Archives For August 2012

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of waiting.  Especially as it relates to job hunting.  Waiting for the phone to ring.  Waiting for call backs.  Waiting for interviews.  Waiting to schedule the next interview.  Waiting on top of waiting as dates get pushed back and decisions delayed or deferred at the behest of others.  I’ve been able to remain positive through most of this journey, but I had a brief blip a couple of days ago.  And it made me think about the oracle of my youth.  Dr. Seuss.

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.  And your gang will fly on.  You’ll be left in a lurch.

You’ll come down from the lurch with an unpleasnt bump.  And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You’ll come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!  Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose?  How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right. . . or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?  Or go around back an sneak in from behind?  Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind – maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused, that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.  The Waiting Place. . .

. . . for people just waiting.  Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the  mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or NO or waiting for their hair to grow.  Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite, or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.  Everyone is just waiting.

NO!  That’s not for you!  Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  You’ll find the bright places were Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!  Ready for anything under the sky.  Ready because you’re that kind of guy!

So what do we do when we find ourselves in the waiting place?  How do we “escape all that waiting and staying.”  and “find the bright places were Boom Bands are playing.”?

There are two ways that I have I have been able to keep perspective, or “unslump” myself through these past few months.  First, I look back through my life and see God’s faithful care and goodness for me and for my family.  He has always provided for our needs and he has blessed us far beyond what we deserve.  Second, I know that God will continue to provide for us and I know that he has a purpose and future for me.  There is a “teleology” to my life.  I’m going somewhere.  I’m not sure where that where is, but I know that there is a plan and purpose for my life.  One that is put in place by God and directed by him.  Therefore I can rest in assurance that just as God has provided in the past, he will continue to provide in the future.  How do I know?  Because it is a common theme throughout God’s revelation of himself to us.

Here is a favorite of mine:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

God addresses the prophet Jeremiah stating:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

And God addresses the exiles through Jeremiah stating:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Finally, let me close out these selected illustrations with this one (underlines are mine):

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes .  .  . .  do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.  Luke 12: 22-31

What is your “waiting place”?  What is your “slump”?  How do you find the “bright places were Boom Bands are playing”?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Mt. 7:7

Earlier this year I lost my job.  Well, I didn’t really lose it, I know exactly where it is.  I just don’t have it anymore.  I am a casualty of corporate downsizing.  This new state of affairs has provided numerous interesting observations as I have found myself in a woman’s, or should I say, Mommy’s world.  But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Let me back up and make some historical observations.  A few decades ago, there were certain bastions dominated by men. These structures were sometimes formal, sometimes informal, but they existed – good old boys clubs, if you will.  Over the years, the majority of these formal structures that were exclusively male have been changed to allow members of both sexes to participate.  Some voluntarily, some under pressure and some under compulsion.  Even the Masters has now added to women to it’s membership roles.

A number of year ago when I attended seminary, I was formally instructed to use gender neutral writing in my papers and presentations.  Because I understood that some folks are sensitive to the use of gendered language and because I understood that a good communicator wants to try and remove barriers to communication, I willingly adapted my style to be sensitive to my potential audience.

A number of years later I embarked on a career in sales.  Up to this point, I had no experience with big corporate America, but I had read about the “glass ceiling” and about the hostile nature of the work environment for women.  So I naturally assumed that being sensitive to others was really important to women, and that when the tables were turned, they would be sensitive, if not extra-ordinarily so, to those in the minority — to men.  When I entered “Big Corporate” as part of a sales division, I found that in my new profession male team members were typically in the minority.  Unsurprisingly, there were a few awkward moments where I did not fit in –I recall one team meeting in particular.  There were about ten of us gathered around the conference table and I was the only male in the room.  I was quietly observing a rousing discussion taking place around me when I decided to interject with an idea of my own.  The room fell completely silent.  They stared at me like I was from another planet.  And then they proceeded with their conversation as if nothing had ever happened.

Still, I was not prepared for the new world I stepped into after being “downsized” by my employer.  The world of the “stay at home dad.”  It quickly became apparent that I was a man in a mommie world.  When it comes to child rearing and domestic activities, there is definitely a “gender bias.”  The prevailing and almost universal implicit assumption is that this world is a woman’s world.  Consequently, the corresponding default language of this world is definitely gender specific.  The entrance of a man into this world is an unexpected one for those who reside within it.  And they stare at us like we are from another planet.  And then proceed on as if nothing ever happened.

And then came yesterday.  The final straw.  The one that created the impetus and the resolve to post on this topic.  But that is a story that will have to wait for another day.  One that is coming soon.  And a story that involves raccoons, mommies and kindergarten.

(Disclaimer/addendum:  Let me give a shout out to the mom’s on my street who do not treat me like I’m from another planet, who are very supportive and seem to have enjoyed having a dad around the neighborhood during the day. Thanks, Ladies!)

image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

tired man ID-10032629

 

 

When we left our three friends in the previous post they were doing so well with Good Grief Guidance.  But then things started to go terribly wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that Job states:

“A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.  But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels.  .  .  .  Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid.   Job 6:14-17,

So what happened?  The short answer is “they opened their mouths.”  The longer answer is that they were wrong as to the reason for Job’s calamities.  Forgive me if you think I am being too simplistic, but this is a blog post after all, not a dissertation!  The ancients believed that there was a connection between one’s actions and the ensuing blessings or curses.  If one is obedient to the commands of the Lord, blessings will follow.  If one is disobedient, curses will follow.  Hence, wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  And we know from the first chapter of Job that he was considered a righteous man who had been blessed abundantly.  As readers, we are privy to the behind the scenes machinations that lead to Job’s cataclysmic losses.  However, his friends are not.  Therefore, they assume that since his life has turned from blessings to curses, Job must have acted disobediently toward God.

So Job finds that not only has he lost almost everything, but his friends are now turning on him!  He protests his innocence, but to no avail.  His friends have assumed his guilt and are now intent on gaining his confession regarding his disobedience.  Sadly, Job’s friends did not stand with him and they proved to be undependable in the midst of his despair.

So what does it mean to be a dependable friend to someone who is on a difficult journey?  And how can we become a dependable friend?   We as men are often too quick to diagnose things and then attempt to “fix” whatever we believe to be the problem.  If you are one of these troubleshooting “fixer” types, your brain begins to erupt like lightning when a problem presents itself.  You rapidly process facts, problems, possibilities, outcome scenarios and then, viola!  You deliver the Coup de grace!

Unfortunately, we can be a bit to rapid with our conclusions.  When our friends struggle it is easy (just like Job’s friends) to assume certain things without knowing all of the facts.  Perhaps it would be better to suffer alongside of them, to listen to their lament, and be supportive as they search for answers.  Job was part of a drama far bigger than he.  He was a  pawn in a powerful game which neither he nor his friends were aware of.  Who know but that we and our friends are involved in a drama much bigger than we?

Job cried out for friends who would remain devoted even in difficult circumstances.  What, then, is the key to the devotion, loyalty, integrity, respect and consideration that we all crave in our relationships?  Love.  Not the silly, saccharine kind of love portrayed in movies and television, but rather the kind that would lay down its life for the sake of another.  A love that sacrifices itself for the benefit of the one being loved.  St. Paul eloquently expresses the meaning of real love in his first letter to the Corinthians.

  It’s too bad that Job’s friends did not have the benefit of this letter.

But we do.

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  I Corinthians 13:4-8

So what constitutes a devoted friend?  One who always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, always protects.

And now you know what the three friends did not.  Will it change how you live?

What are your suggestions for remaining a devoted friend to those who are going through difficult circumstances?  I want to hear your ideas!

So what do you do when a friend falls on hard times?  How do you bring comfort to a person who has lost a loved one?  How do you bring strength and encouragement to someone whose body is wasting away?  Most of us are very uncomfortable in these situations.  We know we should extend some consolation, some means of grace, but we often shy away because we feel inadequate to the task.  At a loss for what to say or how to act.

The Bible tells a story about a man named Job.  He is described as “blameless and upright” one who “fears God and shuns evil.”  And he was also very rich — in material possessions and in family relationships.    However, tragedy strikes Job and he loses virtually everything.  His material possessions, his children, his health.  Let’s let the text tell us what happens next:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job 2:11-3:1

It is important to note that Job’s friends start out on the right track here, and we can learn something from them.  They realized that their friend Job had suffered great tragedy.  They cared enough to take a journey to his place for the purpose of bringing him comfort.  They grieved deeply with him for the suffering and tragedy that he was experiencing.  And they offered him the gift of their presence — and silence.  Recognizing the depths of his grief, pain and suffering, they were wise enough to keep their mouths shut.  Really, what can you say in a situation like this?  “I understand?”  Of course they don’t.  “It will all work out?”  “It’s part of God’s plan?”  How could they know that?

So often when we are present with those who are grieving we think we have to say something.  Even worse, we think we have to say something profound, or witty, or spiritual.  I submit that the best thing we can do is keep our mouths shut.  And wait.  I think there is something comforting, something life giving, something strengthening when offer the gift of silent presence to those who are suffering.  And when we are caring enough, when we are loving enough — to wait for them.

We are often impatient when confronted with those in grief.  We want to push the process forward.  We want to offer our part and then move on.  But true love, true compassion — is patient.  Job’s friends patiently supported him with their quiet presence until he was finally ready to speak.   And when he spoke, the pain poured out.

I confess that I used to run from situations like Job’s.  And I hated the Christmas Carol events at nursing homes.  I didn’t know how to act or what to say.  But I learned what Job’s friends demonstrated here:  I didn’t need to have the right words.  I didn’t need to perform.  I just needed to be present.  To smile, to touch, to cry, to love.

How about you?  What have you learned about being with those who have suffered loss?  How do you bring comfort to those in the midst of suffering and sorrow?  I would love to know, because this is an area where most of us need to grow!

Oh, and Job’s friends?  While they start off the story with some great guidance regarding those who grieve, they turn into three goofs as the story goes on.  But that, as they say, is for another day!

I was talking to my cousin last week and in our conversation he quoted an individual who stated “Core values are something you are willing to be punished for.”  (Checking the internet, this quote may belong to Patrick Lencioni)  This got me to thinking about our stated values.  If I asked you to list your core values, what would you write down?  If I were to ask those closest to you to list your core values, what would they write down?  What about those in your neighborhood?  At your church or workplace?  Would there be a disparity between their list and yours?

The unexpected opportunity to spend the summer at home with our kids has underscored this issue for me.  You see, I have discovered that my daughter is deaf.  Maybe you have a child like this too.  You squat down to her level and start talking — and initially she makes eye contact somewhere in the neighborhood of  your face.  But pretty soon here eyes are wandering all over the room and she starts to fidget. Well, ok, she’s not really deaf,  she’s just not listening to me.  In the midst of my attempt to express a core family value, she has decided to take a little trip to her happy place.  Why?  Honestly, I don’t think kids care much about what we say.  They care about what we do.  And they believe in what we are willing to stand up for.  What we are willing to be punished for.

I often fall into the lecture mode with my kids, believing I can dazzle them with my knowledge and wit only to see their bright little eyes begin to glaze over with boredom.  Ouch.  And while they aren’t really listening to me, they are listening – to what I say to others and about about others.  And they are watching me – to see how I will act when the pressure is on, when the chips are down, when things go wrong.  And how I will act when they let me down.  They are watching me to see if I am willing to be punished for my values, or whether I jettison them when things get tough.  And I think what they really, really, want to know is will dad stick with his core values, even when I am the one doing the punishing?

If I’m brutally honest with myself, there is too big a gap between my stated values and what I live out when the pressure is on.  I think/hope/believe that each year I am closing that gap, but it is still  unacceptable.  There are things that need to change, adjustments that must be made.

What about you?  Do you have a gap?  Does something need to change?  Tell me what you think  Use the comments.  Or send me a message via the contact page.

 

Welcome to the new face of The Dangerous Journey.  Although the online address and format have changed, the mission remains the same.  Please take a moment to subscribe via RSS, e-mail, or simply “like” the Dangerous Journey Facebook site.  That way you will be able to keep up with all the latest.  Look for lots of changes to this site as it progresses over the next few days/weeks.  Also notice that all previous posts have been imported to this site as well.  I hope to have a scintillating post up again in the near future!  On to the journey!

It’s been a bit since I put up a new post.  I’ve decided that I needed to make some changes to this enterprise, and that has absorbed an increased amount of time.  I feel constrained by the limitations of blogger to accomplish both my near and long term objectives, so I have been investigating alternatives.  I will be moving my blogging over to a .org website this week.  I have acquired the domain name and just uploaded the necessary WordPress platform.  I’ll give you a heads up when things are rolling again!  Meanwhile, thanks for your patience!

In general, I have found that people fall into two broad categories.  Those who have goals, and those who don’t.  No one really wants to admit they don’t have goals, so those who don’t wont admit to it.  They would rather point to “flexibility” or “keeping their options open.”  Those who make goals may be tempted to believe that everyone else should have the same goals as them.  Or they may become enslaved to the goal and unaware of either their need to adjust to circumstances or to the differing needs of those around them.  I think both sides of this debate are tempted to look down on the other in a negative manner.

I have spent too much of my life on the “flexible” side of the coin.  Living in the moment is fun.  When you are young, keeping your options open is stimulating, interesting.  But you “wake up” after a few years and find out that you haven’t really gotten anywhere, because you weren’t really heading anywhere.  I finally “woke up” in my thirties and started heading somewhere, but I found that I was a bit late to the party and had a lot of catching up to do!

I have come to appreciate the value of goals — or as a friend of mine prefers to call them  – objectives ( I think he wants to retain some “flexibility” in his life).  By nature, some of us are a bit more on the “flexible” side and we have to work harder at defining our objectives.  On the other hand, we flexible types are a lot better at “change management.”  When things don’t go according to plan — which of course, they won’t, we adjust more quickly and with far less angst.

Jesus tells a couple of interesting stories to illustrate the importance of thinking carefully about being his disciple.  In Luke 14 he says: 

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’  “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  .  .  “

Pretty simple, really.  Let’s say your goal is to build a tower.  If you embark on the project with no real plan, just the idea of a tower and you are just going to go with the flow — you will likely fail and look like an idiot.  In reality, it is more the idea of a tower that you were in love with, not the actual completion of the tower project itself.  To accomplish a goal, quite often there is a necessary cascade of little goals that must be attained along the way that ultimately lead to the completion of the larger goal.  If we don’t have a clear goal and a process that we will accomplish that goal by, we will almost assuredly fail.

So, for those who like to be flexible, to avoid constraints, to be free and unfettered, consider that you may need to embrace the difficult discipline of goal setting and follow through on it.  And for those who live every moment of each day by a structured plan generated to attain their goals – consider that you may need to lighten up a bit.  Learn to be a bit more flexible.  Don’t take your eye off the goal, but enjoy the journey with those around you.

Which are you?  Goal driven?  Or flexible?  What do you think are the strengths/weaknesses of each?  Let me know in the comments!

Fear.  It’s everywhere.  It’s one of the ways the news media, advertisers and politicians get our attention.  As the upcoming election approaches, the shrill scream of certain doom reaches a fevered frenzy.  It’s profitable for them.  It’s disconcerting for the rest of us.   

“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary.  .  .  ”  Isaiah 8:12-14



  

Many years ago Vernon Grounds had me watch a video series as part of my philosophical learning.  I think it was called “The Existentialists” or something like that.  I remember watching a particular video that discussed the importance of Thomas Kuhn and his understanding of paradigms and paradigm shifts.  I had no idea how frequently this concept would help me understand the what was happening in the world around me over the ensuing years.   Here is a brief synopsis of what Kuhn argued (citation at end of quote):

“He argued that scientific thought is defined by “paradigms,” variously describing these as disciplinary matrixes or exemplars, i.e., conceptual world-views consisting of beliefs, values, and techniques shared by members of a given community, or an element in that constellation: concrete achievements used as models for research.  According to Kuhn, scientists accept a prevailing paradigm in “normal science” and attempt to articulate it by refining its theories and laws, solving various puzzles, and establishing more accurate measurements of constants.  Eventually, however, their efforts may generate anomalies;  these emerge only with difficulty, against a background of expectations provided by the paradigm. The accumulation of anomalies triggers a crisis that is sometimes resolved by a revolution that replaces the old paradigm with a new one.  One need only look to the displacement of Aristotelian physics and geocentric astronomy by Newtonian mechanics and helio-centrism for instances of such paradigm shifts.”  (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy2nd ed., Robert Audi ed. pp. 479)

 I want to widen his argument here from the focus on science to the bigger picture of how we think.  Everyone one of us approaches the world with a paradigm in place.  Unless you have been introduced to this concept, it is unlikely that you are aware of this.  You go through the day making decisions, choices, value judgements without really thinking about it at all.  You hold certain beliefs to be true and act according to those beliefs without questions.  In fact, it never occurs to you to question.  Much of this is operating “behind the scenes” in your cognitive process without your conscious knowledge at all.  When questions arise, you look for answers that align with the paradigm that you (subconsciously) hold.  It never occurs to you that you should look outside of your paradigm (worldview).  If it does cross your mind, it is likely that you would rather quickly reject the idea.  Your default worldview is “just the way it is.”  It is how you understand the world to actually be.  What does not fit our paradigm/worldview is often cast off as being “wrong.”

But what happens when the anomalies arise?  If it is only occasional, we can often live with a bit of tension in our system.  But what happens if anomalies begin to stack up?  What then?  Kuhn posits that at a certain point a crisis erupts and we are forced to create a new paradigm that accounts for this new understanding of the way things really are.

I find myself in possession of a plethora of anomalies that are triggering an existential crisis of the soul.  My initial spiritual paradigm was built off of a flannel graph board presented in the boiler room of the church basement.  I was a young child taught by well meaning wonderful ladies, but their grasp of deep theological truth was a bit lacking.  I can still vividly picture the flannel graph depiction that showed that dark black cloud of sin that interposed itself between God and me every time I sinned.  And that black cloud of darkness blocked all communication between He and I until it was wiped away by an appropriate confession on my part.

When I became an adult, I walked ran away from God.  I had no use for a flannel graph God and legalistic/fundamentalist Christians.  However, deep within my psyche I retained a desire for the Jesus of the Gospels — he seemed so different than the fundamentalist flannel graph one.  After a few years of futile living, I opened my Bible to try and understand if there really was a God, and what He might really be like — and what really was the deal with that flannel graph God.  I poured over the Amplified Bible version of 1st John until I had a revolution of the soul that brought a new paradigm — one that tore that dark black cloud of sin off of the flannel graph and gave me access to a loving Father who desires for his wayward children to return to Him that he might celebrate their return.

While I left behind my childhood paradigm of a flannel graph God, I find that much of my subconscious thought and understanding is still deeply informed and influenced by a childhood upbringing in fundamentalism and dispensationalism.  And thus I find myself on the brink of a revolution.  And revolutions are scary.   Particularly since our definition of a  paradigm notes that it can be a conceptual world-views consisting of beliefs, values, and techniques shared by members of a given community.   A revolution that leads to a new paradigm may leave us without friends, without community and with an uncertain future.  Hence they are dangerous.  The tension within my paradigm has been too great for too long.  This blog is part of the revolution.  And that is why it is called “The Dangerous Journey.”

What’s your paradigm?  What are your anomalies?  What are your tensions?  Will you undertake a revolution?  Listen to God, follow his heart, live the dangerous journey.