Sunday

Forgiveness

I am aware that I am holding myself captive when I fail to forgive. I have known for many years that forgiveness initially benefits the forgiver.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King Jr.

I must continue to work on my willingness to forgive. When I hold onto some past hurt or perceived injustice, my loving heart is blocked. My essential nature, like yours, is Divine love. Forgiveness is part of that Divine nature. 

I do not feel any satisfaction in revisiting the old hurt and pain. Perhaps it is just comfortable and familiar. I know that when I shut down one loving pathway of my heart, I also shut down the greater love in my heart. We cannot selectively shut out parts of our love.

I know now, my job is to hold nothing back. When we forgive, we feel joy and the power of love.


by Cheryl Shibley


Growth...

We are designed to be limitless. The key to our growth and development is commitment. Commitment will always bring us closer to our goal. Please know there will be discomfort. There will be a challenge. You might not reach your goal but you will make progress. 

I love progress.

Practice, practice, practice.

Life is practice.

We renew our commitment every day. We get stronger every day. We take our discomfort, pain, and disappointment, and we grow. We benefit from all our experiences, and as we benefit, so do all those we encounter.

This is the blessing of commitment and growth.

Growth and commitment opens our hearts and minds to the flow of energy and joy.

Growth requires a commitment to life.

Growth takes our life and returns it healthier and happier.



Living with integrity

As a young man, there were times when I was crippled with loneliness. The need to be liked made me overly sensitive to the negativity and perceived rejection by those whom I felt I needed their acceptance.

In my maturity, I have come to love and appreciate my alone time. I no longer seek or need the approval of those who do not really know me. I am living my vocation with integrity.

I have experienced significant generosity in my 48 years of teaching. I reflect on the hospitality of educators in Athens, Illinois. I was there for a professional development program on Student Assistance Programs and I was informed that one of the members of the staff was preparing lunch for me.

Unbeknownst to me, I was transported with a few other staff to her home. A very modest house, you might even say in a bit of despair. From this seemingly poor environment, I was honored with an elaborate Thanksgiving meal.

I was made welcome. I was an honored guest. There were no politics, no defense, no offense. I was invited to be a part of their family.

"My house is your house, my joy is your joy,
my sadness is your sadness, and my life is your life." - Henri Nouwen



Summer on the farm

Honeysuckle smells take me back to my grandfather's farm. The silver queen corn is fresh every day. Some nights it is only corn and tomatos and that is a wonderful dinner. Fruit trees offer apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and the weirdest fruit – sickle pears, a small hard, sharp, tart taste that I love. 

Homemade root beer is getting ready to burst in the summer sun. Soon, Uncle John will arrive with clams and crabs from Long Beach Island.

Summer on the farm.

Heaven!


painting by Martine Tulet


What comes out of you...

When you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Orange juice.

When you squeeze a lemon, what comes out? Lemon juice.

When you squeeze a grape, what comes out? Grape juice.

Life is squeezing us all the time. Whatever or whoever is inside of us will come out. When we are squeezed, the truth of who we are will come out.

We must ask ourselves when I am squeezed, what comes out? 

Is it pain, fear, anger, hatred, attack? 

Or

Do I express myself as understanding, empathy, compassion, and love?



Great teachers...

The great teachers make it look easy. 

They appear to be tapped into an endless well of wisdom. 

What most don't know, is that they have spent hours and years being immersed in resources that are part of the earth's collective wisdom. 

Great teachers search for answers and direction from beyond the intellect. 

They create an intimate connection with the Divine universe.

We are all connected. In your prayer and meditation be still and know.




Deep caring and love holds my world together

Deep caring and love holds my world together. Looking back at old photographs and laughing and crying through the memories. Planting seeds, nurturing, watering, and seeing an oak tree grow in my backyard. The memory of first meeting you 45 years ago and falling in love with you again, and again, and again. My fathers laughter and hearty hello as he enjoyed the hot tub. 

The love that ties my life together is woven with connection and resilience. I always bounce back. These bridges of love can never be broken. They fuel our souls as we stand for life, dare to love in the face of hatred, dare to step up when someone has fallen, and dare to speak up when someone has been silenced.

We must walk together through the storms of life. Sometimes we will carry each other. Sometimes we will create a path for others to follow.





Solitude

I enjoy solitude. Being alone is revitalizing for me. Being alone is not lonely. It is refueling. 

I believe we can all benefit from finding a quiet center. In my solitude, I can unmask my ego and let it rest. In solitude and quiet I listen to the "still, small voice." I listen to the voice that gave me life. I rest in the hands that bring me health and healing. I rejoice in the freedom of not doing. I love in the unconditional love. In solitude, I am reminded I am a human being not a human doing. I am more than the sum of all of my efforts. I know my life is a gift to be shared and in the sharing, we are twice blessed. New life springs forth from solitude. Every breath is a gift.



Spring...

Yellow forsythia is brightening my sight.
Lilacs are starting to bloom.
Pink, white, and lavender are painting the neighborhood.

No matter that I am aging, in my heart is a delighted child. 
I love the experience of joy, new life, and a fresh spring.

The thoughts I focus on are what creates my life experience.

If the world you see does not bring you joy, it may be time to choose a new thought process. 

Life is full of joy, beauty, and complexity. 

It is also full of opportunity and choice. 

We are here for love, beauty, and to express our divinity.



What do we need to become ready to respond?

"We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility… Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In World War II Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister escaped from the Gestapo to New York City. He chose to return to Germany to oppose Hitler. He was arrested, spent 18 months in prison, and was hanged shortly before American forces liberated the prison. 

Like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, Bonhoeffer made "good trouble."

What is calling us to act? Where is our silence causing more pain? Is it social justice? Is it poverty? Is it mental health for all? Is it economic inequity? Is it climate change? 

What do we need to become ready to respond?

In conversation with a trusted friend, discuss a time in your life when you responded with action; when you stood up and spoke up. Discuss the feelings leading up to your actions, doing, and after you taking action.





We all make choices...

We all make choices.  We can be consumed with stress and fear, or rise above it.  The stress and fear that we focus on, holds us hostage.  We live a reactionary, quick fix, short-term existence.

I find the option is to feel the fear, feel the stress, and be aware of the transformation it brings.  Awareness is the key to living in the moment.  Living in the moment brings us into unity and harmony with life.  

Every day brings us new opportunities and choices.  We can live in respect and caring for others and for ourselves.  We can choose to be thoughtful and kind with our words and actions.

We can choose to renew our commitment to our spiritual growth and wellness.  We can reflect on our intentions and motivations, and be aware of the environments we create.



All life is sacred and I am grateful

"The great lesson from the true mystics...is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard." 

- Abraham Maslow

What a blessed life I have been living. The sacred is in my wife Sandra; how she genuinely cares for everyone. She listens tirelessly to our sons. She cares for our special needs daughter sun up till bedtime and often beyond.

Our daughter Ashley is an emanation of the Divine. She has no language or conscious movement and yet she beams unconditional love. Our neighbors are kind and friendly. Our extended family is loving. Our friends are family, beautifully supportive, and compassionate.

Our backyard is full of nature; dear, hawks, all kinds of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, and now, spring is revealing the flowers, blossoms, and bees.

All life is sacred and I am grateful.



Good Enough

Sometimes good enough is good enough. 

I am a champion of Self-Awareness. I think Self-Awareness is the pre-eminent Social Emotional Learning skill. I believe it is the beginning for our health and success as human beings. Self-Awareness asks us to gently and kindly assess our current growth and development. Who am I? And how am I?

I am not a fan of hyper-critical self-analysis. Dwelling on our weaknesses and constantly berating ourselves for not being good enough or perfect is self-defeating and destructive.

We are a year into the pandemic. We are all looking forward to good physical and mental health. We are all looking forward to connecting again, literally connecting. A hug, a handshake, a pat on the back, will feel miraculous.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. That is good enough.



Standardized tests are not for human beings because humans are not standard

Education has its roots in the Latin word 'educere', which means 'to lead out'. True education is not about stuffing in more information and knowledge. True education is drawing out the skills, character, and wisdom that is already in a child and nurturing those qualities.

We must end the oppression of standardized tests. Even in the current pandemic of 2020/2021, educators are being told to prepare for standardized tests this spring. Are you kidding me? Children, parents, and teachers have barely had a chance to get to know each other, let alone focus on curriculum and some great con-artist wants to test our children and hold educators accountable.

The opportunity of the pandemic is to speak the truth. Standardized tests are like the emperor with no clothes. We don't need more knowledge shoved into our children's minds so they can prove to the multi-billion dollar system that they have a good memory.

We need to focus on wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge and information applied so humanity becomes better at being human. We must return to the old "other side of the report card". We must teach critical thinking skills, how to discover what is truth. We need a much greater focus on problem-solving, character development, and social and emotional learning.

If the past year of chaos, with its divided politics, social justice or injustice, and COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has taught us the need for human teaching and human learning. We must help our children develop and practice the skills for learning and being human.

The research of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, CASEL.org, documents the need for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

In our search for wisdom, we must include the voices and perspectives of women, blacks, hispanics, indigenous people, and other underrepresented and underserved groups.

In a nation that is torn apart, we must teach the power of love, compassion, empathy, trust, forgiveness, and gratitude.

If we explored all academic content through the lens of Social Emotional Learning we would reduce and possibly eliminate hunger, lack of resources, hate crimes, lack of clean water, lack of electricity, mental health concerns, and addiction.

This of course would be a major restructuring of education, or maybe not. I have been an educator for 48 years and every fellow teacher I ever met, in the tens of thousands, are in some way trying to teach social emotional skills.

The young people I meet want to change the world and the teachers I meet want to nurture their passion.

Young people want to heal the planet, climate change, war, starvation, racism, and sexism.

When we integrate Social Emotional Learning into every content area, we will be raising the priority of three new essential R's, respect for self and others, responsibility for everything I think, feel, say, and do, and healthy relationships.

We will move education to be the vehicle that will elevate civilization. We will finally experience what it feels like to be civil, to solve conflict without violence, to live without fear of being different, to act for the greater good, and to love unconditionally.



Teachers

Our roles as teachers are multifaceted. We nurture, instruct, inspire, put out fires, intervene, assess, connect, and arouse curiosity. We also have the power to create deep dialogue in an emotionally safe environment. Often we introduce learners to their creativity and with our support, we help them change the world. When our students are supported, they experience unity with us, with each other, and with the content we are presenting.

I think all of this is contained in one word. Love.

Being in communication and communion with our students helps us build community. This building process helps us all expand into areas we never dreamed of. It enhances our perspective and enriches our understanding.

Wonderful teachers are deep, endless wells of vitality, and transformation. The interdependence between teachers and students creates the tapestry of life.