Turn on the Light –
The last few nights I have been watching an Unsolved Mystery Series about Paranormal Activity. It’s interesting to learn the history of a certain place, why it would be haunted and listen to those who have reportedly seen, felt, heard, witnessed a ghost. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, Big Foot or aliens. I understand that my unbelief doesn’t mean they don’t exist I just need proof, real, scientific, verifiable proof.
There are two hosts of the show; one is a “believer” the other a “cynic.” They travel around the world to different haunted sites and investigate, sometimes spending the night, trying to obtain proof of the paranormal. They usually arrive in the daytime and explore the site and when night comes find a place to sleep. It’s when dark comes the “fun” begins. The one who thinks spooks are real hears noises, whispers, thumps and automatically assumes its ghosts trying to communicate or scare the duo. The cynic laughs and dismisses it all as coincidence and his co-host’s overactive imagination. The cynic tries to sleep but the believer keeps him up all night long with questions; “did you hear that? I know you heard that! Did you feel that? Something moved past my leg!” By the time morning comes they are both worn out and neither has come over to the other’s point of view. Usually, at the crack of dawn, the believer is so relieved he made it through the night he is delirious and suddenly braver while the cynic is simply ready to leave.
It’s interesting the difference light makes. It shines, chasing away our darkest fears, deepest dreads, and restores what the darkness steals.
How Do You Feel?
Yesterday was my three-month check-up with the doctor in charge of the medicinal portion of my mental health plan. As someone with Chronic Severe Depression and a Severe Anxiety Disorder, the psychology group I go to has doctors who specialize in medical therapy and others who specialize in talk therapy. Together with the patient a plan is developed and intended to help them as much as possible.
Yesterday’s appointment was; “Meh, okay.” The therapist asked standard questions; “Are you taking your meds? How do you feel? Have you noticed any changes in mood or behavior? Any major life changes?” I answered all of them and told her I was following my plan except for one suggestion she’s made many times. We don’t agree and I don’t think it’s a big deal. She, the professional, thinks otherwise. I told her; “Yes, I am still…” she simply replied; “You know how I feel about that!” and we kept going with the conversation. I found it humorous that’s all she has to say and it’s enough. I either have to trust her and do it or not. She’s told me the benefits and even though I don’t see them I choose to fully follow the mental health plan or not. Sigh.
We’ve all been there with people we love and care for. We give them advice about life and after a point, we decide not to tell them again and again. We let them choose and deal with the results. I’ve done this with many of the people I work with but it’s interesting, and a little uncomfortable, to be on the other side.
Sound of Silence –
For the last few days, the sounds of rain has been bouncing off the tin roof which covers our porch. I love the sound but hour after hour, day after day, and you’re ready for a break. Finally, today around noon, the rain stopped. I sat in my living room and listened to the limbs shed their build-up of water and after a while, there was only silence. I wonder if this was how Noah felt being the Ark, listening to the pounding of the rain and the waves and when it stopped did he pause and enjoy the sound of nothing falling on his big boat?
There’s been flooding in our area, yards are swamped, the drainage ditches are overflowing. Even though rain is a wonderful act of creation you can only handle so much of a good thing. Reflecting on the silence I also thought about what we desire in our lives. Most of us do not desire the “bad” with the “good”. In our imaginations, if we had all the power, we wouldn’t face the difficulties, the challenges, the mountains we climb on our journey from the cradle to the grave. Everything would be smooth with no setbacks or failures. If life was this way would we get sick of the “good”? Would we grow? What kind of person would we be?
There’s no way to honestly answer these questions but I do wonder if life would be worth living if we got all the things we think make life worth living for.
What Did You Hear?
Listening is an art form. It has to do with more than hearing words. It also hears silences, tones and the organizations of words into sentences and questions. Listening is wanting to hear what the other is saying and being willing for those words to impact, challenge, and change the listener. Listening is not, however, always agreeing with the other. You can listen and believe differently than what the other is saying but you listen out of respect.
A friend of mine a few weeks ago was telling me about a conversation he had with a dear friend and said; “It didn’t go the way I planned!” His friend became upset with the conversation. I asked my friend; “Did you ask your friend what she had heard you say?” “No,’ he replied, ‘Why?” “Because,’ I said, “She might have heard something completely different from what you were saying.”
It’s amazing but communicating with others is a combination of listening, speaking, processing, projecting, interpreting and understanding. When one of these is missing the connection with the other can be lost, disrupted and the moment can never be repeated.
Listening is a sacred act, do it well.
On Wednesday night of this week, I was speaking with someone about being truthful and honest to the people in our lives. He stated that being too open can lead to betrayal and pain and therefore he doesn’t share his story for fear of being taken advantage of. It was a fair argument but I told him maybe his issue wasn’t being fearful of openness but being open to the wrong people. People we can trust, who won’t use our words and experiences against us, who will listen to understand and be a shoulder to lean on are invaluable.
Earlier in the week, I shared a fatherhood presentation to a group of fathers who have young kids in school. There were dads who were going in to work late and some who had worked all night diligently sitting there to learn more about how they could be involved in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to education. After the presentation while saying; “goodbye” to the fathers one of the attendees came up and began speaking with me. She had some questions about getting a father involved and shared her story. What she told me was hard to hear with many issues and other challenges she’s had to overcome. I couldn’t believe how open she was being when we had just met a few moments earlier. She believes I am someone she can trust with her family.
Openness, transparency, is something most say they desire in themselves and others. However, these can bring feelings of uncomfortableness, questions that aren’t easily answered, and an unsettling fear of not being skilled enough to meet the need. When these thoughts are rushing through our minds the need to breathe and be still must be remembered. Most people don’t want you to fix them they simply need someone to listen without judging. If there are problems to solve and mysteries to unravel we can do them together as we travel this path called life.
A young man I’ve known for several years wrote a thought provoking and heart wrenching post on Facebook yesterday. It was full of questions and doubts about the world, God, politics, people and more. In it he questioned things too many take for granted. He wondered about evil and the goodness of creation, church and it’s hypocrisy, himself and others. When I read it my spirit resonated with his over the doubt, fear, confusion of existence.
Too often we view doubt as bad or negative thinking. Well meaning (I hope) but ill informed folks tell us doubt has no place in a believer’s life, heart or mind. The problem is in the Bible, especially the Psalms, even Jesus, was full of doubt, uncertainty, questions and confusion at times.
Questions are not wrong. Belief without the furnace of doubt is brittle, easily bent and broken.
Some things simply don’t go together. Tea without sugar, the beach and rain, the DMV and expediency, mowing grass in a sweatshirt, coat and wearing earmuffs. Yet, the latter is exactly what I did today.
This last week we’ve had a lot of rain and even though it’s October the grass is still growing. I was hoping to mow on Thursday and Friday but the ground was too wet. This morning I decided to take the chance and cut the yard. I put on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, walked outside and immediately came back in. It was more than chilly, it was cold made even worse by a stiff wind. So, I bundled up, went out, hopped on the mower and completed the chore.
Other events happened this week that shouldn’t go together either. Schools and guns, young people and death. I can’t imagine the terror and trauma in that classroom in Oregon as those students, teachers, faculty realized what was occurring. My mind reels and heart breaks to think of the final moments and last breaths of the victims and the shooter.
The questions; “Where was God? Why didn’t he stop it? How could he allow such a horrible incident?” are valid and need to be asked. More things which don’t seem to go together; a good, loving, powerful God and senseless acts of violence. Unfortunately we live in a world where they do.
I’ve heard most of the arguments which attempt to answer the divine dilemma tragedies such as the school shooting in Oregon bring. Few of them pass the scrutiny of logic and theology, none of them ease the pain of loss and despair.
In times and seasons such as these two additional things which don’t seem to go together but often do; faith and doubt. The journey of wisdom is not toward absolute certainty. It is learning how faith and doubt, conviction and confusion, comfort and questioning, presence and apparent absence are held together in our spirits without separating us from a God we’ll never fully understand.
The videos and images are shocking. People destroying their own neighborhoods, attacking the police, reporters, innocent bystanders in an act of defiance, rebellion, protest and desperation. Why? Are they angry because another young black man has died at the hands of the police? Are they opportunists using a tragedy as an excuse to rob and loot stores? Are they victims of a system that’s broken, keeping certain socio-economic groups in poverty, uneducated, with little or no hope for a better life? Are they lacking morality, a sense of justice and the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong?
The answer is “Yes” but the next question is…”why?”
Last week I was part of a training of local law enforcement. As part of the presentation our group showed the hilarious video above of Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with the candy coming along the conveyor belt. I told the officers; “You guys are Lucy and Ethel. The chocolate keeps coming faster and faster and you’re doing all you can to keep up. Abuse, neglect, drugs, assault, robbery, murders. You’ve seen it all and it isn’t slowing down or getting better. You’re on the front lines, first responders. Your job isn’t to ask what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Why does the candy keep coming? You take care of the mess.” I then explained that finding out what’s on the other side, why it’s happening, helping slow or stop the candy from coming, is what our community organization does.
In times of social crisis and upheaval the immediate concern is to bring stability, help those who are hurting, and hold those who are responsible for harming others and the community accountable. However, calming the present doesn’t safeguard the future. We must not be afraid of asking tough questions that have no easy answers. “Why are some willing to torch their own communities?” “Why is there so much anger, vitriol, self righteousness and condemnation on both sides?” “Why do kids grow up thinking violence, criminal activity is ok?” “Why do others assume people of certain skin colors, from certain neighborhoods who dress, talk, look a certain way are always lazy and up to no good?” “Why do riots keep happening, law enforcement officials and young people keep getting injured or dying?”
When do we ask; “What’s on the other side?” If you think you know the answer, you haven’t thought long and hard enough about the question.
blessings of peace,