Friday, August 28, 2015

Hug Your Cactus, Not Mine

There are ways to hurt other people without ever overtly doing something that anyone would say is
wrong. Deep hurts that produce profound pain, wounds that take years to even scarify. From neglect, passive-aggressiveness, coldness, judgment, (constructive) criticism, disapproval…it isn’t always the knockout blow that receives gasps of shock by the audience that does the most damage…hundreds, even thousands of small, seemingly insignificant blows and jabs that are delivered under the radar can be damaging and wrong in the same way that a Mike Tyson upper-cut can be.

In the Christian arena, these wounding attacks primarily take the form of judgment.  The condemnation found in the sheep’s clothing of “well-meaning advice” or “shepherding” those whose actions have been more shocking and sensational.  It’s a problem when our sin has hurt/embarrassed/destroyed others…but it’s also a problem when we try to fix or corral those that are so easily identified.  It buries all the unnoticed but hurtful sins that work their venom internally, like a snake’s bite that leaves a corpse with no murderer to be found.  It’s much more of a mystery where these hurts come from…but they are no less savage and destructive to us, our families, our society and our churches. We all, each one of us, share and deliver these wounds whether they are on the front-page headlines or are subtly buried incognito within the virtues that we espouse from our self-appointed positions of humility and grace.

But that is why judgment is so vile.  It isolates and alienates certain pains, wounds and damages and buries the insidious venomous kind to continue to fester and hurt and do it's killing in the darkness of obscurity.  It fails to acknowledge the dying that goes on all around us and the wrongs that exist beneath every layer of human interaction.  It is a weapon that selectively kills with precision while wearing white gloves of false mercy.  It isn't that judgment is not warranted or just, it's that there is only ever one true source of judgment, and it's not us.

There are no real ‘solutions’ to our bad behavior, neither the explosive in-your-face kind nor the poisonous dart kind.  Self-awareness and theology are wonderful microscopes but they all diagnose the same terminal disease.  It is only forgiveness and grace that cover, clean, and eventually heal.

So you have to hug your own cactus before you can tell others to hug theirs.  You have one too, it's sharp and painful and may take some time for you to see all the needles that exist.  It's only then that you have a chance to find yourself giving the balm of forgiveness instead of the poison of condemnation.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Illusion of Control - Again

I seem to reduce things down to the concept of control when I think about....almost everything.  The movie Prestige reminded me of another concept, the idea of an illusion.  Sometimes when we think about an illusion, we think of a guy pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or something that is obviously a trick.  But an illusion is something that actually appears to be real...therefore it does not look like a trick or have the appearance of an illusion.  In other words, if it looks like an illusion, it isn't an illusion.  Make sense?

Control is very much like does not look like an illusion and yet it is.   The illusion is that the more effort and control we exert over our lives, the more we can create and have control over the outcome.  And it surely looks like this is the case.  But remember the illusion illusion looks as real as something that is real.

A few articles from the onion may help illustrate this, both concern the lottery.

Lottery Winner An Inspiration To All Who Play The Lottery

SNELLVILLE, GA–After years of back-breaking ticket-buying, Teddy LeBarge's hard work finally paid off Monday, when the 36-year-old Snellville man won $193 million in the multi-state Mega Millions lottery, making him an inspiration to lottery players everywhere.Lottery winner Teddy LeBarge."I'm not going to be afraid to take risks anymore," said Teri Oswalt, a Paducah, KY, homemaker and one of the millions of Americans moved by LeBarge's remarkable rags-to-riches story. "I'm going to remember what Teddy LeBarge said: 'I just picked my numbers, and they finally done come up a winner.' If he can do it, so can I."
"This man didn't just hit the jackpot the first time he ever bought a ticket," said Carla Brooke of Batavia, NY. "He'd been going down to that gas station for years. It just goes to show you that there's no such thing as an overnight success."
The son of two factory workers, LeBarge grew up without the educational and economic opportunities most Americans take for granted. But that didn't stop him from striving to make something of himself.
"Yeah, I'd drive my old heap of junk down to the Amoco station near every Friday–Friday bein' payday–buy myself a carton of cigarettes, six-pack of Busch, and a few lottery tickets," LeBarge said. "Some days during the week, I'd get me some scratch-offs, too, but I always made sure to buy that MegaPick ticket, 'cause that's where you get the big money."
Despite going years without winning a single lottery jackpot, an undaunted LeBarge bravely soldiered on.
"There was sometimes I thought I wasn't ever going to win, but I kept going," LeBarge said. "I knew I had to if I ever wanted a big TV and a boat and a Humvee and things like that."
"I didn't let [not winning] get me down, 'cause I knew what I wanted," LeBarge continued. "Sometimes, it wasn't easy to scrounge up those couple dollars, like when I was unemployed from '92 to '95, but I did it. And here I am today–a goddamn millionaire. Shit."
LeBarge, who will receive his jackpot in annual installments of $8.4 million over the next 23 years, quit his job as an unemployment-check collector hours after finding out he was a winner.
"[LeBarge] was just a regular guy like me," said James Hale of Carthage, TN. "You don't need to be some fancy lawyer or doctor to win the lottery. You just need to be able to guess the same numbers as the ones that get picked a few days later."
LeBarge's tenacity has even inspired some who have never played the lottery before.
"I thought the lottery was for other people," said Ralph Fischer, a Medford, OR, retiree. "Now I realize that if I want a check for millions of dollars, I have to get out there and do what it takes. I'm going to make my dreams come true."
As for LeBarge's dreams, he said his plans include paying off his many debts, taking a vacation to "someplace exotic," and doing some serious partying.
"The world can't help but look up to him," said Brenda Kenyon, a Brookfield, WI, daycare worker who buys about 20 scratch-off lottery tickets a week. "It's so wonderful what he did, such a beautiful story. He truly is a lottery winner."
"I see a lot of myself in Teddy LeBarge," Kenyon added. "He's someone who wanted to have a lot of money with little to no effort. And I do, too. More than anything else in the world."

and then this one....

Powerball Winners Already Divorced, Bankrupt

DEARBORN, MO—Less than 24 hours after last night’s Powerball drawing, reports confirmed that the two winners of the $587 million jackpot are both already divorced from their respective spouses, alienated from their friends and families, and completely bankrupt.
According to sources, while Debra McInery, 56, of Dearborn, MO and Chris Linden, 32, of Fountain Hills, AZ were elated upon winning the record-breaking lottery prize, both quickly blew through the roughly $192 million lump sum they each received, spending it on various failed business investments, reckless gambling habits, and costly divorce proceedings.
“They just don’t tell you how quickly the money goes,” said McInery, who since last night has reportedly received a nine-figure check, purchased a $300,000 luxury vehicle, separated from her husband, spent more than $14 million on a custody battle, and undergone eight cosmetic surgeries. “My family and I were thrilled when we saw the winning numbers on TV, and an hour later I was being sued by my parents and defaulting on the payments for my Manhattan townhouse.”
“I lost everything,” McInery continued. “My children, my friends, my home. Everything.”
Records indicate that in addition to racking up millions in debt, both McInery and Linden have had all their assets seized by government officials, barely survived a number of home invasions, and developed dangerous addictions to alcohol and prescription painkillers.
Linden, who before winning last night’s Powerball was reportedly single and working as a claims adjuster in Fountain Hills, has since quit his job, exchanged vows in a lavish wedding ceremony on a private Caribbean island, and been through a divorce. Sources confirmed he is now barely making ends meet by working as a cashier at the same 4 Sons Food Store at which he purchased the winning ticket.
“The worst part is how quickly everyone turns on you,” said Linden, explaining that within an hour of meeting his now-ex-wife, she had married him, cheated on him with a close friend, and taken half his winnings in a divorce settlement. “My friends and coworkers all called to congratulate me when they found out I won, and then 45 minutes later we were all fighting each other in court.”
“By morning I had been confined to a drug treatment and rehabilitation center,” he added. “That was when everything really went downhill.”
While acknowledging that McInery and Linden’s lives were ruined in a startlingly brief span of time, lottery officials noted that the two have managed to avoid the pitfalls of most jackpot winners, who are typically found dead within six hours of their numbers being announced.
“Money changes everything,” McInery told reporters from the jail cell she was confined to after her arrest this afternoon on fraud and conspiracy charges. “One minute you’re imagining how you’re going to spend this massive fortune, and by dinnertime you realize you’ve spent 100 percent of your winnings, you’re the victim of identity theft, and you have absolutely no one to turn to.”
“And this is all before taxes,” McInery added. 

Very funny stuff...and funny in the ring of truth they have to them.  In the first one, the winner credits himself, his perseverance, determination and hard work for his winning the lottery.  Of course, the fact that we all know you cannot win the lottery with hard work and determination seems obvious.  The illusion has been humorously lifted to give a peek into how silly controlling your fate sounds.  Sure, it's the lottery, but look around at the incredible variables of life.  The odds that swirl around us in a maelstrom of potential fates, good and bad is staggering.  Only a fool would see life as more control and choice versus circumstances that lay outside our personal dominion.

In the second one we are given a glimpse into how the illusion often resides in how we see ourselves as unique compared to others.  The fact that a lottery winner's downfall would take place so ridiculously fast is funny.  If it took a year or two it would seem actually quite realistic from what we know of human behavior.  But how many of us think that we would not suffer the same fate that has actually overwhelmed many people in those kinds of circumstances?  I certainly don't think I would.  Perhaps another least that's what I was thinking...but I could be wrong.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Shine on My Trophies

A quick thought, as it is late and I am tired.  A self defense mechanism, that I find in myself, is that if others don't like me or appreciate me then that is their problem.  They have somehow failed to see the qualities that make me valuable.  Somehow, I need to maintain a high view of myself in order to preserve my perception of my value/identity.  Therefore, if someone rejects me or fails to see me as valuable...the problem is with them.  How I esteem myself is connected to how I will be perceived/loved/accepted.  And this is true, both in myself and in the people around me.

But the message of God's love for me in His Son does not work this way.  Acceptance/love/value is bestowed to me in spite of and never because of my gifts/virtues/appearance/work ethic/abilities/accomplishments etc etc etc.

The message of building your own self-image by building up your value and connecting it to things're trying, you're making progress, you're growing, you're learning from your mistakes puts the burden of building my own value into my own hands...the work is up to me. Those are just other ways of saying that "it isn't ok to be as you must be better."  An inspiring concept to people who love the "Just Do It" approach to life, but a message of assured condemnation to those of us who have tried to "Just Do It" and have "Just Failed".

It isn't that we shouldn't be better, it is that the ability of humans to fix themselves is drastically over-rated...emphasis on drastically. I think we are all heavily defined by our weakness and inability to change, something that we are loathe to admit.  The only ultimate end of this self-engineered approach is similar to the situation that so many professional athletes find themselves in after their careers end. They eventually cannot fight any longer and spend their days trying to cement their legacy in a world that in reality no longer cares about them.  And if the world does care about a select few for a while, it is the most exclusive club imaginable.  Not Good News for the weary, the burdened and the exhausted.  Definitely not Good News for me...and probably not for you either.

The Good News seems to always be found in the work of another, not myself.  And it relegates my own goodness/virtue/accomplishments as laughably unnecessary.  Maybe someday I will learn from my mistakes in a way that doesn't put a shine on my trophies, but actually doesn't have anything to do with me at all.  Maybe then I won't even care anymore because I will really believe that I am loved as I am, and not as I should be.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking...but I could be wrong.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ambition and Stuff

Lazy is bad. Ambition is good.  Or it might depend on how we identify ourselves, in which case it is not always good to be good and bad to be bad.  Maybe it's how we justify ourselves once we know if we're good or bad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rated R

Did I mention this one is rated R?  One of my all time favorite movies is Planes, Trains and Automobiles...Steve Martin was being interviewed about the movie when it was first coming out and as to why it was rated R, he said language, but it's all in a row, in a short scene.  I love that scene.