Let’s Have a Heart-to-Heart Talk

heart

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

The traditional symbol for heart is, of course, this: 

Even though the real human heart looks nothing like that.

My guess is that this symbol, a stand-in for the word love, is the most easily recognized and most-used shape in America.

We see bumper stickers that read I    (fill in the blank) such as NY, my Border Collie, or mountain climbing. Symbolic onscreen confetti hearts flow when you love something on Facebook. Our kids display their affection by making us heart-shaped construction paper cards in kindergarten.

heart

Photo courtesy of Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash.com

We take photos of ourselves making hearts with our hands, and we see hearts in nature.

heart

Photo courtesy of Omer Salom on Unsplash.com

Some of my friends have seen hearts in the foam of their caffe latte.

There is a whole website devoted to the heart emoji to help us express the exact type of love we’re feeling.

We use compassionate phrases such as, “My heart goes out to you.” In happy times we say, “My heart was bursting with joy.” In grief and loss, we describe ourselves as being broken-hearted. Feeling fear, we offer up, “My heart was in my throat.”

I think we’re in love with hearts. That would be: We ♥  ♥♥♥.               

The word heart is used over a thousand times in the Bible, as in “Create in me a clean heart, oh God.”

Marcus Borg’s book The HEART of Christianity reminds us that in the Bible, the heart is a metaphor for the self at its deepest level—our spiritual center. God’s purpose is for us to live our lives with open hearts; to be compassionate, kind, and loving people.

Borg’s own examples of open-heartedness include those above as well as being alive to wonder, remaining grateful, and maintaining a passion for justice for all people.

The author makes the point that closed-heartedness can be termed (from the Greek) sklerokardia – a hardening of the heart.

We can believe that people who commit truly horrific acts of violence, hatred, and greed are the best examples of hard-heartedness. But Borg is clear that this type simply represents one end of the spectrum; there are other ways of being hard-hearted that are not so extreme.

Consider this: What behaviors, acts, or words do we use when we’re being hard-hearted? We may display impatience or simply want our own way. Maybe we’re unwilling to truly listen to someone with a different viewpoint than our own. Our hard-heartedness could show up in our labeling or name-calling of another person even if that happens only inside our heads. It’s looking away from someone with a physical or mental disability. It’s being too busy, too involved with our own lives, to be mindful of the world around us. When we’re critical or sarcastic, that’s our hard-heartedness on display.

The evidence of hard-heartedness in my life may not be the same as in yours. It’s up to each of us to identify and replace our closed heart with an open heart.

 that idea.

 

 

 

 

The Most WOW! Message Ever

Photo courtesy of Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Note: Today’s post is based on my 2017 Christmas letter. So if you’re on my card list, you’ll be reading something that feels familiar!

Author and speaker Michael Hyatt is adamant in his advice to exceed client/customer expectations. We must do whatever it takes to produce a WOW! response when clients/customers use our products or services.

Consider what must have been the most unrealistic and unexpected WOW! message in history: “Hey Mary. You are going to be the actual Holy Mother of God.”

An unworldly young girl receives the angel Gabriel’s announcement that the Holy Spirit will come upon her to impregnate her and, oh yes, did I happen to mention your baby will be the son of God?

Talk about WOW!

Joseph himself received a WOW! dream notice from an angel regarding the situation so that he understood.

There must have been some really amazing faith between Mary and Joseph for them to accept, believe, and act upon these angelic tidings.

Then the two of them receive the WOW! legal notice: Leave Nazareth and travel about a hundred miles (eight to ten days of walking) to Bethlehem where Joseph’s ancestral records are kept so that your family can be included in the census of the Roman empire.

I have been known to whine progressively louder while in the comfort of a leather seat in a luxury car with the seat warmer turned on high, “It can’t possibly still be eight more miles to the rest area!”

But there is not a word in scripture about Mary complaining about traveling on foot or perhaps riding on a donkey for over a week while heavy with child.

And no matter what concert you last attended, I’m sure the sound and lights can’t compete with the multitude of angels…the great company of the heavenly host who appeared to the ordinary people, the lowly shepherds…the first people to hear the news. The one you have been waiting for is here. The Messiah has been born in Bethlehem.

Can’t you just picture those shepherds looking up into the night sky and uttering a collective job-dropping WOW? And after finding the child, they went around and did what they were supposed to do—spread the good news and, I’m sure, received many WOWs in the process.

It’s easy to understand why the story surrounding the Messiah’s birth is the first chapter of what’s referred to as The Greatest Story Ever Told.

And what would a great story be without a gift for its readers and listeners? The WOW! message for each of us is the most well-known, most widely recognized verse of the Bible: the third chapter of John, verse 16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

For God so loved you.

 Yes, you.

 No matter what.

 Wow.

The Path of the Foot and the Fist

Photo courtesy of Jason Briscoe/Unsplash

When I start a new class of students, I like to create an atmosphere of trust between everyone.

One exercise to accomplish this is for each person to share something about themselves in a couple of sentences that may not be common knowledge. I explain that I’m not requiring them to divulge some deeply held personal secret, but rather, something that the people they work with may be surprised to learn.

As always, I model the desired outcome. I tell them, “When I was in my late 20s, I took Taekwondo for several years and ended my studies half a step away from earning a brown belt.”

You, my readers, get to hear the rest of the story.

My first instructor was a former American soldier, an Army Drill Sergeant, who had fought in the Korean War. That would have put him in his early 50s for my class. He had learned Taekwondo while in Korea which is where the art originated.

Tae means to destroy with the feet. Kwon means to smash with the hand. Do means path.

My instructor was intense. When I walked into that initial class, I felt like a new recruit on the first day of basic training. He lined us up against a wall and had us slide down to sit erect against it while he towered over us.

Moving down the line he pointed to each of us in turn. We were to give our name and a brief reason for taking his class.

Most of the guys gave some type of “learn how to fight” response. The few women had the same general response of “learn to protect myself.”

“You’ll learn all that,” he said. “But the thing I want you to always remember is this: I hope you never have to use what I’ll teach you. The most successful fight is the one you don’t have. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid people and situations that are unsafe.”

He was seriously tough on us. And this wasn’t some class taught in an official dojo; it was sponsored by Parks and Rec at a community center! But it changed my life.

My self-esteem refreshed itself and I was able to remove myself from a relationship that was mentally killing me. I became more poised and confident and found the courage to speak up for myself.

Some of the fighting lessons I learned can be applied to other aspects of my life. “Don’t hit hard enough just to make contact; aim for the space BEHIND your opponent” reminds me to consider how must farther I can reach in a project instead of doing just enough.

When a man has grabbed a woman and is holding her from behind, she is not helpless. There are various responses such as throwing back her head to smash his face or kicking the side of his knee to break it. The life lesson here is even when the situation seems hopeless, there is something we can do.

You’ve seen shows where the police arrive at a house and they pound on the door and scream, “Open up!” The purpose is to unsettle or startle or intimidate the bad guys. It’s the same idea why most martial arts have the participant uttering a short yell or shout while attacking the opponent.

So my instructor’s directive, “Crying or whimpering won’t help you. Make a lot of noise!” had the same meaning behind it. That still resonates with me. I believe we each have some personal noise to make…a story to tell, a lesson to pass along.

Hmmm…maybe I should have titled this post, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Taekwondo.”

To my readers: What specific class have you taken that has had a major impact on your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flutter By

butterfly

Have you ever heard of someone hating butterflies? These colorful winged creatures seem to live a peaceful life around flowers. They don’t bite or sting, they don’t buzz around your face, and they aren’t destructive (except for the hatched caterpillar eating the leaf it was born on). What’s not to like?

Butterflies have a spiritual connection. In thinking Easter thoughts, a Christian can relate to the metamorphosis stage where, within the chrysalis, old body parts of the larva are undergoing a transformation. What may have appeared to be dead is not. The butterfly emerges and rests before it flies off within a few hours. So many people associate a butterfly with a symbol of eternal life.

One of my friends has an amazing story of the graveside service of her son. Dozens of butterflies surrounded the mourners and provided the family with a sense of God’s peace over Russell’s death.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned butterflies are short-lived. On average, their lifespan is 2-4 weeks. Some live only two days. Others, such as the Monarch and Mourning Cloak, may live for 6-12 months.

I didn’t want to believe it. Coming across that fact upset me. I wanted the reality to be that butterflies were like hummingbirds and simply migrated to warmer climates in the harsh weather. I wanted to believe that each spring for years I was seeing old friends return.

This strikes me as a sad aspect of nature. I wonder why God the Creator chose this short pattern of life for this spectacular creature? It’s on my list of questions for Him.

I’m hoping if butterflies realize what a tiny span of existence they’ve been granted, they decide to make the most of that time. Maybe that’s why they’re so peaceful.

One of the dismissal blessings at my church is based on a quote by the Swiss poet Henri-Frédéric Amiel:

Remember that life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be quick to be kind, make haste to love, and may the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always.

Life IS short. We too are here on earth for a tiny span of existence, some shorter and some longer. What shall we do to gladden the hearts of others?

To my readers: Post a comment about someone who has made life easier for you.

Cheating Death

balloon 2

The first time I came close to dying was when I was about four. It’s my earliest memory. I was at my grandparents’ home and apparently I had been given a balloon to play with. It popped. Unbeknownst to either grandparent, I had stretched a torn piece of the balloon across the front of my mouth.  Apparently I sucked in the balloon piece, and it ended up lodged at the top of my throat, blocking my airway.

I ran to my grandmother who was standing at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes. Unable to speak, I pointed to my open mouth. I’m sure I looked terrified. “Luther!” my grandmother screamed, summoning my grandfather. Although I have no recollection of what happened next, I’m told that Grandpa reached into my mouth and pulled out the shred of balloon. (Note to parents:  Seriously, a balloon is not a safe toy for young children. According to studies, more children have choked on balloons and pieces of broken balloons than any other type of toy.)

The second time I cheated death was Christmas Eve the year I was 20. I skidded on wet gravel and slammed my small car sideways into the stone abutments of a one-lane bridge. The car was demolished, but I walked away without a scratch.

Finally, when I was around 29 and driving to work in a GMC Jimmy (a mid-sized 4×4), another driver raced over a hill at 50+ mph. He ran a red light and hit me broadside at the driver’s door. Miraculously, once again I was unhurt. The police officer in charge told me, “Miss, had you been in a regular car, you would be dead now.” The height of the Jimmy had provided me life-saving inches.

When my grandsons were around 10 and 13, I shared these same stories with them. When I finished, my younger grandson Brandon piped up, “Wow, Grammy! God must have saved you for something special.”

Yes, in December when we watch Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey in the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, we may give a fleeting thought to the impact our individual lives have on our family and friends. But I’m going to encourage you to think about your impact every day.

We may not always feel that we’re making any “for the greater good” difference in the world, but each person reading this has his/her own individual positive aspects that affect those around us.

Even if I don’t know you, what I do know is that God has saved YOU for something special too. Make the most of that gift!

To my readers:  Share a story about a life-changing moment that has prompted you to look at life differently.

Connect the dots

Heart stamps

It was a paranormal event in Jodi Picoult’s novel Leaving Time.  Serenity Jones, a psychic that young Jenna hired to find her missing mother, couldn’t get a document to print on her own home printer. So she went to an office supply store for assistance. Suddenly, sheet after sheet started flying off the printer, each page filled completely with Xs.

The clerk couldn’t kill the job. Other customers were gaping. The manager was summoned for help. Serenity started grabbing the X-filled pages, and then there was a page “where the Xs gave way to hearts.”

Cut to real life: I was listening to an audible version of the book. At the exact moment I heard those words “where the Xs gave way to hearts,” I was looking at some postage stamps I had bought earlier that day. As you see in the photo above, they aren’t Xs, but curlicues, that give way to hearts.

Yep, it was one of those moments.

Yesterday I encountered another instance of connectedness. I had just finished re-reading the retirement cards I received in June. One of my work friends had added a Bible verse reference to her hand-written note on the group card:  Jeremiah 29:11.

I pulled out my Bible and looked it up as I didn’t recall the exact verse. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Then not five minutes later I randomly chose from my card supply a “thinking of you” note card to send to a niece. On the inside of the card, what Bible verse do you suppose was printed?! So I instinctively knew this was the right card to send to that person.

I think these types of connected instances are NOT unusual. But we’re either not mindful enough to catch them all or we shrug them off with a “Huh…that was weird” reaction.

Let’s slow down and appreciate these instances. Maybe there’s a bigger message hidden within them.

And come to think of it, what I’ve just shared all relates to the various concepts of mail.

  • The curlicue heart stamps enable snail mail to be delivered.
  • The verse from Jeremiah was referenced in a hand-delivered card at the office.
  • I’m trusting that the US Postal Service has delivered my niece’s card.
  • You’re likely reading this post in an email.
  • You may comment back also by email.

Perhaps the old phrase, “You’ve got mail!” has a new spin!

To my readers: If you’ve encountered any “connected instances” lately, please share your story.

 

 

 

 

 

Change One Word

letters

A company held a large renewable government contract. Each quarter the agency sent a new purchase order to buy against with a not-to-exceed limit of $999,999. So if the agency didn’t purchase more than a million dollars during that three month period, the company’s invoices were paid under the contract terms.

At one new quarter, the expected purchase order arrived, and the first invoice for $2500 was paid timely. Then successive invoices went past due. It took several weeks to uncover the reason: A purchasing agent had changed the unit of measure on the purchase order from “lot” to “job.”

That substitution of one short word for another meant that the government would pay just one invoice instead of multiple ones.

Last Tuesday’s blog (read it at https://liftedup.us/name-that-tune/) commented on the substitution of the word I’d for the originally written word I’ll. The contraction I’d means I would or I had. It carries with it a context of condition, such as:

  • I’d love to help you move, but I’m having my teeth cleaned that day.
  • I’d be happy if only (and you can fill in the blank here).

Substituting I’d for I’ll in that hymn makes our faith seem conditional. Why yes, I’d like to do that….but let me get back to you. In Gospel lessons from Matthew and Luke, Jesus notes some flimsy excuses that people offered up in order to avoid an immediate “I will!” response.

  • I just purchased a new piece of land, and I need to check it out.
  • I bought some new oxen that must be tested.
  • I’m a newlywed.
  • I have an elderly parent to care for before I can make that commitment.

We can laugh at those excuses (although I’m not sure Jesus found them particularly amusing), but we offer up similar statements ourselves. You know, in these posts I have to be careful not to come across as sanctimonious, as in: “I am perfect, as we all know, and so I’m not using myself as an example here, but you, my readers, may very well see yourselves in the story.”

The opposite is actually what usually happens. Often when I’m writing on a topic, I’ll see myself so plainly! I swear, the very day I started writing this, I heard myself saying to my husband, “I’d like to help her with that, but I just don’t have the time.” It was one of those slap-your-own-forehead moments for me.

As Dr. Julie White said once, “I teach this stuff….when am I going to learn it?!”

But that’s one of the beautiful points of life:  Each day brings us opportunities to learn to be better people.

To my readers: What opportunity have you been presented with so far this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Me In!

Cars

I try to be a kind driver. When people make mistakes such as pulling out in front of me, I produce excuses for them. “He must have a lot on his mind.” It’s amazing how that paradigm shift frees me from getting angry over the incident.

I have a friend who does something similar. Although she is not from the Deep South by birth, when another driver does something dumb, she smiles and says quietly in a super-Southern accent, “Why, you poor thing. You plumb forgot how to drive.” Again, this puts a completely different spin on her emotional response.

When I see a road sign that says, “Right lane ends ahead,” I turn on my signal and try to work my way left as soon as I can. I’m not someone who zooms past on the right and then cuts over at the last minute.

But six months ago, I was in a not totally unfamiliar area, but one in which there had been consistent road construction and restructuring of the exits. Traffic was backed up for miles. I thought I was in one of two lanes that went straight, but as we moved along slowly, I realized I needed to merge left.

With my turn signal blinking, I tried to move over. No one would give an inch. I kept trying as the traffic edged along. Nothing. Where was the driving karma?  I mean, I always let people in. Why were people being so mean?

Finally I was at the point where I was out of room, and so nosed my way ahead of the car beside me.  He honked his horn. No, actually he laid his hand on the horn for a long ten seconds. I waved an “I’m sorry” gesture in the rearview mirror, but all I got back was a glare.

As we moved onto an overpass, I could see the traffic signal half a mile in the distance. It had just turned red, so I knew I had time before we’d start rolling again.

I put my car in park, pulled the emergency brake, and got out. As I walked back to Mr. Horn Blarer, I swear I could read his mind: “Oh great. Here comes a crazy lady.”

But I smiled and gave reaffirming body language by keeping my arm low and outstretched, palms up—surely the universal gesture of, “I come in peace.”

He reluctantly rolled down his window and grumbled, “What?!” I replied, “I wanted to apologize for being in the wrong lane back there. I didn’t realize my lane didn’t go through.” He refused to look at me, but said, “You’re fine, you’re fine.” I went back to my car.

Clearly he was not expecting an apology from me. But it was a sincere gesture on my part. And I’m hoping that forever after, he will graciously allow others in.

To my readers: Do you have a driving-related story to share?

 

 

 

 

The Sweet Spot

 

Stocksnap berries

One of the joys of living in the country happens about this time of year: a crop of wild raspberries grows at the wood’s edge of our yard.

I have to calculate the timing of harvest just right – after they’ve ripened enough and before the deer or the bears decide they’re ready. There’s that sweet spot of time that lasts a span of 5-7 days.

I basically live in the woods, so the berries that absorb the strongest sun ripen first and the others follow in their own time. There aren’t enough berries on any one day to can or make jam. Over the years, I’ve taken cereal, milk, and the just-picked berries to feed my team breakfast.

I was thinking of the berries today when my finance team held a surprise party for me in anticipation of my last day of work on June 30. After 22 years of working there in credit management, I’m leaving to pursue my Lifted Up business and volunteer work full time.

When I was first hired there in 1994, the company was a three generation, 87-year-old family business. It’s been bought and sold several times, and within the last six weeks, it became a publicly traded company. Over the past year especially, each day has brought challenging changes.

So I had a sweet spot of time there, and now it’s over. While I will certainly miss the people, I feel a tremendous sense of anticipation in leaving that career behind and moving forward to a new one.

I’m so glad that you, my readers, are along for the ride! A friend recently shared that she doesn’t understand how my writing a blog earns me money. In case you’re wondering the same thing, the answer is that it doesn’t. That’s because I don’t have advertising on my site.

What I need to do is build a “tribe” of readers who subscribe to receive and then actually read my twice-weekly posts. That way, when I’m ready to publish my children’s books and other material, I will be a more appealing author to a publishing company since I’ll already have demonstrated that I have a faithful audience. That’s YOU!

So if you enjoy reading my posts, you can help me by passing along my website information to others so they can subscribe to be emailed my posts and join my tribe of followers. It’s that simple.  Thank you…a sincere thanks…for reading and sharing my posts. I love connecting with you.

To my readers: Do you have a story to share about leaving one career and starting another?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Truth tulips

We each have our own version of the truth. And that’s the truth. Really.

In religion, consider how the core beliefs of devout Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists differ. Look at what not just the current political candidates but all candidates in your memory spout forth. It sounds something like this: “I’m telling you the truth, so that makes the other person a liar.”

From lifestyle choices to parenting decisions, there are so many variances. How can they all be the right way? Even for something as minor as what HAS to be the best television show, we each carry our own version of what’s true. If you have trouble with that one, consider the debate over Downton Abbey. People I know either love that show or couldn’t care less about it.

I’ve listened to various presentations and read multiple authors who speak to the point that we each see our version of life as the real one. But it’s hardly a new topic. Soren Kierkegaard (born in 1813 in Copenhagen) was an Existentialist Philosopher. On the issue of subjectivity he observed that every human perceives the world, and thus, “the truth” differently.

So I get that. I know it and I believe it. I’m posting this blog about it. And likely many of you get it as well.

Isn’t it curious, then, that we (and I’m definitely including myself here) forget that fundamental point when someone opposes our personalized version of the truth? And our reactions can run from mild annoyance to outright hostility to vengeful action against the person who is so “obviously wrong.”

What if, in our everyday lives, we could stop acting as though we ourselves are correct and everyone else is wrong?  I imagine the experience of doing that would be close to a meditative state where a thought (“Hmmm…he thinks about that subject differently than I do.”) might pass across our consciousness. And instead of allowing that thought to remain and morph into something negative, we just let it go. Imagine it’s a helium filled balloon whose string we let slip from our fingers.

So he thinks differently than I do. OK. That doesn’t make him wrong, nor does it make me right. In other words, no one died and left me in charge of the world.

This is a lesson I struggle to remember. My husband once bought me a shirt that displayed the message, “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” He said it was a reference to a British television show. I’m pretty sure the shirt was a joke, but I can’t be certain.

And that’s the truth. But as I see it, of course.

To my readers: I’d love to know your thoughts on this.