"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Koinonia (Coin-Na-knee-uh)

Relationship: a connection, association, or involvement. An emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students. Connection between persons by blood or marriage. 

What do your relationships say about you?

In Greek the term for relationship is Koinonia, a derivative of koinos; the word for common. Koinonia has a multitude of meanings that cannot be defined by one English word, but the common theme in all of the definitions is relationship. The relationship is twofold: the inner relationship with ourselves that is defined by goodness toward virtue and an outer goodness toward social relationships. 

Biblically the term Koinonia refers to communion by intimate participation. In the New Testament of the Bible it was used to describe the relationship within the Early Christian church, and to describe the act of breaking bread in the manner which Christ prescribed during the Passover meal. As a result the word Koinonia is used within the Christian Church to participate in the Communion of Communion.

When reflecting upon the Greek term for relationship I'm drawn to its Biblical meaning; communion by intimate participation. The words communion and intimate eliminates a shallow or superficial type of participation. Many of the relationships we find ourselves into today, if were honest, are very shallow and superficial. They have very little value and even less impact.

I believe the main reason many of us have relationships that lack substance and strength isn't because we don't care about others, but because we find it difficult to take the necessary steps to engage in meaningful participation with others. To have a deep and meaningful relationship with another we have to decide to become vulnerable. Kerry and Chris Shook state in their book entitled "Love at Last Sight"; "It's awkward to expose your heart and feel completely vulnerable." 

I agree.

Many of us continue to do the same thing day in and day out because we have created habits that make us feel comfortable. The problem is that these habits deter us from growing and maturing. People buy things, eat things, achieve things and build things to protect themselves from the world seeing who they really are. These "band-aids" that we create with material possessions, desired upward mobile status, achievement, and even food, are more times than not there for the purpose of hiding hurt, insecurity and emptiness. 

Many people are more alone and scared than we could ever begin to imagine. 
Much of this loneliness and fear is because the world tells us that if we expose our hearts and share our true feelings that we run the risk of people not liking us. If they (the world) see the real us, with every fault, fear and failure that we entertain we increase our potential for rejection.

And if people reject "me" than I have no value; I don't count.

It is because of this fear of rejection many of us never realize the strength, beauty and sustaining power a deep and firmly rooted relationship can provide.

All healthy relationships have respect in common.

Finally, the classical Greek meaning for Koinonia means "to share in a thing." The kind of sharing that takes place when two or more people hold something in common. All of us have more than a few things in common. We were all born into this world and we will all die someday. We all have experienced hurt and we've hurt others. We all have dealt with failure and we all have experienced tremendous pain. We all have dreams, hopes and aspirations. We all like to be liked and fear rejection on some level. We all have a past, we all have a present and we all have a future. 

The good news is that with God we have a "future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11-14); the type of future and a hope that is based on God's Sovereign hand that is displayed through his mercy and grace in the transforming of our hearts and minds.

A renewed mind, a new spirit and a changed heart provides us with the potential to engage in richer and more meaningful relationships.

Relationships are about the heart, mind and spirit.

God spoke to this fact and to Ezekiel in the Old Testament instructing Ezekiel to share this message with the people of Israel:

"And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stoney heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do what I command." 
-Ezekiel 36:26-27

It was evident then, and it is evident now, by the words God spoke over 2000 years ago communicating His desire to aid us in having meaningful relationships; a meaningful and long lasting relationship with Him, and others. Relationships that are not based on fear and insecurity; relationships that are self giving and other centered.

He will provide the transformation in our heart and a transformation in the way we think. A new heart and a renewed mind is what God has to offer. He will provide us with His Spirit so as to be obedient and committed to His way of life. 

All we have to do is ask.

God will do the rest so we can finally rest, freeing us to experience relationships His way; full of love, consideration and forgiveness, with the focus being on the others not self, leaving us to experience relationships that lift the spirit, encourage the heart, and inspire the soul.

Now wouldn't it be great if that type of relationship became common.

Are you giving your best in all your relationships?

Four questions to ponder:

1. What do your relationships say about you?
2. What part of you or your heart are you purposefully hiding in your relationships with others that is keeping you from experiencing deep and meaningful friendships and relationships?
3. What are you prepared to do differently in the future that will increase your potential for deeper and more meaningful relationships?
4. What kind of relationship do you have with God? 

 sbb 28.9.11


Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Remember:  to recall to the mind by an act or effort of memory; think of again.To retain in the memory; keep in mind; remain aware of: Always remember 911.


Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
On September 11, 2001 it was beautiful morning in southeast Ohio. It was an early rise that morning without much sleep from the night before because of my attendance at a Sade concert. The previous night was about as peaceful and promising as a night could be. 

A Sade concert can have that kind of effect on its audience.

The reason for the early rise was to play 36 holes of golf with two of my lifelong friends, Brian and Craig. We had planned to play 18 holes and then have lunch, and play another 18 holes.

F. Scott Fitzgerald might have written about Paradise Lost, but I sure was on my way to finding paradise at EagleSticks Golf Club that morning.

I love golf, and the thought of playing 36 holes makes it almost impossible for me to adequately describe the feeling that it produces within me.

Simply put; I love golf. 

And, so it was while we were walking up the 9th fairway, enjoying what I love to do, that my close friend's wife called and informed us that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been struck by planes that were hijacked by terrorists.
We were stunned and in disbelief. 

But, it was with our own eyes, minutes later, that we saw the news coverage and infamous replay of the planes ramming into the towers, while we were in the clubhouse. 

Right then, right there our day took on a new meaning; that day became 9-11.

Horror and confusion covered our faces; sadness and depression filled our hearts.

I can still remember the emptiness and the uncertainty I felt, and the awkward thoughts I entertained as we drove home with an empty sky due to the grounding of all planes, domestic and international, in the US.

In a word it was surreal.

As I tried to process what had happened over the days and weeks that followed this tragic event I was left with more questions than answers; less calmness and more anger. What I realized that day is that it can be more troubling, and at times more painful, to not have more questions than answers. 

New York Times: 9-12-2011
Along with the country, I felt deeply sadden and lost. 

Now as we stand ten years removed from the most tragic event in US history in my lifetime I now realize that my observations of 9-11 have developed and are clearer. In the end my thoughts are just that; my thoughts, but these reflections have given me some answers to the questions I had on that fateful morning in 2001.

This morning my wife and I discussed 9-11. I woke her up at about 7am and ask her to turnover and look at me. As she did she ask me what was wrong? I told her I wanted to ask her something; "What did you learn from 9-11?"

Her answers and observations were very similar to the beliefs I hold.

Allow me to share.
The first thing 9-11 taught me that there are evil, very evil, people in this world that have diabolical minds, depraved hearts and dark, and demonic, souls. The world is full of evil people that only have one desire and that is to cause havoc upon their fellowman and to destroy whatever stands in the way of their needs and desires, and their ideological and religious beliefs. Proverbs 4:16 states; "For evil people can't sleep until they've done their evil deed for the day. They can't rest until they've caused someone to stumble." I think we all can agree as a country we realized that truth on 9-11. 

Remember, Webster defines evil as morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked, and because of this we will never fully be able to handicap their actions or predict their behavior. The only thing we can do as people, and as a country, is to take every precaution to protect ourselves, to consciously commit actions that will in-turn preserve our freedoms and to persistently pray to God for his favor and protection.

Secondly, 9-11 cemented in my mind how fragile life is. You only have to a have a conversation with a mother who lost a son, a father that lost a daughter, a child that lost a parent or a wife that lost a husband to remind you how short and precious life is. Psalm 39 4-5 states:
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
      Remind me that my days are numbered—
      how fleeting my life is.
  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
      My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
      at best, each of us is but a breath.”

Remember, life is as fragile as two wet tissue papers sewn together. Life is short, life is precious and life is fragile. 

Tomorrow is never promised.

Finally, 9-11 taught my wife and me that there are far more good people in this world than there are bad. With every documentary and weekend tribute, honoring those who lost their lives, I was reminded of the countless thousands of men and women that displayed a type of compassion that leaves me speechless. From the time the first plane hit the North Twin Tower to the memorials in Washington DC, Shanksville PA and ground zero the human spirit that is alive and well in America has been uplifting and encouraging. The effort by many has been remarkable and causes me to be proud that I'm an American. 

Firefighter William "Billy" Eisengrein, who still works with FDNY Rescue Company 2 in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised a U.S. flag out of debris on Sept. 11, 2001.
Photo: Thomas E. Franklin 

Remember, there are more people that want to help and not harm; to aid and not abandon; deep in many people's heart is concern and compassion for their fellowman. There is more love in this world than hate; always has been and always will be.

First Responders
Photo: First responders carry Father Mychal F. Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, out of the burning building. Father Mychal was the first recorded victim of  September 11, 2001.

It has been mentioned on many occasion that Robert F. Kennedy's favorite book was "For Whom the Bell Tolls", written by Ernst Hemingway and published in 1940. The novel is a story about an American, Robert Jordan, in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. The theme of the book is centered on death and the contemplation of one's own death, and for the need of each man to recognize the surrender of one's self for the common good is paramount. This ultimate sacrifice is embraced by Jordan and others in the book, believing that they were doing what "all good men should" do. 

In the face of death relationships are developed and camaraderie is formed.

Ernest Hemingway

An interesting side-note about the phrase "For Whom the Bell Tolls" that Hemingway made famous originally found it's origin in the 17th century by way of John Donne (1572-1631). Donne lived in England and at the time the tolling of church bells were an important feature of daily living; marking various events. 

 The tolling of bells also referred to funeral bells as we see in Donne's work entitled "Meditation XVII"

John Donne wrote:

No man is an island, entire to itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod washed away by the sea, Europe is less, as well as, if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells toll; it tolls for thee."

Some believe John Donne's words to represent people's mortality and that when a funeral bell was heard it was a reminder that with each day we are a little nearer to death. Others believed Donne was pointing to the fact that we are all one and that, when one dies, we all die a little. In both instances it was the interconnectedness of humanity that was the overwhelming theme.

Hemingway believed both of Donne's premises and it was revealed in his writing of his 1940 novel, and this same philosophy of the interconnectedness of humanity espoused by Donne was, and still is, the foundation of our recovery and healing as a nation in light of the tragic events of 9-11

It is death, and the contemplation of our mortality that has the greatest potential for growth and change in our lives.

Before Hemingway and Donne there was a man named Solomon. Solomon was considered the wisest person to ever live. In about 935 BC, late in Solomon's life, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, found in the old testament. In "the book of the teacher", as Ecclesiastes is referred to and is its literal meaning, Solomon shares with us his keen insight and wisdom concerning death:

"It is better to spend time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die, and you should think about it while we still have time. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks about death, while the fool thinks only about having a good time now."

My goal is not to promote thinking about death at all times or to be overjoyed when we have a funeral to attend. My words, and words of Solomon, are only written to encourage each one of us to remember that when we hear the bell toll that we remember the victim and their families, and to recognize that we all died a little on September 11, 2001 and that we would do well to contemplate our own mortality in the future and to never forget the victims of 9-11.

Genesis 3:19 states; "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." 

And Hebrews 9:27 shares with us that; "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."

Finally, in the aftermath of 9-11, and years of reflection, I've gained the belief that though the true evil in the world can destroy our brick and mortar; our steel and glass, and that they can snuff out human life, and the fact that they will attempt and most likely succeed again, they will never succeed in crushing our spirit and leaving us without hope.

The one thing that the evil perpetrators of disaster and destruction in the name of religion don't understand is that they will never be able to eliminate our resolve or destroy what believe in or how we think. 

We are the United States of American.

We are strong.

We are one.

And we will not be denied or defeated.

God bless the victims and the families of 9-11.

And God bless the United States of America.

We will never forget.

sbb 9.12.2011
"Forever Young"  .  Marcia Hines

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stress Bucket (re-post 2-3-2011)

Sojourner Truth 1797 - 1883
American abolitionist/
women's rights activist

Yesterday I received a text from a good friend, the text read; "Stress is the enemy. Write that." Below is a piece I wrote on stress in February of this year. My friend is correct when he say's stress is the enemy. We would all do well to recognize and acknowledge, and develop a skill set that can aid us in dealing with and alleviating the stress in our lives. My friend also texted me minutes later after his request; "She wears a redsox cap to hide her baby dreads...Write it!"


I hope the piece is informative and encouraging, and that you will be glad you took the time to read it. Remember, the two most important things to accomplish when dealing with stress is first to identify what the stress is and secondly, honestly acknowledge how you are dealing with the stress.

I would also add a third component; give the stressful situation to God and pray about the situation. It will make "the" difference each and every time  -sbb

Stress Bucket

Pressure: the exertion of force upon a surface by an object, fluid, etc., in contact with it: the pressure of earth against a wall. The state of being pressed or compressed.

As I ponder this morning on the amount of different paths one can take in life I believe the person that chooses to walk down the path of constant anxiety and stressful living to be one of the most destructive choices we can make and one of the worst paths we can take. Dr. Hans Selye defines stress as "the rate of wear and tear within the body." Our body's initial reaction and response to stress is to create an alarm reaction. Our internal organs mobilizes it defenses and protects the body against danger. There is so much that has been written, and so much I will not attempt to write, on the physical, and psychological, damage stress can cause in our lives.

I believe one of the best ways to combat a difficult situation is to gain a greater understanding of the situation and to increase our knowledge in any area or category of life that we are struggling in. And as we grow in awareness and knowledge it is still our responsibility to put our new found knowledge into practice. 

Like I've said many times; "knowledge is the knowing, wisdom is the doing."

One of the most powerful and empowering pieces of information I've gained concerning stress was from the book "In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost". Dr. Mate pointed out three universal truths and reasons for stress in our lives.

Allow me to share. 

The three universal causes for stress in one's life are uncertainty, lack of information, and a loss of control. 

One of the most destructive forms of Chinese torture during war time was to provide an extremely inconsistent administration of their torture. One day a prisoner would be given food to eat, the next three days he would only be given water. Some days they would be beaten every hour only later to be left alone for a week. The Prisoners said the lack of knowing what was coming next was as destructive as the torture itself. They reiterated that this form of "torture" was as harmful emotionally, mentally and physically as the actual torture. It is often the not knowing, and the uncertainty, that will create the most mental torment and emotional anguish in our lives. 

My parents have always shared with me the best way to make a good decision on something important is to gain as much information and knowledge as you can concerning a situation and then weigh your options. when we have a lack of information surrounding a certain situation we can often begin to give ourselves over to unwise thinking. We will often start to assume, over think, or worse, guess on what the proper thing to do is. 

The next is a biggie because most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are complete control freaks. A lack of control can throw the strongest of people in to a complete free fall and tailspin. This is one of the reasons why dealing with some physical disease or aliment can be so destructive emotionally and mentally in our lives. When we are sick, seriously ill, we are harshly introduced to this fact. A lot of times we really don't have as much control over things as we think we do; our health and our children are a great reminder of this truth. Remember, we are not built, nor were we created, to control everything in our lives.

South Beach...

The reason I have inserted pictures of South Beach in this piece is to subliminally remind all of us that a change in our perspective can be the one of the strongest and most productive pursuits when struggling, and dealing, with stress.

My perspective is often changed by a reminder of a past experience, gaining knowledge and praying and reading God's word. 

As I review the three universal truths concerning stress I'm able to respond, combat and deal with stress in my life. I can ask myself questions about why I feel so stressed. Is it my lack of knowledge? Is it the fact that I'm completely uncertain of the outcome? Or is it the harsh reality that I have no control over a certain situation? Being able to go through this Q&A process is powerful to me.

This way of thinking is part of the process in relieving stress in my life.

I said part.

The other part, and the biggest part, in relieving stress is to give everything to God.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 and 16-18 shares this with us: 

"8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Change your view of things...

In the Chinese culture the word for crisis is written by combining the symbols for the word danger and opportunity. Stress is the same: both a danger and opportunity. When realize what is causing the stress, and more importantly what questions we are to ask ourselves concerning the stress, we grow and become stronger. We increase our emotional and mental IQ when this occurs in our lives.

It doesn't hurt to pray either.

Pray for wisdom concerning if this stress is a genuine threat or a golden opportunity.

Or both.

Pray for increased knowledge.

Pray for peace concerning the uncertainty of the future.

And finally pray for the strength to relinquish all control and give it to the One that was intended to control the situation in the first place. 

When we pray these things we will see, and feel, the pressure subside. 

sbb  2.3.11