Wednesday Morning Musing

I just finished reading “The Ocean at the End of  the Lane” by Neil Gaiman.

Near the end he wrote the following:

”I said, “You don’t have to take me home. I could stay with you. I could wait until Lettie comes back from the ocean. I could work on your farm, and carry stuff, and learn to drive a tractor.”

She said, “No,” but she said it kindly. “You get on with your own life, Lettie gave it to you. You just have to grow up and try and be worth it.”

A flash of resentment. It’s hard enough being alive, trying to survive in the world and find your place in it, to do the things you need to do to get by, with out wondering if the thing you just did, whatever it was, was worth someone having..if not died, then having given up her life. It wasn’t fair.”

When I read those words I felt the bitter sting of my own resentment. Not toward any other person. But, resentment toward myself. For, I too, know of someone who performed a similar sacrifice on my behalf. A sacrifice that I am ashamed to say that I have not ‘grown up and been worth it.’

I’ve allowed myself to be turned from the path I was given to trod.

“Be sensible.”
“Don’t be selfish.”
“Remember, you now have a family to support.”
“Go ahead and do that. But, remember, it’s ONLY a hobby. It can never be a real vocation.”
“Sit still and do this task.”
“You wrote this? Is there something wrong with you?”
“Get a hair cut!”
“Follow these rules and you’ll find true peace and happiness.”

“Jesus didn’t die so that you could do whatever you want!”

Didn’t he? What then was the purpose? So that I could live forever in some so-called paradise where I would still need to follow those rules? A place somewhere ‘out there’ where I would still need to conform to someone else’s idea of who I am?

No.

I don’t believe he did.

Someone wrote that Jesus once said, “ I came that life they may have, and abundantly they may have (it).” (Sometimes when translated word for word, Greek sounds kinda like Yoda talking!) If that’s true, what then constitutes that ‘abundant’ life?

 

Some say that giving in to the expectations that others have placed on us is that way. It’s a challenge that all caring humans must accept and engage in. Follow the rules; meet their expectations and the reward will be worth it.

Will it?

Others may respond with, “We must follow those rules so that an ordered society can flourish. It’s not about YOU! It’s about the greater good!”

Uh huh, yeah, I get it. My dreams, that part of me that should grow up to show that the sacrifice was worth it, should be suborned for the sake of others. So that by my sacrifice others will have this same obligation placed on their shoulders. Then they can do the same and the obligation for the greater good can spread exponentially throughout the world. Is THAT what you mean?

IS THAT THE ABUNDANT LIFE?

If it is, I am truly not interested.

Yes, I get it that we have responsibilities. We need to eat and pay the bills. We need to nurture and protect those whose lives are intertwined with our own. I’m not debating that at all. And, I do think that there is meaning and fulfillment in meeting those responsibilities.

But, what about nurturing and protecting that person who lives within me? That person for whom the sacrifice was made? Does that person get relegated to row ZZ in the upper deck? That’s what we’re taught. Isn’t it?

And, all the while I shrink. My spirit atrophies. I become a shriveled shell shackled and shamed into being someone I was never meant to be.

All of this tells me that, no, I haven’t been able to “be worth it.” Everything has been done with an eye to making someone else happy. That has led to some pretty harsh lapses. It seems that when we don’t care for ourselves, something inside eventually rebels and life can go to hell in a particle accelerator at nearly the speed of light. Then that shell becomes more than shriveled and shackled. It becomes shattered.

So, what now?
Where does someone turn for redemption?
For fulfillment?
For a glimpse of the ‘abundant life?’

I know that it may sound trite. But, I think that the only place to turn is to that person who offered that original sacrifice. I think that to touch the heart and mind of that person is key to unlocking the prison in which the true “me” lives. Or, the true “you.”

For me, it’s past time to break out and move forward. Sunday a Bishop of our Anglican church spoke. He shared several stories about people who asked God what they should do with their lives. They listened. They moved forward. They didn’t become rich and famous. Some would say they weren’t even all that successful. But, they lived their calling. They grew up and showed that the sacrifice made for them was truly worth it.

I hope that I can follow them. I hope when it’s all said and done the One Who sacrificed can look at me and say, “Yeah, it was worth it.”

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Which way? God Knows

This morning as I sat in contemplation, I began to think of the choices that people make during their lives. In the tradition that I came out of, people spent their lives trying to “discern” God’s will for them. We would fret and fume about making the so-called ‘right’ choices. We certainly did not want to make a wrong one and risk at the very least God’s blessing. And, at the worst, God’s condemnation. It was a nasty way to live. Always on the edge. Not quite knowing. Waiting for some Damascus road experience so that we could move forward with some degree of certainty.
As I reflected on this, the following began to form in my mind.

Many paths there are that we may choose.
Where do they lead?
God knows.
Which shall I choose? The one with rich, green grass?
What about the one flag’d gray?
Perhaps, the one of rut and mud?
God knows.
“Choose any,” a voice did say.
“For upon all I will with you stay.”

I think it doesn’t really matter. Follow you heart.
For God will be present and will bless wherever we roam.

Only You Can Provide What I Need

I am currently working through a course on writing by a guy named Jeff Goins. I’ve been a fan of his for several months. Of course, his first concern is his own well-being. But, in the process he offers help to those of us who are trying to find ourselves in the world of published writers. Part of the education process for writers is to ask for opinions. Now, for those of us who have fragile egos, like every artist on the planet, this can be daunting. However, because I want to improve at this craft, I am going to ask you, my readers, for some feedback.

I started this blog in 2009. Since then I have published 223 posts. I have received 658 views. From all of that…I have 19 comments. Now, that indicates that either no one is reading the blog. Or, that no one is taking the opportunity to comment. (I prefer the latter. Just cuz of my ego and all.)

To be fair, some of you know me and have responded to what I’ve written by personal e-mail. I appreciate that. Since about June of this year I have also linked every blog post I write to Facebook, Twitter and tumblr. Some of you have offered your opinions and feedback through those media. A couple folks I have personal contact with and have expressed their opinions personally. One of these people, someone whose opinion I cherish, once told me that a certain post revealed the ‘real Michael.’ That took me aback and I didn’t write at all for awhile because I wanted to make sure that everything I wrote revealed the ‘real Michael.’ Well, that’s not possible. I wish it was. But, I have to write. Period.

So, my request to all of you is this…Out of the posts that I write, what makes them unique? What could I do more or less of? And, most importantly, in your view, what can I do to improve?

I covet your input. Please comment and let me know what you are thinking.

Thank you ever so much,

Mike

 

 

Walking the path of Ignatius Loyola

ignacio1Today I am embarking on a new spiritual journey. My Spiritual Director is going to lead me through what are known as the Ignatian Exercises. For the next 36 weeks, or so, we will travel a path first explored by the 16th century founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola. Born into the feudal culture of northern Spain, Loyola dreamed of being a part of the grandeur that courtly love and knighthood could provide. He very nearly realized his dream when he was severely wounded in a battle against the French. During the time in which he recuperated from his wounds he read books on the lives of Jesus and the saints. He discerned that people described in these lives exhibited many of the same heroic and chivalrous characteristics that he admired. At the same time, however, he continued to dream about life at court. As he continued to reflect on and examine his thoughts and feelings he noticed that as he contemplated the lives of Jesus and the saints, he felt inner peace and satisfaction. When he thought about life at court, feelings of dissatisfaction predominated. This awareness inaugurated his life quest that culminated in the development and propagation of the Spiritual Exercises. Loyola realized that through prayer, study and a process called examen, perhaps the cornerstone of the Exercises, one could “detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.”

Ok, so why am I even considering this process? After all, I’m old and feeble. My life has been lived according to the standards and expectations of our culture. I’ve worked hard at a vocation to provide for my family. All of the requisite activities of parenthood and marriage have been accomplished. Yet, like Loyola, I continue to strive with feelings of dissatisfaction and restlessness. I have labored for 40 years in an industry that creates in me anxiety and a great sense of helpless entrapment that eats away at my soul. Even family life does not completely fill the void in my heart that our culture, particularly the evangelical culture that I was a part of, claims that it should. There are those who would say that all I need to do is surrender to God’s will and all will be well with the world. But, that begs the question…what is God’s will? And, I’m not really that interested with all things being well with the world. Occasional happiness and satisfaction would be quite alright. I’m not hoping to experience any profound theological insights. Nor, am I envisioning some kind of neo-monastic lifestyle. The Exercises are about self-discovery. They are a tool for discernment and direction. They are a way to know and experience God’s presence in one’s life. That is why I am forging ahead with Loyola.

As my Spiritual Director and I follow Loyola’s footsteps, I hope to write about the experience here. Perhaps any who read this blog will have insights that can help me and other readers. Please share these in the comments. Do I think this process will be a panacea that answers all of my life’s questions? Not at all. But, even at this stage of my life I must have some direction about my vocation…my calling…in life.

Thank You, Jeff Goins!

jeff-goins-wrecked-570x855I’ve always been an artist of sorts. One friend has accused me of being “a sensitive musician.” Others just say that I’m moody. The truth is that God has made me this way. Creator has embedded creativity into my whole self. It’s ingrained in my DNA. For more than a year and half I’ve prayed, meditated and contemplated about my life’s calling. “God! You’ve made me this way. What shall I do with the gifts that You have given me?” I have breathed this prayer every day during this time. And, the answer has always been, “Write.” Simple, right? I blogged a little about this last week here.

I’m trying to be faithful to this call. So, I have spent the last couple of months studying. No, I’m not back in the classroom. I’ve been searching the internet for resources and training so that I can develop some skill at writing. One of the resources I’ve found is a young man named Jeff Goins. He is a writer and a writers’ coach. Since I’ve been following him I’ve learned a great deal. Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned thus far has been that I am a writer. Up until now, I was hoping to become one. Jeff has convinced me that there is no becoming. There is only doing. (Sounds a bit like a Jedi master, eh?) Last night I had the opportunity to listen to Jeff and another writer named Michael Hyatt in an online teleseminar discuss some of the ins and  outs of building a platform. During the hour long discussion both men shared outstanding insights into getting one’s writing ‘out there’ for others to read. This is the type of resource that Jeff provides. And, most of it is absolutely free! I like free!

In the few interactions that I’ve had with Jeff through comments on his blog, I have found him to be open and gracious. He is concise and encouraging in his responses. (Yes! He actually responds!) In fact, he very nearly gushes with energy and encouragement. I am finding it difficult to not believe in myself when someone that I really don’t even know believes in me so much. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to say “Thanx, Jeff!”

I would recommend Jeff’s site to anyone who struggles with working to become what God has called her/him to. Even if you are not a writer, many of his experiences and insights may be helpful. If you are a writer, they are indispensible.