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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Tonight our church observed a new tradition, holding a service of the Longest Night, marking the coming of the literal longest night of the season which immediately precedes the coming of the nativity of our Lord.

I’d never heard of it before, but during some of the moments of silence in the service, I reflected how it mirrors other challenging times that precede other celebrations, such as the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.

I suppose I’ve had some years of merriment, a seven year Mardi Gras of sorts, leading up to this Longest Night. But through the darkness and in quiet solitude, God is faithful to fill our horizons with bright crimson Sonrise.

This morning’s walk was breathtaking…

Psalm 46 was read tonight, one of my favorites: “Be still, then, and know that I am God…”

I decided to try out the service for 3 reasons: that I lost my mother last year and continue to grieve the deaths of both parents, that I work 70 hours a week helping the mentally ill, the suicidal and others who grieve, have lost, are hurting or are lonely…and that I myself have a fresh loss that has been a long time coming but just yesterday confirmed that it is a forever loss.

And yet, by God’s mercy, all 3 are gains.

Yesterday’s loss was punctuated by the sting of being told that only merry emotions and memories were welcome during this season, that my needs for afore-promised comfort, attachment and reassurance were interfering with the celebration of a dear one’s Christmas…

”So why would I want to be available to your mood swings during these precious days celebrating the birth of Christ, detracting from it?” the email sharply read, banishing me into the land of coal and switches, for even daring to darken the doorstep of one picture-perfect American Christmas. A fantasy blog to which I was apparently, blatantly and abruptly blocked. Unfriended. Unfollowed. Deleted.

My arms got tired holding up the happy mask 24/7. I flunked Christmas Perfection 101. Failed to leave the party while it was still rocking.

My Longest Night had begun, and the service could not have come at a better time.

The intercessor began with, “In the spirit of the season, let us now ask God for what we need for ourselves as we participate in the Season of Christmas as people coping with loss, pain, suffering, loneliness, grief and sadness.

“God, we come to you as Christmas dawns with pain growing inside us. As the nights have been growing longer, so has the darkness wrapped itself around our hearts. In this season of our longest nights, we offer to you the pain in our hearts, the traumas that some of us cannot put into words. Loving God, hear our prayer.

“Compassionate God, there are those among us who are grieving over what might have been. A death or loss has changed our experience of Christmas. Once it was a special day for us, too, but someone has died or moved away or abandoned us. Or we have lost a job, or a cause.

“We find ourselves adrift and alone, lost. Lord, help us find our way.

“The Christmas season reminds us of all that used to be and cannot be anymore. The memories of what was, the fears of what may be can overwhelm us. all around us we hear the sounds of celebration, but all we experience is a sense of melancholy Please be near us this season.

“Compassionate God: You loved the world so much that you sent us Jesus to bear our infirmities and afflictions Through acts of healing, he revealed you as the true source of health and salvation. For the sake of your Christ who suffered and died for us, conquered death, and now reigns with you in glory, hear the cry of your people. Have mercy on us, make us whole, and bring us at last into the fullness of your eternal life.

“Each of us comes bearing our own hurts, sorrows, and broken places. We want to invite each of you to offer your wounds to the God who loves each of us deeply and wants to carry our pain. God waits, patiently, gently calling out: ‘Give me your pain, come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will refresh you!'”

We were invited to either stay put and observe silence, come to the altar to receive a blessing or go to the back and light a candle.

I appreciated the options since I could have easily benefited from all 3. But I couldn’t go to the altar because I would have wept openly (what was I thinking, not packing Kleenex in my purse for this?!), and I didn’t want to passively stay put in silence.

So I made my way to the back and lit a candle and said a prayer for my parents and their parents before them, all godly people who fucked up and righted themselves at some point and somehow made their way back to God.

And, after looking around to see if it would be greedy to light a second candle, grabbed another one and quickly lit it, mourning the loss of my bff and noticing the brightness of that candle, there in the darkness, committing it to God and thanking Him for the salvation of a marriage and a family.

I quietly returned to my pew, kneeled in reverence, was washed over with peace and gratitude for God’s mercy.

Thank You, God, for Long Nights, for they signify that daybreak is near.

Thanks God, for Things that matter most. Sometimes the Long Nights are the Things that matter most.

And letting go (of things that matter most) IS letting God.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

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Baby sea stars like uniformity…they know when their world has succombed to a rip tide.

Sea stars in other oceans benefit from the storms in this ocean, because it assures restoration of calm. Blessings to those sea stars! 

But when the sea stars in storms perceive their mama to be going through grief and storms, the babies know to brace themselves, and act (or act out) accordingly, as though yet another disruption of semblance of normalcy has occurred. 

God help those babies, sedate them till it’s over. Help them pretend another life to protect them from harsh reality. Give them another personality to survive the atrocities.

Oh, what tangled tides we weave…!

Baby, wear those white tights! Wear white always. Cling to the innocence! 


The storm may be upon you and totally not evident (storms are like that, they gather and hover over their prey, giving a taste of sun and then rain and hail all over them in a sudden darkened downpour and vanish like it was your fault for believing all along!)

But keep cheering…keep hoping…storms pass and are cowardly, they retreat and do not maintain intensity. 

Keep the faith, sweet little sea star! Believe those strong storms can save the day! Because if they can’t, God will. God will through His will.

Rest in retired peace, dear sweet ana. God bless You, white virginal garb and all. You gave Your all!

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There has been a bit of Transmogrification going on in my town as Halloween approaches…

Our neighbor and his dogs were mysteriously transmogrified overnight:


Then our town was transmogrified into a witch’s coven and they jammed the streets on a bike ride, brooms on board:

Courtesy al.com

Witch-Madonna!


 

Not to be left out, our beloved town’s waterfront fountain transmogrified from crimson to sapphire, almost overnight:


On my morning walk today, I found a fruit-bearing sago palm was transmogrified into a banana spider’s lair:

Lastly, a tiny seed, over the summer, transmogrified into a beautiful, soft blossom of cotton, across the road from our house:


Abracadabra! 

Hocus pocus, you’re a bat!!


Thank You, God, for transformations. We are the clay, You are the Potter. Thank You for metamorphosis and for all things changed and different. Change is challenging, but it beats stagnation any day. Please give us grace and wisdom in the face of change.

God, please help us to be aware of when it’s time to change, give us the courage to go forth and to endure the process…knowing that we will be blessed, one way or another, by the transformation. 

And, if I may be so petty, please grant our Cubs a miracle.

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Once upon a time, as a brand-spankin’ new Christian, I was invited to an “Accountability Group.” There were accountability groups offered for all makes and models throughout the congregation – it was just something you did.

(I think at my peak I belonged to about, um, seven, at once. I was pretty accountable back then.)

They usually met in somebody’s home, either at the crack of early for those who work, midday for the stay-at-homes or in the evening for the night owls.

The idea was to participate in a small Bible study with like-minded believers who, like an AA group on steroidal antabuse, would make certain you were walking a straight path.

This was accomplished by weekly assignments, perhaps a devotional with fill-in-the-blanks to prompt us into doing our homework and to keep us in God’s word.

This is a great concept – I really can’t think of a better way to stay on a healthy path than having a built-in buddy system. It was kind of like a religious Weight Watchers, except you weigh in with your two cents about the topic of the week. People stay off your back (except for a pat on the back) so long as you show up, weigh in and walk the walk.

Who doesn’t need a mentor when running a race? My marathon mentor, in the two years it took me to train for a marathon, rode me like a hound every chance she got. She was a French Canadian with a chihuahua personality, and I couldn’t have done it without her.

As a single, baby Christian being perceived with suspect intentions, I was evidently deemed unaccountable. Therefore, a group of older, supposedly wiser, married women railroaded took me in under their wings.

These were “nice” ladies – they all married young (I was already slightly over the hill by the time I showed up on the scene), they all were chaste, discreet and all held uppity, esteemed positions in their respective roles in the church and community. And their husbands did, too.

These chicks guarded the gates with their perfect makeup and hair. Collectively, they could have finally put Beth Moore and her coffee cups to pasture, once and for all.

Yes indeedy-Bob, these were the ladies of Proverbs 31.

They were seasoned in the church. I was seasoned in the streets. Well, sort of, comparatively speaking.

Never mind that I had pieces of paper from prestigious places – I didn’t have the pieces of paper that mattered to them.

I was an outsider, and that was all the glaring reality that counted. I was worldly. I was like a man from Mars, these women were from Venus. And my being from Mars probably frightened them most since their men were also from Mars. Color me Martian.

Which one is the Sea Muse?
(hint: not the one on the bottom)

One Christmas they held a Dirty Santa Christmas Tea. This sounded like an oxymoron to me, since I had trouble wrapping my head around anything but Jesus at the time – Santa was off my Christmas list, and I was perplexed why these upstanding ladies would honor Santa on Jesus’ clock, much less a game hellbent on greed, deceit, spite and theft.

Nonetheless, I obediently participated, good sport as I am. Basically, in this game, everybody gets to pick a gift but you run the risk of somebody who gets to pick after you, swiping your chosen gift.

In this case, I was one of the last to go and had my eye on this cobalt blue teapot. Only because it happened to match my cobalt blue canisters and other kitchen kitsch.

Cobalt Blue Teapot

Still looks great today next to my Crate & Barrel moo-cow. But it’s a damned dust-collector, I tell you…

Little did I know, this miniscule teapot which barely holds a teabag, much less a cup of tea, was the pièce de resistance. I was supposed to graciously defer to one of the older ladies who initially refused to pry her bony little fingers off the dang pot in order to fork it over to me.

I was only playing by the rules of the game. I was too naïve to realize that it would have been the gracious thing for me to settle for the cheesy bookmark with some Bible verse on it, or the tacky jalapeño napkin holders that had obviously been regifted.

(Hey, I work with little children – the me/mine population, so I tend to take things a little concretely and often miss the unspoken conventional social rules)

In my efforts to fit in and please, I just thought I was doing what they told me to do in the first place.

Somehow, though, a stale hush fell over the group as I read their expressions. I back pedaled and quickly offered, “Really, I don’t want it, I was just playing – I really had my eye on Mrs. Potiphar‘s crocheted potholder…”

Potholder or pastie?

But the damage was done, I was too late and had not played by their unwritten rules, and they made sure to see me off with the too-tiny-teapot I’d never use as a teapot. I think I heard someone quietly sniffing into her embroidered, monogrammed hankie in the corner as they bid me farewell.

Ladies’ Bible Study doublespeak at its best.
Say, aren’t most marriages like this?
Tell me the truth, darling…does this make me look phat?

(I never did check to see if the blue pot had someone’s ashes in it…)

(Just a sec…)

(nope, it didn’t)

(wait…is that dust, or…)

(or was there supposed to be a genie in there?)

Coming up next, the sequel in which Southern Sea Muse discovers there is no St. Frederick’s of Hollywood in the Bible…nor is St. Frederick’s allowed in the accountability group, for that matter. Heh heh heh…

For Pete’s sake, don’t bring this to a Bible study! Even if they tell you to!!!

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The nurse handed me the envelope like it was an Academy Award last week, and it was up to me to make the announcement.

The name on the front was of a seven-year old little bro’ from the ‘hood; in it was the tooth of his ten-year old roommate, both of them locked up this Christmas because both of their mothers have forsaken them for drugs and strange men, their daddies are in prison. Anger, profanity and destruction are all they know.

The way it happened was the ten-year old lost a tooth week before last. The Tooth Fairy happens to have access to this lock-up mental health facility for little children, and she showered him with candy, Play-Doh and stickers under his pillow.

The only problem was the ten-year old takes about five different types of medication for his mental illnesses, one of them for sleep which is in the process of being adjusted (don’t want to medicate too much too fast), and has not yet reached maximum benefit dosage yet. Translation = kid roused when Tooth Fairy left loot.

Tooth Fairy ran like the wind because said kid has long history of aggressively rousing his peers if he can’t sleep in the night, leading to mayhem and security issues. Tooth Fairy scuttled butt out of there – alas, leaving the treasured tooth behind, happy to have succeeded in leaving the loot, at that.

Fast forward to last week. Ten year old secretly convinces his seven-year old roommate that if he can convince the staff that he lost a tooth, he can have his tooth and put it under his pillow, too, and they can split the loot. Sounds like a deal!

Seven year old, waiting until the next staff rotation, faking innocence and excitement comes prancing out of his room at one point with the ten-year-old’s tooth, announcing, “Look, look! I lost a tooth. Innocent staff put it in an envelope and escort him to the nurse’s station where his oral situation is examined in detail.

Not finding any blood or newly-exposed socket, the wise, old nurse looks at the tooth in the envelope, looks at the seven-year old and pats him on the head and tells him he’ll turn it over to the child’s therapist, who has special connections to the Tooth Fairy.

After the little chap trots off to his Christmas-themed activity group designed to take his mind off the fact that he has officially been screwed over by the world at large, his therapist contemplates the envelope in question.

How are we supposed to fix a world that uses excuses like budget cuts, avoiding lawsuits at all costs and shifting responsibility?

How are we supposed to tell a broken child that it’s going to be okay, that there are other ways to manage their anger, that it wasn’t their fault?

How are we supposed to tell an exasperated parent that if it weren’t for policy constraints, we could get to the root of the problem and fix it, but they are making us discharge him sooner than later? That if we only had six more months, we could find the right combination of medications and therapy and you’ll be able to sleep again at night without worrying that he’ll follow through on his threats?

That if his parents chose him in the first place, and made him the center of their universe and stuck with him, that it might be better, and even that’s no guarantee?

That all this might not have happened if somebody hadn’t dropped the ball way back then?

So, how do you fix mental illness that includes homicidal ideation? How do you instill conscience where little hearts have been irreparably shattered?

I don’t know what the answer might have been for Newtown.

But this Tooth Fairy issued a restriction to each offender who tried to bluff her, an hour apiece at separate times so they couldn’t conspire, along with a therapeutic writing assignment (3 pages) about dishonesty. The administrator commented no such restriction had ever been witnessed before:”Trying to fool the Tooth Fairy, and right before Christmas, too,” followed by the Tooth Fairy’s professional credentials. Unheard of.

Sure, we got a lot of mileage behind closed doors out of the Tooth Fairy conundrum, but then Newtown happened, and it brought us all back to what we’re doing here on the front lines.

One offender made graphic threats to end the life of the Tooth Fairy and used his writing assignment to hurl epithets and more threats to her and her family in her direction; the other was remorseful. Just guessing, one of them will remain locked up longer than the other; one will become institutionalized, the other will be adopted and become a professional athlete.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Tooth Fairy was unavailable to assist the dad at home who was temporarily thrown into a panic and shock reaction because the name on the headlines was one letter away from the name of the school our children attend – and that was another whole can of beans to contend with – the numbness, the readjustment realizing it wasn’t our children, and the bliss of extended hugs upon family reunification that evening.

That, followed by the somber realization that the parents being told their children would never come home, could have been us – and our hearts beating with theirs for that moment as we recalled the day they told us our child wouldn’t be coming home. Except ours defied odds and did. Theirs didn’t.

I pray I don’t become one in a line of several who tried but failed to prevent something like Newtown. I pray that those in the path of duty along the way can say they gave it their best, that they stuck their necks out despite policy, despite budgets, despite red-taped constraints, and did what was ultimately best for society. Even if it meant a little squirming and flack for “being too hard” on them now, for treading on thin air with regard to their “rights,” especially in light of the number of mental health hospitals which have been closing for the past couple of decades due to those budget cuts.

Now, we have to give them a chance. And that is a chance society at large bears the burden of risking.

At what point would you determine that someone is safe, no longer homicidal, no longer a risk to society, before you step them down to a less-restrictive environment? (Are there special goggles to be able to see and know where that bar lies?) And, sometimes, we simply can’t account for those who just “snap.” But certainly, there is more we could be doing as a whole, as well as individually.

God, grant us the vision to know how to prevent such horrors as Newtown. God help the families who are mourning the loss of their children and loved ones who died in the course of protecting those babies. Give us the courage in politics and religion to be able to establish common-sense rules that respect rights along with protecting the greater good without treading on  freedom…if that is even possible.

God, please make things right…

~~post script: Be it known that these enterprising young men will be receiving letters from Santa informing them that he and the Tooth Fairy work together and that they forgive the boys…and if it was loot they were after, no worries – Santa’s got your back – don’t take matters in your own hands, trust and believe, and wait…

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Hey, y’all…

Although yesterday’s beach sand (see yesterday’s post) tracked throughout and through-in has by now been relocated, the spiritual grit, albeit smoothed and soothed, remains lodged in the shoes of my soul. Today, it’s back to the piles of laundry and dishes…there they sit, here I blog. 🙂

Several encounters recently have caused me to reexamine various facets of the nature of faith as it relates to human behavior. Certainly, cramming for an upcoming exam is contributing to these ponderings; two notions in particular. One of these is the fact that those who are financially comfortable have more time to devote to introspection and tend to focus more on self, while those who are financially challenged are focused outside themselves, primarily due to the need for basic survival and possibly more of a personalized reality of what it means to give and receive. Like the widow giving two mites, perhaps it is easier to give and receive when less means more, than when more means less.

The second is the idea of cognitive dissonance and balance theories and research, which indicate that we are naturally drawn toward achieving a state of balance in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors: when one area is incongruent with the others, we find ways to support our choices in any of these three areas by justifying or finding facts to support our choices. The classic example is the owner of a new Ford, who selectively focuses on anything he can find which supports Ford ownership and which points out the pitfalls of owning a Chevy, finding reasons to reject any information which may support the opposite decision.

We like to think we have logical, external backing for our internal processes. It lent itself to sanity, yes, and gives us a wiggle-exit if we later find we thought/felt/did wrong…we can then conveniently externalize the responsibility. You know you’ve done this! It is the ballroom dance between our internal and external loci of control. It is how we drive our mental car. “I chose to do/think/feel this way because my understanding of the life as I know it, gives me both reason and responsibility to do so.” This is how we seek comfort in all senses of the word. It is how our world becomes right, and how we find things to be right with the world. Paradoxically, it is also how we justify wrongdoing. The Ford owner forms his beliefs and stands by his choice, the same way the Holocaust happened. No offense to Ford owners, but sin…is sin…is sin.

The problem comes when such notions driving our choices fly in the face of common sense, basic human responsibility, scriptural or moral obligations, etc. Here I tread carefully, aware that merely philosophizing about this renders one in hypocrite territory. Thus, I will be the first to admit, as human, I have also sinned, have introspected as wealthy and have survived as poor; I have selectively arranged the world around me in my head to accommodate my mental, emotional and physical processes. I have criticized others’ choices while justifying my own. I have harbored thoughts both of evil and wellbeing, understandings and misunderstandings, uncovered “facts” as frauds when more information was obtained, and have altered my perceptions when afforded a different perspective. Even though I have (at least in theory) traded in my judgment goggles for an understanding that I am terribly limited in what I know and experience, somehow my wretched tendency to make sense of the world by selective opinion formation persists.

Rats.

Like yesterday’s fine, white sand causing chafing and annoyance until washed away, the experience of spiritual grit ultimately yields smooth and refined surfaces. Here are a few little grains of grit from my recent days which are (if I don’t let them spiritually flatten me further) – and I chafe to admit – ultimately lending themselves to refinement, if permitted:

1.) “I feel really led by God to….(fill in the blank with one’s personal desire). Here we have the classic ticket in or out of whatever it is we want to do. Typically, people don’t stretch this one too far, since they are implying that it is something virtuous it is that they wish to do. The key word is “feel:” we all know we can’t always trust our feelings. So why trust them when it’s convenient? Just what does it look like, broken down into steps, when God leads somebody to do something? What about His having given us freewill? Most blokes in the Bible usually hid or ran the other direction when actually being led or called by God.

It doesn’t really jibe with the predetermination camp of thinking, either. I mean, how exactly does one experience the feeling of being led by the Almighty? Do common everyday experiences suddenly become “signs,” or are our subconscious psychological drives leading us to believe faith-based movement is at hand? I can feel led to lead a Bible study about as easily as I can feel led to blow off the laundry and sit on my ass and blog. I can just as easily find any number of scripture to back up either choice. Sorry, I’m not buying this one just now. I saw someone use this two weeks ago to weasel out of something that would have been a more charitable, goodwill activity, to go sit in church instead of helping those in need. I’ve done this myself, hurting others in my wake. I recognize baloney when I see it. And for better or worse, I was trained to spot it a mile away. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were honest? In the end, people appreciate truth, so goes the proverb. And for God’s sake (literally, not taking His name in vain), don’t invoke the image of His powers, if you’re basing it on your human feelings/beliefs. It would be more accurate to say, “I want/need/believe I should….”

2.) “(fill in the blank with an event) must be/isn’t God’s will.” Okay, this one gets old. This one has been pegged as the worst possible thing you can say to someone grieving. But what about the rest of the time? When was the last time you knew, really knew God’s will, before He made His intentions manifest? You didn’t, did you (rhetorical, please)? Last time I checked, the whole thing was a work in progress, with a beginning and an end, and we’re not at either end of the spectrum. At least not yet, if you’re reading this. Most the times I’ve thought I knew what His will was, I wound up being so far off-base, it wasn’t even funny. When things work out the way they do, is it because He willed it? Or allowed it, given our choices and beliefs? Or did He predetermine it before we saw it coming? Or did we screw it up in our foiblous state, and He’s going to make the best of it despite us?

Moses had to go before Pharaoh many times before rocks started to roll in the direction of God’s will. But there was a lot of anguish and suffering along the way. How presumptuous for us to assume we can know His will in the moment, when our perceptions and experiences are so miniscule on the spectrum of His timeline. I agree that praying His will is the prayer that is always answered…but from what I can tell in my limited understanding, it is not always answered directly in front of us. Sometimes things unfold over eons. And sometimes they’re a done deal. Either way, how can we possibly comprehend and perceive, from among the leaves and debris on the forest floor, the bigger picture that lies beyond the top of the forest canopy?

3.) “Satan/God really must….(fill in the blank with a convenient anthropomorphism).” How amused the entities must be when we impose our suppositions on that which we cannot tangibly perceive! Yes, I see the hypocrisy of my assertion, so I’ll leave well enough alone on this one.

4.) Denominational elitism: As if we are competing in some type of Spiritual Superbowl, people like to back up their decision to attend their chosen place of worship because they find it to be superior to others. Well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? We have to tell ourselves that this is the best place to go because of this or that. Who in their right mind would hang out at a place they believe is inferior? No, we are driven to settle in the place we find most comfortable. Comfort is achieved when we experience cognitive balance. It aligns with OUR beliefs, perceptions, understanding, hopes, etc. Have you ever forced yourself to hang out in a place that went against your core beliefs? (Ford guy driving a Chevy?) What happened?

It will either drive you to discomfort and negative emotions as you struggle with the dissonance and eventually leave in an existential huff, or you will find ways to accommodate the differences into your current mental schema. You will find ways to justify and support your decision to stay. I believe this is, at a systems-level, how good places of worship go bad. One thing I have found in my spiritual travels, is that there really is not a whole lot of difference between denominations’ goals. Style and interpretation may differ, but peoples’ ultimate quest is pretty much the same. We must make mental exceptions to brush off the aspects we don’t agree with, in order to settle on one place or the other. Unfortunately, it is the aspects we brush off that sometimes ought to be paid more attention.

In any case, it is easy to be complicit with being off-target, and again, we justify our choice to be where we are worshiping, because it “feels” best to our way of thinking and our expectations. In upholding our choice, we unavoidably diss the choices of others. Those spiritually inclined ought to move themselves out of their comfort zones more often and engage in a moveable feast of experiencing others’ experiences. Rarely did God keep His guys in one spot forever…the good ones, the ones He used most, were always on the move. Mobility spawns wisdom and perspective. “Settling” spawns tunnel vision and ignorance (in the dictionary sense of the term, e.g. lack of awareness). When God spoke, it was always “Go.” It was never, “Pray about it and get back to me if you’re game.”

Unleash thyself, thou pigeonholed! Dare to expand yourself in Him.

5.) “Let me pray about that…” (used in the context of an impending decision to be made). As referenced above, what kind of clarity does God give us with our limited perspectives? and our limited wills? When you think about it, we’re probably more unwilling to do what He’d like us to do, than we realize. How pompous of us to imply, much less to others, that by praying about something, we will be among the privileged few to receive a clear answer. What really happens when we pray? How does “the” answer come to us? Is it some divine lightning bolt that bears God’s stamp of approval on it? And what exactly does that look like?

That being said, we must pray. And in my understanding, we have a direct line to God. I talk to Him as a friend, as you know from other posts. He is there with me. At least I feel/will/think/believe Him to be. But the process of prayer is not like some privy consultation going on that elevates us and diminishes others’ same right. No, it is I as a humble servant who cannot possibly know the magnitude of His will. I trust I will only see slivers of it. I believe day to day decisions we make are based upon our knowledge, thoughts, feelings and experience. Part of that may be scriptural, but ultimately, shouldn’t we take responsibility for our choices? What can go wrong if we screw up? We’re already sinners, that’s already been well established. We mean well in some ways, and we don’t in others, because we are naturally selfish creatures. We want what we want, simultaneously while wanting to be perceived by others and ourselves as virtuous. Sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge our wretchedness and learn from our mistakes. Some of us are doomed to repeat them, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to be better.

When asked what drives people away from God and worship, most research shows people are disillusioned with what they perceive to be hypocrisy. These five points were salient to me because they got stuck in the shoe of my walk. Thanks for pausing with me while I slide off my shoes and dump the sand out, dear friend.  I know my weary feet are all the smoother and prettier out of the deal, on this long walk of life. And thanks for walking this beach with me.

Heh, life’s a beach!

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Hey, God…

Thanks for the laughing-till-crying story exchanged at 1am today. I hate that I already have to edit and censor the story, and can’t share that slice of life. I would much rather assume the world would be better off seeing the humor instead of seeing the legal implications. Anyway…I was just sayin’….

Had I come upon this scene, I probably would not have connected the morgue door+breathing body on gurney. I am too hyper to notice such details in the moment; these are the type of things I connect later on, typically during sleep. I am the one capturing these delayed realizations on Post-It notes at 3 in the morning or flying down the interstate. I am also responsible for editing this blog days later, when I realize I had yet another song title butchered. I type what I hear, facts be damned. There is always time for pesky details later, right?

So this guy lies to me a couple of days ago, looking me earnestly in the eye while doing so. I fall right into it, fully believing him, even though I knew better. We were surrounded by other people who, although otherwise occupied and not really listening, also would have known better. I was being served up a royal yarn. “Wow,” I habitually and wrongly assumed, “I must have my facts wrong, or hadn’t heard those facts yet.”

This has long been the drumbeat of my superiors, who see me do this time after time: “Trust your judgment, it’s always spot-on,” they inform me, as if this were a foreign concept to me. This week, although I fell for it in the moment, I knew something was amiss, and instead of awaking at 3 am to “get it,” I marched straight to someone who could immediately assure me that I was indeed just lied to.

Yep, I was lied to, alright.

The weird thing was everybody else laughed about it like it was nothing new. REALLY? I was floored anew, albeit satisfied that the liar was going to be justly confronted and dealt with. I, on the other hand, always react as if I am being hurt anew, as though this is not normal human behavior, as though, as I naively assume, everyone shares the same values as I do: to be honest, forthcoming, do your best, willing to learn and change, and knowing that things like lying eventually come back to haunt you, so it is illogical to do so.

You would think in my profession, I would have gotten “it” by now, that humans do not operate logically in most cases. I’ve even known some so obsessed with conducting their lives in an ultra-logical fashion, that they paradoxically lived illogically.

Maybe I need to live a little more illogically, think a little more illogically…assuming that lying is illogical, and assuming that most of us are illogical. Maybe I need to quit being so naive and assuming people have the best of intentions at all times.

God, I know it’s a world of sin. But I don’t wanna see it that way. I like to think higher of people, of the world. Help me temper my impatience with sin, including my own. God, is it good or bad to be so naive all the time?

Thanks, friend, for contemplating these things with me here on the beach with God. I’m in a hurry this morning and have a bazillion other things I am mentally multitasking, and I will probably come back and edit this later. Not one of my better posts, and I could care less…that’s the nice thing about friends, we don’t have to be something we’re not…we don’t need to lie to one another, do we? Meanwhile, I’ll try not to be so naive and work on paying more attention to details. And trusting my judgement more.

On the other hand, I kind of enjoy blissfulness…

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No, not I…the 2, about-to-be 3 year old. He graciously reminded me tonight of the importance of unwinding. Really unwinding. He reminds me that we must perpetually turn to children, the older we get, for advice on how to live. Really live. With the first child, scolding was the parenting du jour should he have attempted such a feat…with child #4…..well…I learned to take heed. You know, step back and contemplate….hmmm…well, isn’t kind of, er, funny? Go ahead, break into the chase, let him go squealing with delight, buck naked, round and round, catching him with laughter and direction to get into jammies….silly boy. I love you.

But I really wish you hadn’t have put four toothbrushes and one Mardi Gras cup in the toilet today. Luv ya anyway. Say, what happened when you tried to flush? Sorry I wasn’t there to find out with you. Bless Daddy.

Sometimes it takes a child to hold our hand and lead us precisely where we need to be. Children know freedom.

It was what our very country was founded upon.

We must constantly question and examine our beliefs, as the development of beliefs can be a fluid process throughout each life phase. A good, hard look at why we believe what we believe is good for the soul, and keeps us fresh. We become stagnant if we can no longer embrace the merits of our beliefs. Yet we cling so tightly sometimes to things that no longer make sense…

A conversation with “Common Sense:”

“He should not be allowed to run naked through the house. This is wrong.”

“And what could happen?

“Why, it’s not proper. It might make others want to run naked through the house.”

“And then what?”

“Well, then things would be out of control. They’d get the wrong message. One thing leads to another”

“What’s the wrong message?”

“That you can’t think that you can run naked through the house and it’s okay. There must be consequences.”

“And then what,? if not?”

“Ummmm… I dunno. It’s just wrong.”

“With whom? How?”

“Ummmmm..I dunno.”‘

“What harm does it do? I mean, does it serve a purpose for the runner? Do they get some benefit from it, something out of their system, sow their wild oats, then want to conform, or what? What’s going to happen if a little off-kilter happens? Doesn’t off-kilter behavior serve an ultimate purpose?”

“Well, I never thought about it.”

“Well, think about it. Is it so bad? You ever been off-kilter? What did you need to do to get right?”

‘Nuff said.

Sometimes, in all our adult wisdom, we completely miss the point of living.

When was the last time you ran naked through the house? Would the sky fall? Is it so bad?

Thanks, God, for freedom and laughter and children. It figures only the serpent could have made it so we had to wear fig leaves and toil, instead of having the childlike freedom of running naked through the house.

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Hey, God…

That a child brought me to You this morning was humbling. He had asked with such hope, as best as his broken speech could muster, to go to church. The squeaky creaks of the kneelers echoed in the old nineteenth century chapel. Departing from our usual place of attendance, he did not know what to do with the kneeler until he saw the rest of us kneel and pray. He eventually decided the long padded rail at our feet made for a far better place to sit down than in the pew, as this afforded him a more advantageous perspective of the stained glass windows and of the sensible shoes of the elderly lady kneeling in the pew in front of ours.

He did not mind that he could not take communion because he cannot digest solids; he was grateful to receive a special blessing at the railing instead. He was not disappointed to miss out on the regulation tea and crumpets later in the reception hall; he rather basked in the attention of the new people we met. It was always I who had to be the one to manage my sympathetic disappointments felt on his behalf, and in the end I realized that they were entirely mine, not his – he did not know disappointment of any sort very well. Once disappointments were properly attributed, owned and subsequently discarded on my behalf, it became so much easier to join him in his joy.

I remember the first time I felt the two, distinct and simultaneously contradicting anguishes, felt as a mother of a child with Down syndrome. He was only four days old, but already society by me was damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.

If people offered awkward pity, the urge was to blurt out, “Can’t you see we are the proud, happy parents of a healthy baby? He’s no different…he eats, sleeps and poops right on schedule with the rest of them! Why can’t you congratulate us and be joyful with us?”

If people offered standard congratulations and completely avoided acknowledging his diagnosis, the temptation was to say, “Do you have any idea what we’re going through? Our child is different! Why can’t you offer condolences and join us in our grief?”

It would be years later that I realized people were dealing with it in the various ways they knew best. And so was I, as I began to digest what it meant to be raising a child with special needs.

So it was through life, times when we tried in vain to squeeze the square peg into the round hole…it just never quite fit. And yet it was well worth trying, because we all learned things along the way, and it enriched him in ways he would not have experienced, had we not tried.

There were heartaches and joys in trying, but it was the trying that sharpened us all. There are no baseball pants that quite work for his build, but we got creative and he played…for part of a season, until he decided the outfield was meant for chasing his teammates to steal their ball caps to try to get them to chase him. I wept when we had to make the decision to bench him because he just didn’t get it.

The basketball hoop was a bit too high and he had to play on his little brother’s team with second graders, but the week before the end of the season, he sank his first hoop, unassisted. And I wept when the entire crowd erupted into cheers and gave him a standing ovation.

But the look of joy in his eyes was exactly the same whether he was bench-warming or ovation-bowing. He was happy just to be included, even though he knew he was different and couldn’t quite master it like his peers did. He took joy in the process, not in the outcome. Perhaps it is us who, at times, just don’t get it.

He knows how to smell the roses along the way. Those joyful eyes see things differently.

So when society wonders if a challenged person should be treated differently or the same, the answer is, some of each…the same, as much as they are capable of; differently, to accommodate and adapt as much as needed to allow them to experience at least part of the process. It doesn’t take much to make them happy, and they understand more than we think. They have learned to be flexible and patient with others, out of necessity.

What kind of world would this be if we all saw life through those joyful eyes?

God, why do they say that 90% of all babies who test positive for Down syndrome in that new, first blood test, are aborted?

Let us not fear the salty tears of anguish which lead to the sweetest tears of joy!

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Hey, God…

Today I read about a new drug that is showing promise in helping to “cure” Down syndrome. Do we really want to change those things that have been made perfect in Your image? You have said that our wisdom is but foolishness…and indeed, one can see the beauty and love in the face of any child with Downs, Your beauty, Your love. In weakness is Your strength, and many people have come to You through weaker people, as You touch us through them. They humble us, they teach us, they remind us of our priorities.

If people with disabilities did not exist, how would we learn and be humbled? What, then, would the order of our priorities be?

It is touted as scientific breakthrough, but at what point do we restrain ourselves from assuming we know what is best for another creation, just because they are different? Are we projecting our own fears upon them by thinking they must be suffering, when they may actually be perfectly content?

How can we possibly judge another’s perception of their quality of life?

Or are such “cures” merely for our convenience, to allay our fears and insecurities about suffering?

I am reminded of my food allergies, one of which is shellfish (ironically, despite my love of the sea). When others learn that I cannot eat, say, shrimp, I am inundated with expressions of pity and presumption, such as, “Oh, you poor thing! How awful for you! I bet that must be so hard not to be ABLE to eat shrimp!!!”

I don’t think of it as a disability…since the only shrimp I have tasted has caused such trauma and discomfort, I do not yearn for it; I am perfectly happy without it. It is not a pleasant thing for me to regret and miss, since I have not walked on the side of enjoying it. I am blissfully ignorant of the experience, thank you very much, and am perfectly happy with the rest of my diet.

Could it be the same for some others with certain disabilities, that they are entirely complete and fulfilled in the way they have been wonderfully made? Should we not carefully consider what projections we may have when we seek to “help” others and find cures?

Too, suffering has its place. It is not often sought, nor is it bearable many times…yet it blesses with gifts such as perseverance, tolerance, new coping skills, heightened sensory perception and deeper insight into others’ character and virtue, as well as our own. We find out quickly who our friends are, in our suffering.

Here on the seashore, I find broken shells, some of which are absolutely more interesting and beautiful than had they remained wholly intact. In the broken shells, you can see what they’re made of, you can see farther into them, you can see things you can’t see in their unbroken state. They are like snowflakes, each one entirely different from any other….a beautifully abstract medium that begs the imagination to fill in the spaces of its journey, its life, its purpose. The broken shell forces us to focus on those things outside our comfort zones, stretching and molding and growing us in ways we had not considered before. It demands that we pick it up and focus on it, instead of ourselves, instead of on the ideal, instead of on the perfect. Do we toss it back into the sea because it does not meet our standards?

God, may we have wisdom about and sensitivity to Your will. May we have the courage and zeal to embrace those things which we deem as difficult, painful and imperfect. May we resist the temptation to tamper with that which You have willed.

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