malcolm marler

on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Month: March 2010 (page 1 of 3)

Deep Relationships — Day 37

I had the privilege of giving the eulogy at a friend’s memorial service today.

He was two years younger than I.  It was an “easy” service to do because of his love and faithfulness to his family, an impressive list of deep friendships that he nurtured daily, and the compassion that he offered to others throughout his professional and personal life.

His faith was real and deep, and his sense of humor was a joy to be around.  He had conquered an addiction earlier in his personal life and had become a wounded healer in his work as an addiction counselor.

Many other people whom I love were also present.

I shared the service with my friend Sarah, who is one of the finest pastors and preachers I have ever known.  We went to seminary together, our fathers were pastors in the same state together, and we have known each other since 1977.

Judy was on the third row and has been a friend for a decade and a half.  She has an amazing gift of hospitality and makes people comfortable in her home.  When you know Judy, you want to hug her.  She breaks bread with friends in her home weekly and helps some who feel like outcasts to be engulfed in an inner circle of love regularly.  We have also been to a lot of funerals together.

Glenda and I made eye contact early in the service and nodded a blessing to one another.  She saved my life and got me back on track when she was my therapist in the mid-90’s as I returned to Birmingham and went through a divorce.  We hugged and caught up after the service.  I made sure I told her again what a difference she has made, and still makes, in my life.

But I’ve also been thinking about my own funeral service, or more accurately my life.  I am in good health at 54 years old, and hope it will be awhile before I die.  But I am reminded daily in my work as a hospital Chaplain that the day of my death will surely come.  For some people, this is depressing or morbid to ponder.  But it can be a positive, motivating reflection to be more present each day that we live.

How do you want to make a difference in this world? What do you hope people will say about you while you are living, as well as on the day of your funeral and afterwards?  What legacy will you leave the human family?

Live today, live simply, make today count.

And thank you Sarah, Judy, and Glenda.


Please share how you want to be remembered or your thoughts in the comments below.

Rushed Prayers — Day 36

Sometimes prayer comes just in time.

This morning I was supposed to have the invocation for a breakfast meeting at the hospital.  The purpose of the gathering was to help people who have lost their jobs, or who are going through difficult times due to healthcare crises and more.  My boss and his boss were present.

I left home on time giving myself a thirty-minute cushion just in case something happened on the way.

I was driving within two miles of my destination when there was an accident ahead and all traffic stopped on the interstate.  I couldn’t get off the highway to take an alternate route and so I called one of my co-workers, Danny, asking him to offer the prayer on my behalf at the breakfast.  He walked the four blocks quickly to stand in for me.

Finally the traffic cleared and I drove directly to the location, parked, and jogged down the street to the meeting.  I walked in just as the master of ceremonies was saying that we had a chaplain from the hospital to offer our invocation this morning.  Danny, my co-worker, glanced over at me, gently nodded his head for me to come up as he stepped aside, and I walked up to the podium and prayed.

Sometimes, we need someone else to pray for us when we cannot. At other times, our prayers are rushed as we try to catch our breath.

During this Holy Week, what are you rushing to pray about?  There are others in your life who are willing to step in and pray on your behalf if you need them.  So take a deep breath.

All we have to do is ask, whether it is for others to pray for us when we cannot do it ourselves, or for us to offer up the prayer, even when we are out of breath.

Simple Extravagance — Day 35

There is a time to be simple, and there is a time to be extravagant.  And it is the latter that I want to talk about today.

It may surprise you that on this Simplicity Journey I am encouraging you to live extravagantly at times.

Let me share a brief story.

There once was a woman named Mary who lived in a small town where Jesus was passing through during the last week of his life.  He had gone there to eat dinner with a friend, and while he was waiting Mary sat on the floor and started to wash his feet, a hospitable thing to do in that day.  Except instead of just washing the dust off his feet, she got out expensive oil or perfume and poured it on.

One of Jesus’ close friends, who was an accountant, was furious because of the waste.  “Why was this perfume not sold for what is equal to three hundred days of wages and the money given to the poor?”  Not that he cared about the poor, but he did hate to see the money wasted.

Good question. I can see me asking such a question, how about you?  I mean, how much money do you make in ten months?  That’s expensive perfume.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus said in a clear tone.  “I won’t be here much longer with you, and Mary gets it.”  What Mary “got” was she understood what was about to happen and she was preparing him symbolically for his burial.

The love of money and stuff can steal the affections of our heart.  It can distract us from what is most important.  We can even used this passage to say the poor will always be with us so we don’t have to do anything.  But Richard Rohr rightly points out that the rest of this same quote can be found in Deuteronomy 15:11, “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”

You see, we can learn how to save our money, we can even be debt free, and we can live with simplicity.  And we may still miss it and not “get it.”

For people of faith, living simply means knowing there is a reason when and where we can be extravagant.  When we understand what this Holy Week is all about, we get it.  And we will open our hands to the poor and needy in our land.

May God help us to recognize the joy that comes from simple extravagance.

Live simply and find a way to be extravagant.


What does this story mean to you?  Please share your thoughts below.

Spectacular Daily Show — Day 34

In 2010, we are drawn to our blue screens rather than the blue skies.

Whether it is our smartphone that can access our email, or our laptop that opens the world wide web’s possibilities, or our over-sized, high-definition, television screens that gives us access to hundreds of channels, we spend much of our time staring at them.

Maybe we will learn something new, or be distracted from our worries, or find something to laugh about in a world that still has loneliness playing in the background.  Technology can of course, be used for good.

Or, we have another option.  There is a spectacular show that runs 24/7 that many of us miss daily.  And it is free.

Whether it is the wildflowers along our driveway, or the sunset off our deck, or gazing at a mountain, or listening to a waterfall, God offers through nature a spectacular daily show to renew us, to give us hope, and bring us peace.

All five senses are invited through sight, sounds, smells, touch, and taste.

What is your favorite part of the nature show this time of year?

I want to know.  What did you notice today, or tonight?

It is there for you and me.

It is the greatest show on earth.  Thank God.

And in case you missed today’s show, there will be another show any minute now.

Peace to you.


If this article helped you, I’d love if you’d take 10 seconds and use your favorite method to share it.

Thank you.

Hypocrisy Everywhere — Day 33

A hypocrite is what someone else is, but never who we are.

“Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is a kind of lie. Hypocrisy may come from a desire to hide from others actual motives or feelings.” (Wikipedia)

Hypocrisy is everywhere in our society.

We see hypocrisy in elected government officials when one party calls the other insincere when they use a tactic that is not to their advantage.  Of course that same party used it the last time they were in the majority, but that was different.

We see hypocrisy in the church.  A pastor or priest is revealed for some indiscretion, or a prominent lay person is exposed for saying one thing and living another.

The truth is all of us play act some in our lives. We pretend to believe something, or be someone that in reality we are not.  But we are blind to it.  It is the reason all of those other hypocrites make us so angry because they remind us of the darkness in ourselves.

In the Christian faith, Jesus pointed out hypocrisy in the lives of the religious people, and they didn’t like it one bit (see Luke 11:45-53).  He warned all of his followers about being hypocritical.

Transparency and humility are antidotes to hypocrisy.  Seeing and admitting inconsistencies in our own life is a start.  This is a simpler way to live our lives.

I do not always practice what I expect of others.  Do you?

I think I’ll spend time working on my stuff for awhile I’ve got enough to keep me quite busy, thank you.

Peace be with you.


If this article helped you, I’d love if you’d take 10 seconds and use your favorite method to share it.

Thank you.

Please help spread the word.

Social Justice — Day 32

Some of us as people of faith want to live more simply because it frees up our resources so that we can assist others who are in greater need.  But social justice requires more.

The phrase “Social Justice” has been in the news lately.  One pundit recently said, “If your church or pastor or priest is talking about social justice, leave that church and run as fast as you can.  It’s a code word.  Social Justice is forced redistribution, socialism, and Marxism.”  Interesting.

I understand social justice to mean that it’s not about the redistribution of wealth as it is about asking the question, “Why are people poor in the first place?

Personal steps towards helping another brother or sister makes this more than a hypothetical argument.  Personal response reminds us that blaming others for being poor is just a game we play in our heads to feel relief from the responsibility to do anything about it.  Social justice begins with personal relationships and our action, which gives us the passion and motivation to work with others on a larger level.  But it always starts because “I knew someone.”

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, speaker, author, and activist who has been focused on social justice for decades recently said,

But we do say that while social justice begins with our own lives, choices, and sacrifices, it doesn’t end there. Those of us who have actually done this work for years all understand that you can’t just pull the bodies out of the river, and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in. Serving the poor is a fundamental spiritual requirement of faith, but challenging the conditions that create poverty in the first place is also part of biblical social justice.

And Jesus believed in social justice when he said (Luke 4:18-19),

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

I want to live more simply so that I won’t be distracted from those who have less resources and rights than I do.

Wallis says that, “we start with changing lives, not policies; we always start on the home front in our families, congregations, and communities; and only address public policies when we can’t do it ourselves.”

So what good news do you have to share with the poor? I hope it is more than words.

Peace be with you.

This brief video asks, “Where did all the good people go?”

Resources on Social Justice:

Listening to Your Body — Day 31

Yesterday, I wrote about how listening to another is one of the greatest gifts we can offer.  And on the other hand, how healing this same listening can be for us when someone returns the favor.

But what about when our physical body talks to us? Our life would be so much simpler if we could use the same intensity to listen to our body’s physical and emotional and spiritual symptoms as we do when we listen to someone else intently.

Our body usually begins with a whisper and says something like, “I am tired, I need more sleep.”  But instead of going to bed earlier, or taking a nap, or clearing the calendar, we consume an extra cup of coffee or soda or chocolate to get a boost of energy.  We ignore the message, hoping it will go away.

But our body is persistent and will eventually demand to be heard. We ignore its symptoms at our own peril.

Deepak Chopra, M.D., has suggested the following signals that our body sends to us:

  • Yes to balance, no to imbalance.
  • Yes to moderation, no to excess.
  • Yes to regular rhythms in activity, no to erratic schedules.
  • Yes to deep rest at regular intervals, no to lack of sleep.
  • Yes to being in your comfort zone, no to constant stress.

The human body is an amazing communicator.  The question is, “Are we listening?”

What has your body been saying to you lately? What messages has it been trying to communicate to you?

Let’s listen to our body with an attentive ear.  It is one of the most important things we can do to simplify our lives.

Now, if I can just practice what I preach.

A Listening Ear — Day 30

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  (Robert McCloskey, author of children’s books.)

Do you know what it is like for someone to really listen to what you have to say?  I mean really listen.

A great listener is someone who lets you complete your entire thought without interruption.  He or she takes the time necessary, without hurrying.  There is no story they are reminded of when you begin telling your own, or if there is, they keep it to themselves.

This kind of listener picks up on an inflection in your voice when you mention something a little sad, or she notices the change in your facial expression when you have more energy about a particular idea, or he asks a follow up question about your choice of words when you describe something frightening.  When tears flow, she hands you a tissue and waits.

Author Sue Patton Thoele said, “Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.”

We are starving for good listeners in this world. Someone who does not try to fix what we are feeling or change what we are thinking, but rather asks additional questions to make sure he or she understands what you mean, or your point of view, and not just the words you said.

Politicians, people of faith, Moms and Dads, spouses or partners, or a Boss, could all benefit to listen more intently.

I once had a therapist who was one of the best listeners I have ever met.  I saw her for almost five years on a weekly basis.  I cannot tell you much about what she said to me.  But her questions had healing power in my life.

This world would be a better place if we listened more to one another.

Who listens to you?  How does he or she make a difference in your life by listening?  On the other hand, who did you listen to today?  Who will you listen to tomorrow?

“The first duty of love is to listen,” Paul Tillich wrote.

Let us love one another through listening.

The Wisdom of Taking Care — Day 29

There are dozens of ways to live more simply.

Many people talk about the importance of owning and owing less.

And they are right, less is more when it comes to living more simply.

But there is an additional strategy we can use to discover a less complicated life.

It’s called taking care of what we already have. The idiom, “A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure,” is something we all know, but we rarely do.

This expression means that is is better to try to avoid problems in the first place, rather than trying to fix them once they arise.

Questions for you:

  1. “So what problems have you avoided with a little attention?”
  2. “What do you wish you had given more time to before it got worse?”

Would you share?  What have you learned?  What practical lessons come to mind?

Less really is more, and taking care of what we have makes it go a lot further.

Take care.

Reflections on the Journey — Day 28

I am on Day 28 of my 40-day commitment to write daily about my journey to live more simply.  A few observations thus far.

Commitment: Writing every single day (but Sundays) is new for me.  Most days I love writing, and there are other days it is a huge challenge to say the least.  Just like our lives.

Presence:  When I write regularly, I listen more for the wisdom of others.  I become more the student than the teacher.  I read more about people who are also on the simplicity journey and am thankful for their sharing.  I am aware I am a pilgrim who has so much to learn.

Community:  An unexpected pleasure on this walk has been feedback from you, my readers.  Some of you have emailed me privately to talk about personal issues, a few of you have called, or come to see me, while others have entered your own reflections and stories in the comments section on my blog.  Thank you for sharing some of yourself.

Process: I originally thought this journey would lead me to make dramatic changes on the external part of my life like selling our house and downsizing, paying off all our debts, owning fewer cars, and living within our means.  We did put our home on the market and then took it off because it did not feel like the right time for both of us.  But I do believe we are moving towards owning less and sharing more of our resources with others.

Most of all, I am aware that this journey toward simplicity is a spiritual, inward one for me. There is something shifting inside, something that is coming to light that I can only see dimly now.

And maybe describing this spiritual journey is a voice I can offer.

And so I sit next to my beloved on our deck on this gorgeous spring day, looking at the calm lake below, listening to a cow mooing in a nearby pasture, a barred owl calling to his mate in the trees, and a red tailed hawk screeching from above.

I am thankful for life and all that it has to offer, both the good and the difficult times.

Thank you for walking with me on the journey thus far.

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