Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Screwtape Eric


(This letter is in the form of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, which were written from a senior tempter to a junior tempter. In the letter, “Father” is the devil and the “Enemy” is God. The letter is metaphor for the inner spiritual battle and loosely based on Peter's prison break in Acts 12:1-19.)  
 
Nux,
 
We have four layers of security. The two layers nearest the prisoner are well paid, highly trained and sadistic. Like hungry lions, they live for attempted escapes. The next two layers are attentive, alert and paranoid. The outer layers are unnecessary, but our Father insists on them- he is always over prepared. Last is the Iron Gate, which even two-hundred hungry and weak prisoners couldn’t budge.
 
All guards are especially attentive because they know their life will be over if a prisoners escapes. One escape means fourteen qualified soldiers are gone and recruiting to these positions is not easy.
 
After hearing the details of how Eric escaped I am livid because you know who I report to.
 
You say Eric eluded the first two layers by miracle. OK. But that is why we have four layers and the Iron Gate!
 
I thought we outthought the Enemy here. We place certain guards where we do for certain reasons. The ones closest to the prisoner are animalistic. They think of the prisoner as their prey- their way to eat. These brutes have all their primitive assets to employ in a tick.
 
The outer layers are highly responsible detail-mongers. They notice a pebble out of place. If a prisoner makes it past the first two layers, these guards- OCD types and sinewy devils who can climb sheer walls and chase down a jackal- are sure fires. So, no prisoner has ever made it to the Iron Gate.
 
The Iron Gate is our Father’s answer to the Enemy’s might. This handcrafted beast is replete with bars of shards of glass. It weighs 7,000 stones and is designed to stab the fortunate fool who gets close to it.
 
Knowing the measures we have taken to make your job easy, see how penniless you are? We have no idea where Eric is, probably free on the countryside. I hope you feel this failure for the remainder of your existence.
 
Tata,
 
Prongly










Monday, February 25, 2019

Freedom


 
I saw what haunts me and it is dead
Now I am empowered because I saw it-
And I not only survived-
I saw its ashes in a box
Because time murdered it

What I thought would crush me-
What has been crushing me, is weightless

I thought it was too heavy,
But it was fear of the thing, not the actual thing that I was afraid of

When I didn’t confront it, when I avoided it, when I meditated on it, it grew into a horrifying power, an undefeatable opponent, a wicked oppressor

But when I faced it, my mind could see it
I saw what it really is rather than what I thought it was
And it recoiled under my gaze-
A gaze that formerly shuddered at what it didn’t see-
A gaze that assigned devastating powers to what it imagined

I saw what haunts me and it is dead
Now I am empowered because I saw it-
And I not only survived-
I saw its ashes in a box
Because time murdered it



Sunday, February 24, 2019

Unwavering Worth




It can seem impossible to sense our worth.

We feel worth sometimes, when we are loved, notice our talents, complete a task, enjoy a moment, or do well in our eyes or the eyes of others. 

Other times we don’t feel our worth. But we have worth those times too.

It’s easy to be confused about worth and where and when we get it. It seems impossible to believe our worth is objective- not contingent on what we experience, feel or do. It seems preposterous to believe our value is independent of us. It seems absurd to think each human has a flat rate all the time.

But we do if our worth is rooted in God’s purposes for us. If our value lies in what God has in mind for us, our value is fixed, independent of us. If the integrity of our worth lies in God, for us, our value can’t be compromised. No matter how physically, mentally or spiritually handicapped we are- no matter who we are or what we are doing- all of us have the same inherent value. It’s like God put us on an assembly line and duplicated every person’s astronomical value.

Since God’s intent and desire for everyone is the same and never varies, our worth can’t waver.

This is what it means to be made in the image of God and it’s the best view of humans on the market. Throw our new identity in Jesus on top of that. 

(*Painting from the Jooinn website.)



Friday, February 22, 2019

Showing Off


I hadn’t seen my cousin for a few years and he asked if I could meet him the next day. He’s about five years older than me and I’ve looked up to him since I was four. Apparently, I still do. As I was getting ready to meet him I thought, “Is my hair falling out? Do I look like I’m in shape? Do I have a nice vehicle? When I tell him what I have been up to will it sound like I have done something with my life?"
 
All those things were about me looking good. I wondered how it would’ve changed my approach if I asked myself “How can I take an interest in him and show my humanity?” instead of “How can I show off?"

There’s a big difference between taking an interest in others and showing our humanity verses trying to show off.
 
Much of the time we are trying to show off, look good, or not look dumb. We are trying to hide our failures and even our most real selves. That is why tripping is embarrassing. If our goal was to be true to our human status, tripping wouldn’t be embarrassing. It would be celebrated; “You should have seen me trip yesterday! I fell headfirst into a dumpster. And got a hot dog stuck in my ear.” I would love it if someone said that to me. That person did not ask themselves “What can I do to show off?''
 
It’s interesting; the parts we show in public are the least private parts of us. In a way, that’s just good manners. No one can bear, or wants to see, everyone’s private life. But maybe our impulse to not reveal ourselves is indicative that we find our humanness embarrassing or intolerable.



Thursday, February 21, 2019

Jellyfish


Sometimes we feel like we are tangled up in a 450-pound jellyfish. This is when something frustrating and emotionally challenging happens. We can’t think clearly, so we flail. We are in emergency mode and it’s difficult to think rationally. We can’t see or feel what is good, true and lovely. Our present crisis has our attention and energy. Our vision is narrowed. When the jellyfish has us we can’t see the whole jellyfish, just parts of it.
 
Imagine you escape the jellyfish’s grasp. Now you are standing in an aquarium looking at the jellyfish behind a thick glass wall. You are not as emotionally engaged. As you stand there you can see why you struggled. You can examine your battle with the jellyfish from a safe and calm place now. Your vision is wide. Since you are removed from your immediate threat you can see the whole jellyfish. You can even see how your battle with the jellyfish jibes with other things in your life.
 
Life’s problems are like being caught in a jellyfish, then being released and looking at it in an aquarium.

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Mouths and Minds



Parents are aware of what their kids consume. I’m talking what their kids put in their minds, like thoughts, stories, ideas, statements and images. But I wonder if parents sometimes forget we are impressionable- that what we feed our minds is crucial too.

I’m afraid parents often eat brain food we prohibit our kids from eating, like sugar and lard. That’s ironic.

Just like we pay for putting foods without nutrition in our bodies, we pay for
putting empty calories in our minds. (We pay for producing empty thoughts with our minds too.) And just like we benefit from putting nutritional foods in our bodies, we benefit from putting them in our minds.

There is a compound effect to what we put in our mouths and minds. As for what we put in our mouth, it starts a chain reaction in our body’s chemistry. What we put in our mind does too. Low thoughts beget low thoughts and high thoughts beget high thoughts. And just like what we put in our mouths comes out of our bodies, what we put in our minds comes out in our living.

Parents, we will always be hypocrites. We will sometimes consume and produce what we don’t advise. If our kids told us what we tell them we wouldn’t listen either. No one follows their own counsel all the time.

But we have a choice to feed ourselves well-rounded brain meals and mitigate the amount of sugar and lard we put in our minds.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Zero


The last time I looked 0 people had shared my latest “Quick Hit” article on the Athletes in Action website. I probably had 20 hours in it. I had soul, work and hope in it. I imagined it getting 50,000 shares. I thought someone might find it and offer me a writing deal.

It seems like if something we do was worthy it will be reflected in the reaction it receives. It seems like there should be a exact correlation between the quality of our offering and the attention it gets. But that’s not true. Look at the poor offerings that get great reviews and great offerings that get no reviews. But knowing that’s how things are doesn’t help when we feel rejected.

So, as people who offer ourselves, we have to find a way to deal when the reaction is not what we hoped. Here are a few things I'm telling myself:

1. We can find worth in what we made even if no one sees or appreciates it. (If you have an idea how you do this let me know.)

2. Creating and sharing alone means we are vitally engaged, no matter the response.

3. Zero shares is better than 50,000, because that way our egos don’t bloat.

4. Just because we don’t get the affirmation we want doesn’t mean we are not worth it.

4 1/2. Just because people don't bow at our feet and call us wonderful doesn't mean our critical stock drops.

5. For some of us the act of creating is a survival tactic- a way to life- not a tool to gain attention from people we don’t know.



Monday, February 18, 2019

Pointless Pundits



We can’t even meet a bite of food without discerning if it was good or bad. But when we die our demands that things be what we think they should be will die with us. We will no longer preside over our kingdom- calling the day hard or easy, someone old or young, food good or bad.

All of our assessments and judgments won’t matter. The labels we gave people, places and things will come to nothing.

Our opinions about Latinos, green tea, welfare, space travel, the Yankees, Mormons, technology, conservatives, insects and liberals and will cease.

The things we felt and thought were true about ourselves and others, which weren’t true, will cease. No more hallucinations.

Our fears, projections and conjectures, which ruled us, will die. They were never real. Now they are gone.

The things and people we enjoyed and the things we accomplished come to nothing too.

The world will be free from our conclusions, conjectures, joy and work and it won’t notice.

From the moon, the Earth will look the same as it did 300 years before we were born. If there’s not more to life than appears we are no more than pointless pundits and absurd clods.

(*Painting by Walter Stuempfig.)