Category Archives: Christianity

Writing as therapy and spiritual healing

I’ve always loved writing. It is probably what I do best and I enjoy it.

Talking about it, teaching it, and doing it has always been fun for me. This summer It has become something more. Writing has become therapy and a source of guidance for me.

I owe a lot of that to the work of Julia Cameron, whose book “The Right to Write” has been accompanying me to Starbucks for weeks.  It contains over 40 small chapters of teaching and exercises.

Cameron begins each chapter with an “invitation”, in which she describes her own personal experiences related to writing and life. Then she provides what she calls an “initiation tool” to use to apply her thoughts.

Three of Cameron’s ideas have been of particular help to me. One has been her effort to convince her readers that writing is not some great task reserved for only the elite and talented.  This teaching literally has given me the right to write.  Because of this I have felt unchained in terms of getting thoughts on paper.

Once she freed me from my intellectual prison, Cameron gave me a couple of practical devices to unleash my own ruminations. Her Morning Pages (sometimes “mourning pages) are three pages of handwritten writing first thing before the day starts. This is “stream of consciousness” writing. Night Notes are the posing of questions right before bed for up to ten minutes.

The beauty of any teaching is that you can make it your own. I have tried to stick to Julia’s dictums despite my weaknesses. I am not a morning person and find it difficult to get going. I have found others struggle with this exercise for the same reason.

As a result, I find I don’t get these pages done every day, or that I do them later on in the morning. This would probably be fine with Cameron.  She says that Morning Pages are “not high art” and that “there is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.”

This morning I struggled to get through three pages. I found myself drawing regular and irregular shapes on the lines in my composition books just to get through. Even this strategy was helpful because it reminded me that one of the best ways to get something done well is to think outside of the box.

With Night Notes the writer is supposed to sleep on the questions and allow the subconscious to provide answers. Because I actually forgot this feature I have been answering the questions as I pose them before sleeping. Again, I have come upon some beneficial ideas although I “broke the rules.”

What I have found is that these tools have helped me to clear the deck in my mind. A lot of the baggage is done away with. One effect of this is my thinking becomes more focused. Another is that my emotions are stabilized because I have vented them on the page.

Cameron has offered to me in organized form the wisdom of the greats. For example, Bob Dylan uses similar thinking and methods as hers to get his ideas down. He was asked by interviewer Paul Zollo how he got thoughts out of his mind. He replied,

Well, first of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. And you have to be able to sort them out, if you want to be a songwriter, if you want to be a good song singer. You must get rid of all that baggage. You ought to be able to sort out those thoughts, because they don’t mean anything, they’re just pulling you around, too. It’s important to get rid of all them thoughts.”

When the mind is clean of garbage and issues come into clearer focus by getting them onto the page, movement can be made. Dylan says once the baggage is gotten rid of, “then you can do something from some kind of surveillance of the situation. You have some kind of place where you can see but it can’t affect you. Where you can bring something to the matter, besides just take, take, take, take, take.”

Getting rid of the mud of the mind allows God to enter into our thinking. In my post about Dylan’s divine inspiration, I noted how his lyrics were influenced by the divine. I also explained that Cameron makes no bones about the benefits of listening to spiritual sources as we write.

While her writings about this are more eclectic in terms of who or what to access than I personally would prefer, I have gained by not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Applying her axioms in the context of my own beliefs about God and truth have been quite profitable.

As a Christian I seek to learn what God wants of me through reading the Bible and through prayer. Thus, I try to ask questions of Him, tell Him my own desires, and listen for His answer.

Further, I use my own God-given brain combined with what seems to be God’s leading to make decisions.  Before you claim that this is all “pie in the sky bye and bye”, I must explain how I believe the process works.

I see God’s leading as working more like a GPS device than a road map.  20th century pastor J. Vernon McGee said that God does not hand out road maps. In fact, he decried false piety in which people claimed to have a direct pipeline to the Almighty.

I recently listened  to a sermon by McGee about the story Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, from whose line Jesus would come, and how she decided to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi when they were poor. Ruth decided to glean grain from local fields. Gleaning was a practice allowed in Israel in ancient times as a means to support the needy.

One day she came to two fields from which to glean grain. One was owned by Boaz, who was a distant relative of Naomi. Ruth had come to Israel with her when her husband, Naomi’s son, died. She did this as a step of faith and out of a willingness to follow the God of Naomi’s people.

McGee said that Ruth did not have a vision or a dream from God. He explained that she reasoned on the spot to go into the field of Boaz based on the situation before her. One thing led to another and she married Boaz, and thus became a distant grandmother of Jesus.

“God’s leading-yes,” said McGee. “But He’s leading a heart that’s willing to be led, and going step by step by faith.” Ruth was such a person.

Thus, the writing tools taught by Cameron and used by expert artists such as Bob Dylan have helped me to seek God and His leading as Ruth did.  As I write I believe He leads me step-by-step to great truths and informs decisions that have to be made.

What I have learned has given me great peace. It has also produced spiritual healing. I can live one day at a time, trusting God to communicate with me, not necessarily in spectacular ways, but through normal means of grace like the Bible and prayer, and though practical tasks such as writing, a practice I love anyway.

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Filed under Bible, Bob Dylan, Christianity, Health, Jesus Christ, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Home?

An advertisement I heard today on the radio says that home is where our story begins. But what if I don’t have one? Where does my story begin?

I do not feel at home in this world. I agree with my grandmother’s sentiments about life on this mortal coil. According to my brother, she did not fight a terrible case of pneumonia and died because she felt the world was a bad place.

In the last few years I have returned to houses I lived in before.  Two of these visits caused me great angst. There was just too much pain associated with those places.

One was in the neighborhood where I grew up. I had made trips to this house before, but this time I passed the area by because a dark spirit came upon me.  I sensed the times where things in our family were not so great and a deep pall came over me.

Another journey I took last week was to the house where my own family and I lived over a decade ago. The surrounding hills and climate were just as appealing to me as ever. I really wanted to stay back then, but due to some reverses we had to leave. The years since have seen some very tough times.

Though I have a roof over my head in my current town, and have been there for almost two years now, it doesn’t feel like home. It’s just a place to hang out and sleep. This could be because I have not furnished it. I live in kind of a Spartan and minimalist fashion. But I think there is something more to my feeling of being adrift.

It has to do with what I construe as “home”. There are tons of songs about home which inform me of its nature. Bards have sung about home forever. Christian composer Chris Tomlin wrote lyrics which I think echo my grandmother’s idea:

This world is not what it was meant to be
All this pain, all this suffering
There’s a better place
Waiting for me
In Heaven

But I’m not in heaven. Like all of us I have to go on with life.  Is there some place called “home” on this planet? I think not.

One characteristic of home in this world is explained well by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, who popularized another song about it.

Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave, wave is stringing us along

Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

These lyrics tell me that in this life home is an unknown. This is because the future is also an unknown.

You never know where “home” will be. Many times I felt I would be in one place and I ended up in another. Some of these places I would have never dreamt of ever living.

Such uncertainty can cause fear, as Phillips notes:

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble—it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

As I have traveled down these unfriendly highways, I HAVE been filled with fear, which I know has come from evil, and trouble HAS dragged me down. In fact, there are times I feel like Humpty Dumpty. During those moments I believe no force on this planet can put me back together again.

Danny Gokey expresses how I feel at those times:

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Gokey advises me that the only thing to do when I get to this place in life is to willfully get up off the floor of my current “home”, lock up and move on to the next location in my journey.

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Furthermore, he tells of moving toward a new start in our trek here on Earth.

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through

So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
‘Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun

These poets talk in vague terms of a Someone who is helping me along in my current walk here on Earth.  Who is the “me” who says to follow him or the person who will find me in Phillips lyrics? Love is a broad concept, not a person, so who is the one Gokey says will pull me through my troubles.

To me, the One helping me and loving me as I limp through this world is none other than God.

A well-known song from 55 years ago by Jim Reeves guides  me in deciphering why I feel restless and ill at ease in the present reality.

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

What gives me hope is meeting  my friend Jesus at the end of life and being comforted by Him face to face. Tomlin speaks of the encounter I can expect once I depart from here.

I’m goin’ home
Where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go
Oh I wanna go
Home
Where every fear is gone
I’m in your open arms
Where I belong
Home

Lay down my burdens, I lay down my past
I run to Jesus, no turning back
Thank God Almighty, I’ll be free at last
In Heaven
In Heaven

Heaven is my real home. Thus, my story begins there once I reach it. My story is is intertwined with His Story.  All that is happening to me in this life is just a prequel.

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Filed under Christianity, Home, religion, Songs, Uncategorized

Garbled messages

I was sitting in my local Starbucks this morning when a soft rock song with a gentle sound and a male singer with a haunting voice was played. It moved me and I wanted to identify the song so I could listen to it again, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t understand the lyrics. I thought I caught part of a sentence and “Googled” it, but never found what I was looking for. I finally gave up.

Shortly after that, an old age pensioner walked by. He was wearing a T-shirt which included a title or name on it, but the complete moniker was concealed by the jacket he was wearing. I was interested because the letters I DID see were identical to ones belonging to the name of a city where I used to live, a place located in Europe.

The old fellow’s jacket bore a lion insignia. This animal is the symbol of the country where this town is located. However, the term “Polizei” was emblazoned next to the lion and a quick Internet search told me that it is the German word for “police”. My city is in Finland. Even so, I was intrigued.

The man passed by me on his way out and as he did a woman walked in. I immediately caught the pleasant scent of her fragrance, but she moved so far away I couldn’t make her out. I was wondering if the attractiveness of the smell was representative of the person, but I couldn’t tell.

It occurred to me after these three consecutive frustrating incidents that a lot of communication gets easily distorted. In my case, the messages were garbled by obstructions in my line of sight and hearing.

I could have sought to overcome these obstacles. For example, I could have asked the senior citizen if he had lived in Finland or asked a barista if they knew the name of the song I had heard. Further, I might have moved closer to the lady with the sweet aroma, but of course that would have been creepy. (As it turned out, she DID walk in my direction and I found that her redolence was more distinctive than her appearance.) In other words, I could have sought to clarify my end of the communication.

I used to teach academic writing to engineers and one of my mantras was that it was not the responsibility of the receiver of their communications to have to interpret their them. I made it clear to these budding stars of technology that it was THEIR job to be clear.

Lack of clarity is what frustrates me when I listen to politicians in this day and age. For instance, I read the following on Yahoo this morning.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is calling on the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate all issues related to obstruction of justice in the events leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

This post just added to my earlier frustration I experienced from the incomprehensible communications by people at Starbucks. I knew that the folks at Starbucks did not intend to send me garbled messages. In fact, they were not even aware of their own communication or of me.

However, given the political environment we live in today and Madam Feinstein’s affiliation, I could only presume that she planned her use of the alarming phrase “obstruction of justice”. She was going after her political opponent, i.e., the current president of the United States.

This article prompted my response. I wrote the following in Yahoo’s reaction section of the post:

Exactly what “justice” does Feinstein say is being obstructed? Justice is defined as “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.” (Merriam Webster for kids). What crime was committed? If she is referring to Trump seeking to influence Comey, how is that obstruction? POTUS is in charge of administration of justice and the FBI director is his subordinate in that task.

All the honorable senator’s statement did was raise a bunch of questions. It is her responsibility in my view to answer those questions for me in her public statement. However, I realize this is too much to ask from a politician. As a class, they are almost always purposely vague.

When it comes to my own issues, especially on subjects of importance to me, I can’t be like Senator Feinstein. I have to seek to define them as precisely as possible. I tried to do this as part of a writing exercise while I was the Starbucks.

Author Julia Cameron suggests that writers have a dialogue with their “Inner Writer”. She advises to write two letters; one is to be written from the “Inner Writer” to me and the other is by me to my “Inner Writer”. The task is to clarify my own fears and complaints regarding writing so that I can reassure myself that I have the “right to write” (the title of her book).

One of the problems my Inner Writer came up with is that I feel as if I have no message. My “self” replied:

“If you want my advice, get with God. Get your message from Him. Then write that message.”

In context, I realized as I did this exercise that I felt I am not allowed to be a writer. My response to Inner Writer was this:

You are not only allowed to be what God made you to be. You are encouraged to be what He made you to be.  In fact, it might be said that you are commanded to be what He made you to be. You are asking for a purpose from God. If writing is it, then be a writer. If not, then be whatever else He tells you to be.

One of the problems we have this side of heaven is that messages from God are garbled. The famous “love chapter” in the Bible, I Corinthians 13, likens our understanding of His communications in this life to a person looking in a flawed mirror.  As with my attempt to see the lady at Starbucks, my effort to perception of God is dimmed by our distance from each other.

However, I have had a taste of His presence and He indeed desires mine. My prayers are a sweet incense to Him. Thus, I have to keep trying to find a way through the muck to get to Him and hear what He has to say to me. Making sense of His messages to me are crucial.  He’s not a fellow customer at Starbucks. He’s the living God.

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Filed under Christianity, Communication, Donald Trump, language, politics, religion, Uncategorized, writing

Out and about with the down and out

Comedian Dennis Miller was recently asked by now-disgraced pundit Bill O’Reilly how things were going in his home city of Santa Barbara, California.

Miller said something to the effect,”I tell ya Billy. I only go out when I have to. I leave home, do my business and scamper back to the compound as quickly as possible.”

Hisstatement comes as a surprise considering that he lives in a resort city with a Mediterranean climate. The inference from Miller was that the world has just become too full of nutcakes  who make modern life just completely unpalatable, even in a place like Santa Barbara.

Yesterday, after I had spent some time in downtown Los Angeles and nearby Pasadena, my brother asked me how it went. My response was similar to Miller’s.  I mainly was trying to get a laugh out of my brother because in truth yesterday’s experience was different than the comedian’s, even though I did indeed meet up with what most people would say is a strange dude.

After dropping my brother off at work, I traveled to Pasadena and took the light rail to Union Station with a friend to view a Nordic exhibit featuring food and nature scenes from the region. We were both interested because we had once lived in Finland.

Before I had even looked at one image, a fellow was in my face. My normal response over the course of my life when accosted by strangers in public transportation centers has been to flee the scene as quickly as possible. But for some reason, this time I took a different approach. I carried on a conversation with Jorge.*

We talked and I think at first I didn’t understand that this middle-aged man might be mentally ill or perhaps homeless.  We quickly got into details of our personal lives and I found we had a lot in common.

However, at times my new friend seemed a bit unhinged, at least for my taste. Jorge hugged me twice, which made me a little uncomfortable because I am not a “hugger”, especially with men. Fiat times came close to breaking into tears when I shared something about myself that moved him.

In addition, he tended to drop f-bombs regularly, complained about security at the train station harassing him and made comments to passing females.

Although my pal claimed to have a job, a wife and a home and also said that he had just come from a doctor’s appointment, he seemed to linger at our venue. His backpack was parked over in a seat in the station lounge.

Further, Jorge’s demeanor wasn’t one you would expect from a person you had just met. He followed me around the exhibit and kept talking.

Unusually for me, I took it all in stride. In fact, although I don’t think I did anything untoward, I think he might have wearied of me. He said he had to go to the rest room and left, never to be seen again.

I jokingly told me friend that perhaps I had been more overbearing than Jorge was and he had had enough.

I believe my newly minted view toward talking at length to strangers, even those who seem down and out, has come from my own encounter with setbacks in life. I guess what they say is true, that life tends to keep you humble.

It’s not that I have totally objected to talking with unfamiliar people in public places before I met the train station man. In my travels in the US and abroad I have grown bolder.

Just this week I introduced myself to an old age pensioner in Starbucks. He was wearing a hat with the moniker “Sisu”emblazoned above the lid. The term is Finnish and is loosely translated “guts” (i.e., courage, determination and toughness).

Having lived in Finland and knowing that the language isn’t exactly common in Los Angeles, I was curious. I figured the man must be from there or at least had traveled to this out-of-the way place.

Turns out he was that Los Angeles rarity: a transplanted Finn. Heikki and I had a lengthy conversation about his homeland, California and our lives in general.

I was amazed when he explained that he was born in Rovaniemi, a city on the Arctic Circle pillaged by the Germans in World War II and had to flee to Sweden at the age of one. I have a relative from there who had the same experience.

It was interesting to learn of his travels in Europe after the war and his eventual location to California to become an engineer. He told me he worked for decades in the aeronautical industry and even for the C.I.A.

The reason I was willing to approach Heikki was that we were in a Starbucks frequented by paying customers. Unlike loiters in bus and train stations, I could expect that the inhabitants of the coffee shop were not threatening. (I hope Heikki had the same expectation. He could have had questions when I walked across the room to introduce myself. I don’t always look that approachable.)

I noticed that I was tempted to revert to my unwelcoming attitude toward the debilitated when my friend and I returned to Pasadena. On the train back I held a mildly negative view toward a peculiar fellow who felt free to impose himself on our conversation about the fascinating local natural phenomenon, the Jacaranda tree. But I didn’t hold my disdain for long. I was mostly amused.

I was less amused when a young man came by our table as we dined and asked for food. When another clearly homeless and aging man sat on the sidewalk and directed some unintelligible verbal ire toward us as we exited the restaurant, I also wasn’t pleased. But to be honest, I was more annoyed with the restaurant for allowing these men to harass its customers.

It’s not that I lack compassion. It’s just that I feel a bit put out because I don’t personally have the wherewithal to deal with all of society’s less fortunate.

I know there are government and private institutions out there that will help them.  They don’t need to be harassing the general public as they go about their business. I tend to get unhappy when  I face off with these folks because I feel they are choosing to take this approach to dealing with their lack instead of making use of the resources available to them.

Even so, I hope my attitude from yesterday’s meet and greet with Jorge at the train continues and grows. As a Christian, I walk around with the subliminal question “what would Jesus  do?” floating around in my brain when I face off with the distressed.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the way I handled the situation with Jorge yesterday was more in line with how Jesus would have responded. In fact, while taking the time to talk with him, I was briefly able to share my faith and perhaps move Jorge toward faith.

In the  final analysis, the state of his eternal soul is more important than improving his physical and mental condition.

 

 

 

 

*(name changed to protect the innocent)

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Finland, Homeless, Jesus Christ, Media, redemption, religion, Uncategorized

Curses! Don’t be the source of them

Beetle Bailey

Monday morning I was sitting in my den, drowsily watching a replay of the NASCAR race from Kansas, when I was shocked from my stupor by images of the flaming number 10 car of Danica Patrick.

She got caught up in a fiery wreck with Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, the latter who plowed into them from 10 positions back. All three cars were engulfed in a brief inferno. Thankfully, today’s race car is built for safety and includes fire retardant material.

Patrick and Logano escaped injury, but Amirola had to be cut out his car and taken to the hospital. He suffered a broken vertebrae in his back, but wasn’t torched.

Repeated clips of the collision showed Logano clipping Danica from behind after his brakes failed, sending her into a spin which put her into the track wall.  Thus, the incident wasn’t her fault.

The only female driver in the Monster Cup series, Danica is always at the focal point of media attention. It doesn’t hurt that’s she’s “hot” either. (Not my words. Those of her boyfriend and fellow driver Rickey Stenhouse, although I agree. He also has said that she can cook.)

So of course the Fox Sports people talked Patrick afterward about the accident.

“I just don’t understand why so much bad luck happens,” she said.

Danica told her interviewer she couldn’t believe a brake rotor designed to withstand a lot of pressure could cause her demise. The rotor had broken on Logano’s car, causing him to lose control and smack her.

“Why?” she asked in dismay at her misfortune. “What else can I say?

“On the other hand, I was having a really good night and that’s what makes me the MOST mad…is that every time I’m doing better something STUPID happens. It’s just killing me.”

Patrick talked about her sense of foreboding over her repeated accidents on the NASCAR circuit.

After wishing Almirola well, she said, “One of these times one of these accidents is not going to go good for me. I’ve been very fortunate so far. One of these times it’s not going to go well.”

Danica wreck

Danica isn’t the only one worried about her future. Danny Peters of Frontstretch.com wonders if she is done.

“All told, Danica has no wins, no top-5’s, a measly six top-10 runs and just 57 laps led in 165 races across six seasons. Put another way, her results don’t match her level of equipment – not by any stretch of the imagination

“My overwhelming takeaway to what was, to be fair, a ‘heat of the moment’ response? This will be her last season.”

I hope Danica doesn’t quit. She’s still young for a NASCAR driver (age 35) and is fast. But if she believes she is cursed, maybe she will, or perhaps she will get fired because of her self-fulfilling prophecy about her “bad luck”.

I don’t know whether Danica is correct about her personal driver’s curse or not. Good men disagree on whether our troubles can be caused by God, the devil or other humans invoking doom upon us.

In the hit TV show “Frasier”, the series’ namesake and his fellow psychiatrist brother Niles have a discussion about whether or not “destiny” conspires against his success every time his high school reunion comes around.

Niles tells Frasier his concerns are “folderol”.  Frasier disagrees.

“Every time my reunion comes around it results in a severe downturn in my life,” says Frasier. He notes that his reunion has coincided with his being dumped at the altar, his divorce, and falling into a patch of poison ivy. Now that the reunion is again nigh, he is sure it was the cause of a recent job loss at the radio station where he hosted a call-in show.

Furthermore, Frasier believes he will not get a new job he will interview for in the next few minutes because of the reunion.

“How can you know that?” Niles asks.

“Because Destiny won’t allow it,” replies Niles.”I feel like I have a curse on my head.”

Niles seeks to reassure his brother and convince him of the folly of his position.

“Frasier, you are a man of science. You know curses don’t exist. There’s a perfectly rational explanation for all of this. You tripped and fell into poison ivy; your radio station changed formats; your wife didn’t love you.

“The only reason why you’re giving credence to this curse mumbo-jumbo is because you’re nervous about your job interview.”

Frasier's Curse

Niles tells his brother Frasier that his belief in a curse on him is “folderol”.

As a Christian, I am interested in my faith’s point of view on the existence of curses. But again, as Michael H. Brown indicates in his article “Are there Really Such Things as Curses: Can someone affect you by what they say or think?”, there is even disagreement among believers in Jesus:

“It’s a controversial aspect of Christianity. Some say they see no biblical basis for it. Others argue that there are repeated references to just such a thing from Genesis through the New Testament — not only from God, Who is often mentioned in the way of cursing sinful men, but also the curses of others. In Proverbs it says that a curse without cause can not have an effect but implies that there is indeed such a thing and that it can come from others.”

Where I think Brown may be on target is in his belief that we can afflict others with great evil even if we don’t mean to.

“Knowingly or unknowingly, we have all cursed others,” he says. “When we dislike someone, and worst of all, when we hate a person, it’s like throwing a spiritual dagger.

“And it can have physical results. In some cases people take sick (think of the term ‘ill will’), and often we find ourselves in frustrating bondages. No matter what we do, we can’t succeed. We can’t make ends meet. We can’t finish a job.We can’t succeed at school. We can’t find good relationships. We can’t reach peace in our families.”

Brown notes that the reversals people encounter are mostly due to the normal suffering of life, but he thinks “there are occasions when it’s because of ill will.”

“The fact that we can curse people without even knowing it is why we’re called to constantly control not only what we say, but what we THINK.”.

That’s a tall order. As someone who wants to use words to influence people for good, I know I need to do better at reigning in my speech towards others. I concur with one of Brown’s associates, a minister named Victoria, who says that “words are power.”

“When we call someone dumb or bad or ugly,we can be casting a real shadow on them,” she says.

Perhaps Frasier carried around such a cloud of condemnation with him due to his school days. He was known as the “Bryce Crier” and throughout the series it was clear he was bullied in school.

Charlie Brown dread

Yesterday as I viewed the blue/green ocean surf I cringed at the name calling I have engaged in during my own life.  I regretted my own ill will toward others, also.

In a time of prayer I asked God to forgive me and to take away my curses. What is more, I asked Him to negate the curses put forth against me.

I wanted to do something to symbolize my request and to demonstrate that I was serious about repenting of my loose tongue and heart. Therefore, I began to think how I could make a spiritual landmark at my spot on the shore.

Given that the place was rocky and had no trees or large boulders where I could leave permanent graffiti, I decided to do what tourists do: I took a souvenir. Instead of  seashell (there were none anyway), I picked up a rock that looked different than the rest.

IMG_20170518_144850111

My “memorial” stone

I am convinced there is spiritual evil at work today despite the dismissal of such things by so-called “modern” man, especially people in the secular media .

No, I don’t look for the devil behind every rock, I just don’t want to be the source of someone’s . Would that we all learn to keep our mouths shut and our emotions in check. The world might be a better place if we did.

         

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Filed under Christianity, Civility, Speech, Uncategorized

Stopping America’s Slide to Self Destruction

Crying I cannot believe the world that I see
Is not for me
Praying please take me home
I’m here all alone and slowly I fade
If you could see my misery
Would you believe in opacity?-Ebony Tears

I am no philosopher. I don’t have the mind for it. But I know I have to have some understanding of this field of study because I am pretty sure the current problems between people in my country boil down to  differences in world view.

Even this non-intellectual can see that there is an underlying cause to the self destruction going on in American today.  In my lifetime, we Americans have gone from a people who had a basic faith in God, country and each other to a certain nihilism.

It has gotten so that I don’t want to open up news sites on the Internet anymore, although I am an avid follower of world events. I try to avoid following the news too deeply because I become anguished. It brings me evidence of the condition of the human soul in the 21st century.

The media tells me that political nihilists are using violence to do away with the previously established order in American society. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the culture I was born into is no longer there and has been gone for many years.

For example, I heard the sermon of a now-deceased pastor yesterday describe how an asinine judge (his words, not mine) entered a judgement against a man who had shot an intruder. The latter had sued this man, minding his own business in his own home, and won. This was 30 plus years ago.

I confess that my own basis for life comes from the Bible. From the Scriptures I can tell right from wrong, although I also admit that I am not always good at following their instructions. That a man could win a lawsuit against someone who was defending himself and his loved ones in his own home just seems completely upside down and definitely violates the tenets I have garnered from the Word of God.

By definition (I am informed by a group called “All About Philosophy”), nihilists reject the values I believe in. In fact, they oppose any values or truth at all, believing that values are worthless and knowledge of truth is not possible. Further, those nihilists involved with politics believe if any good is to come they need to do away with religion in addition to political and social orders.

As I contemplated these philosophical thoughts the last couple of days, the New York Times published a column by Pankaj Mishra which basically confirms my idea that nihilism is alive and well in America. Mishra finishes his discussion, entitled “America, from exceptionalism to nihilism” by noting that America has accelerated it. He calls nihilism our country’s “most insidious tendency”and that we are helpless to stop it. His article is worth reading for his tracing of how we have arrived at this point in our history.

In my view America’s plight is primarily a spiritual issue. Many of our people it seems have so rejected God that they are incapable now of accepting truth.

This situation is not new. Swedish death metal band Ebony Tears discussed the condition of such individuals in lyrics published 20 years ago. In their song “Opacity” they describe a person full of hate, confusion and pain.

Today some of these folks portrayed by Ebony Tears are out on the street dressed in black and covering their identities in masks, lashing out at the institutions and people they believe have caused their demise. They are living through a nightmare and involving the rest of America in their haunted ordeal.

It’s easy to throw up the hands over the darkness around us in America today. But as one who believes in a living God I know He is powerful and I therefore can be hopeful of renewal in the nation that I love.

Evangelical pastor Greg Laurie noted a few years ago in the Christian Post that America has had four spiritual awakenings in its history, all during tumultuous times: during the formation of the nation; during the expansion to the West when lack of love and sexual sin was common; at the time of a stock market crash in the mid-19th century; and in the 1960s when the Jesus Movement took hold in the midst of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr and the debilitating war in  Vietnam.

Given the prevalence of evil our current times are surely a candidate for revival. Only the intervention of God and his truth will overcome the closed hearts of today’s nihilistic Americans.

How do we get to revival? I do know that revival starts with the individual. I cannot influence what others do, but I do have control over myself. So I can begin revival by starting with myself.

I can also ask God for it. Over 40 years ago Phil Keaggy, one of the greatest musicians America has ever produced wrote about how God can effect my own personal transformation:

All my life I have been searching
For that crazy missing part
With one touch You just rolled away
The stone that held my heart
Now I see that the answer was as simple
As my need to let love in

Keaggy further describes the consequences of opening the heart that has heretofore refused to allow God’s light and love in:

Like waking up from the longest dream
How real it seemed
Until Your love broke through
And I was lost in a fantasy
That blinded me
Until your love broke through

I don’t have to continue living in a horrible dream. Neither do my fellow Americans. All of us– progressives, conservatives, libertarians, and even the nihilists can allow God’s love to break through and change our dark, self loathing, destroyed hearts.

With a nationwide heart change, one caused by a turning to God, Americans can stop the self-inflicted damage we are causing to our country and turn it around.

 

 

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A Tale of Two Attitudes

It’s been the best of days. It’s been the worst of days. Sorry Charles Dickens. I couldn’t resist.

But my twist to the opening to that great 19th century author’s wonderful novel “Take of Two Cities” does aptly describe today.

As I write this in mid-afternoon, I have experienced both agitation and peace. The former has come from circumstances, the latter from accomplishing the proper attitude in response.

The disturbances in my heart have not really been a big deal. The first was especially minor. The Internet was very spotty in one of the coffee shops I frequent. The second incident occurred when I could tap into it. I read an Email from an employer about a job I had applied for. It included this sentence:

This message is to inform you that the search for this position has been failed which means it will not be filled at this time.

Talk about creative denial. Using the passive voice is not a problem to me, but using the verb “failed” in this context is just….what can I say? Someone has been looking at too many “fails” on YouTube.

I finally did get up to leave, especially after my complaint to one of the servers didn’t alter the Wi-Fi capability of the place. After all, I go to coffee shops to have fun, and I was not enjoying my frustration at not being able to access websites. . Although I am not a girl, I empathize with Cyndi Lauper. Boys just want to have fun, too.

The final aggravation came about during my planned walk in town after the Joe stop. Twice I had cars park themselves right in the crosswalk as I tried to claim my pedestrian rights in accordance with what the signals were saying.

One of my legs is a bit tricky right now, so I have to be aware as I cross streets. These people were not helping and in fact creating a dangerous situation for me. That they were violating traffic laws right next to to the town hall, courthouse and city police station only added to my disquiet.

Since I was right next to the police station I went in to complain. The desk officer was very nice in taking my verbal complaint. I did wonder though when he said,”The people just aren’t paying attention.” Was he excusing their behavior? That’s how I took it I guess.

I responded with,”Well, these people need to get a ticket.”

The officer said he would pass my  comments on to the traffic police. He wished me well and said be careful out there” as I walked away. He was so nice that he for the moment altered my negative stew.

As I ambled into the warmer-than-usual winter day and headed toward the river, I thanked a policeman getting out of his car for his service. It was then I realized that had been accumulating a series of offenses in my mind and getting wound up. If you had been walking with me you might have said “it’s much ado about nothing” and you would have been right.

As Dickens intimates, our world is a mixed bag. Some are wise,while others are foolish. To get to the spring of hope, we must endure the winter of despair. I can either walk in unbelief or have faith.

I do have a belief system that provides principles for dealing with the kind of hindrances I encountered today. It wasn’t until I crossed over the river and into some gardens that I realized I was not following my faith tradition’s tenets.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, what came to my mind was a statement he made to his disciples which has recently meant a lot to me. He said,

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

Now I am not a bitter clinger to a religion, as our outgoing president once said of his opponents.  The only thing I am clinching in my fists is my personal rights.

In my mind today were the ideas that the world was here to serve me and that it should be run perfectly in that purpose. Walking along the path it came to me that the truth is that neither of these  supposition were based in reality.

The truths I live by tell me that my thoughts were the opposite of these ideas. The doctrines of my faith tell me that I am trodding this soil to serve others for Jesus’ sake and that this earth and the people in it are in a fallen state. It’s not paradise.

I can wish for valhalla on earth, but it’s not going to happen. As my departed Dad like to say,”Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first.” Given the state of things, I should be happy when things go right.

With the principles of my two fathers (my heavenly and earthly ones) in mind,  I improved my attitude. I sat in a park after my walk and thanked God for a coffee shop to go to and a police force to protect me. I also expressed my gratitude that He had my destiny regarding employment in His hands. Better His than those of some poor sap who can’t write a sentence.

So while I thought about hitting the trifecta and writing the personnel director of the employer that sent me the aforementioned Email, I didn’t do so. I decided to drop it because I knew the only person that my missive would affect would be me, and not in a good way.

This isn’t to say that I should just let injustice go.  But If I am to avoid losing my sanity, then I have to learn to pick my battles. The things that happened to me today were not that important. They fell under the categoty of “inconvenience.”  .

In summary, while I was in Dickensian terms going the opposite direction from heaven this day, my God stepped in and turned me around.  I had created my own little season of darkness, but He made it into a season of light.

I learned some things today, which made it a good day. Anytime I can feed this value, I am happy. The application for tomorrow and the next day and the ones after that is to assist my mind by enjoining it from noisily insisting that my current waking period be received in superlative degrees only.

My times are not the best or the worst. They are what I allow God to make of them.

 

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