Posts Tagged ‘goal

13
Jun
20

To Callous, or Not to Callous

My guitarsBlogosphere, meet my guitars. The Martin Dreadnought acoustic is the one on the left and the Fender American Stratocaster (with double humbucker pickup) is the one on the right.

Guitars, meet the blogosphere.

I love these instruments and miss them fiercely whenever Joan and I travel.

Lately I have found that coming up here in the evening and playing them is a great tonic for my soul.

I have been playing for a few years now, but don’t really consider myself a guitarist. I’m just a guy who fools around on the guitar now and then. In case you are curious, there are two foolproof ways you can tell that that I am not a real guitarist:

  • First, I have not named my guitars.
  • Second, I only have two of them.

(It suddenly occurs to me there is a third, foolproof way to verify my “non-guitarist” status: listen to me play.)

Most of the time, I play in order to calm and entertain myself. Sometimes I sit down and try to learn a new song to add to my repertoire. Sometimes I just come to work on simple scales and finger exercises.

Since I am no longer taking weekly lessons or playing in a jam band or the church’s praise band, there is not a regular, external motivation to keep at it.

No motivation, that is, except for the maintenance of my callouses.

Anyone who plays guitar with regularity will attest to the importance of healthy callouses on the fingertips of the fretting hand. Callouses are the toughened areas of skin that keep the steel wires of the guitar string from cutting into you and making you bleed all over the lovely woodwork. If you don’t play with some level of frequency, your callouses will get soft. Playing will become painful.

In that sense, you could say that playing the guitar is the exact opposite of engaging in the disciplines of the Christian spiritual life.

In the world of the guitar, the discipline and regularity of practice helps BUILD UP and harden your fingertips. It prevents your playing and practice from being painful.

The aim of the spiritual disciplines, on the other hand, is to SOFTEN us… to make us more OPEN and VULNERABLiE to the world around us… to EXPOSE us to the “still, small voice” of God that Elijah heard, or to make us more susceptible to the pain and heartbreak of a neighbor who isn’t necessarily part of our “tribe.”

The goal, in other words, of all the Christian study and prayer and fasting and worship we do should be to heighten our compassion (from the Latin, com passio, “to feel with.”).

When Jesus blessed the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) during his Sermon on the Mount, he was talking about exactly these people: the people for whom the callouses around their hearts have worn away and softened.

The culture instructs us to “toughen up” and blast our way through the pain and tragedy and heartbreak of the world around us. “Take charge!” is the battle cry. “Grow thick callouses!”

But a mere two verses later (in Matt. 5:5) Jesus tells us who will REALLY inherit the earth.

Maybe we should listen to him!

27
Dec
17

An Inside Job…

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.“
Luke 19:42, NRSV

Jesus lamentLooking toward the year ahead, I see a whole bunch of stuff on the horizon.

I see “wannas.”

I see “gottas.”

I see a TON of “oughtas.”

But I see just a small handful of “MUSTS.”

And right there at the top of the “must” list is the MUST of heeding Jesus’ sentiment in the verse from Luke there at the top of the page.

You might know that these are the words he spoke as he lamented over the city of Jerusalem, a mere 48 hours before his arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

As Jesus spoke these words, he looked out on a city that was in a deep state of division and political unrest. It was a city that seemed to have lost its primary, faith-centered identity in a quest to appease the leaders of the status quo.

Does any of that ring a familiar bell?

Jesus laments Jerusalem’s failure to recognize “the things that make for peace.” But I like to suggest that today we are called to go a step further.

We are called not to just recognize the things that make for peace… we are called to act on them as well.

And to take it a step further, I am called to recognize that all of this has to begin with ME.

It doesn’t start with new laws… It doesn’t start with a different president… or with a whole new slate of state or civic leaders. It doesn’t even start with better attendance in our churches, synagogues, or other places of worship.

It starts with ME.

It starts with me looking deeply in the mirror and recognizing that I am a lot angrier man today than I was a few years ago.

Then I have to recognize the fact that angry people are usually not very effective peacemakers. In fact, neurological studies have shown that our brains undergo physiological change the more often we allow anger to take over and rule our approach to the world.

And as much as I would like to explain away and excuse my heightened state of anger; the truth is that none of those explanations really matter.

What matters is doing something different.

What matters is mapping a different response to the things that push my buttons… that is, to work on becoming the initiator of the response rather than the reactor to the stimulus.

Unless you are in either a natural or chemically induced state of bliss 24/7, we all see things happening around us that push our buttons, rub us the wrong way, or outrage us.

It comes with the territory of being awake.

The question is: what will you DO with your outrage?

I was scratching my head over this very question the other day when I came across this very interesting article from the Edutopia website. It was written by Laura Thomas and addresses what she sees as a growing state of anger toward others in this country.

In the course of the article, Ms. Thomas suggests three questions we each might ask when some new “button pushing” stimulus comes to our attention. She suggests we pause (often a challenge in and of itself) and ask:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react or what happens when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

So often – at least for me – when I am busy being outraged, I can spin myself into a rapidly escalating spiral of righteous indignation that perpetuates its own energy. I’ve heard enough and I’m READY TO RUMBLE!

The idea of pulling back and asking these questions would not just be helpful to me and my spirit… it might even be healing for the WORLD.

I know at this point that I am supposed to reach out and invite you to join me in my resolve to be a peacemaker in the year ahead… and start a social media “chain letter” of peacemaking.

And all of that would be great.

But whether you do or not, I am clear that I need to let peace begin with me.

Hey! Wouldn’t that be a cool song?

 

Abundant blessings to you;

 




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