Archive for October, 2017

31
Oct
17

The Real Deal

“To thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, in Hamlet

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,
and that is what we are.”
– 1 John 3:1, NRSV

“Authentic” is a word that has been crossing my radar screen with increased frequency lately.

Naturally, authenticity would be a theme that would come to mind on that annual holiday we spend dressing up as someone – or something – else.

It also popped up this morning on a local radio talk show. The guest was the owner of a restaurant in town that specializes in Ramen noodles. Yes… that is apparently a thing. During the show, many syllables and much air were employed in identifying the difference between authentic Ramen and… I guess the inauthentic variety.

Over the weekend I had the honor of officiating at the memorial service of a friend of my son’s who died of pancreatic cancer. He and many friends in attendance had spent most of their lives outside the institutional church. However, in the last months of his life, this young man experienced something powerful and convicting that led him to ask me to baptize him a month before his death.

I found myself wrestling deeply with the question of what an “authentic” celebration of his life might look like…. And then not being terribly sure I even understood the question.

Often we give very high “authenticity” marks to people in the public eye who don’t really take the time to weigh and carefully consider their words before speaking. We applaud them as “genuine”… “unfiltered” and “authentic.” We say that those folks are a breath of fresh air in comparison with the carefully crafted words of professional “spin doctors.”

And then it makes me scratch my head and ask, “So then what does the word authentic actually mean?” And then I follow up with myself and ask, “And how has authenticity become such a paramount virtue today?”

One answer I hear is that the word authentic must mean something like “core,” or “essential,” or “foundational.” It’s what is left over when you strip away all of the mystical window dressing.

hotfudge_sundaeBut then I have to ask, “Does that mean all of our efforts to enhance or improve something are fraudulent because they take us away from its ESSENCE? Should I just leave my vanilla ice cream alone and not add the chocolate syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry… in the name of authenticity?”

I also hear authenticity being defined more along the lines of “raw” and “unprocessed” or that other phrase currently in fashion, “… like it is.” The implication here is that the more spontaneous and unplanned something is, the more authentic it is.

I am not going to lie… as a guy who writes and re-writes and tries to think carefully about words and what they mean, this definition offends me. I am sure it offends me because it seems to assign a higher virtue to unplannedness and spur-of-the-momentness than to thoughtfulness.

And personally, I think that is one messed up set of virtues.

MYRIAD are the examples I can give of times when my ill-considered, spontaneous words caused hurt and complication in a situation.

MYRIAD+ are the examples of times when slow, deliberate, thoughtful consideration of words brought light and healing.

Think about it: what would it look like if we all really followed Polonius’ advice to be “true” to our own selves?

The next, natural question is: which self are we talking about?

  • Is it the self that feels like punching a hole in the wall when the home team fumbles the opening kick-off?
  • Is it the self that can’t resist taking a second helping of apple pie?
  • Is it the self that has deep doubts about its talent or worth?

And are we really the ones to be trusted to choose which of these “selves” we are supposed to be true to?

I believe personal authenticity is all about being the fullest, most complete version of ME that I can be.

And so for me, that includes being every bit of the goofy, thoughtful, impulsive, tender-hearted, self-centered, creative, emotional, dim-witted, spiritual, energetic, joyful, deep, shallow, inconsiderate Russell Brown God made me to be.

But mostly, it means going back to the Source and reclaiming my identity as a Child of God; infinitely beloved by the One who created the whole Universe.

THAT is really who I am.

And it is really – authentically – who you are, too.

Blessings;

23
Oct
17

Soul Hygiene

brushing-teeth-too-hardMy mom would be so proud of me.

She has been gone now for 47 years, but I have to believe she is looking on from the Next Realm and smiling a proud, satisfied smile.

You see for the past 47 years – more, in fact – hardly a day has gone by on which I have not brushed my teeth. Every single one of them.

Big deal, you say?

So what?

Giant YAWN!!??

Well, let me tell you; for quite a long time during my childhood, the practice of regular teeth brushing caused tremendous battles between my mother and me.

I really don’t understand why, but back then brushing my teeth was one of my least favorite things in the whole world to do.

When bedtime rolled around, I just wanted to put on my PJs, crawl under the covers and zonk out. I didn’t have time to detour to the bathroom for any sort of hygienic nonsense.

My mother tried everything. She cajoled me, threatened me, withheld my allowance and told me scary stories about toothless boys eating nothing but Jello for the rest of their lives. At one point she made me come back into the living room and breathe on her to demonstrate the minty freshness of my mouth.

Nevertheless, I resisted. It was a pain and a chore and I just flat didn’t want to do it.

What a strange, strange child I was!

Today I wouldn’t dream of starting and ending my day without brushing my teeth. Now and then you might catch me brushing them in the middle of the day, too. And flossing!

Obviously somewhere along the way, something changed. The thing I once saw as a tedious chore, forced upon me by cruel, uncaring authority figures suddenly became an important discipline in my life.

After all that resistance I came to see the value of brushing my teeth. No one had to watch over me and badger me to do it… I finally WANTED to brush my teeth. In fact, I looked forward to doing it. I actually have come to miss it dearly during those times when – for one reason or other – I am unable to brush my teeth.

That which was once a CHORE and an IMPOSITION on my precious time has somehow become a valuable DISCIPLINE. I am not sure it has morphed all the way to the status of being a JOY yet, but hopefully, it will get there while I still have teeth left to brush. I am not sure when or how this transformation of my attitude happened, but it did. Today I am an avid tooth brusher!

But I have to confess; I have still not quite arrived at that same place when it comes to my daily prayer and scripture-reading discipline.

Don’t get me wrong: I am much farther along the transformation road than I once was. I no longer require an authority figure to stand guard over me, threatening to withhold my allowance if I don’t do my daily devotional reading. (But honestly… is that really an accomplishment to crow about for a guy who was ordained into Christian ministry 12 years ago? Yeah, probably not.)

I still regularly let obstacles block my path on the way to “the reading chair.” A schedule that looks too full… an early household chore that MUST be attended to… a grumpy or lazy state of mind that rears its head and says – in a low, surly voice – “Aw, just skip it today.” All of these can too easily derail my noble intent.

My goal is to arrive at that place where I feel just as incomplete and ill-prepared to face the world without my daily dose of prayer and scripture as I would with unbrushed teeth.

I’m not there yet.

But I believe I am getting there.

Would you please pray for me?




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