How come we search for a heavenly society while excluding heaven?

While working in the yards today I had my IPod going in my ears, as usual. Work is always a little better with songs that make your heart sing a bit, or your toe tap a bit, or put a bit of a spring in your step.

music

You know what I mean.

At any rate, I noticed a theme in the songs. By the third one in a row with the same message, I stopped to actually listen and let the words soak in.

Each singer was wistfully searching for a society where we were all kind to each other, where we didn’t harm each other, where everyone was being taken care of by everyone else. But the tone of the music and the melancholy voices made it all seem like a pipe dream – something we all wish for, but know it just can never be.

I stopped right there in the middle of the backyard and asked “Why not?”

Why do we harm each other?

Why aren’t we kind to everyone?

Why don’t we look out for the needs of those around us? Continue reading How come we search for a heavenly society while excluding heaven?

Every good story has a bit of drama to it. Are we adding some to our own stories unnecessarily?

The other day while vacuuming (who knew it could be such a great time to think and reflect and solve problems?), I was thinking about the TV show we had watched the night before. I know, people who are smart and intelligent and movers and shakers don’t have time for TV. But in our little box that makes up our world, sometimes TV in the evening is about all that can be managed – and so we do it together.
I was struck by how unrealistic the whole story line was. It seemed to me that the characters were specifically making choices that added drama to their situations, rather than solving the problems.
Well, duh, it’s TV.
Of course that is what they would do. Who is going to tune in week after week to watch the same thing happen over and over again and people being happy with each other? Even “Leave it to Beaver” had the difficulties that somehow always found a solution by the end of the half hour.
Certainly, our problems very, very rarely can be resolved and put to rest in the same time that a sitcom can do it.
We should be so lucky.

 

But, the converse is also true.

Does there need to be a drama or catastrophe happening as soon as the current one is over?

I think all of us would quickly answer “We’d love life to be that way, if only it could. It seems that there really is a pile up of wrecks waiting to be dealt with.”

I wonder how many of those wrecks could have been avoided if we had just been paying a little closer attention to our driving, so to speak? But just like we can’t live without our cell phones while getting from point A to point B, we can’t seem to focus on the here and now to make the there and then a little more under control.

Maybe the reason this struck me hard while vacuuming is that it hits way too close to home. I spent the greater part of my life anticipating, worrying about, and experiencing the emotion of all the potential problems that could arise.

And I usually did it long before they arose, if they ever did.

I experienced them again and again and again.

It almost felt like I would be out of control if things were under control. (Yes, we can all agree that I’m nuts.)

But, I would think that I’m not the only one out there who is a little guilty of drama production in our lives.

Anybody? Anybody at all?

With all the changes in our life, I’ve had some time to think about this very thing. I don’t think the solution is rocket science; however, we may wish it were so there would be a better excuse for not doing it more often.

We’ve talked before about being securely insecure and we’ll certainly talk about it again. Insecurity is the root of many problems.I think that there is a little insecurity that helps to push the drama forward in our lives.

Think about it: if there is drama going on, then certainly that is the focus. Everyone is looking in that direction.

And not at me.

Or if they are looking at me, they are seeing me heroically handling a horrible situation.

Win win.

But just like the driver who can’t put down the cell phone, eventually there is going to be a bad wreck where people are hurt, or even killed.

It may be pretty boring to have a story or TV show that doesn’t really have a problem to solve. That’s okay. If we can remember that it is just a story and is to entertain (or in great cases, teach a lesson), then we can also remember that our actual stories don’t need to follow suit.

The past decade has brought forth an onslaught of “reality TV”. It’s cheap to produce and for some insane reason it gets incredible ratings. Apparently we love to watch each other be horrible to other people.

Really?

Can you imagine actually living a life like what we see on “reality TV” shows? Would you be shocked to find that there is nothing real about it? The whole thing is scripted? Kind of like letting out the secret that WWE is, wait for it, fake. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but there it is.

The “reality TV” shows are just as fake.

Our life may not have a finished script where we know where we are headed or how it turns out, but we do have power and control over writing the next few pages at a time.

Being an HR graduate and manager, I learned that problems foreseen and proactively handled required a miniscule fraction of energy and time when compared to those problems that exploded. By being present in our present, we can resolve things while they are little and avoid many of the big things that seem to plague us.

Kind of funny when you think about it. We may in fact be handling them within the half hour of a sitcom. Who knew that “Leave it to Beaver” really could be real?

I think the point would be that I’ve learned that life can be, and should be, much closer to the old 1950s sitcoms than to the current “reality TV” shows.

Leave the drama to entertain us.

It’s actually pretty good to “tune in” week after week to just actually live the same thing happen over and over again, especially when it consists of people being happy with each other.

I think I’ll stick with the boring for every day.

Continue reading Every good story has a bit of drama to it. Are we adding some to our own stories unnecessarily?

Do we want the consequences of what we want?

It seems that we’ve morphed into a society that makes quick, knee-jerk reactions to situations. Probably a direct result of the instant technology supply and demand.

The cloud and airwaves and twittersphere are loaded with immediate reactions to whatever is going on. Kind of like when we used to see those tests given to people where they are told to just say the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear a word or see a picture.

Trouble is, I’m not sure my first reaction is my true reaction. My mind works a little more methodically and it takes me a few tries to get around the whole picture. Try to interpret the ramifications of different directions. Understand what B may follow A.

But once our initial, quick, knee-jerk reaction is out there, it’s out there – forever.

And no one will ever let you forget it. Or retract it. Or change it.

Even on those rare instances when someone simply comes forward and says “Man, that was a stupid thing to say, I’m not sure where it came from, but as I’ve had time to think about it, that is not what I feel or believe at all”, we attack and attack and attack (if it is a slow news cycle) and charge forward demanding changes. Punishments. Consequences.

We have become pretty good at choosing and forcing the consequences for other’s actions.

We have also become pretty good at wanting to choose the consequences for our own actions.

With all of our time-saving devices and a standard of living unimagined for the majority of the history of the world (I recently heard that if you have a garage, you are in the upper 2% on the planet – not to mention the cars that fill those garages and overflow to the driveway), we live as if we have no time at all.

We are running faster and faster and faster.

Work just a little longer today than yesterday. Give up your weekend to get the project done. Miss your children’s recital to make the deadline.

There is just not enough time.

Not enough time to get things done.

Not enough time to get enough rest.

Not enough time to take care of ourselves.

Not enough time to think.

Not enough time to think?

Wow. Now that’s a problem.

What happens when we take time to think?

We may actually see out farther than the next 20 seconds that it took to type 140 characters and hit send.
We may actually stop and ask “Do I really think that?”

Here’s a good one: We may actually stop and see how our action may impact others.

Over the course of a lifetime, people generally reap what they sow. What they put out there for the most part comes back to them. Call it scripture, call it Karma. But people who are kind generally are surrounded by kindness. People who are nasty to be around, in the end, find themselves alone with all the other nasty people.

Do we want the consequences of what we want?

The truth is that we cannot choose our consequences. We can choose our choices, our actions, our words.
But we can’t choose the consequences that follow.

No matter how badly we may want to.

Choosing to engage in sexual intimacy on a date certainly has the possible consequence of a pregnancy.

Choosing to practice dishonesty at work runs the chance of being caught and fired, and in some cases criminal proceedings.

Choosing to spew hate-filled, angry words at nameless, faceless groups of people will change not only the recipient but also the deliverer.

Damage done is damage done.

We can’t go back and wave our magic wand and change things after the fact. No matter how badly we want to.

After the fact, the time for choosing is over. It is time for facing, accepting, and working through what we have chosen.

Because the time to choose was before we turned the lights off, not after we turned them back on.

So, maybe we slow down just a little. We get a little more rest so our thought processes are clear. We take an extra 10 minutes in the morning to just be quiet, and breathe, and think.

I know when I invite Someone else into my thought process that things are clearer. I see more potential consequences before they happen. I have time to try to find a better way.

A way that will have the consequences that I really do want.

Gratefully, the day usually goes differently than it might have gone. I am constantly amazed that I don’t get what I deserve, but that things always turn out better than they would have, had I done things my initial, knee-jerk responding way.

Thank heaven for that moment to stop and think – and see.

I really do want the consequences of the things I want.

What do you really need to heal?

The last few days have been screamers – you know, when on the outside I am pretty tired and it is hard to keep moving, but on the inside there is a constant scream. I can literally feel the lava boiling up and wanting to explode out. I just want out of my skin. I just want some quiet on the inside.

flames

Thank heavens for OCD that makes me think 5, 6, and 7 times before putting my head through the wall – that hole would be so ugly and I’m not sure that I could repair it to be as good as new. The battle inside may rage, but the exterior stays obedient and behaved.

I have several things I work through to help me keep the explosion from erupting on anyone else or causing any damage.

I go to my daily list and attack the next item, or

I grab my IPod and let the music flow through me, or

I escape into the sunshine and walk and walk and walk, or

I allow myself to go into the bedroom, pull back the bedspread, and tell myself that “I’ll just lie down for a minute”, knowing that it will probably be several hours.

I’m not sure that these make a long-term difference, but in the short term they keep me from doing something that would cause others pain.

Probably like putting on a Band-Aid to keep the blood from flowing and causing a mess.

This morning while I was quickly switching back and forth between laughing maniacally and then shouting out and hitting my head and then shaking my head and telling myself to get under control, and back again, I had the thought: “Healing Greg. What do you need to heal?”

I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget while working through my steps of control.

Now that things are a little calmer I can come back to my note and my question.

What does it really take to heal?

I need some more substantive activities that can go beyond the Band-Aid and be more like the Neosporin that makes the skin close up and stop bleeding.

Of course I know what they are for me.

Dropping to my knees and beginning to count, one by one, my incredible blessings.

Not just turning on the IPod, but finding specific music that lifts my spirit, my body, my soul.

Pouring out my emotions on the piano.

Opening up the scriptures, both ancient and contemporary, and reading a paragraph and then just stopping, letting it wash over me, through me.

Watching my wife bake some new experimental treat with complete calmness in her actions and peace in all her features.

Listening to Alex hum and whistle while she creates and figures out a new project in her den in the basement.
Reading what Nick does and doesn’t write from Peru, and knowing how deeply he is changing and growing.

Writing. Experiencing the clarity of thought and mind that used to be so much a part of my life, feeling the words and outlines come, and knowing that it is not originating from within me.

Looking outside myself and doing something that will make a difference in someone else’s day. You know, email and social media really are a huge blessing for someone like me who needs to stay away from people at times. I can still try to reach out from my zone of safety.

These things do more than just get me through the moment, they help me to calm the lava and slow the spinning frenzy. They may still cause a tear to be in the corner of my eye, but it is accompanied by a slight smile – if only one sided.

So, what do you need to heal?

You really deserve to know.

Each of you out there is fighting your own dragon and laying a weary head down on your pillow at night, not sure how you will get up tomorrow and do it again.

Yet you do.

Are you doing it via Band-Aid or Neosporin?

Something to think about.

May you honestly find real healing in your life. Healing that makes you stronger. Healing that makes you love a little deeper. Healing that brings you quiet peace amidst all the busyness.

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Anyone who knows me can state that I am a bit naïve, my wife being number one on the list. I didn’t even know we were dating for months. You can imagine the dumbfounded look on her face when someone commented and I turned to her and asked “Oh, are we dating?”

It’s kind of amazing that we are now such a happy family.

Over the years, I still have my moments where it is obvious that I have been flying under the radar and not clearly grasping reality around me. It’s part of the magic of being me.

At least, that is what I tell Ann.

But I feel like I am going through a bit of a learning curve lately.

I watched a presentation by a man with a PhD on “what Mormons believe.” I listened carefully and, even though it was pretty obvious he thought the beliefs were outrageous, he had probably more than 90% of it right.

In my naiveté I found myself asking the screen, “Why doesn’t that make sense to you? It makes perfect sense to me.”

Then I did some reading on what others feel that it means to worship the Savior Jesus Christ, to take His name upon us, and to be a Christian.

I will admit my jaw kept hitting the desktop.

Really?

Really??

I guess the situation had now completely reversed and I was like the man with the PhD. Even with an understanding of the technical aspects of his beliefs, it felt so foreign to me.

We should have been the same; yet we really couldn’t have been more different.

Here’s another thought.

While talking about this same thing Sunday morning, our daughter made an incredibly insightful comment. She said that there are many people of the Muslim faith who are good, kind people who are simply trying to help their fellow neighbor. There are people of the Jewish faith who are filled with love and make the world a better place each day. We can go around the world and find people everywhere who live lives worthy of emulation.

They exhibit behavior that is very, well, Christ-like. Very Christian.

Kind of a topsy-turvy world.

Christians telling other Christians that they aren’t in fact Christian. Non-Christians behaving Christian.

My little naïve mind could probably burst at the confusion of it all.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Obviously there is not just one perception out there; there are many.

It made me wonder, what is my perception? What is my understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

Am I offended or angry when someone who doesn’t know me, has never met me, tells me that I am not a Christian?

I took the time to let this go through my head and bounce around a while.

All I could come up with is, no, I’m really not offended at all.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

But maybe I’m not asking the right question.

Am I offended or angry when someone who knows me, has worked with me, has watched me through the years, tells me that I am not a Christian?

This is a harder question.

No. I am not offended or angry.

I am ashamed.

And I think I have a little better understanding of what it may actually mean to be a Christian.

The Savior Jesus Christ is real. He lived. He lives.

To behave, as closely as we can, as he behaved, as he behaves, takes a lifetime.

There will be days that you watch me and witness things that I am not very proud of. On those days, I wouldn’t deserve to be counted among those who profess to follow His example.

We all have those days.

Perhaps part of being a Christian is not focusing on each other when we stumble, but rather holding out a hand and helping each other to stand back up.

 

To all the Christian-behaving Muslims, and Christian-behaving Jews, and Christian-behaving Buddhists, thank you for the example you show in helping us to be better Christian-behaving Christians.

There is a lot of good out there. Maybe through looking at each other with compassion and gratitude, it will help us to see ourselves as we hope to be.

And people won’t be so worried about what each other is or isn’t, but will just want to be more like Him.

That’s a win for everyone.