Getting What We Want


In the late 1960s, the Rolling Stones told us: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

I’m not sure everyone always gets what is needed. I am convinced, however, that we never get more than we give.

If we want honesty, we must give honesty.
If we want to be respected, we must give respect to others.
If we want love, we must give love.
If we want to live in a welcoming community, we must be willing to welcome and engage with everyone who walks in the door.

It’s the simplest concept, and yet the hardest to live, because it requires us to take the first step, to risk offering honesty, respect, love, and acceptance, when we know that, in return, we might receive only dishonesty, disrespect, hatred or apathy, and indifference or rejection.

And receiving those negative responses, after taking the risk of giving of ourselves . . . I won’t lie . . . it can really hurt. It’s discouraging. Depending on the circumstances, it can actually be devastating.

But, what is our alternative?
Risking nothing??
That just guarantees we will receive nothing in return, and . . . that’s not really ‘living’, is it???

We can call it “karma,” or “choosing life so that you may live,” or “reaping what you sow” . . . the name doesn’t matter because the concept is the same:

Whatever it is that we most want in our lives, we must take the risk of offering that very thing to others . . . so that we might have a chance of receiving it in return.

May each of us find the strength to more frequently risk giving of ourselves, so that we might more frequently get what we want from life.

Water Park Wisdom


Yesterday afternoon, we were at a water park with huge water slides. Riding them is not an experience that I would choose for myself at this point in my life, but when my nine-year-old son asks, I simply can’t resist his excited face!! So, we grabbed an tube-for-two and headed up the stairs. Here’s what I found:

Hurtling through a dark tunnel.
Can’t anticipate the path.
Can’t control the direction.
Want to enjoy the ride.
Fear and excitement are SO similar.
Have to accept I’m not in control.
Appreciate the moments when the tunnel is slightly illuminated by sunlight.
Don’t be shocked if the pitch-black darkness returns.
The light from the end of the tunnel is visible long before you actually exit the tunnel.
Just when you’re about to celebrate that you’ve survived the experience, you’re nearly drowned.

I’ve always enjoyed singing along to Tom Cochrane’s hit song “Life is a Highway.” After this weekend, I think “Life is a Water Slide” might be more accurate . . . although it’s probably not Top 40 radio material!!

Shavua tov!

Just before the rain . . .


Yesterday morning, just as this fall’s first cold drizzle arrived, we were reminded of:

image the majestic splendor of our world (to the east), and . . .


(to the west) the Promise that the future would be better than the past . . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if life always worked this way — if just before something made our situation “cold and ugly,” we got a little reminder of the amazing beauty of life and a promise of a better future?

In a couple of weeks, our yearly cycle will bring us back to the story of Jacob, who had to run from home to avoid being killed by his brother, after stealing the brother’s birthright and blessing from their father. Jacob was sent to live with relatives in the East, and one relative is going to trick Jacob and demand additional labor from him.  But, as Jacob heads out on this journey, he dreams of a Ladder that allows Angels to pass between Heaven and Earth, and G-d promises to protect Jacob while he is gone from his homeland and to bring Jacob back home safely.

I’m starting to wonder if the “signs” of beauty and blessing aren’t there for us more often than we understand, but we’ve forgotten how to stop to look for them or how to recognize them, even when they are right in front of us.

On this Shabbat, may each of us be blessed with at least one moment when we can stop long enough to see, recognize, and savor the beauty and blessings that life offers . . .
Shabbat shalom!

Fear Itself

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is . . . fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin Roosevelt, 1933

Feeling fear is an unavoidable part of the human experience.  We can be afraid of failure, rejection or abandonment;  afraid that we are not worthy of love;  afraid of being seen, or of not being seen;  afraid of making mistakes, or of not being forgiven for our mistakes;  afraid that others will hurt us, intentionally or unintentionally;  afraid that who we are is not “good enough”;  afraid that we may have misunderstood another’s character or the content of another’s comments;  afraid that we were somehow wrong to feel or think whatever it was that we felt or thought about a situation;  etc., etc., etc. The possible origins of our fear at any specific moment truly are innumerable…

…just as the negative impact that our fear can have on our lives is immeasurable. Fear “darkens” our thoughts and internal dialogue.  Fear distorts the way we understand what we hear when another person speaks.  Fear deafens us to the still, soft voice of G-d.  Fear causes us to not trust others or ourselves.  Fear causes us to lash out at others with unwarranted anger.  Fear renders us incapable of being honest, compassionate, or loving…with ourselves or with others.  Fear causes us to forget that others act like they are angry when what they truly feel is hurt or scared.  Fear can make us so insecure that, in our desperation to not fail, we place stumbling blocks in front of others to prevent them from succeeding.

But the absolute worst thing about fear, the reason it is so evil, is:

Fear keeps us from recognizing that when we choose to believe our fear and act based on that fear being Truth, we are more likely to behave in precisely the kinds of ways that cause others to fear us, to lose respect for us, to no longer trust us, and to (figuratively and literally) move away from us!

For example, if we allow our fear of rejection to control our behavior, that fear can become a self-fulfilling prophesy precisely because responses created from fear tend to be irrational, incomplete, irrelevant, or sometimes just downright mean.  Although our fear-driven response may have felt “right” to us in the moment, those on the receiving end of our response are not as likely to view our response as appropriate.  Receiving that less than favorable response can create more fear in us . . . leading us to produce more fear-driven behavior . . . resulting in more negative feedback . . . creating more fear . . . etc., etc..  This cycle can spiral us away from being able to find a reasonable, fair, or peaceful solution to even the simplest of problems . . . simply because we approached another person with our heart full of fear.

So, in those inevitable moments when we feel fear, what are our choices??
•• We can hide from the world and refuse to engage with anyone.
•• We can stand mute as precious moments of our all-too-short lives slip away.
•• We can believe our fear and let it decide what we say and do.
•• We can stare our fear in the face, refuse to let it control, and choose to act in accord with the infinite eternal love that surrounds us at every moment and in every situation.

Which one we choose at each moment and in each interaction is up to each of us.  If we aren’t sure at any moment whether we are being driven by love or fear, all we need to do is pause for a moment and reflect on whether, at that very moment, we feel anxiety or calm compassion.  Just reflecting can help us find our way to back to love!  Rabbi Rami Shapiro, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness.

Jewish tradition teaches that we are working toward a better world, a world in which nation will not lift up sword against nation and famine will no longer exist.  Anyone who watches the news can see that we are still quite a distance from achieving that dream, and I think we can all agree that it’s about time we advanced again in that direction.

President Roosevelt reminded us that it is our fear that “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” So, if we want to reach a day when we can “beat our swords into plows,” each of us must do our very best to ignore our fear and respond to others with compassion and love.

I know it’s not going to always be easy. . . but, remember, none of us is in this alone, because each and every one of us is afraid!!!  None of us wants to fail, be rejected, or be hurt. So, how about we all try?  Let’s do it!!   Together!!  Let’s all approach life, the world, and other people, only from love, only from love, only . . . love . . .

“everything in the universe”

This morning, on the way to preschool . . .


Jen: “Look at this sunrise, Evan!”

Evan: “WOW!  I love clouds!!”
Jen: “What else do you love, Evan?”
Evan: “I love the sun . . . I love trees!  I love balloons!!  I love owls!!  I love cereal and fruit snacks!!  I love animals! . . .  I love everything in the whole universe!!   I’m just like you, Ami!!!”

Jen:  Yes, you are, Evan.  You love everything in the universe, and that makes you just like me, son.”

It’s a simple joy.
Seeing beauty in the world.
Allowing yourself to feel love for,
and to feel loved by,
The Universe,
The Unity,
The One That Is The Many.
 . . .
It’s a simple joy . . .
and it is made all the more beautiful by the chance to share it with another soul who also sees, who feels the love, and who is unafraid to share his love for everyone and everything.
 . . .
It’s a simple joy . . .
but I’m starting to wonder . . .
when I am about to die . . .
could any other moments possibly matter more??
shabbat shalom, jen