Sometimes it feels like my life is spinning away. Actually the planet is spinning at 930 mph and the earth is orbiting the sun at 66,486 mph. It is quite amazing we are doing as well as we are without popping dramaine. Maybe that is why it is so important to have quiet time. This weekend I was told that Thomas Edison spent time doing research and then would go out for a vigorous swim in the Gulf of Mexico. His best ideas would show up after the swim and he attributed the insight to balance in his life.
Although a swim in the Gulf sounds very appealing I live in Wisconsin, so I was off to Mirror Lake to X-county ski. Every breath feels clean and fresh as it travels though your body breaking the bubbles of stress like a needle to a balloon. When we listen to all the noise that surrounds each of us all day, it is so refreshing to only hear the shish of skis as you glide through the woods, the snow crunching under the weight of the skis. There are days I could swear I feel the spin of the earth as I travel through my day with all the stimulation that touches each of us. In the woods times stands still. The ancient wisdom of the trees whisper “relax, everything is okay, feel the peace, trust the process” As you move into the rhythm you feel the peace move through every muscle and then the insight comes. We all move through life in our own way, some of us pass everyone on skate skis, some glide through life, while for others everything is a challenge. Some people smile joyful even as they herring bone up a hill. All of us know that the exhilaration you feel going down a hill is worth any trouble going up. Life is easier if you stay on the track and and don’t fight the ruts just glide and enjoy the beauty. Before you know it you are out of the woods and back at the car, and once again the cell phone is ringing and the world is spinning. The bubbles of stress will inflate again but right now, I am balanced and I can trust the process.
Waking up on the morning of January 1st is what a person that snowshoes or skis feel when they look at a carpet of fresh snow that is free of any footprints human or animal, or maybe an artist with a brand new set of paints and a fresh canvas. That feeling of anticipation and wonder along with a bit the excitement of what could be? What will we paint this year on this fresh canvas called 2014?
For me I would like to make the world a little better and the only way to do that is to make myself a little better. So this year my intention is:
- I will be mindful of the words I send out into the wind and equally careful with what I allow into my ears.
- My cells will hear when I wake up that they are all getting better and better every day in every way. I will choose to believe that I was not a mistake but divinely created and because of that I will treat my body like a temple.
- Every day I intend to wake up and go to sleep with thoughts of gratitude for all that is mine because I have a place to live, food to eat, people to love and work I have a passion for.
- I promise myself to ask at least three times a “how does it get better than this?” because if I expect the best my life will be full of blessings and I will be a blessing to others.
- It is my belief that the world is getting better and I choose to live in joy, faith and love always remembering that it is not only worriers that are afraid but there is no anger and hatred without fear. So if confronted by someone that is fearful I will surround them with love and light because love is brave.
- This is what I intend to paint on this canvas called 2014 but I will forgive myself when I forget these intensions or when I am tired and fearful.
Many of you gave me the greatest gift this year, your time and I thank you. It is my hope that in 2014 we will travel together now and again on this great adventure called life. May God rain blessings down on you and yours.
Each week I have shared a story about one of my heroes and this week of the 4th of July I would like to tell you the story about Joshua Chamberlain. This is the kind of man who old legends are written about but in this case is a true story. Perhaps you have heard how if we think of life as a big web then everything that happens changes everything. This is a story that really demonstrates the fact.
Joshua’s mother wanted Joshua to become a minister because he was gentle and hated to kill anything even though he was known as a crack shot. His father wanted him to go into the military because two of his grandfathers had fought in the Revolutionary War. Joshua thought both of those choices had too many restrictions so he became a farmer, poet, musician, writer and in 1862 he was a college professor in Maine. Saying he was a linguist is not strong enough because this Renascence man knew 10 languages. If that is not enough he had manners, was known as an honest man, cheerful and generous. He was tall with piercing blue eyes. In 1862 Joshua married and became the father to five children. It seemed he had it all when he volunteered for the Union army. The reason was because he was so sure that it would be a disaster if the country divided.
The day I wanted to tell you about was at a Gettysburg and the fight for a hill called the Little Round Top. Joshua was the officer in charge of the 20th Maine which included his two brothers. Tom was a junior officer and John the chaplain. The 20th had 238 men far from the 500 that would be a full regiment. General Meade brought him another 120 deserters at gunpoint from a Maine unit that had disbanded, he ordered to turn them into soldiers or shoot them.
He listened to their stories, concluded they were mistreated and told the generals what he believed and told the men if they followed him he would respect them as a soldier. You see the officers had better food and sleeping arrangements than the men except in the Maine 20th. Joshua slept outdoors with his men rain or shine. When he ordered them to do something, he picked up a shovel and helped. He worked, slept and ate side by side with these men asking nothing more of them than he asked of himself, according to all the written records he was funny and encouraging.
His mission, to get to the top of the Little Round Top before the Confederates and hold it no matter what. They did get to the top first, John, Tom and Joshua riding together. Most of the time when you found one of them you had found all three but at the top but when a Confederate cannonball missed them by inches Joshua ordered his brothers to separate saying, “Another such shot might make a hard day for mother”. Lee knew if he won this battle in Gettysburg he had a clear shot to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington and the war would be over. Little Round Top was where it all came together. The fighting went on for two hours. General Oates a Southern General said it was, “The most destructive fire he had ever seen.”
Joshua took stock, half of his men were dead or badly wounded, his commanding officer was dead, outnumbered two to one, they had no ammunition, his back was up against the wall.
What could he do? What do you do when you feel you have no choices? Well this is what Joshua did-he told his men to fix their bayonets to the empty rifles. No matter how brave those southern soldiers were when 200 wild desperate men came running down the mountain those exhausted men ran. Joshua ran down the mountain and head first into a Confederate officer who shot at him. It only grazed his head and when Chamberlain put his sword to the officer’s throat he raised his hands in surrender. Within minutes the 200 men in the Maine 20th had 400 prisoners.
It was Joshua who accepted the formal surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox. As the former enemy lined up in front of him he ordered his men to attention, then ordered his men to salute with compassion and respect. Stories of Joshua’s kindness spread across the south making him very popular everywhere.
Over the course of three years he commanded men in 24 battles, wounded six times, many horses shot out from under him. His soldiers captured 2,700 prisoners and eight battle flags. After the war he drafted by the Republican Party. as Governor. Elected by the largest majority in Maine’s history, holding the place of Governor for four terms. Then he became the President of Bowdoin College. He died at 85.
I told you this story because I believe we need heroes, people to model after and remind us that sometimes things look hopeless but there is still another choice. Maybe Joshua Chamberlain is who Winston Churchill was thinking about when he said, “When you are going through hell just keep going.” But in my mind what makes him a hero is his kindness, compassion, leadership and humor.
This 4th of July holiday weekend I hope you remember men like Joshua Chamberlain.