Exciting news, every one.  My newest book: Cultivating Hope, is being shipped to stores as I write this.  You can call Hazelden too, at 800-328-9000 or go on amazon.com where you can see inside the book.  I am so happy it’s getting released a bit earlier than expected. Current economic conditions for many of us make the cultivation of hope even more necessary.  I want to give you a “taste” of the kind of essays you will find in the book so I am including one here for you to ruminate on:

NO ONE IS ON OUR PATH ACCIDENTALLY.

How often do you look, with focused intention, at the people you see in the halls at work or in line at the grocery or on the street as you wander by?  If you’re like most of us, you probably see most people but quite unconsciously.  We need not be ashamed of how easily we dismiss the presence of others.  It’s usually not intentional.  We are simply self-absorbed.  But we can cultivate the belief that each person is offering us an opportunity to connect, in fact to connect on a spiritual level.  Joining with each person in this way, by making intentional eye contact, has an immediate healing effect on us and them too.

Seeking to see the Spirit in others, strangers as well as friends, which is what we are doing when we intentionally make eye contact, is the first and very necessary step to actually becoming aware of that spirit.  Looking into the eyes of those people who are sharing our path is the highest honor we can pay them, in most cultures. Our commitment to doing this, increases our peace of mind while showing them that they matter to us too.  We may not be inclined to honor others in this way, but if they have crossed our path, it’s worth considering that that’s what we have been called to do.

Take a few moments right now to think of a handful of difficult people you have had to experience in your life, perhaps recently.  Not all of our meetings are pleasant, and that’s the point. They are all vastly important however.  Are you able to glean the lesson that was being offered in any encounter that comes to mind?  It may not have felt very nurturing.  Many of them don’t.  But all lessons make up the points on our journey that are nudging us forward.  And if we aren’t moving forward, we are stuck in the past where God can no longer reach us.

Each of those people we met has been kept alive by the same spiritual flame that keeps us alive.  Remembering this can let us recall the experiences and the people with a different level of acceptance.  We are on an equal footing.  Any one who wanders toward us is seeking to be both teacher and student within the encounter we are about to share.  As mentioned earlier, perhaps we will ignore the presence of someone, but if there’s an important lesson to be shared between us, the encounter will happen again.

It’s possible you have had experiences you resist thinking of as necessary lessons.  I have some in my past too.  But what I have decided is that I don’t have to understand why an experience had value for me to believe that it did.  What I do know is that I now travel a peaceful path most days, and I have not had to deny any experience that occurred.  I know that the painful ones were teaching me something important that I needed to pass along to some one else.  We never know how we are being used by the God of our understanding.  We only know that we are being used.  That gives me great relief.

We certainly don’t know what the day may bring but we can be certain that God is part of what unfolds.  Any experience will be used many times, and not just by us.  That’s the hopeful reality.  Whatever comes to us will be shared many times to the benefit of others.  Our presence is the key to the unfolding of the mystery.

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