A choice to return

It is tiresome to hear someone point out negative things all the time. Like a coworker I had who was always talking about the bad things – patrons, news stories. Like the friends who have to share only bad news on Facebook – their own, the world’s. It is hard to stay centered and focused and calm when this happens.

But we are told to love our enemies. That is the test. It is easy to love people when they are good. Jesus tells us that even unbelievers do that. But the rubber meets the road when people and situations are difficult. That is when we must rise above our human nature.

The only way to do that is to ask Jesus into the situation, to take up his yoke. It is when things are hard that we are given an opportunity to grow, to get stronger, to get better. It is when things are difficult that we have a reminder an opportunity to recommit to our path. It is then we can choose again to follow Jesus, and not the world.

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The red doors. Abandoned project #1

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And tomorrow I will go into the smaller door, the lesser door. Always and forever the grand door, the steps leading upwards, but not to the light, no, never that.

You’d think so, with the wide entrance, the columns and the arch. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. That is the way that leads to the world.

This world is the world of doing, of broken promises and prom dates and first kisses and grandparents who die. The whole ball of wax is there for the taking.

But the other door? The plain one, the one you can’t see in until you’d reached the top step, the landing? It isn’t for nothing that you have to take eight steps to get there. Too high for anybody in the room to peer in. It is the best kept secret after all.

Door not locked, not even there, even. Not even any hinges for the door. Never were. And that light! Warm and low, like a late afternoon in September, when the skies are clear and the summer heat is a memory.

No, that doorway you only go through once, because there’s no coming back, no backtracking – not as far as anyone knew. There could be a mind wipe, a re-cycling, an up-cycling, but we’d never know.

Yes, tomorrow it shall be.

 

(Photo from Pinterest. Bramham House, England. Copyright belongs to the photographer.)

Poem – It isn’t them

Don’t blame other people
for your problems.
Don’t expect other people
to rescue you
either.

They are not
the cause
or the cure.

Your choices
determine your reality.
Things happen
that are beyond your control
but your reaction
is within it.

What you do or don’t do
is your choice.
How you respond
in thought, word, and deed
is your choice.

Take ownership
of your life
and take
your own life
back.
It was yours
all along
after all.

Thoughts on the latest terror attack

In this time of unrest, let us listen to these wise words from people from all over the world and all across time. Let us remember that we have a choice.

“Heracles was journeying on a narrow road when he saw what looked like an apple on the ground. When he stepped on it, the object instantly became twice as big. Seeing the extraordinary growth, Heracles stepped on it with both feet and smashed it mightily with his club. As result, the thing expanded so rapidly it blocked the road. Heracles threw down his club and stared at it dumbfounded.

The goddess Athena appeared to him then and said, “Dear brother, leave that thing alone! It is the spirit of argument and disharmony. If you keep from touching it, it can do no harm. But, as you have seen, if you try to fight, it only grows greater.” – Fable of Aesop.

“Rabbi Akiva traveled with a donkey to lighten his load, a rooster to awaken him at dawn, and an oil lamp to study by at night. He trusted in God and believed that all God does is for the good. One day, God made it that Rabbi Akiva arrived at a town after the gates have been closed, so he had to sleep outside in the dangerous woods. When he, at last, sat down to study by the light of his lamp, a great wind arose and blew it out. So, saying to himself “All is for the good,” he lay down to sleep, confident that the rooster would wake him early the next morning.

But then a fox came and carried the rooster away. Rabbi Akiva said, “This too will be for the good,” and with that fell asleep. In the middle of the night, a lion pounced on the donkey and devoured the animal before it made a sound. Rabbi Akiva mourned over the life of his donkey, but saying “Everything is surely for the good,” he found joy and comfort and returned to a deep sleep.

When Rabbi Akiva awoke in the morning, he saw that the town had been attacked and burned to the ground. “See,” he said, “all is truly for the good. If I had gained entry into the town, or if my lamp had remained bright, or if my rooster had crowed, or my donkey had brayed, these attackers who destroyed the town would have certainly come after me, too!” – Traditional Jewish story.

“Ambrosia can be extracted even from poison;
elegant speech even from a child;
good conduct even from an enemy;
gold even from impurity.”
-from the Laws of Manu (sacred text of Hinduism)

“How far that little candle throws his beams.
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
– William Shakespeare

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 5:38-40, HCSB translation)

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”
– Gandhi biographer Louis Fischer, summing up Gandhi’s view on the Hindu concept of “ahimsa”

We have a choice now. We are at a crossroads. We can choose life or death. We can choose to be present and aware. We can choose to love our neighbors. We can choose to not be afraid. We can choose to rise above, rise together. We can choose. We are not powerless.

This isn’t about race or religion or creed, not anymore. This has happened too often, in too many different ways. There have been more mass killings in this world than we can easily count. It has become our normal, this terror, this fear. Some male takes a gun and kills many people, all strangers, in a moment.

In the same way that it has become our present normal, it can become our past. This does not have to continue. All things change.

In the meantime, we must remember that we have a choice to remain calm. To listen to the stranger. To be open and welcoming. To forgive. To show love and compassion. We must remember that there are far more kind, compassionate, and loving people than we realize. They don’t get the press attention so we don’t notice them. Start looking for the good, and you will find it all around you.

We must embrace the “other”, the different one, and include rather than exclude. This is a time to unite, not divide. I do not mean for “Us” to unite against “Them” – but to have a “We” instead.

We have a choice. It is time.

Mixed Messages

“People and things don’t stop our pain or heal us. In recovery, we learned that this is our job, and we can do it by using our resources: ourselves, our higher power, our support systems, and our recovery program.” — From “The Language of Letting Go: daily meditations for codependents” by Melody Beattie

I saw this picture recently.
mixed message

The title of the article is “Her tattoo contains a hidden message, and it started an important conversation.” The tattoo is an ambigram – a message that can be read upside down as well as right-side up. In this case, the message is different when read upside down. The normal way it is viewed by others says “I’m fine”, while the way that she sees it says “Save me”.

The article says that she got it as a way of dealing with her depression. It is her way of asking for help. But there is something very wrong about this. It is passive. Help does not come from other people. If you give away your power to others, you will continually feel powerless.

I find it significant that “Save me” is the view from her perspective. Maybe she will finally read it that way – that she is the only one who can save herself.

She is the one who makes choices.
She can choose
to get enough sleep,
eat healthy food,
exercise,
avoid negative people,
find a job that is meaningful,
learn to speak her truth.

She can choose,
and must,
for her own survival.

Being healthy is a choice, and something each person must do for themselves.

Depression is a symptom, not a disease. It is the result of feeling powerless, disconnected, alone. It is a sign of not owning your own power, using your own voice. The way out of it is not to ask others to save you, but to save yourself. If others have to rescue you, you aren’t healed. They cannot do your work for you.

The giving away of power to others is part of the disease, the dis-ease. Ease, comfort, health, comes from taking responsibility for your own life.

You can ask for help to learn different ways of healing yourself, but you cannot expect others to do it for you. You must own your own power. You must be your own best friend. You must save yourself. This is the cure.

Stop being passive about your life.
Stop expecting others to rescue you.

Human / Animal

The first test for humans was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were told “Don’t eat this, it is bad for you.” We failed that test. God gave us our minds for reason and wants us to exercise self-control. This is what God was testing – were we humans or were we animals.

Self-control is the mark of a human versus an animal. Delayed gratification and restraint are the hallmarks of a human being – not just someone who is in the shape of the human but someone who actually is able to act like one. Saving versus spending, planning ahead – these are hallmarks of a mature human.

Yet God didn’t abandon us there when we failed that test. God stuck with us. God keeps giving us chances. God says “I set before you a blessing and a curse.” We have a choice about how we spend our time, our money, and our energy. We can use them for ourselves or for others. We can waste or use wisely.

Sure we have free will. But we also will experience the consequences of our choices too. If we choose to go against God’s commands, we will suffer. God doesn’t punish us because of our bad actions, we do.

It is like being told “Don’t touch the stove – it is hot.” When a child touches it anyway and burns her fingers, it isn’t the parent who his punishing her with her burned fingers. She did it to herself. The parent knows better, knows that this otherwise safe item, usually cool to touch, isn’t safe right now and warns the child. The child has a choice. She isn’t being forced to obey. If she chooses well then she has proven she is mature. God gives us these same kinds of choices.

People blame God for their heart disease and diabetes when they are the result of their unhealthy life choices such as eating salty fried processed food and not exercising. The problem is that they blame God for their own bad choices. They don’t take personal responsibility for their actions. They are acting like animals and not like humans.

Blessing and a curse

Deuteronomy 11:26a
26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse:

Later on, we read

Deuteronomy 30:15
15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.

Every day, every hour, every moment we have a choice to do what we know to be right. It isn’t a religious guilt-trip thing either. It is actually very freeing.

We have a choice to get up on time or sleep in. We have a choice to eat well, to exercise, to speak kindly to people.

The past doesn’t matter. Our family or personal history doesn’t matter.

Every day, hour, moment we have a choice. Just because we ate a piece of pie doesn’t mean we have to eat a second one. Just because we have never gone for a walk around the neighborhood doesn’t mean that now isn’t a great time for it. Just because we have never gotten along with this person doesn’t mean that today isn’t the day to give it a try.

Every moment is a new chance. Now is a new chance, a new choice.

And if we do make a bad choice, we aren’t stuck. We get another chance to turn it around.

God doubles our energy when we turn back to what we know to be right. Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God comes running to us to make up the distance when we return.

I leave you with the entire text of chapter 18 of the book of Ezekiel.

The word of the LORD came to me again: 2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity, 7 does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any increase, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man,9 walks in my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances—he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.
10 “If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood, 11 who does none of these duties, but eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes increase; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
14 “But if this man begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and fears, and does not do likewise, 15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not wrong any one, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or increase, observes my ordinances, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.
25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life.28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (RSV)