28 June  2016      

Once more Tuesday is in our lives, and on this day it's bringing us ever closer
to the end of June--please don't ask me where this month has gone, for I have
absolutely no idea at all.  It's on its way out, and to me, it's just started!
In any case, please end your month well and begin your new one even better!

 An Understanding Heart
Joan Chittister

A True View
Thomas Kinkade

Your Strengths
tom walsh

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Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

Henry David Thoreau

The people who say you are not facing
reality actually mean that you are
not facing their idea of reality.

Margaret Halsey

We must accept finite disappointment,
but we must never lose infinite hope.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Believe in the unsaid, for the silence of people is nearer the truth than their words.

Khalil Gibran

  

An Understanding Heart
Joan Chittister

What we hold in our hearts for others is the way we'll act toward them.  A hard heart makes for hard judgments; a compassionate heart understands the humanity of the one we presume to judge.

Compassion for the other comes out of our ability to accept ourselves.  Until we realize both our own weaknesses and our own privileges, we can never tolerate lack of status and depth of weakness in the other.

The self-righteous hate themselves for their own weaknesses and so they despise them in others.  That's why those who claim to be virtuous fall so much further, so much harder, than others when they fall.  A touch of compassion for others along the way would surely soften the fall, as fall we shall--sooner or later.

Compassion is the ability to understand how difficult it is for people to be the best of what they want to be at all times.

Life buffets us at our best.  That's why the hand of one who understands our efforts, our errors, becomes the bridge that carries us over the failures of life. . . .

"My feeling is that there is nothing in life but refraining from hurting others, and confronting those that are sad," Olive Schreiner wrote.  The idea deserves thought.  Imagine a world where "rugged individualism" and "natural corrections in the market place" gave way to "refraining from hurting the others and comforting those who are sad."  National compassion would surely mean no more street people.  No more children with nowhere to go.  No more hungry people in the richest country in the world.  More welfare for the poor as well as for the rich.

Compassion is the virtue that opens heaven to us.  It is what makes us most like God.  Everyone suffers in life.  Compassion is that quality in another that makes it possible for us to survive it.

Compassion makes no distinction between friends and enemies, neighbors and outsiders, compatriots and foreigners.  Compassion is the gate to human community.

Compassion is not sympathy.  Compassion is mercy.  It is a commitment to take responsibility for the suffering of others. . . .

It's one thing to do good; it's another thing to be good.  It's possible, perhaps, to do good simply out of principle, but it's impossible to really be  good that way--not if goodness is a quality of the heart and not simply an exercise of the will.
  
  

Seeing with Our Souls highlights a key Bible passage and offers brief reflections for each of the twelve key qualities of the soul that are essential to deeper living.  Each chapter deals with a different quality of the soul-- for example, vision, compassion, humility, faith--that speaks to the core of one's spiritual practice and inspires action.

   

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A True View
The Fine Art of Keeping Perspective
Thomas Kinkade

It's true in painting and it's true in life:  How things look depends on the way you see them.  And both a well-received painting and a fulfilling life depend upon keeping a true perspective.

I worked recently on a painting that challenged and inspired me.  It is a view of the Golden Gate bridge, depicted from across the bay.  In the foreground, gentle waves curl.  The beautiful bridge curves gracefully into the distance over the surging waters of the bay, with the sparkling city beyond.

It's a beautiful scene.  It took my breath when I first looked at the bridge from that particular angle.  And my ability to paint it depended on how I managed the complex perspective required.  The waves in the foreground needed to appear larger than those next to the bridge.  The relative distance between the girders needed to be just right to convince the eye of the shape and curve of the bridge.  The water in between needed to sparkle and draw the eye toward the bridge, which is the focus of the painting, and on to the distant city.  To pull that painting off, I needed to look with an alert, unprejudiced eye and then employ all my energy and artistic skill to reproduce what my artistic eye saw.

In art, perspective is both a viewpoint and a technique.  Perspective is the lens and angle from which the painter views the world of the painting, and it is also a set of skills that enable the artist to paint that world believably.

When I reproduce those perceptions on canvas, I am able to create a landscape that seems three-dimensional and real.  With perspective, I can bring the painting to life.

Perspective also allows me to shape the reality of a painting, to change the world subtly, to achieve my goals as an artist.  I can emphasize certain elements, minimize others, even add or subtract items, using my perspective skills to work these elements into a believable and, I hope, beautiful whole.

And yes, this applies to perspective in life as well as in painting.  Our perspective or viewpoint involves the way we look at life.  But our perspective also shapes our living.

If I am looking at life through a perspective of gratitude and hope, for instance, I will live and think differently than if my view was one of bitterness and anger.  The same is true of the way I look at myself.  If I maintain a balanced perspective on me--honestly recognizing my flaws and shortcomings, honestly appreciating my gifts and talents--I will live accordingly, and this balanced view will shape my life. . . .

In my experience, however, perspective is prone to slippage.  When I am working too hard, when I let my ambition get the best of me or allow my schedule to be overloaded, my perspective easily becomes skewed.  When I'm not getting enough sleep or eating right or keeping my spiritual life in tune, my perspective can get warped.  I lose touch with who I really am and with what is important in my life.  And those are the times when I begin majoring on minors, sweating the small stuff, taking my frustrations out on others.  Those are the times when my daily tasks seem difficult, the people in my life seem unreasonable, when I take myself  entirely too seriously.

Fortunately, I usually know what to do to get my perspective back in line.  I have quite a collection of artist's tools that help me keep my perspective true in my paintings.  And I have discovered some perspective-preserving techniques that help in my life as well.

Quiet time and solitude are vital to helping me keep perspective.  I consider myself fortunate to have so much quiet built into my profession.  I spend long hours by myself at my easel.  And while I work, I think--of the future, of my loved ones, of God's goodness and the many exciting opportunities that surround me.  I ponder the challenges I face, the needs of others, the direction my life is going.

As my thoughts unfold, forming and reforming to the rhythm of my brushwork, something else often happens as well.  Quietly, almost unnoticeably, the wisdom and guidance of God will begin to settle on my active mind like gently falling snow on a busy street.  That's why I like to think of these moments of quiet reflection as a form of prayer.  Because they open up my mind and spirit to God's presence, they are doubly important in helping me keep my perspective true.

As vital as quiet time is, however, I find it hard to maintain a balanced perspective without input from other people and a chance to bounce my ideas off friends and colleagues.  So I read.  I listen to tapes.  I seek out friends for discussions.  Most important, I talk to my wife, Nanette. . . .

Most important of all, I maintain my perspective by trying to take the long view, the wider view.  I try to step back from my life and get a vision for how things fit together.  I try to determine what is temporal and what is timeless.

And I count my blessings.

I take the old, corny, totally dependable route of listing all the things I have to be thankful for.  My art.  My family.  The fact that I woke up this morning and was able to walk and talk and breathe.  The fact that in the day to come I will have another chance to get my perspective adjusted and see my life for what it is.  Truly blessed.

The essence of the true view is that each of us is blessed beyond what we could ask of think, if we just take the time to realize it.  Each of us can thank God for the indescribable gift that is life.  To be living is to be handed a precious white canvas upon which each of us can create a painting of great depth and meaning.  A painting that can be full of joy and peace.  The beautiful painting of our lives.

Each life is a masterpiece in the making.  And if your perspective is true, the whole canvas will be beautiful.
  
  

Like his warm,
engaging paintings,
this celebrated artist
will help you discover
how to create calm,
not chaos; peace,
not pressure, in your
own life by introducing
you to an era of
simpler times.

   

   

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It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again
to the earth and in contemplation of her beauties
to know the sense of wonder and humility.

Rachel Carson

   

 

Your Strengths

As a high-school teacher, one of the most consistent sources of frustration for me is watching kids being put in situations that focus on their weaknesses rather than their strengths.  A kid who is an exceptional writer but poor at science still has to go through several challenging science courses just to graduate, and if he or she has troubles with the material, that student tends to spend an inordinate amount of time on science, which keeps him or her from actively strengthening the talents that will probably be much more important years down the road.

We live in cultures that tend to think that everyone should be able to do everything, and we force people to live up to that expectation.  But at what cost?

Imagine this:  the kid who's really good at math and poor at writing is allowed to focus strongly on math, while learning the basic writing skills, not having to pass silly standardized tests in writing, but being expected to reach high levels in his or her area of focus, math.  That student would leave high school as an expert in the field of math, not as someone who has become a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

Students who are really interested in writing could focus on writing and reading, while taking basic math and science courses.  We do not need every student who goes through our schools to be strong in math and science, especially those who never again will use math and science in their lives.

Somehow we've grown to think that we have to beat other countries at the test-score game; our students have to score better across the board than students from other countries if we're to be seen as "successful."  But that's just silly--who cares if Amber scored high in math in high school if she goes on to be a counselor?  Who cares if David was able to write a perfect essay in high school if he goes on to be a pharmacist?

And what about you?  How well do you nourish your strengths?  And how much time do you spend focusing on "areas of improvement," all the while neglecting your strongest points?

I tried playing the guitar for a while because I love music.  I was okay at it, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to get good at it, I would have to devote far too much time than I wanted to.  I didn't want to devote a lot of time because that was time that I could use developing my two strongest areas--writing and teaching.  Once I made the decision to drop the guitar, I freed up a lot of time for those areas in which I could excel, and which I really loved.  I think I would have liked playing the guitar, but I'm pretty sure I never would have gotten very good at it, and my coordination between my left hand on the frets and my right hand strumming or plucking just isn't very good.

Which of your strengths do you really enjoy using?  How often do you exercise that strength?  Perhaps you're really good at giving encouragement or advice; perhaps you're really good at baking; maybe organizing time or space is your calling.  Whatever you're really good at and you love doing, stick with it, and try to let other things not distract you from developing those strengths.  You have a lot to give to the world, but your greatest gifts are going to come when you give something other than a half-hearted effort, which almost always comes when we do something that isn't a strong point, or even that's a strong point that hasn't been developed.

You don't have to be good at everything.  As a parent, I was good at teaching and helping, but not so good at discipline, so I usually deferred to my wife unless she asked me to take care of something.  She was much more fair at it than I was.  As a teacher, my strengths are instruction and grading, while I'm not so good at organization and planning ahead.  So I've found ways to compensate for these weaknesses without spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get really good at them, for that's time that I can use to get even better at instruction and grading.

You have strengths that are unique to you.  Use them.  Enjoy them.  Excel at them.  The world and the people in it will appreciate it when your contribution comes from your areas of expertise and ability rather than from areas in which you don't shine.  There will always be others to shine in those areas, and you can complement each other really well if you work at it, instead of everyone trying to be good at everything.

   
   

One of the most important elements
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A child is entitled to sane messages
from adults.  How parents and teachers
talk to children will help them to know
how they should feel about themselves.
Their statements affect the child's
self-esteem and self-worth.  To a
large extent, their language
determines the child's destiny.

Haim Ginott

  
How many of us get up in the morning feeling truly grateful for the day?  Most of us wish we could turn the clock back and keep sleeping.  The truth is, when you are happy to wake up and are grateful for the day, your life does change.
   Each new day is an opportunity to pray for your loved ones and to act in a loving manner towards them.  I start out by saying my prayer of thanks and asking for guidance and help from all available resources.  I find I am always grateful for the new day, no matter how hard it is or will be, because I know I am not ready for my days to end.  After all, the alternative to waking up and facing another difficult day is death.  For all I know, after death the unenlightened may be sent back to wake up to the glory of the new day and its opportunities.
   I want to experience more days and the difficulties and opportunities they will bring.  I want the chance to test myself.  Maybe this makes me a glutton for punishment, but if I can help one living thing get through the day and not hurt anyone else in the process, I go to sleep thankful for the time I have been given and eager to awaken to tomorrow.

Bernie Siegel

Be

Be understanding to your enemies.
Be loyal to your friends.
Be strong enough to face the world each day.
Be weak enough to know you cannot do everything alone.
Be generous to those who need your help.

Be frugal with what you need yourself.
Be wise enough to know that you do not know everything.
Be foolish enough to believe in miracles.
Be willing to share your joys.
Be willing to share the sorrows of others.

Be a leader when you see a path others have missed.
Be a follower when you are shrouded by the mists of uncertainty.
Be the first to congratulate an opponent who succeeds.
Be the last to criticize a colleague who fails.
Be sure where your next step will fall, so that you will not tumble.

Be sure of your final destination, in case you are going the wrong way.
Be loving to those who love you.
Be loving to those who do not love you, and they may change.
Above all, be yourself.

unattributed

   
  

When an almond tree became covered with blossoms in the heart
of winter, all the trees around it began to jeer. "What vanity,"
they screamed, "what insolence! Just think, it believes it can bring
spring in this way!"  The flowers of the almond tree blushed for
shame. "Forgive me, my sisters," said the tree. "I swear I did not want
to blossom, but suddenly I felt a warm springtime breeze in my heart.

Nikos Kazantzakis

    

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