Some say the glass is half empty. Some say the glass is half full.
But honestly, neither approach seems sufficient for right now. Maybe we need a different approach: the glass is overflowing. A commitment to live in the overflow.
The Bible describes living in the overflow in two simple lines:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Give and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.
I think we all understand that living generously creates a kind of karma—whether it’s being generous with money, time, energy, patience, forgiveness or personal attention. The more we give of ourselves, the more we get back.
Picking up on that thought, John Wesley described living in the overflow like this:
Do all the good you can
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
At all the times you can,
As long as ever you can.
And singer James Taylor reminds us that “doing good” begins at home:
Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel,
You know that things are going to work out better if you only will.
Living in troubled times can sometimes make us feel that we’re running on empty.
But the resources we most need—compassion, joy, courage, wisdom and aliveness—are bottomless, inexhaustible, always there to be tapped into and drunk deep from.
When we can’t do anything else, we can choose to live in the overflow. In fact, that might be one thing we can do that finally matters. We can adopt the motto of the overflowing life:
“The more trouble life brings, the more life I bring to the trouble.”
Guest post by Landon Saunders
I’ve always loved the old Quaker story of the man who said to another with whom he was very displeased: “Friend, I love thee, but thou art standing where I’m about to strike!”
The story suggests the great difficulty of loving our neighbors. The words, “love your neighbor as yourself,” glide easily off the tongue. But, in reality, it is one of the most difficult things for us do throughout our lives.
So maybe think of it like this: the one thing in which we each should try to excel is the right treatment of another human being. This would be a good daily goal.
The people we encounter in our daily lives may be different in myriads of ways. They may disappoint us. They may offend us. They may violate our sense of values, morals, and beliefs.
But hurting them, demeaning them, excluding them, choosing words that diminish them, using words that suggest another person is just a little less human than the rest of us—this is unbecoming.
Not valuing others lowers our own value. This is an insidious poison that creeps into our hearts, corrupting our view of both self and neighbor. Such poison breeds fear, distrust, division, and hostilities.
I mourn the present state of things in our nation. Language is coarse, often nasty and mean. Ugly name calling and misrepresentation of views threatens decency and reason and healthy debate.
To any extent we find ourselves a part of such behavior, maybe a good place to begin to change things for the better would be to say in our hearts:
This is wrong. I will not be a part of it. I will represent something different to every person I meet—I will treat every person as a neighbor. Beginning today.
Make no mistake about it: living together in peace is a goal we must never give up on if we are to survive—personally, and as a nation.
The story above of the Quaker brings a smile. Not a bad place to end these thoughts.
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
We are constantly negotiating who we think we are with those near us—a spouse, children, friends, associates at work. And how we dealt with the things we have faced in our lives tells us a lot about who we are—how we faced failure or humiliation or suffering or accomplishment.
When we face such things, we have to reach deeper inside. We uncover things we didn’t know were there. We find strength we didn’t know we had. As you’ve probably noticed, I point often to these riches found in our person because it is so easy for us to forget this.
And many have faced things so hard that they said, “This is more than I can bear.” But the wisest hearts and minds through the ages have told us we do not face more than we can bear. And I think that has been born out in most of our lives. Though there are those who get over-whelmed, hopefully, others step in to provide help and comfort.
We bear up under extreme challenges because they drive us to reach down and find riches within us—untapped and unspent. Those riches can never be fully depleted or exhausted. You are living testimony that one can endure a lot along life’s journey. You’ve reached deeper and found new riches of courage, patience, flexibility, resilience, and hope.
Personally, I rely a lot on joy, and I’ve made joy the default of my heart. No matter what happens, I revert to joy which underlies it all. Joy is unmotivated. It is a capacity built into the human heart. Joy is there when we cry, when we suffer, when we fail, and when we succeed.
Joy never drains us. Let me say that again: Joy never drains us. To the contrary, joy adds energy and life to us.
So, in these times that try our souls…summon the joy. It is there…and it will come
Every July 5-10 in a small town in Turkey there is a huge celebration for Nasreddin, one of the most memorable characters in Middle Eastern literature. In fact, UNESCO declared 1996-1997 to be the International Year of Nasreddin!
So who was Nasreddin? He may or may not have actually lived in the 13th century, but his stories have spread around the world from Turkey to Africa, to China to the U.S.
Nasreddin (sometimes spelled Nasrudeen) was a sort of philosopher-fool in a turban and goatee. He went around doing and saying crazy things that sometimes had a bit of wisdom to them but always brought a smile.
So today, just to lighten things up a bit, I’m going to share two Nasreddin stories. The first story is just for fun.
A neighbor came to Nasreddin’s yard and Nasreddin went out to meet him. “Can you lend me your donkey today?” the neighbor asked. “I have some goods to transport to the next town.”
Not really wanting to lend his donkey, yet not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings, Nasreddin said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already lent him to someone else.” Just then, the donkey could be heard braying loudly behind a wall in the yard.
“But Nasreddin,” the neighbor exclaimed, “I can hear it behind that wall!”
Nasreddin was indignant. “Who are you going to believe, me or the donkey?”
The second story has a bit of insight.
Hiding behind some bushes, Nasreddin observed a man walking down the road carrying a backpack. The man had his head down; he looked depressed. Nasreddin ran up behind him, grabbed the backpack and ran off ahead of him.
“Hey!” the man yelled, and gave chase. Nasreddin ran around a turn in the road, dropped the backpack, then hid behind bushes. The man came running around the corner and then stopped when he saw the pack in the middle of the road. Amazed and delighted, he picked up the pack and went off down the road whistling.
“Well,” Nasreddin said to himself, “I guess that’s one way to find happiness!”
Someone has said: to find enlightenment, you must lighten up. But that doesn’t mean to get rid of our burdens; we all have burdens. To lighten up means finding a way to carry the burdens with some joy and not take ourselves quite so seriously.
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