There is a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit in my family this year. It’s been a long year as my dad battled cancer and passed away on the first of December. The anticipation of Christmas coming has been replaced with a feeling of; “Is it over yet?” I don’t think it’s Christmas per se’ but we’re anticipating the end of 2017 and 2018 to begin.
Anticipation can be a dangerous state of mind, emotion, and spirit. For all we know, 2018 will be as rough, perhaps more so, than 2017. It’s not a pleasant thought but it is a possibility. This is why wisdom teachers discourage anticipation. Life rarely lives up to what we think, or wish would happen. It’s almost always different and this can be good or bad, negative or positive. When life fails to fill our desires suffering, pain, confusion can occur.
So, my family and many others wait in this no man’s land hoping Christmas will not be too difficult and 2018 will be a better, certainly different, year.
Servant or Soldier –
In worship this morning the phrase servant not soldier was used when describing those who follow the Master, Jesus. These words have stuck with me all day. Too often I hear colloquialisms; “fighting the good fight or fight for your personal rights, soldiers for in God’s army, fighting for those who cannot fend for themselves, fighting for your political party, fighting for (sometimes with) your family, fighting sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, fighting for equality. The list could go on but I noticed there aren’t too many servant phraseologies we use.
I think we are more comfortable with the idea of fighting, exerting power, pushing back against something we feel is invading our worlds. Fighting comes from a place of strength. Being a servant make us more uneasy. We don’t like the possibility of being taken advantage, of someone being over us, of putting down our fists instead of raising them. We live in a time where standing up for what we believe in seems the correct and just path. I wonder where/if there is a balance between soldiering and serving? Is there a side which needs choosing, we should choose?
Last night Beth and I watched the bio-movie; “The Founder”, starring Michael Keaton. It is the story of Ray Croc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain. It is an interesting movie of how Croc took a hamburger stand, owned by the two McDonald’s brothers, and made it into a food empire.
At the beginning of the movie, Croc is a persistent, charismatic, but not completely successful restaurant equipment sales rep. While on the road he learns that a place in Bakersfield, California, has ordered six milk shake makers! He’s intrigued enough to find out what kind of restaurant needs this many and drives to their location. While there he sees the McDonald’s brothers “Speedy System” (where and how the workers are placed in the assembly area) and the unique layout of their restaurant which allows them to make “made to order” hamburgers in less than thirty seconds! Ray Croc is in awe and talks the brothers into letting him begin to sell franchises all over America. Initially, everything goes relatively smoothly but Ray Croc’s ambition, craving for money and fame, eventually drive him and the brothers apart. I won’t spoil the movie but it’s worth watching.
As I was reflecting on the story today I thought about vision and how it unites or divides people. It can be the vision of ourselves, family, community, church, organization, nation or world. Everyone has a vision of how things “should” be and some share the same vision while others oppose it. Competing visions can cause dissension and dissolution of connectedness and relationships.
Wisdom teaches us the more tightly we hold to our visions of things the more suffering we cause ourselves and others. Only when we are open and allow for the possibility of differing views can we be at peace with ourselves and others.
Bullets and Breaks –
I saw my first bullet hole in a human body this week. Well, what it looks like with a thin bandage over it anyway. The leg and the hole belonged to one of the men I teach in my incarcerated father’s class. I had noticed last week he was limping and when he came in on Wednesday I asked how he was doing and what had happened. I had no idea the story which would be told.
The tale included drugs, friends pulling guns on one another, a high-speed car chase, resisting arrest, guns on all sides and finally an arrest and a charge of nine felonies. Whew! By the time he finished I was worn out! The most important detail he shared was before everything fell apart, when he was sitting on the couch with a friend and things began to escalate, he said; “If I would’ve stopped for thirty seconds and thought about what I was doing. If I would have just walked away, none of this would have happened.”
Although there was much in his story I couldn’t relate to I certainly know the harm of acting in haste, not taking time to think before I said or did something harmful, in the heat of the moment, only to regret it soon after. The difficulty is that once we do anything good, bad, positive, or negative the consequence will follow. We can’t take it back. “When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.”
One of the most difficult yet important disciplines wisdom teaches is the; “space in the middle.” It is that place between the event, the action and our response, our reaction. Usually the less space we allow the higher possibility of making a bad decision and dealing with the results of our choices.
The young man with the bullet hole in his leg is looking at a long sentence in the state penitentiary. I hope that he, all the students and their teacher will learn and put into practice the lesson of; “the space in between.”
We need rain. The ground is parched and a nice drenching would quench it’s thirst. Yesterday, there was an 80% chance the sky would open up and grace the land with water from heaven. I watched several times as the sky grew dark with grey clouds, blocking out the sun, threatening to unleash a torrent only to see the potential dissipate. Not a drop was to fall all day. An 80% chance equaled 0% actuality.
I was talking with someone this week whose having a difficult time with their teenager. This parent, clearly exasperated and their wit’s end, declared to me; “She just wont communicate with me! When we’re together not a word is spoken. I’m not sure she hears a word I say.” I asked the parent; “Do you know that 80% of our communication is body language? Only 20% is words. When she’s not talking she’s still saying a lot. You’ve just got to be able hear her. It takes a different kind of listening to understand what’s being said when no words are given.” The rest of our time together we discussed ways to hear and be heard with someone who isn’t able, ready or willing to talk.
Clouds and a parent. 80% seemed like a certainty when it came to rain. Speaking being only 20% of communicating seemed like never to a parent longing to bond with a child. Percentages, statistics, probabilities can bring false assurance and disappointment. This is why wisdom teaches that we are not to anticipate, generalize or give up when the odds are stacked against us. We enter and exist in every moment with the realization that every opportunity holds possibility and promise.
This morning I needed a large metal hook to hang something. I looked all over for one and could not locate it. I’ve seen one recently, several times in fact, but for some reason, as the saying goes; “You can find what you’re looking for until you need what you’re looking for.” Someone also said; “What you’re looking for is always in the last place you look.” I would add; “unless you stop looking.” which is what I did.
One of my favorite wisdom proverbs is; “You always find that which you are truly seeking.” Maybe I never wanted to locate the hook but needed to remember this beautiful and poignant nugget of truth. We seem to always be searching for answers but rarely finding them. Perhaps it is because what we seek isn’t the same as what we want to find.
Music is amazing. It’s power to transport, transfer, transition our minds, emotions and moods is unparalleled.
The last few days have been overcast and gloomy. My disposition has been effected and reflected in the drops of rain falling and the clouds hanging overhead.
In my workshop yesterday I listened to a storm and tried to cross a few items off the “need to do” list. I plugged a speaker into my phone and selected a slow playlist of current and classic songs. As the tunes played I thought of long time friends, different seasons of life. Music has the ability to allow us to be in multiple places at a single time.
I wonder if our lives can harmonize with the music of kindness, grace and love? Is it possible that we can impact others in such a way that it lasts for a lifetime? Perhaps even echo into eternity?