Thursday, April 28, 2016

42488 :: My point being...

It has been rightly said that I get a little verbose as I meander through my thoughts. You will get no argument from me there.

I do, however, wish to clarify the general points I was trying to make yesterday without making anyone else follow my rabbit trails. So these are those:
  1. You don't understand everything. Neither do I. 
  2. No one ever changed anyone's mind by bullying them into silence or "winning" an argument.
  3. Believing you are "right" does not give you a ticket to force another to do things your way. This goes both ways, so examine your own actions and motives.
  4. Talk to people and find out who they are instead of pigeon-holing others with tidy little labels. We have more in common that we think. 
  5. Being kind and treating others as fellow human beings trumps winning any argument about who is right or wrong.
There, is that better?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

42487 :: Truth. A matter of opinion?

I am not a morning person. I don't wake up well. So I have developed a coping behavior that helps me ease into consciousness that works very well for me. Some people might not be able to leave their dinner dishes overnight, but washing dishes is something I can do even half-awake. Standing in my robe and sandals at the kitchen sink with a soapy sponge in my hand, making short work of a few spatulas and pots and pans (last night, I made a batch of strawberry jam after dinner... so more than a few pots and pans!), and the warm water. In just a few minutes I can go from grumpy and disoriented to being able to face the world and tackle the problems the day brings.

It works for me.

The other thing that washing dishes in my sleep allows me to do is to think. I can literally work my way through wooden spoons, funnels and all the things that don't go well in the dishwasher at the same time as thinking my way through the conundrums that have pickled everyone's brains for the past few days on social media. Things like what is "normal" when we are talking about Religious vs. LGBT rights, what is the answer to bathrooms for transgenders, who is right? who is wrong? how do we live together in this society?

OK, I admit I didn't quite figure out the last part about how we live together, because I can't control the behavior of other people, only myself. But I do think I have figured out the rest of it:

We are all wrong.

We think we know the answers when in reality we have limited understanding and vision. And we also have freewill to believe or not believe in a Higher Power who created or designed it all. Even those of us who do believe, we are still limited to our concept of what or who that "higher power" really is. So, what it boils down to is that, in and of ourselves we cannot know who or what is really right or wrong. We do not have that power, because what lifestyle or belief system or behavior we consider "right" for ourselves is ultimately governed by our understanding and/or belief in our chosen god or God or nongod. We cannot "know" for a certainty if our belief system is The correct belief system like we can know from experience that by drinking a glass of water we will no longer be thirsty, or by taking a nap we will no longer be tired. We take our belief system on faith... hence the term faith-based belief.

So, based on that (slightly convoluted) point of view, I think we have to agree that we do not agree, and probably will never agree with everyone else on what is right, or normal, or acceptable behavior. Then what?

My mother used to say, "Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins." At the age of 12, that philosophy didn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me. Then I grew up and I realized that the rest of the world did not walk in my shoes. They did not wear my glasses. And I had to adjust my thinking and decide if I was going to remain a child and insist on having my own way, or was I going to learn to respect others and allow them to think the way they do and let them go on their own way, even though I sincerely thought they were making the wrong choice. I know some evangelicals have a problem with that mindset, and I do understand where they are coming from, but my faith-based belief system is such that it is not up to me to argue someone out of their point of view, but to so live my life according to my own belief system and do it in such a way that shows respect and tolerance for where another person camps out, that my belief system will eventually trump another intolerant, hate-based belief system and actions will speak louder than words.

In the end, even though I believe my truth to be the most logical, "correct truth", as long as your "truth" does not impinge on my "truth", you are on your own and you are responsible for the consequences of your choices.

Having said all that, it still remains that forcing me to call "normal" what my belief system defines as "not normal" is, in effect, crossing that metaphorical line of swinging your arm into my nose. That is where we have to agree that we are not in agreement. It does not call for name calling, I am not an "idiot", I am not a bigot or an "anything"-phobe just because I do not agree with you.

The reality is, we live in a post-Christian nation. Yes, there are still plenty of people who wear that badge, some wear it well, some are an embarrassment to the name. I cannot help that, because I am not in charge of them. It does not mean that all people of faith are bigoted or narrowminded, or even right-wing conservatives. So we - who try to live out what we believe to be true in a way that is mindful that others do not believe as we do - are trying like everything to figure out how to love without compromise, and it is not an easy bike to pedal, believe me.

Treat other people as you would like them to treat you

It's not just a cliché phrase by some dusty rabbi 2,000 years ago, It puts into terms anyone can understand how we are to treat someone else, even when we don't agree with them. It is not by mistake that he also taught that the world is going to hate us, and we should do good to them anyway.

But I tell you,love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Seems like that bike should be pretty easy to ride, if we can keep that in mind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

42479 :: I like to browse

Sometimes, when I have a little free time, I like to browse and Google "contentment." I often come up with some interesting (or sometimes ridiculous) quotes, often sentiments that are a little further "out there" than where I live, but many times I will run into something that resonates with me and I say, "Aha! That one I have to pin on my board."

I do not define contentment by modern psychology. If I did, I would have to have wasted much more time than I did in college Psychology classes to even begin to wrap my brain around such statements as:

Contentment is hypothetically a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness." - Eisenblatt, S (2002). The Straight Road to Happiness: A Personal Guide to Enable Us to Overcome Tendencies which Block Our Natural Flow of Happiness and to Explore New Horizons of Inner Joy. p. 292.

Wikipedia does, however, boil it down nicely when it states:

A more practical way for most people would be to simply practice contentment as an attitude: Just be contented. It might be added that being grateful for the good things – to count one's blessings – is perhaps a more reasonable way to understand what contentment as an attitude is about.
Practicing contentment as such does away with the need for other concepts – be it arguments about why one is unhappy and various practices to achieve contentment. Seen in this light, contentment is not an achievement but an attitude that one can adopt at any time. There is really no explanation or teaching needed for this.

I guess I am just simpleminded, but I can for sure wrap my mind around the statement:

...we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it...if we have food and clothing we will be content with that... -1 Timothy 6:5-8

I have a lot of appreciation for Wikipedia as they use as an illustration of "Contentment" the painting (the image is now in public domain) by 20th century Belgian artist Edgard Farasyn, Human Contentments.

Yes, enjoying a life well lived, sitting in the garden with my child or grandchild, something to read and a glass of wine. I can most definitely be content with that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

42471 :: It's the small things

Just the other day I happened to see a short video clip about the importance of making your bed every morning. Now, I have had this preached to me since I was a child. I rebelled against it then, I rebelled against it when I was FLYing with F.L.Y. Lady, but this time, it all made sense. His point being, start with one small accomplishment and it sets the tone for the rest of your day. (Or, at least that is my "boiled-down" version of his point.)

As I was dressing the next morning, as I do each morning I straightened my tzitzit and said a short blessing... and began to think about the importance of doing the small things. Like wearing tassels on our clothing. When I began investigating what it meant to live a Torah-observant life, I couldn't help but wonder about the validity of some of the teachings. Many I had grown up with in the Christian church, some made sense to me as I learned about them and could understand the underlying principle of the teaching; but there were others... like the wearing of tassels. I just could not find any way of reasoning a logical answer for why I should do such a thing that was so foreign to me.
And then I read the verses again:

Numbers 15.37 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be [set apart] for your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

That's when it hit me: I don't need a "logical" reason. I need to do it because He asked me to. He had a reason, and as I began to do what He asked, I began to understand why He asked it... because apparently, we need a daily reminder. It's really a small thing, to put on tassels, to bless YHVH for speaking to us, for choosing us, for setting us apart. But when we do that "little thing", it sets our mind on the right path as we start our day. I am beginning to understand by doing this one small thing how living out my faith by being obedient is of benefit to me.

It reminded me of another video I watched recently where they asked a very simple question: Which of YHVH's commands are too difficult for us to do? I had to admit, wearing tassels was surely not one of them, so what was I so hesitant about?

The short and simple act of remembering whose we are, and blessing Him for that is a small thing... that sets the tone for the rest of our day. And why would I not want to head in that direction?

If you have further questions, check these out:
Unlearn the Lies
Test Everything
How Can We Implement Tzitzit Today?
Which of the Commandments can we keep today?
Practical Guide to Walking Out the Law of the Fringes

Friday, April 8, 2016

42468 :: A good friend said

A good friend said recently, "This is sure not where I expected to be by now." And I knew what he meant. He recently turned 65, is still working to the best of his physical ability, and believes he has nothing to show for it.

And truthfully, by our society's standards, he is probably right. He owns no home, he drives a 20 year old truck with no prospects of being able to replace it, and has only a meager savings account that would not sustain him for even a year.

This is my same friend who, 16 years ago, sold his home and up and moved to some remote village in Africa and worked with his wife for a year and a half at a small mission hospital because "it was the right thing to do." Many people might look at that and think it was an irresponsible thing to do, but if you talk to my friend (or his wife), they will insist it is one of the best choices they have made in life.

Which leads me to wonder how we shifted our focus from "doing what is right" to "what's in it for me?" At the end of the day, I would so much rather go to sleep knowing that my choices were based on helping others and being of service to my brother than based on whether those choices serve to pad my retirement fund or buy a new car.

I'm not saying that having a healthy retirement fund is bad, but with our limited resources, when we have to choose helping someone with a genuine need or stocking up for a rainy day, I say "to heck with the rain"...

Feed the hungry child in front of you. Cloth the naked stranger in front of you. Tomorrow is not even guaranteed (even if you do have a healthy retirement fund. Just ask those who invested in the dot com bubble or trusted Bernie Madoff), and when the future comes, it is still in our Father's hands. Which brings to mind:

Men of corrupt mind...think that godliness is a means to financial gain...But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
I Timothy 6.5-8