Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Dishonest Manager: Choices and Consequences

One of the most puzzling scriptures to me has always been Luke 16:1-13. Recently, I got some insight into what I think Jesus was saying.
The master was firing a dishonest manager for squandering his property. So the dishonest manager cut everyone’s debt to the master in half in order to be welcome in their homes when he no longer had a job. It then sounds like the master approves of what the manager has done “by being shrewd as the children of this generation are so that he will be welcomed into their eternal homes.” But then Jesus goes on about being trustworthy in the small things, so you will be trusted in the large. And from there he says that no one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth.
To me the overall message is, “If you think this life is all there is, then you might as well beat the worldly at their own game. Be shrewd: get jobs through kickbacks, win rich friends with insider tips, charge exorbitant prices, use other peoples’ retirement funds to cover your mistakes, do whatever it takes to get money and power in this life.
But if you want eternal life with God, watch out. That changes everything. Because this life is short and riches are uncertain, but the love of God is eternal and trustworthy. You have to decide. What is your bottom line? God or money? This life or eternity?
As much as I believe in the unconditional love of God and that hell would be never learning to love, I can’t get around the obvious fact that we do constantly make choices and the small ones lead to a pattern of life long ones and they have consequences.
I also know that some of us are weaker than others, seemingly from birth, but I know that faith opens a reservoir of both strength from within and external coincidences that help us make choices to give, rather than take because of our own neediness. We never become perfect, but we grow toward our individual potential, by turning to the reservoir of God’s love when our neediness keeps us from loving others. As we learn how to do this more and more in all circumstances, our cups can run over with love.
Jesus wept for his people because though he loved them with all his heart, he was unable to reach them to free them from the limits of the values of this world and lead them to that reservoir of grace for all circumstances.

If Jesus Wept, So can I. Don’t Tell Me Not to Cry

It’s long been my theory that women outlive men, because in our culture we have traditionally been allowed the release of tears.

When men are overwhelmed, they use anger to keep from being vulnerable by showing their fears or hurt. But anger has to be controlled or it will turn into violence, so it isn’t an effective
way of expressing and releasing strong emotions. Instead it just creates more tension and stress.

Though long ago crying made me feel weak, once when doing a project using a friend’s original art, I thought I had permanently damaged all her paintings. Weeping copiously, I struggled successfully to find a way to save them. Once the crisis was over, I realized that weeping didn’t show weakness. The whole time I was weeping, I was coping by problem solving. And having an outlet for my emotions, probably freed me from panic enough to think of a creative solution.

When I was carpooling with an army staff sergeant to my civil service job on an army post, he explained why he had volunteered for a year’s duty without family in Korea. He said that he had a great posting near his wife’s family in Boston. But the first morning he reported to his new position as staff sergeant, he discovered that all his officers were women and in the process of his first staff meeting, they all, at times, cried. He had been through two wars, but he couldn’t handle that. It struck me as understandable, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the officers in all the armies cried instead of being angry and macho, would it cut down on wars?

Another time I was working in a Christian book store and right after my mother died, I had to spend a morning arranging all the Mother’s Day cards. About every fifteen minutes I had to go in the back to cry, not wanting a customer to come in and see me weeping. But a few days later, a young man still in his teens came in to buy a bible. We got to talking and he told me he had just gotten out of the army after serving in our invasion of Panama. He said that his unit was sent to surround a building that reportedly had enemy soldiers hiding there. As they approached the building with machine guns ready, some people started running out and he and the other American soldiers started firing. But it was a school and it was children and teachers running out. I was horrified, but fought back my tears. I did say, “I’m so sorry” and he nodded and left. I wish now I had cried and held him and freed him to weep. Because that is what he needed, someone to free him to weep by weeping with him.

Jesus wept when he stood on a hill overlooking Jerusalem, realizing that he had failed in what he thought was his life’s mission, saving his people, the Jews. He wept because he loved them, yet was unable to reach them.

Tears simply express strong emotion. They are healing, freeing, saving. If we understand that when feeling overwhelmed, we can cry it out and then deal with our situation. If Jesus wept, so can we. Tears are not weakness. They are a healing gift.

Born Anxious with Relapses

Many of us have had physical symptoms for decades without realizing they were caused by anxiety. Sometimes when I watched a rash start and spread before my eyes as I was dealing with a sudden, obvious stressor, I saw the connection between the physical and the emotional. Other times when getting short of breath and feeling like something was squeezing my chest, if I wasn’t in touch with the triggering emotions, I thought I was having a heart attack.
Self-awareness helps, learning calming techniques, learning to laugh at ourselves, and cutting ourselves some slack in certain situations can help. Understanding that many, many people experience physical problems without ever recognizing the emotional triggers, learning to talk ourselves through our fears, finding the right anti-anxiety medicines, all can help when we quit beating ourselves up for being born anxious.
We didn’t choose it, it’s undoubtedly chemical and genetic, it’s way more widespread than anyone realizes, but self-awareness and experimenting to find what helps us can minimize the negative fallout for ourselves and those that love us.
We aren’t to blame, but we are responsible for learning ways to minimize the crippling effects. And I can personally testify that love, joy, delight, pleasure, lots of laughter, worthwhile occupations, concern for others are all possible even for us born worry warts.
PS: The other day, I found a lot of old comic strips I cut out over the years that “spoke to my condition,” letting me know I wasn’t alone, and freeing me to find humor even in my inner chaos: Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbs, The Far Side, Ziggy, Kudzu, Cathy, Zits, Dilbert, Doonesbury,Arlo and Janice, and many more. Laughter is Carbonated Grace.

Creativity, Talent, Perseverance: The Most Important of These is Perseverance

Creative people see the world differently than most people do. Finding at least a few like minded people to keep loneliness at bay helps motivate those that are extraverts.

Creativity is seeing new and better ways to accomplish a goal. Just doing something differently is not necessarily creative, though in our day many mistake difference for creativity. Creativity is the way some minds perceive new positive possibilities.

Creativity and any particular talent are not the same thing. Creativity is in a class by itself. You can be very talented in singing or painting or writing lucidly, but not be creative at all.

And even having both a creative mind and talent does not guarantee success, because the most important trait needed to succeed is perseverance. A not particularly creative person with a small talent, but strong natural ability to persevere, will out perform someone with creativity and greater talent, who is distracted easily or who gives up when they experience failure.

The good news is that once this truth is recognized, perseverance can be developed. It will come more easily in doing something you both value and enjoy. So, if you have several talents, but lack perseverance, choose the one you value most and focus your time, energy, and other resources on it.

Tricks like working at it for a reasonable time, then following that by a small reward, then continuing to stretch the work time before the reward, can keep you motivated. You can persevere in something by planning breaks, as long as the breaks are short. In fact, doing something rote or repetitive during a break, can often free new insights and energize you.

A mentor can be a big help for those who discourage easily. A little encouragement in the difficult times can get you through them.

The challenge is to decide what is your talent (however slight) that you value and enjoy most and what are the personal pitfalls that prevent you from steadily developing it. Then, figure out ways to minimize the fallout from those weak areas more and more.

Perseverance is the most important talent. Once you realize that, finding ways to develop perseverance needs to become your priority.

The Gifts Beyond Measure of Loving a Handicapped Child

The gift of learning to love unconditionally.
The gift of recognizing that life is not about competition, but about becoming the person we alone were created to be.
The gift of wanting others to succeed in their own journey.
The gift of awesome joy over small, but difficult, accomplishments.
The gift of the present moment.
The gift of freedom from living for image or others’ opinions.
The gift of your own best self being called forth.
The gift of patience.
The gift of tenderness toward all those who are vulnerable.
The gift of humane values.
The gift of courage.
The gift of seeing beauty in those different from you.
Every person who has not been blessed with loving a handicapped person, needs to attend a Special Olympics to experience these gifts.
The moment of insight for me was when one of the children fell
down in his race and the other runners turned back to help him up.
And every child was thrilled at finishing their race, even if they were the last to come across the finishing line.
And every parent cheered for all the children, not just their own.
The greatest blessing is learning that life is ultimately not about winning, but about loving.

Hitting Bottom and Finding Gold

Religion begins with personal spirituality. Spirituality begins with the question: Is there meaning to life? If so, what is it? How does that play out in my own life? And is this life all there is? In seeking meaning in life, inevitably we come to the question of the reason for suffering. No religion seems to have come up with an easy answer to that, but many including Buddhism and Christianity have come up with similar ways for dealing with suffering. The core spiritual response to personal suffering seems to be acceptance in the sense of embracing it. Much of the time we are unable to bail out of the actual situation that causes us pain, but we can and often do seek the means to dull the pain or at least pass it on to those around us. A few of these escape attempts are emotional denial, depression, addictions, self-pity, resentment, anger, or the delusion that if we can somehow overcome a particular difficult situation, then our troubles will be over. Unfortunately, these responses to suffering will eventually cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Acceptance/embracing is scary. It means going down into the snake pit of our feelings, into the black bog of our fears and sorrows and actually experiencing them, even feeling the overwhelming pain of them. But at that point, we find solid ground, the fire tested gold at the core of our being. And while we may go through the pain of this process many times in our life, it is no longer a terrifying free fall into the unknown. In letting go of our own will by embracing reality, we find God, grace, strength, peace, even joy, within.
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