Tag Archive | inspiration

A Long Talk with My Dog – the best way to begin the New Year.

Floey looking at camera

Floey jumped down from the couch, stretched her whole body, and sauntered over to me. I was sitting at my desk. She plopped herself down right next to me. But instead of resuming her nap, she looked up at me and asked, “What are you doing, Mom? You look like you’re just staring off into space. What’s on your mind?”

“I’m just thinking about something I said, or rather, didn’t say yesterday, and I kind of regret the conversation.”

“Who were you talking with?”

“I went downtown for a haircut late yesterday afternoon.”

“Yeah. I remember. You took me out for a really quick walk, and then you left. Were you talking with the person who cuts your hair?”

“Yes. She cuts my hair really fast – like in ten minutes. But despite her cutting speed, she likes to talk with me the whole time she’s cutting. I don’t know how she can concentrate on getting my hair cut right, but somehow she does.”

“I wish my groomer was fast like that. She always takes at least 45 minutes, but she gives me a bath, blows me dry, trims the hair around my ears and paws, and gives me a pedicure. She talks to me, too, but I know she’s concentrating really hard on everything she does to me. At least she ends the grooming session with a really good treat. Do you get a treat?”

“No, Floey, I don’t.”

“That’s too bad. Well, what are you regretting about your conversation with your haircutter?”

“We really don’t know each other very well, and our conversations are usually just typical small talk – the weather, how our dogs are doing, any new restaurants we’ve tried, and so on. Yesterday she asked me if I have any goals for this new year. I told her no.”

“You don’t make New Year’s resolutions any more, so you don’t have goals, do you?”

“Well, sort of. Six years ago I changed from making New Year’s resolutions to choosing a special word to concentrate on all year long. The first special word I chose was JOY. Every day in 2014 I thought about finding JOY somewhere in the day. I loved the positive energy that came from finding JOY throughout the whole year. The next year I chose the word GRATITUDE. That was just as inspiring. In 2016, my word was KINDNESS. The next year was HOPE. And last year my word was PEACE. Every year has been really special by having a deliberate focus.”

fullsizeoutput_200f“I remember, Mom, in January of 2015, shortly after you adopted me, you explained “special words” to me, and as a young pup of less than a year old, I chose my first special word – LEARN, because I was going to concentrate on learning all I could to become the best companion to our residents that I could be. Remember, Mom?”

“I sure do, Floey, and you have learned a lot. Everyone agrees that you are our best caregiver of all.”

“Thanks, Mom. But let’s get back to your conversation yesterday. Why are you feeling bad about it?”

“Well, Floey, I should have told the person who cuts my hair (and the customer and hairdresser at the next chair who were listening to us) about how uplifting the practice of focusing on one special word for a year can be. Unlike when making a New Year’s resolution that you know will get broken before the end of the year, when you choose a special word, there can only be positive outcomes – the more you think about an inspiring word, the more inspired your life will be, even if you miss a few days of thinking about it. At least that’s been my experience in the six years I’ve been doing this.”

“One year, Mom, remember I chose a bad word. I chose the word MEOW because I was going to try to learn how to communicate better with the cats in the neighborhood. But the cats didn’t want to get to know me, so I eventually changed words. I borrowed your word of KINDNESS, and tried to be kind to those cats, even though they didn’t deserve it.”

“But even that worked out for good, Floey, because you focused on being KIND, and that enriched your life, didn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

“Anyway, I wish I’d taken the initiative yesterday to explain my approach of choosing a special word every year. Maybe the women in the salon would have liked to try out this practice for themselves.”

“Mom, tell me what you wished you had said to them. How did the word PEACE work out for you in 2018, and what’s your word for 2019? Is that what you wanted to tell them?”

“I guess so. One of the special things I did last year to deepen my understanding of PEACE was to look for all the hymns I could find with PEACE as the theme. I selected 16 of those hymns to include in my next book of hymn reflections. Dona Nobis Pacem, Let There Be Peace on Earth, Peace in the Valley, Make Me a Servant of Your Peace – those are just a few of the hymns that focus on the PEACE of God. I loved doing that study.”

“How about your word for this year?”

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“As I was thinking about what word to choose for this year, I realized that the themes of the four Sundays in Advent are HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. I’ve already chosen three of the four themes. LOVE is the only one I haven’t focused on yet. The more I thought about it, I realized the most concise phrase that summarizes the nature of God is GOD IS LOVE. I guess it’s time I try to deepen my understanding of God’s LOVE. So LOVE is the word I chose for 2019.”

“That sounds like a good word for you this year. Do you know if Mim has chosen a word?”

“I think she said her word is going to be PATIENCE. We’ll have to ask her more about why she chose that word for this year when she gets home. How about you, Floey?”

“I chose the word LISTEN. I’m really good at listening sometimes, especially to our residents. But other times, I just block out voices and other noises I don’t want to be bothered with. I have such good ears, I should make better use of the gift of superior hearing that God has given me. I’ll listen for birds, chipmunks, music, the wind – whatever sounds are out there – maybe even for you when you call me to come…”

“Well that would be wonderful! As soon as I know that you listen well enough to always hear me when I call you to come, we can start going to the dog park!”

“That’s great! This is going to be a really good year!”

“You’re right, Floey. And thank you for listening to me now. Talking about what I wish I’d said yesterday makes me feel better. Thanks. You’re already a good listener. You’re off to a good start with your new word!”

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My Brother Danny

Danny and me a long time ago

My brother and me a long time ago

I have a brother who is two years older than me. He’ll be 67 on September 11. (His birthday is the event I prefer to associate with that date.) To me, and to most of his friends and relatives that have known him since childhood, his name is Danny. To his wife, and to friends that first met him as an adult, his name is Dan. Legally, his name is Daniel, but I don’t know of anyone who calls him that.

My big brother as a baby being held my Mom

My big brother as a baby being held my Mom

I sometimes wonder why my parents gave him the name Daniel. I remember my mom said she really liked the name Danny, but she didn’t like the name Dan. I also know she liked the song “Danny Boy” – even though there wasn’t a drop of Irish blood in her – it was all Norwegian. I wonder if she named her only son for the song, or for the Bible character Daniel.

I knew the story about Daniel in the lion’s den, and something about some writing on a wall, but I didn’t know much else about Daniel in the Bible. One of the daily devotionals I’m reading this year is Designed for Devotion: a 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation by Dianne Neal Matthews. On July 10, I started reading about the book of Daniel. I’ll have to admit, I’ve peeked ahead through July 18 to read everything she says about Daniel. I’ve learned that when Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem in 605 BC, he captured the most impressive young men and brought them back with him to Babylon to indoctrinate them and then place them in prominent positions in his court.

Daniel was one of the young men captured. Despite living the next 70 years in a culture that worshiped idols and promoted a very luxurious lifestyle, Daniel remained faithful to God.  Daniel trusted that, no matter what happened, God was in complete control. God’s plan would be accomplished for Daniel’s life, for the Jewish people, and for the world at large. For thousands of years, Daniel’s courage, integrity, and commitment to prayer have been an inspiration to generation after generation.

Maybe that’s why my parents gave my brother the name Daniel. They wanted him to have the same courage, integrity, and commitment to prayer that the Biblical Daniel had. And they wanted him to be an inspiration for future generations of our own family. Maybe.

Don’t feel that I’m putting any pressure on you, Danny!

Danny was always ready for a big job!

Danny was always ready for a big job!

Upcoming Retreat at Whispering Winds: “Wrinkles Don’t Hurt”

There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it.
For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.
[Author unknown]

Guest blog post by Pastor and Spiritual Director Joan Gunderman

It is not difficult to talk and joke with friends about growing old, but how often do we have conversations with others about meaning, where we can honestly share our wisdom and peace, our fears and doubts, our faith, and the unique humor that comes from a lifetime of experience among that curious species, human beings.

Between myths about aging, and the worship of youth in our culture (not of kids themselves, but of the appearance of youth), many of us resist, and even fear, aging and, subsequently, dying.  Just look at the ads pitched our way: expensive hair dye to hide the gray because “I’m worth it!”; creams, salves, pills, diets, even surgery to make our well-earned wrinkles magically disappear; and how about the current trend of “60 is the new 40!”

Much of this seems so ironic to me.  Not just as a little girl, but even as a young adult,  I loved my grandma’s wrinkles!  She had lovely wrinkles that actually lit up her face, revealing a lifetime of smiles, warmth, and love.  I honestly didn’t look upon her countenance and think, “Wow she’s old.”  When I looked at her face, I saw love, grace, and the beauty of a life being lived well.  I don’t know exactly when or how I was taught that wrinkles were ugly betrayers of the fact that we were no longer young (as if that is bad?), but every time I head that way, I think of my grandma.

For many people the midlife years and beyond are a time of both reflection and discovery,  presenting opportunities for deep and meaningful spiritual growth.  In our retreat on Saturday we will look at the unique gifts that aging provides in terms of our spirituality — how we view ourselves, our lives, our world, and God.  I hope you’ll join me!

Saturday, May 26, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
$50 includes retreat and lunch
To register for the retreat, CALL 608.212.6197. 

Whispering Winds Retreat Haven