Thursday, November 21, 2013

Maybe success is simply loving people well.

I was talking to Nick the other night about that painful feeling when you realize a relationship isn't capable of handling a certain type of closeness,... not because you don't want it to,... but simply because the best we can offer is friendship ... or even distance, sometimes.

He's on the other end of a similar experience to what I've been facing, since he had to reject someone's request for a closer relationship because they damage each other when they're too close. And that isn't easy, either.

It's really rare for anyone to clearly say that love isn't about being in "the closest possible relationship" but about making sure both of you are healthy, strong, or at least healing within the relationship. 

Love cares more about how the quality and types of interaction affect each other than it does about some external construct of the way love ought to play out. 

How do you know when the best relationship you can offer someone is friendship?

See, Hawk and I had this discussion. 

I was waiting, you know ... for him to think about it and decide if he might be interested in adding another level to our relationship. I knew his answer was encoded in our communications already ... the "it's not going to happen" was implied. But for some reason I really needed to hear him say it. 

Did I say this directly? No. Maybe I should have. Next time I might face down the fear of having someone say, "I can't accept more from you, really." 

But he figured out what I needed and told me clearly and firmly, "What I feel toward you isn't romantic."

He appreciated what I offered, though, and didn't reject the love ... simply one of the ways love might have played out. I told him that I would instead love him as a friend and support him that way, and he accepted. 

It was inspiring to feel free to offer what he is capable of accepting from me. Friendship is a gift. I don't know. I often think we need a better term for caring deeply about someone for unselfish mutual benefit, because "love" is such a corrupt term and friendship has such a casual connotation for most people.

I have a choice, now, between three kinds of "love." 

I can "love" him for my own benefit. (Not really love, in my opinion.)
I can love him for HIS benefit.
I can love him with a love that is for everyone, equally, and that love extends to encompass both his life and my own ... because we are both connecting points within networks of relationship ... and ...

who we are to each other affects everyone we touch.

This is very, very important, and true for everyone from family and friends to life-partners. 

Culturally,... we tend to tie more on top ... the love plus the romance ... the love plus the expectation of ... well ... it could be any benefit we see as intrinsic to love, however we categorize the term. 

Love isn't the part we add to the relationship that looks at how the other can serve oneself, but rather it looks to create a healthy place for both.

I made a graphic out of my examples:  Feel free to share.

I had this same choice with X.

I gave him everything in the black lines, and only learned how to live the second kind of love toward him by recognizing how the first kind twisted everything in life, especially our relationship. 

It was better for him, for both of us, for everyone ... to be apart. When a relationship is not only mutually destructive, but also a negative influence on family and friendships, then it's time to consider what it is you think you're building. 

By the time I learned to love him well, the best way to love him was to leave ... because anything else would have been a wide-spread lie. Because that corrosion of relationship isn't love ... it's an unfulfilled expectation that is wearing the label "love." Our reality was his abuse and my acceptance of that treatment from him, along with the influence that relationship had on everyone. Not love. 

If I had latched on to the idea of Hawk and I together ...or  if Nick had tried to stay with the girl ... it would have been based on those same destructive mental patterns. I don't think we're alone in this, either. 

Real love exists by facing the full reality of a situation and finding the unique pathway that offers what is best for everyone. Or ... at least ... to the best of our ability. (Sometimes we are not our own ideal of ourselves, and admitting this is difficult.) People must be free to be who they are, where they are in life. That is the only way to have anything honest or real, even if this sometimes means the most honest and real act is to leave each other to more beneficial relationships. 

I read a small portion of the letter I wrote (from my conversation with  Hawk) to Nick. And Nick said, "I feel like you wrote that to me, because that is how you handle our relationship, too. You could say that to any of your friends, I think." 

It's true. 

Love. Real love ... is something you can give anyone. 

It's not about romance or marriage or ... that feeling of being "in love" ... it's the core of caring for and about someone. Now that I realize this, it won't be as difficult to admit and allow love,... or at least not the real kind. Expectations will always be painful to work through, I think.

Shouldn't it be normal to love?
Isn't love the best foundation for any type of interaction between people?
I'd like to figure out how to live that way with everyone. 

I'm so thankful for friends who help me figure this out. (and not "just for Thanksgiving")


I'm linking up with the Faith Barista community again, for the topic:
Share a reflection or story about your journey walking through the Thanksgiving season.
Click through for more stories.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fleeing self-contained certainty -3- Sharing Ideas

Of course we make assumptions, but we must also assume we are mistaken in ways we don't sense. There is no way to study God and the universe other than to see what we see, then test it. And if he is who the Bible says he is, then we will receive the clarification we need to move closer and find out more.

So why do so many fear those questions?

Why do so many fear those who disagree?

Instead of saying, "If you don't think of the universe as I do, then you do not know!" I think it is better to ask, "How do you know? What have you seen? What is your experience? What influences your perspective? Why?"

Perhaps answering these questions will help us all see more clearly. Then, too, I will have a chance to learn from, understand, and speak to others directly. Isn't interacting through relationship much better than broadcasting generic information from afar?

Every individual is designed with a valuable perspective on life, and when I allow them to combine and react, I gain the benefit of additional depth and color that might highlight flaws in my own lenses ... or not. Sometimes I realize that what I learned previously is more deeply true than I knew, even if I learn this from a perspective that disagrees ... viciously.

And, what? Am I right to say the elephant is only like a snake? I can't change their eyes. I can only see what I see, always missing something that is out of my sight. As time moves forward perhaps they will see it too, one day,... or I will know their perspective. It could happen.

I sometimes imagine a world where we all assume we have our own distortions to work around, but that teaming up to test our own points of view gives us the potential to discover more by experiment and experience.

Maybe we would know each other better.

Maybe we could see more clearly.

Maybe we could interact in a healthy and healing way.

Maybe mysteries are meant to cause relationship among us, instead of separating us?

What an idea!

However, I don't need others to "see it gently" to learn from them. Even poisoned attacks and exclusionary tactics teach me something ... it just might not be what they think I'll learn. Even pain cannot prevent the gift of wisdom. In contrast, perceived safety isn't always safe. If the world beneath my feet will collapse anyway, then I'd rather find that out while exploring and testing the foundations.

In the end, if God really did make the promises I devalued for too long ... then he will give me the wisdom and guidance I seek, because he wants to and not because I've somehow performed up to some standard I don't understand.

So far the (paraphrased) promises, "seek and you will find ... that I have already provided your needs ... and am with you always ... because I love you ... and I have prepared a meaningful existence through time that was meant for you from the beginning" ... prove true. I have the rest of my life and then, perhaps, the ages beyond to explore what more there is to discover, and what this path will make of me.

I am still very much in-process, but if I bend my mind around the concept of stepping outside time then I am already completed, past, present, and future. Maybe God is still making us within the fabric of time, still shaping the song of the beginning, even as he says it is complete outside of time and rests.

How can I claim to know?

I only ask questions, let the mystery be what it is, and hope to gradually see more clearly than I do today. It's wonderful to encounter others who are doing the same.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A letter of love to all over-strained, effort-bound hearts,

Let me weave of words a quiet place, the silent breath and an open gaze looking out on life from the place within, designed by God to see.

Where is the hook of the sharpened lie? Where is the string that binds you tight to the ancient scream of a soul that forgets we are all this small and God fills the spaces between? Nobody is all, you see.

And our gift can be our curse in life, if it binds instead of freeing.

The lies will die and the truth will glow ... it is from death that life must grow. Let the answer simply be.

We are each links of unbroken chain, so don't try to bear or wear the strain--for God is the substance and he is the weave--and we are the gaps where the light can be seen, not the strength that holds the world in place.

I so often fail to know the sound of the hidden voice when I'm shuttered and drawn ... in the busy world of that mindless place where I think too much and forget all grace. I try and try ... and then ... no more is done than would have been.

So often the good that will pour right through to the world is the rest that comes when I know I lost, in the breaking of my strength. Weak and alone. The light pours through the cracks where I held myself too true.

I widen the tears in my covering veil, for I am the bushel hiding the light. It's already there and I don't have to fight, but relax and release what was always given. There is plenty and more than I can reveal. The effort isn't the point.

How could we know it if we didn't feel the over-strain of our adequacy?

In weakness, then, is strength. And the path to knowing is sometimes the way of seeing the life of effort and pain and feeling the lack of that something more ... while knowing it's there in your very core. It isn't one step further, now. It's growing already and always must, for that is the pattern of things.

God has given you much, but is it yours if you cannot rest in confidence?

What child enjoys the gift she clutches to her chest in resistant fight that none should take what is her right? It is by letting go she finds the stillness, the space of rest and life. It comes and goes as she runs and plays; her motion does not bind or fight. Know the flow of living is always this way ... and we feel it is a mystery.

Pushing less will effect more, for we are the channel and not the source. Rest is trust and thanks and breath of life. One way or another,... we still find this is something we always knew. Hear this! It grows by season and time, and the sun is rising once again.

Observe. What is true?


This was inspired by/for Samantha of Defeating the Dragons, after she spoke of the effort that seeks to bind her even as she overflows the gifts designed into her from the beginning.  I love her through her writing. You might, too.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Who am I?

I ask myself, "Who am I?"

--impossible question! I wander, awaiting the answer that will crystallize existence and freeze it into a form that I can keep in my pocket and know completely.

How large is my pocket? 

Time moves forward, and everything changes with every breath. Life cannot be held, only observed. And I am merely present, aware, prepared to see. This motion is ... in fact ... the answer. I snag on life, and that is how I notice where I am

I exist, but I am not the one in front of my eyes, and if I try to look it is not myself but a fragmented shadow of every angry voice I've ever heard, hissing and whispering accusations. Sifting the shadow from the mirror is impossible, improbable, difficult. I am trapped by the past when I look within.

It is best to open my eyes and simply be ... who this is ... where this is ... not swallowed up in an idea of me that is no longer present. Maybe it isn't merely this form or these ideas and interpretations ... maybe I am this experience of living?

I ask my friends, "Who am I?"

--and they reflect my presence in a myriad of mirrored gazes, warped and smooth, shadowed and bright. They struggle and live and rejoice and grieve and lean and hold and speak and whisper and wrap in silence.

They darken their answer with words too pleasant to believe, so I close my eyes before they arrive. Still, I cannot see myself, only an effect (a ripple of passage left in time) of God at work, I think.... Because they smile and say how grateful they are, though I know they are the gift to me. 

From which direction does this light come? 

They do not know the beauty I see in them. When I tell them who they are, they do not believe. They scoff and wonder at the blindness in my eyes. 

We are the same. 

"How difficult can it be to accept the reflection I offer?" they say. 

Here--hold this understanding with a sense of the absurd--I cannot tell them what I won't allow them to tell me. We both lean forward with the same irritation, that our meanings are emptied by unbelief. 

"Thank you for being who you are," we say.

And it is important for them to know, to believe, to understand. The words come back again and again.

So, now I believe their impossibly lovely reflection. What else can I do, if I would request the same of them? 

"You are a gift, my treasure, my friend. I learn from you ... because of who you are."

Only God can make sense of that reality ... and he is everywhere, breathing the existence of friendship into our spirits. We weave the vapor of his intentional presence into our tangible lives through time and everyone we meet ... when we are aware enough to see. A friend within all friends, beyond knowing.

I ask God, "Who am I?"

--and he answers, "I love you. I am with you. Fear not." 

And while that wasn't the question, it becomes all the answer I need.

I am the one God loves. 


This article is written in response to the writing prompt at:

Click through to read a variety of perspectives on the topic -->

Monday, November 11, 2013

I have a voice and I will weep

I've been holding this close because the words tore their way out of me when I realized again that my story is not the only one. I have a voice. So many don't. Today it feels important to let the screams be heard, somehow. I only have words. Will they be heard? I don't know.

Fleeing self-contained certainty -2- Perspective in Motion

As I wrote, I realized that these construction materials are more about attitude toward knowledge than "things to do" ... which seems appropriate. Let's take a look at another of my church-building frameworks.

Perspective in Motion

History is full of pervasive perspectives, all skewed by human limitations. This shapes the relational complexity that comes with different individuals and groups seeing the world through different filters.

I have filters, too. I can't help it. They come from my experiences, what I have learned, what I have seen ... and I like to think some of it is a gift from the source of true insight. Yet, I try to test the gifts, too.

We use God, politics, family, culture, science, etc. to assert our positions. All are useful frames through which to view the world, but none should confine us ... even our views of God ... for who has seen him fully? We are all blind, resting small hands upon the elephant from where we stand and confidently proclaiming it is a tree, a snake, a wall, a rope....

I think God designed the Scriptures so they would make us curious without eliminating the necessity of searching this vast being, in person, to answer our questions. The written word cannot replace the speaker of Words that breathe our frame, mind, and spirit.

Growing up, far too many people saw me through the frame of a "missionary kid" and implied I must therefore be somehow holier, better behaved, set apart, complete. I was always living up to or destroying their presuppositions, and the process gave me a great disrespect for titles and labels. I wasn't myself to them, but a stereotype. They couldn't see me. Too many weren't aware enough to ask the questions that would have allowed them to come to a more accurate view of who I was, because they thought they already knew.

I see myself doing this at times. "This is what I know of you and I will respond in that light."

I've done it to Hawk, as we get to know each other ... guessing who he is based on what I've seen so far. He may have received more trust than he deserves, because I admire what I know of him. I'm waiting to find out, but it seems good to me to give others room to be their best selves.

I wonder if this is intimidating to him, and remind myself that it's important to let him know that I want him to break my frames, to be who he is and challenge me to know him and accept him as he is. He seems to understand, so far, yet I still have to stay aware and eliminate the frames, myself, also.

As a tangible example, take a moment to contrast a photograph, to video, to real life interaction. If you hit freeze-frame and leave it there, will you know the rest of the story? If you only have one camera angle, do you know what is going on off-screen? Too often, we treat our understanding of people and God in this way.

It is my own fault if I don't ask the questions that challenge my mental photograph of someone. It is my own fault if I do not move past that series of compiled frames of a first, second, third,... one hundred and twenty seventh impression into the growing, living, moving perspective of interaction.

There is incredible value in an ever-changing existence, and people can be both better and worse than I see at first. If I don't see you as you are woven through time, then I have missed you almost entirely. I may know, but it is never all there is to know. A view of anyone that always stays the same is a figment of the imagination, even when I am looking at God. Because even if God really doesn't change, I do.

If knowing a single person means I must allow my eyes to follow them as they live past any preconceived limitations or temporary observations applied, then how in all this ever-moving universe is anyone capable of containing God and the relationship between us and the universe within such a rigid constraint as our ability to comprehend? If we cannot even step back enough to view his entire artwork, then how can anyone imagine they contain a full impression of him ... and how he relates to everything?

God is vast, therefore knowing him must be far more complex than knowing a person. It feels dangerous sometimes, but I'm comforted by the thought. If I could keep him in-frame, then would he be God?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fleeing self-contained certainty -1- Testing for Truth

I'm sick of the organized church ... not because it's all bad, but because so many tend to protect the negatives out of fear that the whole thing will collapse if we illuminate and eradicate them.

I'm so tired of knowing,... of thinking I should have everything figured out,... of thinking anyone has it all figured out for ... who knows? You? Me? All people everywhere?

Denomination or the lack thereof means nothing. God is in his Church, whether they self-identify or not. And if you wear a man-made label, it's not going to help anything. Why do we cling to them so? It may be we have no idea how it all works.

I might attend a church group or visit the buildings, but it's not going to be to devotedly adhere to the doctrines ... even though I might listen to and appreciate some of them. When I attend it's to build relationships and learn from experience. That's it.

Sorry, but I don't trust the food anyone cooks in that holy smokin' kitchen without putting it through testing for poison ... and even my own thoughts are suspect. I figure God can manage this core mistrust of the history of human perceptions and interactions, even though it's often uncomfortable and leads me outside social circles.

I can't speak for everyone, so I'll just tell you about the Church I'm hoping to live. Or rather, I'll show you some of the construction materials that seem to be most useful as I move forward.

It is what it is ... a work in process. Let's start with:

Testing for Truth

I think there is only individual perspective available to any of us. Reality is only approachable through our perceptions, but thankfully we can gather data from each other to help. On the other hand, while I can learn from other perspectives, they will not become my own until experience reveals that view to me somehow.

Thankfully, I can hold what I do not understand, which gives me the chance to study it further. My perceptions must be trained to recognize the quality of what I encounter. It's all very complicated ... or simple. I'm not sure which.

It took me a long time to see that all observations were merely tools with which I could interact and experiment in life. Hypotheses to test. Ideas to study. Everything about my mind and body is meant to process life and offer me layers of information to which I then have the opportunity to react. Feedback is inevitable, though it helps to pay attention, and I've learned one glimpse is never a complete picture.

I live neither in a painting without the ability to enter the details nor suspended over a glass lens so I can only access microscopic detail. There is a broad horizon and a wide universe spreading out from where I stand, and I am free to focus and follow where each perception takes me, looking to understand the designer of it all.

Others may see from an angle that will alert to potential danger where I would only see smooth paths. At the same time, I am very likely to see a genuine way forward that nobody else can find. Because, you know, it's my life path ... designed for me as I am guided by God's work in my life.... Yes, I know that can sound ridiculous, especially when you think I'm either a nutcase for believing in God or a deceived infidel who can't see the clear portrait of God you've suspended right in front of my nose.

Since I'm going to believe in God, he's definitely the original substructure, heart, soul, inventor, and artist of the universe. If this is all some dream, then it is God's dream, and I'm going to search for him in it. And I'm sorry, but a God who can be destroyed and deceived and manipulated and thwarted ... just doesn't seem that impressive. I grew up watching people protect God from attackers (often each other). And now? I think if he can't handle it and still remain himself, then why the title?  God says he is solid like bedrock, so when things shake he's not the one who will fall.

These days I often search out the people who disagree with my strongest opinions, because if my foundation isn't shaken, then how will I know whether I stand on sand or stone? It's helpful to share alternate insights, so long as they are offered as an addition to what is already seen, rather than tearing out anyone's eyes and attempting to replace them with my own. And it's nobody else's problem if I choose not to see things their way.

Anything that does fall out from under me isn't God. If I think it has fallen and then find it still there ... well, that's my flawed perceptions at work, isn't it? I often fuse ideas that don't actually belong together. I think God will work within my limitations and still manage to educate me. I'll just live like his presence is true to see whether he really works that way, test, and experience life to learn.

A problem I have faced is the tendency to shore up what has already fallen. If my views can't weather a storm, then I want to know it ... and now ... so I can find something more stable before the next storm. Also, so I can protect myself and others from abuse. I'm beginning to think abuse is actually the indicator of whether shoring-up of fallen ideas is going on.

For years I slowly smothered in shored-up sinking sand, crushed beneath the perspective others pressed upon me. I could feel the danger, but thought I must be wrong because "everyone" said I was. I no longer wish to rely on such group-applied "truth" while fearing to make mistakes or be different.

I do think a multitude of counselors is a good thing. However, others' eyes are not my protection or my stability. They have only perspective and contrast to offer, and it's likely as flawed as my own, though not always in the same places.

So I test of the quality of my multitude. Is my view never strongly challenged ... enough to make me seriously question and perhaps even discard what I believe? Do they all agree with each other continuously? Do they attack anyone who disagrees instead of conversing? If I answer yes to these questions, then I've headed into dangerous territory by selecting that multitude from cliques, conformers, or sycophants. 

What I see today may fall apart tomorrow ... but I wouldn't reach tomorrow's vision without seeing as I do today. However it feels to lose what breaks ... it's worth it to be further along.

I'm okay with not knowing all the truth, as long as I get to learn more every day.