Posts Tagged ‘truth

19
Apr
21

Watch Your Eyes!

Today, for the first time in a jillion years, I got new glasses.

Not just new lenses. New frames, too. 

And if I do say so myself, they are pretty danged snazzy. 

All of which made me pause and think about the importance of my eyes.

Somewhere in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered his listeners this important observation: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eyeis unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23, NRSV).

Which prompts me to ask: How is your eye… or rather, how are your EYES today?

No question; eyes and their use have always been important to us. Not only do they help us navigate through our surroundings, but they also serve as a critical instrument of self-expression. 

Here in the time of the global pandemic, however, their importance seems to have skyrocketed exponentially. 

Think of it. When we find ourselves in a time – as we do today – where masks hide the lower half of everyone’s face, the entire weight of emotional expression falls on the eyes. We have to learn to “SMIZE” (or “smile with your eyes,” TM, Tyra Banks), express pleasure, fear, concern, angst, boredom, surprise, disgust, horror, love, and 85 other emotions ENTIRELY with our eyes.

That seems like a mighty heavy burden to lay on those two little jelly-filled balls.

This is certainly a time for us to take good care of the health of these critters, for sure. It is also a good time to remember to be a little extra cautious about how we are using our eyes. For example, are we…

… rolling our eyes?

… averting our eyes?

… leering with them?

… looking covetously with them?

… staring with them?

… registering embarrassment or shame with them?

Your eyes disclose your heart. They have the power to hearten or to discourage everyone you meet. 

Our eyes serve as our ambassadors… going out ahead of us to tell others who we are and what we are about. They don’t lie… even when we ask them to.

So, please… take good care of your eyes…

… and watch them carefully.

Abundant blessings;

27
Mar
21

Getting Uncomfortable

Germany, Young man lying in hammock and reading a magazine

Before Word #1 appears on this page, I have to settle in at my desk and get nice and comfortable.

Before my car’s engine roars (politely) to life, I make sure I am quite comfortable there in the driver’s seat.

TV viewing in the evening for me is always preceded by strict attention to the comfort of my position on the couch. 

And then, at the end of the day, when it comes to that most essential human activity, SLEEPING!, I devote a great deal of attention to seeking out a position of maximum possible personal comfort. 

In fact, I would be willing to wager that if someone showed me a scientific study of the amount of energy I devote daily to comfort-seeking, that number would make my eyes bug right out of my head. 

And what about you, friend? Are you likewise afflicted with CCSS (Compulsive Comfort Seeking Syndrome)?

I think we can all agree that no one will win a Nobel Prize in sociology for announcing the discovery that, “Comfort-seeking seems to be a universal human pursuit.” Cave people didn’t come up with the idea of fire just so they’d have a way to cook their brontosaurus burgers, you know.  

But I wonder… despite its ubiquitousness, is it possible we can get a little too carried away with this urge toward comfort seeking? Is the Dr. Scholl’s Company really telling us the truth when they contend that “Comfort is EVERYTHING!*”

In fact, I think there is a good case to be made that runaway, unexamined, “comfort seeking” is at the root of a whole host of human maladies. To wit:

  • Avoiding the difficulty and discomfort of hard, physical work usually leads to flawed, “squishy” solutions. 
  • People who don’t feel “comfortable” in the presence of people of different races, ethnicities, religions, or sexual orientations can very quickly become dangerous bigots. 
  • My aversion to the discomfort of re-examining my core beliefs can keep me permanently locked on to a set of toxic assumptions about the world.

When Jesus talked to the folks gathered around and said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32, NRSV), he didn’t add, “And I promise; knowing the truth will be painless and easy-peasy.”

As essential as it seems to be to life on this planet, I am not sure I will EVER be comfortable with discomfort… whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. I have to face the fact that I will continue to be “that guy” who grabs for the footrest and the extra couch pillow to put behind my back. 

I think I can only pray that God will regularly grant me the strength to shove personal comfort aside in favor of some much-needed growth. 

Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest. 

Now to go find a nice shady spot in the yard where I can lay down, sip an iced tea, and stare at the sky for a while.

Abundant blessings;

  • Not the actual slogan of the Dr. Scholl’s Company, by the way.
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;

12
Nov
20

No Strings Attached

Joan thinks of me as a hard-working guy.

  • The truth is, I am lazy to the core.

My doctor and various family members say they are impressed by my health and vitality.

  • The truth is, I hate to exercise and LOVE stuffing my face with “bad” food.

Some folks have described me as mellow and laid-back.

  • The truth is, I often have a hard time controlling my temper.

People have told me they like the way I write.

  • The truth is my writing has more rough edges and blatant errors than it should… especially considering my education and all these years of practice.

I have been complimented for my theological insight and apparent dedication to spiritual disciplines.

  • The truth is, I am much shallower and more spiritually immature than a person who calls himself a Christian really should be.

To some, I appear to be compassionate and actively invested in helping secure the well-being of other people.

  • The truth is, I am mostly concerned about myself and what is best for me.

Reading through this list, you might be tempted to believe I am brutally honest when it comes to self-assessment.

  • The truth is, I dwell mostly in the land of delusion and self-deception.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

  • The truth is, facing hard realities about oneself is usually the last thing most people want to do.

Why is that do you suppose? I mean, if we take Jesus at his word (and I do), it means most of us regularly choose imprisonment over freedom… illusion over reality… enslavement over liberation.  

I suspect it has to do with the fact that it is a lot more comfortable to live inside our own, carefully constructed “house of mirrors” than it is to face up to the sharp edges of reality. 

  • It reminds me of my friend who refused to see a doctor about his periodic bouts of “heartburn” … right up until he died in his living room recliner of a massive heart attack. 
  • … or the character “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman) in the movie Shawshank Redemption. After spending most of his life behind bars, Red is finally released from prison, but finds that he ultimately can’t handle the freedom of life on the outside. 

Yes, living in the truth is hard. But it is even harder if we neglect to factor God’s amazing, redeeming, life-changing, future-altering GRACE into the picture. 

We can’t ever forget that God SEES exactly who each of us is. God KNOWS us better than we know ourselves. God REMEMBERS every sin, error, and injury from our past. God ANTICIPATES every major and minor slip-up we will commit in the future.

AND YET… God says, “I forgive you. I love you. Because of my infinite, unconditional love for you, I put on flesh and died for you. In that same love, I offer you this new day as a blank slate, here for you to create upon. Yes, I know you will probably find a way to mess it up somehow, but I still give it freely to you… no strings attached.”

To which I can only say, “Hallelujah and AMEN!”

And THAT is the truth.

Abundant blessings;

19
Feb
20

The Path

Pathway“To know me…” my friend Rick used to say, always with a sly smirk, “… is to love me.”

And for most of us, that certainly is the logical order of things.

Step 1: Get to know someone. Or something. Step 2: Decide whether you love them or not. Step 3: Relate accordingly.

As the mystics tell us though, it is exactly the opposite with God. According to one of my favorite writers on faith matters, Fr. Richard Rohr, we cannot truly KNOW God until we first LOVE God.

And so for skeptics and non-believers, this order of things presents a giant obstacle. “Let me examine the evidence first,” they might say. “Let me weigh up the pros and cons, interview the eyewitnesses, search the literature for secondary warrants and then – and ONLY then – will I make my own, scientifically-informed decision about how I feel.”

The problem with the scientific/rational approach – as the scriptures tell us – lies in God’s essence. 1 John 4:16 reminds us, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

It’s not that the path of intellectual assent to the reality of God is weak or flawed. It’s that it is simply not AVAILABLE.

In other words, we can’t study our way to union with God  (with apologies to my seminary profs). We can only love our way there. Or as The Teacher reminds us, “Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”(Ecclesiastes 12:12, NRSV).

Words to live by.

But trust me… they won’t suffice as an excuse for not turning in your homework.

20
Dec
19

freedom-meme-2

I’m not sure Jesus could have hit the nail any more squarely on the head than when he said this.

But here is the question that keeps me awake at night:

Do you and I really want to be set free?

Or are we instead content to stay nestled in the security of a world view that comforts us, that doesn’t challenge or push us, that reinforces our stereotypes, and always puts us on the right side of every question?

19
Dec
19

More Than Meets the Eye

Optimus PrimeThe word “transformation” continues to be popular in the vocabulary of most Christians today.

This seems to be especially true when it comes to the mission statements of Christian churches… Transforming hearts and minds with the love of Christ,” “Seeking to live as agents of transformation in a broken and hurting world,” “Transforming the world with Christ’s love,” are just a few of the examples I’ve seen.

Heck, if the name weren’t already copyrighted, I suspect many Christians today would vote to adopt the name TRANSFORMERS as a more accurate description of their mission and ministry.

Don’t get me wrong… I really like the word transformation. I have probably used and over-used it more times than I care to admit.

But sometimes I worry that this powerful, important word might become one of those good things that are used so casually and reflexively that they lose their sizzle and ultimately turn into tasteless lumps of verbal Wonder Bread. You know… just like that car commercial you really liked the first time you saw it on TV; and you kept liking right up until the moment they showed it for the 563rdtime.

Recently I got a new, helpful way to understand the power of the word transformation. It was when my niece sent me a picture of her new baby son and just gushed and cooed about what a heavenly little bundle of joy he is.

Sure, you say… that’s just what new moms do. No newsflash here.

But you only say that because you don’t know my niece. You don’t know the sleepless nights my sister spent during said niece’s adolescence wondering where she was or what would ever become of her. You don’t know about each gray hair on my sister’s head that has my niece’s name printed on it. You have no idea the level of stress and turmoil my niece has caused my sister throughout the years.

Actually, I probably don’t really know either.

And so you really can’t appreciate what an unbelievable miracle it is for me to step back and look at this picture of my niece, cradling her precious baby son in her arms, making giant mooneyes at him, and calling him the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.

THAT, my friend, is transformation.

It made me remember a similar transformation I experienced when my first child was born. And my second, for that matter.

Outwardly nothing has changed… besides the addition of a brand new life into your world, of course.

What I mean is, I continued to be the same, lazy, self-centered, awkward, charming, clumsy, sinful human I was before the Blessed Event. None of those essential qualities magically went away.

And yet, somehow EVERYTHING was different!

I was now a DAD! I was now responsible 24/7 for the shaping of an entire HUMAN BEING! And – wonder of wonders – this human being was so small and helpless, it was utterly dependent on me and his mother for absolutely one hundred percent of his needs.

There was suddenly no margin for error… no days off… no second chances to shape the kind of person he would grow up to be.

Nothing was different, but EVERYTHING was changed. In the moment I first beheld my newborn child, I was utterly TRANSFORMED.

And when you stop a minute and think about it, what more perfect way could God have found to inaugurate the transformation of our planet than through a similar event… the birth of a baby.

I learned a whole lot about myself that day… as I am certain every new parent does.

But the two lessons that still stick with me here 43 years later are, 1.) Transformation is real and is possible for every person alive, and 2.) Transformation only ever happens from the inside out.

May our world experience abundant transformation, beginning today!

30
Apr
18

My Truth

brilliant ideaIt’s finally happened!

That million dollar idea I have been sitting here waiting to pop into my head JUST DID!

POP!

So before I dash down to the U.S. Patent Office and secure this brilliant brainstorm under legal lock and key, I thought I would first share it with YOU.

Pinkie swear you won’t steal it?

OK… good.

It is really an idea for an entire LINE of products rather than a single solitary item. Admittedly I have only come up with two products for the line so far. But I am sure more will be forthcoming.

All I have to do is sit here perfectly still and wait for The Muse to descend.

So… the product line is called My Truth. And the two products in the line so far are 1.) a bathroom scale and, 2.) a blood pressure cuff.

The inspiration for the My Truth line came from my own personal frustration with the dogged tendency of the “traditional” models of these products to regularly disappoint me.

You might also be familiar with this same kind of disappointment in your life. If so, well, my friend, that disappointment is EXACTLY why you are an ideal customer for either the My Truth bathroom scale or the My Truth blood pressure cuff!

(Cue generic, accentless TV Announcer voice here…) “Tired of those pesky ‘accurate’ readings on your scale and blood pressure cuff that keep reminding you that you need to cut down on desserts, exercise more, lower your sodium intake or adopt generally healthier habits?

“Then you need MY TRUTH! The bathroom scale/blood pressure cuff programmed to give you only GOOD NEWS!

“Just set the read-out for the results you seek and VOILA! See that awesome answer EVERY TIME you step on the scale and/or pump up the cuff!”

“Gone are the days of feeling guilty about falling short of your health goals! With My Truth, you’re always a WINNER! Call now and order yours! Taxes and shipping extra.”

So… whaddya think?

Should I start shopping for that Maui beachfront property now, or should I visit the Lamborghini dealership first?

Of course, this is a “patently” ridiculous idea. I say this acknowledging that I have seen other ideas I labeled as “ridiculous” go on to make gigantic piles of money for their originators (“Pet Rocks” or “Hatchimals” anyone?)

The truth is: you and I need regular and ample doses of truth in our lives… even when that truth disappoints or displeases us.

We need an unmoving north star by which to navigate… acknowledging that our own subjective ability to stay on course is fatally flawed.

But where do we find that North Star? Can we rely on friends? Or spouses? Or family members? On our “guts”?

In many cases, the answer is probably “YES.”

But not in every case.

As far as I know, there is only one source that we can count on to be unerringly true every time we consult it… whether we like that truth or not.

But unlike the friends or family members who might drop a Truth Bomb on us now and then, we can be assured this “truth dispenser” is motivated ONLY by love.

Every. Single. Time.

Jesus said, “… you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”(John 8:32, NRSV).

But he never said the truth wouldn’t sting a little bit now and then.

 

Abundant blessings;

09
Mar
18

The Child Within

inner childrenHe sees so much, sitting there
Perched on the edge of my soul.
An avalanche of wonder cascades
On… in… around his open, receptive eyes.

He misses nothing.
He is a bridge.
He is a lighthouse.
He is the key to the door of secrets.

His hand outstretched
E.T. glowing white fingertips
He invites me to “come”
“Learn”
“Listen”

“We should climb this tree
And sit silently
And watch.” 

“We should dive into
That pile of leaves…
And roll around.”

In his hand, a wrapped gift appears.
Open it,” he sings.
And so I open it
And I weep.

The gift pulses, shimmers, purrs
It glows a deep, satisfying blue.
It is the gift I have always wanted
But could never speak.

It is the gift of my life…
Whole
Affirmed
Holy.

Mine to cherish.
Mine to own.

I love you,” he says.
And smiles.

09
Jan
18

Necktie Truth

Burning bushQ: When is a burning bush NOT a burning bush?

A: When it is a collapsing tie rack.

Ba-dump-bump!

Let me explain: Sunday night when I came home I was tired.

Earlier in the day, I woke up at 5:00 a.m., preached sermons at two different churches, driven an hour back to the city, and then went immediately to speak at my friend’s pre-funeral funeral event. (Which, when you think about it, is a really good idea. I would love the chance to be there in the flesh to listen to all the lovely eulogies and memories people normally don’t speak about you until your actual funeral.)

When I got home I went through the bedroom and into my closet. I was eagerly looking forward to taking off my suit and tie, slipping into a baggy sweatshirt and slippers, putting my feet up and just RELAXING.

And then suddenly – unprovoked by anything but the winds of cosmic mischief – my battery-powered, revolving tie rack crashed to the closet floor… spilling ties EVERYWHERE.

Granted, I’ve had that rack for a long time… probably long enough to explain why two of the five little plastic hooks holding it up were broken off.

But still…

For the next 30 minutes there I was – halfway undressed, trying to put the accursed device back together while digging myself out from under the tie avalanche in the middle of the closet floor.

Somewhere there in the middle of my cursing and scooping and flailing attempts to fix what was broken, a thought entered my mind. And that thought went something like this; “Well, looks like it is time to get a new tie rack. And maybe – JUST MAYBE – it doesn’t need to be a rotating tie rack capable of holding 64 different ties. MAYBE it is time to come to grips with the fact that you are in a different phase of your life where you don’t actually NEED 60-70 different ties to choose from. MAYBE you could take at least half of those and give them away!”

Yes, I had to face a hard truth: I had been hoarding neckties.

Which is a weird thing, actually, since I am not really a big fan of ties in the first place.

I finally realized that right there, in my tired, half-dressed, frustrated state of mind standing there in the closet; I had received an invitation.

I was being invited to face the music.

I was being invited to embrace the reality of the new phase my life had entered… I am not sure exactly what to call this phase, but it is definitely a phase that does not require 64 different tie choices.

Who knows, it might be time to just be totally wild, throw caution to the wind, and face the world with just 30 ties!

In all seriousness, I found that the act of sitting in the middle of that pile of ties, sorting through them and putting some in a “toss or donate” bag was an exercise that was at once sobering and liberating.

Those ties – along with many other material artifacts that populate my home I’m sure – represented a bridge to the past. They helped me say, “See… nothing has changed. I am still the same guy I was 25 years ago when I started buying those ties. I can postpone any effort to recalculate my bearings in life FOREVER! I really don’t have to face the honest-to-gosh facts of who I am and where I am.”

The best burning bushes in our lives are the ones that bring us face to face with the truth. The truth God revealed to Moses in the burning bush there on Mt. Sinai was the truth of his unique call to liberate his people (Exodus 3:7-10).

The truth Jesus revealed to the apostle Simon when he changed his name to Peter (Luke 6:14) was the truth of his rock-solid character… albeit a character buried deeply under some really shaky stuff on the surface.

Jesus hit the nail on the head when he said, “… and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). What he omitted from his statement was that after coming to KNOW the truth, we have to LIVE that truth.

Because sometimes truths are hard to come to grips with… just like my truth about neckties.

And so we avoid them.

Right now we are living in a time when the world is being presented with a whole bunch of truth… truth about the prevalence of sexual violence in the workplace… truth about the epidemic levels of chemical addiction… truth about the importance of character in our political leaders… truth about the alteration of the planet’s climate patterns caused by man-made pollution… and so on and so on.

These truths WILL, in fact, set us free.

But only if we embrace these truths and live them out.

Will you help me?




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