Living by Fear Living by Faith

In an effort to expand my abilities as a life coach, I am currently taking several continuing education courses.  One particular lecture has me thinking.  Do I live by fear or do I live by faith?

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Disappointment and Anger

 


Is there some emotion or response I can grab hold of to fill the gap between feeling disappointed and feeling angry?  I am not yet angry at the lack of principled leadership in organizations such as government and faith-based communities.  I am, however, more than disappointed.  I don’t know how to define my unease or how to resolve my disappointment.  Without some potential remedy, I am concerned that anger may result.

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Memorable Day Part Three

 

A Story in Three Parts – A Memorable Day

Part Three –  My Memorable Day Unfolds

I thought I had adequately prepared myself to walk through the metal detector and deal dispassionately with the pat down procedure.   I had watched at least five groups go through the same routine.  My own moment of reckoning has come.  I was sure I was prepared and nothing would be  amiss so as to draw attention to myself – the new guy.

I was directed to the red suit room.  As I walked through the door, an agent  quickly looked me over and yelled “LARGE.”  I was directed to stand in line in front of a sign marked LARGE.  I was handed a suit.  It had a number on it – a number that was quickly added to my photo id and death contact form. Perhaps in another post, I will more fully describe the suit.  Right now, let me just highlight my orientation to the SURVIVAL SUIT.

The SURVIVAL SUIT was, in fact, a heavy-duty wet suit.  The first thing I noticed was how much it weighed.  I was in reasonably good shape but heaving around that suit was strenuous physical labor. I had no idea what I was to do with my SURVIVAL SUIT.  Obviously, I looked lost.

I remember very vividly that I was quite anxious about all that was happening to me.  My adventure was turning out to be something more challenging than a fun-filled way to spend a few months on summer break.  I kept thinking of the paperwork I had just completed – who should be contacted in the event of my death or if I was lost at sea? That thought did not fit in well with what I imagined when I agreed to  spend some time on an oil rig.

Another official looking fellow walked over to me, “First time?”  I didn’t even have time to nod my answer when he continued, “Listen to what I have to say and follow my instructions.”  He proceeded to direct me in the proper use of the SURVIVAL SUIT.  For those who have ever squeezed into a wetsuit, imagine that effort on steroids.  Kicking feet went into attached boots, flailing arms went next.  There were attached gloves for my hands to wiggle in to.  The hood of the suit fit over my head so that just a bit of my forehead, eyes, nose and mouth remained uncovered.  Every other part of my body was encased in hot, rubber-like skin.  I was asked to stand up and walk around to check the feel of the suit.   I am certain I looked like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz – straight legs that didn’t seem to bend, arms that absolutely didn’t bend.  I looked around.  I was not alone in how I moved in my SURVIVAL SUIT.  Everyone seemed equally handicapped in our movement while encased in our second skin.

How could I get out of here?

That same fellow directed me to sit down against the wall.  He explained the rest of what I needed to know before I got on the helicopter.  If for any reason I fell into the water, I was to pull the yellow cord hanging down from my left shoulder.  That would cause the flotation vest  to inflate so that I would not sink and drown.  If I wasn’t quick enough with this procedure the weight of the suit would cause me to sink beneath the waves and I would drown.  Why did he have to repeat that?  “So, don’t forget to pull the cord.  Oh, sometimes the cord doesn’t work.  In that case, very quickly blow into the tube on you right side to manually inflate the vest.  Do it fast!”

“There is a beacon that will automatically turn on when you hit the water.  A strobe light will start to blink.  A radio signal will be transmitted so that you might be located by a rescue team.  Both the strobe light and the radio signal will work for a couple of hours.  You’ll need to be found by the time they stop working.”  And if I were not found by that time well, they did have all the information they needed with what to do in case I was lost at sea didn’t they?

I was further instructed to float on my back while trying to stay together with other crew members in the water with me.    My instructor finished his instruction with this, “there is a whistle by your left hand so that you can locate other survivors in the water.”  Other survivors?  What had I, what had we survived from?  I stopped thinking.

Our group of twenty got up and started toward the next door – the mystery door.

Outside I found myself on the tarmac, following striped yellow lines leading to a gigantic red helicopter.  Bags and other carry-on items were collected.  I was pulled and pushed through the door of the aircraft directly in front of me.  I imagined myself as  a snack being offered to a hungry red dragon.

There were two rows of sling seats on either side of the helicopter cabin.  My row of ten fellow travelers faced  ten others sitting in a row across the cabin from me.  No one was talking and no one was smiling – a bad omen.  There were small windows that might afford a view of what was outside.  Did I really want to know?

The pilot came on the intercom and directed us to put on the headphones provided for us.  He said our trip would be very noisy.  Just then, the jet engine above my head started up.  The pilot did not exaggerate.  It was very loud.  The helicopter started to lurch side to side due to the torque produced by the turning rotor blades slowly cranking and gathering speed.  I noticed the helicopter’s two doors were still open. I assumed the doors would close before we took off.  However, we started to taxi out away from the hangar with doors wide open.

“Did they forget to close the doors?” I yelled to the guy next to me.  “No laddie, they leave them open so we can get out quicker when we ditch into the sea.” Someone outside the helicopter must have hear my silent prayers.  The doors closed. The guy next to me was laughing.

The helicopter taxied briefly.

Without warning, the helicopter ride began. The aircraft rose up and started to fly away from the Aberdeen Airport.  Looking out the small window closest to me I could see we were flying over fields and country roads. Then, without warning, we weren’t.  We were now over water.  I looked around.  Everyone but me seemed to settle back in their seats.  Just another day  commuting to work.  At some point I settled down.  This was not the 7:44 from Morristown to NYC commute that had been my habit just a few years prior to this new ride to work.

I had no idea how long the ride was going to be.  Asking any of my fellow crew members about the length of the helicopter ride seemed like a waste of time based on the previous response I has received about the open helicopter doors.  I thought I’d be in the helicopter for maybe 30 minutes.  Several hours later, the helicopter made some turns and lowered its nose.  I could look out through the cockpit window and there, on the horizon, was an oil rig much like the one in the photo below.  Soon, forward motion stopped and the helicopter started to descend.

 

We landed quickly.  The doors opened and everyone jumped onto the deck of the oil rig.  Not exactly terra firma but close enough, especially after the ride out.  The crew walked rapidly toward an open door.  Everyone but me seemed to know where they were going, so I followed.  Once inside I was greeted by a guy who said he would be the foreman of my work party.  “Let me get you settled and then get you some lunch.  Have a good ride out? At least you made it.  Yesterday a helicopter went down.  No survivors, thirteen lost at sea, so the mood today is pretty bad.”  Welcome to the nightmare.

I was shown my room while I was aboard.  It reminded me of a college dorm room.  The room was furnished with two wooden bunk beds, four painted metal lockers and two desks and chairs straight out of an Ikea catalog.  I really didn’t know what I was expecting vis-a-vis, my accommodations, but what I now saw was a pleasant surprise.

“You get the top bunk.  At lunch I will introduce you to the others guys.  Get out of that suit and hang it in your locker.  I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.  Oh, there is a bathroom down the hall to the left.  Remember your room number.”

I took off the survival suit, put it in my locker and decided to go wash my hands and see what was what.  In every hallway and in every room, there were handrails on the walls.  I thought it strange that the rig was handicapped accessible.  Even in each stall of the bathroom, handrails had been installed.  I looked in the shower room and sure enough, handrails there too.  I would  soon discover the practical reason for the handrails.

Back at my room, my  foreman came to take me to lunch.  “My name is Ernie,” he offered by way of introduction.  Second surprise, also reminiscent of college – great smelling and great looking  food and plenty of it.  There was a choice of meat, fish, vegetables, bread or muffins and a table full of enticing desserts.

It was time to meet my other three roommates.  They seemed agreeable.  They were from Scotland.  I was soon to learn how fiercely loyal Scots are to their hometowns.  There was a cost to bad-mouthing someone’s hometown.

We all sat down together.  My first meal consisted of Playboy Stew (rabbit stew), mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh steamed vegetables, Mr. Pibb soda and Boston Cream Pie.  The incredible anxiety that had built up since 7:00 am that morning in Aberdeen was beginning to subside.  For the first time I thought to myself, “I can do this.”

I had survived so far.  My day had begun  waking up in Aberdeen Scotland, beginning a trip of several hours  arriving at my new temporary home, a semi-submersible oil rig somewhere in the middle of the North Sea.  I now found myself having a very pleasant lunchtime meal and conversation with a whole new group of fellow workers.

“OK, back to work,” someone shouted.  The truly memorable part of my day was just about to begin.

End of Part Three

Afterword

I have enjoyed remembering some of this memorable day with you.  This was a first day at a new job on steroids. Let me know if you’d like to read more.  I have lots of stories to tell about time on and off the rig.

For instance – being awakened at 2:20 am from a very sound sleep by the sound of an alarm signaling everyone to immediately evacuate the rig.

Or, what it feels like to spend an evening in the rig’s fitness center located 100 feet below the water in one of the flotation pontoons.  By the way, the fitness center is only accessible by an elevator holding no more than three persons at a time.  Usually there are 10-12 persons exercising in the fitness center at any given time.  Planning one’s ride back up to the sleeping quarters sometimes involved “vying” for the available spots in the elevator.

Or, what went through my head when I stumbled into an “off limits restricted work zone” and discovered a fully equipped hospital operating facility?

These and other stories describe some of the  experiences I encountered during my two week shifts on the rig.  There are also stories to be told about my time off the rig, travelling throughout Europe, sailing, skiing on glaciers in the Alps,  visiting museums and taking calculated risks with people I would meet along the way.   Let me know if you are interested in reading some of the adventures I’d be happy to share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Irrational Violence

 

Irrational Violence

Some twenty years ago as I was transitioning from my vocation in independent school administration to the ministry, I was required to complete a battery of psychological tests.  These tests were to ascertain my fitness for ministry before I could be ordained as a United Methodist Pastor.  The results of the testing, among other uses, would provide information to denominational officials as to my psychological readiness to answer my call to ministry.

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Memorable Day Part Two

A Story in Three Parts – A Memorable Day

Part Two – The Terror Intensifies

At some point, as we were nearing what looked like a huge hangar, one of the guys on the shuttle bus asked me what oil rig I was going to work on.  In my pocket I had the information he was asking about. I should have memorized it.  He then gave me some unsolicited, helpful hints concerning what I should do when the bus stopped.  “Get off the bus, go inside and find the group of chairs under the sign with your rig’s name and number on it.  Just wait and someone from that rig will let you know what you have to do next.”   He shot off the bus and disappeared into the building in front of me.  I tried to follow him, but he had already disappeared into a sea of men, all blending together in a huge mass of activity, frantic motion, and confusion.

The intense level of the noise in the building was overwhelming.  This was no normal airport waiting room complete with snack bars and comfortable padded seats, CNN on the television screens.  It was quite stark in all respects and unwelcoming to the travelers it housed.

Everyone but me seemed to know you brought your own food and drink, or you did without.  Some guys had cassette players and headphones.  Most everyone looked instantly bored.  I had no food or drink or cassette player.  I was far from bored.

I found my place and sat down.

No one talked to me.  They had to have noticed me, didn’t they?  A voice came over the PA system, “Loading for Shell Platform #35, Gate 7.”  With that a group of about twenty men gathered up their backpacks and small carry-on bags and proceeded to the gate whose number had just been called.  I watched carefully to observe what was happening.  When my time came, and my rig was called, I wanted to look calm and casual, so no one would suspect I was the new guy.

As they approached the gate, every worker was patted down.  Everything in the workers’ pockets, jackets, and carry-on bags was emptied in front of an agent from some governmental agency.  It was a very thorough inspection.  One by one, each man moved on, entering another room.

I could see each guy being given some weird red suit to climb into.  The strange garment looked like a cross between a space suit and a very expensive wetsuit you might use for scuba diving in very cold water.  As I watched guys maneuver, after putting on the red mystery garment, it was easy to see the suit was very heavy and made moving about a laborious task.  Then, one by one, each worker was patted down again and disappeared out the back of the building.  What lay beyond that door was, for the moment, unknown to me.

Another rig’s number and gate were called; another twenty guys got up.  They shuffled off towards their gate.  They followed the exact procedure the crews who went before them had done.  A new group of workers was called about every ten minutes.  An hour passed.  Groups of men would disappear out the back door only to be replaced by new groups of guys coming in from an endless stream of shuttle busses.

Just then, an official looking guy came and asked us all to listen up.

He passed out some paperwork which he said he would explain in a minute.  He asked us to be certain we were all going to the rig number on the sign above his head.  Once he was satisfied that we were his guys, he started instructions about how to fill out the papers he had given us.  It was obvious some of the guys seated under my sign knew his talk by heart.  It was also obvious some of the veteran workers in the group, for some reason, needed to be reminded of the required procedures each time they were about to go out on the rig.  And for two of us, this was the very first time we had heard the spiel.

First, we were asked to find the map and layout for the rig on which we would be working.  There were several floor plans to examine depending on the type of rig that would be our temporary home for the next two weeks.  I found my rig.  The floor plan indicated all the emergency exits to get off the rig, the locations of life boats to get off the rig, where fire- fighting equipment was located in the event of an oil or gas explosion, and the general layout of the rig’s other accommodations.  The instructor stressed the absolute importance of knowing where things were and what we had to do in the in the event we were instructed to get off the rig. 

Next order of business was the form that renewed my ever-increasing level of anxiety.  At the top of the form, in large print, was the purpose of the form – CONTACTS IN THE EVENT OF YOUR DEATH OR LOSS AT SEA.  What?  Death or loss at sea?  Nobody told me about that in my job description.  My  imagination already working overtime formed an endless stream of questions I wanted to ask- how would I die?  From what activity or circumstance would I die while working and living on the oil rig?  And how the heck would I be lost at sea?  I wasn’t planning on being that close to the water.  I was told the rig’s main deck was at least 75 feet above the ocean at all times.  That’s as close as I planned to be to the frigid waters of the North Sea.  My terror was real and it was peaking in intensity.  Everyone else appeared calm, nonchalant.  I was so far from mellow the word had slipped from my vocabulary.

Next, I was directed to stand up in front of what looked like a bedsheet hanging from the ceiling.  A very bored looking photographer, who had a nasty smelling cigarette dangling from his lips, took my picture.  I was told my new photo ID would be placed on the back of the “death notification” form I was just now completing.  I noticed there was also a place on the back of the form for my fingerprints.  I had already been fingerprinted before I ever got to Scotland.  They too would be added to my ID at some point.

“Contacts in the event of your death or loss at sea” – I found no comfort or context for pondering the disposition of my remains those words suggested.  Let me ask you this –  have you ever had all your thoughts pushed aside by an all-consuming dread that really scared the heck out of you?  I needed some fresh air.  I needed to get away by myself before I was summoned to the next set of departure procedures.  My grasp on handling current challenges to rational thought processes was rapidly disappearing.  I desperately looked for someplace to run where I could get away and try to get control of my thoughts.

Just then my rig number was called.  All of a sudden there I was following the other guys in my crew, like lemmings through the gate.  All I could think of as I passed through the metal detector were these words, “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.”

End of Part Two

Part Three will be posted next Wednesday, January 24, 2018

 

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Saturday With My Wife

A quick note:  Here’s a  bonus post to tide you over, my loyal readers and subscribers, until Part Two of my three part series arrives.  My multi-part series recalls my time working on an oil rig in the North Sea.  Part Two will be posted January 17, 2018.  Enjoy.
Saturday With My Wife

Most every Saturday begins with the same basic decision – should my wife and I go out for breakfast, brunch, or a late lunch?

The answer to this seemingly simple question depends on several factors:  1) what time my wife and I finally get out of bed, 2) how much time the latest sleeper needs to get ready to hop in the car, 3) what other meals will we be having later on in the day, and 4) where do we want to go to eat.

Today, we were both ready to go by 10:30 am.  I specifically voiced my preferred meal choice, “I want breakfast!”  It’s good to voice an opinion from time to time.  After a brief discussion and eventual concurrence with my choice of meals, my wife and I traveled to one of our favorite breakfast spots.  Since it was a favorite spot, we decided on our breakfast choices, even before we entered the restaurant.  Today, the breakfast menu would be superfluous.

This is the point in the story when the day took an unexpected turn.

My wife ordered her usual breakfast without ever really considering the other options available to her if she had consulted the breakfast menu.  When it was my time to place my order, I hesitated.  My usual breakfast sounded good in the abstract, but now, with the waitress standing inches from me, I quickly glanced once more at the menu.  From deep within the chores to which my active mind was attending, my breakfast order surfaced.

I ordered something new from the menu.

My next words to the waitress must have sounded like some far off obscure language to her.  I could see she was already writing down my order from memory.  Then she heard my order.  Our waitress turned pale and quite perceptibly, rocked back on her heels.  She did not expect one of her regular customers to willy-nilly change  his usual breakfast order.  She was stunned and she asked me if I was sure of my order.  Casually I said, “Life without whimsy and serendipity is hardly worth living.”  I don’t think she grasped what I had said.  She turned and hurried towards the kitchen where I assumed she entered our orders.

It turns out she was so obviously unnerved by the unexpected change in my order that in communicating my wife’s order to the short order cook, my wife’s selection of a dry biscuit with her breakfast came to the table covered in sausage gravy.  For some inexplicable reason, my wife’s aversion to sausage gravy is pathologic.  Now it was her turn to become pale and unstable as she twisted in her seat, following a similar reaction I had recently observed in our waitress’ demeanor.

The plate that held my wife’s breakfast was immediately removed and after a brief absence, a new plate of food was delivered to my wife, with biscuits sans sausage gravy.  Then my breakfast was served. Everything I had ordered was just as it should have been, just like the photo in the menu advertised.

My new breakfast selection was even better than I had convinced myself it would be.  I did not let on the degree of happiness and contentment I felt.  It would have been insensitive of me to acknowledge what a great breakfast I was having,  while at the same time my wife was forced to remember how the sausage gravy poured over her biscuits had unnerved her.  No enlightened or sensitive spouse would ever cross that boundary of careless and wreckless thought.

We finished our meal.  The check arrived.  Since we are regular customers, I knew our breakfast bill would be about $25.00 before the tip.  The total of the bill this morning was, however, $34.95 before the tip.  When I finally got the attention of our waitress, she discovered she had charged my wife twice for her breakfast – once for the original order, complete with sausage gravy and biscuits, and then again the same order, but minus the sausage gravy.

Sometimes one has to make a stand.

As loyal repeat customers, I politely but firmly asked for an adjustment to the bill due to the mistake in my wife’s breakfast order.  I did not in any way assign blame for the inaccuracy of the order.  You see, if I blamed my wife, the rest of the day would have been consumed by thawing the coolness  arising from the distance that had come between us.  If I blamed the waitress, God knows what she might do to our orders the next time we came in for breakfast, brunch or a late lunch.  I would have been afraid to order eggs benedict for fear of what might replace the hollandaise sauce.

I  simply asked if there would be any way that the second charge for my wife’s breakfast might be rescinded.  The waitress disappeared into the kitchen.  We heard a dish crash to the floor or perhaps against a kitchen wall.  The waitress returned with a corrected bill closer to the $25.00 I was expecting.

As I paid the bill at the cashier’s desk she asked me two questions: 1) how was everything and 2) did I want to include a tip?  Here is an insight into the shallowness of my character.  Wanting to return to this restaurant in the future, I hesitated before I answered the cashier’s questions.

“Yes, everything was fine as usual, great service, great food, great value and yes, I would like to leave not just my usual 20% tip but the suggested 22% that’s printed on the bill.”  My wife looked at me as if I had just told the greatest lie the world had ever known.  She turned and left the restaurant, leaving me there alone with my ever growing sense of shame for playing fast and loose with the truth.

It really doesn’t matter how the rest of the day turned out, does it?  This whole incident would never have happened if I had slept just a bit later and we ended up having a late lunch.  To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin – early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and a fool if he asks his wife, “honey, what’s for dinner?”

 

 

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Memorable Day Part One

A Story in Three Parts – A Memorable Day – Part One
The Run Up to Terror

Writing about one particular “memorable day” is a harder task than I first imagined.  I have had plenty of memorable days.  The account of this “memorable day” contains the accumulated memories of several days leading up to the day I remember as one of the most frightening days of my life.

With great clarity, I remember the first time I was helicoptered out to an oil rig in the middle of the North Sea to begin my first two-week shift, doing God knows what kind of labor.  All I knew was it would be hard, physical labor.  I also knew it would be potentially dangerous work.  If that wasn’t enough to engage my active, imaginative, suspicious, scared as hell mind set, nothing would be.

I had taken the train up from London to Aberdeen on Thursday, the day before I was to begin my new job.  That’s what the representative from my new employer told me I should do.

Here’s what I remember happened next, beginning with waking up at the Dee Motel in Aberdeen Scotland after a short night’s sleep.

My instructions from the company that had hired me to work on the oil rig were simple and clear: on Friday, be outside the Aberdeen Train Station promptly at 8:00 am to get on a shuttle bus that would take me to the Aberdeen Airport, the second leg of my trip to the rig.  Obviously the first leg was the trip from London to Aberdeen.

In fact, the train trip from London northward towards my own unique rendezvous with destiny was actually the second leg of a trip that started at the airport in Newark, New Jersey for my flight to Heathrow Airport London.  This first leg, second leg, narration will get very confusing very quickly.  So, let me be somewhat loose with some of the finer details of how and when I found myself standing outside the train station in Aberdeen that Friday morning in May.  Who really cares what leg of my journey this represented?

A cab picked me up at the motel about 7:15 am Friday morning.  I informed my cab driver that all I knew was I was to meet a shuttle bus taking folks from the train station to the airport to go out on an oil rig in the North Sea.  My brief travel instructions to the cabbie didn’t seem to phase him.  He obviously had done this before with other similarly confused passengers.

All too quickly, the cab stopped in front of the train station.

To be honest, I was hoping for a longer ride.  I hadn’t had enough time to deal with my increasing anxiety.  “Here you go, Laddie.”  I got out and the cabdriver got on with his day.

I wasn’t sure I was at the correct gathering spot at the train station. Folks who work on oil rigs don’t stand out from the general population.  They look normal.  But a large gathering of guys, standing in a group, smoking cigarettes and talking too loudly for 7:45 am was a tip off these guys might be my companions for the next two weeks.  In a vain attempt to start off on the right foot, I tried to engage the group in conversation.  They would have none of it.  I was no one of consequence, just a new face.  New faces didn’t show up in that group without some concerns for the veteran workers.  I would have to ease those concerns at some point.  For now, I followed the group onto the shuttle bus that had just arrived and off we went to the airport in Aberdeen.

Everything on the ride out to the airport was new to me.

It was routine to the others on the bus.  They were off to work.  I was off to adventure.  They weren’t as interested as I in the quaintness of the streets of Aberdeen or watching shops opening along the way or being fascinated by the early morning activity along the waterfront.  Like I said, they were going to work, I was going on an adventure.  Every flower and tree, every storefront sign, every sea gull looking for a free meal, every noise and smell was unfamiliar to me and held secrets to be explored.  My companions on the shuttle had milked dry the secrets of those scenes.  I was fascinated, they were oblivious.  My fascination would soon turn into terror.

End of Part One

Part Two will appear on January 17, 2018.

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Starting Over

Starting Over

I am reminded of the story, The Lady and the Tiger, in which a commoner falls in love with a beautiful princess and she with him.  The King is none too happy with this turn of events.  His daughter was destined for a better arrangement.  And so, the King devised a test of the commoner’s character.

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The Writing Challenge

THE WRITING CHALLENGE- 2018

For the next 31 days, I will be involved in a writing challenge courtesy of Jeff Goins.  He is a wonderful motivator and trainer of wanna-be writers.  You should Google him.  The purpose of my involvement with the challenge is to help me return to the habit of daily writing.  By accepting the challenge, I agree to write a minimum of 500 words per day.  This will be no easy task for me.

I will not be posting all 31 days of my efforts on this blog, but I did want you to know what I am attempting to do.  Most of my posts/daily writing assignments will either be consistent with my blog’s theme of “The Power and Promise of Hope” or closely related topics.

Just an aside –  about two years ago I “retired” from my vocation as a pastor. I was lucky enough to be offered an appointment to another church. That new appointment began last July 2017.  My goal at the time was to remain in that appointment for several years or until my wife retired.  Until recently, the plan was working well.  Some unexpected health concerns have popped up and I have reluctantly returned to retired status.  With the extra time I now have, I can attend to my health issues.  And of course, I can also attend to this writing challenge.

My mind is good, my spirit is good, but alas my body has not joined the trinity of balance – mind, body, spirit.  Hopefully with physical therapy, exercise, diet and determination, my body will respond to efforts to maximize my attempts at returning to full functioning.

That being said, it is absolutely appropriate that this 31 day writing challenge begins on New Year’s Day.  Make no mistake, this is not a New Year’s resolution.  It is a writing challenge that runs for a finite time period.  After the challenge concludes, I am hopeful I will be primed to finally finish the rough edit of my first book.  I underscore my assertion that this challenge is not part of any new year’s resolution.

My mind is racing ahead and is concocting a scenario in which I now launch into a trite attempt to say something original concerning the new year and new beginnings and new hope.  I imagine any reader who has made it this far will grab at the chance to be done reading this post.  You’re thinking, “I know what he is going to do next.  He’s going to begin a worn out attempt at turning the old themes of the new year and new beginnings into something  worthy of reading.  He isn’t that good a writer.”

If you’re not thinking that, you should be, because that is what I had in mind.  And you are correct in your assessment of my creative writing abilities.  See how easily the deficiencies in my talent become apparent.  Perhaps in the next 31 days, one of my writing colleagues will put me out of my misery by completely exposing my lack of any talent or my lack of any hope in improving my craft.

There it is – my theme – hope.  Somehow I got around to what drives me – the power and promise of hope.  That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  To the regular readers of my blog, I apologize for this disconnected posting.  Expect posts worthy of your time to return after I complete today’s attempt to begin the 31 day challenge.

WORTH SOME THOUGHT

Writing to put words on a page and writing to convey something of value are two entirely different tasks.  I hope as the challenge unfolds and, in future blog posts, I will be able and skillful enough to offer value, not just words.  Happy New Year to friends old and new.

 

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Debriefing A Life

First of all Happy New Year!

I am assuming most of you will be reading this just before or just after 2017 draws to a close and 2018 arrives on the scene.  For some reason, this year’s transition is a particularly introspective event for me.  I am wondering about life and I am wandering through my thoughts concerning where I have been and where I might end up during the next 365 days.

Here are some issues I am considering, vis a vis, how I have handled myself in the past and what I have learned that may affect future interactions during 2018.

My wish/prayer/hope for each of you is that as you skim this post, you will give yourself time to sit down and consider your own review of the past 365 days.  Give yourself this present.  Sit down, listen to some favorite music, drink some favorite beverage, pull out a journal, just stop and slow down.

To be honest, the world has seemed particularly crazy this year.

I really want to make sense of how this year has warped me or challenged me.  I don’t want to conclude I  have just survived this year.  I want to have survived it and confronted it.  So here is what I have been asking myself.

  1.  What one thing this past year  has brought me a true sense of peace, hope, or joy?
  2. What  one thing has been a particularly difficult challenge for me?  In fact, what one thing has happened this year that has shaken me to the core of all that I hold dear – that has exposed my foundational values?
  3. Of whom have I asked forgiveness and for what offense?  Did I learn a lesson from that act that will affect the way I interact with folks during this next year?
  4. For loyal readers of this blog, you know I believe “every life should have a noble purpose.”  Did I discover and respond to something noble this past year?  Did it give me the courage and/or wisdom to consider a new purpose for 2018?
  5. Where did I travel, whom did I meet, what did I see that provided me with a new life lesson?
  6. How much time did I spend dealing with nostalgia, melancholy, and despair?
  7. How much time have I spent in hope – short term and long term hope?
  8. Have I fully attended to issues of mind, body, and spirit this past year?  What are my plans for 2018?

If you have hung in and read this far, I thank you.  I realize that you have committed about five minutes so far and I ought to be offering you some reward or gesture of thanks for your valuable time.

Here goes – to quote A Tale of Two Cities,  “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

During this year, enough has happened to significantly call into question my deeply held belief that in the long run good wins out.  My faith in the power and promise of hope has been shaken to its core.  The basic foundation of my life has been exposed.  Several times this year I have looked into the psychic abyss.

But this one thought kept coming back in the times of my worst angst. The short term must be fully embraced if there is any hope for long term happiness.  Suffering in fear is injustice.  Suffering in the pursuit of that which helps ease the turmoil of another person’s life is time well spent.  There is an agenda, a plan that supersedes all other plans.  It fits into the harmony of the universe.  Until a person finds that agenda, they can know no real peace or joy.

Certainly you and I can recreate some unique version of get up, eat, go to work, interact with others, eat and go to bed, but after a short time we sense that’s not enough.  I guarantee no amount of accumulated “stuff” will ever satisfy our lives.  You and I will always be looking for diversions to temporarily bring relief from the routines of our own “unique”  agendas.  We don’t dream big enough to bring us real success or purpose.

So we need an intentional process that begins with items 1-8 from above.
Here’s your reward for staying the course.

Do this in 2018, and I guarantee the year will fly by.  Devote yourself to someone.  What I mean is this – intentionally choose a person with whom you will interact in the following way.  During this next year, you will put the needs of your intentionally selected person before your own.  On a daily basis you will develop  opportunities and strategies to offer your person constant affirmation and encouragement.  You will only seek their well being and help them discover how they might best live out their perfect idea of a great life in the next year.

In short, this year, make a new best friend.  Not an acquaintance, not a shopping buddy, but a fully functioning new friend based on your utmost care for them.  In short, sacrifice  your time, your talent, and your treasure for the benefit of one new friend.  Make his or her welfare the most important purpose in your life.

One last thing – if you are single this may be easier than if you are living with another person.  Let me suggest before you begin this endeavor you discuss this exercise with your partner.  Your partner may wonder why they aren’t the object of the  challenge.

This will be tough because as we get older we don’t generally make new best friends.  Unfortunately we don’t always treat our old friends/partners with this level of sacrifice or intentionality.  Just keep this in mind.

Let me know how that  goes.

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