Archive for the 'Living Well' Category

04
Oct
11

Frail Honor, the Most Dangerous Kind

Well THIS is not what I wanted to write about. But there it is, Freshly Pressed, all about the protest on Wall Street and the virtue of the down trodden. Our future is in a lot of trouble. Seeing all these young Americans out in the cold to support their cause reminds me of an accidental moment of clarity I experienced in high school. It was Veteran’s Day, and instead of enjoying our new snow, I was sitting in English Lit. I’m pretty patriotic, so I had the thought that reading Lawrence Furlenghetti may not be the best way to honor our precious vets. I stood up and mentioned to the class how our time spent studying poetry was indeed undermining the sacrifices made by generations of veterans. Within minutes the tempera paint and posterboard were pilfered from the art room and we had some respectable signs. We paraded through the halls and quickly gathered a following that represented the ENTIRE school. Every student left class to support the Veteran’s Day cause. There we were, in the falling snow, on the side of the highway drinking hot chocolate and shouting something about freedom and sacrifice. The media was there within the hour and we clambered for their attention as they expounded on our devout patriotism.

Obviously, we were all lying. But the question is, were we lying to the media and our teachers? Or were we lying to ourselves? In that moment, every one of us was convinced that it was our teenage duty to honor the veterans. I was a little proud of my act of rebellion. As a teen, I was NOT rebellious and this would go a long way toward redeeming my straight-laced reputation. However, the pride was tinged with a nameless fear. I knew very well that the only reason the entire school walked out behind me was because they wanted to. I had successfully appealed to their inner-most wishes for a day off and I made it look honorable. At that moment, human nature stripped a layer and I discovered the simplicity of manipulation. Turn a person’s frailty into that which makes him honorable and he will stand for much less than he could be. It is easy to recline in one’s excuses, but so difficult to live up to an expectation.

Now, I see these protesters on Wall Street and all over the country, youth who were traded honor for mediocrity, and I am sad for our future. I would like a youth that is prepared to rise up and embrace the challenges ahead, enjoy the freedom of our new found globalism, and spread a better way of life to the truly downtrodden masses (not the ones being fed organic veggies and pasta in the street). Unfortunately, what sleeps on Wall Street right now is only bringing this nation further into despair. With it goes the hope that would bring prosperity to those who need it most.

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31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

22
Oct
10

Was Huey Lewis Right?

Tell me, just how powerful IS love? This question surfaces every. single. day. Love is what legends are made of. For centuries, there have been sonnets, poems, songs, novels, epics, and movies written about love. If the passing twitterpation didn’t do some damage, then surely the novelty would have worn off, right? I am not a romantic. If I happen to watch a romcom, it is simply because I was alone and tired of watching things blow up. If I happen to watch an epic romance, it is likely because of the leading eye candy or because of an interesting historical setting. The

    Titanic

brand of quickie gimme-72-hours-and-I’ll-die-for-you romance, however, makes me want to kick puppies and I am a pretty big fan of puppies.

As I (gasp) age, I am noticing certain truths about life. Mainly, love is powerful stuff. Our culture has made excellent progress in destroying this, weakening the power by obstructing the source, but still it prevails. It drives the human race. We live to achieve love, however misguided our efforts. It may manifest in our work, dress, knowledge, physique, or simple materialism, but love drives our society. The problem is, we strive for that which is undefined. We don’t even admit to looking for love, rather a “hook-up” or even “soul mate,” allowing the fates to intervene, but it is love we seek.

The media has taken full advantage of this definitive failure and lures us into a trap of pleasure and instant gratification. We fall victim to this at younger and younger ages, generation by generation. The media has sold us a confusing substitute for love – lust. I could easily argue that lust is even more powerful than love itself. Lust takes governors and presidents from their honored posts to darkened offices and hallways full of scandal. Lust misguides teens and leaves them huddled against their broken dreams. Lust divides families and sells hundreds of thousands of daughters into submission. Particularly tragic – lust takes a teen girls heart and mind and plays a dangerous game of keepaway, telling her who to be and how to act until she forgets that she started with a plan, a goal.

Love, on the other hand, doesn’t leave anybody wanting more. Instead, it leaves us able to give more. This is amazing, all we can share when we walk in the comfort of true love. True love can come from a parent, a friend network, even a spouse or significant other, though I believe that offers nearly insurmountable challenge. Love is divine. The Bible says that God is Love. When we truly contemplate the transforming power of love, it stands to reason that it is supernatural. Yet, in the world we live in, love is hindered by human frailty. While we look to spouses for this deep, committed, emotion, we fail to admit that the person we look to is limited by his own frailty. Particularly a spouse, who would look to me for the same validation. I think this is exactly why God says to love Him first, with all my heart with all my soul. God’s love, once realized is everlasting and unfailing. God will never shut me out because of a bad day. He will always love me and treat me objectively in that very love relationship. My spouse may try, but realistically, the world is going to impede his ability to do so. If I hold God in the highest esteem, though, and love Him first, what is reflected in my soul is eternal and divine and my love ceases to fail.

Eternal, unfailing love. It moves the world. Nations go to war. Nations come in peace. The addict finds healing. The abused are transformed. We need the fortitude to love without condition, without self-interest. We truly need the power of love.

01
Aug
10

Last weekend, I traded my fresh cut suburban paradise for a moonlit forest high up in the mountains. When I arrived at the campsite my family had set up, it was dark and all I was aware of was moonlight and a crowd of very concerned loved ones (we spent two hours lost in the forest on the way). Morning unveiled a spectacular view of rocky peaks jutting up over the treeline and reflecting in the lake below. It unveiled something else, too, something unexpected.

Freedom.

After years of wondering why anyone would leave the security of paved roads, stoplights, and Target just to get dirty in the woods and sleep on the ground, understanding settled around me like Superman’s cape. Up here, there were no cellular towers (something we rued the night before as we wandered over miles of backroads). I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t bring any make up, and in the interest of keeping warm, my clothes were mismatched. My dog was off a leash and my children were exploring the wilds of the forest. There were no child molesters to worry about, no schedules to keep, and, in the greatest paradigm shift I have experienced, there were no social standards to maintain – nobody to impress. For these moments, I had no persona to maintain, but plenty of time to ponder the person I wished to be.

Looking over the quiet of the morning lake, I fantasized about building a cabin with all the beetlekill pine. By hand. I would piece business suits and cocktail dresses into quilts and curtains. I would start a small garden, then grow it into something bigger until we had gourmet meals cooked on the open fire. The children would learn all they needed right by my side. I would never be beholden to anyone or anything. This only lasted until the coffee kicked in. I wonder how many regrettable decisions were made pre-coffee?

I hate it when people say that we don’t actually live in a free country anymore. Americans enjoy freedoms that others don’t even have the privilege to fathom. However, there is truth to the statement. Free will was bestowed upon us by our Creator. For just one moment, contemplate the implications of this. It is this very will that gives us the power to doubt, that drives us to find our own answers, that pulls us away from faith and strips our need for trust.

Yet, it is this gift of the will that completes the Creation as we become ourselves. We choose our beliefs, our ideals, and our priorities. Then we guide our lives accordingly. But with what compromise? That is when priorities become the issue. By the time I finished that contemplative cup of coffee, I was not just willing, but anxious to apply make-up, put on uncomfortable shoes, shove my lower half into pantyhose, and and run under the crack of a gun just to have running water complete with privacy.

Free will, properly regarded, is that which makes us great. It separates us from the animals and even from the angels. But we often fail to regard. We were given a perfect, Godly gift, but we are human and The Gift was brought down to us. While the human spirit is great, humanity is not. Humanity is guided by the physical and the physical bears limitation. In the years since the founding of this nation, we have seen the human spirit thrive. In a mere 500 years, this land has gone from savage to productive and wildly developed because of the spirit of greatness. We can travel the globe in a matter of hours and can have the world at our fingertips in a matter of seconds. Untold fortunes are made and lost each day from ingenuity, hard work, or greed. Is the great fortune our great failing? This is where spirit meets physical. An ability to do the great things of our imagination shrouded in responsibility and stewardship. What is the cost for amassing such fortune? How many compromises are struck each day as a man says the end justifies the means? Every compromise erodes greatness and yet, because of this society we have built, success is not possible without compromise. We have compromised greatness for that which we already know and in so doing, we have redefined success to fit a media mold. We forget to follow the pursuits of imagination because we believe we know what is beautiful and we have disguised success as such.

Today, we reap the rewards of all that has been sown. Every plan is laid with a plan B close behind as we anticipate failure along the way. Athletes, once national heroes, are in no way great. World leaders fail us daily, constantly. Business men are not moral pillars. We accept this and account for it in our daily lives, making our own plan B. Then we forget the failure and compromise the standard, which lowers yet again. We compromise for comfort, for success, for a future that grows more bleak.

We know what is great. Instinctively, looking over that lake, I momentarily glimpsed the true freedom that bore such enterprise, the very enterprise that has shackled us since. The time has come to stop settling. We can no longer excuse those who force us to compromise for their agenda. We must strive for greatness and forget Plan B.

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

14
Dec
09

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

I call it the Blaze of Glory. It happens when one does not simply transgress, but actually fails so miserably in an aspect of life that he is forever changed. Not just him, but those around him and those who know of him. Such is the life of Tiger Woods right now. I don’t want to pick on Tiger because any of us could find ourselves in such a predicament. He is simply a good example of what we all are capable of. Though I generally dislike celebrities, Tiger was on my good list. Watching him play and interact with fans and press was reassuring, that good people can make it and stay good.

Then he was found in the street next to his SUV and everything changed – Blaze of Glory. His just keeps on blazing, too, brighter and brighter with each porn star that flares up.

So is Tiger really a bad man? Near the end of Matthew 7, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives some of the most famous Biblical advice. He says that a wise man builds his house on a rock so it can withstand the wind, the rain, and the flood. The fool, he says, builds his house on sands that shift and it will not survive. Of course, this is good advice. With 2000+ years of construction technology under our belts, it is common sense. We all know to come in from the rain. Our houses are built on the rock and churches are full of hurting people who have come home to escape the storm. A few chapters later, James goes so far as to say that a trial is an opportunity for real joy. He is right. This is when we grow, when we learn, and when we live under a certain restraint.

What Jesus failed to mention, though, is our love of fun in the sun. When life is good, we leave the shelter of home and we go to the beach. We settle into the sand, taking advantage of its shiftiness to install a flimsy umbrella, then we bask in the goodness of it all. The trouble with the beach is, if a sun bather falls asleep, her toes will be wet as the tide changes. She will probably be burned, too, unless she used good sunscreen. In these good times, it is easy to forget the Lord, and there is real danger in the sand that shifts beneath us. When times are difficult, we retreat to him. We pray. We ask for guidance and wisdom, and I would be willing to say that the wise take steps to avoid temptation. When things improve, though, we venture out, forgetting our prayers, feeling wise in our own right, and lacking any guidance. We go to play in the sun and it feels so good. It is far too easy in these good times to find ourselves lost, burned, and maybe even regretting foolishness. Funny that the trials James speaks of can bring joy into our lives and these easy times can burn us. So much better if we could just remember that even if we stray from the Rock itself, we should still remember the sunscreen.

22
Oct
09

Aahhhh…Seventeen Again

The plot may be Hollywood’s most worn out cliche, but I can’t help but love the movie “17 Again.” Regardless of the overdone plot, it is fresh, witty, and heartfelt with a message that is almost foreign to Hollywood.

Plus, the cougar in me is quite taken with Zac Efron (eewwww…that was my outside typing).

Beyond the young, young hottie, though, is an interesting contrast between youth and maturity. Youth is bombastic. I wish it were contagious. Children are nurtured and encouraged and in these conditions they flourish. As they hover near adulthood, they are full of bravado and really can take on the world. Pepsi has an amazing commercial right now that portrays the spirit of youth as that which moves a nation and I don’t think that they are far from the truth.

Then it happens. It happened in the movie when Zac’s character made the very grown up choice to raise an unexpected family. I’m sure we can all remember when it began for us. First, Adulthood lures us away with the freedom to make some choices for our selves, but before we know it, it has us tangled by our feet. One choice leads to another, then we have to take responsibility. Then comes the most vicious assault, the point of no return, self-doubt. This is where the adult falters and what steals the bombast of youth.

While a solid self-check is a good thing, self-doubt is destructive. It steals the confidence we had to make dreams come true and even to stand for principle. Choices that seemed simple from the protection of our youth become more and more difficult when the mortgage is stares us down from the first of the month. We trudge through adulthood with the tattered memory of youthful verve.

What if it were different? If we could hold onto that hope and the uncompromising innocence that comes with it, would we be better off as a society? I think that we would. I would never suggest that we walk away from personal responsibility – ever – but I strongly feel that if we can hold onto something inside that is empowering, we will be much better for it. It is detrimental to allow our youth to be ripped away from us; instead, we have to let go, making decisions along the way. We have to mature with intentionality that gives us the control we thought we had when we were young. Only then can we protect ourselves, the id, according to Freud, with the love and care that we deserve. When we make the effort to care for ourselves, we can extend this to those around us. If we fail and our lives are in tatters, it is impossible to live in true selflessness.




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