Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Ugly

Imagine a world where we do not judge as to good or bad, lovable or unlovable. What if we accepted the fact God loves us with all our flaws and imperfections, and our only goal was to love others in the same way? Would the world change? Maybe.

Gandhi first changed himself - his awareness, his reaction, his behavior - and then non-violently brought attention to the harmful actions of others. In doing so he changed the world. 

He wasn't perfect. He did not end all suffering, and he had many critics, but he tried to make a difference and history records his efforts.

No one but God has a full understanding of suffering,  why it exists. The best theologians can only offer the theory this world is flawed, and suffering is the result. In his book, The Naked Now, Richard Rohr offers a simplistic definition of suffering: when ever you are not in control. 

Criticising, worrying and stressing give the false illusion of control. What if we changed all that?  Imagine the ripple effect if each of us gave up the desire to control another's behavior by criticism, legislation or violence, and changed ourselves: our view point, our priorities, our need to be right? Scripture states we need to remove the beam in our eyes before we consider the splinter in our neighbor's eye.

I realize much of my desire for control stems from ego, as mentioned in an earlier post,  Ego. I have worked to let go of the need to be right, tried not to be judgemental, and I found more joy and less worry. I see more of God's blessings and tend to reach out to others without the need, or desire, to judge if they are worthy of that love. I still fail, catching myself being judgmental, arguing a point to prove I'm right, but with effort and persistence I will change my  mental attitude and behavior, one thought, one act at a time.  

Letting go of judgment and control,  I am more inclined to trust God for everything - trust Him to lead others on the right path -  His idea of right, not mine.

It is freeing. I do not spend my quiet time chastising myself or re-counting the wrong deeds of others. I do not dwell on some future time when everything will be idyllic (in my mind) - and as a result I am happier than I can ever remember being in my life. The uncertainties of my future, the faults of myself and my neighbor (trust me there are plenty of issues if I chose to revert to negative reflection) no longer dictate my thoughts, actions and emotions. Instead I remember the words: nothing is impossible for God, with one key difference. I stand back and allow God to decide which impossibility will be possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ego

I have begun a  spiritual journey, one which will require a huge change in my way of thinking, behaving and perceptions. My goal is not to change the world, but change how I see the world. The first step is my ego.

Richard Rohr in his insightful book, The Naked Now, equates ego with the need to be right. He even quotes Dr. Phil: Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? Those words struck deep.

How many times have I gone to great lengths to be right? How much of my suffering was the direct result of my ego taking a hit? Even in my spiritual life, I wanted to be right: on the right path, thinking the right things, acting in the right way. How often did I use God's yard stick as my unit of measure? Most of the time I used another method - my ego. To stroke my ego, I looked for confirmation from others.

On the surface, I truly thought I was seeking God's approval, while in truth, I wanted Him to confirm that I was right.

The Scripture, die to self equals letting go of my ego. The truly humble are not weak. They are exceptionally strong. Their self-being is not dependent on anyone, on any circumstance or deed. They spend little time thinking about how others need to change, focusing instead of how they need to change.

It is a tall order, this letting go of ego, pride, the need to be right, to be on the right side, the best, the winner. This new spirituality focuses on Being. Being in communion with God and allowing everything else to fall into place. And it will. With Him as my focus, I will naturally care about my family, my friends, my neighborhood, my city, my country and my world. 

This change in focus will change my perceptions, the first being judgement. This will be a hard one. How can I not judge what is good or bad? How should we react to injustices? Just determining that there is an injustice is a form of judgement, isn't it? How can I work toward world change if I don't determine where injustices lie and then act?

First, all changes begin very close to home - me. First I change. Scripture speaks of the tendency to see the mote in my brother's eye, ignoring the beam in mine.

This seems daunting, but all journeys begin with the first step. My first step is working on my ego, my need to always be right - in my eyes as well as others. I can't help but wonder how this change will effect my life. Will I indeed be happier? And in due course, will others around me be happier? With a moment truthful reflection, the answer is easy to see.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oh Ye of Little Faith


In last week's post I mentioned finally figuring out why I worry. For the most part I have managed to let go of that vice, and as a resslt, I spend more time in the now, trading the desire to be in some future or past moment, for this moment.

And God blessed my new attitude while sitting at a stop light.

I grew up eastern Oregon amid wide open desert expanses. Wildlife was (and still is) abundant near my home. Every morning during spring and summer, a Meadowlark's song accompanied my coffee and devotions. Over time I equated its song with God's Word - a sign of His gifts and blesssings. After moving from my home state several years ago, I have not heard the Meadowlark sing. Other birds seranade my devotions, and have a beautiful song, but they aren't the same.

The warmer tempetatures this last week caused my parked car to heat up considerably by the time  I left work.  To ease the discomfort until the airconditioning kicked in, I rolled the windows down and headed home.

While sitting at the light, instead of impatiently tapping the steering wheel and willing the darned thing to change, I looked, really looked, at my surroundings: blue sky, mountains, open fields, trees in full folliage, and even a gurgling creek running through emerald green grasses - right beside the road. I soaked it in.

It was then it happened - the sweet trill I had not heard for so many years - a Meadowlark burst into song, sang the entire time I waited for the light, continued as I turned the corner, fading away only after going halfway to the next light.

Listening to that precious melody brought this scripture to mind:

Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?  And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for rainment why are solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labor not, neither do they spin. But I say to you that noe even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God does clothe, how much more you, O ye of little faith? Matthew 6:26 - 30

*****

For those who have not had the privilege of hearing a Meadowlark sing:


Saturday, May 5, 2012

I've Figure It Out

Worry. It is relentless, moving through my life like a raging storm, devouring every thing in its path, leaving horrendous devastation behind. I think I finally figured out why I continue to feed its voracious appetite  - control.

Somewhere during the course of my life I picked up two damaging ideas. The first, if you truly care about some one or some thing, you will worry over its well being. If you don't worry and fret, you don't love. The second, by worrying, fretting and pacing, I will some how maintain control over the situation. If I just let go, I let go all chance of control. Without control, I am just a bit of debris blown about wherever the wind takes me, without direction or purpose, with no control. That idea brings on panic attacks and nightmares, even profuse sweating.

We all know, intellectually, we have no control over anything except our reactions. Even those are sometimes hard to control, but, to let go, really let go, is unthinkable in spite of what we proclaim.

So, as they say, knowing the cause is half the battle. When the worry worms start burrowing, I need to remind myself that agonizing isn't going to change the outcome. All it will do is erode this moment, and as hard as it is, letting go isn't letting go of caring, it is letting go of the struggle, the need to control.

I can weep with those weeping.  I can pray for those in need, and then I can place those concerns in His hands and let them go - let the agony of them go, not the compassion or concern, let go of the agonizing, the self torture.

When it comes down to it, I really don't want control. I have no power to exact changes, except small ones with the few choices available. If I prayerfully make those decisions I can, and then allow those choices to take their course, that is about all I can realistically do.

There will be unpleasantness.There will be pain. It will be fleeting.  I once told a good friend going through a very hard time, "Challenges are like a night at a bad hotel. It is unpleasant, but it will pass." I need to listen to my own advice.

And in all honesty, I know life isn't all sorrow. There are good memories mixed with the unpleasant. My future will be the same, a mixture. In addition, God has promised we will see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. We must expect the Lord, do manfully, and let our hearts take courage, and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27: 13-14.

It is the waiting part that is so hard. However, I think I'm getting better at it.