“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
8 ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
9 Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being.”

– Job 12:7-10

A LIFE REDEEMED

Denver Moore, one of the main characters in the movie “Same Kind of Different as me,” was born into poverty. During his childhood he had little and what he had was hard-won. Nothing came to Denver freely. The embers of goodness that reside in children never had a chance to flicker in him. It was replaced by a life of scarcity that required a fight for all he received, a constant pushing for sustenance, enhanced by his own physical strength. He never attended school. As a young adult he was homeless. As a young adult he was roped and dragged by the Ku Klux Klan for helping a white woman change a flat tire.

He found a rusted gun, with no cylinder, and tried to rob a bus. He left the bus after being unable to get the change out of the till. He was arrested and sentenced to twenty years in the notorious Angola Prison. Any ember of goodness in him dimmed even more. Knowing no other way, Denver had taken the wrong path at every crossroads of his life. A life where he never saw the majesty of God.

After twenty years he was released and put back on the streets. Sleeping on grates by a hotel or near a soup kitchen. He carried a large bat to help protect himself and claim his space.

Deborah Hall was struggling with her own life. The affluent wife of a successful art dealer, she was beset by anguish that she should be doing more and not just consuming life. Her husband was growing distant and unavailable. In a restless sleep she had a dream about a powerfully built man who could help her recover her purpose.

In her frustration she started helping at a center that served homeless people by raising money and serving food. Through a crisis in her marriage she was able to convince her husband, Ron, to also help. Reluctant at first, he soon stood beside her serving food.

A man would regularly come in and insist on getting not just one meal, but two. Any attempt to dissuade the man to only take one meal was met with anger, and the staff always relented to ensure calm. One day there was not calm, and the man used his bat to threaten people and damaged a significant artifact of the shelter.

Deborah recognized the man as the one from her dream. She asked her husband to go talk with him. Reluctantly Ron followed the man out of the shelter. The man went behind a building and Ron went after him. There Ron saw a great act of charity; the large, angry man gave one of his two meals to a homeless person confined to a wheelchair. Ron saw the ember of goodness in the homeless man flicker in an act of unselfishness. The man had not been selfishly asking for two meals for himself but wanted one for his friend. The man was Denver Moore. From that point, Ron slowly began to engage the man to build up trust. A trust that would develop into a wonderful fourteen-year revival of both their spirits.

Denver Moore became a member of the Hall family and was at Ron’s side at the country club, social events, and family gatherings. After a lifetime of denials, Denver was receiving.

Deborah died of cancer a few years later, but not before developing the center into a model of how to help. Denver was there to console his friend Ron and deliver the eulogy at Deborah’s funeral. In conjunction with Ron, he wrote the book that became the movie Same Kind of Different as Me.

Denver died in 2012. He left a wonderful legacy of giving in those fourteen years. He helped raise over seventy million dollars for the homeless. He helped his friend recover from the loss of his wife. His last years were about giving and not taking. His last years were spent taking a different path at the crossroads of life. His last years included the tide of his life coming in. Despite all that had happened to him, that small ember of goodness that for many years had been dormant roared into a flame.

Miracles do not always happen the way we want, leaving us frustrated and in a prolonged period of grief. Sometimes through our shortcomings and other times for no apparent reason. For some, like Denver Moore, life starts out bad and we do not get the chance to excel and have a life of bounty. For the parent who loses a child, no pain can be greater. We ask, “Why, God, did this have to happen?” For some it is losing a job despite their good work or getting denied a promotion even though they were the most qualified. When miracles do not happen, life is at its toughest.

When we find ourselves at a crossroads, do we blame God, or do we bear in to God? The answer to this question is extraordinarily personal. Denver took the wrong path too many times, because it was all he knew. Some must learn a hard lesson first. For others it is unexplainable.  The path to the answer is through our sovereign God, no matter how angry we are. Who else made the stars in the sky or allows the deer to glide elegantly in the woods? Our healing through faith lies within the decisions we make at the inevitable crossroads of life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

– John 5:19

DOING WHAT WE SEE GOD IS DOING

I know a woman named Beth, who was homeless and fighting hard to regain her footing, so she could raise her child in a home like she saw other mothers do. She worked at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in a job that sometimes had her scraping gum off the bottom of the tables. Her boss was abusive and ranted at her throughout her shift. Each day she went back to her shelter with a little more money to get her freedom. On the Christmas Eve of her one-year journey in homelessness she left work and found a woman in the parking lot who was in need. It was a dark, rainy night, and the woman had not eaten in days and was rummaging in the trash bin behind the store. With what little she had earned in tips that day, Beth took the woman into Dunkin’ Donuts and bought her a meal. She sat with the woman and listened to her story. On that rainy Christmas Eve, she drove back to her shelter wondering if she had done enough for the woman.

Beth eventually got an apartment and left her job, to work at a better place. The next fall she was able to put her child on a school bus for her first day of school. She was able to go to a job where she was respected. She continued to wonder if she had done enough on that Christmas Eve.

Deciding what we ought to do seems complicated, but Jesus gives us a simple blueprint when he says, “but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Regardless of our natural circumstances, Jesus tells us to act in a manner that we envision how God would act. He asks us to act without fear of loss, but through our hearts. We should not overly ponder the event, but to let our knowledge of God through our heart tell us what we “ought” to do. We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will heal and free us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

John 16:13 – Live fearlessly guided by the Spirit.

WHEN YOU MOVE BEYOND YOUR FEAR, YOU FEEL FREE

When we listen to Jesus, perhaps he heals us supernaturally. Or perhaps his life lessons heal us. Both can be true. Sometimes the solution is simply asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” It may seem trite to say this is all we have to do. It is perhaps too simple. Perhaps It is an overused platitude. But this question is still immensely valid in reframing our lives and circumstances. “What would Jesus do?”

Part of the value of the Gospels is that they lay out for us the lessons of life that Jesus wants us to follow. When we are stuck in trying to solve a problem and our method of solving isn’t working, we have to change the method. Many times our solutions don’t happen because we habitually use the same method over and over again. If we want to be healed, we have to change our methods.

In the business book Who Moved My Cheese? there are four characters: two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two humans, Hem and Haw. Each day the four went to a cheese pile and ate. Over time the pile dwindled and eventually disappeared. Hem and Haw, while noticing the pile was dwindling, did little to find more cheese. Sniff and Scurry set out and found a new cheese station. As time moved on and the cheese pile continued to dwindle, Hem and Haw became terrified, and resorted to anger, denial, and blaming to account for their situation. They debated and discussed their next moves, but couldn’t get themselves to move.

As hunger became a real issue, they eventually started looking for a new pile. The process was laborious and tedious. They debated endlessly their various options. Eventually, Hem found the new pile that Sniff and Scurry had told them about, called Cheese Station N. As their mindset began to change, Hem and Haw thought of questions like “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and ideas such as “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” Slowly, over time, they began to reframe their view of life and to recognize the need to constantly look at things differently. They became well by reframing their lives.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Naveen Chandra on Unsplash

 

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

— Matthew 5:4

THE PROMISE OF JESUS

Loss is a part of life, and sadly, the older we get, the more loss we must endure. Whether through the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job, the process of grieving and recovering is difficult and very personal. Psychologists have identified that mourning individuals experience grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person must pass through each stage in his or her own time on the road to recovery.

These five stages should not be avoided. They will occur, and no amount of resistance will prevent them. Resistance will only bury the feelings that will someday arise again. There is no prescribed timing on how long each phase lasts. There is no schedule of events. Only one thing helps, people who will listen. This is a race that we must run with no prescribed time limit.

But Jesus wants us to remember his promise that all who grieve will be comforted. Through both our physical and spiritual baptisms, we become part of this blessing. He walks beside us in our grief, and through his promise, he gives us reason to hope we will recover.

In addition to loss due to death, many of us also feel a profound sense of loss when faced with disability or severe illness. An elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may grieve the loss of her fading memory, and her spouse may later mourn the loss of the woman he married, even when she’s still physically present.

Loss can have far-reaching repercussions. Individuals facing illness, disability, or even the loss of a job may also suffer from intense anxiety and fear about whether they will continue to be able to provide for themselves and their families. And many who have lost a spouse may likewise struggle with how to provide for their families and parent their grieving children while they mourn. No matter the type of loss, the experience is intensely painful, complicated, and difficult to navigate.

I have counseled many individuals who have lost a job, and as I guide them through their loss, I can see the process of grief at work. During the journey to recovery, individuals work through anxiety and fear as well as feelings of inadequacy and defeat. My assurances that there is a light at the end of the tunnel are no more than a temporary salve. Each person simply must work through the emotional process of mourning. It cannot be hurried or prescribed—it is a very personal process. During therapy, those in mourning will come upon roads they have to walk down in order to continue their journeys. They will make discoveries and connections that are important and sometimes very surprising.

As we engage with those who have endured loss or are dealing with the process of grief, it’s important to be empathetic. We should avoid offering platitudes, such as “It will be okay,” or “Just keep a stiff upper lip,” or “Have more faith,” as these can feel dismissive and may not be correct. Acknowledging and validating the feelings of those in mourning and allow them to share their thoughts and express their emotions. They are traveling difficult and unfamiliar roads, and their emotions will fluctuate often throughout each day and week. As they proceed through the five stages, we can become their biggest allies simply by loving them and listening to them. This journey can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in this process, time grinds on slowly.

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says that mourners will be comforted. The word “will” gives us hope for the future. Through our baptism, we belong to a faith that gives us the assurance that the valleys of life are temporary. While our losses will never be recovered, we never lose the love of God. The gift of God’s love doesn’t just occur because of our physical baptism; it occurs through our spiritual acceptance of God’s promises. The promise in Matthew 5:4 encourages us to keep our faith, even during the darkest moments in our lives. Jesus promises us we will be comforted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

– Hebrew 11:1

A CERTAIN FAITH THAT IS HUMBLE

I admire people who carry a certain faith. It is humble and sure. Despite life’s normal up and downs, they carry on unmoved by the tug of the world. They help when it is needed and are carefully respectful, much like the centurion. For some people faith is also their  job, and they use this certain, humble faith to perform it well.

I met Gary as I was trying to become a pastor for the Methodist Church, an extraordinarily complicated and fussy process. While there were many rules and steps to becoming a licensed pastor, they were unevenly followed and there was no clear path to achievement. Gary was the district coordinator and was given the difficult task of helping navigate those of us trying to fill the job. For many, after three to five years of study in a Master’s of Divinity program, another three to five years existed of passing through this gauntlet. Gary was our shepherd.

After my first meeting with the Church board, I was left frustrated and stunned. During the meeting I had received many messages about why I wasn’t ready to be a pastor. First, my theology was too “folksy.” When asked what my personal theology was, I had replied, “To love God and love my neighbor.” During my studies, I had found myself attached to this command by Jesus in Matthew 22:36–40, and it became the cornerstone of my faith. Life and my faith is simpler for me when I view it through loving God and my neighbor. The command is short and to the point, but it keeps me anchored. I built many of my term papers around and on this statement as our purpose for being Christians. My classmates had warned me not to bring it up in my meeting with the ordination board. They would tell me it was too folksy. It was apparently, and one of the board members told me that I must not believe in God.

They also probed me about my business background and questioned, how could a businessperson be faithful? Despite my assurance to them that I was, I never fully got the board to believe I was a serious candidate.

After the meeting, Gary called me, sensing my frustration. He had seen this many times in the past. I didn’t quite fit the image that the board was looking for. I wasn’t like them. I didn’t speak like them. I was too plainspoken and action oriented. They were used to more flowery language and bigger words. Gary knew this and wanted to make sure the church didn’t lose a good candidate, so he counseled me as to what to do next.

In this counseling, I discovered something different in Gary. I discovered a certain and humble man. A man who long ago had given up the pursuit of fame and possessions. His speaking style was quiet and unhurried. He listened closely to what people had to say. We all knew him as a wonderful pastor of a small church.

I kept probing him about his life, to learn more about why he was so certain and humble. I discovered that he had a second job, in which he worked at an addiction clinic. Each morning, he would get up at five and drive to his clinic. There he would prepare the medicine to help those addicted to drugs. He did not judge them; he quietly listened to their lives. Always looking for a way to correct their fractured existence. Looking for any foothold he could find. He didn’t judge them, he helped them.

His mild manner and the certainty of his faith were evident in all he said. He was quiet, unassuming, and caring when he talked to people about their lives. He didn’t want the fame he could have earned elsewhere, he wanted to love God and love his neighbor.

We will never see Gary on a national TV show, nor will he make the news. He isn’t pretty or shiny, nor does he want to be. For me personally, he is a hero, because he cares, listens, and is a humbly certain man of faith.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 18: 4)

OUR FAITH MAKES US HUMBLE

Bob showed up at my door to fix a few things around the house. After many weeks of trying to make an appointment, he had been able to fit me into his very busy schedule. What I noticed quickly was his humility and the certainty that this humility was his way of living. A quiet man of Mohawk heritage, he lived among us without fame, but he was sought after.

He looked at my work, took pictures, and was remarkably thorough with his inspection. As our visit wore on and he got comfortable with my openness, he told me about his heritage. The heritage of being one of the very few Native Americans who lived in a mostly white community. A heritage where he and his brothers served their country faithfully, despite a history of broken promises by the country he loved. A heritage that made it hard for him to understand why a gas pipeline had to be constructed through a besieged group of people land in South Dakota. Bob was not judgmental, but he sought answers.

“We always paid him more than what he had assumed we would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests.”

Bob worked most days for fourteen hours. As I said, he was highly sought after. His request for payment was always “Pay for my materials and whatever else you think I am worth.” The friend who referred him to me, Chris, explained that this was Bob’s way. We always paid him more than what he had assumed we would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests. I am sure this unusual way of billing exposed him to being taken advantage of by a few. But I am also sure that his humility and the high quality of his work inspired most to overpay. Bob was humble, thorough, and busy.

“When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.”

Jesus makes an important life statement in Luke 14:11: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He instructs us to be careful with how we view ourselves. To not make our successes higher than they are, and to be humble in acknowledging who we are. My friend Dick explains it by saying, “It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.” Jesus also issues a warning that when we act higher than others, we invite downfall. When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.

Jesus describes this certain and humble faith by saying “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 4) A childlike faith, one that believes without compensation, a faith that has become innocent and untarnished—this faith of humbleness is the attitude Jesus desires for us to achieve. Those who possess a humility in which they put aside their earthly desires and allow the world to dim away are sure of their faith and move throughout their day focused on doing good and helping others. Bob had this certain and humble faith.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

– John 20:21

FAITH INSPIRED BY GRACE FILLED AND INSPIRING LEADERS

Dr. Kevin Miller was my mentor at Drew University as I worked on my doctoral thesis. During this time, Dr. Miller had a busy two semesters while he helped myself and four others complete their work, preparing us for the difficult task of finishing the hardest part of getting a doctorate, our theses. He also taught classes, and was the theological school’s admission director and a pastor of his own church. Dr. Miller was a busy person.

Mentoring us required reading our lengthy work and traveling thousands of miles to visit with us, from New Jersey to Texas to Arizona. All to help us formulate our thoughts and put together a coherent document that would pass the rigid standards required of a doctoral candidate.

Each e-mail or call I received from him was filled with grace. They all started with “Grace and peace, Bruce” and ended with “Remain blessed in the Lord.” Simple words that meant a lot. Words of caring and a certain faith in our Lord. They weren’t said or written mechanically, but with a sincere gesture to remind us of our Lord and his concern for us. When I would see Dr. Miller in person, he looked me in the eye, caring about me and my progress. He didn’t give a superficial handshake, but one of welcoming. When he listened, he listened to learn. He probed to know more. And his listening was never judgmental.

Somewhat terrified that we would not complete the hardest educational task, writing a thesis, all of us would talk with him here and there, by phone, e-mail, or in person. Each of us knew Dr. Miller had the goods and that if we followed him we would be okay. He wasn’t easy, he was hard. Invariably he would discover a spot where we were off track and suggest that we do our best—not in a “command and control” fashion, but through an intellect that was inspiringly deep. Not one of us wanted to let him down.

While he was very tough, he was also equally kind, never forgetting to tell us what he liked about our work, always knowing the context of the thousands of words we had written. Sometimes he would draw out things we should had written but had forgotten. Other times, through his analysis of our work, he showed us there was a different path we should explore. But always the presence of God was with him, bringing to Dr. Miller’s students a comforting knowledge that our work was sacred. He showed that to us, and required of us that we remember it in return.

When he arrived to meet with my thesis advisory board, he had traveled that day over a thousand miles and I was his last meeting. He said few words, but he listened and asked very pointed questions. Never harsh or intimidating, his questions made us all think. His very presence raised up all. Then he was gone to travel many more miles.

We were all left in wonder: who was this man, so sure of himself? So comfortable with listening and helping. His very presence lifted the standards of all in the room. His quiet nature cared more about the task at hand than about his long day. He came to help, but left us all aware of the presence of grace.

In John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Dr. Miller left us with this feeling. He came with the peace of our Lord and passed it on to each of us. Those of us who worked and spent time with him were all left with this sense of grace. There was never any doubt about the certainty of Dr. Miller’s faith, of the grace he brought, not with flowery words or commands, just with his presence. His faith is certain and trusting in the Lord.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

– Matthew 23:12

JOYCE, THE NEVER FALTERING SAINT

Each year at a church that I attended in New Jersey, the Morrow United Methodist Church in Maplewood, they conduct a two-week yard sale. The largest I had ever seen and certainly larger than most. For well over eight decades the Morrow church was turned once a year into a department store. The sole purpose was to raise money to help others. For two weeks in July, you can go to this church and find anything you wanted: radios, books, any type of clothing, china, toys and even furniture. It was all there.

People from all over the community both gave and shopped. Each night of the sale it was exciting to see the many months of preparation pay off. Each night we left exhausted and tired. But we all worked. In the preparatory phase I was the truck driver, who went out with two youths and picked up the furniture from homes where the furniture was no longer needed. Each day, I was given a to-do list by Joyce Stibitz, who was the mastermind coordinator for this wonderful event. Each day, Joyce was tugged from here to there, all of us wanting to know what was next. And each day Joyce showed up with a smile and a certainty in her direction. Never faltering, Joyce kept moving us forward.

Because of my size and background, during the sales period I was put in charge by Joyce of periodically rounding up the money from all departments throughout the church. I would bring the money to the counting office and in the quiet there, I would talk to Joyce. In these private moments I discovered a richly faithful woman. Beyond being a powerful leader and coordinator, she held a faith that wasn’t movable by those more famous or by the latest theories. Her faith was simply to love Jesus.

Joyce didn’t have great theories or thoughts about theology. She just did what she thought was right. Sure, she wasn’t the best sayer of prayers, or the most eloquent speaker. She just did. She knew the Bible and taught Sunday school. She did wonderful things for her community. She was a force because she kept moving forward with a certain trust in the unseen. Joyce had a good life; her husband was extraordinarily supportive. She was a marvelous schoolteacher. She was extraordinary because she was wonderfully ordinary. She has no blemishes.

Her faith life was certain and humble. She went to church faithfully every Sunday. She served on committees. She ran the largest yard sale known, which in itself was a year-round job. Everyone knew her and she knew everyone. We all liked her.

She moved through life following the path provided by her faith. She wasn’t a famous person, because she didn’t see why that was important. On an evening where she knew I was exhausted from life, my studies, and the world, she told me, “You have done enough, go home. I will pray for you and your life.” A moment that told me she cared more about me than her mission. That moment when I was at my weakest. In a small gesture, her magnificent glory shone.

I always envy those with a certain faith. It makes them humble people. They aren’t looking for something that is bigger or better. They are certain their life is being led by God, and they know no other way to be.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

— Luke 7:50

ANOINTING THE BROKEN

Jesus is invited by Simon, a well-known Pharisee,  to his house for dinner. Soon after Jesus arrives, a woman of questionable repute also arrives at Simon’s house. She heard Jesus was going to be there, and because of her low social status, she had a limited opportunity to meet with him. This was her chance. A chance to be redeemed. She’d had a difficult life; some of her bad luck was her fault and some the circumstances of life. She desperately wanted to change the course of her life. A compelling feeling inside of her knew Jesus was the answer. She  only had to barge into Simon’s house and move quickly.

She arrives at the house with a jar of expensive ointment and quickly walks over to Jesus. Standing behind him, she begins to weep. Weeping hard enough to wet Jesus’s feet, which she wipes with her hair. As she is bent over wiping her tears from Jesus’s feet, she begins kissing his feet and applies ointment. She is in front of God crying and in complete submission. Completely and fully she bares her soul.

Simon the Pharisee, seeing all this, thinks to himself, if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner. Jesus, knowing what he is thinking, asks the man, “A certain creditor had two debtors, one owed five hundred Denarii, and the other owes five hundred Denarii. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replies, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”

Jesus says, “You have judged rightly. Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

Jesus goes on to say, “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Jesus then calls the woman over and tells her, “Your sins are forgiven.” This surprises the other dinner guests, who remark, “Who is this who even forgives sin?”

Ignoring this comment, Jesus looks back at the woman and says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” -Luke 7:41–50 Her brokenness healed. She now knew that despite her lowly and difficult life, God loved her. The deep yearning to receive God’s acceptance and change her life had been answered. This yearning to see God and be with God, created a flood emotion that rose to the surface and expressed itself through tears and adoration.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

 

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.”

– Romans 15:1

GIVING OF OURSELVES

I had seen him earlier in the afternoon, hovering close to my book outpost. I was doing a book signing in a small town in North Carolina. Because I am a relatively unknown writer, in a few hours not many come to have a book signed. However, I love doing them, because I get to see and meet real humanity. People who have stories that inspire and teach me. Near the end of the day, he finally came forward and introduced himself. Mark was at one time married, but he had lost his wife to an affair with a local minister. He had at one time been a traffic reporter, but now he was a part-timer, a filmmaker. And now he was also mostly lonely, but he had a story to tell.

In the past few years, he had moved to a trailer on a pond. The pond was the habitat of twenty-five ducks, who got free food and health care through Mark. Long ago he had dropped his dreams of riches and instead turned to a life of without material things. When he writes to his friends and family, he uses a typewriter and not a computer, feeling that it is far more intentional than a hastily crafted e-mail.

Our conversation was very one-sided; he went from one story to another. This lonely man had found an audience in me and had an incredibly urgent desire to tell me everything. As I was listening, I prayed for guidance with what I should do. Do I continue to sit and just listen, or do I cut him short? A wave of empathy swept over me, and I settled back and listened for a half hour as this earnest, faithful, and kind man revealed his life story.

Finally, it was five and I had to go, the book signing was over. We exchanged cards, and I will reach out to him again, even though he will be the only one talking. I was giving validation to a lonely man, by listening. A good man with an earnest and faithful heart. Too old now to change his future and spurned by a society that considers age a disability. I gave, but I also received. I learned about what was important. Not how many books I sold, but the uncovering of a wonderful person who understood life.

It’s not just about giving our material possessions. The lesson for me that day was that I could also give my ear to hear and my time, and for that small sacrifice on my part, I received a spiritual gift in return.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman