Friday, November 27, 2009

The Key to Success is believing YOU have the key

What if a tree was to decide one day that it didn't have what it took to be a tree, or that it changed its mind and only wanted to be a seedling for the rest of its existence; what would you think of that? Well, you would think that was ludicrous being that trees don't reason and if they could reason, why would they deduce that they should be anything other than trees? It sounds crazy that something created to shield from the heat of the sun, produces oxygen for other living creatures to breathe, and is in most cases beautiful to behold, produces delicious fruits for us to eat and beautiful flowers for us to adorn our homes and bodies, would want to be anything other than itself. If you look at the world around you, nothing created tries to be anything other than what it is: with the exception of mankind.

We are probably the only living thing that tries to be everything but what we were designed to be. And what's that you ask? Well, God said that He created us in His image. We can't see God, we can't physically feel Him with our hands, so this is a hard concept for us to grasp. I believe it is the reason why we spend so much time tearing each other down and picking ourselves apart. How can so many different individuals have spawned from the same source and all be created in that sources image and all be capable of achieving great things? It seems impossible, so therefore there must be only a selected few of us that are true representations of what God intended, right? This stance has lead to genocide, and World Wars, the oppression of many peoples, and the self-oppression of even more.

Well, my personal take on it is that when God gave us life, He gave us a piece of Himself; everything good and unique about you is your gift from God Himself. This is a being that just with a thought created an entire universe and breathed life into it by just thinking it. If God gave us just a tiny slither of His power, is it any wonder to behold some of the great accomplishments of the human race? In a world that functions in perfect order (when uninterrupted by us) why do we often act as if our small individual lives are spinning out of our control? We blame our circumstances on a silly thing called chance, and we leave our future up to the same culprit.

But if we are created in Gods image, a God that created Heaven and Earth and everything in between, a God so genius that He was able to create a planet that can sustain life…if we were created in the image of this very same God, wouldn't it make sense to deduce that we are able to be whatever it is we want to be and that we have the power to change whatever we want to change about our own circumstances? History actually has provided us example after example of humans, both good and bad, who were aware of their tremendous ability to impact their world and they did it, and it all started with a thought. Look at ordinary people who permanently left their mark on history: Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Alexander the Great, William Wallace, and the list goes on and traces back all the way to the beginning of time. But many of us insist that greatness discriminates and has passed us by, but when you look at all those examples they all have one thing in common; they were flesh and blood just like you and I, and we would've never known there was more to them if they didn't at some point realize it for themselves.

Mary Mary, a popular gospel duo, has a song called, "God in Me." In it they sing about a young woman that has it "going on" by most people's standards, but that what people don't see is that she has tapped into the God inside of her. When you tap into that God inside of you, you cannot be anything less than what you are, which is great. When we neglect, ignore or shy away from the natural talents God placed inside us, we are like a tree deciding it no longer wants to be a tree, or that it was perfectly content with just being a seed. See, the tree is here now, it has no choice but to grow up and perferm the function it was designed to perform, and that is probably how we should conduct ourselves. We should act as if we have no other choice but to use the design God has placed in us, that every tool we need, every answer to our problems and every key we need to unlock any door before us, has been placed strategically inside of us. We have it now; everything that we are supposed to ever be is already in us, we just have to tap into it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Summed up in this one rule....

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Romans 13:8-10

"Summed up in this one rule..." It sounds so simple, but if it were the history of the world, and most of our individual lives, would be much different.

Today I went to visit my cousin who is locked up. As to be expected, he is ready to get out, but this particular visit he shared something that really struck a cord. He said that "prison, changes you." He went on to explain that with each passing year he can feel a difference in himself and he is worried he will never be the person he once was. I knew at the root of his fear was that people who once treated him with such familiarity would now be like strangers. That his crime would follow him everywhere he goes and people would be able to see his blood stained hands and not want to get close to him for fear it will rub off. That his mistake would mean that no one would love him like they once did.

On the way home from visiting him I thought about this while my father played a sermon from T.D. Jakes. The verse was out of Luke. I can't quote it exactly, but it was the same concept in the versus from Romans. The sermon was centered around the man that sat along the road to Jericho and all the people that passed him by and dismissed him because of his leprosy. All those people that could've and should've helped that man did not because they found his infliction abhorable. It was as if the mans condition made him unworthy and unlovable. As I listened, the theme of my day began to take shape in my mind, and I realized that we all share a common need and fear.

Need: To Love
Fear: Not being Loved.

My response to my cousin was that we're all changing. I myself am very different than the person I was six years ago. With aging comes awareness, sometimes an awareness you wish you didn't have. You realize that not everything that sparkles is a diamond and wolves really do wear sheeps clothing. You find yourself taking on all the responsibilities of everything bad that has ever happened to you or as a result of you: after all, who amongst us is blameless? You take on this critical lense of your own life and before you know it you have turned that critical lense outward to the rest of the world and no one can get close to you. You want to love others, but in fear of not being loved in return, you hurt them instead.

We abuse one another, whether it be emotionally or physically. We reap warfare against each other, unable to connect with each other on any real meaningful level, and are generally suspicious of one another. We cloak ourselves in an invisible protective armor, hiding all our vulnerabilities and ready to harm anyone that gets too close. The command is to love thy neighbor as ourselves, but what if you don't love yourself. Loving your neighbor seems rather impossible in that case.

In a sense, a lot of us live in a prison. We allow life to harden us. With each rejection, each disappointment, each wrong turn, we feel that we have somehow become unlovable and our greatest fear is realized; our strongest need unable to be met due mostly to our own resistance and unwillingness to show who we really are.

But, Jesus saw no fault in us so great to prevent Him from giving His life for us. Despite our deeply sinful nature, He still saw the beauty in us and He challenges us to see it in each other. He challenges us to not treat each other like lepors on the side of the road. Some of us when we see weakness in others act disgusted with the reminder of our own vulnerability in being human.

We are commanded to love not because other people deserve it, but because that is what we were created to do; we love because the almighty God loves us. Anything different is unnatural and contradictory to the will of God. So yes, life does change you, but it doesn't have to break you.

As for myself, it takes more energy the older I get to be an eternal optimist than it does to be a self-loathing pessimist; sometimes I am exhausted. There are times I find it difficult to look past my own flaws and mistakes, and I find myself wanting to hide from others. But every once in awhile something magical will happen. I will meet a complete stranger, that despite whatever wrong I may have done, whatever may be "ugly" about me, doesn't matter. Maybe for just a moment or maybe even a lifetime, we love each other and are blameless in each others site. Just like that, both our needs have been met, our fear has been temporarily subsided and all is right with the world and it is because of those moment that I know that love is real, and love is worth it and I am thankful for it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"It doesn't hurt you any to be good to other people"

My Granny said this to me tonight while I tried to help her get ready for bed.  She said, "I just want you to know I appreciate you and I want you to know that it doesn't hurt you any to be good to other people....the Lord loves for you to be good to others."

She then presented me with a hypothetical situation.  She said "suppose I ask you to go find my dentures.  You might think it's real comical, but you wouldn't laugh at me.  You would go find my dentures and take pleasure in knowing you have something to laugh about later.  But it didn't hurt you any and one day you may need someone to help you like I need someone to help me." 

I laughed along with her and agreed that God was good all the time, and that life was good, and that yes, it doesn't hurt to be good to other people.  I also assured her that it was my pleasure because she took care of people the vast majority of her life and if not for her selflessness I wouldn't be here today.

As I left her room I felt elated.  I felt that I had accomplished a great feat.  I had gained the gratitude of another human being and all I'd done was help roll her hair and show her how to operate the small space heater in her room.  I think now about the moments that I have felt of most use, of most purpose and it was when somone else recognized that I had value.  And even if they didn't say thank you, as my Grandmother told me, it didn't hurt me any.  If anything it made me better.  It put out the energy into the universe that when I am old and gray I hope to get back.  If only I spent more time thinking of how I could be of more use to others.  After all, if you believe in God you believe also that we were put here to glorify Him, and the ultimate way we can glorify Him is to humble ourselves enough to be good to our fellow man/woman. 

But at the ripe old age of 30 I find my thoughts more times than not are preoccupied in how to better myself.  I wish I could take a vow that this would change, but I won't lie, I do want and strive for better for my own life.  I will however express gratitude for the people and circumstances in my life that constantly remind me the world is bigger than myself.  Those reminders help fine tune my answer to "where do I fit in this world?"  Because where I fit depends largely on how willing I am to put myself out there for others, because at the end of the day what could it hurt?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Living in Color

They say most people dream in black and white, I think a lot of people live in black and white also.  What does it really mean to live/dream in color?  It means reading in between the lines of what people say.  It means seeing the silver lining in every situation.  It means recognizing the many dimensions of everyone you come in contact with and respecting and loving them for it.  It means seeing the poetry in every living thing.

As we get older, our perceptions of the world around us can become more and more jaded.  Our experiences act as a paint brush over our canvas of life.  It we're not careful with our selections of friends, lovers and careers, too many dark colors can be thrown on the canvas, blur together, and become one huge gray mess.  It can get to the point where you can no longer tell the difference between friend and foe; everyone is a potential enemy.  No choice seems like the right choice and you can't trust your own instincts and certainly not the advice of others. 

We do have the option however to hold on to our childhood innocence for as long as we live.  I, for example, have been told on numerous occasions that I see the world through rose colored lenses.  I think at times it has been meant as both a compliment and a put down, but I'm ok with both.  See, I have chosen to never forget and let go of the fantasies of a beautiful magical world that often occupied my thoughts as a child and I think that choice makes me a happier person and more fun to be around.  I no longer believe in dragons and unicorns, but I do still believe good conquers evil, and love is the most powerful weapon we can have against hate. 

I have my moments, like everyone does, where it seems the world is falling apart around me, nothing is going my way and nobody is on my side.  But there is a heaviness that comes with all those negative emotions.  You can't sleep, your body aches, your mind is restless, you notice lines on your face that you never saw before.  It's just not a good place to be.  It is during these moments that you must make a choice.  The choice you make will dictate the outcome of whatever situation you're in.  And that choice is: are you going to sink into the depths of depression and just give up, or are you going to muster up every colorful, beautiful part of you and turn your world around.  It takes work to be positive. 

Any artist, no matter how naturally talented, invest a lot of his time, energy and patience in order to create a masterpiece.  He may even have to start over once or twice and as in the art of life, you're not always going to get it right the first time.  But the vibrancy you envisioned for your life cannot die just because things are not going your way.  The artist knows his vision even when their creation is not looking much like a work of art. 

We are the artist, the world is our canvas.  Take everything life throws at you and dare to paint the sky red if you want to.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When it floods

It's amazing how the seasonal events in nature mirror our own lives. 

Spring: the beautiful time of rebirth.  The world is brand new, the air is crisp and clean, everything is brighter, somehow stronger. Birds sing louder, they seem happier. Ducks and geese have returned to their favorite spring destination, and wade happily in shallow waters.  It's a great time for weddings, baby showers, graduations and new dreams.  Life takes on new meaning and there's a slight spring in our step.  Everything makes sense and we relax in the feeling of having all the answers.

Summer: hot fun in the summer time.  The ocean water is warm and calming.  Dolphins play and seagulls are plenty.  The sun is hot.  The days are longer, but somehow seem to go by faster.  Flowers are in full bloom and vibrant.  Ducks and geese have settled comfortably in their favorite pond, but aware their time there is short.  We have cookouts, family reunions and adults play like children.  We stick out toes in the sand and baste in the sun, never wanting the day to end.

Fall: times are a changing. Leaves start falling.  Ducks and geese become restless in the cooling water.  Highways are lined with burnt orange, green and red. Even the sky grows gray and restless awaiting the changes ahead. And the rain....the rain starts falling.  School starts and children start off eager.  Parents rush around, chugging coffee, barely eating, tossing and turning, barely sleeping.  We start working seasonal part-time jobs in hopes of having enough money for Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas giving.  Malls stay open longer and get busier.  Sitting in traffic longer, getting home later.  Working more and doing less together in hopes of doing more together.  And the stress...the stress starts compounding.

Winter: fly away birdie.  The pond is empty.  The tress are bare.  The ocean is cold and rocky.  The dolphins have left, large whales remain.  The snow starts falling.  The sky has settled into darkness and the days are shorter but seem to last forever.  The earth is still and cold because it is waiting.  The anxiety of fall is starting to clam down.  We have resolved that we've done all we can do and happily exchange gifts around a Christmas tree decorated in love the night before, and save the worry of our dry bank accounts for another day.  In the midst of our anxiety, we find peace and grace.  We wear heavy sweaters and jackets, drink hot chocolate and apple cider and snuggle next to each other while singing Christmas carols.  This is the season babies are made.  

And then, here we are, in Spring again.  And something miraculous has happened.  With no assistance from man, the earth has decided to bloom and grow again.  The geese make their way across the land.  A seed begins to open and push it's way through the earth towards the sun.  The ice begins to melt and the floods are gone, and underneath it all is life.  And at the end of winter, we have made new resolutions, some will only blossom for a few months and others will last a lifetime.  We have learned about ourselves and each other.  We have learned that we are stronger and more resiliant than we ever thought we were.  We have realized that we still can be kind to each other and that we still love each other.  We resolve to work, to play and to love harder.  And we begin anew, every year until our years are no more.  It is a beautiful thing, this world and creation God has made.  

We grow, and we live, and we change, and we die in some way every year of our lives.  We experience a death of old habits, beliefs, relationships and circumstances and then we experience a rebirth into a whole new set of habits, beliefs, relationships and circumstances.  But pay attention through each season.  You will realize you don't have force anything.  Everything happens in its time, nothing happens out of order, in nature or in our lives.