IT’S A GREAT DAY! – poverty

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”  NELSON MANDELA

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” GANDHI

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Some of you are saying, “Larry, what does poverty have to do with a great day?”

Did you wake up from a peaceful sleep in a warm, comfortable bed?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Have you done your gratitude list for this day?  Did you eat a hearty breakfast? Will you probably live this day without threat of gun violence or persecution for your belief system?

Congratulations!  Your day has the promise of being a GREAT DAY.  A majority of the world’s population does not have that promise.  But, many of those people go out and make it a fantastic day regardless of circumstances.  That’s the miracle of our species – we are survivors who have an innate desire to thrive.

Does your need to thrive ride on the backs of the less fortunate?  Does mine?  When was the last time we chose to contribute to our local homeless shelter in lieu of a new addition to our designer clothes or, perhaps, buy that man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign a lunch at Burger King rather than a steak for our dinner tonight?  When did we last decide to live more simply so that others in our world would have a dish of rice to eat or a cup of clean water to drink?  When?

My friend, it is absolutely a great day because we have so many choices in front of us.  We can choose what we will eat rather than if we can afford to eat.  We can choose which chair or sofa we will rest upon rather than which overpass we will seek for shelter.  We can choose to tidy up our living room rather than rearrange our boxes and tarp.  Do we understand that much of the world does not have adequate food, shelter or water and our Western culture of greed and consumption has contributed to that shortage?

Along with substantial blessing comes substantial responsibility.  You and I ARE our brothers’ keepers.  That is not a suggestion; it is a mandate dictated by all the world’s major religions and belief systems.  Hug our loved ones this morning, appreciate all that has been given to us, and then contemplate how we can live more simply and help eradicate poverty.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – success

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you live – that is to have succeeded.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Do you compare to others?  Car?  House?  Money?  Designer clothes?  Do you base your personal success on that comparison?

STOP!  Just stop.  Our Western culture has fed all of us a pack of lies regarding success.  As a result you probably work more than you need in order to buy things you don’t really need.  And whom are you impressing?  The Joneses most likely don’t give a hoot about that shiny new car or your spouse’s wardrobe.  In the end when one makes an accounting of one’s life, all of us, yes every single one, will go wherever we believe we are going without a stitch of designer jeans, no fancy ride, and not one of those gleaming diamonds purchased with hard work and sacrifice.  Nada, zilch, nothing!

Then what will we take across into the next phase?  Perhaps integrity, compassion, stewardship, honesty, conscience?  How about selflessness?  What good have we done for this creation?  The preservation of natural habitats, the protection of wildlife, the concern for the homeless, the compassion for immigrants, the love for the arts,  the kind word to a lonely man, the dedication to peace, the restrictions on personal consumption are all ways to view our lives as astonishing successes no matter how small or how grand.

Don’t fall for the world’s allure.  It is fleeting and destructive.  It will not satisfy your need to feel successful.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  It’s a great day whether spent in an elegant mansion or a modest apartment, whether the ride to town is a limo or a bicycle, whether the jeans are Jordache or WalMart.  Stuff does not matter.  Repeat that a dozen times as you compose today’s gratitude list.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – intentional living

 

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“I am going to have a horrible day today.  It’s raining, my joints hurt and my muscles ache.  The cat spit up on my bedcovers and the roof is leaking.  I forgot to get eggs yesterday at the grocery store, so now I must settle for a PB sandwich for breakfast.  Worst of all, that lazy, newspaper delivery man forgot my paper and I have nothing to read with my boring PB breakfast sandwich.  Life is really going to suck today.”

or

“Oh, what a relaxing, drizzly day!  I won’t be doing much outside today, so I’ll be able to catch up on reading.  The cat is sprawled out on my bed and enjoying his first nap of the day.  Yes, I forgot to get eggs yesterday, but a bowl of creamy, hot oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar sounds delicious.  Maybe I’ll go online to read my newspaper since I don’t have a morning paper in the driveway.  Lord, thank you for another day of lungs breathing and heart pumping.  Today will be a spectacular day.”

What will be your day’s intention?  Glum and gloomy or special and spectacular?  It’s a choice you make each morning upon arising.  Don’t just accept what life throws at you, create the life you want to live.  It’s an amazing choice that greets the day and sets the stage for the next 24 hours.  Be intentional!

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – rivers of life

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Did the Colorado River cut through rock creating the Grand Canyon by sheer strength?  Did it happen overnight?  No, of course not.  One of the most awesome land sculptures on earth was created over eons of persistent erosion.  Millions have viewed this spectacular landscape, some have tried to conquer its raw natural power, a few have died failing to match wits with the imposing rock walls and the mighty river flowing through the canyon.

Persistence!  Not strength, not brawn, not physical power.  Our goals in life will be accomplished with rivers of intentional persistence.  Yesterday’s commitments to healthy habits and attitudes must be pursued again today.  There is no room for stagnation in pursuing our goals whether those goals be mental, spiritual or physical.  Our rivers of determination will stop flowing and become dammed up when filled with past baggage and emotional silt.  Muscles and joints which tell us, ‘No, stop,”  must not be entertained with inactivity.  Especially those of us experiencing the ‘golden years’ cannot stop intentional forward motion.

As always, this is a choice to be made every morning upon arising.  Greet the morning with a smile, a ‘thank you’, a brief gratitude list, a hug to your spouse or cat or dog, and a stretch to the dawning day ahead welcoming goodness and strength into the waking hours.  Receive the blessings which flow and the gift of grace to enjoy another 24 hours.  It’s all ours for the asking.  The alternative is to wallow with inaction, suffer the aches and pains, dread the day’s drudgery, look forward to an end to this self-imposed misery.  It’s our choice.

What’s your river going to do today?  Flow bravely and erode just a bit more those walls of stone?  I hope so.  I intend to live life fully in the face of obstacles and mental dams.  If I fall down, I will bounce back up.  If I see someone else fall down, I will help them back up.  We can claim victory when the last breath is drawn.  We can say with conviction, “I defeated you, death, and will continue on into eternity knowing I gave this life my best effort.”

Join me, will you?

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:55

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – weakness

I have a confession to make – my name is Larry and I am a TV news show junkie.  Not baseball, not sit-coms, not movies from 1948, no, I sit for several hours watching the latest developments from national leaders unfold on my screen.  You might say, “Well Larry, that’s a good thing.  It is good to stay on top of current events.”

No, no, no this is not a good thing.  How do I know?  I know that when I have viewed a great movie classic or an exciting baseball game, when I have guffawed uncontrollably over the antics of a sit-com cast, I feel good.  However, when I have spent 4 hours watching this political figure or that wannabe leader spout a stream of accusations and innuendo, defame people who are my heroes, immaturely slander others who aspire to make a difference in our society…when bedtime rolls around, I am angry, disturbed, depressed and vindictive.  My internal dictionary tells me that these are negatives.  That is not a good thing.  I try not to entertain negatives in my life.

Denying that I have a problem does not help.  Believing that I can practice controlled viewing does not work.  When 7 PM rolls around I am magnetically drawn to the remote control, I am savoring the first few minutes of updates.  Ten minutes is too much and four hours is not enough.  My mind is putty in the hands of those celebrity pundits appearing on my screen.  Hold me, caress me, teach me the things I need to know about society and politics.  Yes, yes, yes, form my opinions, make me intelligent and witty, give me the words to argue with any of my neighbors.  Here I am.  Take me now and we will dwell forever in digital ecstasy.

Pretty damn sad, isn’t it?  So, as you may have noticed, the title of this post is “IT’S A GREAT DAY! – weakness.”  When I was a young boy working with my grandfather on his farm, the farm hands who assisted in the summer months were young, mature, worldly men who had been around the block a few times.  They knew the pleasures and the secrets of life.  Full of advice for a boy growing up totally naïve, they always joked with me about girls and the mysteries of puberty and adolescence.  But invariably, with dead seriousness, they would then end the conversation with, “Life is great if ya don’t weaken.”

“Hmmm,” I wondered to myself, “what on earth are they talking about?”

Trial and error answered my question.  Many trials and many errors in dealing with sex, in finding my place in society, in succumbing to numerous addictions.  If anyone learned about life the hard way, it was me.  ‘Life is great if ya don’t weaken’ took on painful profundity as I battled the demons which were in control of Larry, the young man.

When I share my concern with the news programs addiction, we know it is somewhat in jest.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say this evening pastime of national events is incongruous with the mindset I want for myself and that I need to corral that remote control by setting limits upon what networks it can access.   Yeah, that sounds like a winning course of action.  Honestly, an intelligent, reasonable, well-grounded man cannot possibly be ‘addicted’ to TV……can he?

I have a great start to this day.  Upon awakening I hugged the sleeping cat aside me, I brewed my first cup of coffee, I dwelled upon the dawning day, and then set a course for honoring the master of my life.  Meditation, yoga and a light workout got my lungs breathing and heart pumping.  I have a few chores for this afternoon and a list of options for this evening….baseball, a book to read, maybe a classic movie.  Please wish me luck as I battle my latest affliction and try not to weaken by 7PM.  It’s a great day at my house and in my mind!  How about you?

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – yes, I can

Whether I say I can or say I can’t, either way I will probably be right.

cropped-curve-dark-dawn-327316.jpgThink about those words.  They are saying to us that the choice is ours.  Yes, I can; no, I can’t.  What is your choice going to be?  

Too often we give that decision-making to others.  As children, we heard parents say numerous times, “you can’t do that.”

Usually that instruction was in our best interests, a warning about pending danger or a word of advice garnered from experience.  We knew our parents loved us and would not betray our trust.  Then, as we matured, the natural response was any action which opposed authority.  Dad can’t tell me what to do, my teacher can’t make me do it, my preacher can’t tell me what’s right or what’s wrong.  It was a healthy, self-discovery process which wet our feet in the world of hard knocks and errors.  And we survived, did we not?

Parents no longer direct your life.  Educators and preachers have given you a means of earning a living and a moral compass by which to live.  So, you are well equipped to face life on life’s terms, right?  You are confident in your decisions, right?  You do not doubt your own intuition and rational thinking, right?  You know that who you are today is as perfect as you can be today, you are worthy, right?  You can do anything which you set your mind to doing, right?

Any ‘no’ answers to the above dialog are wrong.  ‘I can’t’ is unacceptable because today, in this moment, I have the tools within to accomplish anything I attempt.  No, we’re not talking about physical feats, performing miracles, climbing Mt. Everest, or entering a marathon.  My body, not my mind, tells me ‘no’ to those endeavors.

Recently, after years of jogging and hiking, my knees and hip said, “No more.”   X-rays indicated that age, wear and tear had deteriorated those joints to a painful reminder with every movement.  “I can’t,” was my mantra for about 6 months accompanied by serious depression and stress.  At age 71, I was ready for the transition to the next phase.  That, however, was not what happened.

In a motivation video on YouTube, the voice speaking said, “Don’t lament what you can no longer do; rather, focus on what you can do.”

Really?  That was the jumpstart necessary to regroup and redefine who Larry is.  Not a jogger, not a hiker, not even a brisk walker.  Instead, this body discovered yoga, isometric exercises, low impact aerobic workouts that it could do.  Our minds can carry us over any hurdles when we allow the ‘can do’ attitude to direct us.  I can do this, you can too.  What will your answer be today?  “Yes, I can,” or “No, I can’t.”  It’s your choice.

When we say, “I can,” inner strength will provide the means to fulfill those determined words.  You and I were designed magnificently in the same image as all of creation.  We were intended to be survivors in a sometimes heartless world.  When we say, “I can’t”, we are admitting defeat without a battle and we are denying the divine strength within us.  The Lord of my life, the force which you trust as a greater power whether you name it God, Allah, the One, Brahman or Higher Power will honor the words, “Yes, I can.”

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IT’S A GREAT DAY!- don’t argue

Silence the noise of others; listen to your own voice.

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Did you hear that?  Should I repeat it?  Don’t give more credence to the thoughts and rhetoric of other people than you give to your own.  “To thine own self be true.”  Polonius speaking to his son Laertes in Hamlet has been interpreted by many to mean many things.  But, let’s just keep it simple.  You and I have each an internal dialog that speaks from a place of experience, of guidance, of direction, of inspiration which often is amazingly ‘other-directed’ arising from the wisdom of the cosmos dwelling in our inner sanctum.  Call it soul, call it God, call it Spirit, call it a higher power.  It is ours and it is unique to each one of us according to the gifts blessing our lives.

So, why would anyone not listen to his or her inner voice?  Have you ever said any of the following?  “That man is better educated than I am, therefore he is more intelligent.  She is a psychiatrist, therefore she has deeper insight.  He is a preacher with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name, therefore he is more spiritual.  He’s my father, he knows better.  She’s my mother, she wouldn’t misguide me.  They are high school counselors, they know what is my best course of education.”

Just stop!  Stop it!  They all may be wonderful people, but only you know what speaks from your heart.  Some of them are not wonderful people, they are playing the control game for  selfish reasons.  Don’t allow others to call your shots.  This is your life and it’s your choice what you will do with that life.  Choice is life’s golden ticket.  Don’t give that ticket to someone else.

When you wake up in the morning, after you have said ‘thank-you’ for this day and this opportunity to breathe air into your lungs and pump blood through your body, after you have stretched your legs and arms, after you have smiled at your spouse or cat or dog lying beside you, get up and rejoice.  Rejoice over the opportunities ahead of you to be fully involved in an active and productive day plan with household projects or with your job.  Or rejoice exceedingly as you anticipate with zeal the coming day of rest and relaxation.  Maybe it will be a day at the beach, or a hike in the woods, or a shopping trip with the grandkids, or a special lunch with a dear friend.  Embrace it!  Cherish it!  You are a miraculous treasure brimming with options.

I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, zip it , Larry.  Life sucks.”

Maybe it does.  Loss of loved ones, physical ailments, poverty, social injustice, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, divorce, injuries remind us every day that this is not a Pollyanna world.  Stuff happens.  But, all that turmoil is processed by the same mind which also says that you are special and you are worthy of goodness and mercy.  You can walk the path of life with an overflowing cup.  You can rest in green pastures by still waters.  Or you can wallow in the mire with creepy, crawly things.  Again, it’s your choice which scenario you decide to internalize.  Don’t sell out to negative circumstances which are predominantly beyond your control while diminishing the spectacular essence within. Listen to this internal voice which  you have proven as truth through experience and reasoning that tells you, “Wow, I am going to have a great day.”

It’s not easy staying out of the pits.  Visit a grumpy neighbor, watch the national headlines on TV, look at your overdue electric bill. I understand because I have been there, I sometimes visit there even today.  Life has to be a daily, if not hourly, surrender to that inner voice telling me that, contrary to my negative thoughts, I can enjoy a perfect day because for this moment at this time I am a perfect version of me.  I hope to evolve and enlighten with each tomorrow, but for this moment in life I have everything I need within me to live a day far beyond my greatest expectations.  Believe it absolutely with heart, mind, and soul.  It will happen.  Guaranteed! Today’s another great day.

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – limbo rock

Here’s a quirky flashback from an era which many of us remember as care-free and exciting.  Chubby Checker’s words, “Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.  Jack go unda limbo stick…..how low can you go?” (1)

limbo rockThose years were great times.  Were we hopelessly naïve or simply enthusiastic about life?  Today, in our maturity, the harshness of the world, the deception of politicians, the betrayal of friends, the cruelty of man to man has a way of mellowing idealistic youth.  We somehow came to realize that the things happening around us are mostly beyond our control.

How low can you go?  How low will you go before you take charge of your life and remind yourself, “I don’t need to find the bottom anymore.  I don’t need to go there.  I have a choice today about my life.  This morning, right now, I will set my day’s course.  I can wallow in my gloom or I can bathe in the rising sun.  I can listen to the internal self-condemning dialog or I can enjoy the serenade of awakening birds.  It’s my choice today.  I don’t need to see how low I can go.”

You are a worthy child of this universal presence which flows through all of creation.  So am I.  We are functioning, breathing, blood-pumping organisms designed to be spectacular.  Hold that thought for just a moment.  You, just as you are, are perfect right now.  Not tomorrow, not next year, not when you die – no, you are perfect today in this very moment.  It may be difficult at first, but repeat it over and over and over until you truly believe it.  This doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels and not aspire to grow into better versions of who we are.  Our goal is always to evolve and enlighten into the creatures which we have been designed to be.  So, today, right now in this moment, stop stooping to see how low you can go.

Stretch those arms high, open your hands to receive the blessings which have been intended for you.  Look into the cosmos and find your home, your joy and peace.  That eternal inheritance is there waiting for you to claim it.  Right here, right now, grab what has been yours all along.  It’s a great day.

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(1) LIMBO ROCK

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – ‘individuated’

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“The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back….” (1)

richard rohrRichard Rohr nails it, my friends.  We now have experience on our side, emotional maturity, insight and conviction.  Taking our life back from the clutches of family, friends, clergy, co-workers, tribe, and ego is the end result of becoming what the supreme universal energy has intended for us from the beginning.  It is a concept presented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung as individuation – not self-indulgence or individualism, rather surrender of our ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent.

Do you know what the soul’s intent is?  Do I?  Some could say, “Yes, of course.  My faith, my theology, my religion has taught me everything I need to know about soul.”

Really?  Then you would also know that your soul’s intent is for you to have a meaningful experience today and every day for the rest of your life.  Yes, the dark valleys will appear, the depression will knock, the sorrows will challenge, but any day in which you have awakened to the miracle of life and expressed appreciation to the God named according to your faith walk, is a great day.  Even darkness must give way to light, life’s uncertain vagaries will be overcome by understanding, and inconceivable circumstances will bow to positive action. “This too shall pass” is not just a cliche.  It is truth.  Claim it as yours.

Take control each morning of the day’s mindset before engaging in whatever activity you need to accomplish.  Don’t just roll the dice taking chances with the day’s outcome; instead, direct your mind upon arising to positive thoughts and a realization that what occurs in the first moments of wakefulness will set the tone for the entire day.  Envision yourself as being victorious over all difficulties and celebratory in all accomplishments.  See yourself handling confrontation with family and co-workers effectively and it will happen.  Picture yourself enjoying your day on the beach and it will happen.  Feel the satisfaction of finishing the household project awaiting and it will happen.  What you project onto the day’s activity will prevail.

Meditation, motivational videos, yoga, light exercise, inspirational reading are all great ways to start a great day.  Those few minutes or hours are an investment in successful living as a joyful, contented child of that eternal, universal force flowing throughout the entirety of creation.  Grab onto this power by creating your day rather than enduring it.  Believe unabashedly that the choice is yours.  You and I can make it the day we want.  We can also make it the day we don’t want.  What a realization!  We are powerful and dynamic forces in our worlds.  Have a great day!

(1) CAC.ORG

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IT’S A GREAT DAY! – dice roll

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So, you’re a gambler?  How often do you win?  Excites you, doesn’t it?  The thrill of the bet, the risk-taking, the ecstasy of a win, the personal satisfaction in knowing you have beaten the odds.  Ok, good for you.

How often do you lose? How much? A lot?  Really?  Sounds like you might be losing more than you win.  Yeah, I know it’s just entertainment; after all, you’re not addicted, right?

Do you gamble with your life?  A risk-taker?  Do you jump out in front of moving traffic?  Do you play Russian roulette with your friends?  How about unprotected sex?  It’s just gambling, right?

Life is more than just a roll of the dice.  When you wake up in the morning, rolling those blocks of chance, giving the day’s promises to Lady Luck is going to guarantee one of three outcomes.  You will either win or you will lose or the day will wind up a wash-out. That’s just 1 in 3 chances of having a great day.

Try this instead.  Open your eyes, look around the room, appreciate the bed in which you slept comfortably,  and let the first words out of your mouth be a sincere “Thank you.  I am so greatly blessed.”

Monkey brain will attempt to engage.  Will you allow it?  Got to clean the bathroom, must call the pharmacy, need to get groceries, Johnny needs a clean shirt, the cat has fleas, North Korea is going to bomb us, the world is ending, I’ve got to vacuum the rugs…..”oh Lord I’m so weary already!”

STOP!  Don’t let monkey brain begin your day.  Instead, breathe in.  Air is rushing over your lungs, aerating the blood, pumping fresh life into your organs, bringing life to limbs.  Wiggle those toes, shake out the cramps from sleeping on your arm, wipe the sleepies from you eyes, hold that breath and then…..exhale.  Release the thoughts trying to capture your thinking, inhale again.  Exhale, inhale, exhale.  Envision your body parts waking up to a great new day.  Breathe in, then breathe out.

Now, you are ready to swing those legs out over the bed and rise to greet this day ahead of you.  Are you going to roll the dice?  No, of course not.  You will make this the best day ever, the beginning of the rest of your life.  Imagine how you want to enjoy today.  Have a cup of coffee or tea on the patio listening to the melody of songbirds in the nearby oak trees.  Watch the mother duck leading her hatchlings to the pond.  Become amazed by the roses sharing their aroma in the morning air.  Are you feeling it yet?  Life is wonderful and a great day lies ahead.

Of course, if you would rather roll your dice, go for it.  Read the morning headlines, turn up the volume of the TV.  Fuss at Johnny for not putting his dirty shirt in the laundry.  Scold the cat for being a cruise ship for fleas.  Yell at your spouse for being such a slob in the bathroom.  It’s your choice.  Roll the dice and hope for the best or give the day a fighting chance to be terrific by waking up to the splendor that surrounds your life.

Wasn’t it Erma Bombeck who wrote, “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?”  And remember what Confucius said?   “When life gives you a bunch of lemons, make lemonade.”

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