Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Staring at the SunI’m not the only one
Staring at the sun
Afraid of what you’d find
If you took a look inside

“Staring at the Sun” – U2

          It used to be that without my glasses I couldn’t see.  Then I got contacs.  Both helped my vision, but 20/20 sight doesn’t guarantee clarity.

We live in a really busy world.  We know this is true because we spend the majority of our day learning about the news and one another because we watch it on a screen.  Our phones, our laptops—we’re everywhere in hi-def and in real time baby. 

Yet we’re blind to some of our real defects:  Pride—an intransigent intelligence that’s always right.  Fear—standing still because we’re  too afraid we’ll fail or don’t know if we possess the disciplined changes success actually requires.   Apathy—Our permanent chair of comfort and convenience reserved for those of us who refuse to contemplate improving our lives or those around us.

 Can you even name your blindness?  This not knowing, or worse: not wanting to know.   Maybe there is something more than what lies between both your ears and behind your eyes.    What is it you choose not to see?

We are all like the books some of us used to read.  Some of us are titled with names so noble or we’re wrapped in colorful jackets so beautiful, we nearly fall into the laps of those begging to slather us with attention.  Others are like nineteenth century secret tomes with thick, dusty matte covers filled with ancient wisdom and epic adventures lived, but never imagined by others.   And yet each of us still have blank pages left that have the potential to be filled with characters, and events the mind can’t even conceive.

In our endless attempt to know more, we’ve become less.  Our lives don’t tell our stories.  Our Facebook pages and Tweets and Pinterests do.  We’re Linked In but we’re tuned out.  Tuned out of what?

Relating.

Living.

A lot of things…..….

I know.  I’m one of them.  I want to be a writer.  And possibly a photographer.  It’s hard, dare I say impossible to get your name and/or work out there without wall-papering the web with your work coupled with a few prayers.  Noticed is what we aim for. 

We spend hours of our lives now, staring at screens of alternating distractions, hoping to produce something of lasting or intrinsic value.

Always looking out, all eighteen inches of it, but never digging deep, we’ve fallen into a state of perpetual sleep walkers.  No wonder Zombies are in when it comes to entertainment.   These high-definition pasty, distorted, pie-eyed  brain-dead creatures mirror us more than we know.

We’re all staring at the sun.  This never-ending bright sunshine of glass and buzz and liquid crystal colors mesmerizing us with news and trivia and useless information.   It’s crack, and we don’t know it.  Or worse, we do but we grow peacefully comfortable as we slowly succumb to the blissful addiction of avoiding reality.

Try to break free if you can–if you dare.   Find out who you are. To really look inside yourself, you have to step out of that comfort zone!  Turn off the computer and write your bucket list today.  Because sometimes later never comes.   Especially when we’re all so incredibly busy.  Busy, staring at the sun.

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Bono Light IMG_6811 (2)

Let there be light!  That’s what God said when he first created the world.  But did you know, he also said it about us in Ephesians 5:8?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

 So what does this mean?  Does it mean live as if you’re a famous rock star and all the world’s a stage with the spot light on you?  Of course not; you already know this.

If you’re  Christian, you already know  just how dark, how shameful, how sinful you perhaps once were, or currently struggle with, or have the capacity to be.  That’s because our flesh wants what it wantsWe want control.  We want things, people, power or influence.    It’s the underlying motive beneath all our wants that determines whether we are walking as children of the light or darkness.

I snapped this pic of Bono at the 2nd of only three concerts I’ve ever seen him.  He was so close and yet….so far away.   It was taken with an ordinary point and shoot camera at just the right moment, a split second of perfect timing.   It almost seems like heaven’s light is shining down.

 But I know the truth.  Bono is only a man.  Nothing more; nothing less. He has made references before that he doesn’t feel comfortable if fans (strangers to him!) see him as a Messiah.  He’s clearly not.    Yet, he does carry a certain light, or at least seems to be perceived that way by tens (hundreds?) of thousands of U2 fans, and maybe even some people that aren’t even big fans of U2’s music.  

That’s because of his heart.  If you follow news about him then you know what he’s done to shine a light on Africa, and how he’s been instrumental in trying to reduce and eliminate hunger, poverty, political corruption, and the hopelessness these things cause.  You know he’s worked with world leaders in the political arena to bring attention and change to a silent suffering.  He’s used his rock star status to influence and to be a beacon of light—to bring attention to, hope, help, cure, and above all love at a time that clearly God has appointed for him.

He’s not Jesus.  But he gets it when it comes to carrying His light.  Yet it’s not Bono’s responsibility to carry it alone.  He’s a torch bearer.  He once sang, that “I’d join the movement, if I found one I could believe in.”    We live in a dark world in uncertain times.  But in a world of self-indulgent twerkers, endless me-centered  and copy-cat celebrities publicly showcasing their life of flashy material excess and simultaneous emptiness, Bono has been singing for quite some time to the beat of a different tune:

 A higher frequency.  This unmistakable calling of light.  The example of a love in action, not merely words spoken or sung.  He doesn’t just sing to us.  U2’s lyrics challenge us.  (“Am I buggin you?  I don’t mean to bug ya!”)  Kind of like Jesus.    How are you going to step out today knowing what you know of the world’s pockets of suffering?  Will you turn away in apathy?  Or will you reach out in faith  willing to risk  your reputation or security?     Are you brave enough to show goodness, kindness, compassion, or  mercy today to someone you don’t know or is hard to love? 

Truth has a way of showing us which direction we’re going to walk  in life. The incredible light that is ours simply by receiving.  This incredible gift of love that is ours to multiply simply by giving it all away.

So let there be light!  Because you too are loved!

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you? ” — William Arthur Ward

 Photo by Liz Gray

I saw this caption in a travel magazine promoting  tourism of the country of Turkey.  I saw it and immediately thought:  I wish that was my original idea!

It’s not.  But the practice of the concept can be an original idea for you, for me, for all of us, starting now:   This very moment.

Stop multi-tasking for a second as you read this.  Think about this deeply.  Look around.  Are you inside or outside?  If you are inside, where are you?  At home?  At work?  On a mobile device in the great outdoors?   Take a panoramic mental snapshot of what’s around you:  Architecture, mementos, photographs, nature, security, landscapes, gifts, birds, business, people, stars, flowers, insects, sky, sunrise, clouds–signs of life abounds everywhere.   When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Do you see beauty?  Do you see what God has created?  Even if it’s man made, did not God put the original idea, the skill set to craft, the desire to create, first in the mind of you or someone who thought I’m going to build this amazing bridge or paint this amazing portrait or mix compounds in a new way and create a cure.

We live in a distracted world.  For sure, we have inherited a problematic world that multiplies daily in terms of crisis and depth of despair.  The news sucks, people everywhere around us are sick and dying, we are overworked, underpaid, overstressed, and undernourished in every way—spiritually, physically, and emotionally.   We are slaves to too much technology.  We can’t keep up with our own self, much less anyone else.

How do you turn it off?  How do you silence all the chaos that surrounds you and ensuing drama in your head?  What is it that works for you?  Do you have something?

  • Supportive Friends
  • Faith
  • Prayers
  • Hope
  • Music
  • Art
  • Love of or for someone other than you

I hope you have one, two, or even all of the above!

      We can’t always change our circumstance in life.  That means there is only one thing we can change:

Our Perspective

      I don’t know about you, but when I look at the world, this is what I see:

Flowers, character lines on old faces, color, deliciousness, babies, painting, design, patterns, solutions, craft work, words, kindness, goodness, feats of wonder,  sculptures, melody, truth, beauty…….

On and on it goes.

Sometimes I complain, believe me I do!  But with faith and daily prayers, good friends who hold me accountable to truth I can live by, the symphony of music, and an attitude that is growing a little more each day in gratitude, I am discovering that God’s love for me is bigger than any problem or emotion.  I still don’t measure up to my ideal version of myself, but knowing God loves me despite my flaws (many) and forgives me despite my guilt (much) frees me from self-condemnation while at the same time humbles me that He still has even more blessing in store for me.

Faith as a belief is an essential partnership with God which allows you to focus less on you, more on God, less on circumstance, and more on acceptance of what is.  We can ride the wave, go with the flow, and bend like a willow tree.   Faith as a practice is not about appearing or trying to be perfect or fit a stereotype, but to be the real you as God intended in order to be at peace.   Quirky, funny, emotional, deep, driven, ridiculous…..whatever it is, just be YOU so you can get past all that and start tending to the needs of others.

May you step out today in courage and stop fighting that which you can’t control, start changing anything about yourself that you can and know you should, and may you have enough heart to look around and see beauty…..everywhere.  This is the confirmation that God sets in each of our hearts that whispers you too are loved. 

Ready?  One, two, three…..breathe in!  INHALE LOVE.  EXHALE.  GRATITUDE

MORE THOUGHTS ON FAITH AND GRATITUDE:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   Epicurus

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  A.A. Milne – “Winnie the Pooh”

 (Quotes from GoodReads)

Stepping Stones      Once upon a time, I was subject to all sorts of stress and chaos.  That’s because for many years I was under the dominion of feelings, rather than acceptance of reality.  That’s not to say that feelings aren’t real or don’t count; they do.  I’m just saying it can’t be what guides you.

Thankfully wisdom eventually comes the longer one lives. So when I saw these rocks at a gift shop recently, and knowing nothing is a coincidence, a vision of truth settled over me.  It was as if a 12 step program (okay fourteen, but who’s counting?) for our emotions was suddenly available in summary form.   I thanked God for the instant wisdom and beauty He had provided.  So when you’re down and out, start by taking baby steps towards the power generated in just a few words worthy of being carved on rocks.  Meditate on them and then implement these action-steps and you will begin to leave drama behind and move towards peace, joy, and positive decisiveness.  Love is a decision, so take the steps necessary to love your life!

BreatheBefore you lash out or make a decision based on how you feel right now, just breathe.  It sounds simple, but it can be elusive when you’re hyperventilating on anger or extreme sadness.  Stop!  Get grounded.  Take a step back.  And just breathe.

ChangeThere are only two things you can change in life:  Your situation or your response.  It’s that simple.  If you can change your situation, by all means do.  Dump that toxic relationship, go back to school, decide to get out of debt,  get rid of that which is holding you back,  apply for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for anyway, go ahead and write that book you’ve been contemplating.

But what about the boss who chewed you out?  The spouse who abandoned you?  The grown child who never calls you?  And every other situation under the sun that falls under the category “unfair”?   There is only one thing you can do.  Change your attitude or response.  Besides you have to.  Why let what you can’t control destroy your well-being and sense of peace?   Acceptance of others and their flaws sets you free.  Putting up boundaries by saying, “I can’t talk to you until you calm down” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that” and then leaving a heated situation, shows that you are in control of your life and that you respect yourself to not allow others to disrespect you.  Remember you don’t have to be right all the time or have to convince others.  The goal is to be at peace!

ChoiceMy favorite advice on choice is this:  Choose your suffering.  Essentially that means don’t waste your suffering.  The Bible even states that “in this world, you will have trouble.”  And that is no lie!  You don’t get to the end without experiencing tragedy, abandonment, loss, hurt, sadness, anger, and unfairness.  Kind of like change, you have to make a decision.  Are you going to let that which you can’t control destroy you, or rest as the rock foundation that you build your testimony on, and become a source of inspiration to others, and even yourself.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Tap into that strength.

CourageDare to face the horrible truths in your life that you’d rather not:  You have a problem.  Deal with it.  Get help when necessary.  Tap into your faith.  Call on your friends.  Don’t go through the hard stuff alone.   As you get rid of toxic relationships outside of yourself, you’ll find it’s time once and for all to deal with the habits and hang-ups that keep you from reaching your full potential:  Insecurities, lack of confidence, bad or destructive habits, or fear of failure.    Attack each of these self-destroyers with all the tools in your toolbox:  Faith, family, friends, and above all a willingness to change.   Each step you take in the direction of courage builds momentum making each subsequent step a little bit easier than the one before.

Dance Put on the jamz and pump up the volume.  Life is too short to purposely not do things that can bring you happiness and joy.  Why settle for ho-hum washing the dishes and vacuuming the house when you can crank up your favorite music and dance the night away as you work!  As long as your multitasking, at least do it with joy.  Throw off those shoes and dance.  Grab a partner and surprise them with the joy of dance.

Dream Never give up your dreams.  Never!  What is that thing you’ve always longed to accomplish?  Write a song?  Start a new career in a totally different field?  Lose thirty pounds?  Then be like a Nike ad and just do it!  Start today!  You have to start sometime.  Don’t let excuses or lack of time be your reason why you didn’t fulfill your dreams.  A little today is better than none tomorrow and the day after that.  Slow progression is the key towards long-term results.  The key is to act with intent on your dreams.

Heal What is it you need in order to heal?  Professional help?  Spiritual guidance?  The compassion of a friend?  Then seek it and don’t be ashamed.  Perhaps you just need time.  That’s okay too.  Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it allows us time to get our head together and weave that which hurt us into the fabric of our being, so that we can step out in courage anyway.  You wouldn’t let an infection on your skin fester and get worse.  It’s essential  that which troubles your heart or your mind be healed as well.  Don’t let pride stop you from getting the healing you need.

LaughGo ahead; lighten up!  Laugh at your mistakes, it’s okay.  Don’t be wound so tight, you can’t allow yourself to be human.  Go to a funny movie with a friend!  It’s good therapy.   Become mindful of joy and learn to laugh.  Laugh lines are more attractive than worry lines anyway!

Organize– Get rid of excess.  Everyday pick a room, a drawer, a box to organize.  Stop buying that which you don’t need.  Put things away as you use them.  Remember that it’s more fun to do and to be in life than it is to haveExcess of things don’t make us happy; relationships do.  We don’t get to take our things with us.  The only commodity we truly have in life is time.  Time to enjoy our life, but more importantly time to make a difference in the lives of others.  When you are organized, you have more time to see friends, volunteer, and get out in God’s beautiful world and enjoy all there is to see and do.

Play You work hard.  Don’t deny yourself this essential ingredient in life.  Get a hobby.  Play a sport.   Play with your kids and your pets every day if you have them.   When you play, you’re apt to laugh and that is good medicine for the soul.  Definitely find ways to play!

RelaxSimilar to just breathe, this is the mechanism you need to calm your soul and soothe your spirit.  It sounds easy, but how many times do we deny ourselves the opportunity to just relax because everything else seems essential?   Reading a good book or watching a great movie or just taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon can totally change our perspective when we’re stressed.  If you never have time to relax, than go back to organize.  What things, commitments, or excess people do you need to purge in order to enjoy the necessary stepping stone of relaxation?

RememberRemember others who are suffering and you can be a blessing to.  Remember the good things in life that God has blessed you with and choose to save some of them.  Take pictures of the good things.  Make a family scrapbook.  Have a treasure trunk where you keep mementoes of happy events.  Remembering that which brings us joy and leaving behind that which causes us pain is a great way to have a fulfilling and joyous life.

Rest We can’t organize, relax, remember, play, work, heal, dance, laugh, make necessary changes, or even dream if we don’t first get enough rest.  We were designed to rest for a reason.  When we allow our mind and body to recharge, we are taking the first step to complete all the others.   Get on a schedule and get the rest you need.

TeachTeach others life lessons you’ve learned so far.  Mentoring others is a great way to make a difference.  Also be willing to be taughtHaving a teachable spirit is also a key to wisdom.  Try not to take all advice, even when unsolicited, as a means to control you, but perhaps as a kernel of truth worth mining.  Having a teachable attitude means accepting that we don’t necessarily know everything.  And that’s okay.

Okay, so that’s 14 stepping stones to lead you to a better life.  But there is one that was left out intentionally.  All these stones, pale in comparison to the solid rock foundation they rest upon: 

FaithThe people I’ve known in life that have it the most together mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually have a deep faith that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.  Having faith means you personally don’t have to have all the answers or be in control.  That’s because when God is in control, someone bigger than you is in charge.   You don’t have to know everything or be responsible for every outcome.  Faith steps in when people step out.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself.  Faith is prayer.  Faith is active.  Faith is forgiving.  Faith allows us to love.  Faith is a conduit to all that is good in life Faith is more than a positive attitude, it is an assurance of things hoped for and not yet seen.   Sharpen your faith, and live the good life.


It happened.  That thing you hoped wouldn’t.  You know, that thing you had no control of.

In writing and in life, I keep coming back to this theme:  We are not in control. 

Words are flowing out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe

       First the tears fall down your cheeks.  Tiny pools of sorrow dampen the floor.

Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

      There was nothing more you could do.  You did your part.  You did all you could.  The rest is up to God.  You still believe God, don’t you?    Yes?  Good.  Then there is no problem here.

Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Still, it’s not fair!  Your spirit rebels.  I’ve got this, my child.  It’s not right.  You cry out because you’re hurting.  I’ve got this.  Let it go.  Do you trust me?

So you cry.  You cry until you feel dry.  There are no more words left to say.   This was never about you and what you wanted.  It falls under the category Higher Purposes.    My ways are higher than your ways you recall.  My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.

 Truth seeps in.  Doubts sit down for a while.  Cracks of light break through your tears given sufficient time to fall.  Your heart fell into darkness momentarily, but the light is slipping in and the dark is being forced to flee.

Images of broken light which
dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe

I’m not sure I understand this at all God.  You don’t have to.  You just have to let go and trust me. 

Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as
they make their way across the universe

I can’t think this one through.  I can’t find the reason to this one question:  Why?

You don’t have to have all the answers if you trust in Me.

Fine then.  I’m trusting You!  I’m stepping out in faith.  I’m leaving the comfort of my sorrows. 

Choose to be joyful.  Be grateful.  Be a light to others.

Sounds of laughter shades of life
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which
shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe

Several increments of time later:  You’re right.  I think I’m going to make it.  Even with scars, I’m going to be okay.

Indeed you will my child; indeed you will.

Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Something’s gonna change my world

Lyrics to “Across the Universe”  (center text) – The Beatles

 

There’s crack in everything; that’s how the light get in. – Leonard Cohen

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Sometimes it’s so hard to live in the now.  It’s so easy to stay stuck in what happened yesterday or what we either hope will happen tomorrow or what we fear may happen.   When I look back, I used to dwell more on negative events and conversations and stay there and it would cause all sorts of anxiety because of what may happen next in the future.  Conversations and events that never materialized were a constant companion, but not a very good friend.

But now I’m getting older and time is more precious.  If I’m going to rent space from the past or the future in my head, then it best be a good place.  I like to call it my happy place.  Indeed it is.

It’s sometimes accompanied by U2 music.  It might be one of their concerts.  More than likely it involves spending time with family and friends during the big and small moments that make life worth living.  You know these moments.  They are the ones that whisper to your soul:

Don’t forget this; try and remember every detail.

 Carve this memory in your heart; for it will warm you all your days.

     Funny thing is this:  It’s not the most extravagant place I’ve ever been.  It’s not the most famous person I’ve ever met.  It’s small.  It’s true.  Remember when Bono sings in “Miracle Drug” that, “Freedom has a scent, like the top of a newborn baby’s head.”

That’s it.   The memories of new life, or the beginning of an amazing journey, the moment that happens that you know from here out, everything is different, life is better, it’s richer, and it’s truer.  The moments that follow this one are enriched because they are defined by this one.

 

I think of walking and looking up at the tall redwoods of the Muir Woods north of San Francisco.  These trees are often thirty stories high, and they instantly shrink us as you walk their paths.  I think of wild horses that still run free when I stayed on Shackleford Banks off the coast of NC with my father when I was a little girl.  He built us a covered shelter out of drifted scraps of wood.

 

      I think of the homeless man on the corner I enjoy giving cookies to or a new shirt.  I don’t pity him, I only see him.  I see a soul who is worthy and smile because I know God sees him so much more.  I think of the sight of each of my children the first second I held them in my arms.  I will always believe in love at first sight.  Because it’s a repetitive theme, I know it’s true.

I dream of and for the future.   And sometimes I get a glimpse of events before they happen.  That’s a whole other story, but people that know me, know it’s true.    Call it a finely tuned sense of intuition, a gift, or a curse, I sometimes know before I know.  Both the good and the bad—shadows of the future come into view before the people or events that shape it will.  I’ve learned to appreciate it.    I can expect blessings and trials, but through both of them, I know I don’t walk alone.

When we start examining our hearts, it’s amazing what we find.  I think God is more likely to give us a “heads up” when we get honest with ourselves what hurts us, what inspires us, what delights us, what leads us to change, what challenges us and pushes us forward.   Before anything ever happens, do you first believe whatever happens, it will be used for your good, even if it is not good?   For that is freedom.

I always believe something is at work here, bigger than me, beckoning me to push through and go forward always.  To not look back and have faith even when the future seems so uncertain.   There will be hard times too, but I believe the God that took me this far, won’t abandon me later.

All we ever have is now, that’s why the cliché is true that it’s a gift called the present.  Every moment and event before this one lead you here.  Did you choose well?   There’s still time.   Tears, laughter, love, loss, abandonment, fulfillment, fear, grief, intensity, joy, hurt, love, disillusion,  ambition, passion—it’s all going to happen.  Maybe not today, but another time, another place.   Will you be ready?

Live ∞ Love ∞ Laugh ∞ Pray ∞ Listen to U2 ∞ Sing ∞ Trust ∞ Don’t Panic ∞ Feel ∞   Hear ∞ See ∞ 

∞  Ready?  GO!

WAR

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Christianity, U2, War, Wisdom
Tags: , , ,

War

Specialist Darrion Hicks – US Army

Broughton HS – Class of 2009

      I’m really upset about something.  A young man from my daughter’s high school returned home from Afghanistan this week.  Dead.  He came back in a casket.  He graduated two years before my daughter from the same high school with all the joy, promise, and expectation of a future that my daughter carries.  I didn’t know him.  I can’t stop thinking about him.

I admire his bravery and service.  I still believe it is the most courageous and noblest among us that choose to serve in the armed forces.  They serve because first they loved.

Still I’m so upset.  Musicians get it right before the rest of us sometimes.  I’m talking about war:

“War!  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!” shouts Edwin Starr with plenty of passion and soul enough in 1969 in his biggest hit “War” to protest the Vietnam War.

If you’re a U2 fan, it’s almost impossible not to be affected by “Ava Maria” sung by Bono and the great Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.   With artistic liberty and lyrical beauty they added some American lyrics.  But this verse is unmistakable as its truth is quietly sung:

And strength is not without humility
Its weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen who will not have to fight

      I think about this more and more these days.  I’m a fairly conservative person. I’m also Christian in my beliefs.  But you know what?  I don’t like the casualties and destruction of war any more than my liberal, apolitical, independent, Buddhist, New Age, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, or nearly any other “classification” of friends does.  In all my years, I haven’t met someone that says, “Yep, we need more dead people to bring about peace.”

I struggle internally as I try to understand what those in power have people fighting for.  Certainly I understand the need to defend one’s self, family, or territory when attacked.  Every person yearns to be free to choose their destiny and their beliefs in a land they can call their own.   Which provocations do we respond to and how?

It’s true; soldiers who fight on the front lines are never the ones in power that cause it to be so.  Politicians from all sides justify war to keep us safe.   And don’t forget:  War is big business.  No one can deny that war creates jobs and lots of money.   But for who?   At what cost?

Are wars just a land grab?  An unquenchable thirst for power?    Are they ever justified in the name of defense of freedom?     We could argue yes, and maybe no, to all of above—all with different view points.

Those of us who are still free, in our limited understanding, try to make sense of issues regarding politics, history, economics and vote our conscience in our quest to be both safe and free.    All the while, we know, the person we pick can guarantee neither.

Those in bondage of the evils of dictatorship have even more reason to fight for their freedom and security and are equipped even less to do so.  For those that seek to oppress ensure that the innocent and powerless are unable to do so.

Flip on the news on any given night and see entire towns bombed out, with women and children in tattered clothes searching for crumbs, a brick, a blanket, anything at all essential to their survival.    Syria comes to mind these days, and we a world away feel powerless, and we chase the bad images away.  Some of us pray.  Some of us do nothing but forget about it.  Some of us get angry and become activists.  Even our responses can divide us when we don’t agree with the responses of others we know.  Without even being aware, the war seeps in and expands.

 We are at war in the world, because first we are at war within.   As a Christian, I find this verse most sobering indeed:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask GodJames 4:1

    Desire is such a motivating force in our lives.  It propels us forward with our goals.  But when we covet something in such a way that we have to have what does not belong to us or is not intended for us, it will destroy us.   If not yourself, it will destroy that which you covet, if obtained by force.

We spend our lives tripping over ourselves because we can’t get other people to say what we want, do what we want, or be who we want them to be.  If they would just submit to our desire or demands, we could all live in peace we think.  At the very least, understand that we are right!    So we quarrel, then we fight, and taken to extremes– we kill.

The war within has been going on since the dawn of time.  If not harnessed and redirected, it will seep outward until we have a full blown sickness.

I’m not a preacher, but sometimes I’m accused of trying to preach.  If so, I apologize because I’m a lousy example of that which I profess to believe.  But believe it I do.  And strive for it I will.  Because I do believe this:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt: 5:9)

God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. (Prov. 3:34)

     I’m getting older and the small things in life aren’t worth fighting over.  The big things are out of my control anyway and I can’t seem to resolve those through people anyway.    I can only control me—my thoughts, my desires, my actions.  Oh sure, I trip about a dozen times a day, but I’m remembering more than I’m forgetting and for that I’m grateful.

If I could stop war and change the world, believe me I would. I can’t. You can’t either.  We can only fix ourselves.  And with all humility and a touch of humor I humbly beg you—PLEASE DO!

And for U2 fans, a little bit of U2 wisdom here:

Lay down
Lay down your guns
All your daughters of Zion
All your Abraham sons
I don’t know if I can make it
I’m not easy on my knees
Here’s my heart and you can break it
I need some release, release, release

From “Love and Peace or Else” – U2

For Specialist Darrion Hicks and His Family:  

I salute you and thank you for your service. 
May God bless you and your family eternally. 
I cherish freedom and life each day because your courage went before me.  
Rest in peace.

PRESS PLAY:  A SONG TRIBUTE FOR DARION:

 

The hardest part of pursuing life as an artist is certainly focus.  We feel as if we were born to create and it’s always imperative to get it done when inspiration hits.  Sigh–it’s the day job that gets in the way sometimes.  So how do you endure until the wee hours after midnight to pursue your craft?

Simply put, you wait.  You have to focus on the task at hand, the same way you do when you’re painting the next masterpiece or composing a new song.  You already know spending “eight to ten in the pen” (hours in the cubicle) has a buzz-killing effect on inspiration.  Wait long enough, and you’ll be completely blocked once you finally have free time to create.  I’ve done that.  Sit down at the computer.  Type the word, “The”.  Yep, on some nights that’s all she wrote—quite literally.

On a beautiful day, it feels unbearable knowing mere yards away from your place of enslavement employment,  life is happening all around you!  Cars honk, buses and taxis buzz by, and pretty people are sipping lattes and eating attractive food at nearby cafes while you furiously attempt to meet deadlines imposed by others.  Wealthy execs are swinging the club on the greens during a working lunch, and others are sipping chardonnay while eating their tuna nicoise salads with friends before their redecorating appointment.   Playgrounds are a buzz with summer activity with moms and dads that are spending the day with them!

I just want to live!  If only I could live you think!  There has to be more than this in life!  You quickly remind yourself of the bills that demand you stay put, and the disaster that would ensue if you suddenly said, “take this job and…..”   Well you know the rest.

Moments like this call for super human mental strength!  They call for:

Sitzfleisch!

Sitzfleisch is German and means both these things simultaneously:

  1.  A person’s buttocks
  2. The ability to endure or persist at a task, to sit through or tolerate something boring.

Another way of saying it is, “Sit your butt down and get it done.”  Why do I hear the sound of a teacher’s voice in my head as I write this?

I know.  Work life can sap the life right out of you sometimes.  I’m trying these days to persist at writing–something I hope to eventually do professionally .  Right now is the hardest part.  This is the time that the discipline of practice and patience to persevere when you’d rather be doing other things is required.

See most of life is like this.  We’re over here wishing we were somewhere out there. 

Ain’t happening.  Nope.  We’re called to suck it up and deal. 

I have a favorite bible verse related to patience:

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  Psalm 40:1

This sentiment is nailed perfectly in the U2 song “40”.  How long, Lord?  How long?

How long must we endure a long day at a job that’s well…..ho-hum, but it pays the bills?

How long do we put up with an unbearable situation or injustice?

How long do we live not in “our truth” but in “others’ expectations of us?”

God may appear silent, but that doesn’t mean He’s unaware.  I’ve never known the answer to “How long?”  I only know the response is to be patient and endure at the task at hand.

  • Finish the job you are doing right here, right now, first!
  • Try and endure the hard thing that feels like it may swallow you with grace and prayer as you wait.

Being patient requires we release control of the situation.  Enduring our task demands that we cross the finish line.  We don’t quit or give up when our circumstances or our feelings seem hopeless.  We trust as the answers are still fleshing themselves out.

God rewards our faith and our patience.   Stand firm.  Have faith.  Finish what you start.      Your day will come.  Until then…..sitzfleisch!!

 

     Wild Child!   Such a fitting nickname for me, and so many of my friends—that is if we were still stuck in the 1980s.  Ah yes, the carefree 1980s when life was a continuous party, with intermittent breaks reserved for school and part time jobs.  Oh wait, that’s right, we brought the party with us then, so school really was a place of “higher education” and retail and fast food jobs could be experienced as “funemployment”.

Bonfires, boys, beer cans, secrets, laughter, dreams, and things with a funny smell were passed haphazardly amongst friends–we dreamers who were grappling with an idea of what we wanted, but still couldn’t quite name.    Though we were young, clearly we had left childhood, yet still had no clue what it meant to grow up—yet.

Who doesn’t remember the boy or girl at the party who was the center of attention, you know, the one who everyone said, “Man, he (she) is TOTALLY

Out of Control!

      Why that was a badge of honor!  It meant you were superior at taking risks, yet skilled enough to stop with smoke coming off your heels, before diving off a cliff completely.

Fast forward the VHS tape of our lives about twenty five years.  Out of control takes on a different meaning.  Translation:  I’m losing it! 

It means you still don’t quite have it together yet.  You grew up.  You became responsible.  You make lists of things to do, schedules for work, family, and activities.  You call people back, as well as reply by email, text, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which we missed out on in the 1980s.  You either faced someone in person or phone, or avoided them, plain and simple.  Now there’s no excuse for avoidance—we can be stalked by phones (of the land, cell, or smart variety) computer, and quite possibly GPS.

Back in the 80’s we lived, and dreamed about working—a little.  Now we’re “on” 24/7 and are most likely on speed dial with our boss, our clients, our spouses, our kids, our friends, and extended family.  Now we work a lot, and dream about what we would be doing if we were actually living.  You know what I mean, that thing we’d be doing, when we weren’t being so frustratingly responsible.

Hear me correctly.  Responsibility is good; no, it’s great!  We all can think of the self-chosen few who didn’t take responsibility seriously and missed the boat in terms of careers, family, or being independent.   It’s just that with all the responsibility that continuously weighs on us, who doesn’t dream from time to time of just letting go for a while.

Somewhere around forty plus, you realize you’re at the mid-way point.  You question yourself.  Am I successful (enough)?  Did my family/life turn out the way I hoped, more or less?  Should I have become more?  Should I have worked less?  Am I where I am supposed to be?

Maybe you grew up and made good choices and tried to do everything right.  Still:

Life happened.

People still died.  The divorce happened anyway.  You got let go, after all those years.  You had to downsize from your dream home.  Someone you loved abandoned you.  Your child rebelled anyway.  You were told your child has autism.  You didn’t think your spouse would get cancer so young.  Or maybe, you became a smashing success, but somehow the happiness you thought was attached to it, eluded you anyway.

Here’s the deal:  It was always about control.  In our rebellious youth we acted as if we didn’t need it, and by the very act of pretending and avoiding it; we proved we were already mastering deception–the very foundation of control.

Yes, we post our notes, and fill our calendars, and answer our email, all the while, we kid ourselves thinking we know what tomorrow brings.    Yet we know we’re just one phone call away from devastation, or a kiss away from an unforeseen good-bye, and sometimes the miracle moments too, the ones you never saw coming that leave you breathless.  Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that in our heart we make our plans, but God always directs our steps.

We crave control, and try to order our lives in such a way that we appear to have it.  But if you’re like me, God will occasionally interrupt your bliss and hand you a six-pack of situations.  Pop!  ZZZZZZZ!  Start chugging baby.  Before you have time to accept the harshness of the first bitter swallow, BLAM!  Have another one baby!  And another!   Go ahead; drink your fill!  There’s more where this came from!

    I’m not calling God a party-crasher.  I’m just saying– none of us get to stay at the party of endless fun!  We all get called to come home.  Funny thing is, when we surrender our need for all of it, all this control, and can truly turn to someone higher than ourselves, we can finally rejoice in letting go of what we never really had.

We’re out of control though.  It happens.  IT HAPPENED!  Out of control.  OUT OF CONTROL!!

We got spirit, we got soul!  We got some big ideas; we’re out of control!!

— Bono at Glastonbury 360  6/24/2011

LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

Posted on June 21, 2012

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.  ~Cleveland Amory

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why.  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?

Suggested Listening:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdt9kE58uww&feature=related

“Love and Peace or Else” — U2