Are you where you want to be?


Musings: The Discomfort of Personal Growth

I actually started writing the following three paragraphs in the middle of the last posting that I wrote.  However, I quickly realized that they did not belong there so, rather than delete them, I saved them as a draft.  I figured that if the words had manifest themselves on the page they were important to come back to.  Here are the three paragraphs as I wrote them.

As I have been sitting here, stopping from time time to just breath in deeply, I have been checking the news on my info page.  I guess the biggest item that has rocked the world in different ways is still the news coming out of Haiti.  I have followed this story, as I’m sure many millions of other people have, and have come to realize how difficult it is to take in the reality of such a situation.

No matter how many photos they print, and there have been hundreds, even though they depict the grim reality of the circumstances it is hard to make it a reality in my own life.  Story after story carries an underlying sadness, pain, and desperation.  It is heartbreaking to think of the level of suffering and helplessness that overwhelms the surviving Haitian population in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Yet even as I understand the meaning behind the words in these stories, and even as I can see clearly what is depicted in all the photos, there is a part of me that is unable to truly comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy.  I went through something similar after the tsunami out in Thailand and Indonesia at Christmas a couple of years ago.

So now I will try to pick up the thread of my thought process a week after writing this.  As I said, at the time I was sitting outside in my lanai on the first really warm day after much freezing cold weather had not allowed me to take my lap-top outside and work.  I have just reread the three paragraphs and remember now sitting out there in the warmth and sunshine, catching up on world-wide news and feeling so strangely detached from the horrors taking place in Haiti.

I am not sure why this is so.  I try to practice compassion in a very real way on a daily basis.  I am a Christian person who “loves his neighbor”.  I am also an intelligent person, so it’s not that I don’t have the brains or the smarts to grasp what is going on over there in Haiti.  Neither am I afflicted by learning disabilities that slow my thought processes or skew them somehow.

I have read on numerous occasions that we, the human race, have been so saturated with violence in today’s world that events such as those taking place in Haiti don’t reach down into our hearts, our guts, or they only get halfway there.  Modern media thinks nothing of throwing blood, gore, and downright evil at us in the name of “action movies” and the like, and as a result we become inured to the real life stuff. 

As I said above, I see the pictures, I read the stories, the facts, but I have a hard time bringing it all into my own perception of reality. I’m not sure where I want to go with all this, or if I need to go anywhere in particular.  Of one thing I am sure,  the words presented themselves on the page out of my mind so they must have some specific significance.

I know that I do not feel very happy or comfortable about this posting.  It has come out in fits and starts, between one interruption and another.  Half way through I found myself thinking, “maybe I should just delete it and start a totally new posting”.  But there is a part of me that knows the words need to stay on the page.

Perhaps the discomfort that I am feeling is because this article makes me look at a part of me that is not so nice.  That part that wants  me to just stay in my comfort zone and get on with my ordinary life.  After all, don’t I deal with enough of my own pain without taking on the pain of others?  But I know that I cannot do that.  If I do, I will experience even more discomfort.

So the words stay, the article stands as is, and I battle on through the stuff that maybe I would prefer to ignore.  I ask God to help me find the growth that this is leading me to.  Hopefully there will be a quantum leap in my spiritual growth, in my prayer practice.  Maybe a little more honesty, another small slice of humility, and just a smidgen more courage to keep me on track.  

Shared Wisdom: One-Liners

Sometimes, as I go waltzing lyrically, crashing blindly, or flying magically through my day, I come across little snippets of wisdom that grab my attention.  I reach for a pen and a piece of paper, sometimes I actually find a notebook at hand.  Other times, more often than not, I will use the back of a receipt or a parking ticket or some other scrap that finds its way into my purse or on the car floor. (I knew there was a real reason not to clean out my purse or the car too often!!)

And so I end up with lots of one-liners lurking in the corners of my life, and somehow when I come across one it always seems to be at the just when I need to hear that particular gem of wisdom.  As I am recording these jewels for future reference, I occasionally remember to include the author’s name; more often than not I don’t. 

Sometimes it is already an anonymous quotation and I wonder what circumstance prompted the writer to come up with that thought.  But mostly I am simply grateful that all these people had these wonderful thoughts and chose to share them with the world at large.  Here are just a few one-liners that I came across as I checked through one of my many boxes of “stuff to hang on to, in case”.

“Some people grumble because the roses have thorns instead of being grateful that the thorns have roses.” (Anon) 

“Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.” (Mother Teresa)

“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.” (Anon)

“Winners – people who tell you what they did and not people who tell you what they think you ought to do.” (Anon)

“Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before.”  (Mae West)  (I need humor in my life!)

“Don’t look down on another person unless you are leaning over to help them up.” (Anon)

“To accept the responsibility of being a child of God is to accept the best that life has to offer.” (Stella Terrill Mann)

“Saying ‘No’ can be the ultimate self-care.” (Claudia Black)

“If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it!” (Bette Davis) (That humor again!)

“What a different world this would be if people would magnify their blessings the way they do their troubles.” (Anon)

“If you haven’t forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others?” (Dolores Huerta)

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

“We must learn from the mistakes of others because we won’t live long enough to make them all ourselves.” (Anon)

And just to finish with a final smile……………………….

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing!!” (Phylliss Diller)

Reflection: Matthew 16:18

Yes, that’s the Matthew in the Bible, so if you’re not “into” the Bible you might be feeling turned off right now.  However, I encourage you, dare you even, to be open-minded and see what I have to say.  I’ve already declared myself in previous blogs as “spiritual”, but I think I’ve also shown you that I’m not “holier than thou” and that I have a great sense of humor.  So come along for the ride.

I was asked to do a reflection on this Bible verse for a candlelight service that was part of a retreat.  No guidelines were given other than I had about seven minutes to speak.  So I looked up the verse in the Bible to get the exact words.  In my version it went like this:

“Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

So I sat back and I thought about Peter.  He’s depicted in the Bible as rather an impetuous person, someone who led with his impulses and instincts rather than his brain.  Hot-headed might be another way to put it.  He’s quite a lot like many of us.  I know he’s most definitely like me. 

If I had a button to access that governed my actions it would probably be labeled “bulldozer”.  I’ve already admitted several times that I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person.  I can still act without thinking things through clearly, throwing myself headlong and with great enthusiasm into whatever the latest project is.  Can any of you identify?

Jesus was working with what he had available at the time and I find it interesting that he chose everyday, normal people to be his disciples.  He didn’t pick out the learned or the scholarly. He picked fishermen and tax collectors, and during his day-to-day life he associated with the locals and even the “low lifers”.

I’m personally very grateful for that.  It allows me, and many others I believe, to identify with these people and realize that if they were worthy then perhaps I too am worthy.  If they could sit and talk and eat with Christ then maybe I can get close to him too. 

And so Christ chose Peter, an imperfect man, to become the first leader of his church.  Peter’s original name was Simon, but Christ renamed him Peter, which means “rock”.  With that in mind I began thinking about this reflection and what I wanted to say.  As I tossed the word “rock” around in my head, trying to relate it to my own experience, I began to smile. 

You see, I am in a recovery program and when I stumbled upon it some thirty years ago, I heard the phrase “rock bottom” used frequently.  It means that each person, before they can turn their life around, has to plummet to the very depths.  He or she has to arrive at a point of despair and then be willing to surrender totally.  And out of that despair,he or she needs to find a certain level of humility laced with a goodly dose of courage in order to ask for help.

So “rock bottom” tends to have a rather negative meaning attached to it.  It’s kind of like a necessary evil.  It’s a really bad, difficult place one has to get to before any good can come about.  But the more I thought about it I realized that reaching rock bottom could be viewed very differently.  Rock bottom could be seen as a place of firmness, of stability, and of strength.  But before getting down to that base line of solid rock I had to clear away all the mud and filth and muck of my previous lifestyle.

In Ephesians 4:17-19 (yes, I’m going to quote a bit more Bible!!), Paul encourages us to turn our backs on our old way of life.  "….you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God ……… they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.” 

Ouch!!  I don’t know about any of you, but that struck a chord with me.  That was how I was living before I turned my life around.  So I had to do some house-cleaning.  I had to change old behaviors and attitudes.  I had to look into all the nooks and crannies, all the hidden recesses, and dig out all those dark secrets that I had been carrying around for years and throw them out.  It reminded me of a song back in the sixties or seventies (may have been Kenny Rogers) that talked about the skeletons that we keep “chained to the walls of the dungeons in our minds”.  Once this was done I had my firm rock on which I could build my new life.

Therefore just as Christ called upon Peter to be the rock upon which he intended to build his church (and “church” for those of you who do not worship in a specific religion can mean whatever decent way of life you are called to live), so I believe he calls upon each and every one of us to become that rock.  Let’s keep that in mind.  Let’s be encouraged to be decent human beings.  Let’s keep our house clean and that rock cleared of debris so that Christ can use us to his purpose.  Let’s be strong with each other so that “all the powers of hell will not conquer (us).”