Living Within Tension vs. Living With Intention?

The English language is intriguing, unruly; often unpredictable. Sometimes when lost in thought, I find thoughts. Then I text those thoughts to myself. The above title is one, and instead of texting it to myself, I sent it to my wife.

My text: Ponder this: Living within tension. Living with intention.

Her response: Ponderation in action.

Me: Lol

Say the two phrases out loud. Tricky, eh?

Seriously though, without getting too intense about these two phrases, I’m still pondering. I want so much for those twin thoughts, though fraternal, to be identical. I desire for them to get along. Could they be a both/and instead of an either/or? I mean, it was a catchy catch, don’t you think?

On the other hand, what’s the big deal if they are stand-alone ideas? Each thought has possibilities for a commencement speech. A preacher could give a three point sermon on either of them. But throw these two together in a dark alley and who knows. Would they make nice? Would they rumble like Sharks and Jets?

I don’t know. It seems my mind is constantly on the lookout for resolution, for binary ideas to, in the end, cohere. The ole happily-ever-after backdrop slowly cranking by the chaos of life to keep hope on the up and up.

Now, before you write me off as a fuddy-duddy pessimist, consider the possibility that the tension within which I live is like a kindred soul. It’s like one who tells you you’re full of it, grabs you by the ankles, holds your feet to the fire, and then washes them as Jesus would.

If you have a friend like that, consider yourself fortunate.

Tension. Intention. Can they coexist? More to the point, can one exist without the other? There is a risk of living intentionally, no? I mean the best of intentions sometimes get caught in the gears of the tension. Does the tension drive the intention or is it the other way around? Wait. What?

Two philosophers walk into a bar… (That’s to ease the tension.)

Recently my wife mentioned I set my jaw often, almost like I’m biting the side of my lip. It’s as if my lips fix in tension, one on top of the other, almost touching, like Clint Eastwood.  Now I notice when her eyes say to my mouth, “Don’t think too hard.”

Thinking is overrated sometimes, but underrated most of the time. My thinkery often breaks down, but once in a while, by the grace of God, I’m able to lay rails down; parallel seemingly resistant thoughts into a semblance of coherence.

Here’s one for all the life coaches out there:

Live with intention within the tension.

Do it Gerald.

Faith and/or Doubt.

Life verse. Seems a bit narrow minded to pick one verse to frame a life. I get it though, those who tattoo a verse on their calf don’t throw the rest of the Bible to the wind. If I plucked one scripture out of the barrel, John 11:35 comes to mind. “Jesus wept.” Simple. Poignant. I mean, I used to cry all the time. Yet, for the past week or so, I’ve thought about “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I even had to look up the reference: Mark 9:24.

Yep, those words track the best with my life. Not because I’m a big fat doubter. Notice the order…”I believe” comes first. Actually “Lord” comes first, which assumes an “I’m your servant” attitude. But that aside, the tension wedged between belief and unbelief is palpable. It’s as down to earth as dirt itself.

Yes, I walk by faith, and trip on doubt. Like cracks in the sidewalk, if I don’t look down I might stumble over the fissures.

These are the words of a father who had a son with a real problem. A mute spirit got ahold of his boy a long while back. A situation which throbbed for years. This dad, shoulders slumped, carried concern for his son, and when the disciples showed up, he asked for help. Who knows how many times the dad witnessed the spirit in a throw down with his son, but when the equivalent to Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show arrived in town, well… They tried and failed, but the dad didn’t cave, he went to the top. I can almost hear him firmly say, “Let me speak with the manager.”

This father was desperate, probably tired, and maybe a little resigned. He had heard of the healings. The news got around, and by the time he and his son arrived, a crowd had already gathered. The scriptures called it a multitude. Multitude schmultitude. The Dad cut to the front and told Jesus his story.

So, Jesus gets the scoop, sighs, points out the disciple’s lack of belief, and beholds the son who had a mute spirit. That spirit who, by the way, shut him up, threw him down, and caused foam to come out of his mouth. Then he gnashed his teeth and became stiff as a board too. Wait. Gnashed his teeth? What? Gah-nash. Gah! The definition means “to grind ones teeth.” The closest this son got to talking was grinding his teeth.

Almost doctor-like, Jesus enquires, “How long has this been going on?”

“Since childhood.”

Well, that explains a lot. A dad watching his son struggle and struggle and struggle. This was real, old, and chained to their lives.

Ah, the struggle. The ole “life is difficult” as M. Scott Peck would say. Difficulties come. That’s a fact. The struggle is real. Fact again.

Take the apostle Peter when he jumped ship and strolled out to Jesus on the water. He had no particular problem, except he wanted to be close to Jesus, ASAP. He saw his Lord standing atop of the waves and stepped off. No snorkel. No life vest. Just steps of desire and belief. Then pistol Pete began sinking like a rock when his focus was taken off the Lord. He looked down, saw the waves lapping over his toes and remembered his Jr. High science lab. He was a fisherman too, for crying out loud. Fish swim. Boats float. Humans? Well, they sink.

The father of the mute spirited son came in the context of struggle.

Peter came from desire. Impulse. Longing.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how we exercise our belief. Experientially, when I take my belief for a walk, the resistance is not far behind, or ahead for that matter.

It’s as if the father asked, “Jesus, my belief only takes me so far, can you help me the rest of the way?”

In the story Jesus’ response to the father’s words was almost a non-response. Jesus didn’t rebuke the dad. Jesus didn’t fold his arms and point at the father’s unbelief and say, “Until you have perfect belief I can’t honor your request.” No. Jesus takes action. Jesus shows compassion.

It’s comforting to me that Jesus can operate within the tension. It’s the tension between present reality and the desire for a better reality I suppose.

So, Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.

On Finding a Rhythm for 2019

I pray the arrhythmia of 2018 will shut down. I’m not talking government, unless it is my self-governing murmurs. Sure, the beat goes on, whether I feel the pounding or not. The heart is more than tissue, more than musculature. Mine? Well, do I will it to thrum? Nope.

Anyway, age and mileage bring with them more awareness of lack of control. The Serenity Prayer will be in the queue, yet there are aspects of control still in place. I chose to awake a bit early. I chose to cream my coffee. I chose to sit and read, think, write, and pray. What other things can I chose? How about you?

We can slap a label on our new and improved choices of 2019…Resolutions. Breaking out in hives yet? You and I are free to change up our choices, but do we believe it?

There are some change ups I desire this year. The usual deflate my gut and pump up my pecks, sure. Less Little Debbie, and more rabbit food, yes. Give the word ‘budget’ more weight in our daily operations, fo sho. But what I see as higher on the shelf is relational changes. Starting with God, and working my way down through the village.

You see, I would rather hermit myself (In this house? Pshaw), read, write, and skip the arithmetic. My poetry will protect me, right? What a crock. I struggle with reactive attachment, and in this house of adoption, there is plenty of that to go around. If you don’t know what RA is, the Reader’s Digest version is “please come closer…get away from me.”

So, about 2019, here are a few of me changes by the grace of God.

-Be more of an active listener, meaning eye-contact, and attentive body posture. Oh, and not formulating an impressive response while appearing to hear. Uh, Jerry, remember there’s a difference between hearing and listening.

-Touching, hugging, when appropriate.

-Share my thoughts. Use words. Audible words. Like open and shut my mouth while my vocal chords rub each other.

-See the good in others, and let them know.

-Be thankful to God and others in my life.

-Initiate junk. Anything. Put a dent in 2019 for crying out loud! (Thanks Mom, for that little phrase. Miss you.)

Here are some of my relational reso resol resolu resolutions. You got any?

When 2020 rolls around, I hope we can all look back and find better connections, and a splash more love.

Here’s to 2019!

The Most Interesting Man in the World

Yeah, you might have seen the commercials. I think they’re advertising a beer, anyway, I got to thinking… Would I really like to be the “most” in anything?

Even the most interesting man has to accomplish the most uninteresting of duties. Take a leak. Brush his teeth. Eat some eggs.

I caught myself thinking “I want to be the most humble man in the world.” I don’t know if that is a paradox or an oxymoron. Maybe it’s simply moronic.

Maybe I want to be the most “telling-it-slant-poet” in the world. I would lay down lines which echo for a hundred or so years.

Being the most… Most. Most. Most. What a funny word. The more I ponder it, the sillier it sounds. Say ‘most’ out loud enough times and well, what do you think?

Honestly, have you ever met anyone aspiring to be the most UNinteresting person in the world? Maybe you have, and just didn’t notice. Did you see what I did there?

I think God-math comes into play as far as being the ‘most’ in any endeavor. You know, it is in dying we live. It is in denying we receive. Like walking backwards to settle into the starting blocks… I think.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp started all this mental wondering. She got all up in my stuff by reminding me of Jesus’ words…”Unless a grain of wheat dies, it abides alone.”

That is all.

Zip-tied or slipped tide. (Sorry, I didn’t know what to title this one.)

My eyes welled up yesterday. I felt hijacked by a compassion stored in the fruit cellar of my heart. A nice surprise.

Over the last few years of my life I’ve been doing some soul shifting. That’s right, soul shifting, not soul surfing, or even soul shaping. Shift happens. Well…not so fast.

I didn’t slouch on the sofa waiting for life to slap me across the face. I did, however, put my will down, and backed away slowly. What seemed like striving to free myself from zip-tied hands was really fear manipulation. Every time I attempted to wrangle out of the cuffs, my wrists bore witness of the struggle. Funny, the more this happened, the more it appeared as if I brandished a razor blade on them.

Is true freedom a suicide pact of sorts? May I be bold enough to say I was afraid to live and scared to death? How dramatic!

Anyone who knows me, knows my life is full of life, yet for years (Decades? Even before my thirty something years of mid-life crisis? Since my mother’s water broke?) I settled into a fallback position of sorts. My therapist described it like sitting a hundred yards from the house in the tall grass observing my family’s goings on. It’s what I knew. It’s what I was shown, father effect you might say. Father affect more like it. My Dad had the affect too, at least that was my experience of him. I miss him and wish we could talk about the similar wounds we carry. Our heart rates seemed flatter, not flattering.

Now, my thumper is fluttering on occasion. I feel, and in the feeling comes water tension on my eyes–A vision-smearing lubrication reminding me I still have a heart, and not to be afraid of it breaking, even breaking into joy. In our family there are plenty of opportunities for both kinds of breaking. Who am I kidding? I’m fairly sure every family fractures their hearts in wringing life out in close proximity.

“Oh the humanity!”

I think that might sum up this little stream of sub consciousness micro tome.

I’m feeling more human…more humane, and by the grace of God my heart will break open more frequently. The zip ties are loosening and I’m not as afraid.

Peace and prayers peeps.

Freedom from Information Act

Information age. We’re in it. There’s still writing on the wall, many walls to be exact. We have real news, fake news, and real fake news. 2016 was full of it, and many chimed in to spin it to be in it.

I want out. Where’s the sand in which I can stick my head? Where is the place I can be informed, but not over-informed, spun to death as it were. Even my thoughts here are on this little platform are waiting to be picked up by a passing tech-train to the cyber-out-there.

I recently read a blog about using social media in a positive encouraging way. I get it, and I want you to come away with lighter hearts and a more encouraged outlook. I have to face it though, Facebook gets the better of me sometimes. I made a not-so-smart move and picked up my smart phone in the middle of a conversation. I thought Facebook had more to say than the person sitting across from me. What a putz.

If information pulls us away from a “now” moment, a connection in real time, then let us lay down our arms, turn the volume off, flip our phones over, and see the other. Simple.

At times we need to initiate the Freedom from Information Act and form a more perfect union with those in front of our actual faces.

#preachingtomeself

Stop. Put your screens down, and back away slowly. Happy Newer Year!

What Dreams May Come

I know I’m in the thick of it now…Tuesday, just before I woke, I dreamt an avalanche of parcels knocked me off my feet and buried me alive. I had a ring of sweat around my neck, and I was breathing heavily. I sat on the edge of my bed staring at the pile of Target, Amazon, and Kohl’s packages that began their takeover of the alcove of our bedroom. For a few anxious minutes I couldn’t tell what was real. Was I awake?

This past Tuesday was bookended with humbling, hilarious (In hindsight), and painful circumstances.

When walking to my van for work, I hit a patch of ice, and fell flat-backed on the concrete, sending my lunch bucket flying. Then I heard the contents splay on the driveway like a drumroll. I looked over and saw the equivalent of a bag-lady’s purse. You see, I carry no lunch in the bucket, just odd junk-drawer stuffs. Maybe a book. A brush. Lip balm. Keys. A thousand delivery notices with equal portions of pens. Toothbrush. Receipts. Wallet. Eyeliner. Not a stitch of food, unless cough drops count. I managed to peel myself off the ground and scoop the stuff back into my trash-can of a lunch pail.

I won’t mention the patch of ice was from a missing downspout from the corner of my garage. It sits leaning on the inside corner of my garage waiting to be reattached. The bent tube has been waiting since spring winds amputated it from its so-called fixed position.

That was the beginning of the day…

Fast forward to Eight O Dark. On one of my last rounds (It was like a boxing match you know), I stacked the seven parcels of odd sizes in a Jenga-type tower just outside my package car on the pavement.

Do you remember, when a child, you noticed the old men cinch up their trousers before sitting down? I never understood why they did that, unless argyle socks are something to show off. When playing on the living room floor I saw colorful socks with a pinch of hairy leg attached, and thought the view from the knees down was a world of its own.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah…

My pants were sagging a bit. Not low enough to expose anything or force a duck-waddle gait. Just hanging around, you know. The packages stood like a skyline under the streetlight. I crouched down to gather the load. That’s when I heard it. It echoed around the silent night, holy night. It seemed the seams gave way as I went low like a Sumo wrestler. If it were a scene in a movie, I could see the camera panning back and back and back as the riiiiiiiiip reverbed out into the universe.

Dramatic pause. Really. I just kinda froze for a moment, and tried to recall the made up curse words of the dad in A Christmas Story. Darn. As the cool air affirmed my demise I acquiesced to the rending of my garment. I sighed, then lifted, and hoofed the load to the doorstep. I rang the bell in a sprinters stance.

That was Tuesday, woken by a dream, and humbled by circumstance. Two more full weeks to go. Never dull. Never dull.

15 Minutes on Family

Recently I wrote that “family is our resting heart rate.”

When we’re tired of playing hide and seek we can make a run for it. We run for home base.

I was a scrapper, a wee lad with dirty finger nails and iron-on patches covering the knees of my jeans. Our house sat on the dead end of a street. The brick porch leading up to the front door was our plopping point. When my mother blew the whistle we were homed in.

There are days when I wish I could hop in a DeLorean, rap on the flux capacitor, and set off for the early seventies. All my sibs and I would fill the front porch and get snot silly and tell stories and listen to Motown or Beatles.

Then I realized that our patchwork family does the same thing today. We find the fun in our dysFUNction. We find a peace within our imperfection. It’s a safe house and God shows up to let us know there’s room to grow, but “sit on the porch a bit…look at each other, love on each other.”

Twelve Minutes on Color

It is the contrast in color which illuminates autumn. Looking at one tree’s vibrant blushing brightens my imagination and appreciation of God’s artwork in the midst of the work of transformation. When I pan back and take in a bigger frame of color against color a greater wonder fills me.

We live on hill, and from the back deck a valley of autumn’s attitude can be taken in. We moved here five years ago this month, and we are grateful for the view.

It makes me think of the possibility of unity in diversity. God must believe it too, with this big fat metaphor of fall. This one line of poetry, the tree line, gets me thankful, thankful for my eyes.

Outta time.

Twelve Minutes on Hope

Hey, I found that “Hope” chapter, because I found my beat up copy of Mere Christianity while cleaning my disaster of an office.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity on Hope.

Desire, emotions, and feeling things have been suspect of late. I doubt my feelings and pin my desires behind my back as it were, wondering if they will betray me. I put hope in that category too. Hope isn’t an emotion, but it can keep emotions somewhat awake, don’t you think?

This world, in some respects, is a mirage…emotions too, are like steam rising off the pavement after a brief hot summer day. Our culture seems to be mood dependent. Well, if I really soak myself in the cultural abyss, (oh, so dramatic!) it’s more like the Moody Blues.

I guess that’s when faith, HOPE, and love enter, and move us beyond mood dependency.

Times up. Thoughts?