Dad, The Faithful

My dad had a birthday last week which reminded me of this poem I had written for him years ago.

The race is not always won by the fastest,
the war not always won by the strong.
The faithful will be there when the war is over,
still standing, holding to the truth and waving its banner;
calling all to the challenge and helping others along.

We give gold statues to those
who flash and amaze us, or even just tickle our fancy.
But not many recognize the faithful.
It’s the faithful who inherit the kingdom.
It is the faithful to whom God will show himself strong

Because the race is not always won by the fastest.
The war not always won by the strong.
Sometimes, the faithful are the only ones standing
and have stood there all along.

My dad’s a steady person, the type that people rely on. I was over at my parent’s house and his phone rang. It was his pastor asking for advice. Then I remembered all the times as a child I’d learned how important it was to be faithful. Steady wins the race. Pastors frequented our house while I was growing up, asking for advice or just talking to blow off some steam. Dad always had the pastor’s ear, but not because Dad was charismatic. It was because they trusted his advice.

From The Power of Habit,

Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they learned.  – Tony Dungy

Thanks Dad for teaching me your habit of being steady!

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Skin on a Snake

I have a theory about the people in our lives. We come and go, in and out of each other’s lives. It seems that when a person moves out of your life another person or thing of similar vibration takes their place. Which reminds me of the Buddhist’s teaching, even though a flower falls and dies from a bush, a new one will take its place. All things continue.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”
― Rumi

The form things come in our lives refuse to be planned. You may want love and kindness, but the more you try to control the form it comes to you in, the less likely you are of getting it. Control distorts.

I once had a beautiful birthday present. It was a year when I was very alone. Once, at work, I was talking to a complete stranger. I didn’t mention it was my birthday or about being lonely. I had been on break from my job and stepped outside to see the stars. While standing there someone started chatting with me. It was relaxing, refreshing, and exactly what I needed that moment. A casual friend.

Expect love, expect good things, just don’t demand that they walk into your lives on two legs. Love can come into our lives on four legs or even no legs at all.

“Today matters. Yesterday ees skin on a snake, to be shed many times.” – Beyond the Highland Mist, Karen Marie Moning

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Crowns, Horns, and Thrones

Self Esteem

A friend repeated a phrase back to me that I’d used many years ago. My phrase or sentiment was that I had to take care of myself. That I needed certain things out of a relationship and if those needs weren’t met then I would move on, instead of clinging to the hope things would change. When it came back from another’s voice it sounded shallow. Callous. Selfish. Cold-hearted. But that’s not how I’d meant it. Maybe that’s what they heard. I wear the crown for my life. Only I can make me happy or sad. And that’s how I feel about religion, God, and spiritual pursuits. I have to take care of me. Living my life constantly wondering if a god or a man is pleased with me is self abusive. Waiting for someone to come and rescue me, to heal me, to feed me or even to talk to me when I can get up and take care of myself is harmful to me.

Those who grew up in moderate religions may not be able to relate. They probably can’t grasp the concept of denying my rights to make choices for the sake of “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.”  “He who loves his family more than me, is not worthy of me.” This is the burden of Christianity. Not a suggestion, a demand.

I believed. I gave up my life, which as a child I never really owned. So I never claimed ownership of my life.

I believed strongly in the scriptures:

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. http://biblehub.com/matthew/16-24.htm

This was my creed, my belief in who God was. These were my mantras:

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:39-40

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I was so blinded by what I believed the bible said and what I wanted it to say, that it was easy to overlook the verses that said something opposite. Like I heard once, I had my God filtered glasses on. All I saw was the love.

I now realize there are scriptures that say other things.

Matthew 10:38

37“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. http://biblehub.com/matthew/10-38.htm

I Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Do I disregard the verses that I don’t like. Pick off the offending vegetables? Maybe mark them out with a black marker? No, because there is scripture saying not to do that. Either I accept the total religion or move on. I no longer have to carry the burden of rescuing others from hell. My life is no longer carefully monitored to make sure I don’t offend. No one’s salvation is hinging on my behavior. I’m free to live my life.
Some articles I like:

Before you diagnose yourself with depression o...

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It’s Not Spectacular

Sometimes it’s the ordinary things that don’t get your attention, but they change your life. The everyday habits of brushing your teeth and eating healthy, keep your body strong. The getting up and going to work on time keeps you with money in the bank. It’s ordinary, but it counts. Today I’m taking a bit from the greats.

What if surfing was your job? -Seth Godin

Same waves, different day.

The risk of skin cancer. The falling. Sand in your socks. The people hassling you for your spot on the wave. The pressure to do more sets. The other guys at the beach who don’t appreciate your style. The drudgery of doing it again tomorrow, when the weather sucks. And then every day, from now on, never ceasing.

Where would you go on vacation?

Your drudgery is another person’s delight. It’s only a job if you treat it that way. The privilege to do our work, to be in control of the promises we make and the things we build, is something worth cherishing.

Posted by Seth Godin on September 15, 2013

From the book, Power of Habit,

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things,” Dungy would explain. “They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

 Other inspirations:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.  -Robert Louis Stevenson

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. – Audrey Hepburn

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Teach the Children What?

Many years ago I wrote an article called, It Takes A Team. I admit, I was coat tailing Hilary Clinton’s book, It Takes A Village. I wrote about things that I still believe firmly in, that children and teens learn from all the people around them. It doesn’t matter if you were the one to teach them to tie their shoes or if it was their classmate, your little one learned an important lesson.

A friend asked me recently what she should teach her young daughter. The grandparents are religious but she, the mom isn’t. My kids are raised and at that time I was religious, but I’m happy that they are not. Although I did put them in the middle of some indoctrination, I also raised them to think. For that I am happy. What would I want them to learn if I were raising them now? Would I raise them in a religion or not? 

  • I would teach my children to think. Compare. Look. Explore. I would teach them that messing up or being wrong is just another step in learning. It’s more important than getting an A+ on their spelling test.  The trying, failing, and trying again keeps your brain active.
  • I would teach my children that we are all living beings. We are made up of tiny parts and those tiny parts make up the entire universe. The water that flows from my faucet at one time may have been at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps or in a stream that touched the feet of Alexander the Great. The same water, the same air, the same dirt was here 1,000 years ago. It was here 10,000 years ago.
  • I would teach my children to show kindness. But not only kindness. I would teach them to show anger and fear. To see people for what they do, because that’s who they are. Not to be deceived by pretty words or words that they want to hear, but to listen to the other person’s actions as well.

If children know these things, they can know people. It’s not necessary for people to know the facts of all religions or beliefs in the world. Most adults rarely stray from the religion they were brought up in. They also believe it’s the right one. I heard someone say that he believed his religion was the right one so it was important that he preach to the others who unfortunately were born in the wrong religion. Really? That seems so arrogant. Being arrogant is the first step to being deceived. This world we live in now is not a world for the sleeping. It’s a world that we and our children need to be awake and ready to live in. Most of all, I think I would teach my children to enjoy their life and if it’s not how they want it to be, change it.

Resources:

http://www.skepticmoney.com/breaking-the-cycle-promoting-critical-thinking-in-children/

http://evolvefish.com/fish/kidsbooks.html

I must admit, I want to read this book, K-PurpleDragon.gif

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Ruthless

There’s a time when we have to face the truth. Ruthlessly walk through the fog and never look back. There’s a time to cling or to fight without mercy. If only we knew when those times were. Because just as there’s a time for ruthlessness, there’s also a time for mercy. For kinda-sorta-maybe. Gentleness is strong also.

I know ruthless. When I was growing up in a small town, I tightly gripped my faith and would not let it go. I believed. And no one could shake it from me. It wasn’t that I was afraid of punishment. No, I believed because I loved. I loved what my faith stood for, the God of all creation and all the stories of redemption that I learned. The prophets that spoke to me from pages of paper and ink. The stories were real to me, more real than any story I could read in a history book.

I was aware of how different I was at that time. Different than the other students in my classes. They let me know with every word and every glance. By the time I was in junior high I knew not to talk about these things. This created a cycle of hiding and shame. I connected to the stories of the lone prophets more and more. They were different and when I read passages like, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb, Jeremiah 1:5 or…Do not say, ‘I am too young, Jeremiah 1:7 ..I felt they were speaking to me. They brought me courage.

It’s hard to say what came first, the hiding or the connecting to the solitary. Maybe if it hadn’t been the Bible, it would have been another story or book. Harry Potter is a favorite of many kids because of his uniqueness. He’s misunderstood. He has special abilities. And in the end he triumphs.

When I was in therapy a few years back, my therapist talked about how common it is for children to connect in this way. It helps them cope. Helps them find a way out of their fear. Sometimes they believe they are adopted. Or they are an alien child. In the old Irish tales, people believed that fairy children were sometimes switched with human babes. Changelings.

As I step away from the religion I grew up with, I’m not yanking my roots away. All the same I know I want to let go of the tradition. I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. In a strange way it served it’s purpose. Like an imaginary friend, the stories kept me company. As I learn more truth it’s easier to let go, a little at a time. I can’t relate anymore to the lone, orphaned child or the misunderstood prophet of truth. That’s not me. And no, it never was, but somewhere inside I felt like that.

When you’re involved in Christianity, your life is constant abandonment. What does God want for me to do? It’s constant proving that you are loyal and dedicated. Jesus said to follow him and forsake all others. Pick up the cross and lay down your life. Anyone who loved their family more than him was not worthy of him. It was ruthless. It was constant. It was merciless.

I’m now picking up my life. I’m dusting myself off and standing. Even if no one understands, I feel stronger just by doing it. I’ve decided to learn more about the world around me. Physical things. Science things. People and humanitarian things. This time of gentleness feels so much better.This is true compassion and love.

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Why Bad Times Make for Good Lives

I sometimes call it the leaky life. When your life slips away so un-noticeably, it’s like your storage tank has a leak. It’s just one drip at a time. What causes it? And what can you do to stop it?

Don’t let your life be driven by the automatics.  You turn 16 and buy a car. You get a job. You go to college. Find a boyfriend/girlfriend. Fall in love. Get married. Buy a house. Have a baby. This is a life that ran away, one trickle, one dribble at a time. Stolen away by the force of automatics.

In the case of the automatics, the normal stoppages are considered roadblocks. Bad times. Scary events. We’d like to think that success brings a satisfying life. Winning the lottery or getting a promotion you wanted doesn’t usually bring satisfaction. There’s no feeling at the end of the day that tells you, Completion.

This is why people say strange things like “losing my job was a godsend” or “getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.” It’s not that cancer is something to seek after, we all realize that, but cancer was the tool that helped them notice their own life. Most of us go on with our lives, one event leading into another until the next expected event isn’t there. You’re happily married and planning a family but you can’t conceive. You go the next step. You try fertility treatments, special diets, new positions and still no baby. Frustration sets in. Now you have to stop and really notice your life. You take a good look at what you want. Am I content without a child? Would I like to adopt?

Don’t let the automatics steal your life. You don’t have to wait for a near death experience to get a handle on your life. This moment right here and now can be lived without expectations, without the normal predictable patterns. You just have to wake up. Do the unpredictable thing. Don’t do the beach vacation, give the time and/or money to the homeless shelter. Go overseas and help a small village with their water supply. Or vacation at an unusual spot. World’s Most Unusual Beaches

Wake up!  It’s not about what you do or where you go. It’s about waking up and noticing your life. Are you proud of your life or is it just a life? Just one in a billion normal everyday lives. If all you ever want to do in your life is to read the current best-selling books, make it happen. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing what you want. Myself, I’m not a world traveler. I don’t have political aspirations. I have pretty simple needs and part of them I’ve already experienced. My life is very satisfying to me.

I have people ask me often, don’t you want to get married? My response is, why? I’ve experienced that. Because I have stopped and evaluated my life, I have a better idea than most people what I want. This is my little spark of life force, given to me by the stars and the universe. It was a gift for me to decide what to do with. It’s inherent with responsibility. Just like with our children, there are expectations not to waste our lives. Isn’t that the meaning of Jesus’s parable of the talents? Parable of the Talents

When you see a drug addict, you automatically think it’s a wasted life, and yes I think so too, but what about the person whose whole life wrapped up in becoming famous? Or getting money? If what you want is wealth or fame, it’s all there for the taking. If what you want is a satisfying life, fame and money are not your answer. Decide what you really want or what makes you smile the most and experience that. You don’t have to have a terminal illness to have a good life.

Prince Charming – Did you hang up your hat?

As many females of my age group will relate, when I was growing up, love was where you hang your hat. Love was the biggest item on the shopping list. How do you know whom to marry? Do you love him? There you go. My family had a second criteria. Is he a believer (of the same faith)? Yes? Well, you’re good to go. Tie a knot on that man and marry him. It was never thought, do you get along? Does he show kindness? Is he a control freak? Does he like cats? Do you both enjoy music? Like kids? Want to do adventurous vacations or quiet walks? What is your idea of wealth?

We were told in books, by preachers and teachers, and our families, that if God was in control and you loved him, all the other things would work out. I guess someone missed the memo. Or got it wrong. Truth is, God has little to do with any of it. Congeniality and kindness goes a lot further than a religious practice once a week. If one is religious and the other not, considerate people would allow the difference. Dogmatic folk require complete compliance.

I admit, I once was dogmatic. I once esteemed being right over common kindness. It makes me want to hide in shame when I think of this. I wasn’t loud or arrogant about it, only in my mind I judged. I disagreed with my paternal traditional upbringing in some things, like abortion, racism, and feminism, but in most things I thought no differently.

So we got it wrong. Many of my generation got tons wrong. Times were changing and traditions were falling down. If I had to do all over again, I’m not sure if I would change much. It was my roots, and I won’t  become bitter about my choices and mistakes.

I’m happy with my life. There is no substitute for satisfaction. The things I would hang my hat on today are different:

  • tolerance
  • similar taste in recreation or willingness to go it alone
  • know your true likes and don’t mold yourself to others. It’s not healthy
  • enjoy each others company whether relaxed or active

Certainty

How would you act if you didn’t know? If you can’t make a decision or nothing seems right? I don’t know about you, but that’s when I often panic. It hits me like a knife in my belly. My first reaction is to shut down. But that’s not going to help.

I’ve been searching through religion information a lot lately. I’m now to the point of not knowing what my beliefs are. Well I’ve been there actually which is why I was searching. I keep trying on different beliefs to see if they fit. So far none seem right. So I’m at a standoff with my own beliefs. I’m not quite sure what it is I do believe. And somewhere in my head I keep thinking I need to name it something. Doesn’t it need to be categorized? I’ve stopped trying to label it now and am just enjoying the learning experience.

It’s funny how beliefs seem like absolute truth at times. I’ve given up my childhood faith of heaven and hell but I’m not quite certain about life after death. While listening to several atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Seth Andrews and Richard Dawkins, I felt a sense of loss. They don’t believe in any afterlife at all. After questioning myself I decided I didn’t want to give up my belief in life after death since it felt too disappointing not to believe. This made me laugh. Since when does my belief or their lack of belief make anything so. I could believe in a land of magical clouds and pink butterflies after death and it wouldn’t change what will really happen or not happen.

We spend most of our lives deciding. Big things. Little things. We choose what to eat, what to wear, where to work. Most of us try our best to do what we consider the right thing. We pick out food that’s good for us and for our family. At least we try. We teach our kids what they need to know for their daily lives, well, again we try. Sometimes life gives us a bump or a shove and we find out that what we thought was the best thing for our children or our health was all wrong. There are times that life slams it down on you so hard you don’t know what hit you. For instance, my former mother-in-law died recently. Complications from breast cancer. She had the biopsy. She took the treatments. She rested and she was getting better. Until. Until the cancer came back and she started treatments again. This time the treatments made her weak.. And suddenly you get the call you least expect.  Her kidneys failed. She was better. How did this happen?

What do you do when you don’t know for certain that you are doing the right thing? How do you handle it? Do you slow down and consider it more? Do you just keep going until it hits you in the face?

My recent reevaluation of my childhood faith has me reeling. I feel like I’ve been awakened from a dream. It is a dream, right? How did I believe those untruths? Ironically, my current doubt comes from the fact that I was so certain before. I knew that I knew that I knew. Truth. Absolute certainty.

It shakes us, but we don’t quit. We keep making decisions and we keep getting up. Because we are alive, we dust ourselves off and choose another direction. It’s not always that we make all great choices. Success comes because we keep making choices. We don’t always have the odds in our favor but as one poker player said, it’s about winning enough of the time. 

Are you sure-radiolab

It’s not about winning the hand all the time, but about winning the hand enough of the time. -Annie Duke http://www.radiolab.org/2013/mar/26/dealing-doubt/

There’s an intriguing story about a woman who incorrectly identified her attacker. It convicted and sentenced an innocent man for a crime he never committed. She was certain it was him. In her words, What do I do? I can’t make this right. – Penny Beerntsen http://www.radiolab.org/2013/mar/26/reasonable-doubt/

In the Buddhist mind, it’s not only alright to have doubt, but it’s commended and desired to not have any knowing. In the Quantum physics field it is known that a particle doesn’t become a particle until it is observed. Or so I heard.

I wonder sometimes if it might be better stay uncertain, to not form a fixed belief. And if you do have a belief or a judgement, to keep it not so solid. Let it flow and change as time goes on. So I wonder, is it better to have a religion, a belief? Or is it better to explore the possibilities?

On Having No Head http://www.amazon.com/Having-No-Head-Rediscovery-Obvious/dp/1878019198

Aging Is Not About Wrinkles

Strawberry ice cream in a cone.

Aging is not a disease. None of us want to grow old but we have to learn a new way of dealing with it. If we treat it like a plague and attempt to deny it’s very existence, then in our avoiding we will slam into it like a brick wall.

I look at my pictures from 20 years back and miss the firm skin and not so puffy eyes. I miss not being able to eat 3 hot dogs and two ice cream cones in a sitting, without feeling guilty and regretting the excess when the heartburn develops. I miss being able to jog 8 miles nonstop. I miss feeling excited about the possibilities that tomorrow will bring and the belief that everything will be alright no matter how horrible today seems. These are the standards of youth that can never be regained by a new facial serum. No vitamins will bring the innocence back again. But is that really what we want?

When I speak today, I have something to say and I can say it with confidence. This is the truth that only experience can give. Would I wish to forget my knowledge? No! What I have learned cannot be unlearned and I don’t want to forget. My experience has taught me patience and kindness.

English: Picture of Waffle ice cream cones fro...

We all long to grow up. We want to learn. The inner drive to mature is strong. How can we not open the door and satisfy our curiosity? We can pretend all we want that we wish to stay young, but I don’t know a single person who can leave the door closed. We open the door to peek because that’s our nature. What does it feel like to be grown up? What does it feel like to have the answers? We are all intrigued by climbing to the top, by achieving and when we get there we want to shout for joy. We have done it! And our lives will never be the same. We now have experience. Others join in our cheering and congratulate us and silently envy us. They want it too. So why do we not do the same with age?

I once thought my dad knew all the answers. I’d ask him questions all the time. I was young and he seemed so wise. He read, he learned things and he encouraged me to learn. I worshiped him. As I grew older he told me that he didn’t have all the answers and that I needed to search for them myself. So I did.

double scope ice cream cone

As I learned, he didn’t lose his wisdom, but I gained some of my own.

If we look at faith, religion and God, it often looks like that child that worships her father. He knows so much. Maybe one day when we ask him a question he will also tell us to search for the answer ourselves. It’s possible that God is still learning. It’s possible that he wants to share experience with us. I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible God will still seem wise even as we grow old.

 “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

“Don’t exist.
Live.
Get out, explore.
Thrive.
Challenge authority. Challenge yourself.
Evolve.
Change forever.
Become who you say you always will. Keep moving. Don’t stop. Start the revolution. Become a freedom fighter. Become a superhero. Just because everyone doesn’t know your name doesn’t mean you dont matter. – Brian Krans http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/424703.Brian_Krans

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you do not wish to be one of the tortured slaves of Time, never be sober; never ever be sober! Use wine, poetry, or virtue, as you please. – Charles Baudelaire