Sorry sir, We Overbooked You!


It was the first time since I started to travel internationally that I was not allowed to board. I was landed in Lisbon heading to Alicante to speak to Thai young people living in Europe. But when I asked TAP Air about getting a boarding pass I was given the spiel of an overbooked plane and that I could fly the next day, same flight. I’d also get a hotel room and meal vouchers and a credit card with 250 euros for my troubles. Just go to any ATM and get your cash. She was a good saleswoman and so I was mildly okay with the plan, besides I would lose only one day with the young people.
 
However, the reality of the situation became clearer when I, along with seven others, began a long conversation with the TAP agent making the arrangements. The next day’s flight was already full. No way to get on it. So I was given a new TAP Air flight 2.5 hours north to Amsterdam and there to transfer to a KLM 2 hour flight to Alicante. I wasn’t too happy. He wasn’t budging. I didn’t even know I was given a 50 minute window to catch my next flight. I doubted their wisdom.
 

Next morning I was on time to the Lisbon airport wondering how my day would unfold. I boarded on time. The pilot then announced a delay of twenty minutes.  Not looking good already! While in the air I kept looking at my watch to gauge my chances of making my connection. It wasn’t looking good and I know my Swiss-made Seiko was not lying. I heard, at last, the landing announcement, I quickly calculated ten more minutes to touch the black tarmac. We descended through the fluffy clouds, passengers obediently belted to their chairs. I continued my calculations, hmmm, next flight now leaving in ten minutes. Hmmm, well, no matter how fast and long my spindly legs could carry me I knew I wouldn’t be on time. I look out my oval window to see highways dotted with cars and trucks, the dutch rooftops are visible and some big deciduous trees are at eye level. We hit the ground too hard and lurch from left to fright! My bag of unopened candies dance down the aisle. I now have two minutes to get my body on KLM flight.

It got me thinking, I wonder if we have tried to make living by faith too much like the way we travel. Ideally in travel there are no delays, no over-bookings, no technical problems and the weather is bright and sunny. Plan B’s are always the right plan too. So  up above those clouds I wondered if my next plane would wait for me. Was I important enough? Would there be ground staff waiting to whisk me to the where I need to go quickly. I found myself wishing again I could better control my future.

As it was there was no one waiting for me. I find the first boarding pass machine. After pounding my flight info, it decisively informed me that I missed my flight. “Due to delay…. You are too late, Peter DeWit, so sorry!” It gave me the option to rebook a flight. I clicked continue. The only flights were next day. I’d miss a second day of a three-day retreat. And where do I stay another night away? I didn’t how to decide. In the end, after talking to ground staff about options I made the decision to go home. Three days of travel to get to Alicante? No way jose!late.jpg

Some people live by the “nothing ever goes to plan” mantra. It’s really not true. Nonetheless sometimes things don’t go our way. That’s when you need to learn to let go and let be. I could have yelled like some of the others not permitted to board at Lisbon. I could have let the situation ruin my days and other people’s day too. I made an effort to let go and live lightly. I am sad of course to not be with my Thai friends in Spain. I am disappointed with TAP Air Portugal and it’s failures too. And the bank card they gave me that didn’t work, maddening!!! But what a reminder to self that I am not in control of the decisions and events that seem to go against me.

I am learning over and over to let go of the illusion that I am in control and trust the journey and the God of my journey. I guess that is what faith is all about, if everything was according to my plan I wouldn’t even need faith!

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Goodness is Contagious


Just last week I experienced a beautiful human moment. As I was looking down from our Parisian balcony, five floors above, I saw an old man walking with a cane. I could tell he was begging as he took his little steps forward. He motioned to people with his hand that he was hungry. I continued to watch. But sadly no one wanted to even lift their heads! For some reason I dug into my pockets for a coin. It wasn’t much of a coin. And I dropped it from the fifth floor hoping he’d hear the ping. He did not and kept limping forward. But other heads below lifted and looked above to see where the coin descended from. One lady even grabbed the bronze coin and looked up at me questioning on her face. I motioned with my hand pointing sheepishly at the beggar that just passed her by. She understood. And she walked to the beggar and gave him my coin. I waited to see if she’d look up. She didn’t, but was looking down into her own purse by then. She caught up to the beggar a second time and gave him another coin, most likely worth more than mine! Then she looked up at me. I waved. She waved back. A beautiful human moment between strangers took place.

 

small-acts

Suicide


“He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this!” Gladys Bourdain.

Suicide is like that, a shock, a sad surprise. When I read what Anthony’s mother said above, I wanted to invite you to grapple with this sensitive subject, suicide. Anthony Bourdain’s death comes sadly on the heels of designer Kate Spade who also took her life a few days before. Her husband, too, expressed great shock and surprise. There were no red flags. Suicide rates continue to rise alarmingly in North America. Someone said if it was classified as a new virus suicide would be called an epidemic. In the States, statistically, you are three more times to be killed by your hand than by someone else! Japan, one of the richest ABcountries in the world, is also known for having one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.

But really, it comes closer to home when a friend or family member attempts and maybe succeeds in leaving this world. That is why I write today, I have friends both young and old who have taken their lives. When something like that happens to a close friend, family member or associate we don’t really like to talk about it. Perhaps we feel too ashamed? Deep despair is never easy to talk about. I read today of a caller to a radio show that lambasted the selfishness of Anthony Bourdain, “How could he do this to us all?” That question: How come? It keeps being asked over and over by those who have to come to terms with a loved one’s death.

Not only are the young prone to suicide, in 2012 the highest suicide rate occurred with those aged between 45-59. Males are four times more likely to die by suicide than females! And if I may interject here, there’s another group, the LGBTQ community whose rates of suicide attempts among are significantly higher, maybe up to three times higher! But what may have surprised us most about this past week’s news is that suicide strikes even the most successful. These two celebrities both enjoyed wonderful careers that would be the envy for most of us.

I don’t have the definitive answers to the question, “How come?” But I have read enough and lived long enough to tell you that one of the greatest stressors today is the pressure to always be strong and successful. So much so we find it nearly impossible to admit our darknesses and flaws. We hate being in the furnace of self-doubt, even though, if we let it do it’s work in our lives, it can refine us and make us stronger. It takes the same grace to carry our less than perfect self as it does to live joyfully.

I believe we should teach acceptance of the fact that we all struggle with the darkness or the ‘dark side’ of who we are. All of us have an ‘achilles heel.’ The question then becomes can we carry this personal struggle honourably and with grace? Grace not shame. If society or a religious community or the workplace or our families attempt to shame us into change, rarely do we change. We merely hide. And that especially is lonely and painful.

I wish there were more answers. Being aware and connecting with those struggling with sadness or loneliness is a good start. And it is not easy to know who is struggling in a ‘social media’ culture of putting forth our best face, literally! We must allow others, ourselves included, to show up with our less than smiley faces. Creating safety allows our friends and family members to be vulnerable with us without the shame. Conversations now become safe.

Some other ides that come quickly to mind to help those in the throes of depression:

Let them know personally that their lives have meaning and bring real meaning to us.

Let them know that their struggle is not an anomaly. Others too, many others, have been through times like this.

And continue to communicate that things WILL get better. Time has a way to bring good things, better times, laughter even, to our lives. Weeping lasts a night, yes, maybe many nights. But there will be a morning when joy fills our hearts again.

Finally, telling the stories, your survivor stories, can only bring about more courage in the soul of the one who is ready to give up.

“Joy is an Act of Resistance.”


“Joy is an act of resistance.” This stirring phrase is a revelation to me on how to live in troubled times, and anytime!  It is a call for an inner revolution that transforms our response to our outer realities. As a realist and one who is susceptible to seeing the negative side of everything, it is a summons to choose joy no matter what I perceive to be happening on the ground! Joy insists on resisting the negativism and self-doubt and lean into the positive possibilities come what may!

Last Friday I went to an event that brought refugees and the rest of us together. I saw the event on Facebook and was intrigued by the idea of playing sports and eating food with refugees. I clicked I would go. Since it was Ramadan and many refugees come from Muslim countries, the food would wait till after sundown. Okay, I can do that!

So that evening I trekked the 30 minutes  underground on Metro line 8 to Ecole Militaire station and then walked the rest of the way. When I came to the sprawling ‘Champs de Mars’ next to Gustave’s marvel, the Eiffel,  I searched for what might look like a group of refugees  ready to play games. But I just couldn’t find the group among the myriad of picnickers. I walked and walked some more. No luck. When I asked some guys selling beer to tourists if there was a playing field somewhere they gave some dubious directions and walked some more in the wrong direction! Of course the joke was on me!

So I pretty well gave up and sent a few ‘woe is me’ texts to my wife and making the last full circle of the ‘champs’ I had decided to leave. “Oh well, at least I got to see the Eiffel Tower” I sighed. Then in the corner of my eye I saw a makeshift volleyball net being erected. That’s them, I was sure of it. So I made my way to join. Time to forget my tired legs, my feelings of frustration, and my empty belly. Time to hang out, and play sports! Right?

raineiffelWrong! The skies decided otherwise, and opened up and dropped rain drops. The lightning eventually partnered with the increasingly heavier rain drops and I found myself huddled under a tree with complete strangers. Some hard-core sports types tried to play volleyball but soon gave up too. The event was over in a flash. Then I noticed an unused mini umbrella at the foot of the tree still wrapped tightly in its bindings. Seeing no one else go for it, I did. And holding it up I was joined by two others, refugees wanting to stay dry like me. The conversation began to flow and what seemed like a waste of time for the realist, became a moment of joy to live into. We said our goodbyes and ran at once under the wet heavens and earth to our metro and bus stops. The rain really did wipe out our night!

The next morning listening to a podcast with my wife I heard the phrase, “Joy is an act of resistance.” I had to write it down. Afterwards the podcast was done Patricia asked me how have I seen this act of resistance, this joy at play in my life? She knows my natural tendency to negativism. So I had to think hard. And then I realized how precious my rain filled adventure actually was. She said, “You were present. You made an effort. ” I saw it, just as she said, I realised that even though I was cold, I was present in the moment and surrounded by people from countries none of us would choose to live in. No, this wasn’t a waste of time. I knew then and there I needed to resist more. Joy was calling my name!

So I will pray and invite you to pray these words with me even if you aren’t a prayer kind of person: “Help me, God of creation, to resist all negativity in my life. Don’t let my thoughts go there. Make me know your joy. Let it be in me today. Let me feel it all day long. No matter the responses around me or circumstances I find myself in. I resist all negativism and complaining. Amen”

 Hebrews 12: 2, 3  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

 

Be the Change You want to See


It’s not enough to know what you don’t want to be. You must decide also what you want to be. This is not just a writer’s fancy twist of a phrase. As a youth I knew I did not want to be a playboy or the guy that parties all night. I eschewed the image of the cool guy too. I was far from popular in my high school. It didn’t bother me. Though I knew I wanted to be different from the in-crowd or the party crowd I still had a hard time defining what I wanted to be.

Most kids hear lots of voices telling them, yelling at or whispering to them, “Be this!” or “Be that!” Maybe like me  you tried some of their suggestions before discovering they really didn’t fit! The danger to listening to the voices  is accepting the limiting narrative that says you are how others see you or say you are! Any identity or label that fits you poorly will only bring confusion if you wear it too long.

Knowing and deciding on what you want to be is essential to living with purpose and on purpose. Recently I was told that my life was so meaningful and I humbly said, “But yours is too!” He replied, “But not like yours!” What does one say after that? I’m blessed I know! But I also have tried my best to live ‘on purpose.’

I was just 14 years old when I cast my lot in with Christianity. Can 14 year olds make decisions like that? Of course they can. For me it began with an experience of being overwhelmed with love, wave after wave of it! I never experienced this feeling before, like God was enveloping me and saying, “Peter, I’m right here, and I love you!” I’ve stuck with it now for all of my life even though my understandings of God may have changed, or shall i say deepened. Today I recognize that much of who I am and still am becoming is a result of the many choices made over the years, including today’s choices.

Let me also add that I’ve made some poor choices in my life too. Who hasn’t? Those choices have always led to regret. Though regret doesn’t change people much, recognizing those moments when we are untrue to ourselves can. It’s like salt that has lost its savour, it’s identity has been compromised. Compromise leads to self-doubt, questioning and a lack of confidence. That’s when you must again shake yourself and ask, “Is this who I want to be?”

Lately I’ve fallen in love with the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” I think it was Gandhi who coined that phrase. It begs the question,”Do I want to live in a world where people are treated fairly, the weak are helped, respect is given, and gentleness is dominant?” Then be that! Be generous. Be involved. Be creative. Be joyful. Be there for others. Sometimes you can choose to be these good things.

Choose to be the one you know you want to be, your authentic self. It will lead you to a new freedom and that freedom will give you an ease. It brings you confidence and best of all it gives you the capacity to love. Get quiet enough and often enough to listen to the inner voice. Stay deaf to the voices vying for your attention trying to take you down the wrong identity path. It takes some aging and experience to learn how to reject the labels others stick on us and it requires some good timing to know when to play deaf to alternate voices. So know who you want to be my friends… Be! Be the man or woman who stands up with dignity, lives out life with gentleness, passion and confidence, uniqueness and love.

Dear God, Wash Those Tears Away!


Wash the tears away, all away
The horrors of today and the cries of yesterday
Dear God, wash those tears away!

A little child lies on the dirt
No breath remains, no longer alert
A bomb, lethal gas, Oh Syria, you hurt!

She was only 12 when he came
The darkness covered, but he had no shame
It’s my fault, she said for years, I am to blame!

DumptearsTears…. 
Stream…
Down…

This man here lost all he had
Years on the street left him half mad
A little bread, a lot of wine, still he was sad!

And this young body was ravaged by disease
Daily pain kept bringing him to his knees
He groaned daily with tears, “Oh my God, please!”

These ones wore labels the others gave
‘Useless’, ‘You homo’, ‘hey ugly’, ‘stupid slave’
Both he and she wore them sadly to the grave!

Wash the tears away, all away
The horrors of today and the cries of yesterday
Dear God, wash those tears away!

The gun fired off again and again
Student voices screaming, it’s insane
Broken dreams, red-stained streams, now all that remain!

Sigh…sigh the memories we loath to replay
Unspeakable hurt we carry, too hard to keep at bay

They broke us all in many different ways!

Tears…. 
Stream…
Down…

Cry now, yes, it’s okay
It’s not your fault that you feel this way

The wounds you carry will not hold sway
Mourning lasts the night, but then comes the day!

He’ll wipe your tears, stop the stream, and wash the pain away!

 

Revelation 21:4 (KJV)
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Acidvicimtears

Living from the Heart


Living from the heart and not from the head, now that is hard. “What has gotten into todaystressyour head”, we’ll ask a flustered friend. Try as we might, but to convince them to adjust the dial from their scratchy frequency of being stuck in a worried narrative to finding the sweet spot of a resonant dance-step frequency is near impossible. “Such a head-case,” the brutal person says. A nicer person, like me of course, will show them that ruminating on their circumstances over and over will only make them suffer all the more. There’s a better way to live on this planet, not by ignoring the head, but taking more cues from the heart. But who can teach others this manner of living out of the heart space? I’m still learning it myself, this way of freeing my mind from negativity, resentment, and fear to the giving of myself cheerfully to others and living delightfully in the here and now.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”           —Proverbs 3:5

Have you noticed that the most powerful moments in life come from our heart and not the head.  Grace, for example, isn’t logical. It bypasses the head and goes straight to the heart and then is released back into the world from the deepest part of us. The experience of grace now becomes the building block of solid heart connections. And have you noticed how hard it is to forgive with your head? The hurt we experienced sticks to the ego like that one freak leaf hanging on to a branch after a windstorm. Mercy is needed to soften the stubborn hold of hurt. Mercy doesn’t make sense to our get-what-we-deserve minds. But mercy can be released, but only from a heart that has tasted mercy for itself.

I find it fascinating that the Bible described Saul as being a head taller than all others. Now here was a king with an ego! (And as a tall person myself, I better be careful here!) King Saul lived defending his higher-than-thou-standing among the people. Everything was a negotiation with him, to the point that he could no longer live from the heart space. His mind, like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, tormented him so much so that he needed the soothing singing of a young shepherd to get temporarily out of his head! He was a real head-case! His static mind frequency caused him to take the low road that lead to an early grave. In an untimely manner he got his directions from an old fortune teller. Not good. Dreadful thinking causes us all to live out life in bad form.

So, the question remains, is there a way to bring your thinking down to your heart? That’s our challenge, right? Can we find a way to trust our heart to be the decider, the mover and shaker of our lives? Franciscan monk Richard Rohr has a way of turning conventional thinking on its head. “You never think yourself into new ways of living,” he said, “Rather you live yourself into new ways of thinking.” Clever! But what does he mean? Like me maybe the difference for you isn’t obvious. I’ve read that phrase a hundred times and still wonder exactly what he means! But let me take a stab at it, (I should write to him and get to the heart of this!)

Anyway, here goes, so, I’ve tried to say that living out of your head and living from the Today I'm Living!heart can be competing  ways of doing life. Being informed is good, no sense being  saintly and at the same time stupid. But knowing your heart and trusting with your heart and living from your heart changes the way you think and see more than telling yourself stuff. I bring all my thinking down to my heart and ask it, “Hey, heart! Is this thought beautiful, helpful and worth pursuing for real?” Then when my heart resonates, I live that revelation or beautiful conclusion out with all that I am. Make sense?

Maybe I didn’t hit a bullseye with my interpretation. I’m fine with you trying your own. But watch how the head impatiently wants quick answers. Right? The heart on the other hand won’t settle for easy answers, but rather searches for the meaning of things. We all know the best teachers never give you the answers. Rather they show you how to find or view the solution to the problem. They are like wisdom teachers. They show us the path or the best way to get to the right destination.

Now in comes the wisdom teacher, Jesus, with a counter wisdom that he called the narrow way. The more I study it the more I see it as  a path of unconventional living. Just think about his upside-down teaching, what we call the beatitudes, and you have a model of living into new ways of thinking. He starts by congratulating those who have nothing to protect or project, the poor in spirit. But he tells they are not poor, they are the blessed ones, they have God’s kingdom already in them. “Live from there,” Jesus says! He then goes on to encourages the mournful, those that grieve the destructive ways our world operates. Jesus adds that God comes close and comforts us in the sadness, always giving us hope. Then He calls out the strength of the gentle. They never fly off the handle in responding to the unfairness of losing what is theirs.  From being peacemakers to pursuers of justice, everything comes from the heart he says. His wisdom concludes that only the pure in heart see properly, God himself, in all of life’s circumstances!

Living from the heart admittedly is no simple skill. Like I said I am still learning it. It is more than cleaning one’s lenses, it is the humble step of seeking a new place from which to see, a new standing from which to understand.  It is like walking on another planet all the while having our feet firmly planted on this one too!  This ground is the narrow way and the Kingdom of Heaven. And it can be ours here and now, gradually, like yeast. Yes, heaven invades our heart and slowly transforms us into new ways of thinking.