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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

A vanishing point is an interesting study, and perhaps not just for points of convergence or disappearing lines.

I recently found some vanishing points in fire, fog and falls…helping the mind fill in what may lie just beyond, where lines, images and elements dissipate and invite imagination to take it from there.

Kind of like vague relationships.

In my line of work doing online therapy, research is showing that the “fantasy factor” helps both client and counselor achieve an optimal working relationship, even though the missing gaps may or may not be accurate. Freud was on to something when he chose to sit behind the couch, just out of the line of vision of the patient.

The brain and God are faithful to give us exactly what we need to get through this thing called Life.

My eyes saw these realities, but my mind filled in the blanks of what it might be like to go just beyond. I forewent captions, for you to enjoy them as you see them.

A recognizable scene, given pause, may rise to unrecognizable dreams. A waterfall seen from beneath, has an unseen origin, where gravity may not be so pronounced. A slumbering volcano is made awake and alive by rumors of gnomes and fairies beneath.

I invite your mind to fill in the blanks – joie de vivre! 💋

Thanks, God, for the fantasies and illusions that give us hope, faith and perseverance.

May we never tire as we approach the vanishing point, always finding that extra burst of energy to see what awaits us around the curve.

Give us courage to face what’s on the other side, just beyond our line of vision, and equip us with confidence to accept Your will as we pursue the point of convergence.

Take us around that distant bend, Lord, and infuse us with elegant grace and poignant wisdom.

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Today I had the privilege of working with a homicidal patient who is partial to philosophy. This can present a challenge as a therapist, in that one must steer the patient away from an unhealthy amount of overthinking – and yet insight comes from a certain degree of thinking beyond the garden gate.

My patient quoted a line from a poem by Rumi (see below), so I brought it up on my device and together we tried to untangle the mystery of whether the darkness of mental illness is a guest in our lives, or if we are a guest in the darkness.

We wrestled with how to achieve mindfulness; to tolerate, endure and to even embrace the unexpected or the unwelcome. We contemplated how to find balance. We considered if it is pain or freedom that is fleeting and temporary. 

While we mused, she played in the kinetic sand tray on my desk. Afterwards, I observed aloud how, when talking about her pain and darkness, she stabbed at the sand and carved deep but symmetrical gashes. When she spoke of healing and hope, she used the roller to smooth it out. Someone had left the sand in mostly one half of the tray; I commented that as she had approached it, she met it where it was – she did not attempt to rearrange it, only made impressions on it. 

“What do you make of that?” she asked.

“Mmmmm….” I paused, “What do YOU make of it?”

She broke out in a broad smile for the first time I’d seen.

Yes, “meet them at the door laughing and invite them in!”

Here is how she left the sand – what do YOU make of it?

  
THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi,

    translation by Coleman Barks

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I was recently reintroduced to a concept known as “spiritual bypass,” coined by American psychotherapist John Welwood. Spiritual bypass occurs when one worships the spiritual experience and exploits it to avoid working on necessary psychological tasks.

Dr. Welwood observed the phenomenon in the context of his Buddhist experience, although I recognize it also in the context of Christianity, causing me to infer that it is a universal phenomenon.

Bypassers are the folks who jump headlong into religion, especially during a time of crisis, using chapter and verse to smile when they should be weeping and gnashing their teeth. It is justification for not feeling, chalking it up to “God’s will;” psyching ourselves out of critical opportunities for growth. Misplaced priorities.

This is the churchaholic, throwing themselves headlong into every activity available when the church doors are open, thereby bypassing perhaps what God really intended for them.

This is the workaholic, grinding away at the office for hours on the premise of doing a good job and bringing home extra bacon while neglecting duties of primary importance.

This is the alcoholic, the drugaholic, the sportsaholic. And, yes, the Facebookaholoic.

I propose that the concept of “bypass” is not only spiritual, but emotional, mental, physical, psychological, and any other framework within which one chooses to avoid God’s reality for them. I’d venture to say it even has neurological underpinnings, and is not unlike the brain’s ingenious way of creating dissociation in the face of unbearable trauma.

How many times have we seen those who are addicted to substances, to abuse (victims or perps), to human dysfunction of any sort, “find Jesus” (or Buddha, or environmentalism, or any good cause to an extreme) and “miraculously” turn their lives around for a time?

This is where the concept of salvation may seem shady to some: one “dedicates their life to the Lord,” only later to stumble and fall, and then at some point may again rededicate.

Throw a little Calvinism into the mix and you’ve got some worthwhile confusion to chew on.

Nobody wants the wood, hay & stubble, yet we wrestle with what quantifies the gold, rubies and Good Stuff. I like to think of it as a process that God needs us to go through to be closer to Him.

I suppose “bypass” can be any means of avoiding God’s will for us to fully experience our weaknesses. By His mercy He gave us manna, judges, prophets and, finally, Jesus, to help us face the fears we have behind our avoidance. He gave us these things to soften the blow, because He loves us. He knows we are vulnerable to pain – that’s how He made us. There is merit in ashes and sackcloth. But also in balance.

Jesus faced those fears head-on, but not before an attempt at bypass, Himself (“…let this cup pass.”).

I challenge you to examine your own bypass, ways you evade the experience of going through the necessary eye of the needle:

How do you bypass your own discomforts?

How do you bypass God’s intentions for you?

Do we sugar-coat these things with do-gooding and man (or self)-pleasing benevolence?

Sit erectly in the pew with the utmost appearance of faithful attentiveness, or lie crumpled in a heap, quietly weeping in a dark corner where only He can see?

Stay on the track we think best, when He’d rather we go on a wilderness walkabout?

What if you went through the eye, totally raw, skinless, open to the experience? Willing to feel? Amenable to risk? Susceptible to His sharpening?

What would that look like? And feel?

Courage, my friend.

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God’s abundance…

If these shells are all dead creatures, think how many more are alive and thriving in the sea from which they washed up.

We only see parts of the whole.

Parts of me are dead,

yet alive,

“I am.”

Fragments of pieces of life within and without me.

Some I recognize, some I am not aware of even though they are part of me,

be it forgotten or unconscious or yet to be.

Only whole by the parts.

Only parts

by His grace.

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It seems that…

Youth is a burst of fast energy,

punctuated by brief spurts of rest.

As life progresses,

this gradually reverses

Until our age yields to

Slowing,

punctuated with brief spurts of

Energy.

Perspective is relative.

Just when we think our hearts and souls

can bear

not one more tear…

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…the Sun rises again

~~

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Perhaps the only plans we can make in life are those we formulate inside of our heads – not what we intend to do, but how we will choose to think and feel when things change; when adversity, challenges and unforeseen events encapsulate us. How will we assimilate and accommodate those changes?

Control (and the illusion thereof) is finite (albeit on a spectrum), and limited to our inner being. Everything outside of ourselves is not under our control, much as we would like to believe otherwise.

Even our inner being is not in control of its fate.

I propose that praying for wisdom is quite possibly foolishness at best. How would we ever possibly know we had achieved wisdom? Is it some finite thing that can be achieved?

As long as I am a sinner, I cannot exercise wisdom, nor should I buffalo myself into believing that wisdom is mine to exercise. I must be completely and utterly dependent upon Him. Life is an unplanned journey with twists and turns that no one can predict.

Naturally, it is important to have some plans in place to get from moment to day to year – goals, if you will. These keep us focused and on track, and we are instructed to be planful to a degree. But change is inevitable, and if we are focused on the goals and plans we ourselves set, we are not planning for God’s plans – plans He doesn’t reveal until the appointed time. We can plan all we want – but ultimately, it is not in our control.

It is almost as though making a plan – business plan, short- or long-term goals, financial plans, family planning, career, when, how and if to retire, whatever – is an invitation to allow God to show us who’s Who and what’s What.

Planning is an exercise in submission and an invitation to trust in the unexpected and unforeseen.

God is our Remote Control. And not remote at all, actually, as He is with us every step of the way, whether we choose to acknowledge His presence or not, whether we remember His presence or not. It is us who make Him remote. All of us, from the pre- to over-religious.

Do you have to dig deep in the cushions of your heart and soul to find the Remote? Or do you keep it front and center on the end table? Or are you just as easily inclined to get off your tush and go directly to the Box and push the buttons directly to get where you need to be? Do you know What you’re looking for?

Do you know Who’s looking for you? Can you find the Remote and change the channel, or are you willing to get up and meet It where It’s at, or somewhere in between? Are you ready to watch what you didn’t intend to watch?

Since the day always seems to come when we can’t change the channel and other Factors dictate our entertainment, I’ve decided instead to pray for things like acceptance. Flexibility. Courage. Perseverance. Resilience. Without these things, we could not face life’s curve balls. (That is my plan for how I will wrap my head around His plan for me, anyway).

Yes, these are the things that allow my arms to both embrace and let go, whichever the circumstance calls for, and to discern when it’s time to do either.

When I am afloat at sea and cannot possibly have infinite perspective, my only choices are to watch the swell of the waves which cause the horizon to disappear or to hope for the glimpse of the reality of the horizon; to cling or let go and drown, to trust or take matters into my own hands. Either way it is a leap of faith, and simply perceiving that I cannot fathom the depths or the heights or the distance to the horizon, I will have to cling and trust within the confines of that finite perspective.

God, may Your will for us wash ashore at our feet, that we know it is You guiding us – that we might be refreshed and pleasantly surprised by each new wave of change, each one being different and unpredictable, never knowing what hidden treasures will be revealed in the withdrawing ebb before the next wave. Let each one be cleansing, cooling, soothing…let us be not dismayed, but joyful in the discovery that Your plans were different from ours all along. Bless us with the resiliency of a child, a child who knows that they needn’t have wisdom, only trusting faith that things will go precisely as they were intended – by You, right here with us.

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Did you ever have something happen in your life that made you realize that it wasn’t God that was bigger than a problem, but it was YOU that got bigger, and God had stayed the same as He always was? He is, after all the Rock, they say. He doesn’t shift and grow. We do.

I, in all my self-imposed Christian wisdom (along with self-righteous Biblical interpretation (which justified my self-imposed Christian wisdom), was taught a huge lesson this week in spiritual perspective.

I had always thought, believed and “known” that “my” interpretation of God’s way was right (or pretty right, anyway), and that others were just blind to the truth. Poor them. Poor me.

This week God put a child in my path who has shown me that He has not, is not, and will not change. It is I who must change.

Today I spent 6 hours in a classroom/lab and learned how the Gulf of Mexico has a current that goes from southeast to northwest, which is why it always appears that my family has moved their encampment on the beach way to the right, after I’ve been boogie boarding the waves for more than 15 minutes.

And this week my sands shifted just a little bit, thanks to His righteous current.

I had the sensation I sometimes had riding the “L” in Chicago, or a roller coaster when slightly disoriented. Your brain knows it is you moving, but for a brief sensation of a moment, we are buffaloed into perceiving that we are not moving, but rather the contents outside the car appear to be moving…concrete sidewalks, walls and all.

Or like when I couldn’t even see my family, much less any strand of beach, once I’d swam all the way out to the border-buoy.

Or like when we find ourselves gazing up at the stars on a clear night with no earthly interference. We see the stars so clearly; their winking twinkle is comforting…like a baby strapped into a baby-contraption. There is security in knowing our place. All is well when we are dependent on One who is greater, stronger. That primal feeling then gives way to the realization of how SMALL we are…and the insecurities of our insignificance quietly simmer and bubble forth as we gaze.

We are so miniscule!

How we strive to jockey for our perceptions of greatness on this tiny planet! No wonder we think size matters.

And yet, there is so much more beyond, in the universe and in the unknown dimensions.

I, who have always advocated for X, Y and Z in my Christian walk, was introduced to a little fellow – and I mean LITTLE – this week, who has seen all, done all and been there done that. No child should ever have been exposed to what he has come to know as normal and right. So I now find myself in a position of having to help this child, and the only way to help him, to bring him closer to half a chance at a decent life, to bring him closer to God, is to help him in ways that I had previously been indoctrinated NOT to do.

How confusing is that?! The ways society and Christianity says are “right” and “good,” and now a child is so messed up, that the only path for him to have a crack at right and good flies directly in the face of what man dictates is right and good?!

Yes, God is SO much bigger than any box we put Him in. Just when we think we have it all sewn up and figured out, God will set us straight….

Self-righteousness sux.

Perhaps the walk closer to Him means taking a more circuitous route. They say the path is narrow, but that doesn’t mean that narrow path doesn’t meander around and venture near the lapping flames of Hell, rendering one parched and singed, making the reward all that more refreshing.

How much more meaningful is meaning, after a desert of meaninglessness.

Cold water only feels good when you’re nice ‘n hot, baby.

Thank you, God, for expanding the puny universe of my pea-brain…thanks for greater perspective…and for helping me to color outside Your lines.

What has rocked your spiritual plumb?

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She was carefully applying her mascara in the rear view mirror, stopped at the red light at a busy intersection. The turning of my head to notice caused her to notice me, and with her wand frozen in mid-air, we exchanged one of those only-girls-can-understand smiles. Then, just as quickly, the light turned green and each of us took off into our respective universes.

Today, like a pent-up quarter horse bursting out of the barn into a vast green field, I broke my month-long illness-induced hiatus from running, and could not stop. I had set my sights low, thinking I’d walk part way and stay close to home, but the bright rising sun beckoned me out of one universe and into another, and before I knew it, I awoke, still running, a little unsure how I had gotten that far from home. In the middle of Nowhere I was, but I knew this nowhere far from home. Now I had to figure out what possessed me to get so far away, and get myself back to Somewhere.

The thing is, the trip to Nowhere was such a blast! I hated to drag myself back to Somewhere. Following the white reflective strip on the opposite side of the road, the morning traffic on the busier stretches forced me off the white line, less for my sense of safety and more for the drivers. Veering off my straight line caused me to reckon with tall grasses and morning dew, soaking my shoes and socks. The steady rhythm of my pace allowed me to shake off the highly irritated fire ants whose piles I had pummeled with my unseeing feet deep in the tall grass. Stopping for nothing, I savored and ran through each cramp, flash of joint pain and finally, the rogue pebble that made its way into one shoe. Damn, I can feel the sear of the blister-to-be. The calendar says autumn, but this area defies such man-made seasonal designations, and the sweat signaled victory in endurance.

There was comfort in the discomfort, endorphins in the pain.

Arriving home, the swing under the welcoming giant oak tree called out to me as I transitioned universes yet again. Walking it out, I circled around and took the oak tree up on its invitation to join with it. Mounting the swing, “Enya’s Caribbean Blue” was up next on my iPod – I’d forgotten I had that song on there still. I immersed myself in this universe now, gaining momentum and, once high enough, alternately assuming a reverse-planking position. I gazed upwards into the canopy, spotting bits of blue sky through the trees outstretched arms which hugged me close underneath. The child in me dared to tilt my head backwards once at the peak of height, seeing the world upside down in a deliciously dizzying moment.

The man watching me from behind was upside down, too. So were his two little dogs. I hit pause and allowed myself to come back to earth so I could greet the surprised onlooker, who appeared to be trying to figure out if I was trespassing, and if it could be considered trespassing when one was clearly enjoying themselves in one of life’s little pleasures typically reserved for children. My self-assured explanation that I was cooling myself after a long run, getting the breeze in both directions by swinging, caused him to laugh and wrap up the pleasantries and move on.

Thus I was awakened out of another universe and catapulted into yet another.

I find myself traveling between and among many parallel universes throughout the course of any given day. And yet, I am supposed to believe that only one universe, one reality, exists.

I have gradually over time began to suspect otherwise.

We are finite in our ability to sense what we perceive. An inquisitive, wide-eyed child knows, but is trained by “trusted” adults to deny what is so apparent to the child. Where the child seeks validation for their very-real experiences, the adult makes the other dimensions simply not exist.

Thus with nothing more than a bold statement, there are no monsters under the bed. Or, as the little one says, “Yi-yons in the woods” across the way. Fierce lions, from his account. No, he is told, no yi-yons in these parts.

But the child is not so sure, not so easily convinced. If we can talk ourselves into or out of anything, can we also talk other things into or out of existence? The mind is such a powerful thing.

Sometimes while mentally in one universe and physically in another, I ponder whether I am imagining things, or if it is really real. I fool myself into believing that it is not real if it is appropriate to do so, and later my mind wanders again and I am forced to reckon whether it was really real and I suppressed and denied it at will, or if it is pure figment of imagination.

Maybe I am thinking too hard, as I have been accused, and as also being accused of using this to communicate in other dimensions. Guilty as charged, on both counts. Have we not all slipped into a dual existence between our online habits and our non-online habits?

What is real, anyway? I would rather expand my mind and entertain the possibilities of things I can’t prove, than pigeonhole myself into one dimension. I would rather acknowledge the monsters under the bed and give credit where credit is due, than spend energy and a lifetime being foolishly self-assured of falsehood. I would rather enjoy the painful process of risk than waste away in comfort. I would rather be damned for trying and doing, than damned if I don’t.

Hey, God…thanks for the trip. Thanks for multi-dimensional universes and for the generous samplings of each one despite our limited awareness. I pray that the monsters under the bed, and yes, the yi-yons in the woods, can someday know the joy of reverse-planking on the swing. Maybe they’ll come out at night when we’re not looking and party under the oak tree.

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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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More appreciation should be afforded to the filter in our brain which decides whether or not something is important enough to attend to, helping us choose to act, ignore, or file away for future reference. I believe it may be the varying thresholds each person’s filter has, which determine our personality, our daily choices, our goals, our very psychology. It is a fine line indeed between someone who is branded as mentally ill because their filter steers them toward heightened sensory/perception experiences, and the same experience being filed away or ignored by one deemed emotionally fit. The running joke among staff at most psychiatric hospitals is, “the only difference between us and them is: we have keys.”

All week long, my world consisted of a maze of choices being made by my filter. I had to make some long-term, some short-term, and some split-second decisions as to what would be ignored, saved for next week or acted upon immediately. I took a few chances, with chips falling where they may, leaving some pleased, and others distressed, all because of this filter. I’ve had to filter out many trivially disturbing things, like the idiot who cut me off without using his indicator, weaseling out of replacing the paper towels by leaving one for the next person, and that next person winding up being me, the doctor who made me wait which caused a chain reaction of completely unrelated people having to wait for others across five different cities and three states. Or how the electric hand mixer attachment wound up in the back of the car and rattled with every bump and turn for over 80 miles (fodder for another blog?).

Teaching both the emotionally fit and unfit alike how to maximize use of this filter is certainly a learning experience itself. They watch to see which things I choose to filter in and out, leaving some bewildered, and even more bewildered when faced with the wild card of the unexpected, having to learn how discard and embracing mistakes for their learning value. That there is no one absolute which is permanently and officially etched in stone, evokes some to emotional instability and subliminal insecurity. We fake it for the most part, though, presenting ourselves to the rest of the world as mentally upright as we can be, when secretly we are rubbed the wrong way that others do not share our perceptions of absolute.

The child was having a meltdown because her load of laundry was overwhelmingly large and unfolded. We sat on the floor together, talking and laughing and folding and matching, enjoying each others’ company as the mountain of laundry turned into orderly piles of fresh clothing, ready for the next week. Meltdown abated. Unfortunately, this created another meltdown in another whose absolute belief it was that the child should be made to do this herself and alone, and that I was somehow interfering with the divine order of The Way Things Should Be.

It was my responsibility to role model how to give way to other ways of thinking and doing, focusing on teaching and learning new paths to a shared goal. The hard part is teaching others how to make their filter more flexible. This required ignoring resistance and rebellion, and plugging away at living my beliefs, with no apology. I cannot come out and tell people they are wrong; this would be the oxymoron of teaching flexibility (and does not give me credibility should my way fail or fall short). Therefore, I must slowly and quietly demonstrate a better, more efficient way.

Sometimes I am not sure who should have the keys. It is often the little children who teach us, we who have become more inflexible and self-assured with age.

What if we could bend our filter so that nothing was absolute, ever? What a fluid, morally relativistic life it would be. Eventually such fluidity runs head-on into one circumstance or another where an executive decision needs to be made for the sake of sanity, safety, and because it is, well, Right. Today I am tired after the long week of filtering, and in my quest to rest, I require a little break from having to make any decisions. It is the little things that add up to mattering, even though each one in and of itself is fairly insignificant.

Today I will revel in my over-the-top-hanging toilet paper, because it is they way that seems right to me. I will ignore any temptation to wrangle with whether it is right or wrong, whether or not it conflicts with your way or The Way Things Should Be.

If I dig deep enough, I find that this makes me happy in a terribly small way, so small that my filter is in the habit of ignoring such triviality. Why? Because I do not have to think about it as much, it does not strike me as insignificantly annoying, I do not have to debate about it with anyone, and when something goes our way, it always feels good. It is more comfortable not to have to wrangle with something that might require changing, or even consideration thereof. There is security in our sense of absolute, which is why we are so much more comfortable with ensuring that everything in our lives is The Way Things Should Be. We somehow believe that being able to count on something absolute and not having to change, will somehow make us feel safe.

So, the real reason it should hang over instead of under is, just for today, my filter needs a break so I can gear up for another week of teaching people to consider and try to learn to be comfortable with what seems diametrically opposed to their sense of The Way Things Should Be. Because the rest of the week, the roll will seem upside-down to my way of thinking, and I am being asked to bring others around to the virtues of the way I hang my toilet paper, so to speak. The rest of the week I will be yielding, serving, bending and filtering.  Besides, in all those extra hours and limited sleep of the past week, I’ve caught a cold, and I’m going through a lot of paper products at the moment…little discomforts are magnified in this state.  Please just give me just one day of absolute!

Hey, God…thank You that You DO give us Your Absolute, Your Word, the real Way Things Should Be. I know you don’t address the toilet paper issue directly (or do You, as we are to be servants, not self-serving?), but over again You show us that we are to be flexible and yet to rely upon You as the ultimate absolute. It all boils down to the heart, doesn’t it? We should balance attention to both little things and big things, using Your yardstick as the measure with which to filter. You let us know exactly what matters, giving us perpetual stability, sanity and security.

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