Posts Tagged ‘right

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;

28
Jan
21

It’s Excavation Time

My friend chuckled. “Sure, I’ve been wrong before,” he said. “I think the last time was in 1993.” He then winked and added, “… but I could be wrong about that.”

And although he meant it as a joke, I wasn’t entirely sure he was kidding.

Many of us – your faithful correspondent included – often have a barnacle-like attachment to a foundational set of Life Truths. Those truths inform our actions, shape the way we receive information, color our relationships with the people we meet, and guide our emotions.

And when a person has attained a certain, shall we say, maturity level, they have a tendency to hold on to those anchors even more tightly. They (we) say, “HEY! I’ve lived a lot of life here… I’ve seen hypotheses come and go… I’ve sorted through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat… I’ve weathered a jillion different trends. I think I have earned the right to plant my flag RIGHT HERE and say loudly and proudly, ‘THIS IS WHAT IT IS!’”

 But… what if they’re (we’re) wrong?

Are we even willing to entertain that possibility? Or is our entire campaign now dedicated to proving the iron-clad soundness of our position? Or, as my friend’s T-shirt proudly declares, “I’m not arguing… I’m just explaining to you why I am right.”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it is probably because I have just sketched you a picture of the political terrain of the U.S. in the year 2021. 

But it actually goes a little deeper than that. It is not just, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It is more like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and your wrongness is an ominous threat to my personal safety and well-being.”

There are many well-qualified historians who will explain for you – in detail – how we got to this place. Their analyses are worth paying attention to. Likewise, there are baskets full of sociologists who will describe the mechanisms that help encourage and maintain our current state of political and philosophical Balkanization. 

But you are smart enough already to know that widespread, indiscriminate use of social media is a primary culprit. It is a sad truth that most forms of social media thrive on the silo-ification of the populace.  

The real question today is, “What are we – the people on the street – going to do about it?”

And while it might seem massively unfair that WE should have to be the ones to shoulder the burden of reconciliation, it should be clear by now that our political leaders aren’t going to do it for us… no matter how much they bloviate about things like “unity” and “bipartisanship.” 

Because when it comes right down to it, politicians’ daily bread is buttered by a hostile and divided public. 

That is why I am here to suggest that a simple starting place might be for each of us to develop the willingness to utter the phrase, “You know… I might be wrong about that.”

Oooo! Yuck! It stings my fingertips a little just to type those words out! Imagine the pain of actually SPEAKING them out loud! TO ANOTHER PERSON!!

It’s tough! Because saying those words – and MEANING them – requires us to first do a little excavation. Step One involves unearthing each of the Truth Pillars beneath our life’s foundation. Step Two is pulling them apart and examining each of them with a piercing, objective microscope. And then finally, if we discover that one of those Pillars contains serious structural flaws, we have to summon the moral courage to abandon it… sometimes without even knowing what we are going to replace it with. 

As you can see, this is not work for the faint of heart…

… but it is perfect work for the truly humble of heart. 

The Apostle Paul knew – over 2,000 years ago – that you could be trusted with this vital work. That is why he wrote these words, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NRSV)

And so, if Paul trusts you to do it, why shouldn’t I?

Abundant blessings;

27
May
20

Right? Or Wrong?

In my life, I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.

In the sixth grade, I told Marsha Westbrook I was going to marry her.

As this early 90s photo of me and my dad demonstrates, I once thought pleated jeans were a good idea. 539839E7-47A8-44E9-BA41-B9D7E11477C3

A quick check of my closet will show you that I am still holding on to a bolo tie, a 100% polyester “Chaminade” basketball jersey, and a pair of outdoor soccer cleats; clothing choices as wrong as wrong can be.

On the political front, I am a bit loathe to admit it, but there was a time I believed that trickle-down economics made a ton of sense.

At one point I was also convinced that the field of advertising and public relations was my true calling.

Yes, along the way I have also been right about some things too. I was, for example, spectacularly right about asking Joan to marry me. I was also spot on about confessing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My recommendation that our next car be a Toyota Prius is also looking pretty darned savvy right about now.

True… it might be the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, but we won’t go there right now.

My interest right now is in looking at what happens to us internally when we are either WRONG or RIGHT about something.

For me, when I experience one of those rare moments of rectitude, I tend to get a bit cocky. I strut and preen a bit, like a prize-winning Rhode Island Red. I may (or may not) have even pantomimed a dropping-the-mic move and intoned the word, “BOOM!” to those around me recently.

In short, being right sometimes pumps up my ego a bit.

Being wrong, on the other hand, humbles me. It cuts me down to size and causes me to re-examine myself and my views. Granted, it often takes a shocking event or dramatic revelation to show me the error of my ways. But it also reminds me that I am not – after all – the end-all, be-all whiz kid I previously imagined myself to be.

As King David of Israel once said, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit…” (Psalm 51:17, NRSV). Not, you will note, “… a guy who consistently nails it.”

I suppose what matters most is being right about the right things. As much as I enjoy saying so, it actually doesn’t matter whether I am right about Patrick Mahomes being the next GOAT of the National Football League. (He will be, by the way).

Being right about the things that really matter is a continuous lesson in humility. Being right about marrying Joan means constantly reassessing my decisions and actions to ensure that they line up with BOTH of our sets of needs, not just mine.

Similarly, when you or I decide to make Jesus Christ the North Star of our lives, we also decide that all of our other values and priorities will be CONSTANTLY challenged. We can no longer, as Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, let our STOMACH (or other worldly appetites) be our god.

From here out, Christ followers have to question the impulse instead of just blindly responding to it.

As I write this, the day is young. I have only managed to get out of bed, walk the dog, dress, and eat breakfast. Most of those, I am proud to say went off without a hitch. There is still a VAST open space ahead in which to make mistakes, big and small.

The good news, however, is that with Jesus at the center, I have the unshakable assurance that my life will not be forever defined by those mistakes.

HALLELUJAH!

 

Abundant blessings;

19
Jan
18

Dudley Do-Right

1-bluemarble_westJudging by the speed with which he sprang into action, I assumed I was about to step on a landmine.

TIME: the morning after Thanksgiving.

PLACE: the kitchen of my son and daughter-in-law’s home in suburban Houston.

Since my son was obviously tied up with the task of making chocolate chip pancakes for the small army of children in the house, I decided to play the role of “helpful Grandpa” and make the coffee.

I walked over, grabbed the pot from the machine, and began filling it from the tap.

That’s when my son bolted from his post at the griddle, yelling “NOOOOOOO!” in a high-pitched, panic-filled voice. Honestly, from his reaction, I thought the baby was about to swallow a Brillo pad.

He ran over, yanked the coffee pot from my hand, dumped out the offending water, and began to sternly lecture me on the RIGHT WAY to make coffee. Which, in his house, meant using the filtered water from the pitcher in the refrigerator.

“Of course,” I thought. “My son is an engineer by trade. So for him, there is a right way to do a thing and a wrong way to do it. And never the twain shall meet… or something like that.”

Personally, I have always been more of a fan of the “right enough” approach to doing things. For example, I don’t sweat it when I notice that the sheet is a little longer on my side of the bed than my wife’s when we make it in the morning. I also tend to just unwrap and hang the ornaments on the Christmas tree… giving zero consideration to which ones I am putting in the higher, more visible locations.

And if I am going to be completely transparent here I will confess to secretly mocking the folks who seem (to me) to be a little too focused on “the right way” to make coffee, make the bed, or hang the Christmas ornaments. In fact, the phrase, “Get a life” may or may not have been mumbled under my breath a few times on these occasions.

HOWEVER – I think we can all agree that there is really only ONE way to hang a roll of toilet paper (over the top), and ONE right way to put on shoes and socks (sock, shoe, sock shoe vs. sock, sock, shoe, shoe). Am I right?

All kidding aside – “upon further review,” as they say in the NFL – I might have to admit that there really IS value in knowing and adhering to “the right way” to do a thing. I, for one, would never consent to heart bypass surgery from a doctor committed to a “right enough” approach (“Yeah… I think we got that vein pretty well stitched on there. It should hold.”), or to driving on a freeway overpass built by a “right enough” structural engineer.

All of which begs the question: is there a “right way” to live our lives? Or are there “right enough” approaches that can also get the job done?

In the creation story, the Bible tells us that for about a day and a half, life on our Big Blue Marble worked absolutely PERFECTLY. Everything was completely in line with the vision of the Creator and hummed along like a well-oiled machine.

And then along came the fly in the ointment: FREEDOM OF CHOICE! (introduced, as the story goes, by the Creator herself!).

Suddenly the sentient beings could choose. They could choose RIGHT, RIGHT ENOUGH, or outright WRONG. And if you continue reading the story you see that more often than not, the SBs (sentient beings) chose WRONG… often spectacularly so. They continued choosing wrong to the point that Creator said of the sentient beings, (and I quote), “I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:8, NRSV)

Wow! Why would Creator do that? Why mess up a perfectly perfect arrangement by introducing choice into the equation?

It’s almost as if Creator is sending the message that the value of FREEDOM TO CHOOSE is an even higher value than ALWAYS CHOOSING THE RIGHT WAY.

It’s like this: sometimes I do right.

Sometimes I do right enough.

Sometimes I do wrong… even knowingly.

But I am deeply grateful for the love of a Creator who trusts me enough to grant me that choice.




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