Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Thoughts

Sunday Meditations on a John Wesley Quote

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I have been taken with this John Wesley quote for a while now. As it’s Sunday, let’s dive in!

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The above quote resonated with me the first time I heard it, which was sometime in junior high school. So I’d like to dissect this quote, starting with “do all the good you can.”

Too many of us think we can’t do any good at all, so we don’t do anything. And that’s not wise, nor is it smart. We can all do something to help our fellow man, woman, and/or child…it may be something small, like carrying in some groceries if you’re able-bodied and the person you’re helping isn’t. Or it could be something big, like helping someone fix a car when they can’t do it themselves but desperately need it.

(Note I’m talking about individual big things rather than societal big things. But I will get there.)

The key words there are “good” and “can.” Do your best, always; do what you can, always. And if you are in distress, and all you can do is offer good thoughts one day, do that. If you can offer a shoulder to cry on (even a virtual one, these days), that’s even better.

“But Barb,” you say. (Yes, I can hear you.) “What if I truly can’t do anything? I’m in a nursing home. Or I’m in the hospital. Or I’m just…tired, I guess.”

If you’re in a nursing home or in a hospital, the best thing you can do is to heal up. But while you do that, speak kindly to the nurses, doctors, and the staff. Encourage other patients, if you see them. Continue to learn whatever you can learn, via the TV or books or magazines or computer. And again, heal up.

If you’re just tired — and I know the feeling, because I often feel this way myself — you have to look at it a different way.

If you have had an abysmal day, just one from the Hells, and there’s nothing at all you can think of to do that’s any good for anyone, the best thing you can do is to calm down. Talk to a friend. Read a good book. Watch a movie that makes you laugh. Listen to some music that moves you. Whatever works, but do something to get your mind off these problems that are plaguing you.

Anyway, on to the next part of the quote, which is “by all the means you can.” Here, I think John Wesley was talking about the various ways you can help someone. Yes, you can help financially, but you can help emotionally, you can help physically sometimes, you can help spiritually (often we need that the most no matter what it looks like from the outside), and you can do it in whatever fashion you want.

The main thing is to not give in to despair. (Or if you need to, use my late husband’s Zen Buddhist trick and give in to it for five minutes. Then say to yourself, “Self, I’ve heard you. Now let’s get on.” I have used this trick frequently in recent days, and I know it works.)

Wesley here is saying again that you can make a difference by whatever means necessary. And that’s important.

The next part of the quote is “in all the ways you can.” I have already covered this, to an extent, in my previous paragraphs, but I will reiterate for the record: do whatever you need to do to help others in whatever possible ways you have available. Even if they seem small, they can do wonders.

For example, if you are at the grocery store in these days of Covid-19, you can be extra-nice to the cashiers. (Or just polite if you’re normally rude, I guess. Though I would hope none of my readers are rude on a regular basis. Yes, that’s a small joke. Probably very small. Moving on…) You can also help others get their groceries to the car if the clerks are too busy to do it or are unable to do it. You can be polite in the parking lot and make sure you give extra space and time to people walking to and from the store, and pay extra-close attention to the various cars in the lot because not everyone else is.

These are all small things. But they add up. And the clerks will appreciate someone who is not rude or abrupt. The people you deal with, in or out of the car, will appreciate that you are paying attention whether they realize it or not. And if you are helping someone get their stuff to the car, that is vitally important and will probably have made someone’s day.

Small things do add up, you know.

Wesley goes on to say “in all the places you can.” I think what he meant by this is for people not to stop thinking about ways to help others when they walk out the door of the church. If you can help someone in the store, do it. If you can help someone on the road, do that. If you can help a friend by listening even if it’s the tenth time you’ve gone over the same subject and you’re just tired of it — but you can rein in your frustration, and listen and empathize anyway — these things matter.

The next part of Wesley’s quote is “at all the times you can.” I think Wesley put it this way because of what I said before about “days from the Hells.” But it could also be that he dealt with too many people who thought the only time to be charitable was when they were actually in church. And once they walked out the door, that was it for charity for the week, almost as if they had “banked” the charity by going to church and enduring the hour-long sermon. (Or whatever.)

The message here is simple. We are all children of God/dess. (Or Deity. Or “Hey, you, big guy in the sky.” Call Deity what you wish; I don’t think it matters much to Deity.) We are all fallible, imperfect, mortal, all that — just as I’ve said in many other blogs — but along with that fallible, imperfect, mortal stuff comes some pretty good basic instincts. We, most of us, want to help others; we want to do good, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes us feel better to do it. (Maybe that was a biological thing Deity built into us, for all I know.)

And when we deal with those who just don’t seem to care, or don’t seem to want to do the right thing to help their fellow man (or woman or child), it can be frustrating to know that you’re doing your best but someone else is slacking off.

(I don’t know if that’s something Wesley considered during the writing of this, but it makes sense to me.)

The next part of the quote is, “to all the people you can.” I think here Wesley was saying that you should not stop caring about those you dislike. That you should try to find ways to help everyone, not just your own family, your own church, your own clique. That you should make a point to reach out, even when it’s hard (some days it’s very hard; I know!), to help someone who needs it. (Especially as some days, that person is going to be you. But I digress.)

And finally, Wesley closes his quote with, “as long as ever you can.” (I know that reads oddly to modern readers, but Wesley died in 1791. Word choices were different then.)

What does that mean, exactly? Well, I think Wesley believed you needed to keep doing whatever you possibly could to help others for the entirety of your lives. Period. Full stop.

Now, I did some digging into this quote. Wesley is attributed with it because of several sermons he gave during his career as a minister. This was seen to be his overarching philosophy, but Wesley probably never put it exactly the way this quote is put now during his lifetime.

(Which does make me wonder about that “ever you can” stuff, but again, Wesley died in 1791.)

What is important is that Wesley believed we all could and indeed should make a difference. That we indeed should do these things outside the church as well as inside; that we should do these things in the stores as well as our homes; that we should help those we knew and those we didn’t; that we should continue to pray for those we don’t understand and even those we dislike, along with those we know and do understand and deal with on a regular basis.

On this Sunday, take a minute and ask yourself, “What can I do to help someone else today that I normally don’t do?” And then, if you can, do that thing; if you can’t do it today but can do it tomorrow instead, do it then.

But do it. Because it matters. Even when it seems like it doesn’t.

Sunday Meditation: Learning to Let Go

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It’s no secret that over the years I’ve had a hard time letting go of things, good and bad. The best I can do with certain things is agree that I’m going to go on with my memories intact, and do the best I can with them. With my late husband’s death, that’s the level best I can do — letting go is not an option, because that would also let go of all my hopes, dreams, aspirations, and anything else positive that I still wish to obtain.

But maybe I can let go of how angry I am that he died too early. (I’m not angry at him. I’ll never be angry there.) And maybe I can let go of some of the nonsense I saw immediately after my husband died, including some of the rudest comments any widow could ever get. (Including one idiot who said that I would be just fine because I was young, and could still remarry. Um, what?)

So I’m not great with letting go, but I’m working on it.

This becomes more imperative with other things in my life, though. Things I regret doing, that I cannot change now. People I wish who had been different, or better, or less toxic; again, I can’t change that now either. And things that frustrate the Hell out of me…again, if it’s not an ongoing occurrence, why waste any more time on it?

So just for today, I’m going to do my best to let go of all the negative emotions I feel and focus instead on whatever good I can find in the midst of this pandemic, including the love of friends and family who’ve stayed in my life (not to mention good books and good music).

While I know it’s going to be a work-in-progress, I have to do what I can to keep going and give myself a chance to find happiness. Or at least fulfillment. Or peace. Or all of the above.

If you are like me, and you need to let go, try to tell yourself, “Just for today…” and see what happens. (Then do let me know about how it went for you in the comments, OK? I care.)

Sunday Thoughts: Be a Better Person (Starting Today)

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Former President Jimmy Carter is the inspiration for this blog post. Enjoy!

Have you ever felt like wishing that you could just start over? That you messed up something so bad, so vital to your well-being, and you have no way in the world to fix it?

We all have done things we’re not proud of, as there are very few saints walking the face of this Earth. (At least, saints the quality of Mother Teresa, or Father Damien the Leper-Priest.) So I’m guessing that at least a few of you know what I mean.

You’ve had a bad day. Or a bad succession of days. And you wonder what you can possibly do to redeem yourself. Or at least do better than you’ve been doing.

Jimmy Carter has the answer, and it’s surprisingly simple. Decide to be a better person. Starting today.

See, the first thing you have to do, if you feel like you’ve messed up in an irredeemable way, is to tell yourself, “No more. I will do better. I will be better.”

Then, of course, you have to do the work. You have to figure out what type of person you want to be. And do everything in your power to work toward what you see as your best self — a more generous person, perhaps. Or a wiser one. Or maybe even one that’s more self-forgiving…ahem.

But you first have to make up your mind that you are going to change for the better. And that you’ve had enough of the status quo, whatever it is that’s plaguing you; that, too, you have to decide to get past, because otherwise, you’re going to fall into the same old traps.

That said, every day is a new day. If you screwed up badly yesterday, today is a clean slate. You can still make it a worthwhile day full of laughter and love, or creativity and inspiration (or better yet, all of the above). You, too, can make a better life for yourself, brick by brick, resolution by resolution.

You do not have to be held back by your fears, or by your past mistakes. Not if you don’t wish to be.

No, you can’t change the past. But you can learn from it. And you can grow, and change, and deepen, and make yourself more interesting and empathetic and kinder if you truly wish.

So, what do you want to do? Stay in the same ever-changing rut? Or learn from your failures, and make a clean, fresh start?

Yes. You can be a better person. Believe in yourself, give yourself a chance, and go forward rather than reliving the past.

You can still change the future, if you act today. But ultimately, it is all up to you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 26, 2019 at 4:43 am

Thoughts on Forgiveness

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It’s Sunday, so it’s time for another bit of reflection…enjoy.

The topic today is deceptively simple: How do you forgive, especially when you’ve been badly hurt by someone’s actions (or, perhaps, deliberate inaction)?

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. Because when you refuse to forgive someone else, you’re potentially holding your hurts way too close to you. And those hurts can poison you, if you let them; at best, they hold you back and make you less than what you need to be.

The thing is, how do you forgive someone who either doesn’t ask, won’t ask, or can’t ask you for your forgiveness?

I don’t know the answer to this, and I wish I did.

My husband Michael told me any number of times that it’s impossible to fully forgive someone if you’ve not been asked for forgiveness. While I agreed with him at the time, and still mostly agree with his assertion now, I think it’s better to try — and, potentially, fail — to forgive someone, even if he can’t or won’t ask.

“Ah, but you didn’t say anything about someone who doesn’t ask!” you cry.

That’s because I am still working on that particular problem.

Someone who can’t ask, or won’t ask, is someone who fully realizes that problems have occurred between you, nine times out of ten. So there is an awareness there of wrongdoing, or at least of a significant disagreement that led to a major falling out. But someone who doesn’t ask may be willfully ignorant of what he or she has done, and that willful ignorance will get in the way of anything you try to do on the forgiveness front.

The reason Michael and I talked about this issue with regards to forgiveness is because we had some folks we knew who would make the same mistakes, over and over again, ask forgiveness, and then go out and make the same mistakes again and not care about hurting the same people. They felt they could ask for forgiveness over and over, and that they should automatically be granted forgiveness, without any work on their part, or any true remorse, or any acknowledgment of the pain and suffering they’d caused over the years.

That sort of person does not deserve forgiveness, at least until some hard thought goes into why this pattern repeats over and over again, and effort is made to reduce — or better yet, eliminate — that pattern by the person in question.

I do think most people realize that they will make mistakes. (I know I’ve made my share.) And that sometimes, those mistakes cannot be undone; even if forgiven, the hurt is there, and will always be there, unless both people work to eliminate that pain and figure out how to deal with each other on a more even footing.

So, forgiveness. It’s tough. Sometimes you can’t do it unless someone asks. And even then, you may be unready to forgive, or perhaps unwilling…sometimes, as I’ve said before in this blog (and elsewhere), all you can do is admit that you can’t forgive and leave it up to the Deity.

But I do think you should try, especially if asked. Because holding unnecessary pain inside will poison you, and no one needs that.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Share ’em in the comments, and let’s discuss!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 5, 2018 at 3:02 am

By Their Fruits, Ye Shall…

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Folks, it’s Sunday. And I’ve been thinking (always a dangerous enterprise, believe me), mostly about Matthew 7:16. (A Biblical verse from the book of Matthew, that indicates.)

The King James version of this verse states:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

But for whatever reason, in the modern era, we’ve turned that around. I’ve mostly heard it the other way, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” And it is a warning, in either sense, of falseness — false prophets, false witness, prevarication in all forms.

So, when I hear something on CNN about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe being fired less than two days before he could’ve taken retirement, I am outraged. Whether you liked McCabe or hated him, he was a career public servant and deserved his pension. And firing him — supposedly with less than twenty-six hours before he could’ve put in for retirement — is flat-out low-class.

There is no reason whatsoever to do this. If you have any tact, decency, or even a working knowledge of the federal government at all, you let this man take his honorable retirement and go. He worked hard and he deserves that money. End of story.

The corollary is, if McCabe was such a “bad actor” (not that I believe he was), why wait until only twenty-six hours before he can take retirement to fire him? And why do it on a weekend, when it’ll be harder for him to respond or get his lawyers involved, as now they must, to fight for his pension?

If there has ever been a clearer statement of “by their fruits, ye shall know them,” I don’t know what it might be.

But let’s step away from politics, shall we? (I know that’s a mine-field.) And talk about personal dealings.

I’ve been sick now for at least a month. (Yes, this is germane, I promise.) I finished up an edit, and have been working very slowly on two more, and I haven’t given up. But I want to talk about the responses I’ve gotten since I admitted how sick I was. (I’m going back into urgent care this morning, BTW, and I hope they’ll find a way to get me a consult to an ear, nose, and throat doc.)

Two very good friends I hadn’t talked with much about this stepped up immediately and have asked daily about my health. They are honestly worried and I appreciate that. They care. That’s good.

By their fruits, I know they are worthy people.

Another very good friend brought me some food and went out to breakfast with me, on one of the few days I felt I could get out at all.

By her fruits, I know she is a worthy person.

Any number of others have written or inquired and asked me how I am, including my friend Tajwarr in India, who’s just finished up her training to become a MD. I very much appreciate this, too.

By their fruits, I know they are absolutely wonderful.

And not everyone knows I’m sick, and I get that.  Certainly not their fault I’m sick, and some people don’t know how to speak to someone who is sick…though I do wonder about them, and what that says about their fruits, if they know and say nothing, or know and choose to say nothing.

Jesus believed that you help the poor, the meek in spirit, the sick, the damaged, those in need of healing. He believed that you should comfort the afflicted. Nurture those who need it, out of the goodness of your hearts, out of the kindness of your souls, because when you do that, you are tapping most strongly into God’s love for us. (Or the Goddess’s, if you prefer, and I definitely do prefer.)

Anyway, I appreciate those among my friends who’ve tried to do that in their various ways. I will never forget it.

And those who have known, but said nothing?

Unfortunately, I will never forget that, either. Because their fruits have proven to be rotten. And I don’t need that in my life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2018 at 7:10 am

Sunday Thoughts — Advice for the Downtrodden

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Folks, it’s Sunday, so I’d like to reflect a little bit on what’s been going on, both with me and the world (as far as I can tell, at least from this little corner of it), as I have a tendency to do on what most of the Westernized world considers to be the Sabbath.

Right now, I’m working hard on three different edits. I also have several writing works-in-progress I’m trying to devote some time to, and I also do what I can to help family and friends enjoy life (or at least not hate it quite so much) by reminding them that they, too, are valuable.

Life shouldn’t just be about work, you see. As wonderful as work can be — and I do enjoy, very much, my work as a writer and editor — it isn’t enough to give you personal satisfaction at a deep level.

Caring for others matters. Even when they can’t show you, it still matters. Because it’s done not to help you feel better, but to help them feel better. And virtue, sometimes, has to be its own reward…even if it does not seem like it at the time.

But how do you keep caring, keep trying, and keep reaching when you feel like your own, personal well of inspiration is dry?

I don’t have the answers to that. But I do know that if you give yourself some credit for all the effort you put in, even on the worst of days, you can get up the next day and try it again.

Everything you do matters. Whether it’s tangible or not, whether others realize it or not, it still is important. And I believe we were put here on this Earth to realize that very fact; that we are meant to not only improve ourselves, but to help others, and to feel less alone while doing it.

I may not be putting this the world’s best way, mind. I’ve still been fighting the vestiges of bronchitis, and also have been working a great deal (thus the not-so-much blogging I’ve done over the past week to ten days).

But I know this to be true: You do matter. To yourself, to the Deity, and to your friends and family, whether it seems like it or not. And whether they can show you…or not.

And you need to keep doing your best to use your talents productively, while encouraging others to do the same thing, because that, too, makes a positive difference in this world.

So if others are telling you that what you are doing doesn’t count, don’t listen.

And if you feel like your life is over, please believe me: it’s not.

Your viewpoint, your inspiration, your drive, your passion, are still there, whether you can feel them today or not. And you will use them to their utmost tomorrow, after you’ve rested.

Please, folks: Believe in yourselves, and believe there is a purpose for you being here. Do not believe in those who tear you down, and do your best to rise above, and keep rising no matter what negativity finds you.

That’s the best way to do good in this world that I know. And while doing your best, you may just find your way back to personal and job satisfaction…just a thought.

A Sunday Thought…and a Thought

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Folks, when I woke up earlier today, I thought hard about life. About what my place in the world is (nay, bigger than that — the entire universe!), and whether or not what I’m doing is my best course of action.

Then I snorted, sat up, and started laughing in near-hysteria.

I’m a writer. An editor. A musician. A scholar of arcane disciplines, and a student of history. Also a daughter, a friend, a colleague…

And, of course, the widow of Michael B. Caffrey.

This last is my most precious joy, not because of the widow part — far, far from it! — but because Michael was the most amazing person I have ever had the privilege to behold. He was funny, smart, self-educated, gifted at many things, and a person of remarkable wit and consequence. Michael mattered so very much; what had formed him, what had shaped him, into the man I feel in my heart was firmly destined to be my husband and other half of my soul interested me greatly.

Because we didn’t have that much time together, there are some things I will never know from his perspective. (I have picked up on some additional things since his untimely passing from his sister, his nieces, a few of his friends, and his ex-wife, who was possibly his very best friend in all the world besides myself.) But one thing I do know…Michael was special, and important, and being with him was worth every last bit of pain I’ve suffered since his untimely passing.

Much less the pain I endured before I ever met him, as I’d been previously — and quite unhappily — married before I had the privilege to meet him.

I mention all of that because it’s important to me. Important enough that I’m willing to put it out there, for all to see, in a format that will last as long as the Internet does…and perhaps longer.

But perhaps that seems obvious to you. If you’ve been here before, you know this about me by now; I have suffered, but I have learned, and I have been deeply loved. These things cannot help but mark a person. And in this case, I hope they have made me a better person.

That said, I can’t help but reflect on how life, all in all, marks us. We are all the sum total of our experiences. If we are wise, and learn from our mistakes — and celebrate our joys, no matter how brief and evanescent they may be — we may become our best selves, and worthy of the highest love our species can bestow.

This Sunday, I want you to consider your own highest gifts and blessings. From where did they spring? What are you doing with them, now, and what will you do with them in the future?

Now, as for the additional thought…this was my original post on the subject at Facebook, a few short minutes ago (if you want to read my public posts at Facebook, go here):

One of my best friends just pointed out that everything in life, good and bad, is a learning experience. As a writer, I tend to observe much, even when I don’t seem to be taking it in…the hope is that it gives my stories more weight, as I can’t help but do it anyway.

That said, as I’m in the month of June — my wedding anniversary rapidly approaches, the 14th (and 12th without my beloved husband by my side), I marvel at the changes life has brought. Some have been horrible. Some have been remarkably good.

But to get to Michael, to be with him, to hear him laugh and to create works with him was my most precious joy. I’d not change any of that for the world.

Thus are today’s Sunday thoughts.

Any questions?

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 12, 2016 at 6:26 am