26
Sep
20

Editing Myself

[**WARNING** This post has been edited!!!]

Just yesterday, the moment I’ve been waiting for all these years FINALLY HAPPENED! I was SO excited!

See, this guy – out of the clear, blue sky – zinged me with an unnecessarily harsh comment. But this time, instead of leaving me perplexed and speechless the way these things usually do, I had the PERFECT comeback!

The only problem was, my “perfect comeback” didn’t cross my mind until five hours after the original zinger. And, of course, by then it was too late. 

Has anything like that ever happened to you? 

That is probably the reason I find myself so drawn to the written word. When I write, I don’t have to be sharp… witty… spontaneous… or nimble with my communication. I can sit, stew, ponder, and carefully choose my words before releasing them. 

And then, if that first combination of letters and syllables doesn’t quite fit, I can go back, cross them out, and choose different words to take their place. 

Come to think of it, that “editability” factor may be part of the reason for the popularity of social media. (Although, I have yet to see much evidence of editing in most of the Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts I am privy to].

Too often, left to my own devices (and the demands of the moment), my words are anything but polished gems. They spill out, roughhewn, onto the ears of innocent bystanders… sometimes illuminating, sometimes irritating, sometimes amusing, sometimes utterly baffling.

In this I suspect I am not alone.

Which is why I find it so important to remember God’s profound understanding of our weaknesses and shortcomings. God knows that when I snap at Joan or a neighbor, or say, “expecially” instead of “especially,” it is because I am a flawed and sinful being.

God remembers who I am and God forgives me.

But maybe more important than remembering God’s abiding forgiveness of US is the task of remembering Paul’s advice to the church folks at Colossae: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive…”(Colossians 3:12-13, NRSV). 

The state of our separation from God and what theologian Paul Tillich called the “Ground of Our Being” is profound and irreparable… except through our humble confession and the grace of Jesus Christ.

My personal hope is that I will remember both God’s rich forgiveness of ME and Paul’s guidance to forgive OTHERS. And if that happens, maybe my words will come from a different place than that blemished, mercurial emotion-pot inside me. 

And if THAT happens, maybe it will cut down my “editing” task just a bit in the future.

Abundant blessings;

24
Sep
20

The Right Question…

Since we now live in a new state, Joan and I recently decided to do a little exploring.

We drove to the southwestern part of Colorado and set ourselves up in the lovely little town of Ridgway. We highly recommend it, in case you are ever looking for a picturesque, unspoiled, little mountain getaway town. 

On our third day there we asked our GPS, “How far is it to Telluride?” We had heard great things about the town of Telluride and wanted to drive over and do a little exploring.

Our GPS quite accurately told us it was 15 miles from Ridgway to Telluride…

… as the crow flies, that is.

We discovered that if you happen to be a human instead of a crow, limited to traveling in a car across paved roads – as we were – there is a completely different answer to the question, “How far is Telluride?”

That answer is thirty-nine miles

That trivial little exercise caused me to wonder; could we be in the midst of one of those times when some of us are not asking the right question?

With a major political election looming on the immediate horizon, the question seems obvious; Trump or Biden? Democrat or Republican? Liberal or conservative? 

Pick your side. Make your speech. Cast your ballot.

But what if those are not really the right questions at all?

What if the right (better) questions are somehow deeper… more fundamental and essential? And what if these better questions concern the kind of people you and I will BE from here on out instead of which political horse we choose to hitch our wagon(s) to?

Make no mistake… I am watching the current political hullabaloo like a hawk. At times it is more entertaining than an NFL game. At other times, it is more frightening than a Stephen King novel. And I definitely do have a favorite in this race.

But the more I watch this show and the more blood that is spilled, the more discouraged I get about the real benefits of ANY potential outcome. 

We can change the political circumstances in which we live. But until we fundamentally change the people we are – the way we think, the way we interact with one another, and the way we live our lives – neither of these would-be political messiahs is really going to make much difference at all.

I propose that a better question for us each to ask ourselves today might be this one: what kind of edges will my life have from here on out?

What I mean by that is…

  • Will the edges of my life be made up of a hard, impenetrable shell? Will I pour all of my energy into fortifying myself against anything that might penetrate and possibly harm me? Will I “batten down the hatches” and look upon anything unfamiliar as a dangerous threat? Will I echo Simon and Garfunkel as they sang, “I am a rock… I am an island”?
  • Or will my edges be soft and vulnerable? Will they be easily punctured by the voice, the views, or the needs of another? Will I/we dare to open ourselves to the stranger? Will I/we dare to occasionally say to someone, “I don’t know. I might be wrong about that. Let me think about it”? Will we be humble and open to the needs of our neighbors?

The temptation in unsettling, uncertain, anxious times is to try and build as strong a wall as we possibly can. To seek safety. To armor-plate the edges of our lives.

And yet, as natural an instinct as shell-building seems to be, it is the polar opposite of the model of Christlikeness. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28, NRSV).

And the writer of 1 Peter said, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NRSV).

Yes, it is a vitally important time in our political life as a country. But I hope we can each find a way to look past the noise and smoke, ask the right question…

… and then perform our civic duty accordingly.

Abundant blessings;

23
Sep
20

Two Years On…

Today is the day when – two years ago – our world turned upside down.

After experiencing a long bout of various gastrointestinal distresses, Joan went made an appointment with her doctor. She went in on a Wednesday to get a few tests done. You know… just to eliminate some possibilities.

The next day, at around 6:00 p.m., Joan noticed that she had missed a phone call. There was a voice mail message from her primary care physician saying simply, “Please call the office as soon as you can.”

At that moment, our hearts both plunged straight toward our shoes. 

You see, this is not our first rodeo. We both knew that if the call was simply to tell Joan that the tests were all normal… nothing to worry about… the doctor would have just said that on the message. 

On the other hand, if the news was bad, she would not leave a message. She would want to discuss it with Joan and talk about next steps. We both knew that in this case, no news was bad news.

Even at that late hour, Joan tried to return the doctor’s call, with no luck. She got the answering service saying they would be happy to take a message for the doctor. 

We were then faced with somehow trying to pass the rest of that evening and the night with no news and the worst possible case scenarios running through our heads.

As you might imagine, there was not a lot of sleeping at the Brown house that night.

The next day, Joan called the doctor’s office as soon as they opened up. She got straight through to her doctor and received the news we had spent the last 14 hours imagining; the tests showed that there was cancer. In the months ahead there would be chemotherapy, followed by surgery, followed by more chemotherapy. 

As one of our worst nightmares unfolded before us, we were nevertheless able to sniff out a couple of blessings hiding there in the middle of the forest fire. 

The first was Joan’s doctor’s attitude. She refused to talk about what “stage” the cancer was, or to offer her opinion on the odds of survival. She just said, “Let’s not worry about any of that right now. What we’re going to do is get busy and attack this with everything we’ve got and hope for the best.”

The other blessing/super weird thing about that day were our plans for that evening. Months and months before that fateful day, we had heard that Billy Joel was coming to town to play a concert. We both love Billy Joel, and so we immediately called up a few friends and made plans to go out to dinner together and then carpool to the concert site. Together we would rock the night away, dancing to hits like Uptown Girl, New York State of Mind, Big Shot, We Didn’t Start the Fire, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, and of course – somewhere on the set list – Piano Man. Probably as the encore.

 And so, as irony would have it, that blueprint for a wonderful evening of friends, food, and fun was scheduled for THAT VERY DAY… the day of Joan’s diagnosis. 

We decided not to ruin everyone else’s evening by sharing our news over dinner, so we just force-smiled our way through the dinner, the drive, and the concert. 

In a way, the whole thing was kind of a welcome respite. But every now and then during the concert I would wrap my arm around Joan’s shoulder, squeeze her tight, look down into her eyes and mouth the words, “I love you,” over the din of the music.

The journey of the last two years has changed both of us forever. We got Joan connected with one of the best gynecological oncologists in the region. Her surgery was a success. Chemotherapy was not really the torture chamber we had feared (I know… easy for me to say, right?). 

Joan lost all of her hair and was significantly weakened by the entire process, but all of her critical blood counts and cancer markers have gone down and stayed down since they officially declared her “in remission.”

Of course, we don’t know what the future – long-term or short-term – holds for us. But then again, who does? 

Life is different these days than it was two years ago. But it is also somehow sweeter… more precious… more open to quotidian mystery and wonder than it ever was before. We miss fewer opportunities to kiss and stroke one another’s hair – now that hers has grown back. The importance of our faith and our family has jumped for both of us exponentially. Neither of us holds back when the need arises to say, “I need help,” or “I need to rest a little,” or, “I appreciate you so much.”

We cannot even begin to express our gratitude to the friends, family members, church friends, and total strangers who have picked us up and carried us through these days. Sometimes Psalm 103:13-16 informs us: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”

At other times, we lean heavily on Matthew 6:26-27, where we hear Jesus saying, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

But the verse that has lent it’s comforting shadow to us more than any other over these past 24 months comes from the pen of King Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV). 

Whatever you might be going through yourself right now, I pray you might find a way to make these words YOUR theme also.

Abundant blessings;

22
Sep
20

Roots and Wings

I love to travel.

… To go to places I’ve never been before… to meet people who are nothing at all like me… to see sights so incredible you can’t help but stop and capture their likeness.

And when I haven’t traveled in a while, I start to feel dulled… stagnant… enervated.

Then again…

I love to stay put.

… To have a home… a sense of place… to find comfort and peace in the familiar curve of each tree branch and sidewalk… to know without a doubt that I belong HERE.

When I’ve been away from my place for too long, I start to feel homesick… rootless… soul-starved.

Sometimes my two loves seem to be at war. 

I want to leave. I want to stay. 

Leave. Stay. Stay. Leave.

I worry that I may never find a resolution to this disquieting Sisyphean dilemma.

That I may be living a life of limitless restlessness.

Then, at other times, I somehow remember the lessons from The Teachers. They urged me – in moments like this – to pause… and pray… and listen.

In those moments, I hear the voice of the Psalmist saying, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3, NRSV).

That is when I remember where I really belong.

That is when I remember to Whom I really belong.

Abundant blessings;

18
Sep
20

Pro and Con

“Well, it sure beats the alternative!”

I honestly can’t count the number of times I have uttered this phrase whenever someone complains to me about the tribulations of aging.

Here of late though, I’ve had cause to wonder: Is it though? Is getting older REALLY better than NOT getting older?

I have been absent from these blog pages for many more days than I like to be. Some of the reason has to do with some out-of-state travel. Mostly though it has to do with sudden bouts of mortality. 

Earlier this week I aggravated a lower abdominal strain (think lowest abdominal area possible) while trimming our nine-foot-tall hedge. That led to an unplanned trip to the ER. That injury led to a wrenching spasm of my lower back which led to a second ER engagement in less than 12 hours. 

Today I am hopped up on pain killers and muscle-relaxers, trying to bring the pain under some kind of control as I pen this blog post. (And just so you know… I am going to blame all errors in grammar and syntax on my current, pain and drug be-fogged state).

I found my recent string of unfortunate body meltdowns leading to this question: “So what is so great about getting older, anyway?”

And being the list-maker that I am, I started ticking off the PROS and CONS of aging. On the PRO side you have to begin with life experience. To brazenly steal the current State Farm Insurance tagline, “We old folks know a thing or two because we have SEEN a thing or two.” 

There is also the PERSPECTIVE that comes with age. We can look back on something like a broken heart… something that seems like the end of the world to a 22-year-old… and know with confidence that “this too, shall pass.” 

Something else I have noticed is that while we of a certain age are old enough to remember a world before cell phones and the internet, we are still young enough to embrace and use them. 

So there I was… humming blissfully along, making my lists of the costs and benefits of aging… when my brain brought me to a screeching halt. “What in the world…” Brain asked me, “… is the purpose of these lists you’re making? I mean, what are you going to DO with them once you finish?” 

When I pressed Brainy to explain himself a little, he replied, “I mean, if you come up with more CONS than PROS, what are you going to do? Will you try to reverse time and grow YOUNGER? And then what if it comes out the other way – with more PROS than CONS? Are you planning to look down with disdain on everyone younger than you?”

I had to admit it; Brain had a point. 

His question reminded me that any time we start down the road of comparing ourselves with others, our lives immediately begin going off-track. For starters, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to be grateful for the life we are living RIGHT NOW. We start to look at other people as superior, and therefore start to resent them. Or else we see them as inferior and start to reject them. 

In any case, we fall right into the trap God warned Adam and Eve about in the third chapter of Genesis… right there in Paradise, where it all began.

You remember the story. God said, “I’ve set up this beautiful garden for you. Come, take care of it. Have dominion over all of the animals living there. Be my special friends. There is just ONE RULE… don’t eat the fruit of that tree over there. You know… the one there in the middle of the garden.” 

Do you remember the name of that tree? It was not called Apple Tree. It was called, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Genesis 3:5, NRSV). 

In other words, you and I were never intended to have the power to label things “Good” or “Evil.” God always knew that kind of labeling power was too awesome for humans to wield. That ability has always been above our pay grade. Like Thor’s hammer, it is only intended to rest in the hand of the Divine One. 

God’s preferred choice for Adam and Eve was to submit and enjoy. Instead, they chose to rebel and, as a result, suffer. 

Today, I am tempted to look at my aging and decaying body and call it a mistake… to call it wrong… to consider myself cheated. But then I remember the advice Paul gave to the Thessalonians in his first letter to that fledgling church: “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV). 

I think when he said ALL circumstances he meant ALL. The good, the bad, the pro, the con, the sickness, or the health. 

Even that “getting older” thing.

Abundant blessings;

08
Sep
20

Waxing Nostalgic

Remember the “good old days”?

You know… back in January 2020…

… back when we watched movies in movie theaters, went to church in church buildings, when kids went to school in school buildings, when we watched live concerts and sporting events, and we all just willy-nilly shook hands with strangers?

You know… back in the times when only armed robbers wore masks on their faces?

I have to admit… I have caught myself yearning for the return of those “good old days” more than once this week.

And then, in the middle of my nostalgic reverie, this rude thought came crashing in: what if those days are GONE FOREVER… and never coming back?

Say WHAAAAATT????

In asking this I am not giving up hope on the delivery of a Coronavirus vaccine. I absolutely believe the diligent scientists working in their labs will “deliver the goods” someday soon. I also believe that we will eventually all see some relaxing in our state of uber-vigilance. 

But I also believe that waiting for life to “go back like it was” might well be an exercise in futility. Because life will never really be “like it was.”

And while we wait for that golden moment to return, we might be robbing ourselves of the hidden treasures of THIS day. 

As Jesus once famously said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26, NRSV).

No. This moment we share is far from perfect. I don’t know a single person who would have sketched this picture of the year 2020 and said, “Yeah! That’s the ticket! Bring it on!”

But let’s not let our disillusionment with what MIGHT HAVE BEEN this year steal the moments of joy that are still here to be unearthed.

LOOK! There’s one right now!

Abundant blessings;

07
Sep
20

Picking Your Battles

“You have to pick your battles.”

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this sage advice?

Parents of young children have learned and lived the wisdom of this phrase. 

Most married couples I know have it tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. 

And wonder of wonders, it turns out that this advice is highly relevant to 68-year-old retirees, too!

By now you know the drill; there you are… going about your day, minding your own business when suddenly… IT happens. Something as trivial as the location of the salt-and-pepper shakers – that you know are always on that shelf over THERE – has been altered. 

You begin calmly trying out alternative solutions… without success. The frustration and tension begin to build. And then suddenly, before you can say, “Global pandemic,” this minor inconvenience has blown up to epic dimensions, usurping The Apocalypse as the single biggest threat to human existence.

Frustrations get expressed. Emotions get vented. Voices – sometimes – get raised. And somewhere in the middle of the fray, that advice to, “… pick your battles,” echoes in your head.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Clearly it has happened to me. And embarrassed as I am to admit it, most of the time I remember this great advice only AFTER picking the absolutely wrongest battle possible. 

Not surprisingly at all, Jesus never had this problem. Every one of the battles we see him fighting were perfectly picked. And the battles he avoided were likewise perfectly avoided. 

In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus wisely avoids the argument about whether children should be pestering him and taking up his valuable time. He told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16, NRSV). 

In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus skillfully sidesteps the argument about the proper punishment for the woman caught in adultery. He tells her sanctimonious antagonists, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NRSV). 

But for anyone who might be under the impression that Jesus was some kind of milquetoast peacenik, open up your Bible and read the withering tongue-lashing he gives the religious leaders in Matthew 23:13-29, including this devastating truth-bomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27, NRSV). 

And let’s not forget the scene in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple where we see Our Hero throwing over the tables of the moneychangers, driving out their sacrificial animals, and hurling every insult under the sun at them. 

Some battles – as Jesus well knew – were worth fighting. I suspect that for him, these were the battles that had a bearing on the eternal condition of people’s souls. 

Other battles – if the stakes were anything short of eternal – really weren’t worth the energy it took to fight them. 

For me personally, it is not difficult at all to apply the “WORTH FIGHTING” and the “NOT WORTH FIGHTING” label to my own battles…

… that is, after they’ve been fought.

The real challenge is to know the difference BEFORE fighting them.

Abundant blessings;

02
Sep
20

Time for a jolt?

As a child of the 60s, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about protests. 

Granted, most of my participation in the anti-war or civil rights protests of that era consisted of watching them on TV from the safety of my parent’s living room. 

Then again, there was that one time when five or six of my friends and I “took over” the roof of the administration building on our college campus for a few hours in order to protest the Vietnam War. 

The quotation marks around the words “took over” in that last sentence stem from the fact that no one really seemed to much mind us being up on the roof of the admin building. They studiously ignored our chanting and passionate singing of “We Shall Overcome.” We maintained that righteous rooftop vigil right up until it was time to head home and finish the term papers that were due the next day. 

While it is true that I was personally a bit of a protest weenie, I see real value in taking a grievance to the streets. I believe that the Vietnam War might have dragged on for years longer had it not been for those anti-war peaceniks. The struggle for civil rights – though far from resolved even today – might not have gained even token footholds without the people who were willing to gather publicly and express their collective outrage at America’s Jim Crow status quo.

As I think about protestors, I also think about the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire… the young man in Beijing (and his friends) who faced down tanks in Tiananmen Square… and of Nelson Mandela sitting alone in a South African jail cell for 27 years.

At the time most of these people were labeled extremists… kooks… dangerous radicals. So-called reasonable people denounced their tactics as wholly unnecessary. They urged calm, cogent conversation as the preferred way to solve society’s problems. 

But as history has demonstrated again and again, calm, cogent conversation doesn’t always move the needle. Sometimes, it takes an abrupt JOLT!

As it turns out, no one understood the strategic use of the abrupt JOLT quite as well as Jesus of Nazareth. He employed it regularly in the rhetorical technique known as “prophetic hyperbole.” A great example shows up in Mark’s gospel where we read these jolting words: “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.” (Mark 9:43-45, NRSV). 

Does he really mean people should cut off their own hands or feet? 

Or when he told the rich young man that salvation meant selling everything he owned, giving the money to the poor and following him, did he mean that literally?

My guess would be that Jesus didn’t really intend for his words in Mark to be taken as a literal command. In the other one, maybe he did. But maybe not. 

You see, Jesus was a revolutionary. He came to turn the status quo of the world upside down. He did not come for calm, reasoned discussions. He came to instigate radical, top-to-bottom life change. 

In fact, when this man – sometimes called the Prince of Peace – talked about his earthly mission in Luke’s gospel he said, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:51, NRSV). 

Jesus sought to WAKE PEOPLE UP! To shake them from their complacency! To stress the urgency of the moment. 

Please understand… I am not saying that the people taking violently to the streets today are shining examples of Christ-like behavior. I have no insight into their hearts or minds. Many, I feel certain, are interested only in mayhem and destruction. 

What I AM saying is that sometimes the world finds itself in a place where a good, old-fashioned JOLT of prophetic hyperbole is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

What do you think… is this that kind of time? 

24
Aug
20

Clearing the Underbrush

WildfireIt hit me as soon as I walked out the door.

Patrick the dog and I were headed out for our long Saturday morning walk. But after five steps and two breaths, it became abundantly clear that our walk on this particular Saturday would just be to the end of the cul-de-sac and back.

You see, we have wildfires burning about 60 miles to the west of our house here in Fort Collins, Colorado. They aren’t as big as those currently burning in California (these only cover a mere 17,000 acres), but they are big enough.

At times, when the wind is just right, the city of Fort Collins is blanketed with thick smoke. It stings your eyes and burns your lungs. The air quality is listed as, “Hazardous for all individuals” by the county health authorities.

Not ideal dog-walking conditions.

As we listen to news reports on the status of the fire-fighting efforts, Joan and I were surprised to hear that very little is currently being done to fight this fire. There are teams on the ground monitoring the situation, yes. But there are no air tankers dropping flame retardants, no big buckets scooping water out of the lake to dump on it, no fire hoses being aimed at the flames.

It is just being watched as it burns.

When I expressed my frustration about this perplexing nonchalance to a neighbor, he smiled a knowing smile and explained, “These things happen every couple of years and are a part of the natural cycle of things. Right now, they are just making sure it doesn’t get out of control and threaten any houses.”

I nodded and thanked him for his insight, but inside I was saying, WHAT? You can’t be serious! Do you really think it is OK to let fire destroy all those trees and choke us with the smoke and ash? What kind of looney tunes philosophy is THAT?”

As it turns out, it is a very sound philosophy indeed.

You see, in the forest, trees die. Leaves fall to the ground. Underbrush accumulates. Dead vegetation threatens to choke out the living. And so periodically, it all needs to be cleaned out. And as it turns out, the cleaning tool that works best for Mother Nature is FIRE.

Every now and then a fire is needed to sweep through and destroy all the dead stuff… to clear the way for something new and fresh and green to be born.

And when I heard that explanation, I began wondering: does God ever take the same approach with us?

What I mean is; do you think we (the human population of Planet Earth) ever get to the point where too much “dead underbrush” has built up in our hearts or in the world? [Metaphorically speaking, of course.]

  • Do you think it’s possible that this “dead underbrush” ever becomes so vast that it threatens to choke out the possibility of anything new popping up and growing?
  • Do you think it is possible that God has identified a periodic need to do a massive “clearing out” of this spiritual and emotional underbrush?
  • Is it conceivable that something that looks like devastation and destruction (something like a global pandemic, for example) might actually be something more like a cosmic press of the “RESET” button?

And finally;

  • Do you think it is possible that the way is being cleared for something new and fresh and vibrant to emerge on the other side of the current devastation?

Please understand, I have grave hesitations about asking these questions. They could sound like I’m saying that God brought about the death and destruction of COVID-19 in order to bring about something new. These questions might make it sound as if I’m saying that God is indifferent to human suffering as long as there is a “greater good” to be accomplished on the other side.

That is not what I am saying at all.

Rather I am trying to point to God’s unlimited capacity to REDEEM. That is, to take a dire and disastrous situation and use it as the fodder for something wondrous, new, and remarkable.

You know… sort of like he did with his son who died on a Roman cross?

In the short run, that thought doesn’t make it a whole lot easier to put up with the coughing, stinging, fear, and wheezing.

But it does offer us the hope that – in the long run – all of this misery just might not be wasted after all.

 

Abundant blessings;

21
Aug
20

The Heartbreak of RPD

Chocolate on faceIn a wholehearted endorsement of the axiom advising us that confession is good for the soul, I offer this mea culpa today:

Sometimes I suffer from RPD… Resistant Personality Disorder.

What this means is that I will sometimes resist something just for the sake of resisting it. You know, sort of like the child who sticks out his tongue and says, “You can’t make me!”

No one is better suited to bear witness to the truth of this confession than my sainted spouse. She might, for example, point out that I have a smear of chocolate icing on my chin. To which I sometimes reply, “Well, maybe I really want it there!”

Or else she will lovingly point out that the shirt I’ve chosen doesn’t really go with those shorts. Then, in return for her caring compassion she will hear, “That’s OK. I like it, so I’m wearing it.”

And yes, you are right; there is surely a very special place in heaven waiting for her.

Hearing about RPD, you would be right to ask, “Who does that kind of stuff anyway? And why do they do it? Surely everyone is interested in receiving tips on how to be a little bit better version of themselves, aren’t they?”

I will answer your good question this way: sometimes I do it just to be a playful pill. You know… to liven things up around the house a little bit.

At other times, I am probably genuinely miffed. Miffed that someone else saw something amiss with me (my clothes, my hair, my grooming, my attitude, my personality, my whatever) that I did not see myself. And so I become irritated.

In this morning’s meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr (Franciscan priest, author, and founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action in Santa Fe, NM), I was comforted to learn that I might not be alone in my propensity to resist helpful insight. Fr. Rohr wrote, “We all come to wisdom at the major price of both our innocence and our control. Few of us go there willingly; it [wisdom] must normally be thrust upon us.”

Does that sound like YOU at all?

In my own life there was probably no greater example of RPD than my resistance to God’s call to ministry. I can point to moments when I heard – with shocking clarity – a voice saying, “Come serve me” at least 25 years before I actually responded to that call.

My excuses were endless; I knew better. I had my own plan. I wasn’t ready to stop having fun yet. I needed to use my gifts and abilities to “do cool stuff.” I could do “God stuff” around the edges and on the weekends when nothing else was going on.

Thankfully, God didn’t give up. Thankfully, God finally seeped through (actually, more like BROKE through with the full force of a 2×4) my thick skull and got my attention.

Sadly, all these years later and with so much formational experience, I still catch myself occasionally resisting wisdom. Hopefully not as consistently as I once did.

The writer of Proverbs personifies wisdom as God’s co-existing, feminine partner at the very beginnings of the world and gives her these words, “And now my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise… For whoever finds me finds life.” (Proverbs 8:32, 35, NRSV).

How about you? Are you eager to hear wisdom? Do you embrace it, even when it threatens to upset your plans and send you in a new direction?

Or are you still suffering a bad case of RPD?

The cure might be closer than you think.

 

Abundant blessings;




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