Building Up One Another

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.   Romans 15:2

Yesterday my daughter had outpatient surgery, and I had several hours to reflect on the verse above and on the idea of how we build up one another and pave the way for our neighbors and those yet to come. Even being there at Gettysburg Wellspan Hospital and watching how my daughter’s caregivers worked together to make the experience a successful one reinforced this idea. Each person was part of a seamless whole–from the valet who opened her car door to the nurse who wheeled her out six hours later–all doing their best to provide care, hope, and healing.

We do not operate in a vacuum. Everything we do has an impact on someone else in some way. It can be for good or for ill, but it will affect the fabric of the universe in some way. We do have some choice in how we approach life. We can be like a bumper car bouncing off of others in a random or determined fashion thinking only of our own pleasure and goals. Or, we can be like weavers working with others to create something strong, beautiful, and useful–a collaboration of individual fibers that each brings character, dimension, and color to the whole.

As for me, I prefer the latter approach because I realize that I am who I am today thanks to so many people who have paved the way before me, who have touched my life, and who have woven strands of themselves into the fabric of my being. Some of these folks have made significant personal sacrifice–family members, friends, folks in the various faith communities of which I have been a part–in an effort to help me thrive and grow. Likewise, I am thankful to be able to sacrifice for others and pay forward some of the abundant blessings I have experienced.

As English poet and priest John Donne wrote in Meditation XVII

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main

We, each one of us, are where we are today because of the work and building up others have done on our behalf. “Bootstrap” mentality and the notion of a “self-made person” are illusion; one may work hard and succeed, but that success is built on an existing foundation, a bit of something much bigger than ourselves. That, dear friends, is something  really quite wonderful.

Who in your life has paved the way and helped build your firm foundation? How will you build up another?

Photos by opensourceway and hanssplinter. Thanks!

The Difference

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

 ― William James

You were created to live a life unlike no other person on this planet. You were gifted with unique skills, talents, and potentials to contribute much of value to your family, community, and world. What you do, what you think, how you act does make a difference.

Do you believe the statements written above? Are you living like you make a difference? Are you willing to, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”? A life of thanks-living is a life of intentionality, of recognizing, giving thanks for, and living out the gifts and blessings that are part and parcel of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the cares and concerns of daily living that we forget our intrinsic worth as human beings and our ability to make the earth (our home) a better place. Our hectic twenty-first century lifestyle simply does not encourage intentionality in thought, word, and deed.

We get so busy trying to manage the details of life that we forget to really live. We forget that we are created beings with a soul, a mind, and an innate desire to be in relationship and to make a difference.

How does one go about making a difference? Where to start? As a person of faith, I strive to uphold the “golden rule” or “ethic of reciprocity.” Specifically, as a Christian, I look to Jesus’ “Love Command” (Matt. 22:37-40) based on the Hebrew Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) for ultimate guidance. Of course, I fail mightily, so I am grateful for the grace that enables me to “fall down seven times, get up eight” (Japanese proverb). I find it interesting that many of the world’s religions have a similar teaching about how to treat others and how to make a difference. Click here for some examples.

We are all connected. Even the poet John Donne recognized that fact. Click here for an exploration of his Meditation XVII and the famous “no man (sic) is an island” quote. So then, our connections are only as good as our interactions and relationships one with the other. That’s why all that you say, do, and are matters and makes a difference. So, yes, act like it; better yet, live like it–each small moment of every precious day.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Charlie and Frances Rampp made a real difference in my life. As a struggling single mom and seminarian, Charlie nourished my soul with poetry, gifting me with the occasional treasured book or a sheaf of his poems (usually on recycled paper–nicely done, Charlie). Frances helped me laugh at life during some very dark days and showered me with kindness and hospitality. Charlie is gone now to life eternal, but his legacy lives on in my approach to ministry and attempts at writing poetry. Thank you, dear Frances and Charlie, for living lives that mattered and for being the difference.

Giving Possessions

Bye, bye blue fleece! I didn’t wear you all winter, so obviously you are needed elsewhere. I offered to return you to your previous owner, but she declined, so hopefully you will soon have a new owner to keep warm.


I am thankful for trains. Mass transit is a great way to share life with others, save gas, and avoid the stress of driving.

Photos by Manoj Kengudelu used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!