the end, I stopped – mainly because I didn’t want to have to come back later and do it!
I went straight from the car to the purse department – no wayward glances or ‘touchy-feel’ of the countless clothes racks I passed on my way to the purses. Once I reached the appropriate department, I went straight to the sale table, picked up a Fossil (I do like Fossil), took out the stuffing paper and silicon packets and tried to fit my writing notebook in it. It was about 1 ½” shy of being able to slip in, but because I liked the bag, I started thinking of ways I could cut off the bottom of the notebook so it would fit, or if I had another notebook I could use instead. The other problem was that the purse was black. Everything I have is black, and I love funky colors in purses and shoes. I still picked up the black one, however, (I liked it enough not to leave it there risking someone else would buy it!) and rounded another bank of shelves and saw the exact same purse in a nice bright orange to complement my lovely red hair. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on sale. Orange is obviously much more attractive in the desert heat than black!
I turned the other way, and fell in love at first sight with a beautiful little glamour bag. I don’t usually have such an immediate reaction, but I do love glam. I plopped it on my shoulder and voilà, I knew I had to have the bag. Thankfully, it was on sale and less expensive than the Fossil. As I was heading to the check out, I was debating in my mind between the black Fossil and the adorable glam bag, when ‘ooh la la,’ I espied a coral Fossil bag (also on sale) and immediately realized how wonderfully it went with my lovely red hair!
Now holding three bags, I tortured the salesperson trying to insist that she decide which of the three I should buy. We talked, we tried, she threw her hands up in the air, but thankfully, she didn’t try to ‘sell’ me on all three. She had figured out by then that I have a ‘thing’ about simplicity, and that I wanted one bag and that I would use that one bag until it really needed to be replaced for some reason.
In the end, I walked out of the store with all three bags! Sometimes simplicity just doesn’t work! Especially for glam girls who also love Fossil.... The good news is that I shouldn’t have to go ‘purse’ shopping for at least 3 years!
Okay, so I returned home after my conference at the center that was so ‘off the grid’ that the only way to contact the outside world was by using a Smartphone! And, what do you think I did? As I drove into my town from Vegas, I went straight to AT&T' without passing go,' without going home and unloading my luggage, without checking the mail, or even getting a cup of tea! My first stop was AT&T to have my iPhone 7 turned back on...
I walked into the store and the manager (the one I wrote about in my first post on this topic) said, “Renee, I told you! I knew you’d be back. You want your iPhone turned back on, right?”
“Yep,” I replied! “But, I lasted 2 weeks!”
“That’s longer than I thought,” she said. “I was sure you’d be in the next day!”
She read my first post, chuckling throughout. Then, my iPhone 7 was quickly and easily switched back on. My cute little flip phone sat on the table in the store looking woeful and lost. Extremely compact, light, and willing to do what it could do, but not up to the demands of ‘off the grid’ places in the universe. I brought it home and put it back in its box – telling it how grateful I was that it let me conduct this experiment, thankful for its usefulness and it progressiveness in a day and age when hand held mobile devices were just being developed. I whispered what I had believed, “If it’s good enough for Captain Kirk, it’s good enough for me.” I wanted it to know that is has a legendary history, and that it had a key role in setting the stage for the technology that people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would create.
I learned much about myself during this experiment – not the least of which is that I need to question myself about those things in life that claim me – that keep me bound or unaware of other important things in my life. By taking the plunge and switching back to a flip phone, I saw habits and patterns in my life that I would never have even noticed had I gone on without questioning and experimenting.
So, did I fail? Perhaps. I failed in going backwards to a technology that won’t work for the demands of my current life. But, I succeeded in that I questioned and I tried. And, isn’t that all we can ask of ourselves?
Life is rich with texture and beauty. Even the parts that seem unwanted hold within them seeds of grace.