7 Ways to Live Life to the Max by Dennis R. Curyer M.A - HTML preview

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7 Ways to Live Life to the MAX

She was stripped of more than her military and industrial might. She lost her dignity and was humiliated in the eyes of the world.

President Wilson of the USA believed that the total aim of the peace treaty should be to prevent war from ever happening again. These conditions provided the environment and became the motivation for Hitler’s ascent to power.

Germany would attempt to redeem herself through war.

Compromise - Let Us Meet In The Middle

A positive way to resolve conflict is to compromise. Conflict indicates that both people believe they are in the right and, therefore, they resist the other person’s conclusions.

To compromise means that you do not necessarily agree with another person’s conclusions. In fact you may agree to disagree, however, you are amicable in your approach and each party decides to meet in the middle. Each party agrees to give, which may mean a change of position. This approach seems to promote some forum to resolve the conflict. For a deal to work there must be something in it for both people.

Compromise provides benefits for all concerned. It can be a win/win situation.

Collaboration - Doing it Together

Undoubtedly the most positive way to resolve conflict is collaboration.

Collaboration is a way where both parties find a way to do it together. In this process conflict is resolved because the method used is non-adversarial. Both parties are prepared to cooperate and work together to solve the problem.

The importance of the relationship is considered to be bigger than those in the relationship; for example, the institution of marriage is bigger than the marriage.

Therefore you work to make the institution successful. Through collaboration, conflict ends in a way that satisfies all. Future stability is guaranteed. The Civil War is an example of this.

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Civil War Surrender

April 9th, 1865 saw the end of the American Civil War. It was Polybius who said, “Those who know how to win are more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories.”

Ulysses S. Grant knew how to make proper use of his victory. With the ending of the Civil War the north and the south had to collaborate if peace was to be promoted and maintained.

The war that had cost six hundred and twenty thousand lives. This was the highest toll of any war in American History. In one battle alone Grant had lost seven thousand men.

The final days saw General Robert E. Lee and his tired and hungry men surrounded by five times the number of Union soldiers. Lee had no choice but to surrender the army of Northern Virginia, thus effectively bringing to an end the most horrible war in American history.

Pres. Lee surrendered to Pres. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. The terms of surrender were signed in the parlour of a local farmhouse. Grant made what I consider to be a very important concession to Lee. He allowed him to retain his sword. This was a mark of Grant’s greatness, a symbolic action to allow Lee to retain his honour and dignity. Lee was defeated but Grant was gracious in victory.

It was now a time for collaboration and reconciliation. He ruled out the taking of prisoners or trials for treason. Officers were allowed to retain their side-arms.

Officers and their soldiers could go home retaining possession of their horses.

They had to sign an agreement that they would close their hostilities.

In a final act of reconciliation Grant stopped his men from firing their guns in celebration of their victory. He preferred not to exalt or gloat in the defeat of a courageous foe.

The great lesson we learn from Grant is to allow our foe to retain their swords at the time of defeat. You must do everything possible to allow them to retain their honour and dignity. It is not a time for, “I told you so!” Gloating reveals a small

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mind. Painting people into a corner does not promote genuine peace. It cannot produce enduring relationships.

Martin Luther King Jr taught, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Chapter Summary

Major points to think about

What is the unfinished business in my life?

How will closure restore my equilibrium?

How will I go forward by turning back?

What is it that makes me angry, and what am I going to do to change it?

How do I solve conflict and is there a better way?

Suggested points to act upon

I will make a list of the unfinished business in my life. I will then act upon the list bringing closure to all the entries.

I will start by forgiving self, then seeking out those I have injured. I will offer apologies for my behavior.

After examining the direction I am heading in, if my destination does not look favourable then I will turn around.

Circumspection will be applied in all of my decision-making, knowing that prevention is better than cure.

I will reread the section in this book on tips to reduce anger and apply each tip.

When attempting to resolve any future conflicts I will aim for collaboration to produce a win/win situation.

I will eliminate the use of force from my life, be it physical, mental, or emotional.

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7. Maxers Give and Know That Giving

Is the Measure of Greatness

To Get by Giving and to Lose by Keeping

he measure of your greatness is in what you give, not in what you receive.

In all the great religions and philosophies of the world there is the Tteaching of giving.

Islam is based on five pillars. One of these pillars is the giving of a small percentage of one’s income to help the poor. This offering is called Zakah.

Christianity has a similar teaching called charity. Of this teaching it is said:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become (as) sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have (the gift of) prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

Judaism uses the Hebrew word ‘Tzedakah’. Giving to the poor and needy is an obligation and a duty that cannot be ignored, even by those who are in need themselves. Some sages have said, “The act of giving is the highest of all commandments”.

We are all rich in the things that money cannot buy. No one would doubt we all have been given much. There may be a question as to who the giver was.

However, we are all happy to receive. Even the poorest have received an abundance.

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Our Greatest Gifts

Our own body and faculties are gifts that have been given to us. We did not create them.

Our five faculties have a remarkable capacity to discriminate. To lose the use of any one would disable us.

The fact that a candle flame can be seen at thirty miles on a dark clear night illustrates the amazing capacity of our vision.

Under quiet conditions at twenty feet, we hear the ticking of a watch.

Our taste buds will detect one teaspoon of sugar in two gallons of water.

If one drop of perfume is diffused into a three-room apartment we can smell it.

We will feel the wing of a bee falling on our cheek.

The ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch are gifts that cannot be measured in dollars. Each breath of air, each ray of sunshine, each drop of rain is a gift freely given to all humanity.

Gifts that cannot be purchased are the most valuable of all gifts.

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle understood the richness of gifts that cannot be purchased with money. He said it this way:

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

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We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors.

If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life.

So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the

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eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt?

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last Red Man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land, as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know there is only one God. No man be he Red Man or White Man can be apart. We are brothers after all.”

This piece of literature contains many inspiring thoughts about our relationship to the gifts that have been given to us and how we should use them. If this earth is a living organism, as the Native Americans and others believe, then she has given to us of her abundance.

In return we have used and abused her. We have returned evil for good. Does it not sound reasonable that, with everything that has been given to us, we should give in return?

People’s greatness can be measured by what they give, not what they have.

Those who take all and never give have missed one of the great principles of living.

Time to Give

There will be times in your life when you will be in a position to give. Do not miss the opportunity. There will be other times you will need to receive. At that time thankfully receive.

I have been in both positions and I think it is generally easier to give than to receive. Pride is what can stop us from giving and receiving. Some people find it very hard to receive because they have never given or only given little.

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Give while you are able, while you are alive. Do not let someone else give away your possessions when you are gone. In most cases our families need their inheritance years before they receive it.

The epitaph placed upon the tomb of Edward (The Good) read, ‘What we gave we have. What we spent we had. What we left we lost’.

The opportunities to give are vast. This is because there are always more receivers than givers, more consumers than producers, more people who need help than those available to give help.

What Should We Give?

We should give what is needed. Generally giving is divided into two areas. We can give of our material possessions or we can give of our time, energy, knowledge, experience, vision, and wisdom. These gifts are generally of far greater value than material possessions.

The poet Kahlil Gibran penned it this way:

“Then said a rich man, speak to us of giving and he answered: You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

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These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and their joy is their reward.

And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue: they give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes he smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding: and to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.

And is there ought you would withhold?

All you have shall some day be given: therefore give now, that the season of Giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving’.

The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.

They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he, who is worthy to receive his days and nights, is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.

And what desert greater shall there be, than that, which lays in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?

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See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.

For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver are but a witness.

And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon he who gives.

Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings: for to be over mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.”

A Gift of Value

A Zen story tells about a rich man who wanted to leave a gift for his family long after he was gone. He asked his master to write something about prosperity. This would be something that the family would value for generations.

The master wrote, “The father dies, the son dies, the grandson dies”. The rich man, expecting great pearls of financial wisdom, became angry when he read the message and exclaimed, “I expected you to write something that could bring happiness and prosperity to my family, and this is all you give me”.

The master answered, “If your son dies before you, this would bring indescribable grief to your family. If your grandson dies before your son this would also bring unbearable pain. If your family, generation after generation, die in the order as I have written, it will be the natural course of life. This is real joy and prosperity”.

The rich man had missed one of the great lessons of life, that real wealth and prosperity come with the natural unfolding of life. Many times we are too interested in trying to manipulate life, to take it where it does not want to go. The greatest prosperity we can experience in life is life itself. Prosperity is about the simple things of life. It is these things that can give us the greatest happiness.

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We Are All Colonisers and Pioneers

We have all arrived on this earth in the same manner but not at the same place or time. Those who arrive first are expected to prepare the way for those who follow.

One of the great migrations of the 18th century was that of the Mormons.

Brigham Young, a modern-day Moses, led a large group of people from the city of Nauvoo, Illinois and crossed the United States to the hostile territory of what was then Mexico. There, in the desert, they built Salt Lake City.

The reason why this migration was successful was that those who went before prepared the way for those who followed. Maps were made; distances measured; crops were planted so that those who followed would have available food; camps were established as stopover points.

What is important about this story is that it highlights the need, obligation, duty, and privilege it is to prepare the way for those following behind. Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

Albert Einstein wrote:

“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer lives are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

Our lives are a continuation of what our parents and others have prepared for us.

One civilization builds on top of another. In ancient cities around the world, one notices how each civilisation uses the building stones of the previous civilizations, for example, in Baalbeck, Lebanon the Arabs used the blocks and columns of the Romans. The Romans used the building materials of the Phoenicians, etc.

This is a common practice. The value of this idea should not be underestimated.

As a forerunner you have the opportunity to become someone’s teacher, guide, or mentor. This is a calling of importance and honour. Stephen Covey wrote “To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.”

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Your reward, if one is required, is to see the growth and development of another human being. Long after you are gone your words will be a memorial to those lives you influenced. They will build their lives on the building blocks you left behind. Think of the great contribution made by others who have influenced the way we live. Do not underestimate the influence you can have on another’s life.

Again from the pen of Einstein we read:

“Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations. All this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children.”

A Chinese Proverb says, “If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation.”

An Ordinary Life

My twin grand children recently brought home a letter from school. In the letter a teacher was expressing her feelings about her husband’s recent death. She noted:

“On Boxing Day, my beloved husband of twenty-seven years passed away, after his year long struggle with cancer. He died peacefully at home, after seeing all of his family and many friends during those last months.

Many of you may have passed him as he surveyed the roads and features of the Shire of Yarra Ranges over the last twenty-six years.

His death makes me reflect on several aspects. Never underestimate the number of people that you can influence in your life. Our church was filled with people wanting to pay their last respects to an ordinary man, who touched so many through his working life, scouting, the SES, his other interests or his family.

Try to record your story, even if you don’t think it is worth much. Upon Brian’s death we lost all those life stories that mean so much to others. Spend time with your loved ones and thank God for all the time that he gives you together, but don’t neglect your needs in the process. Accept all the help that others are so willing to give. Keep your faith in God, whatever his decisions.

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Some people come into our lives and quickly go,

Some stay for a while, leave footprints in our hearts,

And we are never, ever the same.

Yours Anne Burrows.”

Anne, referring to her beloved husband as an ordinary man, reminds me of the saying of Leonardo da Vinci:

“God must have loved the common man because he made so many of them.”

Yet on another level we are not ordinary or common. Each of us is unique. There are things in this world that only you can do. No one before or after you will do those things better. In this way there is a grand design and purpose. Yes, there is even a destiny for your life. If you are ever tempted to believe that your life is not important, take a moment to think about all the lives that would be affected if you were not here.

Memorize the following poem from the pen of Helen Keller and repeat it to yourself each time there is some thing required of you.

I am only one, but I am one,

I cannot do everything, but I can do something,

And that which I can do, I ought to do,

And that, which I ought to do,

And by the grace of God, I will do.

Teaching People How to Fish

What a difference it would make to this world if we all consciously set about to teach and mentor those in need. To teach someone how to do something is of great value. You have heard the saying: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.”

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Someone taught me how to fish when I was sixteen years old. I was an apprentice painter to an Italian by the name of Peter Barzelotto. He taught me the art of the paintbrush and how to paint a door to give it a mirror finish. I learned what hard work was, painting iron roofs silver in temperatures well in excess of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. He used to say to me, talk but work, fast but good.

I recently visited his grave in Broken Hill. There, on his headstone, I left a note thanking him for what he taught me and how useful this skill has been in my life.

Of course I knew Peter was not there to read my note but by the fresh flowers on his grave I knew his family would find the note and know how I appreciated the gift their father and grandfather had given me.

Although it has been years since I have had to use this trade to earn a living it is always available if ever the need arises.

The Difficulty of Giving

Many people do not give material possessions because they fear loss.

A thousand candles can be lit from one, does that diminish the flame of the one?

When another baby enters the home, does love for its sibling decrease?

No, love expands and so does life when you give. You will never suffer loss by giving.

Some people believe money is where they find their security, and yet people who have a million dollars in the bank can be less secure than someone who has very little banked. This seems to indicate that security comes from within the person not from material wealth.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do we possess our possessions, or do our possessions possess us?”

We should consider that all worldly objects are like toys and must be treated as nothing more than toys. If not, disappointment and trouble will be our lot.

If you possess your possessions then you are always in control. You can sell them, give them away or even if they are stolen or destroyed, you will not be

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distressed over the matter. If your possessions possess you, then you will suffer emotional distress when you experience any kind of loss. If you are possessed by your possessions they will not let you give them away. They are jealous of your affection and attention. You will be required to serve them, in some cases, constantly. You will even sacrifice your life for them.

You may think this is an exaggeration. Consider the years of work that goes into owning property. We sacrifice life for property. Once it is owned or even partially owned we sometimes sell it and buy something that is grander. The cycle then recommences.

Your possessions are jealous of your affection and attention, and will provide you with all the excuses you need for not giving or sharing them with others.

They will convince you of how right you are in taking this stance. Some of these well-known excuses are:

I worked too hard for what I have.

I cannot afford it.

I went without much to acquire this.

It has taken me years to get this I’m not going to give it away now.

I will only give or share as long as it does not inconvenience me.

It always inconveniences me.

Let someone else who has more give.

This is expecting too much of any person.

Everybody in life gets what he or she deserves.

It is not my role to help.

When did anyone ever help me?

I gave once before and it was not appreciated.

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If these feelings prevail in our heart I would suggest that we are simply an appendage to our possessions. If you think this is not true ask yourself this,

“When was the last time I gave away anything of real value?”

Giving of Yourself

You do not have to have material possessions to give. Giving of yourself means that you provide some sort of service to someone else without expecting something in return.

Of this subject Martin Luther King Jr remarked:

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

The idea of serving each other is expressed in a story about a king who invited some of his subjects to a feast.

Upon their arrival he laid down particular rules. Everyone was asked to put on a bamboo jacket. Having put on the jacket, the hand could not be brought to the mouth, making eating impossible.

Having gone to each table in turn and witnessed people’s difficulty, he finally came to the table where the wise were seated. They were also dressed in bamboo jackets but had found a way around the problem. Instead of feeding themselves, they fed each other and thereby enjoyed the feast. Having seen the wise, everyone followed their example.

It is by serving others that you are served.

Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the holocaust, a psychiatrist and the father of Logo therapy has said, “The more one forgets himself, by giving himself to a cause to serve, the more human he is.” By serving others, there is less time to be thinking about our own problems, this has the effect of reducing our problems.

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Dr. Albert Schweitzer said: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

There you have a grand key to open the door of your greatness. No money is required, just a desire to serve.

The Hands of Albert Dürer

A story made famous by Og Mandino not only speaks of giving but it takes us to the next level, that of sacrifice.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. In order merely to keep food on the table, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying jobs he could find in the neighborhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Dürer’s older children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when the brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Dürer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation.

Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts and his oils, were far better than those of most of his professors and by the time he graduated he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

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When the young artist returned to his village the Dürer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honoured position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition.

His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream and I will take care of you.”

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No. No. No”. Finally Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too late.”

More than four hundred and fifty years have passed. Hundreds of Albrecht Dürer’s masterful portraits, pen and silverpoint sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world.

It is likely that you are familiar with only one of Albrecht Dürer’s works. To acknowledge Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Dürer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward.

He called his powerful drawing simply ‘Hands’ but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love ‘The Praying Hands’.

You Receive by Giving as Long as You Do Not Give to

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In the north of Israel is an inland sea called the Sea of Galilee, made famous among other things by the events that transpired there in the days of Jesus. This is a freshwater sea with an abundance of fish.

Sixty-five miles to the south is another sea that is known as the Dead Sea. This sea is dead because of the high content of salt, potassium, and other minerals.

Nothing will live in these waters. The River Jordan connects both of these seas.

The analogy is that the Sea of Galilee is always giving; in giving it provides food for the fish population, water for irrigation to grow crops, etc. It is always alive because it gives its water to the Dead Sea. Its sister sea to the south is dead, taking all that is given but never giving anything in return. This sea remains stagnant.

So it is with humanity. To remain alive we must give to each other. If you keep what you have, and you do not need it, nobody benefits. If you give, then the giver and the receiver benefit. You cannot cast your bread upon the waters without it coming back to you.

I Cannot Give What I Do Not Have

Some might say, “I cannot give what I do not have”. The question is, “But would you give it if you did have it?”

A preacher is trying to raise funds to build the local church. He goes to see one of his congregation, a farmer, and asks him, “If you had fifty cows would you give the Lord ten of them?”

“Of course,” was his reply, “but I only have forty cows”.

“Then if you had forty horses would you give the Lord five?”

“Yes, but I only have thirty horses.”

“Then if you had ten pigs would you give the Lord one?”

“Oh, that is not fair, you know I have ten pigs.”

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It is easy to give away that which we do not have, but very hard to give away that which we do have.

Levels of Giving

The Talmud teaches that there are different levels of giving. These levels indicate something about the giver not the receiver.

Giving begrudgingly is the kind of giving that generally indicates that a person is probably doing no more than buckling under some external pressure that has been applied.

Giving less than you should but giving it cheerfully. To give gladly is good but, on the other hand, to hold back that which you could give is not so good. Give much because you have been given much.

Giving before being asked. This shows a higher level of development in a person who gives before being prompted. You observe there is a need, and you fulfill the need.

Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity but the recipient knows your identity.

Giving when nether party knows the other’s identity. This is a level that few attain. There is a level of refinement required to do this, as there is no apparent reward or recognition. This is giving at the highest level. It is when you take upon yourself the obligation to support humanity. Philanthropic organizations are based on this principle.

There is a resistance in giving without being identified. Most want the reward of being recognized for their good works. This becomes the giver’s reward. There is a degree of satisfaction knowing the recipient’s identity even when the recipient does not know your identity.

We need to think about our attitude to giving to determine the category we fit into.

Giving Is Not Always Convenient

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I know that it is not always convenient to give, not many things in life are convenient. If you wait for convenience you will spend most of your life waiting.

A personal experience may make the point. In sharing this experience I need to make two points. Firstly, I have changed the name of the person to protect his privacy and, secondly, I am telling this story to illustrate a principle. I hope you will receive it in the spirit it is given.

I was at home one afternoon doing some work when one of my sons, who was going through a difficult stage in his life, arrived home with a friend named John.

As John was sleeping in the bus shelter my son asked me if he could stay a few nights until he found some other accommodation.

I discussed this with my wife and we agreed this would be okay. Over the next few days I spoke with John and established that he came from a broken family where his father never showed any interest in him and his mother could not handle him. He had a drug and alcohol problem and was in trouble with the police for a number of minor offenses. Aside from this he was a good, likeable lad.

We gathered our family together in what we called a family council, a meeting where everyone was able to express his or her views about the issues at hand.

Our discussion centred on whether we would share our home with John and offer him a place within our family.

Everybody agreed that there had to be some rules so that he would integrate into our family. These rules could not be strict, or he would not be able to live them.

This would defeat the purpose. We did not want to set him up to fail.

There were only two rules. No alcohol or drugs were allowed to be taken at our home and he would be expected to share in the family chores.

John was happy with this arrangement and, with his knapsack of meagre possessions, he moved in.

We knew there would need to be adjustments made by all family members. Our time and resources would have to be shared with another person. Our privacy would be diminished and so on.

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John’s difficulties would impact on other members of the family in a number of ways. I cannot tell you that all was plain sailing. We had some difficult moments. I will mention only one because of all the lessons we learned from it.

One evening my wife and I went for a walk. We had only been gone for ten minutes when my oldest son came frantically looking for us in the car. We did not have to inquire what the problem was. He told us John had arrived home high on drugs and alcohol and was threatening everybody.

When we arrived home the other members of our family felt scared. Two things I learned a long time ago. Firstly, never argue with a person who is under the influence and has lost the ability to reason. Secondly, never argue with a person who has nothing to lose, therefore, I said to John, “You have two options. Go down to your room and go to bed and we will discuss this in the morning, or pack up your gear and leave”.

After some ranting and raving he decided to leave. His room had its own back door where he could have left unnoticed. This was not the case. He made his dramatic departure through the middle of the home and out the front door. It was a pitiful sight, a young man of seventeen years of age, affected by substance abuse, with nowhere to go and not much hope for the future.

Some time later while we were discussing the events of the evening we heard a noise in John’s room. He had walked around the house and had gone in the back door to his room.

I went down to the room where he was ranting and raving, I told him to quit while he was in front and to go to bed and we would talk about it in the morning.

A little while later he was out on the patio in a fetal position, throwing up, eventually going back to his room.

I called the family together and we discussed what should or could be done. My children, who all felt threatened, concluded that he had to go. I suggested to them that we sleep on it and that they might feel a little different in the morning. Then we would discuss it afresh.

On the following morning we gathered in my study while John was sleeping soundly in his room. We discussed the events of the previous evening. Having had a night to sleep on it, not all of our children were so sure that he should go. I

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suggested that maybe he needed a second chance. Some members of the family still wanted him out of the home.

I proceeded to read them the story about the woman who was caught in adultery and, according to the law at the time, could have been stoned to death. The reply that Jesus gave had some application to this situation. He said, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone”.

So for those of the family who wanted John out they could cast the first stone.

We were shortly going to bring John into the family council where they would have the opportunity to tell him how he made them feel. This would be their opportunity to cast the first stone and to tell him that he was no longer welcome in our home.

At that point things started to change. They were now reconsidering their position. I then went down to John’s room and told him that we wanted to discuss the events of the previous evening and we would meet him in the lounge room.

He came up into the lounge room and sat with us and listened to those in the family who spoke about how his behavior impacted upon their lives. By this stage nobody was keen any longer to throw him out, as there was some signs of remorse.

The funniest response came from my daughter who was fourteen at the time and, as previously mentioned, is Down’s Syndrome. She said, “I believe John needs a second chance, but not with our family”.

Well, John got the required votes and lived with us for another couple of years.

Of course there were many incidents over those years - too many to enumerate here, but we did see some growth in him.

A couple of years later we received in the mail an invitation to attend his wedding. John was off the drugs and alcohol and had found himself a nice young lady, had bought himself a car and a dog, his life had taken on new meaning.

Was it convenient to have John live with us? Not always. Was it without its problems? No. But was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes!

Give until it hurts, that is when you will experience growth.

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We Are All Beggars

Stopping at a busy intersection in West Beirut, we were surrounded by bombed out buildings, remnants of the civil war. A Palestinian boy of about seven or eight years old came to the window of the car with his outstretched arm and open hand.

It was not the first time we had seen him at this intersection. His clothes could only have been described as scruffy and dirty, a real little Oliver Twist. He was only one of a parade of young boys and girls who came out of the Palestinian camps to beg on the streets of Beirut. Schooling is not their priority, survival is.

If you did not know better you would think he went to drama school in Hollywood. His gestures and mournful expressions were well rehearsed. Even though it was an act, it still tugged at the emotional strings of our soul. Thoughts and emotions arose in our mind and we asked ourselves, “Where were this little boy’s parents?” “Why wasn’t he at school?”

We wanted to take him home and give him a good bath and put new clothes on him. What conditions must he live under in the Palestinian camps?

The strongest of all feelings arose when we thought about our sons at his age.

What they had enjoyed in comparison to what this little boy had? What would be his future? Would he be doomed to a life of illiteracy and poverty? Would he, in a few years, be recruited by the Hezbollah, Hamas or some other organization to be a suicide bomber in Israel?

With these feelings I pressed the button, the window went down. I asked him in Arabic, “Shuismuk?” (What is your name?).

He answered, “Dauood” (David).

I handed him one thousand Lebanese liras (about one dollar fifty in Australian).

A big smile burst upon his face as he danced off with the spoils of war. I pressed the button and the window went back up.

News travels fast in the Middle East. His mates, boys and girls, besieged the car, all going through their repertoire of begging skills. Our justification for not

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giving more on that day was if we kept paying out to the beggars of Beirut, we would soon be joining them.

The traffic slowly moved forward. A little boy smaller than Dauood would not let go of the car. He was hanging from the roof guttering banging his head against my window. As we slowly edged forward I knew he could not fall and hurt himself because I was going too slow. He would have to let go soon, there was a policemen a few cars up.

Dauood was now in the background smiling as he gave me the thumbs up. He got the ‘loot’, the others missed out ‘this time’. The little boy let go as the policeman was approaching.

Another day on the edge of the road a young man sat in his wheelchair. He had no legs. Waving his arms in the air almost as if in an attitude of prayer, he begged for generosity from the people passing by in their cars. Not many gave.

He was there every day and became part of the scenery. Where were his legs?

Gone years ago, probably due to war injuries or maybe a mine that the Israelis planted in the south of the country. Many of these mines still litter some areas.

We gave him one thousand Lebanese liras whilst saying “As-salaam Alaykum.

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you”.

He replied, “Alaykum As-salaam and may the blessings of Allah be upon you”.

We drove off once again thanking Allah for our peace and blessings.

Yet the feelings arose in our hearts. Are we not also beggars? Each day we rely on a source greater than ourselves. From this source we receive the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the sun that provides warmth, the soil that provides food. We receive, we take, we enjoy, we use, we abuse. Some say thank you, some forget. As beggars we consume, not produce.

Things work better if there is a relationship between the consumer and the producer.

Attracting Happiness

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Money cannot buy happiness. People spend vast amounts of money in an attempt to feel happy. You may live in a mansion, drive the latest prestige car, have all the things money can buy but this will not guarantee you happiness.

It has been said that “money will buy a bed but not sleep, books but not brains, food but not appetite, finery but not beauty, a house but not a home, medicine but not health, luxuries but not culture, amusement but not happiness, a church but not heaven”.

Og Mandino expressed it this way:

“Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile.

Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”

There are those people who have all the things that money can buy and yet they are still miserable. There is no question that possessions can make life easier but that is a different issue to happiness. It is only when you are happy from the inside out that these possessions can be enjoyed for what they are worth. With positive and ethical living as your foundation the items that you accumulate become your servants and give you pleasure in your happiness.

Happiness and Joy

Within happiness is found the seeds of unhappiness. Let me give you an example.

One of my sons has three sons. They are all small children, the size you can pick up and hug. I watch him, how he carries them and holds them close to him. I see and feel the love he has for them, and yet, in all of this, I know that at a certain age it is likely they will break his heart. They will do things he will be unhappy about.

Any parent who has teenagers will know what I am saying is true, therefore, out of happiness can come unhappiness? The challenge in life is to transcend happiness, by using a different model.

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Another Model

The model that we currently use is one that we have learned as children. That of reward and punishment or “that which you sow you will reap.”

There is nothing wrong with this model. It is the one by which children learn best. Rewards and punishments are the great motivators of humanity. We are motivated when we know we will be rewarded for an action. This is why we set goals. When the goal is achieved, we receive the reward. It may be some material possession, a new car, a holiday, etc. On the other hand it may be a job promotion or acclaim for a project done well. The reward is in the recognition of you knowing you did your best.

We also do things because we are afraid of the punishment. This motivates us to take action. Ultimatums are given to us that, unless a certain action is taken by us, we will be punished, normally by losing something of value or suffering pain.

In this world of accumulation, loss is unthinkable, therefore, we act. Most would agree this system works well. However, as adults, should we be using the same model that we used as children? Only you can answer that.

There is an alternative to this model. This is where you reach a state of joy or continual elation. Joy is not happiness. It is above and beyond happiness. Can it be reached? Yes, but not without great effort. How does one reach it? It is when one creates an action without expecting the fruits of the action.

Gandhi said:

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important”. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

With this idea in mind you change the model you live by. An altered model leads to a different life. If we want to live life to the max., we must move away from the reward and punishment system. We must leave it in the realms of childhood otherwise we live life on the emotional roller coaster of rewards and punishments. Our motivation for our actions must be reconsidered.

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The new model I refer to is not really new. It is an ancient model but one that has been rarely understood or practiced, particularly in western culture. I am suggesting that, by using it, it will give you joy and bliss in place of happiness and unhappiness.

This model operates at a different level, as you are no longer doing things for a reward or fear of punishment. You are not looking for the fruits of your actions, as you are no longer motivated by reward or punishment. You do what needs to be done without any expectations. Consider what makes you unhappy in life.

Isn’t it when people fail to meet your expectations?

Sometimes you feel disappointed, dejected, devastated, or shattered. At this point you normally do one of two things. You fight with them or you withdraw from them, either physically or emotionally. You may withdraw your trust, love, or loyalty because you have been irrevocably wounded. We have all experienced this at some level. At the extreme levels it is worse than death.

I was sitting with a client one day, a very nice lady who had a successful marriage of some fifteen years. Her husband got up one morning and said it was all over, and left. She was devastated. I asked her the question, “Was this experience worse than if he had died”. She said, “Yes, it was much worse”.

To practice this model of non-expectation does not mean that you becomes stoic or unfeeling, quite the contrary. It means that you act for the right reasons without expectations. Of course there will be fruits from your action. This cannot be avoided but you will not be seeking them. This is liberating, it takes you off the wheel of reward and punishment. It replaces happiness and unhappiness with joy.

Mother Theresa

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Mother Theresa was an example of this. Dying people would be collected in trolleys around the streets of Calcutta. She would have them washed and dressed in nice clothing and put in to nice clean beds so they could die in dignity.

There was no punishment for her if she did not do this and there was no reward if she did. After all, those that would have wanted to reward her had nothing to give. Death soon followed. Some people may say that she did it to be rewarded from God. This is said because we are still stuck in this model of reward and punishment.

Do not misunderstand this point; I am not saying that she will not be rewarded for her noble actions. What I am saying is that she did not do these things because of the reward. In other words you do what is needed because that is what is needed, that is what makes the action right, no other reason. In this there cannot be any ulterior motives.

Most people find there is a resistance in using this model. I am no exception.

Each week I would collect the mail from the Post Office at Beirut. A beggar with a deformed leg sat on the Post Office steps with his hand outstretched. As I would pass by I would give him fifteen hundred liras. He would acknowledge this by a smile or a thank you. As he got used to me giving, the smile left and the thanks stopped.

One morning I said to my wife, “I am not going to give money to him any more”.

I then thought about why I was giving in the first place. I concluded that there was a reward or a number of benefits in it for me. I was fulfilling a spiritual requirement in giving to others, this then gave me good feeling. My action was all about me and had nothing to do with the needs of the beggar. I was expecting some form of recognition and appreciation for the action. When I failed to receive it I concluded I was not giving him anything more. Oh, what a feeble way of living life!

Psychologists would say that it is our ego that gets in the way. The “I” always wants to take center stage. We want the reward because we have earned it. We deserve it and so we demand it.

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Try this exercise. Next time you discover someone in need, give assistance anonymously. Make sure that there is no way that anyone can find out it was you. Have someone else do it for you. As the saying goes, “Don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing”. Do not be surprised if you meet with resistance when you attempt to give in this manner.

On a recent sabbatical in Lebanon I went to Damascus to visit a Syrian Orthodox monastery to discuss with the monks a project to digitize their ancient records.

These monks have no worldly possessions as such, but as we were getting ready to depart one came to me with a small gift of silver trinkets. This was not a gift from him but from another monk who did not want to be identified. If identified we would have shown gratitude to him. He would then have been rewarded. This was not his purpose. There was no expectation of a reward.

The Comfort Zone

It seems we can get used to almost anything in life. This has an up side and a down side. There are some things that we do need to get used to, because fighting against them will not change a thing. Some things will never change, no matter how much we dislike them or disagree with it. If we do not have the capacity to change something, we should come to terms with it and accept it for what it is. This is a sign of our emotional maturity.

If on the other hand we can change something we dislike, then we should.

Sometimes we fail to make changes, because attempting to do so will take us out of our comfort zone. We enjoy the comfort of doing things a certain way, at a particular time, with certain people. To remove ourselves from our comfort zone would mean some discomfort. At times even understanding that change is an opportunity for growth does not seem to motivate us to change.

While shopping in Jerusalem one day I came to an intersection that had been cordoned off. Most people obeyed the instructions of the soldiers and stayed behind the cordon. They were aware that a suspicious article had been located and there was a possibility that this article was a bomb.

There was one particular lady who had been so used to walking home that way she did not want to take the long way around the cordon. Therefore, even though an article was under investigation, she struggled with a soldier in order to get

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through. This was the way she normally went home and that was the way she wanted to go.

Now it seems to me that this story illustrates a frequently seen aspect of life.

Even though we understand that the way we are heading is of no value and our behavior is destructive we continue to act in a way that will result in failure. We even get to feel comfortable in our failure. To do some thing another way, we must change direction. This is what causes discomfort. Metaphorically speaking we would prefer to be blown up than to have to change the way we do things.

Change - The Only Constant

There is a saying that a leopard cannot change its spots or that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. While this may be true with animals it is not true with human beings. Human beings are neither leopards nor dogs. We can change, and people do change. For some it is by design, for others it is by necessity. David Henry Thoreau taught:

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

By observing our behavior we can decide that there are certain things about ourselves that we do not like, things that are counter-productive, self-defeating and in opposition to our code of ethics or mission statement. We can consciously decide to change our course and to do things differently.

There are other changes that are forced upon us simply because we get older. At seventy we cannot do the things that we did at fifty. At fifty we cannot do the same things that we did at twenty. Life presents us with a new series of experiences at each age level. It is better to embrace change than to resist it.

Knowledge and Information

We live in a world where people are hungry for information. The Internet is now an indispensable part of life. Information is available at a click, instantaneously and continuously. There has been an explosion of knowledge greater than the Renaissance, the Enlightenment or any another age.

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Information and knowledge are two words that can be used synonymously, but there is a difference. I can have information on a subject without really having knowledge about it.

Let me explain it this way. I have always had information about Lebanon. I saw maps in the atlas that showed the geography of Lebanon. I met people in Australia who came from Lebanon. I watched ‘Sixty Minutes’ and other documentaries on the Civil War; however, this information was not consummated into knowledge until Turkish Airlines touched down at Beirut Airport on the 1st January 2001. As I walked out of the Beirut airport that New Year’s Day I then knew Lebanon.

The Bible has an interesting way of explaining this concept. It describes the conception of Cain this way:

“Adam knew Eve and she conceived,” i.e. Adam had knowledge of Eve and she conceived.

Knowledge, therefore, is an intimate experience only to be had individually.

Others may have knowledge like yours but never the same.

Knowledge and Faith

There is a relationship between faith and knowledge. Faith has been defined as a strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.

No one would doubt that faith is the great motivating force of this world. It is faith that gives us the energy to live our dreams, to push on when it seems that the whole world is against us.

At the beginning we do not always know what the end will be and so we walk by faith in the hope that all will be well, sometimes to the edge of the darkness and sometimes into the darkness. We jump and have faith that the net will appear.

Faith is more than belief. Belief is passive while faith is active. Much of what we do in life is based on faith, from the simple to the profound.

There is a story of an entertainer who strings a tightrope across the Niagara Falls and walks from one side to the other. The crowd cheers him.

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Then he takes a wheelbarrow and says to the crowd, “Do you have faith that I can walk across the Niagara Falls with this wheelbarrow?”

The crowd screams, “Yes, we have faith.” He then says to a young man standing close by, “Do you have faith that I can walk across the Niagara Falls with this wheelbarrow?”

The young man raises his fists into the air and says, “I have faith you can do it!”

The entertainer then says to the young man, “Then jump into the wheelbarrow”.

Albert Schweitzer said, “No ray of sunlight is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith.”

It takes faith to sow but even greater faith if you know you will not be there to reap the harvest.

Faith, the Servant of Knowledge

As great as faith is, it is the servant of knowledge. To have faith in something means that we do not have a perfect knowledge of it. We exercise faith until knowledge is gained.

There may be something you want to achieve in your life, something you have never done before. It is likely there will be some hesitation, even fear. You believe you can do it. Exercising faith in your ability to achieve it you embrace your goal. Faith propels you forward to success.

At the point of success faith is no longer required because you now know you can do it. Faith was the stepping-stone, and a vital part of the process to bring you to that knowledge.

Knowledge must then be superior to faith. Faith is the substitute (albeit a powerful one) for not knowing. The pinnacle of our existence is to know.