Archive for October, 2010

Shibboleth

Courtesy of ClusterFlock.org

Words are my passion.

My days are spent in the quiet pursuit of concise, elegant phrases to paint clear verbal pictures. This is a process designed to illuminate the images on my internal movie screen for the outside world with perfect clarity — a goal achieved far less than I would like, it seems.

For me, a sentence is a brush stroke.

I carefully place every syllable.

I am precise with each comma and hyphen.

Further, I do my best to match my speech to my actions.

Aligning the two concerned me less during my youth than it does now. I’ve been uncomfortable around people I thought were “better than me” and made the mistake of puffing myself up for others. In my late teens, I decided to avoid compromising when it came to one subject: spirituality.

For the most part, I kept the topic in a silent room in a private corner of my mind. I did my best to shut my mouth when it came up, lest a disingenuous statement spill from my mouth.

I agonize over what small sentences reflect, why would I be haphazard when it comes to faith?

Growing up, the ritual nature of religion squeezed the meaning out of everything wonderful about the message of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father. Through my eyes, “following” seemed geared more towards achieving pre-planned steps  in a systematic fashion laid out and agreed upon by a congregation. What I felt most important of all, the personal quest for understanding, appeared to be stripped away in favor of a routine.

One of my deepest desires is to keep from doing something because I’m “supposed to” or saying whatever I “should.” These are offenses of the highest order, violations against myself and my principles. I would rather do nothing than perform a bunch of empty gestures simply to prove I know the secret handshake.

I strive to choose those words which give proper weight to every situation instead of gaining acceptance by uttering the appropriate shibboleth at the right time.

In my mind, to say something half-hearted is far worse than being silent.

When discussing my walk with God, I choose to speak only what I can safely put my soul behind.

Therefore, I do my best to follow my heart and go where it leads.

Sometimes that means I have to shut up. Others, that I have something to declare.

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Fear and Commitment

Courtesy SelfHypnosisBlog.Wordpress.com

Life-altering decisions have a way of scaring us.

The shift from known to unknown is a breeding ground for doubt.

Even when full of confidence, old ghosts haunt our minds with questions.

What will change?

Who will I lose?

Am I ready?

Do I want to?

Can I even do it?

If we could see the challenges ahead and the work to overcome them, we’d probably stay home.

Taking a step in a new direction, regardless of how brave we feel, is always the stuff of legend.

What we believe to be a simple move is infinitely more complex than we can imagine.

If we knew the answers, the meaning would be lost.

We are left to ask:

Without fear, is there commitment?

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Community Improvement

Courtesy HaywoodEMC.com

Change can be lonely.

The daunting task of making a drastic shift is amplified when faced in solitude. We hear our excuses with more clarity in the silence, the positive voice between our ears drowned out by the din of old habits whining to be maintained. Crushed under the weight of our history, we slide back into the same destructive pattern for the umpteenth time.

There is no law stating such work must be done out of sight.

Grab a little help from some friends.

1. Demand honesty
It is easy — maybe even natural — to hide from the truth when it comes time to encounter our ugliness. More eyes and ears is an asset when this revelation occurs; the difference in perspectives sheds light on other aspects of a given trait or situation and opens the door to accountability in dealing with it.

The fruit of mutual, no-shit assessment is the opportunity to face the nasty stuff with a partner (or a whole brigade).

2. Receive support
One of the most underrated phrases in the English language is “I get that way, too.”

When another voice echoes our quiet thoughts, it is as though any burden is instantly split across two sets of shoulders instead of one. By sharing the load, both parties have more energy to carry out the task at hand.

There is tremendous value in having others to talk to, to share victories and defeats with.

Simply sitting in a room and telling people how we feel has incredible healing — and advancing — power.

We are social creatures.

Without someone else, it’s hard to make community improvement.

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When We Think, It Can’t Get Any Worse

Challenges can overwhelm us, if we let them.

There are moments when all of us doubt our ability to take another step.

Some of us act fast and others are parlyzed by fear or frustration.

Groping along in the dark for a solution, I often do the latter. I become annoyed by my inability to find a way out, get angry at myself and begin second-guessing decision after decision.

Before long, headspace is a tangled mess of contradictions and insults.

Boarding a runaway train racing through every station of a nightmare scenario, the conductor is no longer at the controls.

The locomotive is gaining speed on a downhill slope.

The end result can only be a gruesome wreck of depression and anguish.

Slam on the brakes.

Take a breath — it’s still possible.

Life goes on.

It requires small steps, not giant leaps.

When we think, it can’t get any worse.

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Canned Tradition

 

Courtesy Knoedel.it

Tradition is a funny thing.

As we pass from season to season, markers arise to signal the end of one time period and onset of another. This happens with everything: sports, fashion, life, etc. Following these mileposts allows us to ensure we are on track, moving from one landmark to the next with appropriate speed.

Tradition can be a foundation.

It allows us to honor the past and shines fond spotlight on the differences between yesterday and today. By reminding us of battles won and lost, it becomes something akin to a rallying cry — an invitation to remember tough days have been survived before and can be again.

Tradition can be a hindrance.

If adhered to in a thoughtless manner, we lose sight of the meaning and importance. The act is merely a motion, an empty gesture for someone else’s benefit instead of our own. Marked by “We always have” instead of “We really wish to,” it bogs us down as opposed to lifting us up.

When the opportunity arises to change, we must first evaluate our customary actions. In order to move in a new direction, it is natural for us to shed old practices and procedures. To avoid doing so is to beg the same outcomes to appear over and over again.

Ask questions.

Is it necessary?

Is it optional?

Is it harmful?

Is it helpful?

Then decide.

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Loving in Fear

Courtesy ChristusRex.org

My whole life, I’ve been told to fear God.

I have a hard time with that.

That’s not to say I’m unable to cower under the might of the Creator, I am certain the consequences of disobeying Him are far from pleasant — I’ve experienced some of them.

I’m unsettled by the claim I should pass my days quivering in the shadow of His power.

It is impossible for a human being to love in that situation.

The course of history is defined by people overthrowing those who punched them down with an iron fist. Action under such conditions is timid and guarded, measured by unsure steps with a watchful eye on the swinging ax of reprisal. Living by the rule of fear breeds resentment and, eventually, rebellion.

On the other hand, if motivated by love, we are made strong and courageous. Our decisions come with an added dose of bravery, even when shrouded in doubt. To move in this way is to be for something instead of against it, to go forward with momentum as opposed to being held back.

“Do not fear” is the most common command in the Bible.

It makes sense, if we think about it.

When scared, we are weakened.

We have no reason to be.

He will be with us, if we allow.

Why? Because He loves us.

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Brew Grit

Courtesy StopTheRemakes.com

Times get tough.

Daunting challenges bring forth the essence of our character.

Impossible odds force us to ask ourselves very serious questions about our beliefs, habits and commitment.

One could argue these situations arise to test our will, to answer a simple question:

Can we keep our eyes on the prize?

The expression of deep truth requires focus, tenacity and determination. The pursuit is long and arduous, each phase of the journey is replete with obstacles. Effort and energy must be expended in preparation, let alone in overcoming the roadblocks themselves.

The ability to persevere is, at times, all we taste of victory.

Demonstrating persistence and drive — if only to ourselves — prepares us for the slings and arrows we’ll face upon reaching our destination. We must fight tooth and nail to the end, it is the only way we can be sure to value what we have gained. It’s fair to say that, without a struggle, we could hardly be trusted with such a responsibility.

To have what we desire, we have to battle through.

Sometimes it demands quiet resolve.

Other occasions beg for seething discontent.

Either way, we can give up or brew grit.

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“Joy cometh in the morning.”


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