CS Lewis far better things

This last year has been a whirlwind of medical issues and disappointments, but it has also been very fruitful in the writing department!  I have made significant strides in the construction and editing of my book on vocational transitions; secured more interviews for the book, did (and re-did!) structure and practical issues, and generally, paid more attention to my book than I did to my blog.

I have spent much time trying to neutrally look at how I perceive the world, my past, my circumstances, and the larger issue of fairness. To try to figure out whether pursuing fairness and justice in life circumstances is worth the cost that you pay in the end.

I guess I have discovered this: that the answer is different for everybody. There are some battles worth fighting, and others that are destructive. There is more strife to be found in the pursuit of justice in some cases, than in others. So if I am truly seeking peace, I must face an unfair (or toxic) situation, assess it and then either move on or fix it.

If I stand at a blank wall, shaking my fist at it, it will neither move nor respond.

If I stand at a wall long enough to see a door through which I can travel, that is progress.

I wish that I were wise enough to immediately discern the difference! But alas: I am not.

In the last nine months, I have also discovered this: that an intellect in motion tends to stay in motion, and one at rest tends to begin to softly snore.

The more I write, the better I write, the better I feel, the more I write.

Find your passion, and keep moving! We can neither re-live yesterday, nor predict tomorrow.

So move ahead. Stop looking back.

 

 

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Beauty, Courage, Discipline, Sacrifice

the best ppl

For me, beauty comes in many forms: poetry, prose, fiction, photographs, mixed-media art, sculpture, the smell of old books and mysterious attics, a memory of reading Nancy Drew books while perched in trees, the mystery of the perfect smell of my mom’s pasta sauce, the groove in that runs down the bark of an old tree (perpendicular to the ground), watching my nieces and nephews running around my parents yard in search of plastic Easter eggs filled with jellybeans or loose change. It’s something neither delicate or indelicate.

Courage? Boldness, taking risks, staying committed, being countercultural, sticking to my beliefs while having the flexibility to let God change my mind about something (or somebody), doing something that could cause a scar but gives a rush, holding back from running after my children during their first time on a two-wheeled bicycle, having a willingness to see – and change – my stubbornness or anything else that holds me back from embracing the universe.

The Discipline to tell the Truth? That one is more difficult; some people find that truth is just saying whatever comes to mind – which can engender cruelty; some people feel that truth is too ephemeral to say anything whatsoever; others don’t think that truth even exists. I feel that God’s truth is eternal, Man’s truth is fleeting and amorphous, and my truth is dependent on how I feel that day. So my truth can never actually be depended upon totally, unless tried over time and discerned over days, if not weeks. Discovering this has begun to turn me from an impulsive person who was capable of using my words to wound, to someone who makes attempts to pick carefully so as to avoid harm; but someone who still believes that there are things that are always inherently harmful – racism, sexism, suicide, genocide, disunity caused by selfishness, and hate. When in doubt – I compare it against how Jesus operated in the New Testament – from love – love for God and his fellow humans.

Capacity for Sacrifice? There are states in life that are supposed to be self-sacrificial, but which certainly people fail at. There is somehow nothing more disappointing than a mom who always chooses herself over her children; the damage that is left is self-evident and heartbreaking. It is also alarming to see a father choose his own selfish, sexual needs in order to pursue a girlfriend, over his own wife and children. It is horrible to watch a husband and father denigrate, dominate and abuse a family. It is a failure of epic proportions for a member of the clergy to engage in sinful pursuits, instead of denying his flesh and being spiritually pure. The implication? The Truth? That certain states or statuses afford a higher responsibility in self-sacrifice, and when that is failed, there is a circumference of damage that extends past the self.

May you pursue excellence in these four areas, this day and always.

(Do I find it ironic that the very person who birthed the quote, failed at every single one of these? Yes – but not surprising. Not surprising at all. Because there were moments in which Ernest Hemingway succeeded at them, too, and so he knew how to compare the two states – success and failure.)

God Grant You

Serenity prayer

Did you know that anxiety affects 18% of the population of the United States? (http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics) And treatment of anxiety is estimated to contribute about one-third of the total $148,000,000,000 annual mental health treatment “bill” in our country.

So much of our lives today involves decisions, people, and circumstances that are completely out of our control. We can devote so much time, energy, and love to our children and at the end of the day, there are still things that can happen that can change the course of their lives forever. We can pour our hearts into our marriages, and the other person could still choose to turn their backs on us. We could put all of our intellect and devotion into our vocation, job, or career, and we could still be cut by corporate layoffs or bad management decisions.

And still – it is part of our personal path to find our “happy place”, to seek peace despite our circumstances. Part of that process is finding support, especially if you experience anxiety. Sometimes you can get help by having a therapist explore new coping skills, but sometimes medicine is necessary in order to help balance out what your brain can’t do on its own. It may be necessary to use both tools in order to get totally well, and that’s okay; it is better to accept help and to be functioning, than to hide your pain, stress and anxiety. That approach can lead to all sorts of relational and functional problems, and can ruin your life.

It is also necessary, if you are experiencing long-term anxiety, to establish patterns of thought choices that enhance your life instead of diminishing it. For example, if you have negative internal thought patterns, you will have to train yourself to replace those negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts. This approach will take some time, but is an empowering method of self esteem rehabilitation and can also improve your physical health (Google “negativity and physical health” for info on how anxiety and negativity can make you sick).

The Serenity Prayer (pictured above) is a good start. Realizing that we are not in control of everything in this life, but that what we ARE in control of, we can take the reins of that and set the tone for – that is a very empowering thing. It is not a moment, per se, but an Attitude Adjustment that requires practice and gentle reminders. It may help you to copy the Serenity Prayer and post it somewhere noticeable – your dashboard, your mirror, your work desk, your fridge. Feeling helpful and powerful – instead of helpless – is a very good start onto the path of wellness.

If there is some event, some person, something that started you on the path to anxiety, personal uncertainty, or physical illness – let it go. Hand it back to the universe! If that means you have to write a letter and burn it in the backyard – do it. If that means you have to take all of the reminders around your house and throw them in the trash – do it. If that means you have to go to a therapist – JUST DO IT.

There is no time like Right Now, to start to get well!

Peace to you today.

What to read in 2015

bookshelfBecause reading tastes are so individual, I don’t really like to give suggestions in so broad a scale; but these are the books that I am going to / have read in 2015, and maybe something on here will strike your fancy, or resonate with you; you can check back with me if you have read them, and what you thought! (Leave feedback in the “comment” section) They are in no particular order.

1. “Unbroken”, Laura Hillenbrand

2. “A.D. 30”, Ted Dekker

3. “An Unbroken Bond”, Edie Lutnick

4. “Science and Human Behavior”, B.F. Skinner

5. “The Lake”, Banana Yoshimoto

6. “A New Psychology of Women: Gender, Culture and Ethnicity”, Hilary M. Lips

7. “The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living”, Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV

8. “Around the Next Corner”, Elizabeth Wrenn

9. “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”, B.F. Skinner

10. “Amrita”, Banana Yoshimoto

11. “When Everything Changes, Change Everything: In a Time of Turmoil, a Pathway to Peace”, Neale Donald Walsch

12. “Soul Detox”, Craig Groeschel

13. “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution”, Mary Eberstadt

14. “Hear the Wind Sing”, “Pinball, 1973”, and “A Wild Sheep Chase”:  (aka: “The Trilogy of the Rat”), Haruki Murakami

15. “Bolivie”, Alfonso Gumucio Dagron (essay)

16. “Death with Interruptions” (aka: Death in Intervals), Jose Saramago

17. “Equalizing Christmas”, Vassilis Steriadis

18. “Letter from Dublin,” Vicky Theodoropoulou

19. “Case Studies in Abnormal Behavior”, 8th Edition; Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver

20. “Finders Keepers”, Stephen King

21. “The Way of Serenity”, Fr. Jonathan Morris

 

 

 

 

On how if we lived in a peaceable society, I wouldn’t care whether every single one of you carried a gun.

guns

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …”
Samuel Adams
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, “Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State”

I believe in small government.  That being said, you might assume that I am a conservative (which I am not); and that I am definitely not a liberal (which, also, I am not).

How can that be??

How can someone be neither a conservative, nor a liberal?

Is this an inability for me to commit to something?  To allow myself to be “pigeon-holed” or labeled? Or something more sinister?

Like, having freedom of thought?

Look, let’s admit it: not a one of us is TRULY a conservative, nor TRULY a liberal, at least not in the sense that Fox News or CNN would feel 100% comfortable giving any of us an open mic, and then walking away.

I am both a bleeding-heart liberal (I believe in providing enough tax money to run excellent programs to provide for, and support, people with disabilities, addictions, or the widows and orphans among us) and a fiscal conservative (let’s shut down those “programs” that have proven themselves unworthy of our tax dollars or where corruption has been shown to siphon off enough money to run a small island country).

I am both pro-life and pro-support of single and adoptive moms: let’s stop pretending that full-scale education and access to contraception has reduced the abortion rate, because it has not. Let’s make sure that all children – whether in the womb still or already born – have access to proper health care and food and shelter and education, because we are the wealthiest nation in the Western world, and if the tax rates were equalized among classes (percentages at the federal and state levels; short-term welfare for those who truly need it – let’s say five years?; and work programs to get able-bodied and -minded people working), we would have enough tax dollars to do all of it.

The gun thing?

If we lived in a peaceable society, where those with mental health issues or sociopathic tendencies were cared for, and truly looked after, I wouldn’t care if every single one of you was packing heat.

But we don’t.

The drug trafficking across state lines is out of hand: the meth problem alone has so overwhelmed state and local agencies that they are left scrambling to follow the breadcrumbs back to the labs in rural areas.  Urban murder rates are high, and climbing higher.  Domestic abuse assaults and murders are truly only being affected by grassroots crisis intervention programs on the local level, where police are well-trained to intervene in domestic assaults, and equipped to immediately arrest them; and then the DA can prosecute the offenders. Neglected, abused, and assaulted children are using their parents’ weapons against them, are committing violence because they have seen it become the norm.

A majority of these deaths are being caused by the prevalence of cheap – and easy to come by – handguns.

Don’t talk to me of spoons or pencils or cars, and how they equate to guns – that’s nonsense, and you and I both know it.

If we were truly a peaceable nation, I wouldn’t care if every single one of you was packing heat.

We don’t live in Revolutionary War times; hell, we don’t even live in Civil War times anymore.

So why people have multiple weapons in a single household – it’s beyond me.  Maybe the level of fear that our violent society has instilled in the average suburban father (or mother) is the cause.

I would love to believe that Socrates would appreciate the level of truth-telling that gets spread around the news agency…that freedom would have inculcated love, and understanding of our fellow man, and that would have turned our hearts towards each other. But you and I both know that isn’t true. Why do we need multiple Law & Order and CSI shows? Because our overall society is so incredibly violent that they never run out of ideas.

It is lack of love for our fellow man – even our own families – that has bred such violence. And only the reverse can change that. Only the realization that we are all connected, that if one of us is abused, neglected, or diseased with hate – that all of us are infected: only THAT truth can turn anything around. Fear creates separation, creates hate, creates violence and contempt, creates murder and death.

So until we are a truly peaceable nation, I would prefer if every single one of you didn’t have one. single. gun.

 

 

 

on how faith is like a marriage

perfect love

(or, to see our perfect Father God – with our imperfect eyes,

but at least, to keep on looking!)

A life of faith is a series of decisions, not just one moment in time. Falling in love with God is reflected – here on earth – by what is seen in the faces of an elderly couple, 54 years married, as the husband gently tucks the wife’s feet under a sheet in the hospital. Faith is built – or destroyed – one action, one decision at a time. And just like a marriage, “alone time” with the Lord is required in order for intimacy, closeness, to develop.

Time in prayer is developed through practice, not accident.  And from year to year, that intimacy looks somewhat different.

Some months, you may spend your quiet time with God mostly in meditation, taking one name of God in Isaiah and reflecting on what that name means to you personally. Some months, you will spend in quiet remembrance of what God has challenged you with in order for your faith and trust in Him to grow. During other times, you may spend more time crying out to God in shame, fear, or anger for hardships that are assailing your family. Or during “dry” prayer seasons, to rely on rote prayer in order to connect when you don’t feel that close to Him.

The point is the relationship itself, not the perfection with which it presents itself to the world. And as your love relationship with God grows, you will find that your love for others – loved ones, friends, or even enemies – will grow along with it.

What is better to spend your “extra” time on? facebook? 😉

 

 

Life in Action

life and loveLife is about taking action, about weeding out and winnowing down that which corrupts us. Whether we are paralyzed by fear or pain, bad memories or relationships, anger or disappointment, the #1 person you damage by sitting in those (rust) spots is yourself.

Life in action. Take some time today, and then once a week, to look into the spiritual mirror and ask yourself, what should I get rid of? And to whom have I given the power to “make” me feel small, meaningless, belittled, invisible, scarred, less-than?

John 19:11:  “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

Think about that: people who have come in and out of your life and left you more scarred, bear the brunt of responsibility for that.

What you, yourself, bear the responsibility for, is letting go. For forgiving.

John 20:22-23: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ ”

Tomorrow – or on the day that I die – I want to know that I released anyone who has ever hurt me, that I have forgiven them. That doesn’t mean that they will be spared of the spiritual consequences of their actions, but it means that if I am successful in this, I will travel this road lighter – and cleaner! – then I would have, had I held onto that pain.

I love the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

May you be blessed with Serenity, this day and forevermore!