Once a week I can tell what day it is even without looking. As I sit early in the morning in my time of silence and meditation, I hear it. The growling in the far off distance. Then it gets closer. Banging gets louder. Oh, yes, it is Monday. The big blue garbage truck is slowly, methodically making its way around the neighborhood.

And each time I hear it, up from the silence I utter a “thank you”. Here is a truck with a person in it, in 100 degree heat or in sub-zero winter, driving by and picking up our garbage. Here is a person who faithfully comes by and takes away that which I have determined to be trash.

Now, this job isn’t one of the glamor jobs that people generally hope for when they are in high school on career day. Seldom do people like this come to the class room and tout the glory of stopping in front of each house, getting out of the truck and emptying the multiple cans of garbage that belongs to other people.

And yet, I give thanks because I count on it. I depend on someone coming and helping me keep some order in the house. I appreciate that someone faithfully comes by and gets rid of the left-overs of my life. (Even as I say this I am aware of my experience in poor countries of the world where there is no such thing as trash. Everything has value because there is so little. We in the part of the world in which I live are creating a problem for the planet because we have so much left-over.  But, this is another blog for another day.)

As I meditate each Monday, I know what day it is by the growling and banging in the neighborhood. And on this Labor Day weekend, I am grateful for the labor of those who are not celebrated but on whom much of my life’s comfort depends.



 I was talking with a friend recently. He was talking about something that mattered to him. I was listening—sort of.  When I was driving back home, I realized that I could not remember what he was saying. Was I paying attention?

When i think about it, there are times when I am with another person and I am listening to them.  Or at least I think I am. But, later I realize that sometimes I am paying more attention to what I am thinking rather than what they are saying. I am distracted by my own life even as I am listening to someone else share his life.

My distraction from the other person words is sometimes triggered by what they are saying. Sometimes other people’s passions, their “declarations of truth” are totally opposite of what I believe. So, when they say something like, “Religious people in their right minds can’t believe in . . . . (you fill in the blank). When that is said, I immediately go into my own defensive mode, wanting to convince the other person that I am in my right mind and don’t believe what they say religious people in their right mind believe.  I just stop listening to them and start listening to my own defense.

The problem with really listening to another is that to actually hear them might require that I rethink what I “know” to be true. To actually hear another share their understanding of what is happening may require that my understanding might be modified—I might have to give up the “truth” that has guided my thoughts and change the way I think. 

But, when I look back on my life, I have been way more blessed with a changing and expanding understanding than when I clung rigidly to the world the way I had constructed it in my own mind.  And most of the blessing has been because I have enriched my relationship and expanded my connection with the human family by actually listening to them.


One very important gift of a person who is a leader is that of seeing the invisible. Leaders take what is visible, what exists in an organization, and then mixes it with what isn’t, with what is not yet, and comes up with a vision of what might be.

And then a good leader takes what is invisible and with the use of words and images, helps others get a glimpse of a new future.  This requires careful attention to the language and the symbols that are used to evoke vision where there is not one. It requires thoughtful conversation with those who are trying to see the invisible that the leader sees.

Now a leader does this visioning with the purpose of helping to draw people into a future that the leader thinks is good for the organization.

But, there are couple of things that I have seen leaders do that works against the goal of getting others to join in the journey toward something unseen.  One of them is the leader’s forgetting that others see invisible futures and they don’t always want to give those up. The leader fails to help the follower name the losses that will result in the leader’s vision developing.

And because the leader doesn’t help others see the losses, she might lack empathy with those who don’t have the same vision of the invisible. When a leader does not seem to care that others pay the price of a lost vision, the leader will run into resistance and be less able to bring those people along as the organization moves forward.  The loss of energy then reduces the chance of the leader’s vision becoming visible.

When a leader recognizes the losses that others suffer and attends to those with sensitivity, others might be able to grieve their losses and open up to the new future with hope and action. Grieving is central to followers being able to be freed to move into the invisible future.


“Some love sustains.  Some love smothers and kills.”

I had just had lunch with a friend who had just celebrated 46 years of marriage when I heard the statement, “Some love sustains. Some love smothers and kills.”

I couldn’t help but wonder how people love in a way that sustains marriage for 46 years. What are the ingredients that separate sustaining love from smothering love?

I am sure there are books written on the topic, but a few things randomly strolled across horizon of my mind.  

  • Sustaining love respects the unique gifts of each; smothering love is always trying to reshape the other. 
  • Sustaining love adapts to a growing soul; smothering love can’t allow the other to grow and change.
  • Sustaining love wastes time with the other, playing in the heart; smothering love is all about working it out.
  • Sustaining love follows energy; smothering love demands conformity.
  • Sustaining love gives what it can; smothering love  constantly demands what it needs.
  • Sustaining love forgives offense; smothering love holds onto grudges.

Sustaining love make it possible for each individual to not only be sustained, but to be nourished. You know it exists when each person is flourishing in who they are. They receive something in the relationship that contributes to their having the power to become their best selves and the courage to give those selves to friends, family and world.

I don’t know about my friend’s marriage and what he would say has fed their relationship for 46 years, but I suspect there was a lot of sustaining love going on. Each gives of themselves to the other and allows them space to grow into who they can be.


I preached at a congregation this morning.  Two services.  In the service there was time to share joys and concerns.  In the first service one of the members asked for prayers for a family with three young children whose father had committed suicide.  In the second service, a young person asked for prayers for the family of one of her classmates who had committed suicide.

I listened with an aching heart. I had read of children who were being bullied via the internet. I was struck by the life that people live and how little we know about the deep struggles of their souls. And I am aware of how often we are critical of others without being aware of what they are going through.

There are many joys for people to share in life, and we give thanks for those. But, there are many kids (young children and adults whose child cries out for love and attention) who are troubled and struggle with a sense of self worth. There are many whose pain seems overwhelming.  We never know.  

So, because we don't know, opt for kindness.  When you look into the eyes of any human who is priviledged to share life with you, think "be kind." Let your first impulse be to "be kind." 

My guess is that most of the time that act of kindness will touch the chid's heart much more deeply than a judgment or a criticism. Know that pain hides behind masks of bravado and charm. Even if you don't know what the pain is, if your first impulse is to "be kind" you can't go wrong.