There is a purity and sacredness as a life begins to ebb, the veil thins and the hint of what is to come becomes more palpable. While the biological mechanism that holds our soul begins to weaken and wear out, the soul in its beauty begins to shine through. While I fully realize that in this day and troubled age, many times the body that harbors someone’s soul is ripped apart too quickly, by violence and the harsh realities that come with human free will, there are those who, after a full and breathtakingly ordinary and beautiful life, sustain my belief that love is still the author of this play called life, and because of the tether we have to a gracious God, nothing will still it.
I think we sometimes forget the subtle and sustained moments of love that often go unrecognized in the day to day. It is like a favorite smell, song, or the warmth of the sun that bring a sigh, a moment of relief or happiness that Fill in the negative spaces and keep us moving forward. I am amazed to hear the stories my mother-in-law Rayola tells, each one a reflection of simple moments that wouldn’t seem to amount to much in the full span of a life, but are coming back to her with great clarity as her life begins to wane and the effect they had on her and her life’s journey. It gives me respect for the moments I often disregard as meaningless or less than impactful, when, in reality, they take root deep in our personal psyche and ripple outward inspiring other simple gestures of kindness and love toward even more people.
I see the ripple effect everywhere in this woman’s life…the circles of kindness, acceptance, and unconditional love that wave outward into the world making their impact heartily and consciously felt. I know there are many moments that may be unconsciously felt or recognized by the person receiving the benefit (as I am one such recipient), but they are powerful nonetheless. I want to remember the beauty in the waning of life, like the colors of a sunset or beauty of the first star of the night…like a hint of all the beauty and the glory to come. Love doesn’t need a trumpet or neon flash or pageantry. Love is the all, the beauty of a background and the whisper of God in our ears, just like my mother in law. Today I celebrate the indomitable spirit of those subtle but powerful moments of love.
I was naked and afraid…again. WTF, again? I was beginning to wonder if this was standard protocol for my dream state. I got my answer quickly from my spirit guide, always in the form of Jesus (my image of him anyway…I make no claims to know) He told me that as my year of truth was at an end, I would always be in my natural form, and that I was in the dark because it surrounds the world, and how important light is at this point in time. He also reminded me that until I got my embarr-ass-ment under control, I wouldn’t be able to show my light fully to the world, because it meant that everyone could see me too…shit.
“Ugg, truth sucks. Now is the naked part real or metaphorical?”
“Just think of it as all encompassing. You can’t be my light to the world and hide yourself…its flaws and all baby! “With that he laughed and looked at me. “For what it matters, I love what I see. Your body is a reflection of an active and creative life.”
“That’s one way to look at it”, and before I could be interrupted, I said, “OK it is the only way to look at it. So, to reiterate, please tell me what the HELL have I been doing all year, because it seems less and less that people care about the truth at all, and I am including those who claim to be religious. “
“Let me tell you a little story, and maybe you’ll have a better handle on what this year has been about, have a seat.”
“Uch, there is nothing grosser than sitting on the ground, cross-legged and naked.”
“Why? I’ve made the ground perfectly comfortable.”
“Because I’m fat, my bones make noises and I might pee if I sit or try to stand up.”
“A life lived and many gifts given, I don’t care, nor should you…can I continue please, or are you going to hold onto your vanity?”
“Point taken, continue…”
“When I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, before I was arrested and everyone was asleep…”
“I always felt bad about that.”
“No interruptions, please.”
“Sorry, bad habit.”
“When I was distraught about what was to come, the Devil came to visit me. He said he realized his mistake in trying to tempt me in the desert, but now that it looked like he might be defeated, he said he had a secret weapon and he brought Eve forth swinging on the tree that we were standing under and she was eating “THE APPLE.”
(my eyebrows went up in acknowledgement but I kept silent…I’ve always been a good student)
“The Devil told me that he had totally forgotten about free will and that his plan of attack was to use the gift of grace against me. He told me that what ever sacrifice I was about to make would be meaningless if people didn’t choose it, didn’t understand it, or truly want it. and that he would take his time throughout history twisting it and rendering its power useless. He would use their weaknesses and tempt them to use their faith as a sword to bring fear to the world. He would convince people that the grace of God couldn’t protect them from his power, and he would make them afraid all the time, all the while making them think that they had the power, and that they knew what the truth was. He also committed to me that in time, my words and my teachings would be so twisted that they would actually become the weapon that tears apart the Body of Christ and takes down the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he showed me the trouble, the horror and the lies that would happen throughout history. He told me that while I may not fall prey to his temptations, he knew the heart of humanity so well, that he could twist and turn them from the very saving gift I would be giving them. He instructed to quit while I gave everything for nothing.” (Jesus paused, and saw my mouth was gaping, then he continued) “I have to admit, his words were unnerving…and I had a glimmer of doubt, but then the truth of what I would be doing came upon me like a revelation. My sacrifice was based in truth, and love which are impenetrable as well as the source of all creation, his lies were only an illusion and could and would never be sustained. I told him that while he may choose to wreck havoc on the world, that I would be giving the world eternal life, a light to guide them through the darkness. My words and teachings were to give comfort and help those who choose to evolve to a greater place while on this earth…and that many would see beyond his lies…truth and love will always reign as long as those committed to this truth would shine their light, because light shatters the darkness. Needless to say, he was furious…and I was ready, it was at that moment that the Roman guards came. You see, my sacrifice defeated him…he has illusions and lies, but I saved the soul of the world by sharing my everlasting light…the essence that continues on after human life is over.”
“What about those who say the only way to get to heaven is my accepting you as their Lord and Savior?”
“Well, that’s a bit of a distortion. I never gave any other formula for the Kingdom of heaven but a choice to do so by loving one another, its as simple as that. It is the task of your life to master being a lover, and celebrating the fruit that is a result of that love. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
“Yah, well I’ve said something to the effect of that many times and it does not go over well. People want a defined group, a limited number of who ‘gets’ into heaven”
“Like a wall to keep people out? (my mouth was gaping open again). And yes, I get the inference. There is no limitation to Heaven, to God’s love, to anything at all. That is the greatest lie ever told, that my sacrifice is limited to a set of prescriptions and rules or people, its not and never will be, its free to all.”
“I feel a bit silly playing devil’s advocate here…but you did say that you were going to fulfill the law and the only way was through you…”
“And I did. God’s chosen people were promised a Savior and I fulfilled that promise. I just extended it to all people. All the old is passing away. I am the Alpha and the Omega. It doesn’t matter what churches or people do or say to redefine what or who I am to the world, I am not hypothetical or a metaphor. I am who I am…I changed reality. My sacrifice doesn’t hinge on your belief in it, it happened. Your belief in my sacrifice helps you, and the light you shine to the world. It is the fruit of that light that shapes the Kingdom on Earth.”
“But I feel, in many ways, that this year of truth, that truth has lost in the end…the lies keep getting bigger and seem to hold more power.”
“That means that you’re gaining ground, the devil wouldn’t be trying so hard if he were winning…things tend to get worse before they get better…and also the light tends to shine even more brightly then. Just continue to be that light in the darkness and love yourself and one another as I have, and watch the transformation. My love and power are completely availed to you. Do you want to know what next year’s task will be?”
“This is where I get nervous, because it never turns out like I think it will…”
“That’s because I have a better imagination than you do…Next year will be the year of love, so start you studying now.”
I know I’ve said this before…be careful what you pray for…when I spoke of money in the last post and the story of the widow’s mite, giving from need instead of want etc…I should have known that I would be tested on that particular conclusion and commitment. Tuesday our water stopped running. Wednesday the phones and internet were down, I have all my neighbors coming to my house on Saturday to celebrate the season. I am making the food for said celebration…and I have no water, and until yesterday with no internet or phone, trying to fix the problem was very difficult. So, feeling like Job for a few moments, “life is but drudgery” and all that, I rallied and repeated my mantra over and over…”All will be well, all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” The irony of the word “well” wasn’t lost as I was told the diagnosis after replacing many things plumbing was: “the WELL pump is shot.” I guess I am getting what I asked for: being in need. It has taken a Herculean effort to not panic as the costs add up and yet I’m also thinking that that is the point: will being thrust suddenly in need stop me from giving? The answer is no, it will not because I am actively choosing faith, choosing God and I felt peace about that. I found a great well guy, with the suggestion of a friend and my water is again flowing. The lesson here is that we are all in need, even if we don’t know how much because we are so insulated by the comforts of modern living. So how do we cope when life gives us situations when our “well” runs dry? The truth of the matter is that we can’t do it alone, we need God and each other and that is what strikes fear in most people…that we all “need” outside help. For me this is the heart of what this season of light should be about. We are not alone in the darkness. There are truly good people about and it should be our sole focus during this sacred time to extend a hand to one another and say I am here for you, you are not alone. Give a little light and receive a little light.
The truth about water is that we can’t live without it, and yet we take it for granted every single day. I know I certainly did. I feel the same way about truth. The water for the soul is truth, and without it we cannot survive. While I may not appreciate God’s timing in all this, I certainly understand it. I appreciate water so much more now that I have it back. I also appreciate what life without truth would be like, in a country where I could not speak freely, it would be as devastating. I am hoping that I never have to live without it and pray God doesn’t feel the need to deprive me of it to teach me a lesson…ever. An end run of avoiding getting what I prayed for? I hope so. Today, I am grateful…for water and for truth.
Approaching the end of “my year of truth” as the sun wanes and the cold comes, I can’t help but have conflicting feelings about this particular season of Christmas. Yes, I still believe that it represents the light that breaks through the darkness of winter. This year, however, has been as brutal as it has been enlightening. It is also why I’ve committed to approach this season without the blinders I usually tend to put on, like a suspension of all the truths I’ve embraced just to do “the Christmas” thing. Can we celebrate “the light” while participating in all the commercial hoopla? While I may not have the perfect answer to that question, and its one I’ve struggled with for many years, I’m always optimistic that I’ll figure it out. For example, past attempts include: once when I was a teenager I asked only for a bible at Christmas and got nothing else (which really wasn’t satisfying, but more like emotional flagellation for someone who loves presents and parties and whose guilt says I shouldn’t so much), or when I told our family of four one year that we were giving our Christmas away, (again mixed results, I really don’t think it changed anything since I was spending money anyway but directing it somewhere else) or the time I limited the amount we could spend to try and celebrate the simple (such a disaster since no one but me followed the rules). Like they say, the spirit is always willing but it resulted with little success. It’s not that they were bad ideas, and I’ll never regret trying, but since I’m being truly honest, I don’t think I succeeded in changing anybody else’s mind about the season itself, which made my efforts seem, well, a bit empty, like I failed.
So this year, because of truth, I embrace both my good and bad feelings about the season. I love Christmas, the lights, the presents, the parties and all that is festive and hopeful about its message. I hate the commercialism, the loneliness, the financial pressure, the wealth disparity and the subjugation of other religious holidays to its mighty rhetoric (and I’m not talking about the good will part of it…more the Black Friday part of it). So this year, I decided that while I will give presents (because giving people gifts MAKES ME HAPPY), I will only support those companies who donate their profits, are small local businesses, have special gift giving opportunities and are generally philanthropic with the millions and billions they stand to gain during the holiday season. I’ve let go of rationalizing my reasons like being a better person etc., because those rationalizations don’t work. To be frank, it is something I am compelled to do because of an underlying terror about money and consumerism and that money, or mammon (material wealth or possessions as having a debasing influence…you know the bad side of money) is ruining the spiritual fabric of our world, and in some ways my own (you know two kids in college, small business owner…yada yada). I think that many of our present ills are because of money, rooted in the not having enough of it and why should you get more of it than me internal struggles. More and more power is falling into the hands of fewer and fewer individuals who are not leading our planet to a better place, and they have one thing in common…money, and a lot of it.
And while I acknowledge I am privileged more than most, the fact is that all of us can take our consumer power and the smallness or greatness of it and direct it toward those companies and individuals who will do good in the world. I may not have received all “the deals” like past years, but I can use the power of money for both for pleasure and for good. I choose to also give from my need and not my want. Tightening my belt to be philanthropic and share freely with others when my bank account says otherwise is also a consequence of my year of truth because if I really truly am a Christian, then this is the attitude I must have about money:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
When (Jesus) looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.
So, when I see starving children in Yemen, families fleeing from dangerous situations and treated as if they were criminals, and all the poor and lonely around the world I have to force myself to breathe when I look around at all the “stuff” of this season before the mind boggling, crippling guilt overwhelms me. And it is in these times I remember that I can be a light in all this darkness, that I am not alone in solving the world’s ills, and the power of love and its ripple effects are more powerful than I will ever know. That my simple coins, like the widow’s mite, matter in the eyes of God. And finally, in truth, the greatest gift of the season has already been given, it is grace that dispels the darkness and grace behind the light in my eyes. I choose to serve God and it is that I celebrate.
a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not: behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel…the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.
I would add to this definition of hypocrisy by adding: “exhibiting and perpetuating the very behavior you are ranting against.” I am not getting into finger pointing because I don’t think its helpful…at all. I do know that when any of us allow “our side” to exhibit this kind of behavior because, well, its “our side” after all and the “other side” is so much worse…NOTHING CHANGES. Truth and hypocrisy cannot exist in the same room, EVER. Its the one thing that made Jesus so angry. This quote from Matthew 23 is long…but he speaks what I feel this week:
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated. Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel, “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. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna!
Power is corrupting, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is why many hierarchical churches are broken at this point in time. It is understanding the potential for corruption that the foundation of this Republic is built on checks and balances on exclusive power. It is why we have laws to protect consumers from corporate greed, distinctions for protected classes such as race or gender, and rights for those charged criminally. It is why, as a nation, we proclaim that ALL people are created equally and should be treated as such regardless of wealth, status, race or religion. It is not a country who acts against the interests of the whole, for the individual party that is in control at the time. That is the greatest hypocrisy of Washington…to love America, but condemn and vilify anyone who thinks differently than you do. While there are some who are more balanced, given the extreme divisiveness that exists, I think its safe to say balanced is the minority sentiment.
It is essential to take to heart the very behavior that angered Jesus the most: looking good and righteous on the outside but being filled with darkness on the inside. Because of this, I am skeptical of people who say they love an ideology like America and the flag, that they stand for this country, believe in justice and freedom for all, but whose behavior and actions say the opposite, that their allegiance is only to those who love and believe as they do. Some, in positions of power fuel that divide even more. People who believe in truth should not let that happen.
Hypocrisy isn’t foreign to any of us. All of us are guilty of being or saying something one time or another that is contrary to what we really believe. All of us, at times, rationalize why its OK to behave hypocritically because of power in the balance or it achieves something we think we need or want at the time. I think it would be true for everyone who is truthful that it is easy to justify hypocrisy when passions arise. The real issue here, I believe, is not that we are all flawed, but that we embrace an “end justifies the means” mentality, that acting in a way that is hypocritical is OK, if you get the result you want. That is a downfall of having power. The means by which you attain something does matter, perhaps because of the standard it sets. And I believe that is why we are where we are right now in this world. It doesn’t have to stay that way. We are after all, the Body of Christ. We are, after all, created in image of God. We are, after all, “we” the people. Its up to us to act like it.
We don’t walk in anyone else’s shoes. We can’t know or bear anyone else’s burdens. We don’t feel anyone else’s pain. We can only know our own. And that being said, because we all have burdens, it should never be a competition…i.e., my pain is worse than yours or I learned my lessons faster than you have, etc. Our journeys on this planet are unique to each individual. When I weigh out my troubles during prayer time, I am often overwhelmed by the ripple effect that our actions have on other human beings. I am aware that when I allow my personal struggles and fears to fog my eyesight, my behavior changes: less open, less empathetic, less loving. I also know how it affects me when others treat me in a closed, judgmental or hateful way, its like a punch in the stomach making it harder to bounce back. In response, I am continually refocusing my prayers to help me include bringing openness, empathy and love to all people, specifically to combat the growing deficit of these qualities in the world. I know all change begins with me. I decide the tone and tenor of my journey on this planet and it is my belief that being open, empathetic and loving will have an even bigger ripple effect than being closed, judgmental and hateful does.
When I start at this small level I can build up the skills necessary to bring out the big guns when I need them. What do I mean? Becoming skilled at being open, empathetic and loving has changed my whole perspective, hope begins to thrive and my own burdens become significantly less. A simplistic solution, I know…that’s why working hard on the simplest circumstances help gird my loins for the tougher circumstances. Knowing the back story of a truly vile person that is rooted in the most tragic of circumstances does change the level of judgement that I have about them. It has to. If I am trying to evolve as a person…IT HAS TO! It doesn’t mean that people who break the law get a free pass, or people who make bad choices don’t have consequences. It does mean that when I respond back to them in an open, empathetic and loving way…I take control of the situation and that is where the truth lies. I learn a lot from friends of mine who are defense attorneys. They hear another side to the story. They stand for people who have made mistakes, or who truly haven’t, all of whom need help facing a complex system. They advocate fairness in a way that the world outside the justice system does not (OK an aside here, I am not referring to the inequities of the present justice system…just for the importance of hearing the other side of every story). I also learn a lot from friends and others who are counselors, pastors, doctors, etc. who hear the “other” sides of the stories we would like to bypass so we can feel comfortable in smug judgments. I am also privileged to hear many stories that have staid the hand of my own judgment of others in my own life. What I know is this: most people are not inherently evil, most were taught to hate (I have to be truthful here, I say most because the jury is out on some who actually are evil in my mind…but then I am a work in progress). And when you offer openness, empathy and love in response, they do react differently. Change has to start somewhere.
Being open, empathetic and loving isn’t just reserved for the more heinous behaviors of the population either, it also allows me to share in the goodness and wonderful experiences I hear about every day too. The joy of another’s win, accomplishment, and kindness all give me hope and encouragement to keep me on the road that I am on. And for those of you who share in my faith, Jesus affirms my celebrations of openness, empathy and love as well in MT 7:1-18:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand their children a stone when they ask for a loaf of bread, or a snake when they ask for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
The lesson here is clear: spend less time judging, help is always available, and the only acceptable judgement is determining who the wolves are by the fruits that they bear.
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.
When I looked up the word loyalty in the dictionary, the word “faithfulness” was primary in each explanation. Faithfulness to an ideal, principle, etc. was expected. When it came to defining loyalty to a person. though, it added an important word: “faithfulness to a person who is due.” The word “due” is an important distinction in my mind because it infers that the person has to deserve my loyalty, that they have earned it. It is also a point of clarity for me. Over the years, and I have spoken of this before, I have had to filter out and clean my own personal loyalty house. When it comes to an ideal, or principle I think it had become clear that certain groups or institutions to which I had plead wholehearted faithfulness no longer represented the principles to which I believe they were supposed to represent. While the stripping away part may have taken effort, it was a necessary step for me in clarifying where my loyalties would lie. And I think in the present culture it has only intensified. How can you be true to a person or institution who isn’t the reflection of the ideas or ideals they claim to represent?
We all have had the experience of being loyal to someone who really didn’t deserve it. I’m not talking about our shared human frailties, I know I have acted in a way on occasion that could be considered disloyal…I’m speaking about those toxic people who continuously behave in a way that defies the reasons we were loyal in the first place and leave us diminished rather than enhanced as people. Those experiences should help us hone our ability to choose better people in the future, and also more importantly show us how to be better worthy of another’s loyalty. Those relationships that command loyalty come from an investment of time, experience and continued proof on both sides that the loyalty is justified.
So there is reason to be concerned with what we are asked to do in today’s market of social media regarding our loyalties. There are those who play on our weaknesses, fears, laziness and at times character flaws to create such a divisive and angry divide. I see cable news do it, political parties do it, religions do it, and the list goes on and on. They demand loyalty without being held to account for whether or not they hold up the ideals they are supposed to stand for, claim the exclusive power to define who is right and who is wrong, are just using people for their own personal gain, or even more nefarious reasons, all to create an us vs them environment where no one can think differently without being vilified. The thing that befuddles and concerns me most deeply is to see good intelligent people fall prey to this kind of nonsense just because it suits their color or symbol of the moment. The leverage we give these groups instead of truth or principles they are supposed to stand for, is one of the greatest evils of our time.
And yet, how do you address it? It has become so difficult to have a civilized discussion at all about people who strike such polarity in our world. It never used to be a big deal to have friends that held different beliefs than I did…not so anymore. So rather than conquer the great white elephant in the room, let me ask you this: To whom or what are you pledging your loyalty? Do they represent your values, and would you stake your soul on it? These questions shouldn’t be answered easily, because there is just too much smoke and mirrors out there that the truth must be fought for. Expecting loyalty should take time, patience and experience. If the behavior doesn’t measure up, or isn’t truthful, then cut them free and look elsewhere. My loyalties may be few, but I believe they are worthy of my fidelity…until they are not.
I’ve been thinking a lot about free will and choice in these days of such tribulation. I’ve pondered, studied and applied (to the best of my ability) the lessons of the story of the Garden of Eden that speaks of the origin of free will and sin. In short, a choice was made to defy God and eat of the tree of knowledge, and innocence was lost…and if I’m truly honest, I’m OK with that. I would rather choose God, choose my path and choose all that comes with human fallibility on my own than live in a world of perfection without having the choice to be there. I say that because it means everything when you choose something for yourself, and not have it imposed upon you. And with that freedom comes a responsibility to accept the consequences of those choices, because that is how I evolve. I also embrace the help that God offers, in humility, because I acknowledge the limitations to my human perception and ability to move as far forward on my own as I would like. I believe that whatever I put out into the world comes back to me tenfold, which gives me care and pause to keep me on the straight and narrow road I choose to walk on. We are all fallible, flawed, and yet free to move in the world in the way we choose even within the limitations of circumstance and physicality because no one controls our souls or thoughts. Even how we choose to follow God, at its core is a personal responsibility. We can’t hide behind God to justify our behavior any more than we can blame the devil…because we have the freedom to choose. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE for every choice even in the midst of horrible circumstances, not knowing better or even in the midst of enslavement. (which, in the story of Adam and Eve, God says: “See! They have become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad!”) While in any given circumstance our physical choices may be restricted or limited, we always have the freedom to choose how to respond to them. We can choose goodness, or not.
With that said, I fully realize that the freedom to choose our physical destiny fully is not available to everyone on this planet, its just not. I think the choices to restrict freedom are being imposed out of fear and all the ramifications that come with that choice. There is a part in the story of Adam and Eve when they realize they are naked, and they hide. I think of even the most powerful people in the world in that position in front of God, when stripped down to just their nakedness not protected by wealth or status or embellishment would feel the same way as Adam and Eve did. I know I do, and I am thankful for that…I, in truth, really am. The reason? Because, sensibly, I know we all have flaws that we cover with a variety of subterfuge because of a skewed belief that if we do that the rest of the world won’t see how flawed we are, except that the rest of the world is flawed also. I find it tragic the length to which people will go to fake who they are or make excuses for who they are not. I refuse to do that. Instead, I choose to be a work in progress, flaws and all, give credit to God for the blueprint that is me and work desperately hard to make sure my choices are good ones, and when they aren’t, take responsibility for them and move on.
So, in the light of free will, I choose to celebrate that sacred fault of the Garden, choosing more to see it not as original sin, but the ability to recognize good and evil and then consciously, to the best of my knowledge and belief, choose good, choose God…which differs based on an individual’s perspective. And because we all have a different perspectives, work within those differences unless and until I think goodness is threatened and find ways to rectify it. I think this is why the tone of Jesus’ message is based on love, and not a regimented set of rules or judgments. Loving God with all your strength, treating your neighbor as you would yourself, and loving the least among us, and being prayerful, helps us recognize that while others also have free will and face circumstances we may not understand or appreciate, and the choices made may have a ripple effect outward, there is a good way to respond to them and an evil one, even if those choices are not black and white but on a spectrum. At our core, unless you are a sociopath or severely mentally ill, knowing what is good and what is evil is the burden of free will, and simply hoping you are doing good does not make it so. To abdicate responsibility for your status by blame, by excuses, by rationalizations, by out right lying is choosing against goodness. And while none of us can equivocally define what goodness is all of the time, in time, if we choose to evolve, we should get better at recognizing it. Lastly, Good and Evil are not shaped by public opinion…that is the truth.
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 🙂 So here goes…
I pray you be kind in thought, word and deed…the world is in desperate need of your kindness, make it your superpower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I pray that you find a way to laugh everyday, it will do your brain good!
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