The Fruit of Thanks

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It’s come so fast, this season of Thanksgiving. It seems a moment ago that I started my year of celebrating the fruits of all God’s children. And par for the course, it didn’t turn out at ALL like I expected. This year I did celebrate the many fruits God has gifted us, but also mourned fruit lost from violence, divisiveness, abuse of power, lies and just blind hatred and judgement. I spent much of the year struggling to keep my face above the negative fray, unsuccessful at times, especially when in one fell swoop a multitude of fruit was swept away, whether it was by Mother Nature or humanity itself. I think as the tower of illusions came tumbling down around me and the world became exposed for what it truly is, old wounds were uncovered and still lie unhealed. It was addressing my wounds that I was forced to come to terms with how my own talents may have been cut off or dwarfed resulting in a lesser version of what could have been, and more importantly how my lack affected others whom the master intended me to help flourish. I read and re-read the parable of the talents and understand that goodness is the result of taking the talents given to us and sharing them for the world’s benefit, and not just our own. And I prayed about what happens when talents themselves are stolen before they have a chance to benefit anyone. I think a lot about the good that could have come and never did because a gift was ripped away…and then we all lose, the Kingdom of God stakes a step backward.

God has made it clear, however, what will happen to those who champion the destruction, or benefit from the burying of, God’s given fruits. For right after the parable of the talents, Jesus tells us of the gathering of the nations when the Son of Glory comes again and he will separate them like a shepherd does with sheep and goats, and say to them:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

All that God asks us to do is to behave and share our talents in a way that will benefit even the least of all of us, because that will ensure the best environment for every fruit to thrive. It is not up to us to determine who is worthy, only that we take our talents and bring them out to the world to feed, clothe, welcome, and heal. That is our charge, and for that I am so very grateful to those who in this past year have given me hope. And while there are many…here are a few that come to mind that I can happily name…

Steve Edling: for your healing efforts, regardless of the difficulty…you have helped many heal so that they, in turn, can bear their own fruit.

Riley Edling: for being strong in integrity even when there were those who would break you down.

Connor Edling: for rising to the challenges you’ve faced and to never let fear win.

Ruth Flood: for facing the challenges of the world without your life long partner with  faithful strength. Your keen eye and commitment to know and understand what is happening in the world, is one of your superpowers.

For my siblings: for being present, unique, strong, supportive and my safety blanket.

For my nieces and nephews: for seeing God’s work in action through your talents and personal passions.

For Rayola Edling: for being a second mother to me and your strong will and quiet comfort.

For my sisters and brother-in-law: for your friendship, presence and support of my family.

For my extended family: for your friendship and amazing links to a shared past…our forebears can be proud of their legacy.

For the many wonderful practice members at our clinic, for your commitment to health and often extending that commitment to helping others reach better health as well.

For honest friends, those who can see beyond the veil of politics and bubbles…who, with civility, can agree to disagree with facts and never fiction or a need to denigrate anyone.

For all those in leadership positions who: don’t abuse power, speak the truth to those who do, hold the powerful accountable even against their own interest, put our country above party, hold themselves to a higher standard because of those who follow them, have a vision of a better world and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work with the rest of us and most importantly set an example of what it means to be a true leader.

For my country: whose long efforts to promote liberty and justice for all is one I honor and commit to every day, and whose bountiful gifts I receive with gratitude and pride.

And most importantly for my God: who in whispers continues to give me hope, augments my limited heart with a heavenly one, and has faith in me, especially when I don’t. I am yours and you are mine. I will walk where you send me and use my talents to build the kingdom in my own unique and flawed way, always with love, truth, kindness and forgiveness.

Happiest of Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

An Opportunity to Bear Fruit

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Ever get sick of planning for vacation on the beach? Bored with new scenery and cultural experiences? Me neither. But! I do sometimes get frustrated with all the hustle and bustle of life, that my time is limited regarding giving back. Wouldn’t it be great to take a vacation and volunteer at the same time? Take a vacation…help save the world, one person at a time. That is the basis for an organization called “Global Volunteers” created by Bud Philbrook and Michelle Gran…(great family friends, they are truly remarkable people). The philosophy of service: https://globalvolunteers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/PhilosophyOfService.pdf, explains how they give opportunities to ordinary people to share their gifts and talents with others. Truly, this is the parable of the tithes laid manifest. If you’ve ever wondered what possibly you could do for the world, this is the perfect opportunity. My eldest brother John volunteered in Ireland:

I volunteered at the Glencree Center for Peace in 2005. The trip exceeded all my expectations. I met many wonderful people and learned so much about the peace process going on in the world. I would highly recommend it. During a weekend excursion to Northern Ireland, I was able to witness the British pull down all the fences and evacuate the troops from the borders. There was plenty of time for fun too, we had free time at night so we explored some of the local area around Glencree.  We also went to the beach and to a local fair as well as a few pubs. We met the Prime Minister of Canada who was there for a visit. The work included a lot of painting and fixing up in the old kitchen and did a few mosaics for the front lawn.

There are other reviews you can read for those who have served both in the United States and abroad: https://www.gooverseas.com/global-volunteers-reviews The exciting thing, is that you can give back to the world, if only for the length of time you would take for a vacation.

I am so excited for this year’s commitment of sharing stories of bearing fruit…there is so much exciting stuff to come! Happy New Year!

Come Down Zacchaeus

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“For the Son of Man has come to save what was lost.” As far as I’m concerned this is one of the most important lines in the Gospels. What is most telling, though, about the story of Zacchaeus, is not that he was a sinner, but that he knew he was and repented by giving half his wealth to the poor, and restitution to those he extorted four times over. Jesus then declared salvation has come to his house because he rediscovered his heritage. He found himself.

While the crowd was unimpressed, Jesus drove his point home with the parable of the gold coins, like the parable of the talents in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus does not expect perfection nor he does he want us to be poor, (Zacchaeus kept half for himself after all)…but he does expect us to take our talents and become fruitful with them. And I think it is how we understand the word “fruitful” that makes all the difference in the world.

While I don’t despise wealth, I do despise what often happens with the gross accumulation of it. Like Zacchaeus, the temptation to get lost in it is always looming. The power that comes with it is almost always corrupting. Yes, Jesus doesn’t expect us to become poor, but he doesn’t want us to hold on to our riches either…the parable notes clearly what will happen if we do that. We will lose what we have.

Wealth will never make us acceptable in God’s eyes. Only what we do with it. Take a lesson from Zacchaeus.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

smokeSome of the most talented and successful people I know don’t have a college degree…a testament to hard work,innovation and blazing new and unforged territories.  For what its worth, I commend you, you stand as an inspiration to us all.  And yet, (I’ll bet you knew it was coming), some of the most foolish, ignorant, arrogant and single-minded people I know don’t have a college degree either.  But wait!  Some of the most talented and successful people I know do have a college degree and the EXACT same things, both good and bad, could be said about all of them too.  So, do we rally up all the foolish, ignorant, and single-minded people and shove them all into a room somewhere, lock them up and throw away the key?  Oh, if only it could be that easy.  My mission is to blow the smoke out of your eyes and transform those who give the formally trained and unformally trained a bad rap.

I have listened to a lot of people tell their tales….what can I say, I’m the kind of person people tell their shit to, whether I want to listen or not (and that is an indictment about me, not necessarily them).  I think there is a pattern to where the road diverges between the two aforementioned groups.  From the broadest perspective, success is a collaborative affair.  It relies on embracing our personal talents, and mastering a sense of cooperation with others to achieve success with that talent, which could be anything from success financially, in service, gaining knowledge, artistic expression, creating a family, etc. None of us are an island…we need others to get ahead.

While not everyone has access to the same amount of help, which is a challenge in a country of dreams that needs to be continually improved upon, I am not talking about general inequity right now.  That is a hornet’s nest for another day.  What I do want to address is the fundamental difference between how people approach success.  I think that those who, at most, do nothing to help use their talents along the way or, at least, use their talent without the same sense of extending help to another are doomed to fail.  It is as simple as that.  Jesus tells a parable about a master going on a journey and distributing talents each according to their ability.  The first two took their talents and made good use of them by working with others and successfully doubling their talent.  The third, who was afraid, feared the success of his master and felt he couldn’t do the same, buried his in the ground. His punishment was harsh, and his talent taken away and split between the other two.

The success isn’t in the amount of  money though. The subtlety of two phrases in the parable is often missed. First: the master entrusted his servants with his possessions, each according to his ability.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all just understood that each of us have different abilities and that is the way that things should be?  The success of two of the servants in the eyes of the master had nothing to do with the amount of the end result, but simply that they went out and did something to expand it. Second, was this: the master rewarded them with more responsiblity, not money, but responsibility.  I truly wish our world worked that way.  But no, there are too many people who are focused on who got what in the first place and believe what they make of their talent is theirs alone, or do nothing with what they are given.  Success results in more responsiblity first, then more riches.

The journey to success is different for everyone.  I do know this, however, minimizing someone’s talents because they may be different from yours (and it goes both ways, for those with a greater ability to those with lesser) you will never be successful in my book. Because success is rewarded with an even greater responsibility and how one proceeds after that. I measure success by how they handle the responsibility.  There are no short cuts, no pretense…Jesus goes on to say a lot about responsiblity after this parable…not only does he celebrate those who multiply their talents, he describes how the responsiblity is measured when the Son of Man comes and separates those who inherit and those who don’t.  Those who achieve success is based on this:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.  Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’  and the king will say to them in reply: ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these of mine, you did for me'”

I implore all of you, stop polarizing talents minimizing them and focus on your own.  Your success won’t be defined by how much money you make off of them, but what you do with it.  God sees talent much differently than our world and politicians do. Just remember that.