This morning I was on my way to give a lecture and counsel a group of fathers with addictions when a white box truck pulled in front of me. We stopped at a place where you must cross a busy four-lane highway to continue on our current road. I knew the box truck would need extra time to get to the center of the highway where there was a large section used to wait and then continue across to the other side. So I, and several folks behind me waited, and waited, and waited but the box truck driver wouldn’t go though they had ample opportunity. I finally figured out the driver wasn’t waiting for the traffic coming from his left to cease but also from the right. They wanted all four lanes clear and as a result, couldn’t find the right time to proceed.
As I sat there, and when I was finally able to cross the highway, I thought about the stubborn attitude we all have to want everything perfect, “just the way we like it“, how we think it’s supposed to be, before we make decisions, hard choices, take steps of faith, on the road of life. We spend inordinate intervals waiting, wondering, if it’s safe to continue, is this the right time, and, as a result, miss genuine opportunities of growth and progression on our path.
Wisdom teaches that most of the time there isn’t a perfect time to keep going. We must trust the path, it’s maker, ourselves and the belief a greater reward lies on the road ahead.
Smell of Freedom –
The aroma of six pizza filled my truck cab today as I drove to the county jail. This is Celebration Week as we give certificates, serve pizza to the dads who have put up with me for the last 3 months and, hopefully, have learned to be better men and fathers. I arrived at the jail a few minutes early and began setting things up when I noticed a young man standing on the other side of a heavy steel door with a section of plexiglass in the upper middle. I raised my voice and asked him; “How are you today?” “Fine.” he responded, then added with a big grin; “I’m going home today!” “Congratulations!” I answered back. “I know you’re excited.” “Sure am!” I continued setting up the room and finally, the door buzzed opened and the man began to make his way across the room. As he reached for the door that would take him to freedom he said to me; “Hope you have a good day.” I smiled and replied back to him what the dads in my class have heard many times; “Make good choices! None that will bring you back here!” “I won’t,” he said and disappeared.
A few moments later the incarcerated fathers began to fill the room. They eyed the pizza sitting on a bench in the corner and smiled. “Good choices, make good men and good men make good fathers! Choice is destiny.” is how I begin every class. At the end, before we ate pizza and took pics of the men with their certificates I made them say it loudly! “Good choices make good men and good men make good fathers!” They nailed it and we enjoyed our final few moments together. When I got back to my office I bowed my head and prayed it would be more than words for them and me.
Sum of Life –
“…the sum of Your words is Truth.”
#Psalms 119 v160
This portion of Psalm 119 was part of my Daily Office reading this morning. It is the longest Psalm in the Bible coming in at 176 verses. There’s a lot of words in these verses and to have one of them say; “The sum of your words is truth,” was humorous to me because I wondered; “Why so many words and verses then?” As I’ve reflected on; “The sum of your words is truth“, I’ve considered; “What is the sum of our life?”
Albert Camus says; “Life is the sum of our choices.” In other words at the time of our death, when we look back over the journey we’ve traveled, it will be the innumerable decisions, made over the countless minutes, hours, days and years we’ve been given which ultimately decides who and what we are, our impact upon the world. Is this true? Are we simply the sum of our selections? What about the tragedies and miracles, unexpected and unwanted events and experiences which happen to us? How do these figure into the equation? Is it also our reactions to these?
I’m not convinced that we are completely in charge of our destiny. There are too many unknown variables, caveats and exceptions. What I do believe is that life happens. How we accept and adjust to it all makes us the people we are presently and will become eventually. I also think we are never done “becoming” and when we take our last breath, however the sum of our lives is ultimately calculated, desiring to make the best choices for ourselves and others is the best way to go.
Last night I watched the movie; “Legend” about two brothers who were London gangsters in the 1960s. The titular roles were both played by Tom Hardy in an excellent performance.
The theme of the movie was the bond between a smart business minded brother Reggie and his schizophrenic sibling Ron. Throughout the film Reggie’s attempt to climb the ladder of the underworld and become, possibly, a legitimately respected businessman was constantly being thwarted by his mentally unstable brother. The movie ends with a disturbing scene in which Reggie kills a low life extortionist in front of Ron and when Ron asks why he did it. Reggie’s response was; “Because I can’t kill you.”
Loyalty is almost always a laudable virtue. We want to be the type of people who stick by our family and friends. We long to be seen as ones who are there for others no matter what, in thick and thin, whatever the costs, no sacrifice too big. As desirous a trait this seems, there are times when loyalty can be detrimental and disastrous. If our loyalty violates our principles, puts us in situations which keeps us from our purpose, stops us from being who we’re called to be, and should be, then our loyalty is misplaced.
I tell the men I work with, who are suffering from the disease of addiction or incarcerated, that one of the hardest choices they’ll make in their new lives is deciding which friends, family, associates they can no longer be around. They will need to make a conscious decision of who will and who wont walk with them on the right path. Even folks who have been loyal to them; if these people are harmful influences in their lives, have to go.
Loyalty is part of a desirable character but when loyalty to others means we are disloyal to ourselves a new way of thinking and being is required.
This interesting picture and intriguing quote was in my Facebook feed this morning. It caught my attention in part because I’ve been studying Epigenetics. It’s the study of how trauma impacts people and generations following.
One of the experiments used to prove this area of science involved shocking a female rat with electricity when a certain odor was emitted. After a while the rat, even though there was no shock, still reacted when she smelled the specific odor. What’s even more compelling is the rat’s babies and the baby’s babies also reacted negatively even though the second and third generation of rats had never been shocked with electricity when the odor was emitted.
Epigenetics proposes that the genes of the rats have been altered, changed due to the trauma of the original female rat and these genes have been passed down to preceding generations.
“Neurons that fire together wire together” is another phrase used by brain scientists which deal with nerve pathways. The more often we do something, or have something done to us, the more used to certain behaviors and environments we are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In other words it becomes our definition of normal, our reality. It is only when we are able to learn new ways of thinking, being, can we change our personal and family’s destiny. To consider that the choices for our lives impact the immediate now and our, other’s, future the more important it is to be sure our decisions are filled with wisdom and grace.
I had to disappoint a group of people this past week. It wasn’t easy or fun but necessary. Life’s path comes with many choices. I don’t think or believe there is one direction we must walk and one wrong choice takes us, perhaps irrevocably, away from our purposed destination. Life is much more complex and mysterious than we often give it credit for being. Some choices have great, maybe even grave, consequences but even those can further our travels on wisdom’s way if we allow all decisions and their outcomes to be teachable moments and seasons.
My choice not to pursue an opportunity had to deal with many things and was made with peace of mind and spirit. When it was done I was content and trust the path will still lead me to the place I need to go and the person I was created to be…
Confession time. I hate going to the dentist! I am not saying that I dislike going to the dentist, I am not hinting that there is something I would rather do on a day off, or alluding to the thought that it is a place I would rather not visit on vacation. I am clearly and emphatically stating so that there is no equivocation, that I hate going to the dentist!
I hate going to the dentist because I am at his/her mercy once I get there. I hate the way they talk nice and then take you into that small room and place you in that chair. I hate they way they tie that bib around your neck so when they begin their torturing they won’t get anything on you. I hate the way they lean you all the way back until you get woozy, then they begin to “explore” by tapping on your teeth with these pointy little metal things looking for problems. I hate how they make you open your mouth in the most painful position possible and continue to poke around.
I hate the shots in the gums, the drilling, the poking, prodding, grinding and sticking other instruments into your mouth that just frankly don’t go there. I hate the x-rays. The pieces of card board they stick inside your mouth and then tell you to bite down so hard you cut off the circulation while they excuse themselves and go grab a burger, watch some television, or whatever they are supposed to be doing, while they are “taking the pictures.” I hate when the technicians come back and say something silly like “Now that wasn’t to bad was it?” If you could talk you would tell her how bad you thought it was, but she knows you cant talk which is why she asked.
But what I hate the most is that dentists are important. When a tooth starts hurting you need to go. Cleanings, check ups, routine visits all of which are vital for dental health. In spite of the pain, agony, x-rays I know these visits have a purpose. Problems are found, issues are dealt with, major work is avoided if I can just bring myself to make the appointments and follow through.
There are enemies to oral hygiene seeking to destroy my teeth. There are germs that want to make my gums recede, foods and drinks that taste so good and yet are terrible for my choppers and each of these things make getting back in that small room and reclining back in that torture device called a dentist chair necessary.
So I figured I got one of two choices. I can either brush my teeth 24 hours a day and not eat anything, or I can resign myself that the dentist is always going to be a part of life.
Sigh….I feel better…I think.
light and wisdom,