Last Night

I need my alone time to recharge and process. My parents and brother visited this weekend, so the apartment was full of people, life, sound, and love. It was awesome, but I needed to carve out some “me” time.

My wife took my son to my in-laws’ home for dinner, so I took the opportunity to visit the prayer labyrinth at SMU. As I walked the winding path, I had a lot of distracting, cloudy thoughts. Once I reached the center, I finally asked God to focus my mind and speak to me.

Now, I have prayed this for years. It’s almost a formality. This time, however, I looked straight up to the sky. There, directly overhead, was Vega, the brightest star of the Lyra constellation.

In my mind’s eye, I saw Vega as though from “orbit.” A blindingly bright, burning body of light and energy and pull. There was the expanse of space and the knowledge that all of this is eternal. The same materials that make up this star, this universe, are within me. When I die, those materials will be released and go to form someone or something else. There is an energy, a movement that enables and comprises all of life and to me, this is what we call “God.” It is the Source of all being, ever-contracting, ever-expanding, ever-transforming, and ever-present.

I was overwhelmed with humility, gratitude, and the driving need to dive back into my life. As spiritual and “out there” as this experience was, it grounded me and gave me a renewed appreciation for the time I have. I want to spend the rest of that time loving everyone and everything in my life with all that I’ve got, because just as it is a miracle that I get to exist and be a part of all this, so it is a tremendous blessing to have the people in my life that I do.

I get that not everyone will agree with my perspective on God. Some will say this “force” isn’t conscious, others say this description is blasphemy. Think what you like! For me, this force of Life is always tending toward itself, producing and creating and calling for us to participate in its activity. For me, this participation is what we see in Jesus, embodying the power of life, death, and renewal in a way that is inspiring and delightful.

Am I nuts? Maybe, although people who are psychotic don’t usually think they could be psychotic. I do have a rich, imaginative inner life, but all I can do is use my experiences to shape my understanding, so that’s what I am doing.

Life is a gift, and it is a gift to have you as a part of it. I hope you can learn to see things this way. Further, I hope you will take advantage of every opportunity to share your gifts, love your people, and live your life.

Peace be with you!

Security is a Lie

Maaaan, we humans like to feel safe and secure. Alarm systems, pistols, baseball bats, confirmation bias, the 2nd Amendment, doctrine, prejudice, all of these things are means by which we try to ensure our sense of security. This sense can be emotional, intellectual, or physical.

The problem is that true security/safety is impossible if you actually want to live your life. There is a nothing wrong with taking some basic precautions or having a solid bit of confidence. However, there is a difference between that and living in fear of difference because it threatens to shake up our foundations. Too often, we tend toward the latter.

Life is not conducive to safety. It involves risk, taking chances, and being subject to influences and powers external to ourselves. To try to control or eliminate this often leads to an existence based on fear or suspicion. Ironically, such a lifestyle is fertile ground for more issues, not less.

It’s true that our sense of fear and security can be healthy and definitely helped our ancestors survive. We had to be careful about strange sights or sounds, as anything could potentially kill us.

Today, these instincts manifest in a variety of ways. When our core beliefs or opinions are challenged, we get defensive or even aggressive. Many carry weapons with them everywhere they go. Fear of strangers leads to prejudice, racism, or classism, resulting in isolationist or avoidant social behavior. When our financial prosperity is infringed upon, we hoard our resources and will often pay any price (moral or, ironically, financial) to keep our status.

None of these behaviors are healthy. They might make us feel better, but the tangible, positive results they produce are minimal at best. Furthermore, life isn’t made any less dangerous or unpredictable!

So what’s the alternative?

Acceptance.

I sometimes find myself terrified. I’m scared I’m going to lose my wife or son or friends or family. I worry about our finances, my training business, or my impact on this world.

At the end of it all, though, I have to choose between fear and acceptance. Fear feeds itself and leads to a limited existence. Acceptance, however, allows me to feel what I feel while also pushing me to live my life.

Sure, it all could end tomorrow. I could lose everything, be shot in a Wal-Mart, or I could die in my sleep… but none of this is in my control. All I can do is handle what is within my power to handle, leaving the rest to whatever powers may be.

This may sound like indifference, but it actually allows me to live a life of reckless love and delight in the people God has brought into my life. I kiss and hug my son every chance I get. I flirt with and embrace my wife daily. I check in on my family and friends, eat the delicious food, put down my weapons, give of my resources to those in need, and do my best to leave the world better than I found it.

Security is great in theory, but it just doesn’t exist. Life is wild, unpredictable, and extends beyond the grasp of our control. We can either respond out of fear or acceptance, and I hope we all can chooe the latter. Past that point, all that’s left is to jump in and LIVE!

Peace be with you!

Stop Seeking Validation

We are living in a time when validation is probably the most sought after thing (right behind security, which is the next topic). When it’s time to make decisions, we reach for the phone or the computer or flip on our favorite network to find some way of adding credibility to our choices. It’s as though everyone is an authority except the person making the decision!

For example, I bet some of you clicked on this post as a means of validating your desire to stop seeking validation! With that said, I’m selfishly glad you did.

Mwahaha.

Personally, I have a horrible need to feel validated by external sources. When my beliefs or practices shift, I need to know that the path I choose is acceptable (or at least defensible) in the external world. Google has become the means by which I try to find acceptance regarding my body, my workout preferences, my political views, and my religious beliefs.

Until last night.

Talking with a beloved friend, she pointed out to me that my obsessive need to research and validate myself from the outside pointed to a lack of authority and self-acceptance within. I hadn’t considered this. After all, if I recognize my own God-given authority in my life, and if I accept myself as a being that was created “good,” then what need have I for the approval of others? This is especially puzzling when one considers how fickle and temporary such approval can be!

It’s true that humans are social creatures and want to feel like we belong. However, this sense of belonging shouldn’t lead to self-flagellation, denial, and self-editing based on what everyone else deems acceptable. Rather, the feedback from those we love and care about should either be accepted or rejected based on how it resonates within us, especially since WE are the one’s living our life! Further, if the people around us keep insisting that we cover-up or change our self-expression in order to “fit in,” that probably isn’t a group interested in loving us so much as who we could be if we abide by their standards.

Who has time or energy for that kind of stress? NO ONE.

Yet so many of us waste our time and energy seeking that validation. We compare ourselves to the famous or “successful,” we make decisions based on what our parents or friends will think, we believe what the church says we should, and we view the world the way we are told to by sources we trust, for better or worse. Hell, our president was elected largely because he gave validation to a frustrated population!

My point is that this need to be validated has real world consequences. The “powers that be” benefit from our unwillingness to think for ourselves and trust our gut. Our economy depends on your feeling inadequate and in need of more.

More what?

Doesn’t matter. Just so long as you believe you need it and are willing to pay for it.

But what if we change this?

What if we decide to trust our gut? What if we explore the paths that intrigue and delight us? What if our energy goes to those places, people, and practices that enable us to love and accept ourselves and each other to the greatest degree possible?

We’d be more secure in ourselves, and less at the mercy of the world around us. We’d finally grasp how powerful we are and just how much we have to contribute. I personally think that would be beautiful, and it is my prayer that you would join me on this long road to self-acceptance and empowerment.

You are a person created and loved just as you are. Take ownership of your choices and needs, and pursue whatever will enable you to live a life bursting at the seams with love, compassion, confidence, enjoyment, and peace. Life is too short for anything less.

Peace be with you!

Notice The Blurs

And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’…But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ — Luke 12:19-20, NRSV

I went for a walk this past Saturday as part of my new and improved self-care regimen. I recharge by being alone in nature, a church, or some other place or situation in which I can think, process, and just “be.” While on this walk, I looked up and saw an oncoming vehicle with an exceptionally excited dog hanging out of the window. His jowls were flapping away in the wind, and his eyes were squinted in that canine way that indicates extreme pleasure. Sadly, the car was moving too quickly for a picture, so the dandelions I saw in the park will have to do. Anyway, the sight caused laughter to burst from me in a genuine, joyful sort of way, and I realized that if I had been running, reading, or if I had decided to drive to the park, I would have missed it!

This made me think about life and how we miss so much. We trade away large portions of our lives to pursue wealth, stability, and progress. We push through more and more hours so we can get that house or car for a family we aren’t around very much. We blitz through vacations for the sake of “doing everything,” but we actually enjoy very little. We damage our relationships with God and others over opinions, practices, and institutions that are as finite as we are (which I discuss here).

Jesus addresses this non-stop pursuit of worldly things in a parable regarding “The Rich Fool.” This is a guy that spends his entire life building up more wealth and goods than he could possibly need. Hell, he had to tear down and rebuild his storage facilities just to give it all some place to sit (Luke 12:18)! Further, he appears to live by an idea that drives most of us: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (12:19). After all, if we just get to that mythical “next step,” we will have all we need and we can finally enjoy life, right?

Jesus says no, and I am inclined to believe that He is correct.

At the end of the parable, God tells the man, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Everything that you and I earn and possess over the course of our brief existence will go to others. The fights we “win,” the cars we drive, the houses we rent or own, the parties we vote for, even the nation in which we live will eventually all pass on in one way or another.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s time we stop going so fast. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse tells Guy, “I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly… If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he’d say, that’s grass!” Bradbury’s commentary is just as true now as it was then. In the pursuit of all the things we are told are of primary importance, we lose sight of what truly matters.

My prayer for you is that you will take time to slow down and realign with God’s will for your life, and that is that you will actually live it. God’s not concerned about our paycheck or possessions. God doesn’t care if we vote blue or red. It doesn’t bring God joy when we insist on your own way, convinced of our own rightness. God’s desires are that we connect with Him and with each other in ways that honor the gift of life.

If we decide to embrace the path of God, our priorities can realign. We can be free to love and be present with the people God has placed in our lives. We can fight for justice and peace without the pesky allegiances that cause more harm than good. We can pursue our careers and livelihoods without becoming enslaved to them. Life can be lived without always obsessing over the next step, because the current step is all we have. And with God and each other, it’s all we really need.

Peace be with you!