It always comes back to people

Why do we do the things we do?  We do them for people.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

While we wear human flesh, while we live in a material world, while we suffer hunger and thirst … it is natural that we focus on physical things.  It is even good, within bounds.  The hungry should be fed, justice should be pursued, beauty should be created, houses need to be built and cleaned.. there are things to be done.

But we lose sight of the first thing when we lose sight of why we do these things.  We do these things for other people.  We build houses for the joy of building – but also so that the children can grow up in a house, because that gives them a better start in life.  We cook meals to nourish bodies.   We create civilizations because they’re the best places for humans to grow.  We do these things because God tells us to do these things, but the things are not the end in themselves, it is service to God, service to others that is the driving force.

It is easy to drop into Martha Syndrome (it applies to both men and women) where you concentrate so much on the work to be done that you don’t stop to focus on the “why”.  And “why” is *always* people.  Souls will last to eternity, physical things, however worthy, will burn.

So be kind.  Be merciful.  Look for opportunities to express love.  Prioritize others’ welfare above your own.  Remember that Mary was considered to have chosen the better path.

Work is good.   Love is better.

Feasts are necessary things

One of my early lessons from reading the entirety of the Bible was noticing how many feasts God chose for His people.  Lots.  And proper parties, where everyone came and shared and everyone went home full.  Community happened, blessings were shared.   Look it up for yourself.  God likes a good party.

I’m a Protestant with Messianic leanings – I know that most of the West’s holidays were lifted from various European traditions and paganism.   I battled that back and forth for a good while, because Truth is important to me.   Finally I decided that the heart of the holiday is what matters.   The idea of community, and whatever it is that we’re celebrating.  That’s why I have little use for Halloween – celebrating evil isn’t my bag.  But Christmas?  Christmas is good.  On Christmas, we celebrate our Lord’s birth.  Was He born in December?  Very unlikely.  But we don’t have a date.  So, we use this one.   Whatever. I was born in December – there are plenty of years I’d just as soon celebrate my birthday in June.  Would be more convenient.  (I don’t, but it’s been done).

What do we celebrate on Christmas?  What do we do?  We get together as families, and we worship the King.  We give each other gifts, because He gave us the best gift of all time.  And we feast.

Souls need feast times.  Times of joy, times to eat the richest food and drink the most elaborate drinks.  Feast times give us a reason to endure the normal days, a reason to endure the fast times.  Protestants tend toward asceticism – as if the porridge and water of everyday, virtuous and healthy as it is, should be EVERY day.  But lives need rhythm – and the memory of the Christmas feasting carries one through the dark days of January and February.

In other words, eat the fudge, drink the eggnog, have your fill – and you likely won’t want another serving for a year.  Hug your relatives, sleep late, enjoy your presents and don’t feel guilty.  You were created to enjoy feasts, and isn’t that kind of cool?  🙂

Modern Gnosticism

I’ve been people watching for the last few months and I see a common problem – something I’d like to refer to as modern gnosticism.

Because our flesh is inherently flawed, we distrust the flesh.  Because we can now choose to retreat to the realm of the intellect through being plugged in to the internet, we pull ourselves away from reality.  This affects our ability to deal with reality.  As we draw ourselves away from others, from the life of the flesh, we forget that we need each other, flawed or not.    We forget that the flesh matters – that we cannot simply deny the flesh entirely, that we were made to enjoy the flesh – but within limits.

We’ve lost the pure mammalian reality of life in flesh suits – we don’t know how to touch other humans in non sexual ways, so we keep animals so we have *something* to touch, and our sex drives go off their rockers.  Women used to groom one another, men used to roughhouse.   Simple touch – a country dance, the rituals of chivalry, a game of tug of war – those things used to remind us (delightfully) of the difference between the sexes.  And humans need touch, from cradle to grave.   But we lost that casual touch, and now we don’t know how to touch at all.  Suddenly you have to give consent for a kiss…

We’ve lost the community of food, so we divide ourselves into those eating clean, those eating for comfort, and gastronomes.  Where is the simple breaking of bread among friends, with laughter?  Instead, we pour all our sensory desire into our mouths, making us obese or obsessed, with very little in between.   Food is the one place all our flesh desire ends up, it seems… the flesh *will* out, and everyone has to eat sometime.  And yet we admire those who evidently have overcome their flesh.

Where, for that matter, has laughter gone?   When was the last time you laughed with a real, live, friend?  Do you have real, live friends?  Do you know what the smell of their skin is?  What their hands feel like in yours?   The way they hold their faces when they’re angry or sad?

We are besieged by sound.  When do we get to listen to silence?  The modern world is always noisy, but how much of that noise do you actually *listen* to?  When do you sit, still and concentrating, to enjoy a musical performance?  No.  We drive with the radio on, watch TV while we eat, and layer noise upon noise.   We shield ourselves from the assault of noise by adding more noise.  We are constantly seeking aural input.  Why??

We like to pretend that only the life of the mind matters, that all this craziness going on around our bodies is irrelevant.

And the problem with that is that we ARE flesh.  Or at least we live in flesh, and always will.  (Yes, we get new fleshsuits – better fleshsuits – but still bodies that will be able to eat and hug and laugh).  We can’t separate out a problematic part of our nature and just ignore it.  And we can’t control all of it – we can’t control aging bodies or the behavior of others.  I can’t control the roar of a motorcycle gunning its engine outside my front door.  So then – do we learn to surf reality?  No, lately we pull ourselves away into virtual reality – it’s so much safer, after all.  We never have to deal with other humans, messy and complicated.

We forget how to deal with life in the flesh, and we were never meant to do that, no matter how tempting it is.

Give this some thought, and give me your feedback.  I’m seeing it more and more often these days… are you?

 

 

 

We write stories about ourselves

All the humans that I know write stories about themselves in their heads.   I’m not even going to evaluate whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m pretty sure that it’s both. Just a human thing.  We categorize ourselves in words, we categorize ourselves with favorite anecdotes, we categorize ourselves by our tastes and preferences.   The story that we tell about ourselves, at least to ourselves, becomes well-worn, like a favorite coat.

But occasionally we realize that the narrative that we’re writing has become more fiction than fact.   It is then time to readjust, to examine ourselves, to examine what we know to be true, to throw out some acid tests, and figure out who we really are.    It is a good thing to reevaluate, it is healthy.    And sometimes we change profoundly, and have to take on new words, new ways to describe ourselves.

During any evaluation, it is necessary to start with truth.  I am never more grateful for my Bible than when I’m doing heavy thinking – I can slam my thoughts, my randomness, up against the Word and see what sticks and what boils off into nothingness.  I am never more grateful for the Lord than when I weep in prayer and He refused to let me get away with lies… lies that I tell *myself*.   It is no wonder that those who seek to find truth without Truth Himself get lost.

It’s good to test ourselves, to check to see that we are telling the truth about ourselves to ourselves.  Because we change.

There’s something that our society has lost, the concept that adults continue to change and grow over a lifetime.  If there is any understanding of that, it gets engulfed by the reinvention of self popularized by those who leave their commitments, their lives, to “find themselves”.   (See above for the solution to that problem).  This is a great pity.  One is left to the extremes of one set of people who seem to think that they’re completed humans after about 30 or so, and the other set of people who run off the reservation.

Because life has stages, and you need to respect the stages.  Just because I’m in one stage doesn’t invalidate the lessons I learned in another stage, or make it “bad”.  It would be bad for me to remain in the stage that I have outgrown, it was not bad for me to live there when that’s where I was as a person.

I’m 44 now, so I’m officially “mid-life”.  My kids are in their teens, or close to.  Should I be mothering my kids the same way I did ten years ago?  My wedding ring is old enough to order its own beer.  Should I be the same kind of wife I was twenty years ago?   Of course I’m a more efficient homemaker now.  Shouldn’t I be?

It’s time to re-evaluate, to re-center, to stop telling myself the same things over and over again.  Retreat to fact, and re-emerge, brushing fables off like spiderwebs, and blooming in new ways.

It’s time to tell a new story.

How to get halfway decent news

It disgusts me that I have to write this article.  Once upon a time, there was such a thing as journalistic ethics.  Apparently, those died.   Note to aspiring journalists, if you work up an internet news site that is based on facts – only the facts, and every fact you can find and validate – I will happily pay a subscription fee to read it.  I am heartily sick of reading tabloid-quality news.

Sources:

  1. Look at the website link.  If it’s not a .com … just don’t be bothered.  I had two people on my FB list link to news from a .com.co address (the same fake news address) with fake news stories from OPPOSITE sides of the political spectrum.   Clickbait.
  2. You want to read a wide variety of source material, from the best sources you can find.  The Big Dawgs will *not* report things that they don’t want reported, but they generally won’t outright *lie* about what they do report.   They have what is left of their reputations to consider.
  3. Make sure to read at least one news source that comes from a perspective with which you do not agree.
  4. Yes, you’re going to have to read multiple news sites to get some kind of information aggregate.
  5. No, I don’t have any good ideas about how to get all the unreported news.  There’s a lot of it, and I want it as much as you do.  Hey – I want it on a local basis, my local news doesn’t report half of what happens, that I *know* is happening.  Drives me nuts.  Hello aspiring journalists… please get to work!!!!

Reading Comprehension:

  1. Read between the lines.  What’s being implied?  How is this being reported?  Can you determine a slant to the reporting?  Do you *know* that the newsite you’re reading from (including the BigDawgs) has a slant on this issue?  Giant Grain of Salt.
  2. Read the whole article, not just the headline.  “Man Bites Dog” might be “in self-defense” or “because he was insane” or “hot-dog eating contest”… but you won’t know if you don’t read.  Clickbait is.  Read the *whole* article.  The whole.Darn.Thing.
  3. Follow links to original source material.   I don’t know how many times I’ve seen an article that supported my personal worldview and followed the above steps only to hit the source material and find that it was much less inflammatory than the article made it seem.
  4. Understand that there is – or should be – original source material to just about anything.  If the President signs something into law, or makes some sort of proclamation, guess what?  The White House has an official page for that.  We learned this in school.  Read the article’s bibliography!
  5. Watch for those inflammatory bits.  One junior representative making a motion does not equal a “push for penguin rights”.
  6. Patience is a virtue.  We don’t actually know what is happening until it happens – sometimes you have to wait for the cake to bake before you know if it’s chocolate or strawberry.  If someone is reporting that “Bob is building a castle” and Bob is still on the foundation steps and hasn’t indicated what he’s doing … assumptions are being made.  You have to wait and see.  (Very hard in the era of instant news and news as entertainment).

Final Thoughts:

  1. You and I are being manipulated by our news media.  One way or the other, it’s become highly inflammatory.  Everyone is lying – or at least omitting quite a lot of truth.
  2. So, if we are going to respond to the news, we have the responsibility to dig for the truth.  Disseminating falsehood to our friends is not friendship.  Don’t repost, don’t discuss, don’t do ANYTHING until you get to digging.
  3. Let’s make a pact to not be offended by the phrase, “Can you prove that?”  A desire for properly researched source material is good!  And we can all fall victim to sloppy thinking… all of the above is a lot of work.
  4. Just because you don’t like someone, or you don’t like what they say, doesn’t mean that they’re lying.  Same thing goes – prove it.  If *they* can prove what they’re saying… then you have to accept that it’s truth, even if you then immediately act to change it.

 

I’d love other ideas about how to get good news, or non-tabloidy news sites.  Your thoughts?

Overstimulated

Social media and sugar have a lot in common.  They taste good in the first moment, they induce strong cravings, and they make you feel not-so-awesome if you overindulge.  The news channels could be compared to caffeine – they get you excited, then drop you on your head when you run out of the first flush of energy.

Anyone who’s ever seen me on a sweet cup of coffee (or better yet, a frapp) knows that I react very poorly to too much sugar and caffeine!  Likewise, too much social media and news has left me overstimulated and tired.   It generally does, even when we’re not in an election season.   But they’re just as hard to break off from – that source of stimulus protects me, leaves me an armor of busy thoughts, encourages me to think up clever repartee that I’m never going to use… it makes me feel ever so clever, and somehow as if I’m involved in the happenings of the day.

It encourages me to do exactly the opposite of what I am commanded to do, which is NOT to be anxious.

I’ve been looking at myself lately.  Having had a pretty intense experience with the fragrance of Christ, I yeeped off into a corner and hid.  Why did I do that?  What’s up with this crazy girl?

I’m afraid of some of the things I really want.  I’ve always wanted wisdom, but to get wisdom, I have to allow myself peace and quiet and silence and scariest of all, I have to allow myself to look foolish and simple.

I’m frightened of that.  If I’m not the smart girl, who am I?  What’s my identity?

If I have thoughts, and don’t write them down, and forget about them, and someone else writes them down and claims them, do I disappear?

In order to go further along in glorifying God, in showing His light more brightly, I have to be willing to be changed.  I have to be willing to put my “selfness” aside.  Not my real self, which is the odd thing, and very hard to explain.  (This is all very hard to explain).  My inner self, the quiet self?  She’s not going anywhere.  But the outer, chattery self, the one who self-advertises?  She needs to take a break.  I looked at her, and found that most  of what she’s doing is based out of fear.  That’s not on.  My “most authentic self” (blerk) is not that person.  And trying to make myself that person is like pounding espresso in order to stay up late – it doesn’t work in the long term.

But most importantly, I’m getting in the way of God showing through.

I have a lot to sort out.   No, I’m not going away.  I will still post on my usual erratic schedule.  And I’ll still be on FB, because my ministry is to individuals, and if I can’t contact the individuals, I can’t minister to them.  But I’m going to be pulling back a bit.  Letting God come through a bit more.  Listening and responding to Him and then – the hardest part – STOPPING when He hasn’t led me to continue.

It’s going to be hard.  Sugar is addictive, and so is constantly checking in.  Am I here?  Are you?

Just some thoughts.