Truth and Courage

definition of courage

The word “courage” and the word “truth” are intimately connected…in my book, anyway. While the word courage is often identified with magnanimous feats in history, of war heroes and historical figures and fictional super heroes, I think its most important function is as the foundation for truth. Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, speaking your truth takes more courage than most would admit, especially, given the temperament of the world today. Given the blatant disregard for truth that exists within powerful hierarchies and the level of sophistication of the lies told, it becomes an even greater challenge to recognize what the actual truth really is so that telling the actual truth becomes an even more courageous exploit. In order to combat the pathology that a culture of lies create…we all need to embrace the courage to tell our own personal truths first, and then stand together when those talented liars who lie try to attack us for it. Once you stand for truth, I’ve found, it is intolerable to accept or perpetuate lies coming from anybody else. And it is speaking out against those lies where courage is so necessary…because there are plenty of people in the world who are not only content with those lies, but thrive on them.

Stripping down the illusions that I surrounded myself with took the greater part of my lifetime and I found the courage to wipe those illusions away in large part because of my faith and a deep experience of unconditional love of God and also those brave souls who’ve shared the stories of their hearts and showed me a different facet of life through their experiences. Being on the beneficiary side of those personal stories revealed to me a broader truth and with every story a greater perspective. Championing truth requires perspective, and since I only have one set of eyes and limited control over my physical movement I often depend on listening to other perspectives to expand and form my world view. As I’ve mentioned before, truth is not two dimensional, it demands we move and try and see things from a different angles and perspectives. Once you strip your own life from illusions it isn’t as difficult when listening to another’s perspective to tell who is being truthful and who is either lying to themselves or has too high a stake in believing the lie. That was a hard statement to write because am I not prescient (well, maybe a little), and certainly don’t want to inhibit anyone from telling their story, but this isn’t about judgement, its about truth. I want everyone to be able to share their truth…I’m just saying that there are some criteria that I use in deciding whether or not I allow their perspective to shape mine or not.

Fear is the first condition I have for rejecting someone’s perspective. Perpetuating fear is the opposite of courage, and is the true cause of hatred in this world. Please let me be clear, being afraid is not the same thing as rooting one’s perspective in it and using it to justify your choices and behavior. Because fear is the greatest illusion of all, truth cannot exist in someone who roots their ideology in fear (1John 4:18), I don’t care if what they are afraid of is the devil, a political party, race or gender, or an intimate partner. It is embracing courage to face your fears and not be controlled by them that frees your heart to speak your truth. And speaking that truth literally makes you free and will distinguish you from the rest of the population who simply succumb to lies that feed their fears.

The second condition is the willingness to change. This is a bit of a slippery slope, because I certainly am not talking about being malleable, to change in accordance with everybody else. I’m also aware that change happens over time and never all at once. I’m talking about the willingness to make necessary changes that must be made in a person’s life when things aren’t working, or honesty when you decide you’re just not ready to make a needed change. Change, while inevitable, is still one of the things that is hard for most people, and it takes a lot of courage to do so. We tell people up front at our clinic that we can’t “fix” anybody without their help. If they are unwilling to change bad habits, there is nothing we can do to help them turn their health around…the individual themselves is the change agent, not those who are supposed to magically fix them. And there are those who will try and convince you that “they” can fix you. It’s just not true. I am the superstar in this equation, I make the changes, I reap the benefit for doing so.

The third condition are those who refuse to take responsibility for their lives and blame others for their life challenges. People who are never responsible for anything that happens in their lives and can point a finger at everyone else but themselves, are not being courageous or truthful. Again, while there are plenty of people who are tragically victimized or face tragic circumstances, I am not talking about them. I am speaking about those who consciously refuse to proactively engage in finding a solution to any problem they face, and instead find a scapegoat to vent their rage and frustration, even if they turn it inward on themselves. While blame may give momentary solace, it never fixes anything and is the source of some of the greatest conflicts in history.

Lastly, are those people who allow structures and institutions in our world to¬† control them and tell them who they should be in a way that redefines them according to to the acceptable norms within the structure or institution. They tell them who they should be instead of who God created them to be. While I understand civilized people embrace certain behaviors, like the golden rule for instance, those structures whose purpose is only for power and control and superimpose a perspective at the detriment of an individual…I reject. So when someone tells me that God deplores homosexuals, or black people are inferior, or illegal aliens don’t deserve humane treatment, or their “faith” is the only true faith, I know right away they really don’t understand God at all.

All in all, I think truth and courage go hand in hand. It is difficult to share your truth when there are people who would condemn you and judge you for it. It also takes courage to speak truth to power again for the same reasons. I struggle at times worrying about the consequences of the words I speak, I’ve had my share of condemnation and judgment too. But the alternative would be to lie and that’s just not possible at this stage of the game. So, today I pray for courage and to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart.

 

More prayers for you on my Birthday

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Today, I celebrate the anniversary of the day I arrived on this planet. Today I feel joy because: I am surrounded by a loving family, I am empowered by a loving God, I choose love as my focus and energy, and I embrace truth. justice and the American way ūüôā So here goes…

  1. I pray you be kind in thought, word and deed…the world is in desperate need of your kindness, make it your superpower.
  2. I pray for you to stand for truth in all that you do, especially when it may appear to be against your own interest, watch how it can transform that moment. In truth there is always greater freedom. Lies deteriorate God’s Kingdom in this world and we have the power to stop it.
  3. I pray you come to realize how important you are to the fabric of this world. Your golden thread holds many other threads in place to show and become an even greater beauty. Never underestimate God’s blueprint, every thread is counted.
  4. ¬†I pray that you release fear in your life. It is a source of animosity and judgment, and inhibits your ability to be all that God intends for you to be. Find comfort in knowing that when God is for you, nothing will come between you and God’s power.
  5. I pray your eyes are open to the wonder of God’s creation and that you can take precious moments to let the beauty of our world sink in and nourish your soul and¬† in so doing you recognize your own beauty.
  6. I pray you see clearly the impact you have on those around you and that your love, hope, faith, kindness and truth do influence and affect them. I pray that you’re open to receiving the same from them. I know sometimes its easier to give all those things out than receive them.
  7. I pray that you can ask for forgiveness as well as forgive others for any intended or unintended¬† hurts. Most importantly I pray that you forgive yourself. We are all imperfect and our journey on this earth isn’t about being perfect but growth.
  8. I pray that you find happiness and contentment in all you do, and if what you do doesn’t make you happy, I pray for the strength to find what does and do that.
  9. I pray that you find a way to laugh everyday, it will do your brain good!
  10. I pray that this next year we all find ways to rise above all the negativity and work together to build the Kingdom of God. And I pray we remember every day that all things are possible through God

Truth and Love

truth and love

We love, because we were loved first. This is my foundation, my starting point for everything. I would not be me without this truth at my core. This axiom directs everything I do, and sustains all my hope in dark times. It took the vast majority of my focus and energy as I moved forward in my faith life as a young girl and woman to wrap my head around this central truth of Christianity: I am loved by an omniscient God, who is the source of all things…me, and by the sacrifice of Christ I have eternal life. Scripture says that we are born anew, we become infinitely more. The struggle of my lifetime is in the manifestation of and how the world expresses love. How do I stand out as the recipient of supranatural love? There are these verses that have helped guide me on my journey:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1John: 18,19

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35

“Teacher,¬†which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him,¬†“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:¬†You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39

For God so loved the world that he gave  his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. John 3:16

Historically, I think Christianity has forgotten that the core of our faith isn’t the accumulation of power and wealth, dogma, edicts or an exclusive club that closes off the power of that love and sacrifice to other faiths. It¬† isn’t about structure or rules. The core of how we express our faith is in Jesus last command to his disciples: “They will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.” John 13;35. Sadly,¬† I would say that after all this time we have failed in that regard.

The truth about love, is that we have let human frailty, human insecurity, our fears, injuries and judgments, redefine what love is. As a society we seem to have decided that love must look a certain way, must be earned, or extended to only a privileged few, and that is the biggest of all lies. In truth it is the exact opposite. What we know about love is that:

it is patient.

it is kind.

it is not jealous.

it is not pompous.

it is not inflated.

it is not rude.

it does not seek its own interest.

it is not quick tempered.

it does not brood over injury.

it does not rejoice over wrongdoings.

it rejoices in the truth.

it bears all things.

it believes all things.

it hopes all things

it endures all things

Love never fails.

 

That is what love looks like. It never says that it only for the beautiful or the young. It never says anything about being sexy or hearts or being soft or frilly. It is a force as stern as death (Song of Solomon) it’s free to everyone, there is no shortage because its infinite source is what we attest to believe in…God. While love may move our expressions, it is not defined by them. Love is so much bigger than our expression of it. Like music, its melody changes with each individual and situation. When love is the guide, it not only changes how we see the world, but how we live in it. It is only when we do that, that we will be known as Jesus’ disciples…by how we love. It never fails. Humans fail, but love never does…because God first loved us…and that is the best truth.

Truth and Complicity

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My stomach grows increasingly tight, often triggering my autoimmune symptoms as I move forward in my year of truth…and I’m not even half way through. “Be careful what you pray for”, is a statement that I find both disconcerting and freeing at the same time. I’d be lying if I said it was easy to move fearlessly into the future with truth as my primary weapon of choice to break down the lies and illusions that seem to be well, just everywhere…and I’m certainly not just projecting the lies that exist in the outside world because I face my own every day, I have to say, just in case you see me as some self righteous lunatic. I know it is hard to come face to face with personal truths, but as Jesus said: “how can you point out the speck in another’s eye when you can’t even see the plank in your own”. I am also aware of an intrinsic flaw in my character of being so intense about something that I can get in my own way. I hear my fathers voice daily telling me to lighten the hell up…and breathe, for God’s sake. And then say, “All will be well, and the manner of all things will be well” (Julian of Norwich) and try to move on and forward. We are all works in progress, right? So here goes…

We are surrounded by lies. There are powerful people in the world that are making it their goal to obfuscate the truth almost everywhere you turn, often to avoid being held accountable for their own actions, even if it ruins lives. And, based on a dream I had last night, we are all complicit if we don’t take every measure to verify and fact check what we are hearing every day. If you only get information from one source and use that source to bolster the unchecked rhetoric flying around out there because it¬† validates your world view and personal bias, blame and bent (and it can come from just about everywhere, from politics, to healthcare, to education) then you are being complicit in the attack on truth. There is no justification for the willful blindness that perpetuates itself throughout the media. And yet I am astounded everyday at the next new attack on the truth and how easily people are willing to just comply with or ignore it.

Try and think of it this way…God is the truth, and in my faith, Jesus is truth as well and even died for it. So, every time you believe a lie by your complacence and not by naivete or ignorance, you act in defiance of God, and when you condemn the truth because it challenges you, you condemn yourself and you turn from God. It. Is. As. Simple. As. That. For if believing in and following some self serving myth that feeds ones basest desires is more important than working hard to find the truth of the matter at hand, then you are being complicit in those lies. What good are the moments in scripture when Jesus rails against the liars and hypocrites if none of us are willing to stand in those very same shoes as if he is railing against each of us individually? Love of God is expressed through word and deed, which is why Jesus was so hard on those in leadership positions who looked so holy on the outside but were full of evil on the inside. My original post for today was about truth and love, which will have to wait until a later date. In truth, I didn’t want the backlash of what my heart really needed to say: if you can’t stand up for truth, you don’t stand up for God. It sounded just too mean. and talking about love is much nicer…and then I had a dream:

I was in a crowd of people who were basically talking crap and spreading rumors with no questioning of their validity or factual basis. I felt I had to say something, and it was a bit lame or innocuous, like “you really shouldn’t be talking about people like that”. I left the room and then I became the one they talked about…and I lost it. I went back in the room and railed against all I know from all I’ve learned in my life and I made them answer my questions about whether what they were saying was accurate, good or kind. They said nothing and sat there stunned. I felt better.

I don’t really think deep down most of us want to be complicit in a culture of lies…but it has become too easy to do so. When life is good financially, or when a lie benefits you personally its too easy to look the other way. That is simply unacceptable. For our actions and inaction have consequences. And if you’re like me, you want to be on the right path, and never become complicit in perpetrating lies and illusions. So when I am unclear (which is a lot of the time) I always use a prayer of Thomas Merton to give me solace when I’m unclear what to believe:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone

Truth vs Fear

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So here’s something all humans have in common…we are all afraid of one thing or another. Here’s another thing…it’s not always clear what exactly it is that we are afraid of, and that is where truth becomes essential, otherwise, it’s difficult to control the negative behavior that fear inspires. Just google: fear as a source of negative behavior, and you’ll see what I mean. From a theologian’s perspective…fear is the antithesis of love, and will impede the work, the gifts, the power of God.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love 1 John 4:18

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,¬†¬†Father!” Romans 8:15

Peace  I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

Truth, is the armament of love.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And truth will keep fear at bay…but not if we don’t face it, accept that we have it, and work to overcome it. At the core of Christianity is the belief that on our own, salvation is impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible. My struggle in my over inquisitive mind is this: If this is true, then after all this time, where is the ALL possible? What are we, as Christians, doing wrong? While the answer to that question is demonstrably huge and complicated, I keep coming back to fear and behavior. When we let fear dictate the course of our actions and behavior, we do not act in accordance with the belief that in God we can do all things. It is a direct affront against that basic tenet. And well, that sucks because I come face to face with fear every day. Questions like: Am I enough, Did I do that right, Was that unkind, should I do more…the list is endless. When I am truthful about my fears, however, and ask God to help me overcome them…the power of that fear fades. More importantly, when I face the consequences of fear based behavior, I become even more determined to not let that behavior dictate future decisions…because those decisions have never taken me to a better place, ever.

I will also say this: pretending that we are not afraid, or pretending that fear is justified gives it strength over our future behavior. And if we can’t handle personal fears and the behavior it inspires, there is no hope that we can conquer fear on a larger level. I just don’t think its possible. And I don’t mean any of this in the way of chastisement, not at all. It should be a source of great comfort to know that nothing will stand in the way of God’s love for us and any and all the fears out in the world. It should cause a huge wave of relief.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid?

Truth and Veracity

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Veracity is the habitual observance of truth in speech or statement, a conformity to truth or fact. I sat and read over that statement about a million times. Veracity should be one of the top qualities of any person of integrity. Most people I know would consider themselves veracious…and I would agree, most of the time. So here is when it becomes difficult for me, when I become almost speechless with incredulity; what does it mean when typically veracious people buy into and align themselves with blatantly untruthful, biased, and morally questionable people? Is it ever acceptable to disregard a person’s behavior in support of the ideology or an agenda they represent? Can one claim a path of truth which is sullied by lies and deception? I don’t believe that is remotely possible. The onus is on the person who is committed to the truth, to align with those who are also committed to truth. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But when there are entities who engage in a war of liar, liar, pants on fire…what do you do to find the truth? I would say the first step is to go back the to first statement I made: the habitual observance of truth in speech and statement, conformity to truth or fact. Find those kind of people. Finding veracious people doesn’t necessarily mean they will think exactly like you do, or have the same ideology, but it matters how they behave in the pursuit of those ideas. It’s all about behavior people, and paying attention to and holding them accountable to it.

Truth is hard enough individually, so why forsake it by putting trust in someone who is not? The foundation of truth rests not in just what comes out of a person’s mouth, but how that person behaves. Words are held up by behavior, not by claim or title. Jesus is very clear about this in Matthew 23: 25-28:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

Given that the very thing that drove Jesus crazy was hypocrisy, this is the behavior he expects from his faithful servants:

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely¬†29¬†and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

So as I struggle with standing on my soapbox, I remember to act as if Jesus is coming today, and try and emulate his final command: “they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another”

Truth and Perspective

truth and perspective

Look at the above picture. One person sees a square, another sees a circle. They are both correct in declaring what they see. Except what they see as individuals doesn’t create a full picture. The object itself is greater than just one perspective, it demands that we see it from three dimensions, from different angles. The problem lies when a person who sees only the square tells a person who sees the circle that what they see can’t possibly be true…that they must be lying, crazy or guided by some nefarious force because it is absolutely crystal clear that what they see is the only correct perspective of the above image, and from their vantage point they would feel certain in their position. The person who sees only the circle may feel the same way. Except both would be wrong, the object is a cylinder that expresses both a circle and a square depending on where you are standing. The truth is never two dimensional, ever. But we seem to live in a time where people think it is, and that is the real root of our problems today.

As an individual, you may be clear on your perspective, but when you rigidly stand in one place, refusing to listen to another who offers another angle and then vilify them for it, to refuse to stand in their shoes, and see something from their perspective, I truly believe that you don’t really want to understand the greater truths of the world. To expand your perspective lies at the heart of the Gospels. Jesus asks us constantly to stand in another shoes, to not judge, to love our neighbor, to treat the least of society with great respect. And while I understand that to your eyes, what you see is definitely a circle or a square, I’m asking you to walk, move around to another angle and see if your perspective changes. You may be surprised. You may be angry. You may even still refuse to step away from your initial perspective because of a deep hurt, pain, past mistreatment or judgement. But the truth is never flat, two dimensional or rigid…its just not. If you want the truth, you have to move beyond where you are standing right now. Otherwise you will be ever caught in a lie, regardless of how real it looks to you.

I feel like a circle person living in a square world a lot of the time. I don’t like it much, especially when I read such derogatory descriptions of circle people, because I’m nothing like that. I also get frustrated at the judgments hurled at square people by other circle people, because I live among them and find their judgments faulty as well. Notably, I do see that both sides are just sick and tired of being judged. So lets move people, lets walk outside our perspective to see the truth from 360 degrees. That begins by listening, talking and the goal of wanting a greater truth.

Truth vs Opinion

Facts+are_+Opinions+are_

I think this is going to be the biggest struggle of our time…learning to distinguish between truth and opinion. They are not the same, and they are not equivalent by any shape of the imagination. An opinion, while often containing truth, doesn’t require any at all. I could state quite correctly that it is my opinion that the sun revolves around the earth. It wouldn’t be true, but it still would be correct in that it was an opinion. Truth is rooted in facts, actual events, often seen and experienced from a variety of angles and perspectives. I could also say the same statement and it wouldn’t be true at all because the earth revolving around the sun has been corroborated by a variety of facts and evidence. So you can have an opinion about anything you want…it just won’t necessarily make it true.

Opinions can often be stated as fact, as they often are in the political realm…again, that doesn’t make them true, even when they seem real and convincing. That is why it is so important to work hard to find the truth of the matter at hand. I know it can be difficult sometimes. We all have that tendency to want to believe scurrilous information about people we don’t like, but it can lead down a very dangerous road if the veracity of that information isn’t checked by a variety of sources. Something may look like it is a legitimate news story, but when scrutinized and fact-checked it may fall very short of the truth. I know it happens on both ends of the political spectrum, which is why each individual who cares about truth, must be diligent in making sure what information they ingest is accurate. More and more information out there in cyber, satellite, and cable worlds are not. There are many out there who would sway the masses for nefarious reasons and when you buy in quickly without any effort to challenge the information then you are part of the problem.

I get very concerned about leadership conflating their opinions with truth, because they are not the same, yet they encourage their supporters to think that they are. Calling someone a liar or a criminal doesn’t make it true. Facts make those suppositions true, not one’s position in the world, commitment to a particular opinion or how often its repeated. Those of us that are committed to truth often have the most difficult job of all in pointing out inaccuracies, asking hard questions, searching other sources and speaking truth to power. It’s hard and often demoralizing when someone who is so committed to an opinion¬†cares less about the facts that poke holes in that opinion than the opinion itself. Remember, stating an opinion is fine, but only facts make it true.

For now, I’m more comfortable working to find truth on my own than rely on someone’s opinion. I’d rather say I don’t know because I don’t have enough information than be swayed by name calling and political extremism. Those kinds of opinions benefit no one and don’t bring anyone closer to the truth. I also heed the words of Jesus when he said (and I have a feeling I will be quoting this a lot this year)
By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

 

Devil May Care

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Don’t worry, I’m not going all horror story, but I do think the biggest block to recognizing truth are our own personal demons, deep seeded fears, and dark secrets that we keep putting layer upon layer of subterfuge on so we don’t have to deal with their often painful realities. I consider myself lucky in this regard because over the last three years I have ripped off enough of that subterfuge, like ripping off a band aid, to warrant a transfusion. I am¬† proud of all the work I did recognizing and coming face to face with myself, both flawed which I was already good at noticing and unrecognized¬†beauty which I often never saw at all. In hindsight, I’m glad that there seemed to be a plan from above because I’m not sure if I could have withstood it all in one fell swoop. And no, there will be no details. We all get to deal with our own demons, and keep them private from those who care more to relish in others discomfort than face their own…I’ve learned that the hard way too. I think God has always understood that my deepest desire was to use my talents to the best of my ability and so put me on a path to do just that. The blessing about God being the only omniscient one in our relationship is that if I would have had that kind of foresight, I’m not sure I ever would have taken the journey.

In learning to see myself, and love her…I’ve learned to be more accommodating and accepting of others. That last statement seemed so silly and obvious when I wrote it…and I’ve heard it in a million ways at a million different times. The difference lies in taking it out of the conceptual level and really do it in practice every day. On my most difficult days along this journey, the anger I felt toward (excuse the expletives) every mother f***ing person who deceived, lied, hurt, ignored, talked about, underestimated, or didn’t see, me¬† was as much a result of my own sadness at my place in the center of it all. I know the ones closest to me felt much of that wrath, and I am sorry for it. And still, I am fine with who I am at the center of my world today because I finally see and understand, (through my family, whom I love) at my deepest core I know that I am a good person, who only wants to do good in this world. I am honest, spiritual, and exceptionally powerful in my own way. And I know my power comes from this simple belief: When God is for me who can be against me. When this unbounded love, (God and love are the same thing for me) flows in, around and through me, I am the truest version of me, and the most powerful.

So, for truth to mean anything at all, one must look at oneself first. Uncover what you’ve been hiding all this time, see it, own it and only then can healing happen. More probably you’ll see just as much beauty too…and that is God’s best truth. Then, and only then can you learn to also see the world for what it truly is, and go from there.

Truth, in Every Sense of the Word

truth

As I begin the New Year with fresh resolve, I can’t help but feel a little anxious about my newest year long commitment: truth, in every sense of the word. Today, the edges that contain me seem less defined, more transparent, less protected, and after my prior commitments of years past: asking God to open my eyes to see and ears to hear, clarity, and understanding and celebrating the fruits that each of us uniquely hold, I think¬† those once defining lines may dissolve completely. I’m not sure if it means that what people see is without any illusion or embellishment…but I certainly hope so. I’ve also spent the last few days wondering if I am afraid of the personal exposure that truth brings and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t think I am. One of the parts of this journey I’ve asked for and taken is to weather through every step, every obstacle that comes before me, ripping away every illusion I had about myself, having faith that the result will be the best me possible in the end. I am not the woman that I was three years ago, and most of the time I am glad of it. It’s too hard to pretend to be something else, even if I wasn’t sure what that something else was. I’m embracing truth this year not only for personal reasons but because truth itself is under attack, plain and simple. I hold truth as our last great hope. The lines between reality and illusion have become too altogether murky and dark. I fear the going trend is that anyone can simply decide what truth means to them to circumvent facing personal responsibility and the harsher, concrete structure of truth in a universal sense.

I do have some trepidation about facing some of the things that embracing truth brings. Coming face to face with deception in the world outside my personal perimeter goes hand in hand with embracing truth. And in truth? (pun intended) sometimes its easier to hold on to deceptions and illusions for fear of what the truth will bring. I accept that it is necessary, regardless of the pain it brings, because the love of God, self and neighbor means nothing without truth. It was the question of truth, in the end, that brought Jesus to death:

“You say I am a king.¬†¬†For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him”

I want to be guided by the truth, by his voice and testimony. And so my journey begins…

The Serrated Edge of Idolatry and its Impact on Ideology

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Definition of idolatry

plural idolatries

1: the worship of a physical object as a god
2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something
 

Definition of ideology

plural ideologies

1: visionary theorizing
2a: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

It’s been awhile and I have a story to tell, but struggled with a way to tell it…so I stepped outside of myself and, in third person, found a way to tell it and still remain in tact afterwards.

 

This is a picture of me in my third year of work in ministry…this post is for her, ready to bring her talents to fruition. She was burgeoning with ideas, energy, enthusiasm and hope. She had already contended with losing a job because she was female, (she received a job offer that was rescinded after a man submitted a late application, and was told a man after all was suited better to be in a leadership position). She had already realized that a man who worked as partner to her at her first job was paid substantially more because he was the bread winner of the family. At that same job, a visiting parish ministry team advised her to “get the hell out” because her boss was gunning for her” that boss would be later listed by the Archdiocese as a sexual offender. The moment she decided to move on was when she came upon a priest at a romantic restaurant, whom she thought was a kindred spirit, on a date with another man. While she longed to tell him of the deep sympathy she felt with him, the vitriol she faced from him in desperation to keep his secret eroded any future friendship, regardless of a promise of non-judgment and silence on her part. While naivete did play a part in her willingness to continue to work in the “industry” of church ministry, in reading those early journals, her bitterness was tempered by the deep devotion she felt toward Christ, spreading the Gospel and to the amazing young people she was honored to work with…I can’t believe the pages she wrote about the talent and potential of specific individuals…and that included some staff.

  

As I continued to read those journals throughout her career, I saw the slow decay of that energy and enthusiasm wane. To name a few, there was more than one incident of a priest or colleague asking for a dinner to discuss a particular program, or share a bottle of wine and discuss the future, only to find out clearly there was a different motivation altogether. I mean face it…she was a pretty attractive female. One priest (who used to sun bathe in a speedo in front of the rectory) told her that she was “quite a package”. She had become more savvy at that point and learned to carefully extricate herself from each uncomfortable instance. She believed that she was invulnerable to the messy side of ministry…she just had to remain a woman of integrity and all would be well. Until one man she really wanted to date told her that she was too asexual. He could not understand the pressure she was under working not only for the church but with so many vulnerable young people. Work came first, and she knew if there was any question of impropriety, the fault would always lie on her shoulders. Needless to say, it never worked out. Looking back, I see how damaged she had become. Her second job ended when a new associate who believed that he was the “youth” priest cut every program that was popular with flimsy reasoning, because, as she believed but would never say out loud, she was more popular than he was, examples were: a retreat during Easter week to North Padre deemed inappropriate during Holy week even though students would wait in line to be one if the forty picked to go and both parents and students alike praised it for five years, a spectacular rock mass put her in hot water because they were liturgically wrong even though Polka masses happened all the time and it even made it on the evening news. Programs that grappled with issues that affected youth like the music, the media, sexuality (cut from the get go). So she left…again.

 

Then she began to teach. She¬†loved everything about it. She relaxed a bit. The environment was so stimulating that she was bubbling with new ideas. She even tried to date. But it didn’t work out (She would say without true objectivity that he was just too stupid for her, Oh and also that his relationships with certain girl students could be seen as inappropriate…she didn’t have filters back then either). He told some football players that she did a strip tease in front of him, which of course wasn’t true. She didn’t find out about it for months, even though she intuited that something was wrong until one guilty student finally asked her to her face if it really was true, she replied that it was not and was surprised at his sigh of relief because according to her, there was no contest, she had always acted within the highest standards, so it wasn’t even a question of who was more credible(she did put too much faith in propriety). How could anyone have ever entertained the thought? Well, she soon realized, a lot of people had. So she followed protocol and met with the department head and set a meeting with the principal, the “teacher” and herself. Although he admitted to everything and she was exonerated, she was told by the principal that perhaps if she had dressed differently these things wouldn’t have happened. She retorted snip-ply that perhaps if she was paid a living wage she wouldn’t have to borrow clothing from her sisters to wear, which wasn’t true but I’m still proud of her for the great come back. But she was hurt beyond measure. She told her father, and he told her to walk with her head held high and people would see, truly see her eventually. She stayed and did many great things there always with help and direction from really awesome people, but grew tired of being talked about by other teachers…one even asked her to define a big word used, because he really didn’t think she knew what it meant, and being silenced by too much oppressive dogma. Yet she tried to keep focused on bearing her fruit as an instrument of God…until she couldn’t do it any more.

  

Back to first person. In truth, I know I am a force to contend with. I know I’m not perfect and have many flaws and have made many mistakes throughout my career, I was taught to always own up to those and learn from them. I fought as hard and logically as I could at the time against sexism in my work place. I was alone much of the time, with little support from others. I never saw myself as a victim, ever, but I am definitely damaged. What plagues me, though, is as enthusiastic as I was in the beginning of my career to share my talent, my fruits as it were, with the world, it is what actually broke me in the end. It was the very structure that was supposed to assist me in bringing about the Kingdom of God, that was my demise. I suppose that I fell privy to the second part of the definition of idolatry: the immoderate attachment or devotion to something. Because it was the church, priests, and whatever that had the power to stand in my way, and I let them, even when I believed they were wrong to do so. The really sad part is that I still uphold many of the ideologies that I studied in school but it has became glaringly apparent that the institution has stopped representing them for me. While my faith has never waned, my faith in “The Church” definitely has.

  

So, why the definitions of idolatry and ideology? It is because when we should be focused on the latter, it is the former that draws our attention away from things that really matter. Idolatry kills the ideology it is supposed to only be a symbol of. Example: a party status is idolized over what it is supposed to represent, so any amount of lies and distortion are allowed to keep it in tact. Example: A Flag means more than the principles it embodies rendering the idolatry of it as a means to dismantle what it stands for, which in our case is liberty and justice for all. Example: Association to a religious symbol is worshiped over living according to its tenets. Example: Power itself is idolized over the execution of its influence to do good within to further civilization. We idolize way too much, we are guided by principle and ideology way too little. Maybe the good that has come from all that I have faced in my lifetime is that I don’t idolize anything of human construction anymore. But these are the ideologies I choose to live and be guided by.

  

1: The teachings of Christ, and all He commanded (and the only thing I truly worship), and many of the tenets of Catholicism.
2: The Constitution of this great country…and
3: Love, love, love and always and evermore love.

Eighty Things

dad

A year ago on a Tuesday, my father passed on into paradise. When I look over the past year, I see how much my family has endured, so many transitions. In going through all sorts of treasures in preparing our family home for sale last summer, I found this tidbit that I gave my father of “Eighty Things” on his eightieth birthday…they made me laugh and renewed my belief that he is still with us. I won’t share them all because you wouldn’t understand most of the personal anecdotes, so here are the highlights…

  1. In every non-linear, chaotic system (that would be you) the initial conditions of said system set the path you would follow. Like a butterflies wings, that can change the weather across the globe, so the world was changed when you arrived in it.
  2. That’s right, the world was and will continue to be altered by your existence…deal with that tidbit of information with the enclosed package of Mallowmars (my father’s guilty pleasure). Some how, chocolate always seems to make mind blowing realizations palpable.
  3. Don’t hang too tightly onto those initial conditions, they were preordained before you were born. You were born, in particular, the miracle baby boy of an Irish woman who survived multiple miscarriages before you came, which under normal circumstances would have made you intolerable to the rest of us, but was offset by the fact that you were poor, Irish, and Catholic with the addition of scary relatives. Surely this is proof that the good Lord believes in balance for all his miracles, and also has a kick ass sense of humor.
  4. Since the nuns didn’t kill you, thus leaving your will to live in tact, the fractal that is you had already begun to spin into a delicate design.
  5. All the information you learned in school is still locked away in your cranium, the records of which are downloaded daily, and in your case will stave off Armageddon for at least a bit more time. Note, that as long as stupid people inhabit the planet you will have to think smart thoughts even more vehemently.
  6. Just like weather patterns, the going is never consistently easy, which is what makes a fractal beautiful. I’m sure God is constantly amazed at how easily his children sweat the small things. Worrying about Global changes are appropriate, the question of “Am I good enough” NEVER.
  7. Every contact makes an impact. Awareness of a result or lack thereof will never alter this fact.
  8. We are all ingredients in the perfect recipe, faith is nothing more than allowing heaven to guide us in the compilation of the greatest result. You are in charge of keeping your addition fresh. Doubt will make you rancid, and will affect the whole.
  9. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Which means by now, you should just have it about friggin perfect. Wisdom flows from you, so sail through to the next event with no fear.
  10. If you’re alive, there is still plenty of work to do, God is not finished with you yet, old man…
  11. Boy, did you score with your lovely wife Ruthie, could you have ever imagined what a perfect compliment she was to your DNA? Of course heaven could, which is why you were so prolific…5 kids in 6 1/2 years. Let’s just list fertility as both of your super powers.
  12. There were times when the post traumatic stress of having such exuberant offspring has shaken you to your very core. Take enclosed Kowalski gift card, buy a picnic at the deli and with your lovely wife, revel in the fact that they no longer depend on you financially…most of the time.
  13. Celebrating all those sacraments, with all that spiritual energy coursing through your body, I would think you’d be able to fly by now…No?
  14. So, go outside and breath in deep and blow out several time, the air definitely needs purifying and since your body has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, why not? It’s good to put those sacraments to work once in awhile.
  15. Now, take a moment to just be. Even non-linear chaotic systems need to sit in the still point of this turning world to remember why we’re here. Like the parable of the talents, we just need to try and do the best with what the master has given us, and with that winning personality of yours I will say with confidence that you have a SHIT LOAD of stuff to do before the master gets back!
  16. Just when the fear of running out of time hits you, remember this: everything about this world wouldn’t have existed without you, because nothing would be the same.
  17. That being said, the fractals that you have authored  (John, Tom, Mary, Kate, and Joan) may have turned their individual professions on their heads, but given your influence, it is probably a well needed and deserved toss.
  18. Take a walk on the beach and celebrate that you have successfully retired to Florida and haven’t lost your fashion sense, unless you’re wearing black socks with sandals and then, well I just can’t look at you right now.
  19. Say what you mean to say, for the love of God man, you’ve been alive for 80 years and it’s a sin to keep that kind of wisdom to yourself!
  20. Suck up as many senior discounts as possible, you deserve it.
  21. Revel in the fact that as much as your offspring tortured you during their adolescence, they are now getting it back in spades…karma is a bitch.
  22. Like wine, we get better with time, the only thing we take to the afterlife with us are our experiences and lessons learned. So, celebrate, especially if there is reincarnation…you will surely come back as a higher species and given the depth of your stellar life, I would be confident in saying that you will probably come back as a woman…congratulations!
  23. Although you may feel that life has nothing in store for you, zero point theory states that there is no empty space between things, so take your energy and move some shit around, man! Make sure when you do, do it in public and freak people out. If not now, when?
  24. While close to the end of this list, hopefully not your life. You have created order out of chaos, and helped the weather ease for many people throughout your life, many of whom you may not remember or even be aware of, but heaven knows and never forgets.
  25. You have have been and are still loved, truly, madly and deeply!

The Death of Mephistopheles

mephistopheles

In Goethe’s “Faust’, the character of Mephistopheles, i.e. a devil, bored with all things in God’s creation, wagers a bet with God that he can tempt Faust (whom God proudly uses as an example of goodness) to commit evil acts, and thereby gain his soul and service for all eternity. Mephistopheles approaches Faust experiencing a crisis of faith and after some malicious tricks, makes a pact with Faust to give him such ultimate bliss that he would never want to leave, in exchange for his soul and eternal service in hell. In the end, love and grace ultimately win and save Faust, because try as he might to create evil moments where Faust is lost, Mephistopheles somehow creates opportunities for goodness too. The joke is on Mephistopheles, the ultimate cosmic outsider, because he has no true awareness or understanding of love…he only understands deceptions and illusions (the whole Father of lies thing). Love is our true weaponry and armor against the Mephistopheles of the world. They prey on those who feel isolated and disillusioned with the world and tempt them with those things they believe will fill their personal void, except it’s all smoke and mirrors.

The human spirit was created in love and goodness. I see it every day, and it is time to let it sing. Cumulatively we have to stand for goodness and all the hallmarks of culture that humanity has brought forth. Denouncing those periodic elements of hatred and strife is how love works…to keep silent breeds complicity, period. No one wants to confront the disparate events of hatred, but that is what goodness or love does…we transform them into something greater. In times of great evil, like Faust, lies the opportunity for goodness and love. We have been a divided country for awhile, polarizing politics have damaged relationships, I know they have damaged mine. The tragedy in Charlottesville offers us an opportunity for goodness, to walk together undivided, even if momentarily, and stand for something greater than hate. I have seen posts circulating on social media attempting to diminish these hateful groups as a handful of crazies etc. To dismiss these events that are happening around the world as just a few crazy people who don’t deserve our attention is completely missing an opportunity to shut down yet another Mephistopheles. To say it is no big deal is ultimately an act of cowardice. A small cancer is still a cancer. Acknowledging it early offers an opportunity for a cure.

So before we try and band together about hate let me say this: blaming one side or the other obfuscates the real problem. I am a liberal, and I defy anyone of you who knows me and yet still condemns liberals as a matter of course, to maintain those judgments when they see my face in their words when they disparage the party of my choice. So we tackle problems from different angles, big f-ing deal we are not evil because of it. I refuse to judge people on those kinds of generalizations for the same reasons: because I walk, work and live in a very conservative area and it is their faces I see when I engage in political discussions and refuse to disparage an entire party. Vilifying each other is just Mephistopheles whispering in our ears. Personally, in all honesty, I do take much of the unfair criticisms and name calling to heart and wonder, when they hate liberals so much, how can they then purport to be my friend? Is it that they surround themselves with only people who think like them? Is it unthinkable to disagree, to be critical in a civil manner of a president who is so negative and polarizing? Truthfully people? to work through our disagreements is the job of an engaged citizenry.

What I will condemn, and hope you on both sides of the aisle will too, is the KKK, White Nationalists, Nazi’s, and any other group who preaches hate and condemns another’s right to liberty and happiness, because they are antithetical to who we are as Americans. Being  disenfranchised is a problem we can solve together, but not the furtherance of hating a group of people who don’t fit your definition of worthiness. It was disgusting when Hitler preached it and it is disgusting when they preach it now. So I offer this. Let’s take the evil and transform it by shutting it down with goodness, with love. The way Faust saved his soul, was by engaging his goodness, even in the darkest moments. So lets band together, all of us against hatred, against violence, against bigotry, against religious intolerance. Let’s together pray, bring out our goodness to the forefront and stop the judgement, even privately, and focus on who we really want to be as a nation.

 

Evolution

yearbook

 

Last night I went to my 40 year high school reunion…I know, right? It seems impossible to remember what it was like during those years so many decades ago, and the hundreds of people that crossed my path on a daily basis, but then…I walked into the room and spied name tags, and it was as if those memory/feeling files awakened from a long slumber and I was back in 1977. No judgement, just happy hello’s and good conversation…for the most part. It’s hard to disregard those memories, feelings and insecurities that were so plentiful from 15-18, many of which were rooted in placing pretty much every body else above myself, as if there was a game being played and every one else got the rule book, but me. ¬†I also realized, though, that even though I felt foolish a lot of the time, I had much better taste in friends than I ever gave my younger self credit for. They were good people then, only to have evolved through life’s trials to be even better versions of themselves today. Those whom I didn’t feel worthy of back in high school I felt no need to pay heed last night either, but only in the calm and resolved maturity when it just doesn’t matter any more. And besides, there were just so many good people to reconnect with and hear about their lives. There were so many happy memories, and they are the ones to celebrate and reminisce about.

It was also interesting to hear feedback from people about how they saw you in high school. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself thinking, given all the positive statements, I wonder why I felt so tortured and alone in high school much of the time? I’m sure it’s the same for many of my cherished friends, because we just didn’t spend as much time pumping each other up as we could have, a teenage thing I suppose, the inactivity of our frontal lobes…so I will do it now. I am an accomplished and educated woman…but I wouldn’t have become the me I turned into without so many wonderful people throughout my adolescence who were there to help form and support me, even if I was too myopic to notice. I was so impressed with all the stories I listened to and shared last night. Regardless of the path that each of us took, I have a much better appreciation of who they are now. 1977 was full of good people, people who help build the foundation that is me and I really am grateful. I hope, too, that I helped build a foundation for others as well. Most importantly? Like wine, we do get better with time.

Fallen Fruit

fallen fruit

In my year of bearing good fruit, today on Father’s day, I pause and wonder and pray for those whose fruit bearing was cut short, who, by our human tendency toward violence as a problem solving tool were shut down before their purpose and gifts in this life were brought to fruition. None of us can know just how other lives could have benefited and been saved by these individuals who were prematurely cut down, whether by the hand of another, or their own hand, but the future is affected nonetheless.

This year I have committed myself to be aware of those whose talents, gifts and influence have brought me thus far. They are a multitude. I am also aware of the tentative thread that connects all of these moments and actions together. What if one essential thread had disappeared, been cut short by violence? What if those God intended to be on my path at some future date were already gone? How are the many affected by a loss of a fruit that was meant as an essential benefit to someone long ahead in the future?

In a time when everyone is arguing about who deserved what, who caused what, and who ultimately is to blame, no one, it seems to me anyway, asks the very important question about what happens when human beings decide a life isn’t worth living, or redeeming, or is worthy only as a blood sacrifice. None of us are omniscient. None can know what the impact on our future will be. Yet, we are living in violent times. I understand the logic of self defense. I have heard all of the justifications. But….none of us know the mind of God or know the opportunity for redemption that could have come. As Christians, we should a least hold that as a powerful possibility too. We are told, when God is for us, who can be against us? Maybe if we had just a little more faith in that, we wouldn’t feel the need to use violence (both in words and deeds) to solve our problems.

We must do better. We must learn to work at problem solving with less vitriol. And because of all I learned last year about clarity, I must start with myself. And it is hard work. Before I went to sleep a couple of nights ago, I prayed hard that God show me how to move forward…and I didn’t like the answer. I am a vivid dreamer, and here was my dream:

I was on a rocky hill. Jesus, or my vision of him, was sitting on rock. I went and sat next to him and asked what I must do to help the world.

He smiled and said, “I have laid everything out in the Gospel” When I asked him to be more specific, he simply said “infrastructure”

Of course I wanted clarity, so I asked, “You mean like roads, bridges, foundations and things like that?”

He responded, “yes, infrastructure of the spirit. You must make roads and bridges and create a foundation all for and to the Kingdom of God.”

Feeling overwhelmed, I asked, “but how do I do that, where do I start?”

Jesus answered, “By being a servant first and foremost”

I got worried and asked, “But haven’t I been serving you?”

He looked somber and said, “it isn’t a question of past service, but what must be done to heal the wounds that are threatening the Body of Christ. The road ahead isn’t solitary, I require the Body, full and functioning. In order to heal it you must find the wounds first, and clean and remove infection so that it can grow in strength. It isn’t pretty, or easy but it must be done.”

Of course I’m all about healing (or so I thought) “I want to help heal it, show me what I can do.”

Jesus said “No servant is greater than their master, if you want to serve me then do what I have done.”

I was all in “I will, Lord” I responded. Then he handed me a towel and walked me over to a chair with a basin. I recognized the washing of the feet scenario…not too scary, I’ve handled worse. But then Jesus greeted someone behind me, and when I turned around Donald Trump was standing in front of me. My heart sank farther that I ever thought it could. Because, this is the first and last time I’ll say this, I despise him. Please understand it has nothing to do with a political party. I despise the man. I think he’s a narcissist, mean spirited, untruthful, a misogynist, weak in character and so much more. I looked at Jesus, and he looked really sad. He guided Mr Trump to the chair and asked him to remove his shoes. Thankfully he did was he was told and didn’t speak. (I’m sure my unconscious mind wouldn’t allow it). I looked at the towel in my hand and looked at Jesus with eyes that said “Really?”

He reminded me of something my son asked when he was a little boy, “Remember what you said when Connor asked you whether there was any place in hell that the love of God couldn’t reach?”

I said, “I told him that the love of God can and does reach every place in the universe”

And then Jesus said, “Show me that its true”

I literally got down on my knees and started sobbing. I picked up Mr Trump’s foot and started washing it. I suddenly realized how horribly misshapen-ed and wounded it was. Every time I squeezed the water on it, the wounds seemed to clear up a bit. Then he disappeared and it was Jesus feet in his place. They were perfect, even with the scar of the nail, they were perfect.

He said to me, “That what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.” I was devastated. I had been schooled. Then I woke up. I committed in that moment to building a spiritual infrastructure worthy of the Body of Christ.

I have no clear idea of what to do. But I will work toward keeping the fruit of the future in tact, and I hope you will too. The time has come for us as servants to find the wounds and clean them and heal them, and not just the wounds we want to heal, or just the people that we believe are worthy of it. We must call out and stand in defense against any who would harm the Body of Christ…but our weapon is not a gun, it is LOVE. LOVE that flashes brilliantly to everyone to see, as proof that God can touch everywhere in the universe. We all benefit when we see Christ in absolutely every person out there. I know the journey will be hard and complex, but this dream will be forever on ¬†my mind when I walk…for the love of God can reach anywhere.

Getting your Hands Dirty

getting your hands dirty

Bearing good fruit into the world demands that we get our hands dirty. Creating something from nothing, or building on something to make it better, paving a new road, establishing a novel idea, are never easy or smooth…because life isn’t supposed to be easy or smooth. The dirt under our nails, whether it is metaphorical or actual grime, is a testament to what we are willing to sacrifice to bring something to fruition. When ministry became my chosen profession, God gifted me with many opportunities to get my hands dirty in ways that were humbling and well, sometimes even gross, like unwanted interaction with bodily fluids. Serving Christ demanded I roll up my sleeves and get messy. More than anything, I learned that bearing fruit in a sterile environment is impossible.

I know I’ve said this before in different ways, but you can’t skip the middle of cultivating any dream by bypassing the dirty work. Too much of the final product is predicated on the will, imagination and effort necessary to struggle through mire in order to achieve success. While frustrating, it is perfectly normal for people who are in the middle of any pursuit to wonder if the difficulty will ever end, if it is worth it, if the fruits of labor match the effort and expectation. The road yet traveled can be a daunting proposition. For me, that is why faith is so important to the process. We don’t have to be alone in our pursuits. God is the ultimate safety net, and is ever present even in the muck. And, it is often amidst the muckiest of muck where true revelation lies. Always keeping your hands clean, or the process sterile, kills growth and can mean you miss the best lessons life has to show you. The best fertilizer for the greatest fruit is sometimes noxious. It’s a testament to God’s great sense of humor that shit is one of the greatest ingredients for growth…both literally and figuratively.

So, I say, life is not sterile. Some of the greatest fruits come from mud, even seeing more clearly.

John 9:1-11

“As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash¬†in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

The New Road Traveled

dr steve

My husband called me today from a seminar on cutting edge research (8-5 both Saturday and Sunday) because during his lunch break he found out that one of our practice members fulfilled a dream of being drafted by the NFL. Years ago, this particular young man (wonderful man, even when he faced the wrath of Mary…) came into our office with a debilitating injury, a hip dislocation (Bo Jackson) that threatened his future not just in football, but all sports. They told him he may never play again, that he couldn’t put weight on it for at least 6 weeks. Just days later, he walked out of our office and now he is in the NFL (not directly, of course). He was our “first” ARP (accelerated recovery performance) patient, and with his dedication, hard work and faith, he is a testament to overcoming obstacles. I am so happy for him.

But today’s post isn’t about just this young man’s success. It is about all the pieces that fit together that helped him on his journey. I’m sure he can give you a list of all those influential people who stood in his corner that helped him to achieve his dream (I know he has thanked Steve over and over). We should all follow his lead, because as individuals we don’t do enough of that, i.e. recognizing and thanking those who help us in our lives. Not one of us is an island. And not one of us achieves anything on our own. The fruits we bring to the world are a compilation of countless influences, obstacles, opportunities, and benefiting from the fruit of others, many who go unrecognized. So let me take a moment to say a few words about the man who helped him on his way.

Most people don’t realize that Dr Edling is always on the cutting edge of embracing new and innovative approaches to health (which are soooo different than fads). I have never met someone who is as passionate about sustaining, maintaining and forging new roads for optimal health as he is. As an athlete himself, whose life was derailed by an injury, he has worked tirelessly to find ways and technologies so no young athlete has to let go of a dream. Whether it is through constant study, new technologies and going way beyond the call of duty, he is one of those special few who refuses to be defeated and absolutely loves and is committed to his work. No one is more thrilled, save the person themselves, than Dr Edling is when success is achieved and goals are met, and many times even surpassed.

Much of the time, his voice is a solitary one, one that pushes and maintains that change is up to the individual, that it is often a scary and challenging proposition and never an easy pill to swallow. The answers aren’t always easy to find, but he is there, though, every step of the way, through the frustration, sometimes pain, the problem solving and adaption when other questions arise. He has done the work, the study, put in the sacrifice, the investments in the best technologies. Most importantly he is present, available and stands as a partner to everyone who walks in our practice door looking for better health. Whether their needs are structural or metabolic, he gives 100%.

He may be a little embarrassed by this post. He never toots his own horn, so I will…only because the gift of his fruit, is making dreams possible for others, and that makes me proud. I see his enthusiasm for innovation, selflessness and commitment in our sons too, so that I’m confident the gift of his fruit will continue, and that also makes me proud.

Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall be shown Mercy.

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I’ve been quiet. I’ve been busy. I’ve been stretched. I’ve been focused. I have lingered on this beatitude for awhile. Mercy: I have yearned for it, received it, exercised it, celebrated it, and embraced the hope it brings. I have also, at times, stood with an aching sadness at the lack of it in the world in both small and large ways. Mercy was at the heart of my spiritual awakening and is the sustenance for my soul. And it is mercy both in its effort and absorption that keeps my house clean when I am tempted to throw it by the wayside and rage against the lies and cruelty and ignorance and ego and judgement and entitlement and fear. In desperate moments I remember Jesus in the garden sweating blood because his fear and anxiety was so deep yet was still willing to give his Godly heart for my flawed human one. My life transformed because he augmented my broken heart with his heart. And it was then that I became his fruit, a viable product of his extraordinary life and sacrifice, a means by which the power of mercy can live and stay palpable in our often sad and desperate world. When I allow his heart to be my heart, mercy is air, it is breath, it is life, it is everything.

Before the Fruit

the little red hen 2

Remember the story in the Golden Book series about the red hen who begins the arduous process of planting, growing,harvesting and preparing the wheat to make bread? Along the way she asks for help from various animals who, for no apparent good reason, decline to help her in her work? In the end she, with a great deal of snark, asks if anyone would like to share the finished product…the other animals who refused help finally chime in, and in perfect self justification, the hen says no and keeps the finished product all to herself. A simple story about the results of hard work and who should enjoy the spoils of said work.

I think there are two important issues here. The first, the bearing of fruit is rooted in hard work. Yes, I see the pun, but it still rings true. Often times we are so focused on the end result that we disregard the effort it takes to bring something good to fruition. The second important issue for me, and one that the red hen while perhaps justified personifies, is the belief that the lines are clear between who deserves the fruit of labor and who does not. I wish life were as simple as portrayed in the story, but the lines drawn between who deserves the fruits of labor and who does not are absolutely not clear, and it is a trap we as Americans have fallen into and largely what the last election was predicated on. It is also runs contrary to everything I’ve learned in scripture.

I get it, why give the other animals any bread after they refuse to help? There are a host of potential reasons that could mitigate why the dog, cat and duck refused to help: poor health, exhaustion from helping out in another situation, a lack of understanding what to do, secret yearning to be rid of the hen, or a multitude of other reasons, many of which can also be bad. The reasons are infinite. One would have to be interested in why, but due to the job that the hen wanted done, concern for why the other animals refused to help wasn’t part of her need or plan at the time. She had work to do to accomplish her goal, and that can be a good thing. I, personally, see a lot of myself in that red hen, as I’m sure most people do. The problem arises when the work is finished and the choice is made how to share. Just taking a moment to understand the other animals could have made a huge difference in her choice.

I eat plenty of bread that I had nothing to do with making. I get to share in many fruits of others where I played absolutely no part in their creation. I drive on roads, attended schools, share in new technologies that enlisted no help from me at all. Of course, I’ve paid a price for many of these things, but many I have not. I’m lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a host of fruit that I personally paid nothing for at all and had little if anything to do in their creation. If I’m truly humble about it, there have also been times when I’ve been asked to help and I may have appeared like one of those animals in the story, and yet I still received the benefit of the final fruit. The actual foundation of my faith is rooted in the greatest freebie of all: eternal life by the sacrifice of Christ.

Yet on the other side of the coin I know with great certainty that there are plenty of people out there who have benefited from my hard work, who either don’t have a clue, or were happy for me to do the work for them. In all truth, there are moments, like the red hen, where I don’t want to share, but they are far and few between because challenged by the words of the Gospel and my faith, I choose to go beyond initial judgments and dig deeper into the people who seem to want something for nothing. Walking in someone’s shoes strips initial judgments away, and almost always I learn my initial assessment is either off, at least triggered my compassion. In some cases, delving deeper into who the people are who actually extended the hand of help to me actually exposed a more corrupt character than initially presented and who¬†turned out had far more nefarious reasons for helping, and I’ve escaped harm from them too.

I guess the point I’m making is two-fold, you can’t bypass hard work in bearing good fruit because the end result isn’t the same. Secondly, the decision regarding who should benefit from the fruit of that effort is never black and white. It is a difficult balance, I acknowledge that, but when you spend a bit more time on actually seeing and knowing the people who surround you and being grateful for the fruit that others bring to the table the shift is powerful. Sharing a gift hard fought without measuring the worthiness of who benefits can be life transforming too.

Lydia’s Fruit

 

lydia

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

After Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned for freeing a girl of a demon, the jailer was converted when after fervent prayer an earthquake felled the walls of the jail, but they refused escape to protect the jailer. Overwhelmed, he asked what he needed to do to be saved, they told him of Jesus, witnessed and baptized his whole family and he bathed and addressed their wounds. After refusing to leave quietly, because they were falsely detained without trial as Roman citizens, they walked proudly out the front door and went directly back to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers and then left.

It took me a long while in my study and ministry to understand the power and gift of Lydia. Imagine the difficulty of traveling all these territories spreading the gospel. Foreign places full of strangers with nothing really to travel with. Those few lines in Acts bring it home. She offered them a safe haven, a generous hospitality that enabled them to face hardship, yet continue their ministry. I wrote a paper about Lydia in graduate school, using her simple, yet powerful gesture as an example of environmental leadership. What Paul and his entourage did was extremely difficult, and because of people like Lydia, they could stop, refuel, take a moment to regenerate to begin the journey anew.

I never underestimate the power of hospitality, especially in terms of leadership…because being a good leader is hard. But when welcomed in and nurtured in a safe haven, they can become their best selves, and that in and of itself can be the the greatest gift to the world, bringing out our best selves to build the Kingdom of God. Face it, the world can be a scary place and we as individuals and faith communities can be a powerful source of love and safety for those on their life’s difficult journey. Never underestimate the power of hospitality, even if it means just sitting next to someone who appears afraid, or standing up for someone who is being bullied or oppressed. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but compounded together these simple gestures can be beautifully transforming. Go ahead, be Lydia.