The Nudge

(not to be confused with the movie, “The Grudge”)

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years it is this: pay attention.  It seems relatively simple, right? I mean, how hard is it, really, to notice things.  But I’m not referring to noticing when someone is sporting a new hairstyle or donning a new outfit. That’s stating the obvious (although I’ve had lapses on even that rudimentary level). No, I’m talking about being aware and open to the subtleties in life.  Oh, they’re there all right but too often we blow past them in the rush of daily life (and doesn’t life seem to be moving faster and faster). I’m throwing myself under the bus on this as I too often move too fast in my daily routine to hear the whisper of Spirit or notice those around me.

Let’s be honest … we live in a very noisy world – cell phones, MP3 players, television, car radios, podcasts, car horns, traffic – and it doesn’t seem to be getting quiet anytime soon.  We also live in a very busy world; frenetic is probably a better word. We have school events, grocery shopping, work, appointments, social engagements, and the list goes on and on.  I am not immune to these demands.  Too often my day is spent hurtling from pillar to post and by the end of the day I realize that I have not paused at all.  That kind of 8256967824_ea9beda442_mlifestyle can easily become addictive and I have to re-learn how to be still. Being still is critical for me.  It is only in the stillness that I can hear the whispers in life.  Move to fast and I miss them.  Move too fast and I don’t pause to watch the birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window.  Move too fast and I fail to notice how blue the sky is today. Move too fast and I miss the beauty in everyday things like the way the sunlight makes the fresh snow sparkle unlike any diamond! If I don’t slow down and be still, inside I’ll miss the nudge of Spirit.  I’ll miss the important but oh so subtle whisper of direction for my life.  I need that navigator, that internal compass, in my life; without it I cannot kno607586749_17d626f0c2_mw which road to take in life.  When I am aware of the nudge and heed it’s leanings I am more peaceful.  When I am lost in myself I inevitably will miss the “bridge out ahead” sign and fail to take the exit ramp.  Listening for the signal allows me to feel the nudge of Spirit and that nudge moves me in the direction to which I should travel.

I got that signal, that nudge, at several crossroads in my life in the past few years.  I sought out the necessary help for my struggles eight years ago; had I not, you wouldn’t be reading this now. I went on that second date with Eileen; had I not, my life would feel an emptiness.  I hosted a teen orphan from Latvia and adopted another one; had I not, I would have missed the opportunity to see how unconditional love can conquer fear and I wouldn’t be blessed by my son and “daughter” today.  I started a writing career; well, we’ll see where that leads.

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So why write about “the nudge?”  You’re just describing a seemingly random series of events and choices, aren’t you? Here’s why … when I get that nudge I follow it’s lead.  Last week I watched a video. It was an interview of Sister Simone by Krista Tippett. During the course of the hour-long conversation many topics were broached – social justice, Pope Francis, being secure in insecurity and loving on the overlooked.  At one point the conversation turned to what prompted Sr. Simone on her path. Her response – she heard the whisper, she felt her heart move, she didn’t resist the “nudge” to her calling.  For the full conversation visit: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/live-video-sister-simone-campbell-of-nuns-on-the-bus-with-krista-tippett/7309#.VPdca-H8r2Y.

Then, two days ago I read an article authored by Anat Vaughan-Lee.  She writes, “We do not always know what it is or how to articulate it, but deep inside there is a longing, a longing to live according to a true calling. A calling that comes not from the personality but from a deeper part of ourselves …” She goes on to state that by heeding that calling we become connected to life on a much deeper level and our being, our soul, is at peace because we are true to our calling.  You can read the short article here: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=1067. 13718646634_e591fff743_m

Where am I going with this? Simply this: when I pay attention to the whisper, the nudge, the pulling on my heart, the calling, I feel connected to life around me on a deeper level.  When I feel more connected I am more attuned to noticing and appreciating the Beauty and the Divine in ordinary things.  When I can see the Divine in others I am better able to see the Divine in me.  When I can feel the Divine in me I can glimpse the Grace and Love that is the Divine.  When I follow that nudge my purpose is in harmony with the will of the Divine. I feel connected.

And so I write …

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The Net Is Always There

So it has been about a month since I decided to take the leap of faith and go into this freelance writing with everything I’ve got.  Starting something new is always scary.  “If I take the leap, will the net be there?”  “What if I fail?”

Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  I’ve got nothing to lose at this juncture in my life and God seems to have me here on this road for a reason. So ….

I managed to start a new blog and created a web site.  I have to tell you that creating the web site was not a user-friendly experience but like anything else once I got it up I was pleased that I was able to learn a new skill with the help of tech support.  It reminds me of the closing scene in My Cousin Vinny when Vinny complains that he wanted to win his first case without any help and Lisa sarcastically tells him that he wins case after case with other people’s help and at the end he has to say “Thank you”. What a nightmare!

So that leads into this past week where I ordered new business cards.  I must say they look nice. What do you think?

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Then I garnered a couple of writing assignments.  One was an announcement/update of information for my church and distributed to local newspapers.  The second assignment was to write an article for the local papers about a Valentine’s Day dinner/music event at our church.  The third assignment was drafting a description and “promotional” piece for a new discipleship program for our church.  The first assignment was completed and drafts of the others have been circulated for review.

I have a one or two longer term projects also underway.

I don’t know why I am ever surprised by God’s plan … (He’s probably shaking His head and chuckling.  “Silly people.”).  He never fails; when I follow His lead the net is always there. Always!

Blogging 101 – Who Am I and Why Am I Doing This?

As some of you may know I am in between careers and have decided to jump into this writing thing and learn to swim as I go.  I have blogged before – chronicling my family’s adventures in hosting a teen orphan from Latvia (www.servingdaniela.blogspot.com) and one describing our experiences in adopting a our son, Kris (www.heartsonfireforfamily.blogspot.com).  This is the first time I am writing, however, with the intent of improving my writing skills so that I might make a living at it.  I’m just letting it rip and having faith that the safety net will be there.

As for the “who” part of this I could give you a litany of my adventures and misadventures during my 53 years but I’d rather let you discover who I am by seeing what I write about, what I am passionate about, what catches my attention.  For now, you should know this: I have a lovely family (wife and two kids) and great set of friends.  I live in Eastern Pennsylvania but I am transplanted here by way of “Da Bronx” and Orange County NY.  I love to read books and I enjoy learning to play guitar.  We just completed our adoption of Kris (17) from Latvia and are in the integration of two cultures stage.  So far, so good.

I look forward to learning more about the craft of writing from all of you.  Thanks for reading.

Advice to Writers

Copyright Pamela Stopfer Used with permission

I received some very salient wisdom from a writer I admire, Thomas Merton.

He was asked for some advice by a new writer and here is the encouragement he dispensed:

1. Never write down to anyone.

2. Never write what you think others want to hear.

3. Write what is deepest in your own heart and what you know is also deep in theirs.

My paraphrase of this:

1. Be humble.

2. Don’t pander and be courageous.

3. Be genuine and speak of true things.

I hope my writing will due homage to this sapient advice.  If I ever venture off this path I hope that you, the reader, will remind me of this wisdom.

Changes

Change is inevitable they say.  It has also been said that everything changes.

But we humans (despite our zombie-like attraction to the latest and the greatest gizmo, fashion or fad) tend to dislike change or at least too much of it.  Perhaps that is why we gravitate to the familiar surroundings of home.  Although we love to go on vacations there is a sense of relief when we walk in the front door of our cottage. There must be some truth in it – after all, Frank Sinatra sings that “It’s oh so nice to come home.”

Maybe I have generalized  things a bit here but speaking for myself change can be terrifying!  It sometimes requires me to step off the ledge and pray that the net will be there!  It requires me to leave the land that I know so well and venture off into the fog of the unknown.  And once I get to this new place I must reconcile myself to the fact that, as Thomas Merton said, I can no longer live here as I lived there.

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Copyright Pamela Stopfer Used with permission

Same can be said about my adventures in writing.  It’s something I enjoy but never really tried with any seriousness or sense of purpose.  But changes in my life have created the opportunity to spread my writing wings and leave the nest.  I hope that it will be a satisfying and soul-nourishing undertaking.

I have been on a Thomas Merton kick lately.  Here’s something he wrote that really resonated with me and gives me courage to take the next step on the journey.  He wrote that “there is one basic idea that should be kept in mind in all changes we make in life, whether of career or anything else.  We should decide [to change] in view of becoming more real, entering more authentically into direct contact with life, living more as a free and mature human person, able to give myself more to others, able to understand myself and the world better.”

I hope that I can embrace the coming changes in me and trust that the path will lead me to wholeness and wellness; I trust that these changes will make me a better man today than I was yesterday.